Category Archives: April 2020 Posts

April 2020: Life in the COVID-19 Era

April 20, 2020

This may be a little presumptuous, but I’m writing about how we survived the COVID-19 pandemic when the virus epidemic is still raging throughout the United States.  Indeed, we may not survive it though we have done well for the past two months.  I’m beginning to write this on April 20, 2020 which is approximately six weeks after the coronavirus spread throughout the US.  Today’s statistics are as follows:

Infected                   Died

World                 2,422,286              165,924

US                          770,564                41,114

Virginia                      8,990                     300

Augusta County             22                         0


The virus is here but has not saturated the Shenandoah Valley as it has many parts of the country.  In neighboring Rockingham County and Harrisonburg, there are 100 and 236 cases, respectively, today.  Staunton has only 5 and Waynesboro 7.


This data has affected our shopping, to be sure.  We have been to Harrisonburg only once in the past six weeks.  I had a prescription to be refilled at Costco so Lynn and I went last Thursday during the special time they had set aside for senior citizens.  The store was very busy with customers during this 8:00 – 9:00 time.  Lynn was actually able to enter the store at 7:45 and reported that it was well managed.  She felt safe during her time in the store.  As usual, I stayed in the car.


Starting to write about the COVID-19 pandemic on April 20 is like starting to report on a baseball game when the game is already in progress.  The issue is that I don’t know what inning we’re in.  Clearly we’re in the early part of the game with lots more to enfold.  We greatly hope that there will be a 9th inning and that it isn’t too far away.  We fear that the game will have no happy ending.


Virginia is currently under a “shelter in place” order from Governor Northram.  We are to put masks on anytime we are in a public setting such as a grocery store or pharmacy.  People are expected to stay at least six feet apart to prevent the spread of the virus.


To be honest, at this point we as a country are quite ignorant of COVID-19.   We know it began in China in late 2019.  We know it is spread through human contact, especially through respiratory droplets such as in sneezes or even breath. As of this writing we do not have any proven treatment nor vaccine for it.  Thus, we are told to stay at home so the virus won’t be spread.


The results have been devastating for the economy.  There are millions of Americans who have lost their jobs.  Local schools were closed in early March for the rest of the school year.  No public gatherings of more than 10 people are allowed. Church services are suspended as are all entertainment events such as ball games, movies, and plays.


This all hit us quite suddenly.  From March 9 through March 12 Lynn and I had a wonderful time at The Greenbrier with my sister Mary Katherine and our longtime friends Paul and Sandy Porterfield.  We hustled home on the 12th to watch Henry play in what turned out to be his only soccer game in the 2020 season.  Though he was only a freshman, he started on the varsity and helped Fort Defiance win its only game of the season against Nelson County.  Watching that game, we knew there were worries about the spread of the virus but had no idea that by the following week our lives would be radically changed.


Like many businesses, The Greenbrier is now closed.  Shopping now means ordering groceries online at Kroger or Walmart and having the order brought out to our cars.  I have not been in a retail merchandise store in the past six weeks.


When the rare event occurs that one of us has to enter a store, Lynn has volunteered.  I’ve just been too hesitant given my age and pulmonary history.  I’m currently 69.   I take a pulmonary steroid, Symbicort, twice daily and another medicine, Singulair, for my asthma.  I’ve taken these drugs for years and have my asthma completely under control but my lungs are certainly not what they should be.  This virus has been exceptionally tough on anyone who has any respiratory issues.


Nursing homes have been hit especially hard by coronavirus.  This is worrisome to us because Lynn’s Mom is now 100 years old and lives at The Legacy in Staunton.  So far there have been no issues at The Legacy.  However, no one in Mrs. Hanger’s family have been allowed to visit her in weeks.  They keep in touch via phone and Facetime.  She seems to be doing fine, thankfully.


I can’t begin to describe how different the world is today from what it was a month ago.  Restaurants have take-out only service.  Malls are closed.  Banks only have drive-up windows open.  Playgrounds are roped off.  Colleges, schools, churches,  and stadiums are empty.   Most significant to us is the lack of seeing our family.  We’ve had a few moments when we’ve seen some of Ann’s family from our socially acceptable 6+ foot distance but her family has spent no time at our house in the past six weeks.  The kids’ bikes have not been ridden, the tennis and basketball courts unused, and the playground unoccupied.  We’ve had no grandchildren hugs nor shared with them any of the good supply of treats we usually have stored for their visits.


This is a very strange virus.  For many the symptoms are minor.  Some don’t even know they’ve had it.  Many thousands have had it then recovered.  But the news is full of stories about nursing homes where 50 or more are affected and many die. There are cases of many middle aged otherwise healthy Americans who end up on a ventilator and some pass away.  Few children or infants have been infected, thankfully.  A disproportionately high number of black Americans have caught the disease.  Just tonight ABC news had a story about how the virus adversely affects the heart as well as the respiratory system.


The country has been in quite an uproar, generally because we are saddled with the worst President that the US has ever had in my opinion.  Donald Trump downplayed coronavirus when it was first announced, saying that it was a Democratic party hoax and that it was no worse than the common flu. For the month of February, despite warnings from many epidemiologists, he did nothing except ban flights from China.  By the time the virus had erupted in America, especially in New York City, it was obvious that the USA was woefully unprepared for the number of hospital beds, personal protection equipment, physicians, nurses, and especially with ventilators.  Worst of all, the number of available tests to determine if a person was infected or not were less than 1% of the population.   How could a country as great as America be so unready for this pandemic?  Trump daily appeared on television praising himself for his efforts but anyone could see this was a disaster.


As of today, New York City has finally started to have a decline in the number of daily deaths though they still are over 700 each day.  Now there’s pressure from the right to “get America back to work again” by easing the mandated restrictions that Governors have made such as those which ban gatherings of more than 10 people and closed non-essential businesses.


Frankly, I don’t see any way we should be returning to “normal” life until a quick and thorough treatment is found for COVID-19 as well as a vaccine for future infections.  We’re told it could be years before this happens….


So what have we been doing for the past six weeks?


First, we’ve spent lots of quality time together.  We’ve walked over two hours each day, averaging over six miles per day.  We sometimes walk a 3.7 mile loop which takes us past Mount Pisgah United Methodist Church down Limestone Road towards Middle River then up Leaport Road back to our house.  Much of this road was paved during 2019 which makes it a nice walk except there are some big hills to climb.  The church has “Mount” in its name for a reason!  Sometimes we walk a 2.6 mile hike up to the church and back then out one mile on Leaport Road before we turn around and come back.  We’ve also walked at many other places including downtown Staunton, Natural Chimneys Park, Stewart Middle School, and a 3.5 mile loop to the church then to Cider Mill Road, Morningside Drive, then back home.  We’ve walked back and forth from our house to Willow Spout on US 11.


Today, for example, we walked then 2.6 mile walk mid-morning then the 3.7 loop before dinner.  After dinner we went to Stewart Middle and walked another mile.  One of the things I’ve read about COVID-19 is that it feasts on those who are feeble and weak.  I’m determined to be fit so that if I do contract the virus I’ll be able to fend it off.


Lynn is an amazing walker.  Her legs don’t get tired and she doesn’t ever breathe hard.  She is blessed with what I call “Hanger legs.”  I occasionally complain about how my legs ache or get winded on steep climbs but she just walks and walks. I know she’d be happier walking with me if I chatted with her the entire time but even when we just walk quietly beside each other life is good for me.


