By Joey Amberson, City Desk Editor
Who knew that Dec. 31, 2019 when watching Dick Clark’s “Rockin’ Eve” on ABC as the clock ticked closer to midnight in New York’s Time Square and Barbara Walters famously announcing “this is 2020,” that we’d be in for the ride of our lives.
In January, I started following news reports of the novel coronavirus that was affecting various countries and taking the lives of individuals. I didn’t pay attention to it as I should have because I figured it was just another mild outbreak that would be contained. Then the first case was confirmed in the United States on January 20th.
Fast forward to March 13, where a news conference was announced with Dr. Scott Harris, the State Health Officer for the Alabama Department of Public Health. It was obvious what this was about – Alabama had its first confirmed case of COVID-19. At this point, my boss told us we needed to have an emergency staff meeting the following Monday to address the issue of working from home. The shift to online classes at UAB was also announced around the same time and we were asked not to come back to campus following spring break.
Businesses deemed non-essential began shutting down. Churches suspended in-person worship services. Community events and sports would end up being cancelled. Lives were already being impacted. This unfamiliar way of life being thrust on everyone at once was setting in. This was the real deal. A virus was bringing us to our knees. Working from home became the new normal, video conferencing took over face-to-face meetings, and in-person classes at school were forced to change completely to online. The end of April arrived, and a history making spring semester was finished.
Health experts from the national to local level were advising everyone to stay at home as much as possible. Terms like “face coverings” and “social distancing” were being used more. Toilet paper was flying off the shelves.
It was like the end of the world.
Small businesses and “mom and pop” shops who couldn’t remain open were dying a slow death. The hurt, pain, and anguish was getting deeper. I couldn’t recall a more dire time in my 32 years of life.
Finally, businesses started to reopen; restaurants were allowing guests to dine-in at a limited capacity, and even some entertainment venues were reopening. It was evident that people were wanting to get out again after being secluded in their homes for a few months.
One disturbing thing I’ve seen with the reopening is the defiance of not wearing a mask in public as advised by top health officials. I don’t like wearing a mask, but I want to do everything I can to prevent the spread of the virus.
I make the mistake of looking at social media where some feel their rights are being infringed with orders of face coverings to be worn while out. These same people, some in my own circle of friends and family, believe that the virus is real, but it was put here by those wanting to hurt the reputation of President Donald Trump. I can’t do anything but shake my head in disbelief when I read such absurd remarks.
On a positive note, it’s evident, at least in my neighborhood, that seclusion has had an impact on interactions with each other. I’ve seen more people trying to look after those who can’t be with their family where they may have never spoken before. I’ve seen numerous churches and volunteer groups trying to help with grocery runs, picking up medicine, feeding the hungry, or other errands.
That’s what I want to remember this time by – when we all came together and helped each other in a time of crisis. I’m still hopeful, even with all the negativity, that we will rise out of this stronger than before. It’s possible. It’s been done before, and we can do it again.