COVID-19 New Normal

POSTNOTE March 25, 2020:  There are a goodly number of contributions from readers to this post.  You may wish to ‘walk through’ to the end – messages of serenity and hope, including the comments following the comments within the post itself.

NOTE TO READERS: This is one in a continuing series of personal reflections on COVID-19.   The first was March 6; most recent March 27 .  After todays, there will be more to follow. (click archive for March 2020 for others). I try to focus beyond the normal condensed news we all get from the media.  (As regular readers know, I have come to have great confidence in the frequent blog, Just Above Sunset, written by a retired guy in Los Angeles: easy to find, just google the name; easy to subscribe at no cost.)  Of course, there are endless “expert opinions”.  Your input is solicited and welcome.  Regardless of how “expert” the source is, in the end analysis each pronouncement is his or her “opinion”, based on his or her motivation (this includes myself, of course).  At some future time, history will record what really happened, and why – this will hopefully be the Truth – but for now we have to exercise our own best judgement and common sense in confronting an invisible enemy.  I hope you stop by again….


It’s a beautiful early day in the neighborhood.  Really.  I awoke to a couple of inches of new snow, temp about freezing, calm, overcast.

At home about 8 a.m. Mon. March 23, 2020

Our neighbors across the driveway return from their winter digs in Arizona later today.  I left a short note in their newspaper box: “Welcome back to the new normal.”  Of course this is no surprise to them.  This pandemic is world wide and we all have to figure out how to live – and suffer – with it.


I’m a ‘church’ guy.  Yesterday, first time with a virtual Mass from Basilica of St. Mary, my home parish.  We watched it live.  You can see any or all of it on-line here.  This is part of the “new normal” we confront.  We’re a member of the Mpls-St. Paul Film Society, and their annual international film festival is indefinitely postponed, and this year members can watch some of their films on-line.  Another new normal.  There will be lots of these kinds of things.   Of course, these are accessible only to those of us who are the ‘haves’…how do we bring a ‘new normal’ to the ‘have-nots’.  (Just for sake of conversation, I divide our population 50-50.  The richer half is the ‘haves’; the poorer half the ‘have nots’.  We – the 100% – are in this together.  One affects directly the other.  Period.


An inspiration, today, from cousin Mary, whose life is music, a forward from Rotterdam Symphony Orchestra members, here.  “Amazing.  Enjoy”,  she says.

On a much more sober tone, yesterday came this from my sister, also a Mary, from New York State.  Mary is a retired Nurse Practitioner.

I replied to Mary’s forward as follows: This morning’s Minneapolis paper has an interesting column by Dr. Michael Osterholm, very well known in this field [you can read this here].  

I’m thinking back to about 1987 or so, when HIV-AIDS was raging, and Dr. Osterholm and a man with soon to be terminal AIDS and others spoke to over 100 of us teacher union staff members about AIDS.  There were people terrified to sit in the same circle with the guy with AIDS, who was just a nice gentle guy.  Dr. Osterholm’s was an apocalyptic kind of message.  It has been his career, and people like him are needed, for certain, for times like this.
AIDS is still a problem,  but we have a different perspective today,  for lots of reasons.
I’m very concerned about what is happening right now, and not only about the virus.  I’m more concerned about the health care workers whose daily work requires exposure and who, it appears, are being overwhelmed.  I hope, though, that we all try to keep this in perspective as we struggle through this.  My personal balancing act is how much risk I’m taking versus how much safety can be guaranteed. I can see myself wavering between too much and too little.  
I wish us all, well.
Later a friend of Mary’s, Kathy, also a recipient of the e-mail, responded to Mary’s list: Thanks for sharing both pieces Mary and Dick. Yes! Sobering. You may save a life or shattering illness with increased awareness.  
Two former work colleagues of mine, Larry and John, had similar recollections of the 1987 meeting  (which both attended and Larry probably had most to do with initiating).  It was really a pioneering activity in those highly charged days of fear.

Larry responded:

I was thinking of that meeting a couple days ago as Osterholm’s name kept coming in the context of the current pandemic. 
The takeaways I recall.
1. We are seated at tables and I believe each table had at least one person with AIDS. The point was to tell their story AND demonstrate that AIDS was NOT transferred by normal social contact. I believe there was a great deal of skepticism and maybe fear on that point.
2.  Osterholm was a truth teller then just as I believe he is now. Hard truths sometimes but always truth. He indicated he thought effective treatment WOULD be developed but it would take many years. That observation turned out to be right. He also explained why.
3. I have a vivid recollection of many folks hitting the pay telephones after the session to talk to their older children about the realities of AIDS.
4. Based on later conversations with colleagues around the country I think we were one of the first , probably the first, to have such a set of conversations that included those who were actually infected. 
5. Not quite as certain on this point but I believe most of us actually engaged in handshakes with those at our tables because that wasn’t risky although at the time of the meeting there was great fear about this disease and many unknowns-just like today.
Any of these recollections are subject to correction but this is what I recall. 
There are more comments I could add, just in this one day, as there will continue to be.  Truly, the ‘boots on the ground’ are each and every one of us, whose task is to do whatever we reasonably can to get all of us through this very genuine crisis.  Keeping connected is very, very important, though the manner of connecting is drastically and perhaps permanently being changed.  
I think of the old days, when things like we are experiencing happened, but were not moderated by modern means of communication or treatment options.  People got sick, and they either got well or they didn’t.  There weren’t many effective interventions (hope).  In each of our pasts were similar dynamics in our own family trees.    