I’m very happy to report that Lynn and I have gotten along exceedingly well despite being with each other nearly 24/7.  We’ve had some great meals and even discovered that our favorite ice cream store, Smiley’s in Mount Crawford, has stayed open with take-out only service.  Our freezer this evening has several quarts of Death by Chocolate, Salted Caramel Chocolate Chunk, and Black Cherry that was the flavor of the week this week.


Besides walking, we spend a lot of time watching television, especially the news.  I confess that it is very repetitive and negative at the current time; perhaps as I keep up this log the news will improve.  I hope so.


Lynn and I each get a lot of screen time each day.  I don’t know what we’d do without our iPads and MacBook.  Over and over again I hit the refresh button on my MacBook when reading Facebook hoping there will be some new posts.  As of today I have played 17,820 consecutive games of Whirly Word and played 8,311 games of Solitaire on my iPad.  Of course many of these games were played pre-COVID-19 but many, many have been played since March 13.


At first I did lots of yard work.  I cut various shrubs and bushes with my chainsaw and made several trips to the Augusta County landfill.  Before one of my trips to the landfill I had the misfortune of having the battery in my truck die.  I charged it with a charger until I could start it again, drove to AutoZone in Staunton, and had a new battery installed without leaving the driver’s seat.  One day I made a trip to Roanoke to help Jim move a chicken house he had built to another person’s house with my trailer though I stayed in the truck the entire time while he did all the work.


In the meantime, Lynn has worked hours and hours each day making facial masks.  Since masks have been unavailable for purchase for weeks thanks to the countrywide shortage, the government requested that those who could sew create cloth masks for the public to wear.  These masks aren’t intended to protect the wearer as much as keep the person who wears the mask from sneezing or breathing and spraying coronavirus germs to others.  Lynn’s efforts here have been herculean.  So far she has made close to 300 masks.  She gave over 50 to the Augusta County EMS staff and 60 to Augusta Health Foundation.  Just today we took 40 to a group in Harrisonburg who had requested them for the poor/homeless there.  She has made them for many friends and family members.  She ran out of elastic but found an online site which sells mask kits.  She is nearly finished with her first order of 100 and has another 100 coming in the next few days.


I confess that I haven’t done nearly as much for others.  I have spent lots of time doing various jobs for Central United Methodist Church.  I have set up an online giving service for members and applied for a government grant to help out with our finances.  I have helped Pastor Won Un post his sermons and music director Yi-Ping Chen post her music to our website since we can no longer have church gatherings.  Today I made the church’s bank deposit and later picked up a truck load of food from the Blue Ridge Food Bank for our food pantry.  But when I got to Central with the food I didn’t go inside as I always did in the past.  I helped load the food onto carts but let others take it in.


So I’ve done a little but my efforts pale in comparison to Lynn’s.


Knock on wood, we’ve both been very healthy for the past six weeks.  The walking has helped, for sure, and so has the sleeping.  We go to bed around 9:00 PM and sometimes don’t get up until near 7:00 AM.  Not all of that time is spent in slumber, though.  We’ve watched lots of television including episodes of The Big Bang Theory, Schitt’s Creek, and game shows such as America Says which Lynn has recorded on the DVD.


The “shelter in place” situation has been depressing to me.  I wonder if it will be years before we can once again watch our grandchildren’s ball games, attend church, go to the Barter Theatre, and travel.  We’ve already postponed two long trips we had planned for this summer:  a trip to Puerto Rico with Ann and her family and a trip Lynn and I had already booked to Argentina, Brazil, and Iguazu Falls in South America.  Maybe in 2021 we can take these trips.


We’ve been able to keep up with Kay and family in Arlington and Jim and family in Roanoke thanks to FaceTime and a new app called Zoom which allows multiple simultaneous video connections.  We’ve had two “zoom” sessions involving all four families thus far.  Lynn has given three mini-Spanish lessons to Thomas and Georgia via FaceTime and recorded reading a story in both English and Spanish for her former elementary school, Cub Run Elementary.  But seeing your relatives on a computer screen just isn’t as nice as seeing them in person.  Our children realize the risk to their older parents and have not tried to bypass the social distancing requirements the government has mandated.  I greatly look forward to see them play in our back yard and get a firm hug from us.


Boredom has been an issue.  Nearly every day is the same.  Sleep late, eat breakfast, walk, eat lunch, walk, play games on iPad, check in with Lynn upstairs sewing, eat dinner, watch tv/news, shower, go to bed.  What day of the week is this?  I’ve cleaned out cabinet after cabinet looking for something to do.  Not fun!


There’s a void of spontaneity nowadays.  Prior to March, we could decide on a whim to go to the Depot in Staunton for dinner, stop at Dairy Queen for a treat, or stop in to visit with Lynn’s Mom.   We had a heavy spring schedule of grandchildren events to attend from soccer games to a Frozen Jr. performance by Betsy.  I was playing tennis three times per week with my tennis buddies. Lynn tutored a student in Waynesboro twice weekly and did various consulting work with the ELL teachers in Rockingham County Public Schools.  We did lots of things at Central UMC.  Lynn would shop for the best of bargains at Kroger, Aldi’s, Kohl’s, TJ Maxx, Target, or Michaels.  None of these things have happened in the past six weeks.  None.


Life as we knew it stopped.  Lynn and I agree that this epidemic is the most negative thing that has happened in our lifetime.  I guess that’s why I’m writing this, believing that perhaps someone in the future will want to know what it was like just as I used to ask my Dad what the Great Depression years were like.


What I’ve written thus far sets the stage of where we are as of Monday, April 20.  My plans for continuing this are to add daily records of what we experience, how the US is doing in its battle against COVID-19, and our overall efforts to return to life as we once knew it….


April 21, 2020

I got an e-mail this morning from Walmart stating that they are limiting customers to five customers per 1,000 square feet of store space.  ABC News had a story about grocery store employees claiming they should get hazard pay instead of the minimum wage salary they currently earn.  There have been many posts on Facebook saying that these workers along with EMS and ER workers are the true American heroes of this era.


There have also been lots of quips about how true hair color is emerging nationwide now that hair salons are closed.  Governor Northam made a comment recently about how anxious he was to be able to re-open barber shops.  The Today Show this morning had a story about how to color the roots of your hair.


It has been very interesting to notice which jobs have not been lost.  Around here, farmers go about their business tending to their cattle and fields like always.  I understand that they have been issues with their inability to process beef, though.  Car mechanics like our friends Tom and Bryan Simmons are open as usual.  Gas stations not only are open but feature extremely low prices on gas–under $1.70 per gallon.  However, when we fill up for gas we use gloves so as to not get germs from the pump.  We still get our daily newspapers.  Of course, the sports sections are virtually bare.


In our immediate family, no family member has lost his/her job.  Teachers are expected to provide some kind of online instruction so Ann and Jim have both done some of that.  Jim has done lots of other work such as yard work in his neighborhood. Josh still goes into work daily since there are only two people in his office.  Kay and Andy work from home but have the additional burden of providing home schooling for Thomas and Georgia.  This has been exhausting for them.


For millions of Americans COVID-19 has meant a loss of income and economic disaster.  Congress passed a relief bill which provided $1,200 to each person who earns less than $75,000 annually plus $500 for each dependent under age 16.  Lynn and I got our relief funds but, to be honest, didn’t really need the money.  We ended up giving each of our three children money this month since all three have more monetary needs than we do.  Lynn and I have actually spent less during the past two months since we spend nothing on entertainment.   Plus, we haven’t traveled anywhere.


