When Hannah Silver was in the swimming pool, she wasn't just logging laps. She was soaking in thoughts and images from her entire 77 years on this earth. The same way Proust's seven volumes began with a bite of madeleine, she says, when she swam, memories came flooding back. "My mother, 'the hostess with the mostest.' My father holding a drink marching around saying that if Nixon got elected, the world would come to an end. The teenagers, including me, flirting."
She even wrote the first draft of a pool-inspired novel that she titled SPAZZ! "It's about one year in a boarding school, a girl with a handicap—and you can guess who that is."
Hannah has a weakened left side and can't use her left arm very well. But it wasn't much of an issue after she started swimming five days a week in 1990. The arm relaxed and hung at her side in a natural way as opposed to curling up next to her chest.
"I'm a vigorous person despite my age, and I never thought about my age. I never thought about any of that stuff. I wrote a novel. I was reading short stories at the Marsh Theater. I have a boyfriend."
Much of that changed on March 13th of last year. "Friday the 13th," she remembers, when the pool at the Jewish Community Center near her house closed, along with many other pools. She'd been taking the bus there, arriving at 9:15 am, working on her laptop, getting the swim in day after day, leaving at 3 pm feeling strong. Months after the swim ban, she felt much less so. In August, she sprained her ankle on her weakened left side.
Now she isn't able to leave her house without assistance. Because there's no railing going down on the right-hand side on some sections of the stairs, she's confined to her third floor hallway in her walkup. She does her laps on those 44 feet of carpet. She does seven of them, five times a day, for a total of 3,000 feet.
"It's not swimming, I'll tell you. My left arm—the spasticity has increased. Now I hold it up without even knowing it until I look at myself in the mirror and see my arm at my breast."
She says her landlord won't fix the railings and says she herself can't hire someone to do it. So in a lockdown, she's additionally locked in.
"I would consider myself a medium level casualty of Covid. It's really altered my life in big ways. It used to be, for a while, I could get down the stairs by holding onto the wall and take a cab to Trader Joe's or to the drug store. Now I can't do that. Jewish Children and Family services delivers dinners Monday through Friday, except that today is a holiday [referring to the day of this interview] and there is no delivery. I planned ahead, but still: there's a problem. All I have left is one big frozen chicken pot pie and I have trouble lifting it out of my microwave."
"The general idea is I'm supposed to get some healthcare worker in here. I've resisted it because this is a studio apartment. What am I gonna do, have someone sit here in the room with me and empty my garbage? I cancelled the interview because of the Covid problem."
She's hopeful the pool will re-open, the stair-railing will be re-built, and she will regain her physical life. In the meantime, she's calling a neighbor to come get the frozen dinner out of the microwave.
"I saw a lot of potential in the space," a San Francisco gym owner says. "I always wanted to create a gym where I would want to be a member. Stripping the vanity piece from fitness—a place that was more about working out and staying active for the health benefits. If you move well then you feel good." 

Now, this gym owner is fighting for her business life as 70 percent of her clients have left the city, and she is struggling to encourage the remaining that it's safe to come back and work out. 

She has $750,000 left on a personally guaranteed 10-year lease, and the federal small business loan she received will have to be paid back, as she wasn't able to keep staff during the half-year shutdown and it was not meant to cover rent. 

She wonders how we arrived at this place. "Staying active is critical to our health. So to not be deemed essential during this pandemic has just been mind-boggling. This is how you stay away from those conditions that make you more susceptible to the disease Not everyone has access to do fitness in their homes or outdoors. We can operate just as safely as some of the businesses that have been operating throughout the pandemic."

"If you can spend an hour at Home Depot, why wouldn't you be able to come here and spend an hour taking care of yourself? What makes home projects more important than your health? We can require masks, stay six feet apart, track who's going in and out. They're not doing that at Costco. I just feel like there was no rhyme or reason, just picking and choosing which businesses could operate, instead of saying: If you can follow these safety protocols, then you can operate."

"It was just terrible to be mandated to stay closed and not get any assistance from the city, from the landlord. I've had to pay full expenses for six months."

"Initially, customers wanted to come back. But after six months, most of my customers have moved away. The ones that are here are scared to come out after being in their homes for six months."

"We need the city to promote that these businesses are safe and that you can return to these workouts. We need to let the public know that people don't need to stay in their homes. That they need to return to these activities that will improve their health."
She was in dental pain but wasn't going to make the call to the dentist. It was her wife that forced her. "I knew there were going to be weird Covid protocols that I didn't want to play along with," she says, "so I was just going to ignore it." But she couldn't. "She had an infection; it was obvious," her wife calls out from the background.

The dentist asked if she could come down right away, and so she did. When she got into the office, they shot her with their thermometer and handed her a form to write down the temperature, and she wrote it—illegibly. The form also contained nine personal health questions all relating to beliefs about how Covid is contracted and spread, with a "yes" or "no" expected for each question, and a signature at the bottom. "I got it in my head that I was going to write 'decline' on every question, and I did that and handed it back to them." They then led her into the office, put her in a chair for the examination and the discussion of the fairly drastic procedure she was going to need to undergo. She agreed to it. 

"It's a small office that I've been going to for 15 years. All of them I know very well and like very well and they like me," she says. But even so, the entire team spent 30 minutes trying to bully her ("convince" her is the way her wife puts it from the back of the room) into changing her answers on the form. "I told them that I liked them all, and, privately I would assure them I would never come in if I were sick or felt I would put them in danger in any way—but that I had no interest in giving up my rights. I told them I thought it set a terrible precedent." 

They said the state makes the form a requirement. And she told them she was perfectly happy to decline the procedure and find a black-market method of getting the work done. The room got quiet. Her doctor sat there for a minute and thought, then said, "OK, you won't have to sign it and we'll continue with the procedure." 

When she went back in to get the stitches removed, the receptionist, who she says she's pretty good pals with, handed her the form and said, "Here's the form you can fill out the way you like to fill it out." She says the receptionist defused the whole situation by doing that, "which was kind of cool." 

"I like them all very much. I'm sure I was the only person who's ever done that in their office." But at the same time, she says, she's not unhappy to have caused them some inconvenience that day. "There are so many new rules and regulations that they seem to be imposing on us on almost an hourly basis. And because there seem to be so few people getting sick or dying compared to what they told us was going to happen, there seems to be a false pretense for it all. I feel it's time to start pushing back. "