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COVID-19: What It's Like in Grand Island, Nebraska

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What’s happening in Grand Island, Nebraska: Hi there! My name is Alathia. I’m just a 20-something woman from Grand Island, Nebraska. Life is usually predictable and uneventful in our little town. As our state’s official travel slogan aptly suggests, “honestly, it’s not for everyone.” But I love it here. The wide open plains are a writer’s dream space for brainstorming. However, COVID-19 hit our community extremely hard. It has been heartbreaking to see our peaceful town struggle so much with the effects of the pandemic. I was working as a library assistant when I was laid off due to COVID-19

Thankfully, we seem to have seen the worst of the pandemic and we are beginning to recover as a community. The Central District Health Department reported 1,743 confirmed cases, 59 deaths, and 1,600 recoveries in Hall, Merrick and Hamilton counties. Both positive cases and death statistics have been steadily falling for weeks. Hall County, where Grand Island is located, was consistently making headlines as a “hot spot” for COVID-19 back in April and May. At one point, our cases were doubling every four days. Mayor of Grand Island Roger Steele offered a possible explanation for this when he said, “Grand Island stands on the front line in the fight against COVID-19 because we have many people employed in necessary jobs — manufacturing, food processing, agricultural equipment.”

My observations about masks: People in Grand Island are generally compliant and gracious regarding rules about masks. Our community realizes it is important to do whatever we can to protect not only ourselves, but those around us who may be immune deficient and vulnerable to the virus. One thing I have found surprising, however, is the compliance of my own age group. Young people like me seem to have gained this reputation of being reckless regarding the virus. Personally, I have seen many more middle-aged folks refuse to wear masks than college-age young people. 

My experience out of the house: Churches, restaurants, bars and other businesses are slowly reopening again. At the height of the virus, the emptiness of our town was profound. The streets and the stores were just dead. Now, it’s encouraging to see our town come back to life and regain some sense of normalcy. There are people in the restaurants and there is toilet paper on the shelves. My favorite local coffee shop, Barista’s, is open again and happens to be where I’m writing this article from. These signs of life make my heart happy and hopeful. 

A group of people gathered around a birthday cake in a kitchen, wearing masks

My health: Living with a chronic health condition during a pandemic isn’t something I ever thought I would experience. My amazing team of doctors made it as simple as possible for me to continue to receive care and medication for my fibromyalgia. Active Family Chiropractic did a particularly incredible job protecting their clients health and providing care throughout the pandemic. I was impressed with their flexibility and commitment to their clients. 

My quality of life: Living through a pandemic has affected me deeply and personally. Like many others, I lost my job. This was difficult because it was a job I loved and losing the stability of that was hard. That along with not seeing any of my friends for months was incredibly isolating and scary. 

I definitely had to pay more attention to my mental health during the last few months. I have my church family and therapy to thank for the sanity I retained. I continued therapy via telehealth and watched church services online to stay connected with my congregation during the worst parts of the pandemic. These two things helped stabilize my mental health during a time where everything else felt unstable. 

a group of people gathered outside for church, sitting in lawn chairs

My unique COVID-19 moment: My church is a small church that is more like a family, and being apart for so long was incredibly difficult. While we were apart, my pastor and his wife came up with a unique way to encourage us. They wrote the names of church members on pieces of paper and taped them to the pews where we all usually sat. There was even a short news interview about it! Those names stayed taped to the pews until just a few weeks ago. I am happy to report that after many weeks of online and outdoor services, we are finally back together for worship! (With appropriate measures of social distancing, of course.)

My hopes for the future: I am proud of my community. Their response to this tragic pandemic has reminded me that the people of Nebraska are incredibly resilient. Going forward, I am only hopeful for my community. We are strong, we are recovering, and we will continue to grow. Honestly, Nebraska really isn’t for everyone. But, I wouldn’t have wanted to live through a pandemic anywhere else. 

Local resources: 

Originally published: July 17, 2020
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