by Dennis Dalman
By mid-March, the world had utterly changed – at least for the time being – with the closings of schools, churches, nursing homes, hospitals, community events and some work places, as well as unprecedented changes in how and where people meet.
There are candidates debating without audiences, sports teams playing without spectators, students at home instead of in classrooms. And there has been widespread panic-buying of stock-up items such as toilet paper and hand sanitizer.
And all because of a bug, invisible to the naked eye, the Covid-19 virus, which has infected people all over the world, virtually shutting down whole countries and causing rollercoaster commotion on stock markets.
It is the worst worldwide pandemic since the so-called Spanish flu pandemic in 1918, when 500 million people were infected and up to an estimated 50 million to as many as 100 million people died, most of them younger people. Among the dead were 675,000 Americans. Thanks to modern methods and research, however, most disease experts think the current outbreak will be infinitely less severe than the 1918 catastrophe.
The following are just some of the major changes in life for people living in the nation, the state and here in Central Minnesota:
On March 15, Gov. Tim Walz announced a temporary shut-down of all public schools in the state, at least until late March. The closings are expected to give school officials and medical experts time to plan protective strategies. As of March 16, there were 54 cases of known CV infections in the state, and one man in his 30s in critical condition in the Twin Cities area. Three infections were reported in Stearns County, and one person known later to be infected had visited with students and staff at Foley schools in Benton County. That news caused officials to cancel all school functions.
By March 15, area churches either canceled all church services and events or advised people most vulnerable to the virus not to attend church. Such people include those with immuno-deficiency factors (diabetes, heart or lung troubles, for example).
On March 16, city offices in Sartell, St. Joseph and St. Cloud were closed to the public until further notice.
St. John’s University and the College of St. Benedict told students to leave the campuses and prepare to participate in lectures by professors and do course work via Internet.
Senior centers, including the one in the Sartell Community Center, were closed, as was Whitney Senior Center in St. Cloud.
The perennially popular family birdhouse-building night in St. Joseph was canceled, along with many activities and events in Central Minnesota, and beyond.
Some businesses, like Walmart, cut back their open hours in order to have more time to do thorough disinfection tasks.
The St. Joseph Chamber of Commerce canceled the annual Community Showcase. It was scheduled for Saturday, April 18.
A statewide advisory was released urging people (especially those older than 60) not to attend gatherings of more than 10 people. To be extra safe, people in the vulnerable categories should not attend any gatherings at all and stay home.
Senior-care facilities, including Country Manor in Sartell and Arlington Place in St. Joseph, are virtually closed to visitors, with rare exceptions. That is also true of all of CentraCare sites, including the St. Cloud Hospital.
Author: Dennis Dalman
Dalman was born and raised in South St. Cloud, graduated from St. Cloud Tech High School, then graduated from St. Cloud State University with a degree in English (emphasis on American and British literature) and mass communications (emphasis on print journalism). He studied in London, England for a year (1980-81) where he concentrated on British literature, political science, the history of Great Britain and wrote a book-length study of the British writer V.S. Naipaul. Dalman has been a reporter and weekly columnist for more than 30 years and worked for 16 of those years for the Alexandria Echo Press.