Covid-History Item Type Metadata
Saratoga Springs, New York
When did the impact of COVID-19 first occur to you? How did your reaction to COVID-19 change between then and the first case in your town?
I took a vacation from Feb 20th to Feb 25th and flew across the country. COVID-19 was in the news but was still a footnote. When I travel, I typically wash my hands frequently anyway, so I was not overly concerned as there were still limited cases in the US. I had a relaxing vacation and returned home. On March 4th, I was at the Maple Ave Science Night and overheard some students talking about the virus. At that point I thought it as just topical of the news cycle. After doing some more reading, I could see how the issue was only growing instead of slowing down. On March 8th, I was running with a friend when I realized how big the news surrounding COVID-19 was getting. My friend and I were trading factoids and growing concern, and all other news was crowded out for this story. We had nothing else to talk about, since it was all anyone was talking about. Our running group instituted new distancing rules, and had all events suspended by the next week. March 13th was my last day in the office. World news had finally arrived in my hometown. My mood fluctuated between intense worry and a numbness like I was living in a dream. I wasn’t sure it was entirely real. On March 18th, I was in the Hannaford supermarket and the shelves were empty of many food items. There was a shortage of toilet paper for silly reasons (it’s a bulk item), but the idea of a food run scared me. Luckily, supplies were available and the shelves were restocked by the next morning. Certain food items regularly ran out for weeks on end but there was always enough in the store. I only missed one or two items in my shopping list at any time, and usually was able to find it the next time. However, the fear of a food shortage still stuck with me as the panic buying lasted for about 2-4weeks until everyone’s pantries were full. Shelves are returning to normal slowly, but pasta and canned vegetables are still not at pre-panic levels 3 months ago.
How is your life different now than it was before the pandemic?
Life currently consists of working, sleeping, eating, exercise, and bathing. It’s extremely stripped down to only the basics and necessities. Luckily, I am still able to work from home, and I live alone, so a large portion of my day both at home is unchanged. Working remotely, I am still completing the same tasks but miss begin able to talk to people face to face, despite being able to complete the work over the phone if needed. But now, I can’t run with a local running group. I don’t go out with friends anymore. I can’t go to library! I can go outside for individual exercise and can also go for walks in the woods. I still go to the grocery store, but it’s not fun (not that it was in the first place). Food items are sometimes out of stock, but there is always an alternative with some quick thinking and willingness to be creative and flexible.
How are you feeling? What are you doing to relieve stress?
As mentioned before, I can go outside for exercise and for a walk. I’m an avid runner and cyclist. So, every day I can do either, and the extra training has helped my fitness quite a bit. I also can go for a walk in the woods alone so long as I keep my distance from others. I’ve been exploring the Nature preserves in Wilton, and the trails in the woods behind Skidmore College. Despite this, my feelings bounce between resolve and a light despair. Since I have no control on what is canceled and what daily activities are allowed, it is quite a change from previously when a few weeks ago I could do anything. The only thing I can do is carry on. Luckily, exercise outside and cooking at home are not canceled, and I have been doing those to relieve stress.
What have you noticed has changed in your community since the outbreak? What has surprised you?
Initially, everything was cancelled, closed, or shut down. A few restaurants were open for takeout. As of this date, things are opening back up. But many public events are still cancelled. I was surprised at the speed that everything closed, and that even tracks and fields were closed despite being open spaces where the virus was not suspected to spread. Since reopening began, I usually call a place ahead of time to see what procedures and requirements they have in place. There are considerations for even basic trips, such as if there are bathroom facilities available. Things take more time and more space, since even the simple act of waiting in line now requires large amounts of physical separation that nothing is designed for. There is also a large amount of people getting outside, and a local bike path has become pretty crowded now.
Are you a business owner who has had to close? If you are still open, how have you had to adjust how your business operates?
Are you an essential employee? What do you do? What precautions are being taken at your workplace? What precautions are implementing at home?