I am not able to travel far from home.  For years I have had an issue with an enlarged prostate which just means I have to go to the bathroom more often than I did when I was younger.  This condition is quite common with men my age.  Prior to February, as we traveled I would simply go to the bathroom at a rest stop, grocery store, or department store.  But now that I don’t go inside any of those, it means that I don’t stray far from home.


This morning I am dealing with an issue with my truck.  This is a long story.  We used to always have our vehicles get their annual inspection at Tom and Bryan Simmons’ shop but now they no longer are allowed to do car inspections.  So for the past two years we’ve had to find other places to get the annual sticker.  It turns out that McDonough Toyota, from which we purchased both Lynn’s RAV4 and my Tacoma, will do inspections for free for those vehicles purchased from their dealership.  So last Friday I took my Tacoma there.  Big mistake.


Lynn picked me up and we ran some errands while the truck was inspected.  Then we received a call from the franchise saying that the truck needed new windshield wipers.  Of course, I said to go ahead and replace them.  Big mistake–they charged us $58 for two wiper blades. But then the service director asked if we wanted them to determine why the TRAC light and Check Engine light were on.  What?  I asked.  They were not on when I dropped the truck off.  I am absolutely positive of that.  She said that the truck could pass inspection without having to remedy this so that was my choice.  When I picked up the truck I repeated that the lights were not on when the truck was dropped off.  I asked how what might be the cost to take care of this.  I was told perhaps $350 for the TRAC sensor.  Grrr!


I called Simmons and was told to bring the truck by on Monday so they could check it out.  I certainly trusted them much, much more than the dealer.


Driving home, I recalled that Jim had the same issue once when he took my truck with trailer to Chicago to pick up a lawnmower from his in-laws.  I remembered that he had found the solution online so when I got home I searched and found a fix:  disconnect the battery terminals for two minutes then the warning lights do not come back on.


Sure enough, it worked.  I felt really good about resolving this (and really angry at McDonough Toyota for somehow causing the issue).  On Monday morning I called Simmons and told them I wouldn’t be coming by after all.


But then I picked up the food from the Food Bank and the lights came back on.  Ugh!!  Rather than disconnect the battery terminals again, I called Simmons back and was told to bring the truck up there this morning.  We took it there and they hooked up a diagnostic tool which indicated that a sensor needs to be replaced so now that’s scheduled for this Thursday.  At least I have something to do on Thursday now…


Unlike today or Wednesday, Thursday’s calendar already has one item on it.  Lynn has started a Walmart grocery online order which is scheduled to be picked up Thursday at 9:00 AM.  Thanks to Kroger and Walmart’s pick up service we’ve been able to keep our cabinets, refrigerators, and freezer well stocked.  On two occasions Lynn has shopped inside at Aldi’s grocery store but was able to do so in a safe environment where masks, social distancing, and constant cleaning of shopping carts were in place.


When the frenzy of COVID-19 first erupted there was a mad dash at the stores for essentials such as toilet paper, disinfectant wipes, and disposable gloves.  For a while toilet paper was unavailable anywhere which certainly was cause for alarm.  Lynn and I had just stocked up prior to March so it wasn’t an issue for us.  In our garage this morning there are 120 rolls of TP!  Now it is more readily available though most stores limit customers to one or two packages of it.  The wipes and gloves are still out of stock everywhere we’ve tried.


The bareness of our shared calendar is so unlike our life before mid-February.  Despite being retired, we remained quite busy before this pandemic.  Just a glance at January’s calendar compared to April’s is quick proof of how our lives have changed.


Prior to lunch today we took our 3.7 mile loop walk.  Like many of the recent days, it was very windy.  We notice this especially as we walk on the open road toward Mount Pisgah Church.  Once we turn downhill from there we enter a valley with much less wind.  The wind has been ferocious this spring, frequently 20 mph or higher.  On the way back today we got an unexpected light rain shower but that didn’t put a damper on what otherwise was a pleasant walk.


After lunch (which just consists of a yogurt package for each of us) we returned to our normal–me to my keyboard and Lynn to her sewing machine.

Here are the counts for today:

Infected                   Died

World                 2,530,095              174,726

US                          803,575                43,663

Virginia                    9,630                     324

Augusta County           28                         0

We took our second walk of the day–our usual 2.6 hike–but it was a struggle with 20+ mph winds.  Lynn’s Fitbit says we’ve walked 6.93 miles thus far today.

For dinner we elected to do a take-out of hamburgers from the Old School Burgers food truck in Weyers Cave.  We like their hamburgers and it is one way we can support local businesses.


April 22, 2020

The news today includes stories about the controversy of when to drop the restrictions and “get back to normal.”  Some southern states have begun to allow beaches and businesses like hair salons to reopen even though the states have not achieved the CDC-approved guideline of having 14 consecutive days of declining COVID-19 infection.  There have been some back-to-work protests featuring Trump supporters who are willing to sacrifice the most frail in our society just so they can get a haircut or play golf. What they are really protesting is being told what to do by their government even if it is very much in their best interest.  Indeed, it is disturbing how many people are unwilling to wear masks just because they don’t want to be told what to do.


When Lynn went to Costco last week I stayed in the car and observed those going in.  Around 70% of those who entered were wearing the masks as our Governor has asked.  The remaining 30% were predominantly white males.  My bet is that many of them had the “Don’t Tread on Me” license plates on their cars.


Lynn re-posted an article on Facebook which noted that when states lift their stay-at-home orders then those who do not return to work cannot apply for unemployment benefits.  Thus states save money by removing the mandates while putting the most vulnerable in the population at high risk.  The news media has warned over and over that epidemiologists say that there will be a huge spike in infections again if the guidelines are lifted too soon.  Some people, including politicians, don’t seem to care.


Some protesting idiots hold signs saying “Fake Crisis” and “COVID-19 is a lie.”  Some show their stupidity with signs featuring misspellings:   “Reopen Pennslvania/Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death/We the peaple.” One said “The face mask you were duped into wearing symbolizes you loosing your freedom of speech.”  On Facebook I’ve seen replies to people like this such as “We have two epidemics:  COVID-19 and stupidity.”


When states were first considering the “shelter in place” mandates, I recall seeing a Facebook post that sticks in my mind.  It showed a person who had to choose between two buttons.  One said “Cheesecake Factory” and the other said “Grandma.”   It is sad that many Americans appear to be willing to push the former button.


Instead of being a true leader to help the US through this terrible time, President Trump has 1) initially claimed the COVID-19 was a Democratic hoax  2)  played golf and held political rallies several times during February when he should have been working on a containment strategy  3) fallaciously claimed early on that the US had it “totally under control” saying “we pretty much shut it down” and that it was like the flu and would go away on its own   4) once it quickly spread nationwide claimed that on a scale of 0-10 his response deserved a rating of 10   5) lied that tests for the virus were plentiful and that “anyone who wants a test can get a test”  6) blamed and cut funding to the World Health Organization for the coronavirus spread   7) blamed China for covering up the initial outbreak  8) ignored his own experts who initially prodded him to act more aggressively in containing the spread  9) stated that his power as President of the United States was “total.”   10) encouraged Virginia back-to-work protestors to “LIBERATE VIRGINIA, and save your great 2nd Amendment. It is under siege!”  11) blamed Governors for their poor handling of the epidemic while trying to take credit for any positives in the fight.   He is such a poor example for Americans that he won’t even wear a mask himself in public.  I read an article this morning that closed with this comment:  “In pandemic as in prosperity, the Trump way is to punish opponents, reward friends; accuse victims, protect culprits; demand credit, refuse accountability; protect preferred classes and groups of Americans—and sacrifice the rest.”


