The Eastern New Mexico News - Serving Clovis, Portales and the Surrounding Communities

By Lily Martin
Staff writer 

Living in a COVID-19 world: Two views


Last updated 10/24/2020 at 2:03pm

Editor’s note: Jenny Essary and Troy Hall are living through the same pandemic, but with different perspectives. They shared their stories last week.

‘We can’t let fear take us down’

Jenny Essary

Essary is from Floyd, where she lives with her husband Jeff and two of their four children. They are established hay farmers.

From her perspective, COVID-19 has had a wide reach and changed many aspects of life this year, but it is not as big of a threat as people have been made to believe.

While the normalcy of life has shifted, she said the biggest change is having her children at home rather than in school. Essary has two teenage sons, a senior and a freshman at Floyd High School.

She said the senior son’s junior prom was canceled, as was state FFA and a trip to Washington, D.C., that he had won from the Roosevelt County Electric Co-op. She said he’s missed his last football season, last first day of school, and all the other “last firsts” that seniors get to do.

“Academically he is doing well. His teachers are just a phone call or email away when needed. But normal things like dating can’t even be done now. Who wants to wear a mask out on a date, and where can they go? No movies, few restaurants. What can teens do? He also tried to find a job for the summer but not many places in Roosevelt county were hiring since so many were shut down or were laying off employees already. Clovis is too far of a drive for a job everyday,” she said.

The freshman son, Essary said, is struggling a bit to adjust to high school without having the social element of it.

“Most of their classes are paper packets and this has worked well for us, especially during harvest. He can complete the packets in his own time every week so they can still help us with harvest. But he needs his friends. They both do. I don’t think they realized how much they needed the socialization until they couldn’t have it anymore. Talking on the phone, playing online games with friends helps, but it’s not the same,” she said.

Essary also has two older daughters. One graduated from New Mexico State University last spring. During her time at NMSU, Essary said her daughter received many academic awards and was accepted to Texas Tech University for graduate school, but was not able to celebrate her success in the end with a commencement ceremony.

Her other daughter is a recruiter for Eastern New Mexico University, which typically involves a lot of travel within the state. Now she is working from home, trying to get prospective students involved with ENMU through virtual college fairs and phone calls.

Essary said she has also experienced some disruptions to her daily life.

“I drive a school bus for Floyd schools and when schools were canceled in the spring I didn’t drive at all, that was a big change. This school year I do get to drive for the few kids that do get to attend, but it’s different driving for 3-10 kids rather than the usual 50,” she said.

“There was a little ‘hardship’ when I couldn’t find certain items in the stores, like yeast and flour, some canned goods. We don’t eat out much anyway or go shopping or to movies. Right when the pandemic started and schools shut down our Internet went out for a couple of weeks; that was difficult on the kids that needed it for their online college classes. My daughter finally went back to her off-campus apartment in Las Cruces so she could have Internet.”

Essary said their farm has not yet been impacted by the pandemic, but she knows other areas of the agriculture industry have been.

“Dairies and ranchers for sure have been impacted. Demand for milk went way down when schools were canceled in the spring and I know of dairies that had to dump thousands of gallons of milk,” she said.

She said FFA and 4-H students saw changes in their fair schedules because of the pandemic.

“We still got to show our animals, but it just wasn’t the same with no actual fair. Just show up one day, show your animals, then go back home that afternoon,” she said. “No auction and spending the week with others in the show community.”

After all of the ways the pandemic has changed events and daily life, Essary expressed frustration with the state for its response to the pandemic.

“The governor has not handled any of this well,” she said. “And not just with COVID, with other issues during her administration as well. She has stripped away so many means of income from hard-working businesses when she named them non-essential. To the employees of that business, they are very essential to put food on the table.”

“Obviously, what she is doing isn’t working, (it’s) time to try something different.”

Essary said while she believes in following health and safety guidelines to a certain extent, like wearing a mask in stores to be able to support local businesses, she is not certain that masks stop the spread as much as people claim.

