The Express spoke with several local families to find out what kind of effects the global pandemic caused by COVID-19 is having on the day-to-day lives of residents. Among those interviewed were Suzy Scott, a Halifax resident and mother to two young boys ages 5 and 7, Stephani Teran, a Plympton resident and mother to four children ages 14, 12, 7 and 2, Lisa Bethoney, a Halifax resident, local business owner, and mother to sons aged 8 and 2, and Plympton resident Heather Sheehan who is a mother of three children 6 and under.
Q. In what ways has your family practiced social distancing?
Most of those interviewed said they are utilizing grocery delivery or pickup services to avoid having to go to the store and minimize contact with those outside of their immediate family. Scott said that her extended family has also been helping to minimize trips by picking things up for one another while shopping. “We exchange items on the front porch and wave at each other and have quick conversations through the windows.”
Teran, who said that her family has been utilizing online services whenever possible, makes sure to take all the necessary precautions should a trip to the store be needed. “If it’s absolutely necessary we will go to the store, latex gloves (or even sandwich bags) over your hands and quickly get what is needed… and leave as soon as possible. We make sure to sanitize surfaces in the car as well. We also use hand coverings at gas pumps as we hear that is how many people are being exposed,” she said.
Bethoney said that they are having their groceries delivered and simply making do with what they have. “It’s tough but I know it’s for the best. The only way we’re going to beat this thing is if everyone practices social distancing and does not allow this virus to spread.”
Bethoney said that social distancing has also had a tremendous effect on her business, Stencil It, an arts and crafts studio in Carver. “I was forced to cancel all of the events and parties that I had scheduled to avoid having a group of people interacting with each other. Right now, the business has no money coming in and it’s unclear as to when I will be able to open again,” she said.
Sheehan said her husband has overseen the grocery runs and other errands. “My husband has been picking up the groceries and running necessary errands outside of the home, making sure to stay a safe distance from others and sanitizing carts, handles and gas pumps etc. and we’re all constantly washing our hands.”
While those interviewed said that they are mostly hunkering down at home with their immediate family, there are still exceptions for work or medical related purposes. Teran is currently undergoing physical therapy to regain her ability to walk after sustaining an injury this winter and her husband Brett is a physiatrist who is practicing telemedicine whenever possible but must still travel to work to perform mandatory procedures. “When we are required to leave and go into a medical facility we have to take extreme precautions while there. The employees follow us around and sanitize every surface we touch and also work with us with gloves and some masks on,” Teran said. Once home, Teran said that they are careful to change their clothes and shoes at the door and then wash them with hot water and bleach. “Brett especially, has to shower if he has been doing spinal procedures that day,” Teran continued. Teran acknowledged that should it be necessary, her husband could be called to help with the pandemic saying, “We are supportive as a family in him taking that risk if needed because it’s what his medical oath requires.”
Sheehan’s husband Johnny is the executive chef and partner of two restaurants in Plymouth – Salt & Leena’s Kitchen. “This has affected my husband’s businesses in most every way, beginning with first heavily sanitizing and rearranging the restaurants to comply with social distancing regulations, to having the painful task of having to lay off the majority of the staff to comply with the government’s changing restrictions,” Sheehan explained. “They had to quickly change their business model from full-service restaurants to temporarily closing one of the locations to operate a curbside pickup and delivery service for both out of one location,” Sheehan continued. In addition to wanting to stay open to serve the community, Sheehan said they have also been preparing meals for their staff who aren’t working to pick up and share with their families.
Q. Have you found ways to safely stay connected to others?
Everyone mentioned various platforms for video chatting friends and family such as FaceTime and Zoom. Many of the parents have even been keeping their young children busy with virtual playdates. Scott said that her boys have participated in virtual get-togethers with their hockey team. Her sons also enjoy having a bedtime story read to them over the phone by their grandparents. “That has definitely helped both my boys and their grandparents stay connected,” Scott said. Likewise, Sheehan said, “We have video calls with our family and friends daily to keep in touch from a distance.” Sheehan has also been keeping up with her cosmetics business virtually. “My team and I utilize video conferencing and messenger to keep in contact, to provide training and connect with our customers. I’ve also enrolled in real estate courses and am taking them virtually online instead of in a classroom at this time.”
Teran said that her seven-year old daughter’s Irish Step studio utilizes an app that allows the students to see and hear one another. Sheehan’s six-year old daughter has also been able to keep up with her dance lessons thanks to some ingenuity on the part of the studio. “Her dance studio also provided video and music for her to practice at home as well, which is amazing,” Sheehan said.