Yes, I was designated as an essential employee but I could work from home using a notebook computer. Since I could work from home, I took great care to make sure that I washed my hands for 20 seconds under hot water every time I entered my home without touching anything else, and to be careful handling anything that was from the outside. At my workplace, some staff are required to report on site. The company instituted an entry way with temperature checks, facemask requirements, social distancing, enhanced cleaning of bathrooms and common areas, closure of some office spaces for employees who are now working at home.
Are you an employee who has been laid off or furloughed? Were you able to get unemployment? Were you able to retain your health insurance?
Are you working from home? What adjustments or challenges are you experiencing?
Working from home has always been a mental challenge for me. There are too many distractions. I use spaces to segregate activities: the workplace is for work; the home is for home activities. I’ve managed to find a space that I can focus on work in my home. Another challenge sometimes comes from other people working at home as they are not able to find a quiet space when on a work call. And finally, while some could consider that it is easy to slack off while the boss isn’t looking, the value that someone brings to the company needs to be evident over the work completed now more than ever. There is a small amount of anxiety to work even harder to make sure I am noticed and that I am not seen as taking advantage of not working while at home, but I am actually working hard just in my home. Working from home also comes with perks. Since I can make my own coffee, I’ve begun experimenting and trying new coffees and methods of brewing. It’s much better than the office coffee and I think I’ve found a new interest that will last long beyond the pandemic.
Do you have children at home? How’s it going?
If you’re a student, was school canceled? Were you able to complete your studies online? Do you think you’ll be back on campus in the fall?
Did you have to postpone any major life events? (e.g. Graduation, wedding, major birthday) What did you do instead?
While none are for me specifically, there were a few weddings with close friends I was looking forward to this summer that were postponed until next summer.
Do you have animals? Did you adopt a pet? How have they impacted your day?
What positive things did you contribute to or notice take place?
There is an incredible amount of wildlife now that commuting traffic and airplane traffic is reduced. Pollution is down in most of the world, although Saratoga Springs has always been pretty good. There are songbirds, squirrels, rabbits, and many many chipmunks around. I have also seen many more neighbors out walking. I have been meeting more and chatting more (at a distance) than before. I’ve seen more kids out riding their bikes and participating in their neighborhood than I did before the pandemic. People have been forced to put down busier parts of their life and have rediscovered each other. There are rainbows made in artwork everywhere. There are encouraging messages written in chalk in driveways and roads. There is still a lot of hope and support even to strangers out there.
Did you or someone you know contract COVID-19? What was it like?
No, thankfully not yet.
If you lost someone during the pandemic, how did you celebrate their lives?
What do you wish you knew before the pandemic began?
That it is OK to feel the way I do, to let go of the things I can’t control, and to understand how my powerful discovering my own resilience is.
What would you want future generations to know about the 2020 pandemic? How would you recommend they prepare for it?
Pandemics do happen, and they need to be prepared for. There were a couple of bad respiratory viruses between 2002 (SARS) and now 2020 (COVID-19). But only COVID-19 spread far across the world. Once it’s gone, the task will still remain to unravel its genetic mysteries and use that knowledge to improve methods of detection in the population and expedited vaccine development and synthesis. We sequenced the entire virus’s genome, but there are still mysteries about it after 3 months. We need to be able to get more concrete answers from the genome and apply them to concrete actions the public needs to take. If genomic studies can speed of the vaccine development process, that is also important. These things take consistent funding even after the emergency ends. Keep funding and keep researching: pandemics have not gone away yet. Another important lesson will be from public health policy. Only history will tell, but big mistakes were made at the Federal level and we must learn from those mistakes. At the state level, transparency was key to getting the message out and convincing people to cooperate against an invisible force. Social Distancing and facemask use quickly spread on social media and mainstream media, and people learned and responded quickly. People will change their behavior: but it has to be sold the right way. Finally, life does go on. We will get through this, one long day at a time. As of this date, restaurants are opening and life is slowly going back to normal. But storm clouds on the horizon as multiple states hit new records this week for infections and deaths. We are not out of the woods so to say. It will take many months to get through this. The world is not over, but it will take some time to get back to a time without COVID-19 as a daily concern.
How do you think this pandemic will change how we behave going forward? What will the “new normal” look like?
