An Email History of Pandemic Life

On March 12, 2020, my son’s first grade teacher sent an email, “First Grade Field Trip”:

Dear parents,

I am so sorry to have to send this email, but we have decided to cancel our field trip to the zoo on March 17. I know the students have really been looking forward to it, so we will try to reschedule before the end of the school year. If you have any questions please don’t hesitate to ask.

Thanks, Mrs. Richardson

At the time, there was one known case of coronavirus in Davis County. Yep, one. For context, today’s Davis County dashboard shows 1,164 cases, with 100 new ones posted yesterday.

On that day, I also took this screenshot:

The very next day, my daughter’s preschool teacher sent a similar email: “Dear Parents, The Children’s Museum next Friday, March 20th has been cancelled due to the closure of the museum. As of now I will plan to hold a regular day of preschool for each of my classes at the regular time of day.”

Of course, these emails were just the beginning. Let’s share some more! It’s a pandemic history as recorded in email and random cell phone pics/screenshots. Here we go.

3/13/2020 12:09 PM “Weekly Newsletter” from son’s 1st grade teacher

Dominic’s teacher sent out a weekly newsletter throughout the year. On this Friday, the tone had changed. She still shared their regular topics: spelling words, high frequency words, vocabulary words, math concepts, etc. But she also prepped the kids for logging in from home. “In the spirit of being prepared,” she said.

“What an interesting week we had! I am so proud of the students for working hard and staying calm in the face of a lot of changes. In the spirit of being prepared, I will be sending home the students’ codes to log onto Clever at home… Please keep your code in a safe place just in case we need it.”

3/13/2020 5:16 PM “school dismissal letter to parents” from Davis School District

Dear parents,

Utah Governor Gary Herbert and State Superintendent of Public Instruction Sydnee Dickson announced this afternoon the dismissal of all Utah K-12 public school students from school for two weeks

— beginning Monday, March 16, through Friday, March 27.

Reid Newey, Superintendent

I remember that Friday afternoon, out for a walk through the neighborhood with my kids. I was listening to the news conference on my phone as we walked down Arlington. When Governor Herbert made the announcement, I walked up to my neighbor’s door and knocked. The first person I told was another mom, Sarah, and then another neighbor, Jamie, pulled up to the house to pick up her two kids that Sarah was watching. We all chatted about it for a while and figured it would be longer than two weeks.

Probably, right?

So we went to the park.

An email soon followed from my daughter’s preschool teacher that she would close and distribute preschool packets “at the end of [her] driveway”.

More emails followed used phrases I would get used to hearing often:

  • soft closure
  • curb the spread
  • online (or remote) learning

Also, the stores no longer carried toilet paper, bread, pasta, flour, etc.

3/18/2020 9:42 AM “Earthquake follow-up” from Davis School District

To add to the fun of switching the state’s students to online learning, let’s all have an earthquake!

“In light of the 5.7 earthquake that hit Magna and the aftershocks that we continue to feel across Davis County, we are closing all district facilities, including schools, and plan to resume business tomorrow… That being said, lunches will not be available at schools today and device distribution will be suspended until tomorrow.”

My son’s teacher emailed about an hour later: “I hope you are all doing ok after the earthquake that woke us all up this morning! If you don’t have a device yet, just complete what you can starting tomorrow.” Then she listed out all of the assignments for the week. Eventually, she would put together a weekly schedule that I thought Dominic was getting done fairly well, but I soon learned, he was only telling us he was doing it. The online learning curve has been steep for me.

Sitting together in Gabbi’s room right after the bigger aftershock that afternoon.

3/19/2020 6:20 PM “Zoom Meeting Tomorrow” from 1st grade teacher

The Zoom meetings begin: “Hey Students, It’s been awhile since we’ve seen each other! Let’s meet up tomorrow at 10:00 on Zoom. We will be able to see each other and chat for a little bit.”

3/22/2020 10:08 PM “March 23 Assignments” from 1st grade teacher

Here’s the first weekly schedule from my son’s teacher.

