What a year last week was! Life still resembles itself, but only vaguely. I vowed not to touch the V-I-R-U-S keys in preparing this week’s column. Obviously, my fingers and my brain are not in sync – or maybe they are: here I am writing about the developments of a mindboggling week.
Complicating matters, during those jumbly, confusing days when symptoms of the coronavirus were incessantly enumerated on TV, in the print press, and on social media, I was fogged and clogged by a full-blown cold. Through a cloud of wadded-up tissues and cough drop wrappers, I washed my hands and wiped down surfaces, while alternating between the uncertain certainty of COVID-19 and the back-to-sanity realization that I was simply suffering the Shirley-version of the common cold.
Longer than I should have, I allowed myself to be almost mentally incapacitated by the all-coronavirus-all-day coverage of the cable news outlets and the wildly-varying overreactions and underreactions I found on Facebook. I felt dismay at the panic to which too many of us succumbed and anger at the selfishness of some. Even as I worried about our elderly population in the high-risk category, I had to repeatedly remind myself I am an elderly person in the high-risk category!
Then I happened upon a news briefing by Governor DeWine. He and Dr. Amy Acton, Director of the Ohio Department of Health, presented the latest and most essential information I had heard anywhere – in a calm but compelling manner. At that point, I took control of my media exposure, determining to listen to their daily 2 PM briefing as my major source of information along with one evening newscast for perspective.
I feel fortunate that our governor has surrounded himself with a team of medical professionals with whom he digs for facts. As reported in the UDC, Mike DeWine has been ahead of other elected officials across the nation, basing his approach to COVID-19 on the successful, life-saving approach of St. Louis during the deadly Spanish influenza of 1918.
My feelings of good fortune continue each time I listen to Dr. Acton speak. Armed with degrees in preventative medicine and public health, this mother of six has moved beyond the debacle testing has become in attempting to “flatten the curve,” in preparation for the surge yet to come: when hospital facilities and their limited supplies of personal protective equipment may very well be overwhelmed. Dr. Acton explains well, makes crucial points, talks down to no one, is clearheaded and forthright. By the way, two previous holders of her position were a lawyer and a marketing director.
Based on events of this past week, I agree with Governor DeWine’s assessment of his fellow Ohioans: “We are resilient. We will rally. We will make it.” When the governor closed the schools, administrations jumped into action to formulate delivery systems of breakfasts and lunches to their students. Unencumbered by state red tape, teaching staffs designed online lessons for their own students. All manner of websites popped up with virtual safaris and drawing lessons. When the governor closed dine-in restaurants, Facebook filled with carry-out and delivery instructions from local eateries. Some stores have established elderly-only shopping hours.
And we have so many heroes to support: as always, we thank the first-responders, but also the truck drivers and farmers as well as every healthcare professional willing to risk serving under the most difficult of conditions, many of which are yet to occur.
Sometimes the little things become even more important. There was a Facebook photo of a son visiting his father at the nursing home, each on either side of a window chatting on their cell phones. Another picture showed a little boy playing tic-tac-toe with his elderly neighbor on two sides of a glass door with grease pencils on a board outlined by painter’s tape. Snowbird friends of mine returning from Florida noted electronic billboards in every state recommending limited travel to stop the spread of COVID-19. Only in Ohio did they see the additional message of: “We are all in this together.”
I checked in with Ingrid in Germany, where toilet paper is also in short supply. She will not, for the foreseeable future, babysit for her granddaughters. Our conversation reminded me of my reason for promoting international exchange: people in all countries are much more similar than different. Residents of most nations have experienced/are experiencing/will experience COVID-19. Perhaps through sharing fears, concerns, and solutions with our global neighbors, we can all move a little closer to sharing in other areas of life on our planet.
At home, my Great-Depression-survivor father often criticized our pickiness about food: “You are too well fed.” His phrase eventually stretched to cover a general lack of appreciation for all that we have. For many, these extraordinary times are thus far an exercise in inconvenience – although true sacrifice and shortage may be just down the road a piece. I recalled my father’s assessment, when a former student suggested the merely inconvenienced remember people whose lives are at stake, those with childcare flexibility remember people with no options, those of us settling in for quarantine remember people who have no home.
I think, however, that for the next weeks and months – or however long this new normal continues – for that amount of time I will hold on to the oft-repeated words of my mother: “This, too, shall pass.”
Shirley Scott, a 1966 graduate of Graham High School, is a native of Champaign County. After receiving degrees in English and German from Otterbein College, she returned to GHS in 1970 where she taught until retiring in 2010. From 1976-2001 she coordinated the German Exchange Program with the Otto-Hahn-Gymnasium in Springe.