I don’t believe all major facets of life is changed forever. But I do think things will take a long time to get back completely, and it will happen in stages. I would like to see a new normal that puts emphasis on public health. People who are sick should not be guilted or economically incentivized to come in to work. That has gained a lot of attention since in previous years the flu was a nuisance not a threat to life. Public cleanliness and attitudes towards hand washing and sanitary practices need to and probably will improve, at least for a while. Mask use might not be taboo if one might be sick. Public transport with emphasis on packing people in efficiently will change the most. I do think there will be a race to develop a sanitary material that replaces plastic, since the public was seriously trying to reduce its consumption before the pandemic. (That has reversed course since plastic can be sanitized and is impermeable.) I also think that a lot of events with many people will move online since people will realize its usefulness. While in person events will resume, many things will also have an online component. Funerals can include family that cannot fly across the world in a moment’s notice. Sporting events can broadcast to fans virtually flung across the world that they cannot physically accommodate in a stadium. “Necessity is the mother of invention” and it is inventing a lot of uses for virtual events.
Is there anything else you would like to add that hasn't already been asked above?
Background on the Pandemic Uncertainty To give some more background on what it was like to live through this time, readers in the future may want to understand how little knowledge there was about the virus. The virus’ genome was sequenced using technology available to us. It’s lineage and how it was mutating was also able to tracked. This currently is the most important story in the world and it is a science story. Yet in the first days in February and March, it was still uncertain to science on how it was spread. Leading scientists suspected airborne droplet spread, but didn’t rule out surface contact spread. Being near anyone or touching a surface that was sneezed, coughed, or breathed on, or touched with a contaminated hand, was also contaminated for an uncertain length of time. Every person and every surface you didn’t have control over was a potential source of a lethal virus. Panic ensued. There was an incredible amount of uncertainty around who got and how bad COVID-19 (the disease) was, and still as of this writing date three months in. I risk getting my facts wrong in this next paragraph, but understand that specific concrete answers are in short supply. Studies were being published daily both in peer review and pre-peer review. The press sometimes reported on these studies giving them more weight than their status deserved. That didn’t include the mountain of mis- and dis-information on social media and in the public square outside of science. Sifting through it is a full-time job, is emotionally exhausting, and is why I stopped consuming so much news and COVID-19 information after a month. Eventually, the public learned how to “social distance” because exhaled droplets were the main source of spreading. It wasn’t airborne, so as long as everyone stayed roughly 6 feet apart, it was generally seen as OK. Masks are now required to go into any store or public place, though they can be made of material such as cotton that doesn’t protect the wearer. The idea is to reduce the particles exhaled even if the wearer isn’t protected from inhaling virus particles. There are many stories of young people dying of COVID-19. Statistics show that the elderly are most at risk, but no one is immune by their age. Health status over smoking and underlying health risks also contribute, but even those who recover at home sometimes take 60 days to fully recover. Some report continuing health issues (called “long haulers”), and there is worry of lifelong damage after the disease is past. It’s still too early to know. Worse, it is still unknown what the rate of asymptomatic cases are. Some people become incredibly sick, even going to the hospital, or the intensive care unit or ICU. Some require the use of a ventilator, which are in short supply. (The United States is using the Defense Production Act to require manufacturers to create the unit in large quantities to avoid a short supply. Projections show we still can’t have a large breakout without rationing.) But some people can have no symptoms at all and still spread it to others. These are called Asymptomatic cases. The fear of young people isn’t completely that they themselves will contract COVID-19 and die (although certainly possible, rare); the fear is the guilt of accidentally spreading it to a vulnerable person which leads to their death. Early on, testing accuracy and testing capacity were rightfully highlighted as a top priority. Without testing a large sample of the population, if not the entire population, would be required to understand both the spread and severity of the virus. Still, testing is only done on people who report symptoms such as cough or trouble breathing, which is a self-reported sample. It won’t reveal what the rate of asymptomatic cases are unless everyone is tested. Since I have not had symptoms, I haven’t been tested. But I can’t assume I’m not asymptomatic.
Southern Adirondack Library System
“Greg,” Leaving Our Fingerprints on History, accessed August 8, 2022, https://fingerprints.sals.edu/omeka/items/show/84.