Casualties of COVID

     All of us have had to make adjustments and sacrifices during the last year because of the COVID-19 virus. No one has had to do this more than those in assisted living facilities. For much of the last year, they have been quarantined in their facilities with limited human contact. Most of their human contact was with the people who work in those facilities. So how was it for the people who work in assisted living facilities?

     “We had no idea what we were in for,” Sharon Wills, a licensed practical nurse who has

worked in assisted living facilities for the last 30 years, said. “When all of the restrictions hit, we had to set up a new way of doing things.” No one had ever had to deal with something like this, where everyone had to be kept from everyone else.

     So what had to be done to handle COVID-19 because the elderly were the most likely to die from the virus? According to Wills, “First, we had to keep everyone isolated as much as possible. We cancelled all social activities such as dining, church, crafts, social hour and visits. We also had to keep our staff safe by doing as much testing as possible to ensure that our residents would be safe. We kept hoping that things would end quickly. But as time went on, we realized that was not going to happen. We knew that we were going to have to fill the holes somehow. We encouraged family to call their loved ones as much as possible. Then we allowed window visits when weather permitted. And then as staff we visited more with the residents than before the virus. All of this helped, but we knew it was never going to be the same as family visits.”

     On Oct. 1, 2020, Governor Tim Walz of Minnesota opened visits for assisted living facilities

Nursing home window visits.

in Minnesota. “Thank the Good Lord above!” was all assisted living resident Winifred Kunst could say when her family was able to visit again. “I went so long without seeing my children and grandchildren that I had to think hard to remember what everyone looked like when I saw them again.”                     

     Jan. 10, 2021, Winifred’s 96th birthday, she tested positive for COVID-19. This led to another two weeks of quarantine. Winifred  came through healthier than ever. “I have lived through two world wars, the birth of my four children, the death of all my brothers and sisters and the death of my husband. But going through this COVID was in many ways harder because I did not have my family with me.”

     Family time was one of the biggest casualties of COVID.  

Return to Action

     Who’s ready for some UMPI baseball? Yes, the UMPI owls will be playing their spring sports this year and this includes UMPI’s baseball team. UMPI baseball has been waiting a long time to return to action and play games.  UMPI’s baseball team was turned around on its way to Florida last year and it left a sour taste in everyone’s mouths. 

     The pandemic has changed sports for the time being. When athletes play now they have to wear masks on the field or the court or wherever they play their prospective sports. 

UMPI Owls at Practice.

     The spring athletes are very excited to turn to play. Among those excited this season are baseball players Roberto De La Pena and William Stinson. 

     William said, “I’m very excited to be able to go out and play for my last year. Team looks good overall. I’m hoping that the work put in, in the off season will show. I think we are all ready for the season considering the amount of obstacles we’ve had to overcome with COVID.” William has played for UMPI all four seasons on the baseball team and is chomping at the bit to get going so that he can play one last season with his father, Coach Roger Stinson, at the helm. 

     Another senior coming back for a fifth season is Roberto De La Pena. He is commonly known on the team as “the Grandfather.” He earned this nickname because he is the oldest player on the UMPI baseball roster. Roberto said, “My excitement for this season has been a long wait! This is my last year and I worked very hard to get here.” Roberto comes all the way from California. He’s had to sacrifice a lot to come back a fifth year so that he can play his senior year of college baseball here at UMPI. 

     The baseball team members are very excited to be free of this COVID mess, even if it’s only seven innings at a time. Not to mention they all get to play together again, which everyone is very happy to do. Roberto also said, “The team looks good. We are young and need to work on some things, but I believe we should be good. I’m ready for the season.  I’ve dealt with a lot in the last year, and I’m ready to finish as an UMPI Owl.” Both of these players have been nothing but loyal to UMPI and live by that loyalty. 

     Speaking of loyalty, Coach Roger Stinson has also been here for quite some time. Coach Stinson said, “There are many words a person could use for the excitement level that I have for this season.  But I truly think the best word to use is thankful…. This has been a long time coming.” 