Carver Park walking path, 9 a.m. March 23, 2020

COMMENT (See more at the end of this post):

from Donna: I am just so nervous about this virus.  Our daughter works at a hospital in Minneapolis and last week worked in ICU unit  on what is the the corona virus floor.  She is scared as well.  I don’t know what to tell her.  I am so happy we have a good governor.  She said all of this talk about wearing homemade masks is just bad information from the CDC, not what WHO is telling people.  It is making people feel they can do something.  What a time in our lives.  I feel like a tsunami is approaching and we are not ready with no leadership coming from Washington.

from Lloyd and Joanne: Call or email old acquaintances during this time of remaining in place at home.

from Mary: My mom tested positive for TB [tuberculosis] her entire life after caregiving her aunt Violet who was very ill.  Thus she earned her keep to continue HS.  She used lots of bleach around our house and current days remind me of that as CDC suggests bleach 3t to a quart of [water].

Dick, in response: Best of my recollection, my Dad, too, tested positive on a Mantoux test his entire life.  He was a school teacher so the test was mandatory.  He was born 1907, and was probably exposed sometime in his younger years.  Best I know, the disease never manifested, other than the test result.  He was nearly 90 when he died.

from Mark: Just interviewed a young Polish-American  doctor from Minnesota who is treating COVID-19 patients in London for a story for .Polish American Journal.  She had 2 of her 15 ventilator patients die over the weekend.

Just Above Sunset: Thinking the Impossible

from Howie, via Kathy: Neil Diamond, “Washing Hands”

from Lee: Thanks Dick. It is good to hear from you. My new normal is a little bit different. Beck and I have spent the winter on the island of Tenerife, one of the Canary Islands which are part of Spain. We were scheduled to fly back home on March 31st. About 2 weeks ago our inline, TPA Air Portugal canceled our flights. The next day Trump issued his travel ban,  and the day after that the Spanish Government issued a lockdown order. This prevented us from getting the necessary paperwork that would allow our dog to return to the USA. In addition to that our visa allowing us to be in the Schengen Zone was to expire on April 1.

Our new normal has become trying to figure out how to maneuver through and live in a foreign country with very limited (me, Beck’s Spanish gets us through this) language skills.
Anyway, with the help of Congresswoman McCollum’s very able staff we now have permission to stay for another 90 days. We have given up on getting back home any time soon.
We have been able to extend our rental agreement and we have stayed healthy so far so things are settling back down. On Saturday the Spanish government extended the lockdown for another two weeks.
from Fr. Harry: Naomi Klein nails the problems with today’s plan from Government:
About 5 min.   Well worth the listen.   All countries might have this…. Naomi Klein   (Dick: I have commented on this in earlier posts about COVID-19)

from Lydia, forwarded from Reflections from Holstee:

There is fear, but there does not have to be hate.

With this month’s theme of Wellness, we are constantly looking for ways to keep our balance amidst the uncertainty.

A friend recently shared the poem Lockdown by Brother Richard Hendrick. It’s a beautiful and powerful message for what is currently unfolding around the world. We are re-sharing it below and have highlighted a few lines that we found particularly moving.

We hope that reading it helps slow things down and bring a moment of peace to your day, like it did for us.

Wishing you health, comfort, and safety,

Mike and Dave Radparvar
Co-Founders, Holstee



Yes there is fear.
Yes there is isolation.
Yes there is panic buying.
Yes there is sickness.
Yes there is even death.
They say that in Wuhan after so many years of noise
You can hear the birds again.
They say that after just a few weeks of quiet
The sky is no longer thick with fumes
But blue and grey and clear.
They say that in the streets of Assisi
People are singing to each other
across the empty squares,
keeping their windows open
so that those who are alone
may hear the sounds of family around them.
They say that a hotel in the West of Ireland
Is offering free meals and delivery to the housebound.
Today a young woman I know
is busy spreading fliers with her number
through the neighbourhood
So that the elders may have someone to call on.
Today Churches, Synagogues, Mosques and Temples
are preparing to welcome
and shelter the homeless, the sick, the weary
All over the world people are slowing down and reflecting
All over the world people are looking at their neighbours in a new way
All over the world people are waking up to a new reality
To how big we really are.
To how little control we really have.
To what really matters.
To Love.
So we pray and we remember that
Yes there is fear.
But there does not have to be hate.
Yes there is isolation.
But there does not have to be loneliness.
Yes there is panic buying.
But there does not have to be meanness.
Yes there is sickness.
But there does not have to be disease of the soul.
Yes there is even death.
But there can always be a rebirth of love.
Wake to the choices you make as to how to live now.
Today, breathe.
Listen, behind the factory noises of your panic
The birds are singing again
The sky is clearing,
Spring is coming,
And we are always encompassed by Love.
Open the windows of your soul
And though you may not be able
to touch across the empty square,

Brother Richard Hendrick
March 13, 2020

from Kathy V. March 24:


9 replies
  1. Florence Hedeen
    Florence Hedeen says:

    We’re still making a walk-a-day around our little town a priority, this time to get take-out food to help our local food service businesses survive this pandemic. We’ll do that until we’re advised that it’s not a good idea. At this time, we’re pretty much alone walking anywhere.