If there’s anyone who has earned the respect of Americans during the past six weeks it is Dr. Anthony Fauci.  He is an American physician and immunologist who has served as the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases since 1984.  He has been the voice of science and reason.  He was the one who told us to stay at home, stay six feet apart, and wear masks.  He has often contradicted the President in insisting that the quarantines be extended, not reduced.


As Lynn and I took our 3.7 mile loop walk this morning she got a very disturbing text.  One of our former co-workers, Mark Metcalfe, had passed away last night.  Mark taught Chemistry at Fort Defiance High School.  One of his sons, Stephen, was Gus’ travel team basketball coach and lives on our loop walk.  A few weeks ago Mark had e-mailed a group of retired teachers, including Lynn, who meet monthly for lunch that he had been ill with symptoms of a virus.  COVID-19?  We don’t know if he ever was tested or if his death was at all related to coronavirus at this point.  More will come out in the next few days.  But his death was stunning to both of us.  He and Nancy live near to us and we saw them fairly often.


Mark’s death is the second in two weeks of educators I formerly worked with.  Steve Leaman was the Principal at Broadway and Spotswood High Schools when I worked in Rockingham County.  Like Mark, I thought highly of him.  At age 62 he collapsed while riding a bicycle and died.  These deaths remind Lynn and me of our own mortality, not a pleasant thought.  Both of these men were younger than me.


Ann had given Lynn some sour dough starter and her friend Cheryl wanted some, too, so we took a ride to Staunton this afternoon to deliver it.  On the way we saw Mark Metcalfe’s daughter-in-law Beth who told us they were shocked by Mark’s passing.  With the quarantine in place there’s no decent way to hold funerals or visitations.  To try to help their family, on our way back home we picked up a Chick Fil A platter of chicken strips and delivered it to Beth and Stephen.


We ate an early dinner this evening then took my truck to Simmons for tomorrow’s appointment.  On the way we dropped off facial masks for Stephen and Beth Metcalfe.  Lynn’s handiwork is so appreciated!


We walked back from Simmons, approximately one mile to our house.  But the traffic along Mt. Pisgah road was much worse than usual, probably because it was shortly after 5:00.  So we hopped in my car and drove to Stewart Middle where we did three loops around the walking track there.  That made our total for the day a little over seven miles.


Today’s COVID-19 figures:

Infected                   Died

World                 2,629,951              183,723

US                          844,992                47,430

Virginia                  10,266                     349

Augusta County            30                         0

As stated earlier, the statistics within the United States cannot be taken as accurate since testing has been so limited.  One study estimated that the number of actual people infected by COVID-19 could be as high as 50 times the reported number.


On the news this evening, it was reported that research on COVID-19 shows that men die more often than women with the disease.  It was already known that blacks have a higher infection rate than whites.  Particularly subject to harm are people with diabetes, high blood pressure, and obesity.  The good news of this study is that there were no deaths in the under 20 age group.


We ended the day on a pleasant note by having our weekly Zoom session with our children and their families.  It is a little chaotic but well worth it to us.  We love seeing their smiling faces and just wish it were in person.


April 23, 2020

The scary news this morning is that neighboring Harrisonburg has the highest per capita incidence of COVID-19 infections in Virginia.  At one Harrisonburg nursing home thirteen people have now died.  Harrisonburg has 318 confirmed cases and Rockingham County has 145.  In Augusta we’re holding at 30 confirmed cases.  Staunton has 10.


When I was growing up we all knew the name of Jonas Salk.  He had invented the polio vaccine in the mid 1950’s.  All of us were vaccinated.  I remember lining up at Bramwell High School to get my shot (or was it a sugar cube?  Lynn reminded me of the sugar cubes).   Thanks to Salk, the world was granted relief from this awful scourge.  He was a hero, for sure.


Who will be the Jonas Salk of COVID-19?  Surely the brightest minds in immunology are working on a treatment and a vaccine.  As of today, we have neither.  Surely there are billions of dollars being dumped into this research since the company that solves the coronavirus plague will have immeasurable worth.  But so far, no Jonas Salk.


Instead of a solution, the news media brings question after question to us.  Can you catch coronavirus twice or does your body develop an immunity if you survive it?  If so, how long does the immunity last?  Can you catch it from gas pump handles or shopping bags that have been delivered to your car?  Do facial masks really do any good?  At first, the CDC said masks had no particular value in preventing the spread but then it reversed itself and declared that everyone should be wearing one in public.  Will the disease run its course on its own?  There is just so, so much that we do not know about COVID-19.  Jonas, where are you?


This proved to be a busy Thursday for us despite having little on our calendar.  First I got a text that our mulch order was going to be delivered between 7:30 and 7:45 AM.  On one of our neighborhood walks we chatted with Curtis Sheffer.  He was busy working on a huge load of mulch he had delivered and told us that some people were doing it as a fund raiser for a sick teenager.  We got the phone number from him and placed our own order.


The truck was in our driveway shortly before 8:00 and soon we had a large mound of mulch at the end of our driveway.  With a forecast of rain, I wanted it covered; it took three tarps to do so.  It will take me a long while to get it all spread throughout our yard!


Shortly thereafter Lynn and I were driving to Staunton for three stops.  First, we went to Aldi so Lynn could get her avocados during the senior shopping hour (8:30 – 9:30).   She was the first person in the store.  Everyone, employees and customers, had on masks.  From there we hustled to Walmart because she had placed an order for 9:00 pickup.  We have found the Staunton Walmart to be very good to work with on these take-out orders.  Finally, we ran by her sister Kay’s house to pick up a bill for their mother since Lynn pays all of her bills.


When we got back home, Lynn headed upstairs to sew and I decided to cut a little grass before the rain arrived.  I had only cut about half of the back yard when she came outside and suggested that we walk before the rain started.  We were able to get in a four mile walk before coming in for lunch just as the rain began falling.


Between and during our morning activities I’ve been on the phone  twice with the AAA travel agent who booked our family trip to Puerto Rico.  We have asked him to rebook our trip with Ann’s family from mid-June 2020 to mid-June 2021.  There have been some issues with his ability (perhaps willingness) to get this done as we have requested but I’m optimistic now that he’ll make it happen.  The reason why it is important for this to be taken care of now is that otherwise our final payment for the 2020 trip is due this Saturday.  Of course, we’re trying to just get him to transfer our down payment to the same trip one year later.


After lunch Lynn taught a Spanish lesson via Facetime to Georgia and Thomas.  She read to them a Curious George story both in English and Spanish, pausing to make sure they were picking up the vocabulary.  I believe they have an increased appreciation for her now.  She is not only a great grandmother, she is a Spanish teacher.


On one of our walks Lynn and I tried to think of who in our family has been most adversely affected economically thus far by COVID-19.  As I’ve stated before, none of our immediate family has lost his/her job though our lives have been altered dramatically.  Perhaps our niece Kit DeLeo Dangler has had the greatest loss of income since she is a dentist.  In general we have been very lucky.  CNN reports that “No matter how you look at the data, the last five weeks have marked the most sudden surge in jobless claims since the Department of Labor started tracking the data in 1967. American workers filed 26.5 million initial claims since March 14, according to the seasonally adjusted numbers.”  One in every six American workers has been laid off.


The numbers keep climbing.  Here are tonight’s:

Infected                   Died

World                 2,710,071              190,098

US                          876,156                49,648

Virginia                  10,998                     372

Augusta County            33                         1


Tonight’s news is same old, same old.  Many more deaths–California had its deadliest day on record today.  New research on the coronavirus is that it can cause stroke in younger victims.  Additional research shows many people have carried the virus asymptomatically but infected others.  Leading doctors say we will still be dealing with the virus in the fall while President Trump says not so.  ABC news emphasizes that the economic crisis has deepened.  Congress has appropriated another round of funds for small businesses but that money will likely get exhausted within a week.


