Currently viewing the tag: "Pandemic"

Blair Garrett

A lot has changed over the past 18 months.

The world is a vastly different place. People have pressed through a lot of adversity to be where they are today.

Nobody has felt that adversity more than the small businesses that make up towns like Thurmont and Emmitsburg.

From your local restaurants to the Walmarts of our community, the majority of businesses are desperately looking for help. The signs are everywhere, and hiring managers are still having trouble getting applicants through the door.

The hiring shortage is a complex problem that has countless potential causes. But, it’s also a problem that is gutting businesses around the country that are looking to recover from continuous setbacks over the past two years.

Lack of employees is an issue that is felt from top to bottom, forcing local businesses in our hometowns to limit hours, cut back days, or even close for good during these difficult times.

While we deal with the fallout of mismanagement due to the pandemic on every level, the hiring problem even transcends our communities. Industries across the world that had either temporarily closed doors due to the Coronavirus or permanently shut down have sent a ripple effect that we deal with now every day.

Places responsible for importing many of the raw materials we use have experienced their own shortages, skyrocketing production times and prices, locally.

The smaller businesses owned and run by people you grew up with struggle every day to keep things rolling day after day. It is exhausting, and there is no simple fix for the situation we all have had the shared misery of navigating.

While there seems to be light at the end of the tunnel that one day this pandemic will officially be behind us, there are still major issues lingering throughout our communities.

“I work with these businesses every day, and it’s still a crisis situation for employment,” Town of Thurmont Economic Development Manager Vickie Grinder said. “The hiring situation, in general, has been coming for a long time, but the pandemic just solidified it and took it to the tenth power.”

While events are now somewhat in full swing, the staffing issue has not followed suit. “Over the past few months, small businesses in hospitality have had to close early because of the lack of employees,” Grinder said. “It has not rebounded at all.”

What exactly causes these shortages of workers is as complex an issue as it gets, but the pressure-cooker that the virus has put us in has exacerbated these problems tenfold.

Something not mentioned enough is how much inconsistency at home is putting pressure on families to adjust when they may not always have the means to. “As a parent, it’s kind of hard to work when one week your kids are in school, and one week they’re not,” Grinder said. “Especially if you’re a single parent, what are you going to do?”

Situations, where one or both caregivers have to work to provide for their children, have never been more challenging. If a child in class tests positive for the virus, how many students are being sent home, where a parent has to take time off work in order to be there for the kids?

That kind of flexibility is not a luxury that every parent can afford to have, and it’s often unmanageable for the businesses having to compensate for that.

“A lot of restaurants and manufacturing companies can’t have people in one week and out the next, and so people may just stay home,” Grinder said.

Many people point to government assistance as the culprit for workforce shortages, but there is always more to the story.

Maryland Governor Larry Hogan had been focused on alleviating the hiring shortage for months, pushing to end additional government funding back in July, with legal delays slowing down that process. While it is not up to states to decide whether or not to use pandemic relief funding toward unemployment benefits, Maryland officially decided to end the extra $300 per week assistance on September 5. More than 100,000 Maryland residents were receiving additional benefits when they ended last month, and for the time being, the unemployment situation continues to plague local businesses.

The blue-collar jobs that the United States was built on were for a long time the primary avenue for success for the American people. The post-Industrial Revolution tech boom has seen millions of people choose an alternative route to start their foundations on. With thousands more each year choosing higher education and tech careers out of high school over a physical labor trade, there are bound to be fewer people searching for small local businesses as the focus for their careers.

The fix for such a muddy situation is as gray as the cause for how we got here in the first place, but there is hope that this trend will turn the corner at some point. “I think we’re all witnessing something we never thought we’d see,” Grinder said.

Who knows, once this pandemic is behind us and our industries can return to the consistency and rhythms that previously made them successful, our communities might just see the economic rebound your favorite mom and pop stores have been hoping for.

Until then, be mindful of the difficulties your local businesses may have, and be understanding of the hard times we are pushing through, and support those places when you can. After all, a small town is nothing without the support of the community within it.