     Coach Stinson mentioned how proud he is of the players for going through the COVID protocols and not letting it get to them.  He is thrilled to rack up a few wins and show the UMPI community that the team is headed in the right direction. He thinks the freshmen need to work their way through the nerves of playing college baseball. Once they get through that, things will be looking up for the Owls. 

Clinic Issues During COVID-19

     During the COVID crisis, what were clinics and their patients going through? Looking from the inside out helps everyone see what the staff were going through.

     Sitting down with a clinic supervisor can answer some of the issues the staff were facing. Clinic supervisor Leah Torgerson shared, “We were so confused because no protocols were in place when it all started. We had to make them up as we went along. Who were we going to see at the clinics or the hospitals? We had protective equipment, but those ran out quickly. Our suppliers were deluged with requests, so getting more supplies became an immediate problem.” These were some of the problems that the local clinics were facing.

Clinic lines, 2021.

     Administrators started to react to the virus when they realized that they were dealing with an epidemic. Torgerson went on to say, “The health care organization that runs our clinic met with all supervisors to consolidate services, which meant closing some of the clinics and directing our patients to hospitals and to certain clinics that remained open. This meant that some of our non-medical staff were furloughed for a time and an overload of work for the medical teams. Although it seemed like a good idea at first to furlough non-medical staff, it turned into a paperwork nightmare shortly after it was implemented because medical staff spent a great deal of their time filling out medical and insurance paperwork. Along with the normal paperwork, the government wanted additional paperwork, completed with each suspected and actual case of COVID. “Along with the COVID caseload, what happened to the normal medical cases that clinics handle? That part of the COVID crisis went largely ignored. Patients with other non-emergency medical appointments were told to wait until clinics could catch up with the unexpected overload of COVID appointments. “We really worried about our regular patients during the crisis. When we realized that COVID was not going to be an overnight cure, we decided to reach out to our regular patients to make sure that their ongoing medical issues were not becoming more serious issues,” Torgerson said.

     Clinic patient Teri Ward shared, “I really began to worry about my ongoing medical issues during the COVID crisis. Getting the COVID virus worried me a lot because I have many of the medical conditions that put me in the high-risk categories. But beyond the fear of COVID was my ongoing medical issues. I was having a difficult time getting an appointment for my health issues. It wasn’t until many of the COVID protocols were in place that I was able to see my doctors for my existing medical issues. That took away a lot of the stress that I had during COVID.”

     Everyone has been dealing with the stress of COVID but those with existing medical conditions have had to be concerned with contracting the COVID virus as well as the lack of attention to their existing medical conditions.

Pride Festivals 2021

 

     Pride festivals around the country were postponed in 2020 due to the pandemic. As COVID-19 vaccines become available, many people are looking forward to Pride in 2021. “It is something I always look forward to,” Taylor Williams, 23, said. “I really missed it last year.”

     Pride is an event that celebrates lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) people. The event takes place in most major U.S. cities. It helps promote LGBTQ rights and social acceptance. It is a time to celebrate differences and show support for all sexual orientations. 

San Francisco Pride Festival, 2018.

     “Many people in society do not accept me because I am gay,” Williams said. “Pride makes me feel like I can be myself. I feel valued for who I am as a person rather than judged for my sexual orientation.” 

     According to a Gallup poll, 5.6 percent of Americans identify as LGBTQ. This number has increased in recent years, but it still represents a small portion of the population. Pride festivals allow this group to come together and celebrate with others like them. 

     “One thing my partner and I miss the most is seeing other couples that look like us,” Amy Fallaw, 23, said. “We moved a year ago and we still haven’t really made friends. It’s going to be awesome to make those connections at Pride.”

     Few cities have announced an official schedule for Pride 2021. But that does not mean the celebration has been cancelled. It is unclear whether in-person events will be possible but many organizers are discussing other options. These include decorating businesses and houses, organizing a vehicle parade and hosting several virtual events. 

     “I hope it is safe to attend Pride in-person this year,” Williams said. “If not, I hope to go to some of the virtual events.” 

