One Year Later: Daily Journaling the Covid-19 Pandemic

It’s hard to believe that I’ve been journaling about the global coronavirus pandemic for a year.

When this journey began, my first entry wasn’t until a few days after the World Health Organization had officially declared a global pandemic.

Today I wrote, “Day 365 of Coronavirus Chronicles – March 15, 2021.”

The suggestion to write about your daily life during this time of crisis came from University of Virginia history professor Dr. Herbert “Tico” Braun who said, “Think of your children, your grandchildren, your friends down the road, who will ask you what was it like during that pandemic – ‘What was it called? Corona-something? You know, the one that was named after a Mexican beer … back then in 2020 or ’21. When was it?’ ”

Dr. Braun continued:

“If you are going to compose a journal of these times, make it something easy to do. If a journal becomes onerous, it does not work. You do not have to write or do things for the journal every day. Keep your writing and composing close by, so you can jot things down to return to them later. Jot things down, a few words here and there, but then compose them in full sentences.

“When you read an article that you find telling, produce a link in your journal and write a few brief reflections. Include photographs, from the press and those that you take.

“Many of us are writing today and producing our work on social media. It is an explosion. You can gather these voices, these experiences, all this creativity. They are all a record of our times. These voices are urgent.

“How will we deal, socially, psychologically, with the increasing number of deaths all around us? Many are saying that around the globe our lives will not be the same again.”

In that first post, I added, “This journal will be my thoughts and observations during these unprecedented times we are living through. If we come out the other side, we can look back and see the parts that will be forgotten over time. I should have done the same after the 9/11 terrorist attacks in 2001.”

And I ended it as I have each entry since: “Be well.”

That was how I began. A few days later, my anxiety came through while watching what was unfolding around us….

The lives of Americans have changed so drastically in a week that I decided to begin journaling about it all, what I’m doing during this time, and what I’m observing around me.

I’ll be honest in saying my stress level has rocketed in the past week as the news has become more and more grim. I look forward to finding my joy again, and I’m hoping that sharing these posts will help.

Life, as we know it, has most likely changed forever. That’s a scary thought. Granted, I read all the new stories and listen to the experts. It’s occupational when your day is filled with reading and research and writing.

The terrorist attacks of 9/11 were so devastating that I have often wished I had kept notes of what was going on at that time, but life — teaching my kids, meetings, leadership in our homeschool group, and political campaigns — kept me so busy that I didn’t take the time to write.

This is different. The country is shutting down and many Americans are self-isolating to quarantine themselves against a mysterious pneumonia-based virus that has exploded onto the world stage the past two months. We’ve watched in horror as the entire countries of China and Italy have shut down; same with Spain and France.

All reports indicate that we are less than two weeks behind Italy so do we have a complete lockdown on the way? If so, only essential travel including medical help and grocery store runs will be allowed.

Two weeks ago we political junkies were crunching numbers from Super Tuesday, the Democratic presidential primary. One week ago we were crunching numbers from the Democratic primaries on Mini-Tuesday.

By Thursday, things really began ramping up. As universities sent students home to continue their classes online, Virginia’s Governor Ralph Northam ordered that the Commonwealth was under a state of emergency, put a ban on state employee travel, implemented telework policies, and advised against large gatherings of people.

On that same day President Trump declared a national emergency. Now, whoa! That’s big, and after weeks of mocking, may have caught the attention of those who didn’t take it seriously. Even the president originally called it a Democratic hoax.

Virginia schools were ordered closed for two weeks. Disney Land and Disney World and other theme parks announced they were closing. Disney Cruises shut down for two months along with all the other cruise lines.

Those announcements were followed with the first of public places announcing closings … restaurants, gyms, and many other public venues.

Virginia’s governor on Sunday banned any groups over 100 and then lowered it to 50 a couple of days later. That was trumped by Trump himself who suggested no groups larger than 10.

Today the Big Three auto makers announced they were shuttering their factories. San Francisco and now Palm Springs have shelter-in-place orders aka as lockdown. Airlines are cutting over 50 percent of their flights. Simon Malls is closing all its shopping malls.

New terminology has come into play. We’re all practicing “social distancing,” as in keeping six feel apart from our fellow human beings. “Self-isolating” or “self-quarantining” means someone has been exposed and is staying home away from anyone else, or that people are staying home away from the public to avoid catching the virus, or people have exhibited some symptoms and are isolating themselves at home to avoid passing it on if it’s coronavirus.

And there are very few test kits to see if your symptoms are, indeed, caused by coronavirus. That’s a whole other story — America was offered kits, we for some reason turned them down, and now here we were with cases exploding around us and only a handful of test kits.

After a run on the stores, face masks are nowhere to be found. There’s a shortage for health care providers, which isn’t good. Toilet paper has become the running joke because it is sold out everywhere with only long empty shelves where it used to be.

