April 14, 2024

Rural Issues: What lessons have we learned from the COVID pandemic?

I managed to avoid contracting the COVID virus for almost four years, but it finally tagged me last month. Fortunately, my symptoms were light.

I had a summer cold and wanted to get ahead of a sinus infection, so I went to urgent care in hopes of a steroid shot or Z-Pak.

They diagnosed me with COVID and sent me home to isolate and take over-the-counter cold medication.

Much has changed since early 2020 when that first coronavirus variant swept across our country. Tragically, many got very sick and many people died.

Also tragically, there were those who tried to use fear to control the citizenry of our country. I fear the reaction to COVID-19 will impact our lives at many levels for years to come.

I remember writing about it in 2021: “Although we don’t know when, we do know that the COVID-19 pandemic will end. When it does end, I hope we have a better appreciation for those local businesses that make it through. I hope we step back and evaluate milk and meat processing in this country and see the need and support more local and regional facilities.

“I hope we do not succumb to isolationism and lose our ability to communicate effectively face-to-face. I hope we come out healthy. I hope we do what needs to be done so we — or the generations that come after us — are much better prepared to handle an event of this magnitude when it happens again.”

I also saved an email someone sent to me shortly after that fateful day when the novel coronavirus pandemic was declared on March 11, 2020. So much changed so quickly.

Here are a few of those changes listed in the email:

• Fuel prices are $1.69 per gallon in Columbia, Missouri.

• School is canceled.

• Tape on the floors at grocery stores to help distance shoppers — 6 feet — from each other.

• A limited number of people are allowed inside stores; therefore, there are long lines outside the store doors.

• Nonessential stores and businesses mandated closed.

• Parks, trails and entire cities locked up.

• Entire sports seasons canceled.

• Concerts, tours, festivals, entertainment events are canceled.

• Weddings, family celebrations, holiday gatherings are canceled.

• No funerals.

• No masses or services. Churches are closed.

• No gatherings of 50 or more, then 20 or more, now 10 or more.

• You are not supposed to socialize with anyone outside of your home.

• Shortages of masks, gowns and gloves for our frontline workers.

• Shortage of ventilators for the critically ill.

• Many people are not going to work, or they are setting up offices in spare bedrooms so they can work from home.

• Panic buying sets in and we have no toilet paper, no disinfecting supplies, no paper towels, no laundry soap and no hand sanitizer.

• Shelves are bare.

• Our government closed the border to all nonessential travel.

• Fines are established for breaking the rules.

• There are daily press conferences featuring our president, governors and Dr. Anthony Fauci with updates on new cases, recoveries and deaths.

• Government incentives distributed to encourage the citizenry to stay home.

• Few vehicles on roads.

• People are wearing masks and gloves outside.

What would you do differently today if faced with a situation like that we all faced in mid-March of 2020?

Cyndi Young-Puyear

Cyndi Young-Puyear

Cyndi Young-Puyear is farm director and operations manager for Brownfield Network.