  2. Sue Thimmesch Lucas
    Sue Thimmesch Lucas says:

    A Prayer for Our World
    Good and Gracious God, Almighty Father, Omnipotent Healer:
    Your children cry out to you during this time of great worry and uncertainty.
    We pray for wisdom to do the right things.
    We pray for your healing power to come upon all who are sick and suffering.
    We pray for strength to persevere in the days ahead.
    Send your Holy Spirit to calm our fears and guide our actions.
    We place our trust in You and Your Son … the Way, the Truth and the Life.
    And we make this prayer through the intercession of Mary, our Mother.

  3. mary k busch
    mary k busch says:

    My neighborhood is really walking while finding a path to social distance ,i.e. using the middle of the road, Bikes are bustling on the greenway and many family groupings are out and about…At 7 every night we sing IMAGINE BY JOHN LENNON. ON PORCHES… I used an afternoon to find a chinese meal for my friend whose husband died after a brief fight with cancer.. It took 3 hours to find one that was open still. one made a promise, then the next worker refused the business etc…A friend offered to make a delivery and finally things worked…I am making sympathy cards because shopping is out and yet another friend lost a father, after a weekend of being refused visitation..My father George, the science teacher is inspiring me to speak the science part of this to others even when receptivity is limited..time to no longer deny science although our preparedness is dismal through neglect of public health infrastructure… etc etc,,,

  4. David Thofern
    David Thofern says:

    We are in uncertain times. I too wonder what will happen to “have-nots,” or, perhaps better stated the “have-littles.” Washington argues over who will get what share of trillions of dollars while so many of our citizens–and non-citizens–wonder whether they will be able to buy food, pay the rent, or take care of their beloved children. Hopefully we’ll come through this and emerge with a better sense of our obligations to our fellow human beings and future generations.

  5. Ellen Brehmer
    Ellen Brehmer says:

    In Grand Forks we are pretty much not leaving the house and I have the protective gloves by the door along with the Clorox wipes. Gary has a zip lock bagful in his coat pocket. I go to the grocery store and drive through for coffee and tea. We are talking on the phone to brothers and sister and friends. This evening our group that meets at the church on Monday nights sort of learned how to get together with a Zoom meeting. by the time the meeting was over we have it ready to go for next Monday. It was good to see a familiar face.

  6. Corky Marinkovich
    Corky Marinkovich says:

    Take time to do some reading & other activities that you haven’t had time to do. As a survivor of legionaries disease years ago, I can tell you to take any lung disorder serious. Packed in ice to bring temperature down, medication, months to return to normal breathing & not being able to do routine activities is not worth being foolhardy. This is serious friends!

  7. Beth Brownfield
    Beth Brownfield says:

    WATCH: A very practical workshop led by Craig Hamilton. A pioneer in the emerging field of mindfulness around the world. On Sunday Craig led a 1 ½ hour workshop and ½ hr. Q&A: Spiritual Survival Skills for a World in Chaos: Accessing the Strength, Wisdom and Equanimity to Meet the Challenges of our Moment. He shared an incredibly practical practice in facing the current world situation. To watch go to his facebook page, and scroll down to “Craig Hamilton was live”

    BUY & READ: Surviving the Future: Culture, Carnival and Capital in the Aftermath of the Market Economy by David Fleming. Selected and Edited by Shaun Chamberlin from the work David Fleming’s Lean Logic.

    This book is timely because of what is happening around the world as we come to grips with the coronavirus. We are currently stepping into the world that Fleming proposed of a post-growth economics grounded in human scale culture and community—rather than big finance because the market economy will not survive it’s inherent flaws beyond the early decades of this century and that it’s failure will bring great challenges. (Coronavirus has within a matter of weeks knocked the world into the biggest challenges we have faced in a lifetime. Have you noticed amongst the chaos an arising of love, humanity, neighborliness, community strengthening, ingenuity, resourcefulness, mutual support, creativity, local resources, living with less, self-sacrificing, accessing the freely given abilities and creativity of others, etc.)

    Adapted from Martha Peck UCC Minister


  8. Melanie Bennett
    Melanie Bennett says:

    Loved “What Can I Do?” and Lockdown is a great comfort.
    So glad folks are connecting with others and sharing their stories! Here is a great youtube video that shows how powerful we are together!:

    We will come through this crisis better people, more respectful of nature and ourselves and more importantly ready to solve climate change and war as a global team!


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