Traffic lights and street corners that were once bustling and packed with vehicles are now running more smoothly with far less congestion. Shops are quiet, sometimes even fenced or shuttered, and lacking the vivacious energy usually accompanied by the arrival of spring festivities and bluebonnet pictures galore. Even for those few who still dare to set foot outside for the sake of leaving their walled spaces for a bit, a point is made to avoid people coming from the opposite direction – usually by making a beeline around the stranger as though there were some force field blocking them.
It’s almost idyllic for those who cherish peach and quiet. And yet, throughout grocery stores and companies initiating layoffs, there is a cacophony of discontent and anxiety.
The effects of the COVID-19 pandemic have made themselves manifest in even innocuous forms. Because of how stealthy this new (and admittedly deadly) disease has proven itself to be, many have taken to sometimes drastic measures in order to “flatten the curve” per guidelines listed by the CDC. “Drastic” can mean different things for different individuals and can range from the closure of Sewell Park (especially when dozens showed up for sunbathing and frolicking as the Texas outbreaks began) to grocery stores, banks, and other essential businesses setting limits on purchases, who comes into the facility and when, and everything of the like.
This undercurrent of fear and paranoia that has been born anew from this is, quite literally, everywhere. As a banker and someone deemed an essential employee, Monica Vannella can see how the virus and its fallout has wreaked havoc at every corner she turns.
“If people could keep their cool, maybe it wouldn’t be so bad,” Monica states, citing aforementioned panic inside the grocery stores and lines extending through the parking lot in ninety-degree weather. “It got really crazy.”
Her son, Dominic, works in a grocery store as a night shift stocker. While he doesn’t usually face the daytime crowds, it doesn’t mean he hasn’t seen the madness firsthand.
“I remember him saying how… people were tearing things off shelves while they were putting things up. They were grabbing them out of the stockers’ hands. And he said ‘I could not believe people were buying the place out.'”
Being immuno-compromised herself, she makes a point to stay home as much as she can, and only go out for essentials if it can’t be avoided. She lives right by a school and sees people with school-aged children pull up for breakfast and lunch if they need it, and also is in contact with individuals working now busy food banks.
But, just like with those it infects, the disease knows no bounds with lifestyles and careers.
“I ran into a woman while I was walking the dog,” she recounts, “and then she called out to me. She said ‘I’m gonna be putting all my belongings out in my front yard tomorrow and selling it.’
“I asked her if she was spring cleaning, while thinking in the back of my head how it was a lousy time to have a yard sale. She said ‘No. I worked at a base, I’m not getting a paycheck, and I have to pay rent.'”
She helped her by suggesting some options that she had because of the circumstances. Even so, the outlook was pretty grim because of the pandemic fallout everywhere.
Monica realizes that people are panicking likely because they are cooped up and have nowhere to go for the most part, and notes from firsthand experience as an essential worker that there’s a different dynamic or mindset among public people who are stuck at home mostly versus those who still have to work. With this, she encourages people to take care of their minds and emotions during this uncertain time, and models that by taking time to walk her dog around her relatively quiet rural neighborhood in the hilly countryside.
“You have to take care of your mental health,” she says. “It makes it easier to get through all of this.”