Corona Virus Madness 2020

My experiences and observations of COVID 19 in my community, my personal life and the world in 2020. Having read several books about previous historic Pandemics, I felt that it was important that I record my thoughts and experiences for future review but primarily as a component of journal keeping designed for my posterity.

{An Investigation: Dr. Samarron In His Lab by Joaquin Sorolla y Bastida.}

I remember hearing a statement from someone I respect who said that “if you don’t write it down, it didn’t happen”. At the time I was young and thought that I would always remember everything I experienced in life for when we are young we do remember things better than when we are older.  Things I didn’t write down have faded. I can’t find many of them and so they seem as if they didn’t happen at all. I agree with the statement.

The Corona Virus Pandemic of 2020 will come and go, we hope, but our world, our personal lives and freedoms and especially our country will likely never be the same. The changes are medical, political, economic, social, spiritual, emotional and educational. I am going to write down my observations of the changes I have seen in the last many months and how I have been affected by them along with how the pandemic has affected people I know.

Germs

I learned about germs as a little girl. I was taught to wash my hands, cover my mouth when I coughed, blow my nose on a nice tissue when I needed to, wash food before I ate it, drink water from the tap and not the stream, avoid people who were sick, eat certain comfort foods, take certain medicines and “grandma-cures”, cover my head in the winter when I went outside, not to touch dirty animals or little, dead birds, stay in bed until I was well and many other things that were common to the time in which I grew up. As time passed, many of these admonitions were tweaked to reflect new things we had learned about infection, viruses and contagion and new ways of thinking about the treatment of various illnesses including those that were highly  contagious.

In 2020 there is controversy about how COVID 19 is contracted. Most agree that it is an airborne virus that is transmitted primarily from the mouth of an infected person to the air and into the mouth or nose of another person. It is generally believed that it can live for a limited time, and limited remains undefined, on hard surfaces. That means that several measures have been recommended to avoid getting the virus.

There is controversy about who can spread the disease. Can it be spread by people who have it but have no symptoms? If yes, does it have to be early in the illness or anytime? How long is someone with the disease contagious? Are children immune from getting the virus? Are older people without underlying conditions safer from the effects of the illness if they get it than older people with underlying conditions?  If you get the disease and get well, are you immune or can you get it again? After you are well, are you completely well or are there lingering problems from the disease. Some say that getting a flu shot in the new season will help to protect us from getting COVID 19. Is that true? Can the virus be passed along in food from a food worker to a customer?  Can the virus be passed along on rubber gloves. How thick does a mask have to be to prevent the virus from getting through? Will the virus stay on the surface of the mask for a period of time?Can animals get and transmit the disease? What percentage of people who test positive for the disease require hospitalization?

Mitigation

There is only so much that can be done to avoid things you can’t see. In 2020 the main efforts include wearing masks, wearing gloves, distancing from other people, avoiding crowds and staying home. Many people think that these efforts have been overdone and refuse to follow the recommendations and others feel that these efforts at mitigation of the virus should be strictly enforced by local governments. Utah has been a cautious but open-minded state when it comes to requiring various recommended efforts to avoid getting the virus. Masks have become designer statements in some cases and at first, there was a run on pre-made disposable masks. People began sewing their own masks which led to a shortage of elastic. Then followed service projects to make masks by the thousands to distribute to needy populations. I tried to buy a new sewing machine in March which had nothing to do with the virus and found that I could not. People were at home and sewing machines became “essential” or at least popular. They are often made in China (Singer is) as are the parts. I finally bought the machine I wanted two weeks ago. JoAnn’s received only 7 and I bought mine on the day they arrived. Some people went as far as to buy and wear Plexiglas face shields. Many businesses post signs telling customers that they cannot enter without a mask. Masks are hanging from the rear-view mirrors in most cars. Some parents put masks on their children and some don’t. Businesses don’t require children to wear masks but the schools, opening today, do require it. I will talk about schools later.

