COVID-19 and Me
By RALPH HARDIN
Evening Times Editor I n my lifetime, I’ve been around for some pretty important events. I was born in the middle of the Watergate scandal. I remember, even as a young kid, the Iranian Hostage Crisis, President Reagan getting shot … my eighth grade history class was gathered around the TV in the Marion Junior High library watching the Space Shuttle Challenger take off and then explode.
The Gulf War was during my senior year in high school. I well remember the Rodney King verdict and the L.A. Riots. I remember Columbine, back when school shootings were not an almost regular thing. I sat and watched the tragic events of September 11th, 2001 unfold. I could almost write my own version of Billy Joel’s “We Didn’t Start the Fire.”
But for the most part, those were all things that I simply witnessed. They didn’t really have a direct impact on my actual day-to-day life. Even with something as huge as the Great Recession, the most it really affected me directly was complaining about having to pay $4 a gallon for gas.
When the COVID-19 pandemic first started, I assumed it would be sort of like that … I’d have some inconveniences, but I would not have to deal directly with the coronavirus or any of the consequences of it.
How wrong I was.
The first thing was the cancellations. My daughter’s last volleyball tournament before everything shut down was in Hot Springs. We were cautioned to practice “social distancing,” even though no one really knew what that was. The next week, all the sports started getting cancelled. Then the big events. It became clearer that this was going to be a huge deal.
That really struck home when we closed our offices here at the paper and several employees were furloughed. For a while, those of us who remained worked socially- distant up at the Times’ building, but eventually we shifted to a work-from-home situation. Newspapers all over have been impacted by the loss of revenue. No big events or big sales means no advertising dollars and newspapers simply can’t survive without revenue.
The next big hit for me was the church shutdowns. And the schools. And the restaurants. It was like a domino effect as the things that are important to me and my family were slowly taken away. We spent months in isolation. Yes, we had each other, but it’s just so bizarre to be unable to go hang out or eat a meal at a restaurant or go see a movie.
But we followed the rules. We wore our masks. We washed our hands. We quarantined. We kept six feet apart. And eventually, things started opening back up. In the past few months, we’ve gotten a little bit back to normal. But it has been important to remember that COVID-19 is still out there.
So far, no one I know personally has died from the coronavirus. In fact, until recently, only a handful of people I know have even tested positive. But it has crept back into my life. First, my wife had a co-worker test positive, so she shifted to a work-from-home situation over the summer while that 14-day period passed (she tested negative herself, the first in a series of tests for her). Then, my daughter had someone on her softball team test positive, shutting down the softball program for a couple of weeks (she also tested negative, also the first in a series of tests for her).
COVID-19 kept getting closer and closer. Last week, the guy in a couple that we have dinner with and play cards on a weekly basis let us know that his boss had tested positive but that he personally had tested negative, so we went through with our regular Friday night deal. However, he began to feel bad over the weekend and on Monday, he was re-tested … and he was positive.
This was my first “close contact” incident, and so I, for the first time, got tested for the coronavirus. And let me tell you, I had heard it was bad, but I was not prepared for the swab to be stuck up my nose and into my brain. I’m probably exaggerating (probably), but man, was that ever an unpleasant experience.
My wife and I both tested negative, but since she’s in the school system, she still has to quarantine for 14 days. So, while that’s going on, we’re both working from home. My friend is providing us with daily updates on his symptoms, the weirdest of which has been his loss of smell and taste. I can’t even imagine having the will to eat if I couldn’t taste anything. It has been a week now and he’s still feeling pretty cruddy, so I can’t say much else except continue doing your part to help keep everyone safe.