“If they were (helping), why are people still getting COVID? Just this (last) week the Clovis Department of Health shut down because someone tested positive. If they are following all guidelines and still getting it, what’s really going to stop this virus? I’m not going to wear a mask in my car, or when I’m outside walking,” she said.

She also expressed skepticism about limiting large social gatherings. After attending several family gatherings, including reunions and a funeral, Essary said she never saw an outbreak of the virus from any of them.

While having known a couple of people who tested positive for COVID and exhibited various symptoms, Essary said she has “no doubt the virus is real, but I don’t think it’s as deadly as we have been led to believe by the media. The survival rate is very high.”

“I think that we just need to learn to live with it. This year it was COVID, what will it be next year? We can’t let fear take us down. We cannot live in a bubble, safe and secure in our homes. We’ve locked ourselves up to flatten the curve and protect the most vulnerable. But we have stopped living our lives. It’s time to open up our country and businesses and get back to normal.”

‘Our family’s recovered, not all families are’

Troy Hall

Hall lives in Portales with his wife Katie and their newborn son. He works for Curry County, and Katie works as a counselor for local schools.

Hall and his family have been personally affected by COVID-19, and they encourage people to follow health and safety guidelines to protect those that are high-risk.

In June, Hall and his wife of over two years welcomed their son into the world. Because they had their baby in the middle of the pandemic, they took extra precautions.

“We’ve refrained from allowing many of our family and friends to come over and visit him (their baby), and we limit our exposure to the public as much as possible. We stopped going to social gatherings and no longer go to the gym or restaurants or types of things like that,” he said.

In early October, Hall said he and his wife began to exhibit COVID-related symptoms and tested positive for the virus.

“It was frightening,” he said. “Having a newborn child, it was frightening since we follow most of the guidelines.”

Before they tested positive, Hall said he and his wife both opted to work from home to limit their exposure to the public and co-workers.

“I’ve had to change a lot of my work practices to ensure that the job gets done still. My wife is a counselor for the schools, and she’s opted to work completely remotely so that’s been an adjustment for her to do a lot of her counseling sessions through Zoom. Luckily we haven’t had any adjustment to our income, and that hasn’t been affected at this time. Just our daily life has really changed and how we do our jobs,” he said.

Hall said they try to follow all of the health and safety guidelines, for themselves and those around them.

“Really I can’t think of anything that we haven’t followed at this time. We wear our masks in public, we only go out for necessities, we really don’t have any kind of social gathering or anything. Pretty much any kind of precautions that are issued or anything issued by the state, we follow it to the best of our abilities,” he said.

Even with their limited exposure to other people, they caught the virus.

“We had a lot of symptoms. We had a cough, headache, a little bit of nausea, body aches, chills, luckily no temperature. We were able to get through it but we had to wear masks at home too — we tested positive before we knew our son had it, so we had to wear masks even inside of our home to try to keep him safe,” Hall said.

Though they tested positive before their son, and tried to not infect him, their baby also tested positive.

“He just had a cough and a runny nose, but it was scary because we had heard that newborns are in just as much risk (of having a severe reaction) as an older person. So that’s why we took those extra precautions to keep him safe. He still ended up getting it but luckily he’s done pretty well. He hadn’t had a temperature, and it was really just congestion and a little cough but he seems to be doing good now,” Hall said.

Hall is encouraging others to keep following heath and safety guidelines — if not for themselves, then for the consideration of others.

“My main concern going forward is just keeping those who have a weakened immune system safe. It appears that the cases are increasing every day and hospital capacity is decreasing,” he said.

“So we just need to continue our safe practices to keep everyone safe and ensure that there’s capacity at the hospital for those residents. For example, my father just had a double lung transplant about a year ago so he’s one of those people that does have a weakened immune system. So for people like that, that do have a weakened immune system — the older people, and newborns — that’s my biggest concern is keeping those types of people safe

he,” he said.

“Although our family’s recovered, not all families are having the same outcome. So we’re just really pushing people to follow the safe practices. Do the right thing.”


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