For kids and parents alike

The Ripple Effect

by Anita DiGregory

At the mountain of God, Horeb, Elijah came to a cave where he took shelter. Then the LORD said to him, “Go outside and stand on the mountain before the LORD; the LORD will be passing by.” A strong and heavy wind was rending the mountains and crushing rocks before the LORD, but the LORD was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake there was fire, but the LORD was not in the fire. After the fire there was a tiny whispering sound. When he heard this, Elijah hid his face in his cloak and went and stood at the entrance of the cave. (1 Kings 19:9, 11-13)

This remains one of my absolute favorite passages from the Bible.  Imagine this guy, Elijah, hanging out in this cave waiting for God.  He’s probably a bit nervous, right?  The wind rips by so powerfully that it is destroying the rocks around him, but God is not in the wind. Then a violent earthquake shakes the very ground he stands on, but that’s not God. Next, a massive fire with all its heat and destruction erupts, but that is not God either.  It is all very noisy and confusing and even scary. It sounds almost like the year we’ve all had: 2020, the year of epidemic, violence, isolation, turbulence, earthquakes, hurricanes…and let’s not forget those murder hornets. Do you almost feel like a marathon runner, winded and exhausted as a result of the long, hard run, but pushing yourself because that finish line is oh so close?

Here we are about to embark on, traditionally, the busiest season of the year. But this year, many of the shows, parties, parades, and get-togethers have been altered. Even shopping is different due to the many protocols in place. 

The truth is, we have had very little control over most of what 2020 has presented to us; but, we do have control over what we can do for ourselves, our families, and even the world in these last few weeks of the year.

Have you ever visited a still body of water with your children? My children love throwing rocks into the water. They love the “plops” they make and the ripple of waves those little rocks send out far across the water. Those little rocks have the ability to create a reverberation clear across the pond, and what started as small little circles spreads out larger and larger…the bigger the rock, the bigger the “plop,” the bigger the ripple effect.

Addressing a crowd, Saint Pope John Paul II once remarked, “As the family goes, so goes the nation, and so goes the world in which we live.” We have the ability to create a huge ripple effect…the ability to make a true and lasting difference, one family at a time. 

In these last weeks, when the outside world seems so loud and out of control, let’s strive for quiet simplicity. While the world seems full of anger and hate, let’s make it our mission to love well.  In this time of preparation and waiting, let’s make it a time of light and hope. In a year when the overwhelming theme has been “everything is different,” we can make a difference.

What can we do? We can draw our loved ones close. We can read them classic Christmas stories or watch our family-favorite movies in front of the fire. We can send Christmas cards to military members and first responders, thanking them for their dedication, service, and sacrifice. We can deliver care packages to isolated family members. Together, we can donate to community food banks and toy drives. We can pray, and sacrifice, and hope, and love. And those tiny ripples can make larger ones that can be farther reaching than we can even imagine.

So, in this year of pandemic, let’s remember what that famous doctor taught us. Let’s consider that last scene in the classic How the Grinch Stole Christmas. After stripping the poor Who’s of all their food, presents, toys, decorations, and musical instruments, the Grinch (played this year by the mean ole’ year 2020), anxiously awaiting the villagers’ sorrow, is instead dumbfounded by their joyful celebration.

“And the Grinch, with his Grinch-feet ice cold in the snow, stood puzzling and puzzling: how could it be so? It came without ribbons! It came without tags! It came without packages, boxes or bags! And he puzzled three hours, ‘till his puzzler was sore. Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before. Maybe Christmas, he thought, doesn’t come from a store. Maybe Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more!”

So, my dear friend, I wish you the merriest of Christmases, a blessed last few weeks of the year, and the best new year. And, if the loudness and confusion of the world start to rob you of your peace, remember in your quiet, peaceful, loving way, you CAN make a difference…and in that stillness listen carefully because God IS in the whisper.

The Year is…1918

The Pandemic to End All Pandemics — Part 1

by James Rada, Jr.

Although the country essentially quarantined itself state by state this spring, it’s not the first time such a thing has happened. However, when it happened in 1918, 675,000 Americans died in roughly two months. Worldwide, the death toll may have reached 100 million people, or 1 person out of every 20.

