I remember vividly the last time I shook someone's hand. It was Wednesday, March 11, 2020, at a hastily called press conference at the county Department of Health and Human Services at which then County Health Officer Teresa Frankovich was announcing the declaration of a local health emergency due to COVID-19.
She stressed this was simply a proactive step to leverage resources and, while Humboldt County had seen one of the nation's first COVID-19 cases about a month earlier, there was no evidence it was spreading in the local community. But, she warned, it almost certainly would.
A few minutes earlier, Frankovich — who'd then been on the job just 41 days — had walked over to introduce herself. We shook hands, not yet aware the extent to which distancing, masking and sanitizing would come to dominate our lives. Nine days later, Frankovich issued a shelter-in-place order that dramatically altered life in Humboldt County overnight. Schools and businesses closed as social calendars were cleared, and events canceled, bringing about a period of isolation and anxiety. Eventually, thousands of people got sick. Dozens died.
As we pass the year anniversary of that order, even with the promise that vaccinations will lead a path out the pandemic darkness, our daily realities remain very different. As the anniversary approached, we asked readers to send us their stories — what they've experienced, what they've felt, what they've lost and what they've learned through a year like no other. We've included a handful of them below. And if you'd like to share yours, send them to email@example.com.
I live in Humboldt County. I'm eight generations living here. COVID has made my life extremely hard. No help as I'm disabled. I've been without a running vehicle due to this hardship. And saving money for repairs is a challenge. My doctors helped me to attain a motor scooter to at least get out of my house to get to my post office and local grocery store. I also do not have regular power in my home nor hot running water. It's a challenge to keep my home and myself clean. I need to move closer to town for my health and this is almost impossible to do in this pandemic. I keep my faith strong in our Lord and savior that he will provide what I need.
Close family and friends and my pastor from my church are all I have to keep me going. I know there are others worse off than me, so I'm grateful for what I have. Little to no income for my needs. I pray for our world and others. May God bless us all soon with a normal way of life again. Amen.
A Daily Hike
This COVID year began for my wife, Sydney, and me on March 16, with this song lyric by R.E.M. in our heads: "It's the end of the world as we know it, It's the end of the world as we know it and I feel fine."
But the question we faced was, "How do we stay feeling fine?"
Our self-prescribed answer was to go for a daily hike in Humboldt County: Arcata Community Forest, Azalea Preserve, Arcata Marsh and Wildlife Sanctuary, Lyon's Ranch, Redwood National Park, Ma-le'l Dunes (north and south units), Bear River Ridge Road, Patrick's Point State Park, Headwaters Forest Reserve, Kneeland Road, Trillium Falls (Redwood National Park), Freshwater Lagoon, Lady Bird Johnson Grove (RNP), Mad River Beach, Hikshari' Trail, Elks Head, Trinidad State Beach, Humboldt Bay Wildlife Refuge, Hookton Trail (HBWR), South Jetty, Hammond Trail, Horse Mountain Cold Springs, Dry Lagoon, Mattole River beach, Petrolia Cemetery, Shelter Cove beach, Hidden Valley, Hope Creek (RNP), Rhododendron Trail (RNP), Eureka Waterfront Trail, Faye Slough Wildlife Area, Garden Club of America Grove, Women's Federation Grove, Zig Zag #2 and Ridge Trail (RNP), Lost Man Creek (RNP), Skunk Cabbage (RNP), Humboldt Botanical Garden, Berry Glen (RNP), Founder's Grove, Rockefeller Grove, Blue Lake levee, Snow Camp Road, Sequoia Park, Freshwater Farms, Beith Creek Loop, Fern Canyon, Gold Bluffs Coastal Trail, Little River Beach, Trinidad Head, Avenue of the Giants, Ossagon (RNP), Brown Creek (RNP), Tall Trees Grove (RNP), Redwood Creek (RNP), James Irvine (RNP), Ridge Trail (RNP), Russ Park, Ferndale Cemetery, Cal-Barrel Road (RNP), and Table Bluff Cemetery.
Our COVID year ended with our COVID shots and another lyric in our heads:
"Hard Times, hard times, come again no more.
Many days you have lingered around my cabin door;
Oh! Hard times come again no more."
— Stephen Foster (1854)
One year ago we celebrated my father's 89th birthday. Less than a week later we went into lockdown. Dad cut out the headline from the March 21, 2020, Times-Standard and taped it to his front door, "STAY HOME."
It was clear from the outset that it would be difficult to strike a balance between maintaining a safe distance from Dad and making sure he was cared for. Phone calls proved inadequate to monitor his needs between my limited visits. A month after lockdown his ever-weakening mind and body took a steep decline and it was clear he needed 'round-the-clock medical care. We moved him into Granada. During the December spike in cases, he and 12 other residents would ultimately succumb to COVID-19.
Dad would have turned 90 this month. I wish he could have stayed home.
COVID-19 has changed me in more ways than I realized at first. I was no longer able to dance in-person. Class got moved to Zoom, and it tested my focus and dedication more than any other thing. I had to dig deeper into myself in order to find the driving fire that was once so easy to start. I had to learn to dance even when there was no fire, and I had to learn how to work through it.
I discovered things about myself as well. I discovered that I often turn to writing when things get tough. I started a journal and taught myself to simply write rather than think. I learned to let words wash over me. I learned to let things go rather than hold on to them. I started writing letters to friends, and while each letter they returned brought hope for better times, each one also brought a reminder that we were forever apart. A reminder that there were still 281 miles between us.
I found that many of the people I had danced with my whole life had lost their driving fire. It was not that I had lost them as friends, but more that I had lost them as family. I had to learn how to not see them every day, but still see them even across the chasm that now spread between my world and theirs. It hurts sometimes, but I suppose it always hurts to miss someone.
Thadeus Greenson (he/him) is the Journal's news editor. Reach him at 442-1400, extension 321, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @thadeusgreenson.