The news is so depressing…


April 24, 2020

The bizarre news this morning is that our insane President suggested that people could get an “injection” of a “disinfectant” to deter coronavirus. He also suggested that ultraviolet rays may be the solution to COVID-19.  The medical community had an immediate response of disbelief.  Every time that man opens his mouth or laptop words of stupidity and/or untruth spew.


Like my father, I have always been a Democrat.  I believe in heavy support of public schools, health care for everyone, taxing the wealthy, supporting immigrants, a woman’s right to make choices about her own body, equal rights for everyone, eliminating the right for anyone to own an assault weapon, and a redistribution of wealth so that it is not held in the hands of a few.  I believe in the United Methodist slogan “Open Doors, Open Hearts, Open Minds.”  I definitely did not vote for Ford, Reagan, George H. W. Bush, or George W. Bush.  But I did not hate any of these men nor do I think they had anything other than America as their primary interest.  We just had different views on which path would take us to the kind of life we all wanted.


Donald Trump is a different story.  He is interested in self-promotion, the financial health of himself and his wealthy cronies, dividing instead of uniting Americans, and bullying his opponents even when they are correct.  He cares more about his Facebook ratings and the stock market numbers than about people.  He is a racist whose campaign mantra was to “build the wall” to keep Mexicans out of the US.  He is a pathological liar: I read one account which said he had spoke or tweeted over 16,000 false or misleading claims in his first three years of his Presidency.  He has a disdain for science.  He is largely to blame for this awful situation we are in today with COVID-19.  He praises those who kiss his butt like his Vice President.  He will go to every means to destroy his opposition.  It is too bad that Congress didn’t can him during the January impeachment trial.  He never apologizes for his wrongdoings.  He is a miserable example for young people to follow.  Surely, surely he will be defeated this November.  I can’t figure out how anyone would support such a buffoon.


I apologize for not being able to stop this but I can’t help myself.  His supporters’ hats say “Make America Great” but his actions are to “Make America Hate.”   He promotes white male supremacy and chooses to build himself up by belittling others.  Yes, I despise the man.  He is an asshole.  There’s no other way I can put it.  Sorry.


Our walking was suspended yesterday when the rain came in early afternoon.  It rained all evening so we were able to get in only the one four mile hike.  Today the rain has ended so before lunch we took our 3.7 mile loop hike around Leaport Road.  The weather was very pleasant, around 60o.


Lynn managed to get in some paid work today, too.  She did a virtual IEP meeting for a student at McGaheysville Elementary School.  She was asked to interpret for the meeting since the mother only spoke Spanish.  They used Google Hangouts as their medium of collaboration.  The meeting included the SPED teacher, regular classroom teacher, Principal, Lynn, and mother who communicated only by phone.


Today proved to be a great day for walking.  The weather was great and the air smelled good.  We ended up walking three times.  Besides the morning 3.7 mile jaunt we took two more hikes.  First we walked the two mile route from our house along the newly paved Leaport Road. That’s one mile out and one back.  This time, though, we took a trash bag and gloves along and picked up the trash along the way.  This road is sparsely used yet the amount of trash we picked up shocked us.  We filled the trash bag!  Tonight, to finish our walking for the day, after dinner we went to Stewart Middle School and did three laps around the path.  All in all, we walked 7.5 miles today.


Tonight’s COVID-19 counts are as follows:

Infected                   Died

World                 2,826,035              196,931

US                          922,293                52,061

Virginia                  11,594                     410

Augusta County            34                         1


I talked to my sister Mary Katherine this afternoon,  She sounded good, all things considered, and said her Pennsylvania family was doing well, too.


April 25, 2020

We started the day early and had a successful Saturday morning. First we had a 8:00 pickup at Kroger.  While we waited for them to bring our groceries out we placed an order at The Meating Place for ground round and steak to be picked up on Tuesday.  The Kroger order had several items on it that were not filled.  We’ve unsuccessfully put disinfectant wipes and gloves on multiple pickup orders in the past few weeks.  But there were other items not found such as napkins and lima beans.


We’ve been providing saltines for Central’s soup distribution which takes places twice weekly.  Connie Davis and Millie Brown have been making two huge pots of vegetable and chicken noodle soup and providing it at no charge to anyone in the public who wants it.  They usually give out all 75 quarts in the first half hour.  We’ve been placing saltine orders on all of our grocery pick ups and today was no exception.  So once we got our groceries we went to Central where Lynn took in the six boxes we’d just purchased.  She also took in more masks as they have been going out like hotcakes.


From Central we stopped at two of Lynn’s friends, Cheryl Kent and Pat Collins, because she is sharing her latest big order of masks to be sewn.  The kits she orders come with the fabric precut.  The elastic has to be cut then the masks sewn.  Lynn has been getting 100 kits at a time.


After filling her car up with gas at only $1.64 per gallon, we returned home.  She went back to her sewing while I started on putting mulch around the front of the house.  I used the wheelbarrow and made around 30 trips from the driveway to the front of the house then put the mulch where it belonged using a pitchfork.  It took over an hour but I did get the front entirely done.  The only problem I had is that I only used about 1/4 of the mulch we ordered.  I still have to mulch the side of our house where the rose bushes are but we’re still going to have lots and lots of mulch left over.


In addition to sewing, Lynn has been busy making a couple of pound cakes.  Tomorrow is Ann’s 43rd birthday so Lynn wanted to make her a cake.  The house smells good from her baking.


No surprise, after lunch we took a walk.  This time we did the 3.7 mile loop plus a little more so we ended up with a little over 5 miles for the day.  With rain beginning in the mid-afternoon our walking was limited.  On our walk we bumped into Janet and Bee Myers and chatted a while with them.  Everyone nowadays just seems to be in disbelief of what the world has come to.  When will this end?  Will we ever return to the way it was prior to March, 2020?


There are lots of people our age who have children and grandchildren who live far away from them.  When we talk with them they lament how infrequently they get to see their family.  They express jealousy that all of our children and grandchildren live here in Virginia.  Since the quarantine started I know how they feel.  Yes, we can call, Facetime, or do our weekly Zoom session.  Those options are nice but pale in comparison to greeting them up close.  We miss eating Sunday night dinners with the Gutshalls.  We miss meeting the bus at 3:18 with Freddie and Betsy aboard (and sometimes Gus).  We miss going to Arlington and staying with Thomas and Georgia when Kay and Andy have needed us.  We miss meeting Jim and his family at a restaurant, even if it turns out to be Chick Fil-A.


Tonight’s COVID-19 numbers are as follows:

Infected                   Died

World                 2,912,262              202,937

US                          955,491                54,121

Virginia                  12,366                     436

Augusta County            36                         1

Harrisonburg now supposedly has 370 cases with 9 deaths.  Rockingham has 184 cases and 1 death.  I am suspicious of these figures because I know there were 13 who died in a Harrisonburg nursing home.


Some states are trying to re-open now though their incidence of COVID-19 has not been declining.  Fortunately, Virginia’s Governor Northram has insisted that the state will not consider this at least for two more weeks.  There are plenty of states such as Massachusetts and Illinois. which are considered hotspots with the outbreak still growing.   New York seems to be past its peak of infections though over 400 die each day in New York City.


