As social distancing and sheltering in place becomes the new normal around the world, I took some time this past weekend to reach out to old friends, acquaintances and relatives in different parts of the United States.
In many instances, things were similar in each state. Still, each person had a little different perspective of what was happening amid the coronavirus outbreak and each had their own concerns.
Mark and Sue Anderson - Fort Myers, Florida
When Mark and Sue Anderson sold their home in Clarinda and moved to Fort Myers, Florida, to retire in November 2017, relaxation was the only thing on their mind. They had no idea a few years later they would have to worry about a new, deadly virus.
“It’s kind of weird times and nobody has really gone through this before,” said Mark. “To me, it’s like a slow-moving train wreck. You can see it coming, but it just doesn't happen. It's going to go on for weeks and weeks.”
Mark and Sue said it is their understanding a person can be asymptomatic for 10 days before they show symptoms.
“So you could be sick for 10 days and not know it,” said Mark. “So when somebody gets sick they have to look back 10 days. We kind of saw that early on and there was a death here in Fort Myers early on, so we’ve been self-isolating. We’ve already been home for 14 days.”
Mark had a part-time job at a private golf course and Sue was teaching water aerobics and was a personal trainer at a resort. When the golf course closed and the resort canceled activities, they both thought it was a good time to stay at home.
“So when they canceled our part-time jobs, we didn’t have to really go out anymore, so we went to the grocery store, we loaded up, I got my blood pressure medicine enough for 3 months and we decided we were going to self-isolate.”
Sue said she still goes out for a five to seven-mile bike ride early in the morning when nobody else is out and has plenty of exercise equipment at home to keep physically active. The rest of her downtime is spent playing video games, cooking and spending time out on their screened-in veranda with her plants.
“We don’t feel like we’re overacting,” said Mark.”We just see it for what it is. Sue is high risk because she’s got Leukemia. After the first death here in Fort Myers, we said look people can say whatever they want, but the virus is actually here in the community. It takes 10 days and they don’t know who’s been where.”
Mark said they have made it two weeks and are finding ways to keep busy and has taken up reading as a hobby.
“We have old family photos I’m scanning,” said Mark. “I had gone through all of mine years ago and now I’ve gotten to Sue’s. These belonged to her mother that I’m scanning now.”
With Spring break in full swing the last few weeks, beaches were a concern in Florida.
Mark said Lee County, where they live, started closing beaches they controlled before the state implemented beach closures. He said bars are closed and restaurants except for carryout services.
“They have set up mobile testing but not seeing health care facilities overwhelmed at this point,” said Mark.
Sue said the last time she was out tents had been in front of the emergency room entrance at the hospital, so they have a place to keep patients separated.
“We’re a tourist state and January through March is when the snowbirds are here and they rent for three months and then the first week of April they’re gone,” said Sue.
Sue said some of the snowbirds have started to go home early for different reasons and feel once the majority of them have left, they will see additional closures.
“We live on a public golf course and it’s still open, but we don’t see as many people come by and play,” said Sue, “but I’m still amazed that people are.”
Sue said others in the condo community where they live still socialize at the community pool daily and she cannot understand how they think this behavior is acceptable.
Mark and Sue anticipate it getting a lot worse in Florida and that people are being naïve about it.
“It’s going to be a changed world when we get to the other side of this,” said Mark.
Mark and Sue stress the importance of everyone practicing social distancing and doing their part to reduce the spread of the coronavirus.
“I always say it’s like a four-way stop,” said Mark.” In a four-way stop, if one guy runs the stop sign, it’s ok because the other three people have seen that occur and they stop and let the guy run the stop sign. But if three people start running the stop sign, it doesn’t work. You can’t get through the intersection. People keep crashing. So it’s ok if one guy cheats, but if everybody cheats, then it doesn’t work.”
Mark and Sue hope that this pandemic will bring more acceptance of the expertise of the Public Health community.
“We’ve talked to people about the Spanish Flu of 1918 in conversation over the years,” said Mark. “It’s a thing we talk about because it’s something that devastated the world. Well, come to find out that’s what is going on right now, something comparable to this huge thing.”
Mark said people had ignored the messages about washing hands and getting vaccinated and feels it has exasperated the problem.
“Some of this is about citizenship and some of that gets lost,” said Mark,” having to do things that make you uncomfortable for the greater good of the United States of America. A good citizen gets vaccinated. So it's frustrating the citizenship aspect of a lot of this stuff people are so individualistic now they don’t want to do for the larger community.”
