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My COVID-19 Point of View: What Life Is Like in Nashville, Tennessee

What’s happening in Nashville, Tennessee: My name is Charles Mickles and I live in Murfreesboro, TN, just south of Nashville, TN. I am an author, educator and speaker, and currently serve as an elementary and preschool principal, while writing books, articles and two blogs. I am 45 years old and have a wife and two teenage children. I have lived with chronic illness since the age of 15 when I was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis, and that was just the beginning, Stomach surgery, cancer and three hip replacements (plus many other conditions) later, I now Parkinson’s disease — this has definitely been one wild ride. I love music (all kinds) and movies, spending time with family and working with my teachers and students. I love Star Wars, Star Trek, Lord of the Rings — basically anything science fiction, and I enjoy reading, writing and playing with/collecting vintage toys (especially Star Wars). I am the author of “Life Through A Father’s Eyes,” and I have just released the book, “Mine’s Parkinson’s, What’s Yours?: A Story of Hope and Encouragement.

Tennessee continues to be hit hard with new COVID-19 cases. In fact, this past month saw the single highest positive diagnosis rate for one day in the state. Currently, in the state, there have been 1,144 confirmed deaths, over 110,000 cases, with over 5,000 hospitalizations. If a person under 60 contracts COVID, they have a .2% chance of death, versus a 5% chance of death if a person over 60 contracts this virus, which further highlights the danger COVID has for our elderly and at risk population. While many of the smaller communities have quickly returned to “life as normal,” high population areas continue to have high transmission rates. 

My observations about masks: This discussion and conversation regarding masks has really, in some ways, gone off the rails. It has raised emotions in a way that is puzzling. Masks in many counties and cities across the state have been mandated, but there continues to be push back from many who feel this is an infringement on their personal liberties. While most people are wearing masks, there is a segment (probably about 25%) that you will see walking around not wearing masks, with many being very vocal about no government telling them to wear a mask. Since we are mandated to wear other articles of clothing (shirts, shoes, etc.), I am not sure why this article of clothing is that different.

Nashville has mandated masks while in public, but the county next to it, Rutherford (where I live in Murfreesboro) has not mandated it, so in Murfreesboro, you will see a higher percentage of non-mask wearing people. Starting today, Nashville is issuing citations/fines to anyone not wearing a mask in public.

My experience out of the house: The contrast between Nashville and Murfreesboro is quite stark at times, especially considering Murfreesboro has not mandated masks to be worn. In the Nashville area, businesses have faced stronger restrictions and in some cases have not reopened, or have had to close after reopening due to the spike in cases. Meanwhile in Rutherford county (where Murfreesboro is), it has been much more business as usual. While there have been changes in business occupancy, waiting areas, and personal precautions by individuals, there has also been more of a business as usual attitude. In fact, a friend commented to me that it was like there was a big party happening just across the county line in Rutherford County. 

Shortages of some items are still occurring., and there are still low supplies of many items, especially paper products, in stores. Businesses are limiting the number allowed in their establishment, and even though in some areas, like Rutherford County, the government has not issued a mask mandate, many establishments are instituting their own. One of my kids works at Hot Topic, and they have taken both of these steps. My dentist (Fortress Dental), who I saw yesterday, made me wait in my car and wear a mask once I entered the building. Yet, when I go shopping at Walmart or Kroger, masks are encouraged, but not enforced. It really does vary from place to place.

My health: More care has certainly had to be taken with my health due to my underlying medical conditions that put me at a higher risk. In some ways, being at home has enabled me to rest more, which has been good for me. I have experienced frustration at being told to stay home or work remotely due to concerns of exposure. I understand this, but it is still frustrating.

Some doctors appointments have been in person, others have been over video chat. The in person visits have been more of a challenge simply due to the fact that they must put in precautions to keep others safe (temperature checks, masks, questionnaires, pre-screenings, etc.). In fact, yesterday, I was flagged because over a month ago, I had been exposed indirectly and had to have a COVID test done. Because of this, I was flagged and had to go through additional steps, but was ultimately cleared for my appointment. Overall, while these appointments have been unique, it has gone well. 

My quality of life:  My quality of life has remained fairly steady, but our family has experienced more financial uncertainty. We have also had others living with us at times due to this pandemic. The stress level has definitely increased, and I have experienced frustration at the extra “things” I and others must do to ensure my health and safety. I have definitely not liked being “mother henned” by so many, but I understand it is for my good.

My unique COVID-19 moment: As an elementary principal and preschool director, the things we have had to implement have been challenging, expensive and time-consuming, but so appreciated by our parents and staff. They see and understand the need for these precautions, take them seriously, and so appreciate our hard work.

Yet this is not the case for all. I was recently in a McDonald’s, and two people entered without a mask. The employee politely said that she could not serve them without a mask, because these were required. One politely apologized and went to get one, while the other (very loudly) started mouthing off about how ridiculous this was and they obviously did not want his business as he exited, to which another customer angrily mouthed off, “Just wear a mask you dumb a**! Think of others for crying out loud.”

That same day, my 5-year-old niece, who says anything that comes to mind, looked at a man in the store not wearing a mask and said, very loudly, “You are not keeping me safe because you are not wearing a mask!!” My sister was embarrassed, but many around them nodded their approval. People definitely have become more vocal.

My hopes for the future: As I look at this situation, I certainly hope we can find a way to mitigate the effects of this virus and also find a cure, but that is only part of it. As I have watched things these past few months, I have been surprised at the attitude people have had. So many seemed more concerned with their perceived personal liberties than of the health and safety of others. While a person may not personally need to wear a mask and worry about this virus because they are in good health, why can’t they think of another? Why can’t they put others and their health first by simply putting on a mask?

While I am looking forward to the day that we find something to kick COVID’s butt, I hope that attitudes will change, and we will once again look for ways to put others before ourselves. That we will consider other’s health and well-being above our rights regarding wearing a mask, and that compassion and care will take the place of stubborn self-determined “rights.” I truly pray this gives us greater compassion and caring for the needs of others.

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