4/3/2020 9:57 PM “Message from the Bishop” from ward executive secretary

Our Bishopric does a really good job of putting together descriptive subject lines for emails. This would be the first “message from the Bishop” message of many to come. It was a note about being excited for upcoming General Conference. In it, our Bishop shared two things I appreciated:

  1. An encouragement to read a great message from Elder Holland, “Shelter in Place.”
  2. This scripture from Alma 36:27.
    And I have been supported under trials and troubles of every kind, yea, and in all manner of afflictions; yea, God has delivered me from prison, and from bonds, and from death; yea, and I do put my trust in him, and he will still deliver me.

Yea, and at the time I was trying very hard to put my trust in Him, but the earthquakes and the unknowns of the pandemic sure rattled my foundation.

4/5/2020 9:50 PM “Online Assignments April 6-10” from 1st grade teacher

I share this one because here we are, clearly passed the initial end of the soft closure on March 27th. And we’ve now finished our regularly scheduled Spring Break. Nathan’s parents had planned to drive up from Texas that week to spend the time with us and with Nathan’s brother’s family in Provo. They reluctantly cancelled the trip.

“Dear Families, I hope you had a wonderful Spring Break! I have missed you all!… If any subject takes longer than 40 minutes each day, just stop at that time… I will be holding Zoom meetings this week… First grade students will meet on Tuesday and Thursday at 9:30. Second grade students will meet on Tuesday and Thursday at 10:30. We will meet as a whole class on Friday at 9:30… Also, Mystery Doug will be holding a live 20 minute Science Show…”

My son was in a 1st/2nd grade split class. And this was also the beginning of many new live, online events. Like Mystery Doug.

@laurenelkins7

covid19 cancellations all over

♬ Myself – Bazzi

4/9/2020 8:59 PM “Message from the Bishop” from ward executive secretary

Another good subject line from the Bishop who was “basking in the glow of General Conference”. He mentioned the upcoming worldwide day of pray and fasting on 4/10. He also mentioned the musical number that concluded General Conference. I loved it.

My Mom plays in the Orchestra at Temple Square. In the beginning of the year, they were asked to change their plans and start recording the musical numbers for the upcoming General Conference. Typically, they sang at Conference, live, accompanied by the organ. When April rolled around, however, they had music for the conference ready.

It included this recording of We Thank Thee, O God, for a Prophet, with singers from around the world.

4/14/20 5:43 PM “Parent letter 4.14.20” from Davis School District

The school district also writes excellent subject lines. This was the official announcement that “schools across Utah will continue to operate in a soft closure until the end of the school year because of the COVID-19 pandemic.” It was all to help “slow the spread”. We still had a few months before the spread would really hit, though. And then it would come in waves.

We would leave the house to pick up school lunches. It was something to look forward to:

@laurenelkins7

#happyathome picking up lunch in the days of covid19

♬ Be Alright – J.Boss

4/22/2020 1:32 AM “A few things to be aware of” from ward Relief Society president

Melanie is also good at subject lines. 🙂

n this email, Melanie mentioned the service project to help make masks. “As a stake we made over 300 masks that were donated to the Bountiful City Preparedness Council and Davis County Sheriff’s Dept. 800 to 1000 masks were also made for Hill Air Force Base… There is still a need for masks to be made through Project Protect.”

In March, the CDC had said that mask wearing wasn’t necessary for healthy individuals. Sometime in April was when they changed this. Obviously, this didn’t cause any divisiveness in our totally united society.

Oh wait…

6/26/2020 6:18 PM “Mueller Park Stake COVID-19 Update” from stake executive secretary

“In complete harmony with our elected leaders, we remind you that the First Presidency, when authorizing a limited resumption of Sacrament Meetings several weeks ago (and other gatherings such as for baptismal services and funerals), did so with 1) a cap on how many would attend and 2) the specific request that those attending would practice social distancing and use facial coverings.”

Wear masks. Just a reminder.

Our stake president is a rheumatologist at the University of Utah where he saw the impact of the disease and its impact on the ICU providers. At first, he told local church leaders not to make too big of a deal about masks because things had become political and he wanted there to be a feeling of community. But it didn’t take long for that to change for two reasons: 1) masks mattered in gatherings, and 2) refusing to do a small thing was the opposite of creating a feeling of community.

Our Bishop would include information about wearing masks in bold with each email sent about our rotating sacrament meeting schedules through the summer.

Granted, it was hard to find good masks for a while. But now, everybody sells them: Gap, Old Navy, Athleta, Nike, Louis Vuitton?