Sue said she remembers growing up when polio was an issue.
“When I was a kid, you got polio,” said Sue. “There was no vaccine and the public health department would quarantine houses where there was illness and there would be a sign up saying quarantine nobody in or out. Everybody obeyed by that and then that all disappeared. So I’m ok with quarantine and you need to stay where you are because public health is important.”
Beth Anderson – Los Angeles, California
Beth Anderson, a 2013 Clarinda High graduate, works in marketing public relations in Los Angeles for Haus Laboratories and has been working remotely from home for about two weeks due to the outbreak of COVID-19. She said she is communicating by email and scrambling to rework plans.
“A lot of what we do is launch product, have events and meet people,” said Anderson. ” That is a huge part of my job and all of that has come to a halt.”
Anderson said not knowing when the end of the pandemic will be staff has been doing a lot of brainstorming,
“We’re trying to figure out how we can do what we do without physically seeing people or launching product or marketing things that people don’t want to buy and those types of things,” said Anderson. “It’s been difficult, but it’s a challenge we’re taking on.”
Anderson said in the upcoming weeks the staff will move away from their sales platform and make it more about inspiring people.
“I think the weeks moving forward, we're going to be trying to engage with people and inspire people to do things that make them feel better about themselves while they're at home,” said Anderson. “Move away from our sales platform and it will be more so about inspiring people.”
Anderson said the pandemic is a horrible situation, but it allows them to inspire people to take care of themselves.
“I always have considered myself as an introvert/extrovert,” said Anderson. “I love being around people, but I also need to be by myself to reset and decompress. This situation has made me think so much differently about that.”
Anderson said her social life had become very minimal.
“I pretty much have just been staying home,” said Anderson. “I’m lucky enough to live somewhere that it’s nice outside and I’ve gone on a few walks.”
Anderson said she goes through waves of feeling anxious, but then she accepts the situation and embraces it.
“We are in a Safer At Home order,” she said. “Right now, everything that is nonessential is supposed to be closed. All of our grocery stores are still open and most of our restaurants are open doing take out or delivery.”
Anderson said small businesses everywhere are struggling right now. She said she hadn’t heard of hospitals being incredibly overwhelmed, but the numbers keep going up, so she expects it to happen quickly.
“I know they are having to reuse masks and are running out of supplies,” said Anderson.
Anderson said when the pandemic first broke, she was nervous after seeing videos of people fighting over toilet paper.
“People are treating each other in general with kindness,” said Anderson. “I think the first few days people were timid because you didn’t know how to interact with each other. I think people are being compassionate in the fact that we're all in this together. It's not ideal and it's impacting so many people.”
Anderson said she feels lucky she has job security and is concerned about the many people that are losing their jobs that won’t be able to pay their bills. She said it is a domino effect from there.
“I’m really worried about everything as a whole, people losing their jobs, our economy sinking,” said Anderson.” I feel like so many businesses are going to close. I just think our country is going to change as a whole and I don’t know how we’re going to come back from that or the way we’re going to do that.”
Anderson is also a certified yoga instructor and said getting bodies moving is crucial during stressful times.
“Moving your body is so important for so many reasons,” said Anderson, “but it also helps your immune system. Yoga, especially just the breathing aspect of it, really helps you calm your nervous system down and that is related to immunity, which is what we're all worried about right now.”
Anderson said if someone is always stressed, it impacts the immune system and your digestive system.
“There are free resources such as YouTube videos and almost every gym or studio I’ve ever gone to is offering free classes on Instagram live,” said Anderson. “If we’re going to be stuck at home, we might as well try to find some goodness in this.”
Anderson recommends yoga or any type of breathing exercise to help you through this trying time. She said any kind of work out is going to give people a little boost.
Anderson said everyone just needs to continue to support one another.
“Continue as much as possible to support local and small businesses,” said Anderson. “Continue to support each other and treat each other with kindness and to know we’re all in this together and we’re going to get through it one way or another.”
Donna Stoddard – Laguna Niguel, CA
Currently, under a shelter in place order in Laguna Niguel, California, Donna Stoddard and her family take it one day at a time. Stoddard lived in Shenandoah at different times throughout her life before making California her home.
Stoddard is the production coordinator for a direct mail advertising business and has been working from home three weeks during the coronavirus pandemic. She is concerned about what the future holds for the company.
