We’re coming up on the anniversary of when COVID changed our lives. Everyone’s anniversary looks a little different because of where they live, how soon they started taking precautions, and the like.
For me, it was the first day of Spring Break, March 9th, when my colleagues and I started hearing about states shutting down through shelter-in-place. The university decided it needed to do something, because we were about to receive 7000 college students freshly back from Spring Break.
By Thursday of Spring Break, we had bought a little time for decision-making with this instruction — “Do not come back for the week after Spring Break; we will let you know what happens from here.” Faculty were assigned to put their classes all online just in case. By Tuesday of that week, the university had decided that all classes would go online. The faculty had a little over a week to go fully online. And then the whole state sheltered in place.
My husband’s job at the library shut down at that time, and we found ourselves living in a changed world defined by the four walls of our home. I became frantic at that time, and my psychiatrist’s nurse assured me that I was far from the only one calling the office in a panic.
The world quickly adapted around us. Public spaces were disinfected and required masks to enter. Stores distanced their customers to six feet apart and established flow patterns. Many restaurants established carryout. The harder things to adapt to: the loss of family gatherings except over zoom, relinquishing my occasional spa writer’s retreat, not eating at restaurants weekly (although we utilized the patio at A&G, a local steaks and chops place, before the weather got too cold).
Although we quickly adapted, we didn’t adapt happily, and we didn’t adapt without fear. Twenty-three people have died in Nodaway County, Missouri; this is one out of every thousand residents; 2.3% of those who got COVID. That’s a large number for deaths. These are large numbers for a small and relatively isolated county with no big towns.
A year later, the landscape has changed a little. The vaccines have rolled out for the most at-risk people; I still wait for mine. We’re all wearing masks still and some of us have a mask collection. The university is back on line, but with reduced classrooms and Zoom for the students and faculty sick or in quarantine. If I ever get my shots (I’m neither old enough nor fat enough to be among the first wave) I might be able to have that writer’s retreat, although still with a mask.
Life might never get back to normal, or maybe we will balk at having to don protection forever. Maybe the vaccine will reach enough people for us to have herd immunity. I hope one thing that changes is that we are more savvy about the microorganisms around us and their potential to become deadly.