Wendy Kalman
There are many ways to see and understand

Visiting family during COVID-19

Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge, South Florida (photo: Wendy Kalman)

We did it. We got into a car and we drove down to Florida. We made the decision to visit family, but with the understanding that we would only partake in outdoor activities. And so, we walk and talk outside and are grateful family lives in a place where the weather is warm enough for us to do this now. The only meals we’ve had indoors besides the hotel’s boxed breakfasts was dinner to go from a local eatery that we brought back to the hotel. My husband and I ate in our room while the kids enjoyed their meal spread out in the spacious lobby where they and cousins could watch a football game at safe distances from one other. Otherwise, we’ve eaten al fresco, on restaurant patios, backyard picnicking or even in a garage. And that is fine. In fact, it’s been wonderful.

The day we drove down from Georgia, it was below freezing. The next evening we were able to visit with my 91 year old aunt, standing outside her front door. With our masks on, she couldn’t see my mouth, but I was smiling. And it’s gotten warmer every day since.

I am grateful we live within driving distance. We packed food and hand sanitizer, made only two stops for gas and bathroom, and drove. The rooms at the hotel had a label on their door showing they had been sanitized.

COVID-19 means we need to think about life differently. We all do. All the time. Because the way we do things matters. And the potential outcomes are frightening to think about.

Every day, I learn about someone else I know of who has fallen ill. Some are at the beginning stages, a loss of smell, of taste. Others have been hospitalized. Some have passed away. Hospitals are bursting at the seams, and some are not scheduling other kinds of surgery.

Taking this trip was a decision we made, and not lightly. We know that any and every interaction with people, both those we know and with strangers, constitutes risk. And so we designed our short getaway to minimize risk. But ultimately it is always there.

It is infuriating to me how many people I do see in public places who seem not to care. Should friends or any member of my family in these two states stay safe throughout this ordeal, it will be with no thanks to our governors. Florida’s Governor DeSantis has been roundly criticized for his mishandling of the virus, as has Georgia’s Governor Kemp, who routinely flouts his own guidelines.

It is frightening to me that any of us can say with complete certainty that it will get worse before it gets better. Holiday spikes are only part of the problem. Widespread disregard for mask-wearing, crowds out and about everywhere, insensitivity to the sheer number of fellow Americans who have died or are filling our country’s ICU units means this will all get worse.

As we head into this new year, we all want to put 2020 behind us. The only way to do that safely is to be as careful as we can. Come inauguration day, when science will again take a position of influence in public discourse, let us only hope that governors and citizens alike rethink their approach to life, and begin to follow our next president’s lead. Please be careful.

Wishing you all a safe and healthy new year.

About the Author
Born in Brooklyn and raised on Lawn Guyland, Wendy lived in Jerusalem for over a decade submerged in Israeli culture; she has been soaked in Southern life in metro Atlanta since returning to the U.S. in 2003. Recently remarried, this Ashkenazi mom and MIL to three Mizrahi sons and a DIL in their 20s splits her time between managing knowledge in corporate America, pursuing a dual masters in public administration and integrated global communications, relentlessly Facebooking, enjoying the arts and trying to bring a wider perspective to the topics she covers while blogging.
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