“Our job is to get people to go into the car dealers and buy a car,” said Stoddard. “They aren’t considered a place of necessity, so they're not even supposed to be open to the public. I don’t know if our company is going to make it through this. We literally have zero business.”
Stoddard’s husband, Don, is an electrician and owns his business.
“Technically, his business is considered a necessity because he’s an electrician, so he falls underneath the category that can still go out and work,” said Stoddard.
However, Stoddard said most of her husband’s work involves remodeling projects and they have been put on hold. Only emergency electrician work is recommended at this time.
“People aren’t wanting to open up their houses and work on projects while this is going on,” said Stoddard.
Stoddard has two children at home Zach and Evy, that she begins homeschooling this week since schools have shut down across the county. She said last week was considered spring break.
“Monday, the teachers get ahold of us and we start doing Google Classroom,” said Stoddard.
Stoddard said the teacher would be the only one with her camera on so students can see her and she will be able to hear them and interact as a group.
“They are going to re-evaluate it, but as of right now, our date is April 13 for kids to go back to school,” said Stoddard. “That could change as well.”
Stoddard said even with the shelter in place order; they can go for walks keeping 6 feet away from non-household members. She said there are a lot of walking trails in the area where they live with a trailhead right across the street from her house.
“There is definitely still a lot of people out walking,” said Stoddard. “I feel like a lot of them are being pretty conscious of the 6-foot rule.”
Stoddard said parks, beaches and places of entertainment are closed, so finding things to occupy the kids has been a challenge.
Getting groceries is a challenge, whether delivered or purchased in person.
“I run to the grocery store, but the problem is right now the grocery stores are only allowing up to 50 people into the store at one time,” said Stoddard. “So, lines are waiting outside of the stores to get in.”
Stoddard said most items have a set limit of 2 per person and even with that in place a lot of product is hard to find.
“The produce is all gone,” said Stoddard. “All you can see are leaves on the shelf. The bread aisle is completely empty. They just can’t keep up with it and as soon as it comes in, people grab it. I haven’t seen chicken breasts in almost three weeks now.”
The economy is Stoddard’s biggest concern.
“It’s going to affect us for a long time and it’s going to be hard to recover,” said Stoddard. “It’s going to take months to recover, maybe a year or more.”
Stoddard stresses how important it is for everyone to do their part to reduce the spread of the coronavirus.
“The only way this is going to get better is if we all do our part,” said Stoddard. “Stick together and do what we’re supposed to do,” said Stoddard.
Kristin Fletcher – Seattle, Washington
In West Seattle, Washington, Kristin (Psota) Fletcher (formerly of Shenandoah) spends her mornings homeschooling her daughters Adelyn and Alana Davis during the coronavirus pandemic.
“I created a daily schedule that we stick to in all the school subjects that they would typically have,” said Fletcher. “West Seattle public schools are not providing online curriculum for students in an effort to try and make it balanced for all households as there are some who don’t have computers or even Internet service.”
Fletcher said parents were given some basic guidelines on creating a curriculum and were provided with some internet sites they could use.
“The teachers have been calling to check on us,” said Fletcher. “The kids are starting to do a once-daily meet and greet with their teacher.”
Fletcher said East Seattle schools provided laptops or other electronic devices to students without access and are offering online curriculum.
Seattle is currently under a stay-at-home order through April 6 and all non-essential businesses have been closed. She said a lot of doctor and dental offices are not taking patients unless it is a medical emergency.
Fletcher works in and out of the home, teaching private piano and voice lessons from home and holding performances around the Seattle area. During March, she had six performances scheduled and all, but one was canceled.
“My private lessons I have some students that are doing it remotely, but I have others that are just taking the next month off,” said Fletcher.
Fletcher’s husband Bill owns a moving company and this time of year is typically the busy season. With the spread of the coronavirus, he has seen a decrease in business.
“It is definitely taking a toll on everyone here, especially small business owners,” said Fletcher. “I’ve heard a lot of restaurants in Seattle have closed permanently. They can’t afford to keep their doors open and just losing a couple weeks of revenue; they just can’t continue.”
Fletcher is also using this downtime to get caught up on a list of things she has always wanted to do.
“So I’ve been working on my Spanish and also reading books I hadn’t got to,” said Fletcher. “In a way, it's kind of nice to be kind of forced to take some downtime, but it’s definitely a different pace.”
Fletcher lives in a highly-populated area, which is a concern for her family.