     Pride is an important celebration for the LGBTQ community and their allies. Whether in-person or online, many look forward to attending this year. 

Spring Break 2021: Yes or No?

     Spring Break has been a spring ritual since 1938. Spring break became really big in the 1960s

and continues today. But things are different this year because of COVID. So, what’s a body to do if you want to continue the ritual?

     First, be careful who you hang around with. Everyone in your group should be tested before you leave. That’s what Will Haggenmiller, a junior at Minnesota State University Mankato, did. “My roommates and I went down as a group of five to make sure we had a social group to hang out with.”

     Second, continue to wear your masks. Masks are for your protection and for the protection of

others.

     Third, bring your own hand sanitizer. Yes, it may seem bulky to walk around with your bottle of hand sanitizer. You can put it in a small bottle and leave the big bottle in your hotel room. Make sure to use it generously. Ericka, Will’s mother, said, “I bought the boys a one gallon bottle of hand sanitizer and five little refill bottles that fit in their pockets.”

     Fourth, wash, wash, wash your hands. Get rid of those nasty germs from your hands.

     Fifth and final, check the location that you have chosen for their current COVID restrictions, their vaccine rates and their current infection rates. Parent Ericka Haggenmiller said, “When our son Will said that he wanted to go on spring break, we sat down with him and his friends and reviewed different destination sites. Together we thought that Texas was a good choice for the group.”

Galveston Island, spring break.

     When the group returned, Will sat down with his parents to find out how things had gone on their vacation. “We had a great time. Sitting down and discussing the protocols that had to be taken to keep us safe really helped us have fun. We stayed together as a group, which is always fun. We wore our masks, which has become common at home as well as the hand washing. The hand sanitizer worked because we drove. I think if we had flown we would have had to buy those supplies when we got there.”

     Looking back, did the guys still think that their choice of Texas was a good one?  Will said, “That choice really worked out well. The place was beautiful, the people were very friendly and the food was great. It was really a good idea to plan ahead, because then we could just focus on having fun.”

     Will following these guidelines work for everyone? The answer would be “no.” With all the research that is being done to figure out the virus, all that can be said is follow the precautions the best that you can in order to avoid it.

Masking Up

    For the first time in a year, students are masking up for spring sports again. Some are running with masks on for the first time since COVID started. But mandating masks doesn’t stop the runners at Mount Desert Island High school from having a good team. Track started a week ago and running with a mask on seems to be a little hard, but it could be an adjustment to get used to. 

A view of Mount Desert Island High school and its track.

     Jolie Deal, a sophomore at MDIHS, is doing sports with a mask on for the first time since the pandemic started last March. She started track last week along with the rest of the team. Jolie is one of the runners on the team and said, “The masks aren’t necessarily making running harder. The masks are one more thing to have to think about and prepare for.” With the right mask, running with it on can be easier than you think. Most students are running with disposable masks.

     But runners aren’t the only people on the team. There are throwing events such as shot put, discus and javelin as well. Those athletes do their fair share of running, along with efforts in lifting and throwing. Logan Closson, a sophomore, is doing the throwing events. She said, “ I don’t think that the masks will have much of an effect on the throwers as it could have on the runners.” Runners are getting used to the masks, but it can sometimes stick to your face. With warm weather just around the corner, they could only start to stick even more. 

   Jolie spoke about running with a mask on. “It’s like running at a high altitude, but it’s an adjustment I think we all are getting used to,” she said. With the first meet coming up in about two weeks, the team hopes to be acclimated by then. 

      As a team, Mount Desert Island High School is adjusting well to wearing masks. Even though some are finding wearing masks a little difficult, many said that they feel they will get used to them. The team learned the rules and regulations for wearing a mask recently. These include rules such as, you must have your mask on at all times, and if you are found with your mask off, you will first be let off with a warning. After the warning, you risk being taken out of your events and potentially the team.      

     For some the adjustment will be difficult. But for others it’s something that they are already used to. The masks and regulations are just some things that students know they have to comply while doing sports.  The commitment and dedication that students have developed for the team are helping them strive for success this year. The masks are not going to stop the 70-80 students who are running on the track team this year.

