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caption: Tom Paulson and Connie Wagoner at their Idaho cabin
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Tom Paulson and Connie Wagoner at their Idaho cabin
Credit: Tom Paulson

Every day I thank God I've got these boys that take good care of me

Tom Paulson used to write about infectious diseases for the Seattle P.I. As the coronavirus pandemic spread, he started to worry about his 93-year-old mother, Connie Wagoner.

Then, two staff members in her retirement home tested positive for COVID-19. So he hatched a plan to get her out of town.

Voices of the Pandemic features people in the Seattle area on the frontlines of the coronavirus outbreak in their own words.

TOM PAULSON: You know, I had been, like everybody, paying a lot of attention to how the outbreak was intensifying. And as was clear from what happened in Kirkland, I knew that elderly and people with underlying health conditions and especially folks living in retirement homes and nursing homes were at the greatest risk.

And so with very little preparation, I decided to get her out of there in a few days and take her to our family cabin in Idaho. And we've been here ever since.

CONNIE WAGONER: I thought he was overreacting. But I sort of didn't want to do anything because I was comfortable there.

Although, since I left, the residents are not even getting to eat their meals together. so it would be lonely being there.

PAULSON: Our cabin is pretty much two hours from anything and it's located at the north end, at Priest Lake which is up in the mountains, in the Selkirk Mountains, wilderness all around us.

We saw a grizzly bear last year. This time when we were up here we heard some wolves -- haven't seen them. So it's very remote.

WAGONER: I couldn't even walk from the car to the cottage, so Tom had to carry me. I'm just too feeble.

PAULSON: And it was a foot and a half of snow.


PAULSON: And there was snow.

WAGONER: Yeah, it was snow and ice. But we made it.

caption: Tom Paulson's Idaho cabin in early spring
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Tom Paulson's Idaho cabin in early spring
Credit: Tom Paulson

PAULSON: I was very concerned about access to health care, being where we're at, and only small hospitals or clinics nearby.

Around the lake, people are worried about people coming here with the virus. And there's very little resources, so it'd be easy to overwhelm the health care system, such as it is up here.

So I think it's right for local residents to be a little worried about people like us coming from hotspots and bringing the bug with them. I think that's a legitimate concern.

But we’ve been very good about self-isolating. Some of our neighbors have brought us groceries, so we haven’t had to go back in to get food.

WAGONER: Most of the time I'm inside. I do a lot of reading.

I'm kind of going blind in one eye, but the one eye I can still see out of. So I read a lot.

And my sons wait on me hand and foot, and I don't do any work. They do the cooking and everything. So I'm spoiled.

caption: Tom Paulson and his mother, Connie Wagoner
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Tom Paulson and his mother, Connie Wagoner
Credit: Tom Paulson

PAULSON: The silver lining to this is that we're spending a lot of time with each other, which we hadn't been able to do because I've been busy working and Mom has her life at Hearthstone.

This is something I'd always planned to try to do with Mom: maybe take her on vacation or do something and we never found the time to do it or it didn't work out.

So I flip between anxiety and just sort of really enjoying spending a lot of time with mom and my brother Ken. So we can be kind to each other and enjoy each other.

WAGONER: Every day. I thank God I've got these boys that take good care of me.