Every newscast features some heartwarming story of how someone has done a good deed or donated something to assist or celebrate workers on the front line.  The news loves to feature stories of well-known athletes and others who have made substantial contributions toward the cause.  Usually there are stories of someone who is getting released from the hospital after a particularly tough battle with coronavirus like new mothers or octogenarians.  These are all glimpses of hope in an otherwise depressing era.  Unfortunately, these small snippets pale in comparison to the real news of a virus which killed over 50,000 Americans and has no known cure nor developed vaccine.  As of today there is still so, so much about COVID-19 that we do not know.  A story tonight stated that it is unknown how long the virus can live in the air. Another reiterated that we do not know if a person can be infected twice.  For a civilization that previously was so cocky about its accomplishments and knowledge, the last two months showed us how ignorant we really are about some things.


April 26, 2020

Today is a significant day for Lynn and me.  Forty three years ago today our lives changed immeasurably as Ann Cook Hill was born in Morgantown.  Ann has been a blessing to us from day one.  She is a wonderful mother to her four children, a thoughtful daughter, a devoted wife, a professional librarian, and a very level-headed young lady.  Lynn and I are so proud of her!


You’ve got to be doing things well when your mother-in-law sings your praises. Here’s what Susan Gutshall wrote on Facebook this morning:  “Our daughter-in-law, Ann, is having a birthday today.  She has been home with 4 kids during this pandemic, guarding them fiercely, so I hope they can give her some sunshine on this rainy day.  She insures that each child’s talents are nurtured.  Happy Birthday, Ann.  Your children are blessed to have a mom that gives her all to insure that their young gifts shine.  You are a prime example of a Mama Bear that would do anything for her cubs!”


Susan nailed it.


We’ll take her the pound cake Lynn made and a birthday card with our monetary present to her later today.  Such a shame that our time with her will be so short and at a six foot distance.  Days like today make social distancing both the enemy and the guardian soldier.


It rained overnight and is supposed to rain on and off throughout the day.  Things are so green in the Shenandoah Valley now.  Our lilacs are pretty and aromatic.  The redbud and dogwood trees are exceptionally red and white, respectively, this year.  Perhaps they’re always this attractive but we’re certainly noticing them more now that we take daily walks.


I watched “Meet the Press” this morning which, like all recent news programs, lamented the high death toll of coronavirus, the ineptitude of our current administration, the danger that some states are bringing on themselves for easing their social distancing requirements, and the economic devastation that has occurred in the past twelve weeks.  Bill Gates was shown wondering why testing was so severely limited.  He commented that the US has 330 million people but can only test under 200,000 each day.  Apparently less than 2% of the population has been tested thus far.  Dr. Deborah Birx, the White House Coronavirus Response Coordinator, was asked to justify Vice President Mike Pence’s comment on Friday that “by Memorial Day we will largely have this coronavirus epidemic behind us.”   She deflected the question and the following one about the President’s ridiculous statement about injecting disinfectant and sunlight into a patient.  A doctor from the University of Minnesota complained about the quantity and quality of testing.  He said we were in the earliest days of this pandemic with only 5% to 15% of the population having been infected thus far.  He said COVID-19 would be with us for the next 16 to 18 months.   He was somewhat skeptical about a vaccine being developed soon and stated that the virus could spread until 60% to 70% of the public gets infected and then “herd immunity” results.  Oh boy!


There was a break from rain in the hourly forecast this morning so we jumped at the occasion to take our 3.7 mile loop hike.  The temperature was in the low 50’s but there was no wind.  It turned out to be a fine time to walk.  We saw very, very few cars as we walked on the roads today.


After lunch we took Ann her birthday items and enjoyed a socially-distant visit with all six of her family.  They all look so good!  I hate what has happened to their social life.  At least for the moment they seem to be weathering this storm well.


We got back home and found that no rain was expected for another hour so off we took on our second walk of the day, our 2.6 mile trail.  On the way we got a Facetime call from Kay so we enjoyed our videoconference with her, Georgia, and Thomas.  We returned home before 3:00 having accumulated over six miles walking.  Not bad for a rainy Sunday.


Sunday’s dreary counts are as follows:

Infected                   Died

World                 2,991,073              206,822

US                          986,045                55,377

Virginia                  12,970                     448

Augusta County            36                         1


Today Kay told us about a frustrating conversation she had with someone yesterday in her neighborhood who still claimed that the whole coronavirus thing was a hoax.  He challenged Kay to name someone she knew who had gotten it, which she promptly did.  I’ve read about numerous disbelievers who ended up contracting the virus and dying.  What does it take to get people to believe the truth?


We’re two weeks beyond Easter. I’m reminded about the Doubting Thomas story.  He wouldn’t believe that Jesus had risen until he saw the nail holes.  I confess that sometimes my faith is no stronger than Thomas’.  But this is the mindset of some Americans now about COVID-19.   The coronavirus is either a hoax or just another mild flu-like virus that does not justify closing down the economy for, they claim.  Then they get hit with it.  Like Thomas, they get their proof.


I confess that I am scared of COVID-19.  It seems to affect some people much more adversely than others.  I don’t want to find out how it would affect me.  As I stated on the first day I started writing this I am in the at-risk group thanks to my age and asthma history.  I had pneumonia two years ago.  I had a CT Scan done of my lungs this past December.  The results showed some residual scar tissue from the pneumonia.  So, with Lynn’s exceptional help, I am doing my best to reduce the probability that I catch coronavirus.  We are following the CDC’s suggestions as best we can to shelter in place, keep our distance from others when we go out, wash our hands often, avoid touching our faces, and wear masks in public.  Plus, we are keeping our bodies in good shape by walking.  It’s working….


I hope that in a few years I’ll re-read this document and smile.


The days are becoming quite repetitive.  We get up between 6:00 and 7:00 AM.  While she showers, I fix her tea.  We eat breakfast while watching the morning news, then Lynn works on masks while I write or play games on my iPad.  Then we walk for 60-90 minutes followed by lunch.  After lunch there’s mask and writing time then a second walk.  We eat an early dinner which has been planned out at least one day in advance due to the inability to grab a needed ingredient at the last minute.  We watch the nightly news.  Sometimes we walk a third time.  I shower then join Lynn to watch some tv shows she has on our DVR and fall asleep by 9:30.


Today was a day in which we did three walks; our final one was after dinner at Stewart Middle School.  Three laps around the course there made our total for the day 8.2 miles.  We walked for over 150 minutes today according to her FitBit.


April 27, 2020

For the second week in a row, today I did one semi-public activity today.  Sam Richardson and I did our duty of counting money at Central UMC.  I believe we were both very safe.  We both wore masks and gloves.  We stayed at least six feet apart.  As soon as I was back at the car I took the gloves off and covered my hands with Purell.  He and I normally count at CUMC on Mondays after the last two Sundays in each month so it was our turn again today.  It needed to be done: there were checks to be deposited for over $4,000 plus a little bit of cash which was apparently received when Central did its soup giveaway which I described last week.


The money was certainly needed; Central, like all churches I suppose, has suffered financially since the stay-at-home orders were given.  The last service held at CUMC was on March 8.


I got word that the annual Bramwell Homecoming has been canceled.  It is always held the last Saturday in June.  We almost never miss.  The Hill family has a homecoming of its own that weekend each year so I suppose that will be called off, too.  Not only will I miss seeing folks I grew up with but the Chaparrals will miss reuniting and playing.  For the past several years, my high school era rock band has played a couple of songs at the annual sock hop held on Saturday night in Bramwell.  We had plans to do this again in 2020.  Jack Goins, our drummer, messaged me today of the cancellation.