We made a quick trip out yesterday morning to Martin’s to pick up fresh produce and perishables. We are stocked with the staples but perishables and produce only last about a week. After this, we will order online and then drive to Martin’s for their deliver-to-your-car service [later became known as curbside pickups] — but will the food supply be disrupted as this virus ramps up? With so many people getting sick, it’s not beyond the realm of possibility.

Today Congress passed a financial relief package. It’s probably the first of many. Businesses are tanking. Many small businesses will probably go out of business. It’s unbelievable all that has shut down in the space of one week. America is becoming a ghost town as folks hunker down for the storm.

All Virginia community colleges have cancelled their May commencements (there are 23 in all). University of Virginia announced yesterday they were cancelling their May commencement (with hopes of having it during the summer). Universities have announced students will not return this school year, as well as some K-12 schools.

I’ve always said there are heroes amongst us and, during the time of this health emergency, they are on the front line — doctors, nurses, healthcare providers, custodians, clerks, pharmacists, grocery store clerks and cashiers and stockers and those pulling groceries to fill online orders.

First responders are again on the front line and, soon I suspect, either National Guard or the military may be pulled into service. And this is by no means a complete list. God bless them all … we are grateful.

Again it ended with, “Be well.”

At that time I had no idea my own step-father would be among the coronavirus victims, nor did any of us realize this deadly virus would take over half-a-million American lives, a number that continues to grow on a daily basis.

Calvin Lucy died on April 24, 2020, after spending two weeks in the hospital with Covid-19. He caught it in his locked-down assisted living facility.

We were not allowed in the hospital to comfort him so his was just one of the hundreds of thousands of lonely deaths that would play out over the next year. There was no funeral which also became the norm as those who mourned were denied the comfort of gathering with family and friends. For us, a graveside funeral four months later on August 17 – his birthday and the one-year anniversary of my mother’s funeral – was possible because we were outdoors with masks.

When I first started writing these chronicles, it was an open blog post for anyone to read. My intention was to publicly detail what we all were encountering, how we were coping, and how life was changing as we went along.

However, as the pandemic dragged on – as weeks stretched into months – my mood slowly sank and I stopped publishing public entries. Ever an optimist, I had met my match, and it was a killer virus … but also something else crept into America.

Fractures showed up in friendships between pro- and anti-maskers as videos containing false coronavirus information began circulating on social media. Some families also experienced splits as philosophical differences emerged.

Anti-maskers, mostly right-of-center, claimed their freedoms were being infringed upon with mandatory mask laws and other mandates enacted at the local, state, and federal levels.

Pro-maskers pointed out that the safety efforts were for the benefit of all. Medical personnel who were working the frontlines were wearing masks at work without issues but that did not placate the anti-mask believers.

Among the anti-mask crowd, Dr. Fauci, the nation’s leading infectious disease expert who has spent decades serving the citizens of this nation, suddenly became the enemy. I’m still not clear exactly why they chose to turn on him except there were false allegations circulating in even more videos making the rounds.

Software developer, investor, author, and philanthropist Bill Gates was accused of trying to implant chips in people, possibly through vaccines – also perpetrated by false videos from the dark corners of the internet.

These issues were most often split down political lines.

As alarm rose over business failures and increasing numbers of Americans out of work, a $2.2 trillion economic stimulus bill passed in March 2020 with bipartisan support. [This year the just-passed $1.9 trillion economic package didn’t receive one single Republican vote and was passed only because of a newly-elected Democratic majority in both chambers.]

Watching all this unfold, my shock and disappointment began to come out in my writing and I eventually went private to avoid the darts and arrows of those who disagreed with my opinions. I was incredulous at the changes in people I had known for years.

After losing a family member to Covid, the meanness of anti-maskers hit particularly hard.

At times my writing almost felt like self-analysis as we slogged along, sinking deeper into the pandemic and experiencing more isolation away from family and friends while death rates mounted. The hardships of the past year played with people’s minds.

Today, as Covid cases decline, my daily entries continue and, while I’m not sure for how much longer, it will be at least until summer as vaccines are distributed. (That is, vaccines for those who will take them as yet another chasm has developed between the pro- and anti-vaccine believers, with polls showing 49 percent of Republican men saying they won’t be inoculated.)

I’m curious as to how many others may have been keeping diaries, journals, and chronicles about the past year. Did some start and then fizzle out? Were others diligent with regular, if not daily, entries?

With a light at the end of the tunnel, my family will continue to wear masks and receive our “Fauci ouchie” shots when it’s our turn (just as we were all vaccinated for measles, whopping cough, smallpox, polio, and any number of other diseases over the years).

Keep the faith that this country will soon get back to some semblance of normalcy, and that rifts and breaks in relationships can be mended.

And above all, be well….

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