IN MID-FEBRUARY, THE WORLD CHANGED. WHO WOULD’VE THOUGHT A VIRUS COULD UNHINGE THE PLANET, AND CHALLENGE OUR LEADERS TO THE TEST OF THEIR LIFETIME.
THE CORONAVIRUS TAKES CENTER STAGE IN NOHO & WEHO, & THE RESULT IS DEVASTATING.
Let’s start from the beginning.
I was in San Francisco researching a book project in early February, and was to fly back to L.A. on the 16th. I remember the plane was packed, and I was aware of several passengers that were coughing non-stop and obviously ill. I jokingly mentioned to the flight attendant, “we’re breathing their germs,” as the air circulated over-and-over-and-over. We both laughed it off.
By the 18th, I was coughing violently and experiencing severe head-aches and body-aches. I knew something was wrong; but, I didn’t have fever. I went to get tested at the Jeffrey Goodman LGBT Center in Hollywood. The first question I was asked, “Do you have a fever?” I said, “No.” They took my temperature, and it was fine.
This was followed up by a few more questions, then I was sent home to rest.
In all honesty, I don’t believe it was just ‘a little flu.’ It took 3 weeks to recover. Strangely, my house mate never got ill.
That same week, the sh*t hit the fan in the United States. The pandemic was spreading like wildfire across the globe. NYC was shut down, followed by Los Angeles.
The NoHo theatre district became a ghost town and WeHo cancelled Gay Pride and the Halloween Carnival. Major money makers for both cities, which draw hundreds to thousands of people every day, every month, every year.
Then, the news of WeHo mayor, John D’Amico, testing positive for COVID-19 broke, and a local Leader was suddenly a face for the invisible enemy.
The Coronavirus was real.
I’ve known Mr. D’Amico for many years. Our associations go back to the late 1980s. I’ve watched his hands-on civil service and city concerns turn him into a pro-active, positive and aggressive Leader for not only WeHo, but for Los Angeles as a whole.
Because of obvious concerns and circumstances, this Q & A was done partially by phone, text and email. I want to thank John for being honest and open about his diagnosis and willing to be so candid:
Waide– John, you got sick with COVID-19. Thankfully, you recovered. Would you take us through the timeline of the illness to give us a better idea and understanding of what you went through?
John– In mid-March, I developed symptoms consistent with what was being described as the emerging Coronavirus. Over the weekend of 3/14 I had a headache and cough, and by Monday fevers followed. On Tuesday morning, I wrote to my doctor and he suggested I come to his office for a COVID-19 test. I pulled up in my car and he tested me in the parking lot. By the time I received the results, the next day my fevers had gone and I was feeling much better. By March 15, there were 10 positive COVID-19 tests in WEHO, and as of Memorial Day weekend there were more than 170. Over the following weeks, after I received my positive test result, I had several mini-moments/hours of feeling bad, feeling fatigued, occasional chest congestion, losing my sense of taste, and for almost six weeks, had a terrible taste in my mouth when I woke up in the mornings. On March 31, I had a follow-up COVID-19 test and it too was positive. A month later around the first of May, I began to notice that I was truly getting better and on May 15, I had a third COVID-19 test and it was negative. I also had an antibody test; I do not yet, as of this writing, have the results. So, my experience did not include hospitalization or any type of respiratory infections beyond some minimal chest congestion. And, by mid-April, I was back running and exercising again.
Waide– I am very glad to hear that news… Let’s talk about NoHo and WeHo and what’s happening. NoHo Theaters and Arts District are in jeopardy of not re-opening. WeHo has cancelled both Gay Pride and the Halloween Carnaval for obvious reasons. This, in itself, could spell a financial disaster for Los Angeles as a whole. Both NoHo & WeHo have bars, clubs and restaurants that are on the verge of shuttering permanently. This is a time for both Creative cities to work together and support each other, after all, we are La La Land! As Mayor of West Hollywood, what do you think WeHo & NoHo could do ‘together’ that could be advantageous economically and begin the process of recovery?
John– We all need to plan carefully and promote business opportunities that fit the scale of this disease and the capability that each individual business has. Large gatherings are off the table for the foreseeable future, but new, smarter, intimate options can be developed. The use of more public realm outdoor space should be part of what both cities prioritize. In WEHO, we’re looking at a large expansion of the use of sidewalks and streets and eventually the parks to allow for a summer of fresh air and sunshine (moonshine, too!). And, most people are learning how to be in the public realm and safe at the same time. Some are protesting the ‘new normal’ but most understand that this is a long term temporary adjustment. And, from someone who has had COVID-19, I suggest you do all you can to avoid it.
Waide– NoHo and WeHo are meccas for the arts and artists. Both are strongly connected by public transportation. WeHo boasts the best in designer showrooms, rock & roll and dance venues & the Historic Boy’s Town. NoHo is one square mile of 22 live theaters; the most theaters outside of New York City, the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences and the Historic Federal Tavern and El Portal Theatre. Is there any discussion or conversation to make each other ‘Sister Cities?’
What do you think of that?
John– WEHO is a city and NOHO is a part of Los Angeles, which is our sister city that surrounds us on three sides. The continued working together of L.A., and BH, and WEHO, will certainly continue. And, finding more and more ways to involve people in our culture making adventures is always on the table. The ‘big event’ landscape in WEHO is empty for this year, as you mentioned above… so, that might mean that 2 or 3 regular trips to WEHO for many are off the table. The same must be true for the indoor theaters in NOHO. So, we’re all going to have to invent new ways of attracting visitors, even for 2-3 hours, to our cities that gives them a sense of the cultural community we are all so fond of.
Waide– Thank you, John, for taking the time to answer these questions. And, I’m so glad you are feeling better and have fully recovered.
As of this writing, Los Angeles, along with many other parts of America, is under curfew. The country is reeling from the murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis police.
Looting, arson, demonstrations, protests, beatings, terrorizing, social unrest & social injustice will continue until we shut up and listen to those directly affected.