All stores have created protocols for sanitation. Shopping carts are sanitized and separated from carts that have not been sanitized. Spray bottles of disinfectant, paper towels and disinfectant wipes are placed at the entrance of many stores for the patrons’ use. Some businesses offer free masks. Hand Sanitizer is everywhere. When the virus first hit, it was difficult to find hand sanitizer because people became hoarders of anything they thought they might need if they couldn’t leave their homes to shop. It was a month or longer before I could find hand sanitizer at Wal-Mart again. Most stores placed a limit of 1 on all cleaning/disinfecting items such as bleach and Lysol Disinfectant Spray. While the availability of such things has improved the price has doubled since the onset of the virus.

Social Interaction

Beginning in the middle of March, our patterns of social interaction changed. Church meetings were cancelled and we were encouraged to study the Gospel from home. People stopped inviting people to their homes and large family gatherings, such as Sunday dinner stopped. Since our age group is considered the most vulnerable to the virus, our children and grandchildren did not visit for fear of bringing the virus to us because their circle of contacts was much wider. People imagined the father bringing the virus home from work to his family and the family spreading it to secondary family and to friends. Children no longer played with other children and all group sports were suspended. Children who had planned to sign up for special summer programs found themselves with nothing to do beyond their own homes. Swimming pools closed as did gyms, restaurants and most small businesses. There was a run on outdoor pools for kids and they could not be found, even online.

Visiting and home ministers did not visit and I found that since I do not text as an everyday habit or carry my phone around in my hand, I did not receive even emails from my ministering sisters. They have made one contact, by text, in five months. No one wants to eat anything made by someone else so treats from neighbor to neighbor ceased.  I realized that I was developing a very comfortable isolation. I also discovered that since I had a personal view about appropriate behavior in public, I was mentally imposing it on other people. For example, I found myself wincing if someone sneezed in public or coughed or failed to wear a mask. I believe that mask-wearing is a social courtesy that makes most people feel more comfortable in public although I think the wearing and not-wearing groups are about 50-50. Who knows if wearing a mask makes any difference.

Weddings, Funerals and Birthdays

Weddings have changed just during the past few months. Rather than having large receptions, people are sending announcements of their marriage but not hosting a reception. If they have a party or reception of some kind, half of the people are wearing masks. Handling the refreshments can be tricky and since I have not gone to a wedding reception since March, when the virus came to town, I have no idea how refreshments are being prepared and served. Gradually, the gift-part of the invitation has changed from listing a couple of stores like Target, where the couple has registered, to asking only for cash through an online vendor and manager of such transactions. A refreshing invitation came this week without any reference to gifts.

Since most Temples are closed and most of the couples we know wish to marry in an LDS Temple, civil ceremonies are becoming common with the hope for a sealing in a local Temple at a later date. This week a notice came of an upcoming marriage, which was going to take place in an Idaho Temple rather than a Utah Temple since the restrictions on the use of the Temple were more flexible because of the low numbers of the virus in another state.

Tom attended a wedding in June in a small mid-Utah town where no precautions were taken relative to the number of people or their proximity to each other or the preparation or serving of food although people were attending from many places outside of the town where the wedding was held. There are places that have been spared all of the drama.

Most obituaries since March have stated that there will be no viewing or services. Some families are having a burial service only and calling that good. We saw a neighborhood funeral just last week. It was outside, in the backyard of a nearby home and was heavily attended by family members. Little kids were running around and the casket was placed in the back yard. It had a nice feeling to it.

Spiritual

Tom and I have spent our Sundays in several ways. We have grown accustomed to flexibility and to designing our own times for religious activities and also deciding exactly what they will be. We have not chosen to dress up on Sundays but we think we would if we still had children at home and were working to make sure Sunday felt like Sunday.  We have watched all of the Book of Mormon Videos made by the Church and have loved them. We were disappointed when we read that because of the virus, the rest of the videos which had been planned would be delayed. Tom has prepared the sacrament on several occasions and during July, when our whole family was visiting, we had Sacrament Meeting with several families in attendance. Our sons blessed the sacrament and our grandsons passed it. It was very touching.  We consider our Sundays to be more spiritual than they were when we were attending church. We are not distracted by other people fidgeting, coming in late, walking in and out, or by crying children or people of all ages around us on cell phones during the meeting including during the Sacrament. Our Sundays usually include a drive to somewhere rural and usually a nicer dinner than usual.  Our stake has resumed a limited schedule for Sacrament Meeting but we have been un-invited because of our age. We don’t mind. I will repeat that we feel more spirituality when we are at home.

