Readers reflect on how life has changed with coronavirus


Nurse Summer Elmore checks on a patient through the door in the COVID unit at Central Valley Specialty Hospital in Modesto, Calif., on Tuesday August 18, 2020.

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Masks, drive-by birthday parties, trading shirts and pants for loungewear and slippers: these were just some of the adjustments people made in their daily lives over the last year as the coronavirus pandemic took hold in Stanislaus County.

Since the first local case was reported March 11, 2020, hundreds of people have been hospitalized, and nearly 1,000 have died.

The Bee asked readers to reflect on the year and how the pandemic has affected their daily lives. A sampling of responses is below.

What unexpected positive changes have occurred in your life over the past year?

Frances Lopez – I saved money by not spending it in restaurants, at the hair and nail salons, or in shops. Instead, I was able to make regular cash donations to the local food bank and to be more generous to some extended family members who live on tight budgets. My hair looked atrocious while it was growing out, but I was satisfied in my soul to be able to share.

Leslie Shaw Klinger My connection to the people in my Faith Tradition and those I refer to as the ‘like-minded and similarly afflicted’ grew stronger and deeper. I had to rely upon them in ways I never expected and that was frightening. These people came through for me, even as I lost others to fear or anger.

Lee Ockey A great appreciation for the simple freedoms. Volunteering, eating out, going to theater, church.

Randy Little To be honest, I can’t really think of anything positive. It was a year lost.

John Bartlett Meeting people on Zoom. I played music with people from many places in zoom meetings. Good people. We all appreciated each other! We played guitars, ukulele, a harp and sang. Shared our lives. No politics. Just music, respect and love!

Russell Antracoli My mental health is stronger than I thought, living alone, my wife passed away was difficult, but I maintained a healthy mental outlook.

Steven Fotheringham Cooking at home everyday, every meal. Saved a lot of money and found I could do it pretty well.

Jennifer Julian-Chambers I was able to go back to college and finish my bachelor’s degree from my alma mater in another state, due to online learning opportunities previously unavailable.

What did you learn about yourself over the past year?

Frances Lopez That I am indeed an introvert who can spend time cooped up in comfortable surroundings with two aging dogs, a temperamental husband, books and magazines, and a few cable TV programs. I am retired, but I found constructive outlets for my mildly obsessive planning and organizing tendencies in my house and garden. My husband sought refuge from these “annoyances” in his den and by riding his bicycle, but he often enjoyed the meals I prepared.

Lee Ockey How much I truly love people and little annoyances disappeared. If I’m really honest, that I could live with my husband 24/7 and still really like him!

Randy Little I was more anxious about getting COVID-19 than I would have predicted when it was first being reported.

Russell Antracoli That even at 72-73 I could endure.

David Hendrick I miss restaurants.

Jennifer Julian-Chambers Keeping my family safe and healthy is more important than anything else

Leslie Young I’m capable of getting a 4.0 all year if I try.

Linda Solorio I learned that I like to play it safe when it comes to my family’s health and safety and follow the guidance by intelligent, capable, trained and educated professionals. I also learned that I trust science, medicine, and subject matter experts, and that I can adapt to difficult change knowing that it is both temporary and will help us all get through this in the long run. I learned that I very much enjoy helping and informing others because we truly are in this together.

What did you find more time to do in the last year?

Frances Lopez Baking and cooking, like many others did. I tried recipes for scones, biscuits, banana breads, persimmon loaves, and bran muffins. I delivered some of these experimental efforts to my friends and neighbors. It was a good way to check in with people on their front porches, while we maintained our distance. I also made several different kinds of healthy soups.

Leslie Shaw Klinger I found time to pray, to reach out to others, to become more informed on local issues, to read, to renew my spirit.

Lee Ockey Cook. Always a chore. This year I enjoyed it! Dinner was the big event of the uneventful days. Smile.

John Bartlett Playing my guitar and writing songs. Contacted old friends and family by phone.

Randy Little I used my time to contact voters in swing states and encouraging them to register and to vote. I wrote over 300 letters to people.

Richard M. Braun Be outside. Once I began eating breakfast outside the stress of working from home or not being able to interact with others in a “normal” way seemed to disappear.

Monique Miller I have more time to interact with my children, of course. More time to stay home. I just enjoy family life although it can be stressful dealing with kids all day long. I’ve got to know more things about them that I didn’t know because we’re home all day long together. I found more time to focus on my career choices and my future. More time to do laundry and more time to clean the house. Lol

Leslie Young Sleep …

What did you give up because of COVID-19 and why?

Frances Lopez Taking road trips and day trips to see family and friends in Southern California, the Bay Area, and Sacramento or to visit a local winery; dining in a restaurant. We slowly resumed getting take-out dinners for our birthday and anniversary celebrations. I’m also keeping a list of which restaurants I will not patronize anymore because they ignored the rules for keeping us safe.

Lee Ockey That is easy. The very beautiful faces of my family and friends. My grandchildren, family, would stand outside masked to the hilt for a bit. Hugs! I will never take unmasked faces for granted again.

