Mary Duan here, with remembrances and requests.
This time last year, news was ramping up that a novel virus—one that had devastating and even deadly impacts for some and consequences for all—had made its way to the U.S. It very quickly began overwhelming hospitals on the East Coast, and I began receiving panicked correspondence from friends in New York City, asking why I was still posting pictures of my unmasked self going to coffee shops to write, or shots of beautifully plated food from a meal I had at this or that restaurant.
“Why are you still going out?” one such friend asked me. “Why wouldn’t I be?” was my response.
We didn’t know, I realize now. We didn’t know that on March 17, Monterey County Health Officer Edward Moreno would hold a hastily arranged press conference, announce that the first two cases of Covid-19 had been detected in Monterey County residents and that, after consulting with the Board of Supervisors, he was ordering the county to shelter-in-place and most businesses to close.
Suddenly, that HIIT class I had taken the previous week at Montage seemed like a bad idea.
So much devastation—financial, emotional and physical—was going to come to us. In those very early days following the SIP order, and after the Weekly closed its offices to the public and had most of us work from home, I would take long walks around my neighborhood and usually end up sitting on the edge of a planter box outside the Taylor Farms building in Oldtown Salinas. I would take in the silence. The streets were empty, save for people like me walking their dogs, and I thought, “OK, the world is taking a short break, I’ll enjoy the silence for now and things will be back to normal pretty soon.”
We didn’t know. We didn’t know that people would start hoarding toilet paper, for example, and we didn’t know that the empty shelves in the grocery stores would stay empty for awhile, until everyone calmed down. We didn’t know what businesses would survive. We didn’t know working parents would suddenly be running virtual schools out of their homes—for the rest of the school year, and the next. We didn’t know the emotional toll it would take on children who were forced to separate from friends and classmates.
We didn’t know how fully and completely the virus would burn through the farmworker community either, and that it would devastate communities of color before any other.
We didn’t know that more than 300, and counting, of our fellow Monterey County residents would die from the virus. We didn’t know that more than 500,000 of our fellow Americans would die from it either.
In just over two weeks, we in Monterey County will have spent exactly one year living with the Covid-19 pandemic and with its SIP rules—go out only when necessary, avoid indoor gatherings, maintain social distancing, wear a mask in public, wash your hands frequently, protect your elderly or infirm loved ones to the best of your ability. Try to stay sane through it all.
On March 18, the day after the one-year anniversary of the county entering SIP, the Weekly will publish a special edition about the past year. We’d like anyone interested to share their stories with us, for possible use online or in the print edition of that week’s paper.
Questions you may want to answer: How has Covid impacted your life and the lives of those around you, or those you love but haven’t been able to see because of the pandemic? What are your hopes for the future, for when the pandemic is finally brought to heel and life resumes something approximating normal? What did you learn about yourself that you hope stays with you post-pandemic? What did you learn that you hope to forget?
We may all be living in the same pandemic, but we’re not all living the same pandemic experience. Maybe we can bridge the gap, even a little bit, through sharing our stories.