“The risk is higher where were at and also I have asthma, which is pretty well controlled, but it’s still a concern,” said Fletcher. “If I were to get it, I’m sure it would be more difficult for me to get well. So we’re just being overly cautious right now.”
Fletcher said they typically plan ahead under normal circumstances and were well stocked on essential items when the pandemic hit.
“We’re making sure we're not doing anything unnecessarily like going out to see friends and things like that,” said Fletcher. “We’re staying close to home.”
Fletcher said during her last trip to the store for necessities; people were practicing social distancing.
“Obviously, people were giving each other a lot of room to move and not be in their space, but I felt like there was just an extra added era of kindness about people,” said Fletcher. “ People were smiling at each other and being a little more gentle. Moving at a slower pace. It was refreshing to see in a time like this.”
Fletcher urges people to follow their government recommendations and for those not heavily impacted at this time to stay close to home before it becomes more of an issue.
“Once it starts to spread, it is fast and it can be overwhelming,” said Fletcher. “So use this time now to get caught up on those things you want to do around the house and be with your families, create memories. Think of it as a way to kind of get back to basics, center yourselves and just enjoy being with each other and try not to think about the fear but really the positive of what can come from it.”
Nikki Akers – Hoboken, New Jersey
As the spread of the coronavirus increases in New York, Governor Andrew Cuomo has shut down all non-essential businesses. Just a 15-minute drive from New York City across the George Washington Bridge is Hoboken, New Jersey, where Shenandoah native Nikki Akers lives with her husband, Luis Verdecia.
Akers is the head of the reporting and analytics for the operational risk program at JP Morgan Chase in New York City and has been working at home for a little over a week.
“In both New York City as well as Hoboken, all the bars and restaurants are closed,” said Akers. “Essentially, all the public places and outdoor parks are closed off. Anywhere people can congregate, they have closed.”
Akers said you don’t see a lot of people out walking like you usually would and like most other states, the essential places like grocery stores and access to medical care remain open. She said a 10 p.m. curfew had been initiated in both Hoboken and New York City.
“It’s definitely not as carefree,” said Akers. “You can tell people are keeping their distance even when walking by you.”
Compared to a lot of other Americans, Nikki said the impact of the coronavirus pandemic has been minimal for her so far.
“To be honest, I’m not one of those people that’s that impacted,” said Akers. “I don’t have kids like a lot of my co-workers. I know they're trying to do the schooling from home and it’s a struggle, especially if you're trying to work at the same time. “
Akers said it is hit or miss in terms of daycares that remain open in the area.
“So, a lot of parents are taking care of their children while being asked to work at the same time,” said Akers.” For me, I’m working from my kitchen counter, but it's not something I can’t handle.”
Akers main concern goes out to those who are being hit hard with the impacts the pandemic is causing. She hopes even those that are feeling the effects less are taking this matter seriously.
“At my age, I don’t anticipate it hurting me, but I don’t want to be one to spread it,” said Akers. “I worry about my family in Iowa.”
Akers said herself and a lot of her friends started staying at home as much as possible before a lot of direction came from the governor.
“We don’t know how bad it’s going to be and all the stuff you hear on the news you want to stop it from spreading as much as you can,” said Akers.
Akers said her employer has taken the matter seriously and followed all recommendations made by the governor.
“I think being proactive is probably the best thing we can do now,” said Akers. “I think if we bunker down now, it is going to help out in the long run.”
Akers hopes the virus will die out before the weather starts to warm up. She worries with warm weather; people will become more relaxed with social distancing.
“The more we can get on top of this now, I think, the better,” said Akers.
Hollie Rinschler – Chesapeake, Virginia
Chesapeake, Virginia, got their first confirmed case of COVID-19 this past week.
Chesapeake is where Hollie Rinschler, originally from Keosauqua, lives with her husband Mark and children Avery and Braden.
“Like everyone else, we’re trying to figure it out as we go,” said Rinschler.
Rinschler said all schools in Virginia are closed and teachers put together an emergency packet for each grade that includes a reading and math packet.
“We are starting to get a little more information from the teachers,” said Rinschler.
Rinschler said they could use technology like Google Meet to communicate with the schools.
Rinschler said before the coronavirus pandemic even reached Virginia, they talked to their kids about washing their hands and personal space. She said they wash their hands as soon as they walk into the house and before they leave.
“Avery will look up cases each day and see what the numbers are and she understands the bell curve as to why we're doing it,” said Rinschler.
