The new normal

Our new lives in the age of coronavirus


Megan Dunn

In the back of my car is an abundance of cleaning supplies including Lysol wipes, wet wipes, and a bleach spray. Every item that groceries come into our house, they have to be thoroughly disinfected, and if possible let sit for three days.

Megan Dunn, Reporter

What was once an easy task now takes 30 minutes longer. As you enter the grocery store, you head straight for the wipes to disinfect your cart. The aisles are now one way. There is no more browsing through the grocery store. 

Coming home with the groceries is a whole different task. Trying to swiftly transfer bread from the bag to a tupperware dish without touching it, taking cereal out of the box because you know the bag has not been touched while the cardboard packing has, and wiping down everything twice is the new normal for grocery shopping. 

This is many peoples’ new reality. Fear of contracting COVID-19 while grocery shopping or pumping gas is heightened as the number of cases continues to rise. This fear is extremely real for me.

Not because I am at risk, but because someone I love is. Because of this, roles in my family, like many other families, have shifted. My grandma who was once extremely independent and social, is now having to adjust to a new normal.

My Grandma Sandy’s normal life has been put on pause.

“This coronavirus is scary to me because I have an underlying problem,” Sandy Downing [Grandma Sandy] said. “And if I were to catch it, I would probably die from it, and it isn’t my time yet.”

This underlying health condition is interstitial lung disease ( ILD). ILD is a rare condition where the lungs essentially attack themselves and scar, in Grandma Sandy’s case, this is due to a pre-existing autoimmune disease, and like many others she is in the 65 and up risk category. 

This new normal includes me bringing her groceries.

“I love having the attention from you!” Downing said. “It’s hard to have you get out and do it, when I am used to doing my own thing. It’s not fun having to depend on others.” 

It is not only the grocery store that she is avoiding and not being allowed to do, she used to bring groceries to my aunt (who is also now getting groceries via my delivery), who is in a retirement home, not to mention getting plenty of retirement lunches. Granda Sandy also can’t go to see the two new additions to our family, her great grandsons, but we make it work using Facetime. 

“I miss being able to see you [Megan] when I want to, and seeing the rest of my family when I want too,” Downing said. “I have two great grand babies that I would love to touch and hold. I also miss going to scrapbooking class. I miss getting with other people to share ideas and create.”

These activities are on pause due to the pandemic, and everyday life has become different for our entire family, especially for Downing and her siblings. 

“I have many siblings and we go out for birthday dinners almost every month and we can’t do that, so it is a bummer,” Downing said. “The last birthday we got to celebrate was January, and the next one was in April so we weren’t able to go, and this was one of the main ways I kept in contact with my family.” 

My grandma is just one of many people whose lives have been transformed almost overnight. According to a 2017 profile of Older Americans by the Administration for Community Living, there are about 49.2  million people in the United States that are 65 and up, and are therefore classified by the CDC  as “at- risk.”  This does not include people who also fall into this category for having autoimmune diseases like type I diabetes, or a chronic lung disease. 

Other West High School students have had to adapt to these changing times, like sophomore Addie Abbott, whose dad and grandma have heart conditions, putting them in the at risk category. 

“It’s painful to not be able to see your family,” Abbott said. “You never know how much time they have left and you want to spend as much time with them, and talking on the phone doesn’t give the same effect.”

It is not only daily interactions that have moved to zoom, but birthday parties. 

“I miss seeing my friends and family […] we are using facetime and zoom to keep up though,” Abbott said. “We had a zoom birthday party for my cousin and brother, it was weird because we didn’t have traditional things like a cake or party.”

All of this is in hope of flattening the curve and keeping our loved ones safe, but not everyone feels the same. Many people are still hanging out with friends and not social distancing. According to Unacast, a social distancing score board, Scott County is not social distancing properly and has a F grade.

“It angers me that people are going out. I see people leaving and going on vacation during a pandemic,” Abbott said. “They are putting everyone at risk. They’re only thinking of themselves.”

When people don’t social distance and hang around other people, they increase others chances of contracting the virus, and many younger people can go asymptomatic, and by making unnecessary stops, people risk transmitting or contracting the virus.

One of my biggest fears at the moment is unknowingly passing the virus to my grandma because I may be asymptomatic. 

“It is a scary time,” Abbott said. “Nobody knows what is going on, and it is a hard enough time having to worry about the ones you know let alone yourself.”

This is an unprecedented time and it is completely normal to feel scared or worry about your loved ones even if they do not have underlying conditions. Most people’s daily lives have changed.

Never would I have dreamed that in my sophomore year of high school that I would be waking up at 7 a.m. to stand in line at the grocery store instead of in line at Starbucks. I used to groan when my mom asked me to go to the grocery store, and now it is my main point of excitement. Our lives have truly changed and been put on pause, and now it is up to you to stay safe and make the best of it.