How is Life Different?
The Island Sand Paper asked four people associated with Fort Myers Beach to talk about their lives now that the coronavirus has us in a “New Normal!” Gabrianna Andrews, age 24, recently graduated from Florida Gulf Coast University with dual Bachelor of Science degrees in Anthropology and Biology. Katie Moses, 38, is Manager of Lovers Key State Park. Deb Voorhees, 55, is Executive Director for the Friends Of Lovers Key State Park (FOLKS); and Dan Hughes, 90, is a retired attorney, former FMB Mayor and currently Chairman of the Town’s Audit Committee and on the Local Planning Agency (LPA).
Q: Working or Not?
Gabrianna Andrews: Working but part-time and definitely less than before the coronavirus!
Katie Moses: Working and just as much if not more than before the outbreak!
Deb Vorhees: In my FOLKS capacity, I am but the work I do now is more from my home than before the coronavirus, especially in researching and writing grants. I have three vacation rentals on Fort Myers Beach, and now that those are open again, I am picking up quite a bit of business, especially from the central part of the State like Orlando.
Dan Hughes: Working and about as much as before the outbreak! While technically retired, I still keep my hand in a number of things, like with office buildings and rentals, but I can do those over the telephone and email. As for my volunteering, not as much, as we’ve had only one Audit Committee Meeting and one LPA meeting since COVID-19 became serious, and both those were virtual.
Q: How are you passing your time?
Gabrianna: I begin medical school soon, so I am studying a great deal for my MCATs as well as watching a lot of television at home, including binge-watching anything with zombies, as I love those shows!
Katie: I am spending much more time at home, watching a lot of movies on television, and trying not to go out much. I actually binge-watched “Ozark” the other day.
Deb: In addition to grant writing for my job, I make it a priority to take the extra time to reconnect with people I have not spoken with recently. It seemed to me that the coronavirus put people into two categories: those who took the extra time to finally get that long list of things they put off for a long time done, and those who just ended up being lazy! I was definitely in the former, as I finished a lot of projects around my house!
Dan: It is actually starting to be a little more difficult now, as day after day after day of not getting out and about to do things is getting old. At my age, my doctor does not permit me to go to bars and restaurants, so I pretty much spend most of my time at home. My daughter who lives in Cape Coral takes good care of me and my family and friends do a nice job of staying in touch with me.
Q: Are you going out to shop or patronize restaurants in person?
Gabrianna: Not often; occasionally but limited.
Katie: I have not been out shopping much because my Mom who lives with me is in the high risk category. We do takeout food from our local businesses to support them but I have yet to set foot in an actual restaurant since the outbreak.
Deb: I grocery shop but not much else at this point. That is true for restaurants as well, though when I do go out, it is to local spots on the island and I tip well above 20% to help our servers and bartenders.
Dan: I sneak away to Publix when my daughter cannot shop for me, but that is about it. I cannot go to bars and restaurants and unfortunately, that is bad for me as well as for them, as I am sure they want as much business as possible.
Q: When you go out in public, do you wear a mask?
Gabrianna: I would say I often wear a mask, especially when I do something like grocery shopping. Even when I am not wearing one, I keep it in my pocket or purse if I cannot maintain adequate space from other people.
Katie: Always, and mostly because of my Mom, to keep her as safe as possible.
Deb: Sometimes! Occasionally I forget to take it with me, but there are places I always do, like the grocery store. I would say the split is 70/30, with wearing one at 70%.
Dan: Usually! The only two stores I regularly patronize now are Publix and CVS Pharmacy and I not only always wear my mask there but gloves as well.
Q: What do you miss most about life as it used to be?
Gabrianna: College, especially learning in person. I miss as well what used to be simple things, like going to the beach without worrying about coronavirus – that feeling has left the building!
Katie: Just not having to worry about going out every time you do, because of the stress of the situation. I miss smiling at people and having them smile back because with so many wearing face masks now, smiling is an endangered species!
Deb: This is an easy one – I miss live music! I love concerts and the feeling you get from live music. I already returned several concert tickets but have several more that I hope can still occur if things do improve, and I will feel really sad if that is not the case by next year. The musician Dave Grohl said it best for me when he stated that music is a shared experience that connects people. Live music is in the top five things that I love.
Dan: Personal social interaction with family and friends.
Q: How do you remain in contact with the outside world?