Rinschler said it is easier to explain to her daughter, who is in 7th grade, what is happening and they can watch the news together and talk about it. She noted with Braden, who is in 4th grade, it’s a little different. She said they had guided Braden on what to do and he understands he can’t hang out with his friends and if he has questions, they sit down and talk.
Rinschler lives in a neighborhood that has planned fun activities for the kids. She said they communicate with a neighborhood Facebook page.
“Our neighborhood did a scavenger hunt,” said Rinschler. “A bunch of us put shamrocks in our windows and you could walk or ride around the neighborhood and find all the shamrocks.”
Neighborhood kids also work on community projects.
“I work at a church, so my kids and a couple other kids made cards and that was their art and community project for the day,” said Rinschler. “We're going to send them to the shut-ins that can’t come to church on a regular basis. We usually send them bulletins from the church each week but we're not having church, so we we're going to send those to them, so at least they're still getting something in the mail from the church.”
Rinschler said they are also working on thank you cards for family friends and neighbors who work in the medical profession. She said they spend time outside going for a run, bike riding and playing basketball.
A large neighborhood Easter Egg Hunt is a tradition Rinschler carried down from her grandparents.
Rinschler said she is still considering a revised version using social distancing by placing eggs in individual families yards and texting them when they can go out and find eggs instead of having one giant neighborhood hunt.
Rinschler is also a Girl Scout Troup leader and said their cookie season had been extended due to the COVID-19 outbreak.
“This weekend was supposed to be our last weekend for cookie booths, but we can’t do the booths now,” said Rinschler.
Rinschler said people are placing quite a few orders for cookies and they will leave their money on the porch and she will leave their cookies for them.
“We have painting to do that was already on our spring/summer to-do list, so it’s getting done now instead of later,” said Rinschler. “It’s kind of nice to be able to do it and not have to stop and go to a softball game. We can literally paint today and be done with it.”
Rinschler said it took a little longer for business in Virginia to close than other states.
“The first major closure was the schools, then everything followed after that,” said Rinschler. “Restaurants are open for drive-through and delivery using mobile apps and they leave it at your door with no contact.”
Rinschler joined the Navy in 1992 after graduation and served for 22 years retiring in 2014.
“I was in the medical field and was an orthopedic technician that assisted the doctors,” said Rinschler. “When I first retired, I worked as an administrative assistant for two years in a medical office.”
With the church closed to the public where she is currently employed, she alternates workdays with a co-worker. She said they provided a drive-through food pantry, and their pastor has been posting sermons on Facebook.
Rinschler’s husband, Mark, is still active military in the Navy and is on shore duty. They are also alternating days to cover the office they work from and work remotely from home the other days.
Rinschler said working in the medical field would have many challenges right now. She noted two medical Navy ships, the USNS Comfort and the USNS Mercy, are being activated to help free up space in hospitals in New York and California by treating patients without COVID-19 symptoms.
Rinscher is concerned people do not understand the importance of social distancing.
“It’s people not understanding and not getting the fact that they are part of the problem as to why the numbers aren’t decreasing,” said Rinschler. “They keep going up.”
Rinschler said she believes it will take over a year for them to have a vaccination for COVID-19.
“Once we do get the curve down, this is going to be a way of life until we can get everyone vaccinated,” said Rinschler. “Hopefully, it won’t be as crazy, but I don’t see where it’s going to go away. That’s my biggest concern that it's here to stay.”
Rinschler said she worries about individuals that already suffer from social anxieties and she prays for her friends that are in the medical field.
“I have a friend that’s a nurse and I have another one that’s a doctor and I pray for them,” said Rinschler.” A couple of our friends are paramedics and they never know what they are walking into. At least with a nurse, you kind of have an idea of what's going on before they get to you. It’s just frightening.”
Rinschler said it is like she is stuck in the “Avengers: Infinity War” movie. She said in the film, Thanos, a character, is trying to collect infinity stones to wipe out half the population. She said once he collects the stones, he snaps his fingers and people across the world vanish.
“He’s thinning the herd basically and making a better generation, so to speak,” said Rinschler. “That’s exactly what I feel like that I’m stuck in an infinity war.”
Rinschler said her grandmother always told her, “God does everything for a reason. You may not understand it at that particular moment, but He’s doing it and eventually, one day in your life, you’ll be like ah-ha. I still hear her telling me that when I’m in a situation that I don’t understand. Then I hear her say you’ll figure it out at some point and time and it will come back to you and you’ll be like ‘oh that’s why He did that.’”