Two Years Of COVID-19: MOCO Residents Share Their Stories

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MONTGOMERY COUNTY, MD — On March 11, 2020, the World Health Organization declared that COVID-19 was a pandemic.

Lives changed quickly, from health workers who were treating patients with COVID-19, to people who found themselves isolated in their homes.

Some Montgomery County residents told Patch what their lives have been like for the past two years. A few share the challenge of working in health care or feeling the loneliness from social distancing. Others talk about how they and their families and communities tried to help each other.

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Thank you to all of the respondents who shared. Here is some of what they said.

Anabell, a Germantown resident and EVS lead in a hospital, said the pandemic has been traumatic. Two of her family members died from COVID-19.

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“I work at the hospital and I had to work every single day because a lot of workers quit and we are essential workers,” she said. “I saw patients dying because of the pandemic.”

Chris, a Germantown resident, said his wife works in health care and it was hard for her to see all of the death, especially when those who were sick couldn’t have any family around.

His friends and family helped through the pandemic.

“We were able to talk things out with each other,” he said.

Susan, a retired senior citizen in Bethesda, said she was most affected by the “sudden, extreme and prolonged social isolation.” She tried to stay connected with her family and friends on Zoom, but not all of her friends knew how to use it. She used to volunteer with dementia patients, but at times wasn’t allowed in or decided not to go to protect herself from COVID-19.

“I feel a great sense of loss as a result,” she said. “Dementia rates and other health problems have risen for the elderly as a result of this social isolation.”

Some things that helped were Zoom, family and friends on social media, outdoor dining and takeout. Also:

“Being able to get outside and walk at public parks in Montgomery County,” said Susan. “Thank you for being open! Thank you so much to all who work at groceries and medical facilities for helping me to still get food and health care safely.”

Alan Kaplin, is a retired physician living at Ingleside at King Farm in Rockville, a retirement community. They used to have communal dining for the residents, before the pandemic. That stopped, and they had meals delivered to their apartment shelves. All in-person activities stopped, too.

The residents there did find some ways to stay connected to each other, and watch out for their neighbors.

“We were able to establish help groups so, for example, if persons were having troubles with TV, computers or cell phones, they could call a central phone number and others arranged help,” he said. “Others made it a point to call singles so they would not feel so isolated. In some ways the Pandemic brought our community closer together.”

He also started using Zoom regularly. Two of his grandchildren tutored his other grandchild in math when she was struggling.

“Personally our family established Friday night get together,” Kaplin said. “This actually brought our family closer together.”

Luisa Lopez is the volunteer manager of St. John’s Opportunity Shop in Chevy Chase and needed to figure out if they were going to stay open — for the last 70 years, they had only closed for snow days. She realized they couldn’t remain open, and wasn’t sure what they were going to do.

“How were we going to pay the rent, raise money for the charities that depended on us?” she asked herself.

Volunteers, customers and the community all wanted them to reopen, so they decided a new tactic.

“Since we couldn’t be indoors, we decided to try outdoors on the porch of our building–like the restaurants,” said Lopez. “Help came from our landlord at 4504 Walsh St.,Chevy Chase, who twice discounted our rent during Covid and allowed us to set up shop on the porch of the building on Saturdays.

“It was an instant success,” she continued. “People lined up around the block on Saturdays, masked and distanced, eager for the chance to get out of the house, mingle with others, find a new shirt, a book, a puzzle, a mug, earrings. They brought their kids!”

Lopez said they received a lot of help — from St. John’s Episcopal church, from Montgomery Thrift and more.

“But the greatest help came from the army of people –volunteers, customers and donors who showed up to help,” she said. “Mountains of donations arrived as part of the Great Covid Housecleaning.”

Hal Stein is a Silver Spring resident who says he become more reclusive, only leaving the house for groceries when the pandemic began. He continues to take precautions, and for the most part, keeps his distance to prevent getting COVID-19. Throughout the pandemic he found new ways of staying connected.

“My wife and I supported each other,” Stein said. “My Kindle grew in importance, as did email and Zoom with other friends.”

Lenda Hill in Gaithersburg said that her husband, daughter and prayer helped her through the pandemic.

Hill and her family were able to find new, exciting things in their lives.

“My job and my husband’s jobs changed because everything got extended by a year or so for retirement,” she said. “That was actually a good thing since while we both worked from home, our adult daughter purchased her own home and moved out, we remodeled our condo, moved into a temporary apartment dwelling for a year, sold our condo, and bought a forever home!”

Hill said she’s grateful that no one in her immediate family or group of friends died from COVID-19.

Robert Williams is a Rockville resident who said when the pandemic began, it meant fewer nights out, more virtual doctor’s appointments, and no more air travel. What helped him get through it?

“My spouse,” he said.

Peggy Ward lives in Germantown and started working from home when the pandemic began.

“My community came together,” she said. “I made new friends with my neighbors. We held several block parties while socially distancing.”

Ward said she’s a senior citizen and most of her neighbors are in their 30s and 40s.

“They are so kind and fun! All their dogs came to visit me everyday,” said Ward. “When it snowed they cleared my walk and car. I have to say that COVID really created a stronger sense of community for us.”

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