I have heard some people say that because COVID 19 is a pestilence, that God is using it to humble people and thus we should consider its spread or demise as an indicator of how well the people of the world are doing. I don’t subscribe to this point of view but I do find it humbling. Each day that I don’t contract it, I am grateful and say so in my prayers.  So many things in the Church have changed as a result of the virus and the changes are mostly for the better. Missionaries were called home during the worst of the outbreak but once home, everyone adapted and learned new ways of teaching the Gospel. As with other activities and habits, people have become more efficient at doing things remotely and from home so that we will likely not go back to the way things used to be in the Church. I hope that eventually the children can have Primary again but even that won’t look the same.

Emotional

The emotional toll from the pandemic seems to depend on who you are and where you live. For some people I know, the isolation has been terrible. I keep to myself anyway so I haven’t been harmed by it. However, I think that the fear that has been instilled in many people and in many communities by leaders playing politics has done its greatest damage to the children. Little children, and children of all ages are social beings. They deserve to feel what we call “the innocence of youth” and they deserve to feel safe. Rather than both of those things happening, they have been taken from school and other activities and from their friends and extended families and encouraged to social distance and to avoid certain people and places. they have in some cases, had to wear masks themselves, depending upon the pathologies of their parents and I say that because I have seen babies with masks on outdoors. I have watched the eyes of little children as they try to study my face in a store but can’t. Eyes alone don’t reveal the countenance and the countenance is key to the light in a person’s heart. I do believe that. I have been noticing the look in babies and children’s eyes as they try to search the faces of those around them. They look bewildered. They must wonder, hopelessly, about their own mothers, whose smiles disappear and whose voices are muffled.  WE READ LIPS when we talk with other people. Half of our communication effectiveness is gone when we wear a mask.

I don’t live alone. I have a husband. I can imagine how difficult this time has been for older people who do live alone and have counted on an occasional meeting with neighbors or church members or grandchildren to get through long and boring days. It has likely been especially difficult for those who don’t drive, who have to ask people to shop for them and drop off bags and boxes on porches where two people can’t stand together to chat.

What was once normal and should still be so . . . hugging and looking into someone’s eyes as you watch their lips talk, is politically incorrect and frowned upon. How many of the social interactions of the past are lost forever because of fear of disease and fear of reprimand for getting too close? I can’t imagine seeing two people shake hands in the street, over the fence or in the store. It just isn’t happening.

The greatest negative emotion for me is the fact that I just don’t know what to think and what to believe. I don’t know where the exaggerations lurk and what is generally true. Someone asked me if I would get vaccinated with the Russian vaccine that is being touted as effective. I said “no” because I know the science is missing from its formulation and that they have not followed the normal course of testing that we have become accustomed to by the FDA and CDC. Uncertainty is the strongest emotion I associate with the pandemic.

Political

2020 Politics are disgusting. I sat and thought about which descriptive word I should use in that first sentence. Specifically, the politics of the virus are despicable. Liberals/Democrats want the virus to be deadly so that they can blame the carnage on President Trump. Conservatives/Republicans want everything to return to some type of normal so that our economy can recover to whatever degree it will be able to. Liberals want the economy to tank, people to suffer, and things remain unknowable so that they can put a Democrat into the White House in November. There are many parallels to the handling of the Spanish Flu Pandemic of 1918 in terms of how political parties tried to manipulate the truth to suit their position. It was as if there were no actual people with names at risk of illness, death or unemployment. The most egregious behavior of all of the reading I have done was that of the government of the United States during the administration of Woodrow Wilson. He will have to bear the burden of hundreds of thousands of deaths on his hands because of his choice of politics over people. I am sure there are some good and normal people in the ranks of those who have responsibility for finding a vaccine and possibly a cure if not at least a treatment for this virus. I do know they must be far in the background because the faces we have come to know as spokespeople and the talking points from various organizations leave a person wondering if there is a grown-up in the room . . . or in any room.