We’ve also had to cancel two trips already to the Barter Theatre.  A third was planned for the days prior to the Bramwell Homecoming.  We really enjoy our trips to Abingdon and the Barter.  We’ve never seen a bad show there.  We love their musicals and comedies.  Each year we buy passes for twelve shows and usually see two or three on each trip.  Sometimes we take our bikes and ride on the Virginia Creeper Trail.


I’ve lost another old friend but this one isn’t a person, it’s a computer.  Shortly before I retired from Rockingham County Public Schools in 2012 I bought a 27″ iMac.  This computer served me well during the next five years that I taught at Bridgewater College and into my second retirement which began in 2017.  Alas, the hard drive has bitten the dust.  And before that it had slowed to a crawl.  Apple has a site where you enter the serial number and it tells you how much they’ll give you on a trade-in.  For mine, the site simply says to recycle it.


I used that computer for so many things over the past eight years.  I created SmartBoard lessons, webpages, handouts, quizzes, tests, and exams on it for my Bridgewater students.  I’ve created thousands of e-mails on it.  I used it to create the Chaparrals one and only CD from a reel-to-reel tape made in 1967.  I used it to create personalized calendars every year for the Hill and Hanger families.  It was used to sync all of our iPods, iPads, and iPhones so each is loaded with music we own.  I created the website that is hosting this blog on my iMac.  I wrote much of my book, Joe Hill: Millionaire, Mountaineer, Educator, Granddaddy, on it.


Thankfully, the computer will be missed but not any of the files that were created on it because I have many, many backups.  I used Apple’s Time Machine on an external drive to make regular backups of the entire hard drive which I can use to repopulate a new computer’s hard drive with all of these files once I buy one.  All of my 50,000+ pictures and all of my important files are safely backed up on many hard drives including one in our safety deposit box at the bank.  My pictures are perhaps my most important possession so I’ve gone to great length to organize and keep them.  All of them are on my Flickr site and accessible from my website.


I have a USB keyboard which can connect to Garage Band on my Macs.  With it I can create a song and overlay tracks to add other instruments and harmonies.  Shortly before Easter I decided to do that with one of my favorite hymns, Beneath the Cross of Jesus.  I first played it on our piano so I was comfortable with all of the harmonies Frederick Maker put into the song.  Then I moved to my computer to record the tracks.  That’s when I discovered that the hard drive was gone.  I tried various remedies but it was beyond repair.


I checked into getting a new hard drive but the cost of that would run me over $300.  I elected to not put that kind of money into an eight year old computer.  So at some time in the near future I hope to get a new iMac.  For the time being, I’m using our MacBook which is newer and works great.


As usual, I watched the evening news tonight on ABC.  It is so repetitive.  As always, I keep hoping to hear news of a breakthrough.  I’ll just have to keep watching…


I thought it might be worthwhile to compare the coronavirus statistics from the first day I started this, April 20, to today, April 27.  As the chart below shows, clearly COVID-19 is still raging in America despite the fact that the infection rate in some cities has eased:


April 20        Infected          Died                   April 27        Infected                Died

World                2,422,286     165,924                   World         3,058,552           211,177

US                         770,564       41,114                   US               1,007,514             56,624

Virginia                    8,990            300                   Virginia           13,535                  458

Augusta Co.                  22                0                   Augusta Co.           36                      1

Virginia’s death rate has increased by over 50% in the past week.  In just four months, the death toll in the US from this virus has already exceeded the total number of deaths from the Vietnam War (47,424).  That war lasted twenty years.


Today was a cold walking day, especially when we went on our morning walk.  The high was only in the mid 50’s.  But we still got in two walks totaling 7.5 miles.  Tomorrow is supposed to be a little warmer with temperatures reaching the low 60’s.


April 28, 2020 

I know the news media thrives on controversies.  Today’s controversy is not a new one but at least it’s the one on display.  There is a tremendous shortage of COVID-19 tests available today.  No one seems to dispute that.  However, the government’s spokespersons brag about how they’ve ramped up testing and have grandiose ideas about making tests available whereas those at ground level say that the tests just aren’t there.  Worse, some of the tests recently released to show if a person has had coronavirus or not apparently give a high percentage of false positives.


The availability of tests is an important part of the plan to re-open America.  Some states aren’t waiting on the ease of testing to get their restaurants, barber shops, malls, and beaches back open.  The President suggested yesterday that states should be considering re-opening schools.  That’s just foolish in my opinion.  Thank goodness our Governor happens to be a physician so these ideas just don’t go anywhere here in Virginia.


On our morning walk I told Lynn that I’d be going crazy with boredom if it weren’t for our walks and writing.  Sewing and walking have been her time-eaters.  We both like what we’re doing but will be overjoyed when we can do other things.


This afternoon Lynn and I went to The Meating Place just south of Staunton to pick up a large order of ground round and steaks we placed last Saturday.  This store is not far from Lynn’s Dad’s homeplace in Arbor Hill .  I was appalled at the clientele.  Fewer than 25% had on masks.  This time the maskless included white, black, women, and men.  She had to go inside to pick up the order so, of course, she donned hers.  But she said that the workers inside likewise did not have masks on.  WHAT PLANET DO THESE PEOPLE LIVE ON?  The masks are intended to keep others from getting your infection.  How selfish can you be to ignore the CDC’s requirement to put these on?  How in the world has Augusta County’s infection rate been so low given this kind of behavior?


Lynn talked briefly to one of the owners whom she knows.  She was told that the market was overwhelmed with work.  There’s a fear of meat shortages coming up in the next few weeks due to meat processing plants shutting down due to COVID-19.  Hopefully this local shop will continue to operate.  Their meats are more expensive but all from local farms.


This afternoon Central UMC had an Administrative Council meeting via Zoom.  I’m the secretary of the group so I had to try to keep up with my laptop’s screen while typing minutes on it simultaneously.  There were ten of us online simultaneously.  It all worked well and I’ve already forwarded my minutes to council members to review.


My major job at Central isn’t secretary of Council, it’s Finance Chairman.  This isn’t a good time to be the one who oversees the finances of a church.  In getting ready for the meeting I created a graph which showed our memberships’ offerings each April for the past five years.  For 2016-2019 the average was almost $16,000.  For 2020 the April total was $7,366, less than half of what we’re accustomed to getting.  We haven’t had a worship service at the church since March 8.  This data clearly shows why we applied for one of the government’s Small Business Administration Paycheck Protection Program loans.  We just got word today that we have been awarded $18,237.  This loan will become a grant as long as we do not reduce staff in the next few months.


As detailed by Lynn’s FitBit, we set a personal best today for COVID-19 walking:  9.05 miles, 21,000+ steps, and 177 minutes.  I’m not sure when in my lifetime prior to this quarantine I would have had three hours in which to just walk.  Nowadays there’s nothing else to do.  We walked three times today.  It’s therapeutic for me, I know.  We don’t always carry on an active conversation while we’re walking side by side but we don’t argue.  I really, really like walking with Lynn.  She’s good company and is an excellent walker.


The numbers tonight prove that this pandemic is far from being over:

Infected                   Died

World                 3,134,199              217,596

US                       1,034,115                59,112

Virginia                  14,339                     492

Augusta County            39                         1

Wow, over a million people infected in the US.  Zero in this house–I suppose–we probably couldn’t get a test if we wanted one.


April 29, 2020

As always, there were some head-shaking events yesterday involving our current administration.  First, our President was upstaged when Vice President Pence spoke at the Air Force Academy’s graduation ceremonies held in Colorado on April 18.  Supposedly this service was held with attendees obeying social distancing.  So Trump decided that he should speak at a military graduation, too.  He invited himself to speak at West Point’s graduation ceremonies scheduled for June 13.  One thousand cadets will be summoned back to campus amid shutdowns and domestic travel restrictions.  Why?  So his ego can be stroked and he’ll get more publicity.


