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The Grand Reopening - 05/07/2021

It has been a little over a year since I wrote my first post about "the plague year," on April 19, 2020. When I began journaling about my life during COVID, I couldn't really imagine that it would be at least a year before the world would begin re-opening. It was hard for me to even believe that Tucson was essentially closed down. Yet here we are, a year later, and our state has only just re-opened schools and most public places in the last month. The current USA death toll from COVID is nearly 581,000, up from around 41,000 when I started this blog. I remember wondering if 100,000 people would really die from this virus. How naive and wrong I turned out to be.

On the first weekend after the schools re-opened, Timmy and I went to an outdoor Artisan Fair in Oro Valley, just north of us. It was the first public event I had attended since February of 2020, when I went to the Tucson Gem and Mineral Show. Little did I know then how different life was about to become. But when we went out a few weeks ago, things almost seemed like the old days. Yes, we were mostly wearing masks, and the number of vendors allowed to participate was quite a bit lower than in the past due to the ongoing need for social distancing. But many of us who live in the north area of Tucson are older and retirees, and as of that date about 20% of us had been vaccinated (including me). So there was definitely a sense of greater freedom and less anxiety. People greeted each other like survivors of a war, warmly and with relief. Timmy got a lot of attention, as usual, and people took the time to stop and pet him and share stories about their dogs with me. It was so nice to be out amongst a crowd again! I had no idea that I would miss public gatherings so much until I was deprived of them for a year. We had so much fun that we went to another one just last weekend, with similar results.

A return to more normal times is in the air especially in restaurants, where most have re-opened with social distancing but no mask requirements. I see it when I enter to pick up orders for DoorDash. We still get a lot of delivery orders, maybe even more than ever, but the restaurants are crowded, and people seem to be having such a good time everywhere I go. I returned to substitute teaching a couple of weeks ago, and now the school that I teach in regularly is allowing students and teachers to remove their masks in the classroom. The theory is that we have developed a sort of mini-herd immunity in the classroom "pod." I would feel much more nervous about this theory if I had not been fully vaccinated since mid-February, but as it is, I'm okay with it. The kids have gotten so used to their masks that even the kindergarteners keep them on most of the time. I wonder about the long-term effects of the Pandemic on the littlest ones, but so far they seem to be weathering it pretty well.

One thing that I don't welcome is the return of the traffic jam. I hadn't remembered how congested the roads can get, even here in Tucson, and we have experienced over 10% growth in the last year, with many people moving here from the West Coast. So it is worse than it was pre-Pandemic. I loved being one of the few cars on the road last year when I was delivering food; it made the job so much easier. Now I have to remember to plan for traffic when I calculate my commute time. Add to that the road work that is being done all over the city right now, and my commutes are about twice what they were before the Re-opening. I am doing my best not to complain, but this is one area where I really wish things would not go back to "normal."

Who knows what the lasting effects of the Pandemic will be? My own life was not significantly impacted other than my losing my teaching job when the schools closed in March of 2020. I am grateful that I was able to go to work almost immediately as a driver for DoorDash. That and financial help from a few incredibly generous friends kept me in my apartment this year. But I have seen a significant increase in the number of homeless people on our streets, and I personally know people who have had to move to cheaper apartments in the city. I hope I won't have to do that, but my landlord increased my rent by nearly 15% this year, thanks to all the growth in housing costs in Tucson. So I don't know what the future holds. I have signed my lease and am staying put for now, but still weighing my options in Ecuador, Mexico, and a few other international locations. I do love living in Tucson, and have put down roots for now, but I am good at transplanting myself if the need should arise.

So here I am, at the end of my "Journal of the Plague Year." This will be my last entry for this blog. I have enjoyed it and it has helped tremendously in my processing of the events of this past very difficult year. Like most people, I have had a number of terrible events in my life, but nothing has ever happened to me that I couldn't transform by turning it into a story. This journal has helped me to do that with COVID-19. I have transformed this past year with the power of story. I hope my journey has helped you to process your Pandemic too, and I pray that we will never have to go through this collective experience again. Thank you for reading. Now get out there, and mingle!

#Reopening #Pandemic #Vaccinated #BackToNormal #DoorDash #SubstituteTeacher #NewNormal

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