8/10/2020 10:16 AM “Valley View Update” from our elementary school

In this long letter, the school principal sent parents information about the start of a new year. We started out with a hybrid schedule: half the kids on Monday/Wednesday, the other half Tuesday/Thursday, with Friday as a remote day. For parents not wanting to send their kids, they had the option to sign up for online classes with Davis Connect.

My kids would be attending 2nd grade and kindergarten. Here are a few things noted in the email:

  • Information is changing constantly and we are trying to keep up.
  • August 14th at 4:00 pm you will be able to log into your mydsd account to see your child’s teacher.
  • We will be checking out devices around the 2nd to 3rd week of school. Students need to make sure these devices are charged every night and they will travel back and forth between home and school.
  • Students are required to wear masks while in the building and outside when they aren’t practicing physical distancing.

8/14/2020 6:09 PM “Welcome to Second Grade !!!” from son’s 2nd grade teacher

It’s time for a new teacher with a new set of emails, communication style, and cadence. New teacher set the tone with an introductory email that included plenty of information about:

  • a Back to School Night video (no in-person event)
  • “The first day of school for “B Day Students” is Tuesday, August 25th, and for “A Day Students” is Wednesday, August 26th!” (Dom was an A Day kid.)
  • a list of classroom donations, which included typical things like pencils and binders, but also sanitizing wipes and hand sanitizer: “these are difficult to find right now”

My daughter’s kindergarten teacher sent her email a few days later with an attached PDF. The PDF included an introduction, some info on what to expect the first few weeks of school, her school supply list, and instructions for the first virtual school day.

The next week, the teachers sent their back to school videos and experienced varying levels of technical difficulties to overcome.

8/26/2020 2:29 PM “The first day of school” from 2nd grade teacher

Dear Parents,

It was wonderful to meet your children today. It was great to get to know them and they all did an amazing job.

Wearing masks went well for everyone. If they are sitting at their seats, they make take their mask off for a few minutes at a time…

Mrs. Willmore

9/7/2020 7:25 PM “email about high wind warning” from Davis School District

The district sent an email to all parents with an attached PDF from the National Weather Service about a high wind warning. What was this gonna be like?

9/8/2020 6:45 AM “two-hour late start” from Davis School District

Well, that’s what they said at first… but then the school was completely canceled. What about the next day?

9/8/2020 9:17 PM “no school on Wednesday – parents” from Davis School District

(Doesn’t anybody take time to think about subject lines for emails these days? At least capitalization or punctuation…)

“Weather forecasts are calling for continued strong winds until at least mid-morning tomorrow. In light of that, we are cancelling school for all DSD schools Wednesday because of power outages, continued weather threats and highway restrictions for high–profile vehicles, which include our busses.”

That Wednesday, once the winds finally did die down, the kids were out in droves helping with the cleanup. It was pretty amazing, actually.

9/12/2020 9:17 AM “Mueller Park 1st Ward September 13 Sacrament Meetings” from our ward executive secretary

Let weekly sacrament meetings reconvene.

In this email, we were reminded that the First Presidency released a statement that Utah Latter-day Saints could return to weekly sacrament meetings. The guidelines remained that there would be a 99-person limit and we would start attending in two groups with one in person, the other over Zoom, taking turns.

9/16/2020 11:53 AM “Update to school year schedule” from Davis School District

We weren’t even a full month into this school year and it was time to ditch the hybrid model. Elementary students would soon start going to school Monday-Thursday, keeping their Friday digital day. The secondary students would follow in October.

It worked fine for elementary schools and the number of cases. The high schools seemed to go on again off again as cases kept forcing soft closures. So I guess it didn’t really affect me and my kids.

9/16/2020 1:49 PM “Valley View Fun Run” from school principal

“We are going to host a fun run for this year’s fundraiser (covid style).”

The fun run set up times for each separate classroom to run around one of three different tracks they marked off in the field at the school. I stopped by twice that day, to watch Gabbi then to watch Dom. A few parents came as well. This reminded me that I never liked fundraisers as a kid so when Dom and Gabbi needed to raise money from enough people by a certain day to earn a t-shirt, I had to text people. No thanks. Gabbi actually went out on her own and got money and info from two nice neighbors. I was impressed.