Four of the Smartest Personal Finance Moves College Students Can Make This Year

1.Focus on paying down your debt before placing priority on retirement.

     This may seem like common sense, but student loans only grow and gain interest with time. Retirement is more of a long-term goal. The money made in a part-time job will make no dent in retirement. It can definitely make a dent in student loans, though. Retirement accounts are best set aside until your career begins. 

     The best plan of attack is to just know your loan plan really well. Ask questions! These can include the costs of interest, the first payment date and how many years you’ll have to pay the money back. If you don’t have subsidized federal loans, your loans will collect interest the entire time you’re in school. And it adds up (potentially hundreds or thousands of extra dollars). So, consider paying some of your interest payments while you’re still in school. These can be funded primarily through a part-time job. It’s a small sacrifice that will set you up for success in the long run. 

 

  1. Build up good credit using a credit card.

     Once you’re out of school, your credit score will matter greatly to potential landlords and employers. They’ll likely run it as part of a background check. It can be equally as bad to have no credit score as having a bad one. So start building one early. Open a credit card at your bank and use it for small purchases. Focus on ones that you know you can instantly pay back using money from your checking account. Good examples are small grocery store runs, little cosmetic purchases, lunch out with friends. If you pay it off instantly, it won’t collect interest and will remain easy to pay off. Assuming you can do this regularly, over the course of a few years, you’ll have built up some good credit. This will also help in the future when you try to buy a house or a car.

     Take Gabe Ferris, a sophomore at American University, for example. Gabe has a credit card that he uses for purchases that are under $15 only in order to do just this. “Most of my purchases are small because they are easier to pay back at the end of the month and because they encompass nearly everything I need or want to buy regularly.” And even though he can’t visualize those bigger purchases like houses or cars right now, he still wants to work toward them. “That’s precisely why I have and use my credit card. I think it’s important to build credit at a young age, so I have an established and high credit score when I look to lease an apartment or want to finance relatively big purchases in the next few years.”

Games Without Fans

     Watching games is always fun because it gives you something to get loud and cheer about. Not only that, but when someone hits a big shot, you can just feel it in the air. But since the Coronavirus hit, things have changed. Fans have not been allowed into gyms to watch games but rather are forced to watch via livestream or on TV or maybe even look at the stats after the game.  

     What some people might not realize is that this doesn’t only affect the fans.  It also affects the players themselves. According to Nick Perfit, “Not having fans makes the games feel more like scrimmages. Not hearing the cheering from the fans after big plays changes the game a lot. Your team has to make its own energy since the crowd can’t.”

     But even though Nick, like many, sees this pandemic as a struggle for sports fans and players, he views it also as a challenge for society as a whole. And even though the games may be different, Nick still believes that the team appreciated playing even more this season, when team sports were canceled at so many schools. 

     Fans give these players an extra spark that allows them to play the way they do. It may be easier to compete without the fans in big moments, but it also takes away the feel of the big moments at the same time. This in result takes away a key aspect of the game. Now when playoffs come around, there’s no such thing as home court advantage because those fans are that extra advantage. 

     According to K.J. Minter, “It’s different at first because you’re so used to seeing and hearing the fans’ energy throughout the play of the game and now it’s more so on your team to come up with that extra spark. 

     Getting that extra spark from the bench is tough because all the players are already tired from the play of the game. It’s also very different so the players aren’t used to having no one else but themselves to cheer for the team. Even when all these athletes were younger, there were the parents from both teams there to cheer and support their children’s teams. 

     It’s frustrating not being able to go to the games and support your team in person. But at least games are still being played during this tough time that we’re facing around the globe. These games give us something to look forward to as well since they give us a feel of normalcy for a few hours. 

     It’s nice to remember how things used to be because it allows us to look at the light at the end of the tunnel. We can think about how life’s going to be after this pandemic. Once life returns more to the way it was, there will be less stress for everyone and it will allow fans to come back and do what they do best: give that extra spark. 

