Bethalto and the coronavirus

Bethalto and the coronavirus

The new decade has brought many troubling events, but the most impactful has been the outbreak of the COVID-19 virus, which has resulted in many places enforcing a quarantine or “shelter in place” lifestyle for citizens. Bethalto and its surrounding towns, under the government of Illinois, have been put into these same circumstances. People have been dealing with it differently and the impacts it has on their lives range on a long spectrum, some affected more or less than others, but it is clear each individual’s life has been changed in some way. It has changed everyone’s work, school and even family lives.

For the most part, work and school, or professional, parts of life have been altered the most, though the social aspect itself has also been struck enormously, depending on one’s following of the enforced rules. Though many have been put out of work and school, some workers still have to go to work at their “essential jobs.” Examples of these people in our community are Karla Lindsey, a unit clerk/monitor tech at Alton Memorial Hospital who lives in Bethalto, and Keith Sparrowk, an employee at Olin Winchester.

Karla Lindsey has found her life become much more cautious and rigid, having to pay close attention to her sanitation, clothing and covering, at work and home, but especially at work. She notes the need to change clothes before and after work and washing hands multiple times a day. In her environment, the food too, or the serving of it, could pose a threat so she must always bring her own to the workplace. Most of all, however, it has limited her contact with her family and friends to the extremes. “I have had to isolate myself from my family. I haven’t been able to see my mom or niece. My son moved in with his kids, so I am living alone right now,” she said. She has had to resort to such a lonely lifestyle now mainly because of her own possible exposure to the virus at a medical facility.

Keith Sparrowk does not find there to be many big changes at his workplace other than different car parking areas and the requirement of a screening when going through the gate to the building. However, he has felt the impact socially, having to distance himself from family and public places because of his risk of exposure at his job, as he too must work close to people. “I really don’t like going out in public now… It bothers me to see so many people that don’t take it seriously,” he said.

Teachers, other educational employees, and the students receiving the education have been hit in some of the strangest ways. Though the “shelter in place” rules have separated them all from physically going to school, the work and learning still continues through the use of online programs. For high school students, events such as dances and graduation have been put
off or cancelled. This is not only the case in Bethalto, but in many places.

Deanna Seger of Granite City said her grandson, a senior, will also not be able to graduate normally in May.

Christiann Wiest, a teacher at Civic Memorial, said it has been a huge adjustment for teachers, regarding how they venture to instruct. “I already used online resources like Schoology so often that it really wasn’t that big of an adjustment in terms of instruction, but missing that personal, face-to-face connection is hard,” she told me through email. “For elementary students and teachers, I cannot even begin to fathom how they are managing!”

No doubt, the impacts the coronavirus has had on young children’s education and family lives have been tough. Kaeti Lindsey is a mother of three elementary-middle school aged children in Bethalto and expressed her family’s struggles in these times. “In an instant, my kids have been abruptly taken away from the only thing that’s been a constant. Seeing their friends, their teachers and school staff,” she said. “I’ve had to take on the role of teacher and it’s incredibly daunting to juggle 3 grades at one time, especially when I don’t know the first thing about teaching.” It has been difficult to take her children to places they love, like libraries and parks, due to the closings, and whenever she must leave their home she worries of getting exposed to the virus and bringing it back to her children. On a more positive note, she did say that this time has given them the opportunity to become more creative as a family, from the kids learning to write in cursive to painting to cooking. It has given them more time to spend together.

All of those mentioned expressed the pain of being separated from family members. The fear of exposure to the virus by contact with essential workers who are more at risk and the fear of bringing it to loved ones, if the former, are present. Kaeti Lindsey’s family had three birthdays pass and it was difficult on those occasions to be separated from other family members. On the school shutdown, the opportunities and education for children and people of all ages has been extremely limited. The process has become slow and blurred. People have become full of worry and loneliness in these tough times, and some feel increasingly under pressure with all the new awareness and safety/distancing rules.
Deanna Seger said that she “just can’t wait till it is all over so we all can be normal again and enjoy things in life,” which has indeed become hard and different with all the change and shutdowns.

“We take one day at a time,” Kaeti Lindsey said. “Some days are great. Some days are not.”

The pandemic and “shelter in place” programs have all struck many hard in numerous ways, but it is possible to find light in anything. This time has caused much emotional, personal exploration for people, especially students and families, and has led to growth through the opportunities to be creative at home and with those dear. These events and times will become a definitive memory and crucial part of this era.