And then guess what? They didn’t get both my kids their t-shirts. After all that, somebody forgot to order one for one of my kids!

I actually forgot who didn’t get a shirt. Oh well. They probably didn’t really fit anyway. (The pictures show clearly that Gabbi got her shirt.)

10/5/2020 11:04 AM “Gabriela Elkins” from school COVID-19 aide

I called the school’s attendance hotline that morning to report Gabbi’s absence. She had a low-grade fever. It lasted one day. But the school had this nice lady, Sandy, who was hired to help with contact tracing and such. She sent this email. It included an attachment with information regarding COVID symptoms. She also reminded me Gabbi could come back as long as their was no known exposure and she was fever free (without medicatino) for at least 24 hours.

We abided. No biggy.

11/9/2020 10:43 AM “message to parents and guardians” from Davis School District

The excellent subject lines continue.

In this email: “As you may know, Utah Governor Gary Herbert addressed the State of Utah last night at 9:30 p.m. with a new State of Emergency, including a mask mandate, because of the spread of COVID-19 in our state.”

School continued. The state had a mask mandate (I think it was one of the last ones to do so, but I wasn’t really keeping track. When we left the house, we had our masks. It was required in Davis County anyway.) The state also canceled before and after school programs for a time.

12/18/2020 3:29 PM “Changes to COVID-19 protocol” from Davis School District

The governor and the department of health outlined some changes to timelines for those who had to quarantine. Gabbi had to do it once from a school exposure. She could test to end it and that’s what we did. But waiting a couple of days for that test to come back felt like forever. Thankfully, they’d made some updates:

  • Only individuals who are not masked and have had 15 minutes of contact with the person who is found to have the virus will be quarantined. (Gabbi had a mask-on-mask exposure so this would have changed things for her.)
  • Individuals can get a negative rapid test on or after day 7 can stop their quarantine. Otherwise, it’s 10 days. (Previously it had been test at 10 and out at 14.)
  • The duration for school soft closures will be 10 days.
  • The district set up a rapid testing site to “test to return” to school. It was only for students who had a quarantine letter from the school.
  • All high school extracurricular activity participants will be tested every two weeks at their school.
  • High schools could “test to stay” open as long as 80% of the school participated. (One of the first high schools to do this in Davis County didn’t have enough kids choose to participate. The same problem didn’t happen for high schools in Granite’s school district.)

2/26/2021 12:01 PM “#OneUtah: Feb. 26, 2021” from Governor Spencer Cox

Jump ahead to today. Emails about updates became fairly routine, even as we saw changes here and there. The most consistent thins with the last year was CHANGE. I would receive an almost-weekly email from the elementary school with their “COVID letter” which informed us how many current, active cases they had at the school. We never hit the 15-cases threshold that would require a soft-closure. The last letter sent this week said there were two current cases.

Today’s email came from our newly elected Governor Cox. Herbert didn’t seek reelection and even though he decided that before 2020 happened, I’m sure he wasn’t sad with his choice to leave his role as the head of the state. No more worrying about mandates for the pandemic. Or states of emergencies for earthquakes, protest/riots, or windstorms.

#OneUtah is Cox’s weekly update. Here’s what he covered this week:

  • Utahns 16 and older with certain medical conditions are eligible to get vaccinated against COVID. (Pfizer is the only vaccine authorized for 16- and 17-year olds. Not Moderna, yet.)
  • Get a vaccine in any county (those 65 and up, with or without medical conditions can already get them).
  • The DoH renewed the statewide public health order: wear masks, student athletes continue to get tested, schools can still test to stay open, and other things about testing levels, bars staying open, public gatherings.
  • Johnson and Johnson vaccines are expected beginning next week, pending federal approvals.
  • A bunch of political stuff like Bills signed (but none that I really knew much about).
  • Flags are at half-staff until sundown this evening in memory of 500,000 American lives lost to COVID-19.
  • Shows to binge, recommended by Cox: Cobra Kai, Psych, Community, New Girl, Arrested Development, Chopped, and Seinfeld. (How does he have the time for so many?!)

And that concludes this lengthy list of a pandemic year through emails. One day when I look back and read through, perhaps I’ll be stunned by this little record of history. Or perhaps not. *shrug*

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