COVID-19’s Silver Linings: Feeding Dreams and Feeding Your Soul

     Beth Walker of Bethel, Maine, is grateful for the way COVID restrictions paused her hectic life.  With time to reflect on what was important to her, she focused on self-care and a dream she always had.  

      Before the first COVID case was reported in Maine, Beth’s employment working  at Dicocoa’s Bakery & Café, as a Jackie of all Trades, ended. Because of the owner’s health history, the café closed early March 2020. 

     Beth applied for unemployment and found that she needed to tap into her background with the state legislature to move her claim forward.  She messaged her rep for help to complete the process. With assistance from an aide, Beth navigated through the necessary steps to success.  Her husband Frank, who is also a chef, wasn’t quite as lucky, and the process took 1 ½ months.

     Survival on the farm wasn’t a problem for the Walkers.  Beth and Frank had a supply of their own canned produce. When Dicocoa’s closed, the owner sent her employees home with food.

     Beth said that her stress initially came from not seeing people. That stress evaporated as Beth and Frank found that they were thriving with the changes. Beth said lockdown gave them time to think about who they wanted to give their energy to. “You realize who your real and true friends are.”  

     Beth described their life before COVID, trapped in Bethel’s culture. Evenings with friends were spent socializing in town, going to the pub and drinking a lot.  COVID removed the Walkers from Bethel’s alcohol-based food industry.

     Beth said, “We were done with not feeling great.”  She wants to use her time to be with people who spark interest. “When you find a group of people on the same path, that peer pressure is gone.”

     Dicocoa’s was not able to offer her full-time again: Beth was unemployed form March through June. During the summer and fall, she worked at Pie Tree Orchard until it closed Nov. 4 as COVID spiked again. 

     COVID restrictions were freeing for the Walkers. Beth has more energy and ambition.  Being healthy is part of her sustainable living goal. “My goal is to have a farmstand business. COVID was a God-saver for me and a kick in the pants.” 

     Beth had her moments of uncertainty and self-help talks. “I think you have to be conscious of your positivity. I can fall down that rabbit hole of, ‘Can I do it? Do I want to?’”

     Beth and Frank are making a living, fulfilling a dream and thriving.  The chefs are cooking and baking at home.  Customers pick up on La Ferme’s screened-in porch. Whoopie pies, cinnamon rolls and chocolate chip cookies are weekend staples. 

La Ferme offers homemade and farm fresh food on the porch. (Photo by Beth Wallker).

Remote Learning: How Is It Affecting Children?

     No one thought at this time last year that we would be remote learning due to a pandemic. In recent months, children have been at home more than at school. The “new normal” is affecting students as well as parents. How is it affecting children? 

     Adam Davis is a parent of two girls attending remote learning while Adam is working from home. He said, “It’s tiring for both the kids and the parents. They’re given work to get it done, not to learn.” The teachers in every district are doing everything they can to make remote learning as normal as possible. Normal is not what this pandemic has amounted to. For many, the changes made focus on the logistics of being at home, not on the needs of the children while they are at home.

     Aleshanee Brannigan, a mother of four, is seeing the outcome on her daughter, “My child tends to feel left out and not ‘heard.’ Literally not heard, because she is usually muted.”  While COVID-19 is very real, so is the mental health pandemic sweeping through our children. 

     Children in the Monmouth Memorial School had recess up to three times a day while attending in-person classes. Their recesses now consist of time at home with their family, while being isolated from their friends.

     Educators are doing their best to encourage engagement. It is not an easy task. Katie LeFreniere is a teacher in southern Maine. She took some time to reflect on how remote learning has affected her students’ work. “As an educator, my experiences with my fully remote students show that fully remote students are either flourishing or failing with no in between. I have students that I communicate with daily and who turn everything in on time. However, I also have students who haven’t completed any work and who don’t respond to my repeated attempts at communication.”

     Moving through the last few months has been hard, and it does not appear to be getting any easier. While the effects on each of our children is different, there needs to be a stronger community focus on supporting our teachers and our students.