Friday, July 3, another holiday weekend in this strange pandemic world we’ve almost started to consider normal. My husband Jim and I spent the winter, our third, here in Orange Beach on the Alabama Gulf Coast, and left March 15th to spend a couple weeks in the Memphis area, our semi-annual trip there for appointments with doctors, the dentist, Jobie’s vet. Covid-19 had killed thousands of people in Italy by the time we left here and begun its inevitable spread across the United States. As it swept across Italy, and the numbers of sick and dead grew overwhelming, I began logging them in my journal every night, a ritual to help me grasp the enormity, pay homage, honor the dead.
When the shutdowns began, we decided we’d rather spend the next few months in a place with room to spread out and opportunities to be outdoors, so we came back to Buena Vista RV Resort in Orange Beach. The beaches were still closed, as were restaurants, public swimming pools, most retail outlets, hair and nail salons. But, we could ride our bikes in Gulf State Park. Our site has a casita with a grill, a table and chairs, a firepit. We can see the Gulf across the street, take a drive along the coast.
We got back the first of May, and within a couple weeks, Gov. Ivey began opening the state. Public pools opened with restrictions—the outdoor lazy river pool here at Buena Vista opened to a maximum of ten people at a time. Beaches opened. Restaurants opened with 50% capacity to accommodate social distancing requirements of six feet minimum separation.
Jim and I continue to isolate for the most part—weekly trips to the supermarket, always wearing masks, although few other people do. I made an exception and went to my yoga class a few times a week for several weeks, which seemed reasonably safe because until a few weeks ago, the virus had not penetrated this stretch of the Gulf Coast. But, then came Memorial Day weekend.
Combined, Orange Beach and Gulf Shores have a permanent resident population of about 15,000, and officials estimate that 750,000 tourists honed in on this stretch of beach over Memorial Day weekend. Some of them brought the virus, and I’m sure that on Sunday, when they scattered back to their homes, some took the virus with them. Now, Baldwin County logs 40-50 new cases each day, and Alabama over 1,000.
This is Friday, the advent of Independence Day weekend. Jim and I will continue to isolate. I’ll read, write, do laundry, ride my bike. I won’t walk across the street to the beach, because I already know what I’d see—a blanket of unmasked humans, huddled in hoardes, sharing air and germs and in some cases, the virus, for which there is no vaccine, no cure. Each night, I’ll write the numbers in my journal, wondering when the pandemic will end, what life will look like on the other side.