Letter from the Editor: Any sign of normalcy is worth feeling cheerful about

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Opinion

Now when I get a report on Salmonella infections in backyard flocks across 46 states or hundreds sickened by Salmonella Newport due to contaminated onions, I feel just a little bit of cheer.

Oh, it’s not that I am heartless about those suffering from Salmonella or unfeeling about just how icky almost 800 cases of cyclosporiasis can be. It’s just that at the moment, foodborne illness outbreaks and pathogens are signs that we might eventually be getting back to normal.

And that cheers me.

We’d started 2020 nicely enough with outbreaks of Listeria in 17 states for contaminated enoki mushrooms and of E. coli O103 infections in 10 states over clover sprouts.

President Trump activated the federal emergency over the COVID-19 coronavirus on Jan.31. For a while, after that, it seemed like foodborne illness dried up. Now it’s starting to feel like things might be getting back to good old normal.

We are into seven months of life being very different than it was before this emergency drill. We’ve all changed—some more than others.

As my routine involves news-gathering and writing, solo activities, I’ve been luckier than most. Still, I found myself listening to satellite radio’s Classics and Rural Radio instead of my bad old habits for talking heads on TV or radio.

There’s also more time for reading and reaching out without any noise.
Like most of us, I spend a half-hour or so each date updating myself on the various COVID-19 data sources–Worldmeter, John Hopkins, and CDC are all useful.

Is it good that we are at 5.1 million COID-19 cases when we had 60.8 million H1Ni cases during the 2009 pandemic? Or is it just bad that COVID-19 deaths in the U.S. had hit 165,000 when we got off with 12,469 during the 2009 pandemic?

Somebody this week wrote that we are closer to the end than the beginning. I think that is all a matter of one’s geographic perspective. I’ve been going back and forth between two areas with different experiences.

Weld County, CO, for example, has produced only a trickle of new COVED-19 cases this summer, and only one additional death. In the spring, it was a hotspot with more than 3600 cases and 90 deaths.

When I first arrived in Hays County, TX in the spring, fatalities since the onset was still in single digits, but grew to a total of at least 34 over the summer. Hays County did not escape the spike in cases Texas experienced over the summer, reaching 5,012 cases since the first diagnosis of the virus within the county on March 14.

There are currently 2,803 active coronavirus cases with 2,175 recoveries in Hays County, home to Texas State University in San Marcos.

Weld County is home to the University of Northern Colorado in Greeley.
Several convalescent homes and the JBS beef plant ran up the Weld County numbers in the spring. Texas put caution aside for a while, causing the spike, which came after TSU adjourned.

Living in either Greeley or San Marcos without fear is not difficult, although it can be tedious. It mainly involves staying away from other humans and masking up when some limited, short-time contact is required, like at the grocery store.

Dining is either take-out or outdoor seating, and some of the options are pretty good. Restaurants have done well with take-outs of dinner and drinks.

Traveling between the two locations is a two and one-half hour United non-stop from Austin to Denver. An MIT study out last week found there is a 1 in 4300 chance of contracting COVID-19 from a nearby passenger, or even better at 1 in 7,700 if the middle seat is vacant.

I’ve already “risked it” a couple of times, and plan to do so again in two weeks. Airports and airlines require masks, and its easy to avoid contact with people in the terminals. TSA wants to see your face but only requires removing your cover for a few seconds.

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