Gabrianna: I rely heavily on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, as well as other methods on my cellphone to stay in contact with everybody.
Katie: Because I work at Lovers Key State Park that has a huge visitation, the outside world constantly comes to me! I do not watch much news as it is so depressing, so I am lucky that I am at LKSP because I take advantage of getting outside, being in nature, and unplugging more than most people can.
Deb: I did a lot of ZOOM Meetings and that ended up being better than I expected. There are a lot more telephone calls for things that used to be face-to-face meetings, so it was nice to do those in my pajamas!
Dan: I have wonderful neighbors who visit me, though we practice serious social distancing. My daughter is my only child in the area but my two sons who live in Illinois and New Mexico always check in. I watch more television than I care to, but that allowed me to rediscover many Westerns from the 1950s through 1970s, like “Gunsmoke,” “The Virginian” and Bonanza,” so I am having a field day with those! On regular TV, “Chicago P.D.” is a favorite and I stay up-to-date on CNBC and Fox News.
Q: Do you plan to celebrate The Fourth of July and how?
Gabrianna: I do not plan on celebrating the Fourth this year. I love going out for the Fourth but this year, that is just too dangerous, so I will stay home and sit this one out.
Katie: That is an odd question for me because the Fourth is always a huge visitation day at LKSP so that is kind-of a celebration. When it winds down, however, we will do a small family barbeque to allow me to wind down after the busy holiday.
Deb: I will but differently. I usually am part of a group who marches in the Town’s Fourth of July Parade then has a party afterwards, then the fireworks, but that is not happening this year, so we are talking about a smaller group get-together to go boating or something like that.
Dan: I have no plans to celebrate. I will watch TV to see if there are fireworks on but that would be about it.
Q: If you are social isolating; for whom are you doing it?
Gabrianna: I feel like I am social isolating, but since my family is not here, mostly for myself and a few very close friends. Sadly, I do not see as many ancillary friends as before the outbreak, having really narrowed down my sphere to three close friends.
Katie: I social isolate as much as possible for my Mom obviously, but working at LKSP where we have so many visitors. social isolating is a challenge. I social distance as much as humanly possible, including from coworkers and everyone else at the park.
Deb: I do not feel like I social isolate anymore, but I vacillate back-&-forth. I do worry a bit because I am a cancer survivor for about ten years now, so you could consider me in the high risk group, but I don’t feel like a high risk, so I have a question mark.
Dan: I social isolate for myself and others.
Q: Has or did Cabin Fever settle in yet?
Gabrianna: Yes it has!
Katie: No, because working in a state park enables me to escape into nature every day. If I lived in an apartment where it would be tough to leave, I imagine I would most definitely have cabin fever by now!
Deb: No! I enjoy personal reflection, so having time to myself for a while was really nice! Now I am getting out and seeing people again, so I am OK with that balance.
Dan: To a minor degree but not where it is a problem. I work around the house and in my yard and garden as much as I can, but the summer heat limits me to 15 to 20 minutes, then it is back in the air conditioning! I still maintain my own lifestyle with things like cooking and laundry, so I stay busy.
Q: How do you keep your spirits up in our “New Normal?”
Gabrianna: A bit of everything, from reading to writing to studying for my MCATs and some time with friends, so I do a pretty good job of keeping myself busy.
Katie: I just go with the flow, do the things to keep everybody safe, and am happy in our “New Normal!”
Deb: That’s a good question! I think many of us turned inward, read more, and found ways to use the solitude for personal growth and reflection and I believe I did that.
Dan: My family and friends help by staying in such good contact with me, as well as maintaining as much of my former lifestyle and daily activities as possible.
Q: Anything else you want to add?
Gabrianna: I think people will have to continue to adjust to our “New Normal” for a good long while, until we have a vaccine. Even then, I feel things will never really return to how it used to be and I hope people realize how precious those times really were!
Katie: I encourage everyone to just accept this and not fight it, because it is what it is. The quicker you do, the happier and healthier you will be!
Deb: Besides live music, what I miss most is spending time with my parents. They are in their 80s and live in Connecticut and I really want to visit them but now is not the time. I already look forward to that day when I can jump on an airplane and not worry about the coronavirus.
Dan: A saving grace for me is, after 2-1/2 years, the Italian Greyhound Association finally found me a new dog! I have only had him for a couple of weeks and he is so good! He is 9-years-old and his name is “Romeo” – just like his master!