Educational

School started today for several of our grandchildren. Each one of our children on behalf of their children tell tales of restrictions that make my blood run cold. I can’t imagine going through what they are going through in relation to sending their children back to school.

Since the public consensus of the experts seems to be that children rarely get the disease and when they do they don’t have symptoms and don’t pass it along, wouldn’t you think that the opening of school would reflect that fact ? No. Not even close. Depending upon where the family lives, including the state, school district and the ages of the children, they will be subject to very precise rules based on arbitrary guidelines and I can only imagine how horrible it must be for a little five-year-old who will never want to go to school again in his lifetime after what he will have to go through. In fact, our Texas family has determined to let the teenagers go back to school but the three grade-schoolers will attend school remotely which means that mother teaches school all day in three different classes. Little Tucker, who should be toddling off to Kindergarten and learning to play with others, will sit in front of a computer and not know a single child in what would have been his class. Another family with a second-grader will drop her off, not be allowed to get out of the car to make certain that she walks safely to the back of the school where she will be told to stand on a big, red, dot six feet from another big, red, dot, wearing a mask and forbidden to run to a friend or give a hello hug and reprimanded for doing so. That family has decided to “see how it goes” but if it is too awful that child will come home to sit in front of a computer all day and never run around at recess or sit in a busy cafeteria. Mother will then care for the baby and become a teacher all day, if the mother or other mothers for that matter, can do it.

Oh. The Cafeteria. It sounds like there are new rules for everything. The kids in one school will have to bring their lunch in a paper bag which can be thrown away. No matter if they want to save the apple for the bus on the way home. Not allowed. Everything must be eaten or thrown away. Even perfectly good food. What kind of a lesson does that send to children in families where there isn’t a lot of money for food or where they have been taught not to waste food. The high school kids will do what they want to do so no one is thinking about them much. I think we might all agree that we can’t do much to boss them around. I drove by the high school on our street today and crowds of kids were milling about outside, just as close as they always stand and cluster and without masks. One school district has said that if they have 15 cases in the whole elementary school they will close the school and make everyone work online. That decision is about the teachers and administrators . . . not the kids. Do you think for one minute that kids are going to be honest about how they feel? Little kids are not even going to mention it when they don’t feel well for fear they will have to go home and never come back to school with their friends. They have probably already had their temperatures taken more in three months than they will for the rest of their lives. Their fear will be compounded by every word their mother speaks to their father or that mothers speak to the mothers of their friends. That is the political environment in the world in 2020.

My position if anyone cares to know is that children should go back to school in just the same way they did before March of this year and the chips should fall. Some people will get sick as will some children but the herd immunity will be increased and over time the numbers will decline. Normalcy is as emotionally necessary as food and sunlight, especially for kids and routine is vital to their feelings of safety. Even adults do better in life if they know what is coming next or what to expect. 

Thinking of You.

-Grandma-

UPDATE:

School Has Started. Every State, County and School District is Different. 

Well. School has started this August of 2020. I can’t tell you how other people feel but I can observe and think about how I would feel in their shoes. 

Utah grandchildren are in two different school districts. Their experiences so far appear to be similar. The Grade School-age children wear masks to school which they can take off when they go outside. They use sanitizer all of the time and wear their masks on the bus. These same children play formal soccer in their leagues off school time without masks, of course. One child, in one school came down with the virus without any symptoms. Nevertheless, she was sent home as were those who were sitting within a certain distance from her. All were asymptomatic and will have to quarantine for 2 weeks. 

When one of the schools where my grandchildren attend, said that the children would need to be dropped off in front of the school then run behind the school by themselves and find a red dot to stand on, six feet from other children, without talking to their friends, the mothers showed up the first day and said, with their behavior “NO WAY”. Who would send a five-year-old alone behind a school and not know if she ever got into her classroom? No one. My daughter parked her car, put her baby in her arms and walked with her seven-year-old daughter to a red dot and stood with her until it was time to go safely into the building.

Later I will add more.

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