Leslie Shaw Klinger I gave up my in-person gatherings and that just about killed me. It hurt so much to not have people physically in my presence, to hug friends, to touch people. It was so very, very difficult and the initial feeling was overwhelming loneliness.

John Bartlett Playing music live with my friends at the Carnegie in Turlock. Christmas with family.

Randy Little Going out of my home. I had a heart attack and bypass surgery just at the beginning of the coronavirus outbreak in February 2020. I really felt vulnerable and pretty much stayed at home. I started doing my shopping online and using delivery from Amazon or curbside pick up for groceries.

Russell Antracoli Contact with friends, especially my daughters, and my annual Christmas vacation with family. I also had to give up watching high school sporting events.

Douglas N Brower – Our weekly breakfast out and multiple visits every week to a public library, BECAUSE THEY WERE CLOSED BY OUR IDIOTIC GOVERNMENT!! I am 73 with a heart condition, and I was never too concerned about COVID. Stay out of crowds, wear a mask, practice basis cleanliness, you will be fine. That said, I have been vaccinated, which probably reduces my risk from tiny to nearly zero. I am unconvinced that all the hysteria “saved” anyone, but it undeniably messed up all our lives. Especially those parents with school age children.

Linda Solorio I gave up travel, parties, and get-togethers with friends and family; going to restaurants, movies, concerts, festivals, and farmers markets; I gave up trips to the grocery store and other retail locations; opting instead to shop online or pick up curbside. I gave up any inkling of normalcy, including doing my hair and makeup, and instead of getting ready for work or to head out of the house, opted instead to stay home, throw my hair in a ponytail and put on sweatpants, loungewear, and slippers.

How has the pandemic strengthened, or weakened, your relationships with friends, family?

Leslie Shaw Klinger It strengthened my relationships with family – I was the first to contract COVID-19 and when I recovered, I was then able to be there in a very practical way for others who contracted it and needed a safe place to quarantine. It weakened relationships with people who, because of their isolation and fear, fell down the rabbit holes of QAnon conspiracy theories. I lost friends of more than 20 years to that stuff but I had to let them go to protect my own mental health. I made new friends all over the world because of the opportunities to attend online gatherings in other countries.

John Bartlett My family respected my need to social distance. I love them for that.

Randy Little – I missed seeing my grandkids. It’s time that was lost and can never be recovered. I think some friendships have waned because we just aren’t in as much contact.

Steven Fotheringham They are the same. More electronic communications. When I do get to visit in person, it’s all the more sweeter.

Monque Miller It has strengthened my relationship with my children because we’re home all day together but it has also weakened my relationship with the rest of the family and friends because I’m no longer sociable. I don’t interact with anybody else I get nervous in large crowds. I prefer to just be at home. So it has it’s disadvantages and advantages.

Jennifer Julian-Chambers We are stronger, we stayed away when we needed to and took all precautions otherwise and we have been able to stay healthy and will be able to celebrate with each other this year.

Leslie Young Weakened because I haven’t been able to see my friends so we don’t really talk and I’m never not with family so we argue all the time

How will you live life differently moving forward?

Leslie Shaw Klinger Online meetings of the like minded and similarly afflicted types are here to stay, I think, which is good. I have become more comfortable with technology and using it in a more positive way rather than just cruising social media. I have found ways to study my Faith, deepen my spirituality, have fun, laugh and cry with a larger community and otherwise expand my life. I will be a bit more aware of how I can add to the overall health of the community and I am also willing to stand firm in the face of those who adhere to crazy opinions if those opinions leak into the the community and threaten the well being of all – and I don’t just mean the far right. The far left is pretty out there as well; in fact, this past year I have come to regard them as eerily similar in their quests to erase personal responsibility.

Frances Lopez I will take more road trips to visit the family and friends who live out of the area. I miss them.

Lee Ockey I want to give more. Volunteering, helping in some way. Not waste precious time on trivial matters.

Randy Little I will be glad to get out and do things again, but I think precautions will be around for sometime during the next couple of years.

Russell Antracoli I am moving, actually was before the pandemic, but stopped the move last March into a retirement community that will be different, but otherwise do as I did before save I will eat healthier. Another positive thing was the safety precautions and understanding how important it is to wash hands. I will continue to do so frequently. I am fully vaccinated, but will continue to wear mask when asked or required.

Douglas N Brower I won’t. I was happy before, I am not unhappy now, and I expect to be happy in the future.

Monique Miller After this is all over with I hope to get my kids more active more involved in school back into sports and everybody’s weight down because the quarantine has caused us all to put on extra pounds

Jennifer Julian-Chambers I may wear a mask during the winter and spring. I have been able to keep colds and allergies at bay this past year and that has been really nice. I hope to appreciate family more and continue to make them a priority.

Linda Solorio I will be very reluctant to gather with groups of people until more are vaccinated. Even then, I will think about personal distance and hygiene. I am looking forward to getting together with small groups of family and friends, celebrating birthdays, holidays and special occasions.

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Patty Guerra is managing editor at The Modesto Bee. She has held several writing and editing roles since starting at The Bee in 1999. She’s a graduate of Fresno State.