Q. How have your children reacted to the sudden changes in their daily lives?
There seems to be a consensus that while the children may have initially seen the break from school as a welcome reprieve, even the youngest among them are now starting to pick up on the uncertainty and anxiety surrounding COVID-19.
Scott said that initially she didn’t think her children understood much of what was going on but was surprised at just how much they were absorbing. “When my youngest, who’s 5, heard me listening to one of the press conferences he commented that he didn’t like to hear about the virus and that it scared him. I honestly didn’t know he knew anything about it other than we were staying in to not share germs. I had no idea he had even heard the word virus.” Scott said she is now very aware of what she says in front of them.
Teran, who has a pre-teen as well as a teenager, said, “We try not to talk too much about it around them but the oldest two are old enough to see the news and hear from their friends what is going on. We try to make ourselves available for any questions they have. The hardest one to be asked is also the most frequent: ‘When will this be over?’”
Teran’s oldest son actually traveled to Italy with his 8th grade Latin group in February just prior to the threat of COVID-19 really taking off both here and in Europe. “Twelve hours after he landed back at Logan they declared a state of emergency in Northern Italy,” Teran said. Consequently, her son was forced to quarantine for 14 days while being monitored at home for symptoms. “We are so grateful that our son stayed seemingly healthy after his trip.”
“I am also trying to shield the kids from the media and news stories as I don’t want to worry them,” Bethoney said of her preschool and elementary school aged sons. “They know what’s going on to a certain extent, but I don’t talk about it a lot in front of them. I explain the situation to them and give them only as much detail as I feel is necessary.”
The local schools have done their best to quickly adapt to online learning in order to ensure that students are progressing during this strange interlude. Teran’s older children have been sent homework via Google Classroom as well as hard copies from their school. “Their schools, teachers, and coaches have been incredible in providing resources, learning opportunities, and motivating activities to keep them up to par and engaged in learning -but without rigor as they know these are stressful times,” Teran said. She also expressed her appreciation for the schools’ efforts saying, “I can’t say enough how much I appreciate all the teachers and educators. As a parent I feel very supported by all of them right now.”
Sheehan said that while her oldest daughter is sad to be missing out on part of her first real year of school, she is grateful for the school’s remote presence. “My daughter was enjoying her first year in school in kindergarten and is missing her teacher and classmates, but thankfully the school is very active in keeping in touch and the kids have been able to communicate through the parents.”
Like others, Bethoney said that her sons are missing their usual routines but are resilient. “They are enjoying the extra family time and we are doing are best to mix fun/play time with some academic time as well.”
Scott said that while following a strict academic schedule hasn’t worked for her family, they are making sure that their boys are staying engaged in other ways. “I find all the posts about distant learning to be very overwhelming, so we are doing our best to not get stressed and to find ways to keep them learning while they are playing,” she explained.
With a large family Teran said that it can be difficult to accommodate everyone’s needs while adhering to a strict schedule. “We are using our schedules as a backbone for structure but if we are off one day it’s not a big deal. I also want our kids to take this time to enjoy some down time since during our normal schedule there is very little in our big, busy family.”
Do you have any tips for other families during this difficult time?
If a silver lining is to be found in this trying time, there seems to be agreement that it lies within the extra family time that has come along with social distancing. Scott said, “Like most families I’m sure, we typically have a very busy schedule… especially on the weekends. We have spent a lot of time together doing yard work, playing games, building forts and baking.” Teran shared a similar sentiment saying, “As parents we are doing our best to have daily family walks, a few daily chores, and lots of cooking/baking/board game time together.” Bethoney said that her family is doing their best to put a positive on the situation, “We’re taking advantage of the down time and spending more time together as a family.” Sheehan said that her family has tried to include the children in a fun way in meal planning as well as cooking and clean-up. “They have also been enjoying writing letters and drawing pictures and sending mail to family and friends and putting on performances for us” Sheehan said. She also said that she has found that staying active and listening to music has been helpful for her family as well. Bethoney said that getting outside has been key for her family.
“Things like this have happened in the world before, and they will happen again. The trick seems to be finding a healthy way to respond and then be productive and proactive in our actions. We need to be brave, selfless, and aware. We need our communities now more than ever,” Teran said.
Teran said that her family is “blown away by the strength of health care workers right now but also completely disturbed by the lack of supplies and infrastructure for them and patients.”
“Physicians, my husband included, are begging people to listen to and pay attention to the science, not those offering opinion or biased projections. We will get through this, but the world will undoubtedly be changed by it.”