The Spanish Flu is the worst disease the world has ever known.

The First Wave

Much like COVID-19, when the Spanish Flu was noticed and when it began are two different times. It first appeared in Spain in February 1918, hence, the name. However, because Spain was a neutral country during World War I, the press was free to report on the flu, although other places were said to be having troubles with the disease. One historian believes he traced the flu back to a Chinese avian flu in 1917.

With this first wave of the Spanish Flu, people got fever, chills, and aches for three days, and then they would be fine. It was 1918’s seasonal flu, and there was nothing to be concerned about except that more people than usual caught the disease. The odd thing about the flu of 1918 is that rather than attacking the very old and very young with weaker immune systems, it also attacked healthy adults in their 30s and 40s.

By May, 8 million Spaniards had or had recovered from the flu. Not only did the flu attack people of all ages, it attacked people at all social levels. King Alfonso XIII of Spain and King George V of England caught it.

The flu spread worldwide, including the United States, when it appeared at Camp Funston in Kansas in March. Because flu was not a reportable disease, it’s uncertain how many cases there were, but 233 soldiers developed pneumonia, and 48 doughboys died. Given the number of soldiers in camp, this was not considered a remarkable mortality rate.

With a virulent flu sidelining so many soldiers across the world, it affected the progress of World War I.

In one instance, the 15th U.S. Cavalry contracted the disease while at sea. They called it the “three-day fever.” Doctors noted that while the disease lasted three days, it often took a week or two for the victim to recover fully.

King George’s Grand Fleet could not put to sea for three weeks in May because 10,313 men were sick. The British Army’s 29th Division had planned to attack La Becque on June 30, but had to put off the operation because too many soldiers were sick with the flu to mount an effective offensive. German General Erich von Ludendorff blamed the flu for his failure to mount offensives.

Then the flu vanished as temperatures warmed.

The Second Wave

Spanish Flu appeared again in late August. This time, it was even more contagious and much more deadly.

One physician wrote that patients rapidly “develop the most vicious type of pneumonia that has ever been seen,” and later when cyanosis appeared in patients “it is simply a struggle for air until they suffocate.” Another doctor said the influenza patients “died struggling to clear their airways of a blood-tinged froth that sometimes gushed from their mouth and nose.”

The second wave first appeared in America at Boston. On August 28, 1918, eight sailors reported sick with the flu. The next day, the number was 58, and by day four, it was 81. After another week, the number was 119, and civilians were getting sick. On September 8, three people died.

By this time, it had spread beyond Boston. Flu reports were coming in along the East Coast.

On September 26, 50,000 residents of Massachusetts had the flu; in Boston alone, 133 died that day from flu and 33 from pneumonia.

In Frederick County

Spanish Flu first appeared in Frederick County around the end of September 1918. On September 20, local newspapers warned that an outbreak was coming. At that time, only one known case of the flu was in Maryland. By September 25, hundreds of cases had been reported, mostly soldiers at Camp Meade, although there was no reference to any in Frederick County.

Given the headlines, Spanish Flu struck suddenly, although not unexpected, in Frederick County. “Spanish Flu Sweeps Co.; Fifty Cases,” read a Frederick News headline on September 26. The article notes one thing thwarted researchers trying to get an accurate count, and that is that all flu cases weren’t being reported to the health officer, either because the doctors were too busy working or because influenza wasn’t a disease that they were required to report. By the way, that changed after the Spanish Flu outbreak, at least in Maryland.

The following day, 10 more cases were reported. The first death from flu in the county, George Cronise of Buckeystown, occurred on September 29. He was a young man of 23, but his resistance had been compromised because he had been sick for two weeks with a slight case of typhoid fever.

The Spanish Flu had arrived in Frederick County and was starting to kill.

The St. Louis Red Cross Motor Corps on duty during the Spanish Flu pandemic.

The 39th Regiment on its way to France, marching through Seattle, Washington. The Seattle Chapter of the Red Cross made masks for them.