Coronavirus has shaken up the way we do things

Published 10:01 pm Saturday, April 4, 2020

At Lingerfelt Pharmacy in downtown Elizabethton, a group of men, most of whom are retired, have been accustomed to meeting at mid-morning around a table in the back of the store. They discuss politics, sports, and current events — and they drink coffee.
Although there is a pandemic, and many businesses have closed or are offering curb service, the group of men still come and hang out for two or three hours at their usual meeting place.
However, Marsha Barnett, who works in the pharmacy, said there is little foot traffic in the store. “Our customers if they wish can call and pick up their prescriptions at the back door or at the Elk Avenue entrance. We will take their meds out to them, and we do deliver,” she said.
At Burgie Drug Store, customers can still come inside the store and pick up their medicine, or they can use the drive-through window. “We are still seeing quite a few walk-in customers,” said a store employee Thursday.
Both Walgreens and CVS Pharmacies report business “as usual.”
“We still have quite a bit of in-store traffic,” said a Walgreens employee. Although the store is closed from 9 p.m. to 9 a.m., drive-though service at the pharmacy is offered all night.
Elizabethton is dealing with the coronavirus crisis like lots of small towns in Tennessee and across America. There’s plenty of uncertainty, concern, and even confusion about how to carry on with life in a world where all the schools are closed, social activities are suspended, and you need to stand 6 feet apart when you go to the grocery store or walk down the sidewalk. And, it’s not unusual to see people wearing masks on their faces.
They’re not going to hold anybody up or rob them; they’re just protecting themselves against the coronavirus, which has hit almost every community in this country.
Even churches have been forced to cancel their services due to the safer community status enacted by the governor and local officials — gatherings must be 10 or less.
“It’s the first time that I can remember all the churches being closed for Easter,” said the Rev. Ray Amos, Pastor of First United Methodist Church in Elizabethton. “That breaks my heart.”
At City Market in downtown Elizabethton, a popular eating place, curbside and carry-out are the options. “We don’t have anyone in here eating, because all diners and restaurants have been closed,” said an employee. “Carryout is the only thing that’s going to carry us through,” the employee said. A customer, who had ordered a carry out meal said, “It’s going to get tougher. It’s going to affect everyone.”
At the STAR, a gentleman steps inside the front door to purchase a paper. As he looks over the front page, he noted, “There never has been anything like this before. I guess the closest thing akin to this time was during World War II when all the men went off to war, and a lot of stuff was rationed like shoes, gasoline, car tires, and foodstuff like coffee and sugar. Times were hard then,” he said.
And, were it not for this monster of a virus, this would have been the first weekend of the 2020 Downtown Car Show. Instead, it has been canceled for the foreseeable future.
Also, all the parks have been closed until the end of April — no gatherings at the Covered Bridge Park, Riverside Park, Kiwanis Park or Cat Island Park.
As of Thursday, there had only been one coronavirus case reported in Carter County. “There’s some sense that the virus might bypass us, that it’s mostly a big city problem,” said a Race Street neighbor, who, I stopped to chat with. But, there’s also a growing awareness, as more and more restrictions are announced and more cases are identified in Washington, Sullivan, and Greene counties, and elsewhere, that it really isn’t.
A church friend, Pat Collins, who is an avid pray-er shared, “It’s a troublesome time. I feel that the worst is yet to come. I pray every day for God’s protection and that He will heal our land and our people,” she said in a telephone conversation.
A lady at the Taco John’s drive-though window shared, “If you want businesses at the end of this, you need to support them. They need it right now.”
At the local nursing homes, visitors have been banned for almost four weeks. For some, there are “window” visits. There’s extra cleaning and extra checks, per guidelines from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
At the local grocery stores and Wal-Mart, business was brisk at a couple of the stores. There was bread on the shelves, and surprisingly, packages of hamburger in the meat case. Customers were trying to avoid one another in narrow aisles and standing apart at the checkout.
At Food City, the normal lunch crowd can’t gather while this pandemic is in progress. Although the salad bar is closed down, both Ingles and Food City food take-out was proving popular among shoppers.
An employee at the Elizabethton Post Office said package deliveries are still robust. “I am thinking that people are bored, so they’re deciding, ‘Let’s order something online,’ the postman said.
Here, at the STAR, some of our employees are working from home. But with no spring sports to cover, no school or church events, there are few community events to promote and advertise. It’s a struggle to find news aside from the coronavirus.
Overall, folks in Elizabethton are like folks everywhere else — wondering when this is going to end, wondering if someone they know might get infected, wondering what will be left when it’s over. Will that be a month? Or months?
As my friend, Peggy, at the nursing home has often reminded me during tough times, “This, too, will pass.”
Thursday, when I talked to her, she again reminded me that “It’s going to be OK. It’s just going to take awhile. Soon, you’ll be able to visit, and we’ll talk face-to-face again.” What a trooper, she is.

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