But the Vice President himself showed his stupidity even more yesterday when he visited the Mayo Clinic.  Despite the CDC’s recommendations and the Mayo Clinic’s policy that everyone wear masks, he was photographed bare-faced with everyone around him obeying the mandate. When asked why he didn’t wear a mask, he replied that he had tested negative for coronavirus and wanted to “look workers in the eye.”  NO MASKS COVER THE EYES!  What an idiot.  He’s no brighter than the customers at The Meating Place.


Once again we’re sheltering in place but not exactly.  Today’s schedule began with a dermatologist appointment for Lynn shortly after breakfast.  This was not a telephone visit; she and I drove to the doctor’s office in Staunton so she could get a pre-cancerous spot over her eye taken care of.  She has had this appointment for a while and decided her safety would not be compromised due to the careful actions of the doctor and nurse.


When we got to the Doctor’s office, we remained in our car while Lynn called the office to let them know we were here.  Then someone from the office came out to verify Lynn’s name and ask her if she had experienced shortness of breath, headaches, loss of smell, cough, etc. — all the symptoms of COVID-19.  This person had a mask on and stayed more than six feet from our vehicle.  Later the nurse came out and summoned Lynn inside.  The parking lot has become the waiting room!


Her appointment took less than twenty minutes.  She said the office had been very careful to follow all precautions.


Driving back I couldn’t help but notice who was working and who wasn’t now.  A very large number of construction workers are building the new Staunton High School beside the previous one.  I can’t imagine how they can keep themselves isolated.  Hardware stores, gas stations, highway workers, and lawn businesses are working as if nothing has changed.  Ingleside golf course had lots of players.  Banks, pharmacies, and restaurants have drive-up business only.  Church, school, and retail store parking lots are virtually empty.


Later I observed more businesses as we drove to Stuarts Draft to pick up the plant order we had placed at Milmont Garden Center.  Open were Dollar General, the post office, car wash, farm equipment stores, tire stores, auto parts businesses, and, interestingly, the ABC store.  Closed were gyms, beauty salons, the Thrift Store, and Eli’s Fun Center.  On the road there were plenty of truckers and white panel trucks of businesses.  The Garden Center was a zoo!  The parking lot was packed.  Most, but not all, people had on masks but social distancing was not being practiced.  We didn’t have to worry about this because we placed our order yesterday and had curbside pickup for it.  It cost us an extra $10 but, based on the crowd, it was worth it.


Anyone need mulch?  I’ve got a huge pile of it in excess of what I need.  I spent time this morning spreading it around our rose bushes on the side of the house except for one place where a bush died and will be replaced this afternoon.


Lynn posts a lot on Facebook.  Most of her postings are re-posts from others about recipes, words of wisdom, Trump’s ineptitude, and local events..  Many are humorous including one she posted two weeks ago which said “Let’s play a fun quarantine game….Someone leave a bottle of wine on my door and I’ll try to guess who it was.”  As we left for our morning walk today, guess what was at the door!


Actually, while I was distributing mulch this morning I saw the person who did this.  The entire time we walked, around an hour, Lynn tried to get me to tell her who it was.  She has many, many friends so there were lots of suspects.  But I wouldn’t tell!  Finally, it was give in or get a divorce lawyer so I told her if she named the person I’d say yes or no.   She guessed a few neighbors and family members, none of which were correct.  She eventually said Mary Gooden so I had to smile and agree.


I called my brother Butch yesterday to check in with him.  All is well in Athens, Ohio.  His only complaint was that since Ohio University is not in session the pool where he normally swims a few times per week has been closed.  We agreed that it was nicer to be retired during this era than working!


With all of our Easter activities and trips canceled, I had no chance to take pictures in April as I have in the past.  I greatly miss seeing pictures of our family.  Today I decided to take my camera along as Lynn and I took our second walk of the day, our 3.7 mile loop.  Of course, I posted the 100+ pictures I took to my Flickr site and linked to them from this web page.  The pictures show that we see lots of animals as we walk.  Today I got photos of cows, sheep, horses, deer, dogs, and a pig.  We see lots of pretty flowers and some nicely kept houses.  The pictures show that this hike is hilly and passes some pretty farms with many green fields.  At the end I got some photos of our house which looks good now with flowers blooming.


Tonight’s dinner was superb.  We had left potatoes to bake while we hiked.  When we got back I grilled some of the fresh rib eye steaks from The Meating Place.  Lynn cooked mushrooms to top and we split a wine cooler.  Of course, there were ice cream treats for dessert.


Our day concluded with our weekly Zoom session with the rest of the family.  It was fun to see them and chat for a little while.


Here are the daily counts:

Infected                   Died

World                 3,217,825              228,005

US                       1,063,863                61,635

Virginia                  14,961                     522

Augusta County            41                         1


There was a bit of good news about the pandemic this evening.  Dr. Fauci, whom we trust, said the data shows that the drug remdesivir has a clear-cut, significant positive effect in diminishing the time to recover.  And, Oxford scientists say that a vaccine may be available by September.  Let’s hope both of these prove to be true.


April 30, 2020

Another night with heavy rain resulted in our neighborhood looking greener than ever this morning.  Our well should be in good shape after all the rain we’ve had in April.  Another good sign is that we’ve seen the hummingbird back again including some visits this morning.


A post on Facebook from the Bluefield Daily Telegraph today says “Roughly 30.3 million people have now filed for jobless aid as the U.S. economy slides further into a crisis that is becoming the most devastating since the 1930s.”  I regret that there are so many families in America whose finances have been ruined by this pandemic but simultaneously thankful that my family has been subject to just inconvenience, not devastation.  At least, so far….


Mid-morning I got a call from City National Bank in Staunton.  Central’s PPP loan application was ready to be closed and I was asked to meet a representative at 1:00.  I did so–we met in the parking lot so to be socially distant–and signed the papers.  As a result of this program we instantly get $18,732 from the government which will turn into a grant as long as we don’t reduce staff in the next eight weeks.  Of course, there will be some paperwork to complete when June gets here but it shouldn’t be bad.


While I went to Staunton for the loan application signing, Lynn conducted another Spanish lesson via Facetime with Thomas and Georgia.  Those kids are lucky to have her as their Grandmommy.


It rained all morning so our first walk of the day was delayed until mid-afternoon.  We did the 3.7 mile loop.  This time it went faster because I didn’t have my camera with me.  We added two more shorter walks later in the day and ended up with a 7.2 mile net for today.  Not bad for two old people!


Tonight’s news said the President wants to have a vaccine by the end of 2020.  There are over a hundred vaccines under study now throughout the world.  There would need to be over 300 million vaccinations  in order to include everyone in the US.  Without vaccinations, I can’t help but wonder how events can happen like ball games, church services, concerts, etc.


Today’s dilemma is that there is increasing pressure to get the population back to work.  Some food processing plants have been closed down due to the epidemic.  The government is saying that these plants are essential and need to add safety features and re-open.  Some states are beginning to lift their bans on non-essential businesses.  If these businesses do re-open but some of their employees fear returning to work, will they be eligible for the same unemployment benefits they are now receiving?  Do they have to choose between staying safely at home with no income or return to work in an environment that is unsafe?


Here are today’s statistics:

Infected                   Died

World                 3,303,300              233,784

US                       1,094,464                63,827

Virginia                  15,846                     552

Augusta County            43                         1