Dear Class of 2020

Dear Class of 2020

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One Skagit High School Student’s Perspective on COVID-19

By guest author, Brylee Axelson-Ney — Burlington-Edison High School Senior

No one expects their senior year to go like this. Everyone looks forward to their senior year homecoming, football games, pep assemblies, final athletic moments, senior skip day, senior pranks, senior prom, and of course graduation. No one anticipated an uncertain amount of time off from school with everything canceled and not knowing whether or not they’re going to graduate. Seniors won’t be able to properly say goodbye to a place where they’ve spent some of the most memorable years of their life.

It was the end of the day during 8th period. Suddenly, a message came over the loudspeaker. School was to be canceled until April 27th. At first people were happy and cheering for our extended spring break. But after a few minutes of contemplation, we all quickly realized that we didn’t want this six week “vacation”. We wanted to spend all the time we could together before we went our separate ways forever. My best friend decided we should walk around the school blasting sad music on her speaker. It would make people feel better. We did just that. People were coming out of their classrooms recording, laughing or just staring at us. Which was fine, we were used to it. Our senior year basically consisted of us always being together and making fools out of ourselves wherever we go. Over the summer, we even organized our schedules so we would have seven out of our eight classes together. We have spent four years being crazy together on the same basketball and track team. Or I guess three years on the same track team since the season was cancelled.

Well, we had a couple weeks of practice before we were limited to only practicing Monday through Wednesday. Then with the school closure, all practices were cancelled until April 27th. Then finally no practice at all. No competitions at all. No track at all. Track is probably my favorite sport. I have competed in and won almost every meet in the high jump since sophomore year. I was ready to jump this year. I was ready to win the district championships and compete at state for the third year in a row. I was ready to use this season to build up my stats to compete in college. But most importantly, I was ready to use this track season to say my final goodbyes to my friends. After basketball season was over, I wasn’t too upset because I thought at least we have one last track season together! Now I don’t have that season with my high jump buddy or with the tall girl track squad (which is what we liked to call ourselves) or with my best friend.

This year I was also elected to be senior class president. I’m going to be honest that being class president didn’t have many responsibilities. All I had to do was attend Associated Student Body (ASB) meetings, plan class future reunions, and plan baccalaureate. With the school year being shortened and no graduation as far as we know, one of my three responsibilities is cut off. I know baccalaureate is very important to a large percentage of the senior class. It is unfortunate we won’t have the opportunity to attend the event although it is kind of nice for me because I no longer have to stress about planning it. As far as graduation goes, there’s no sense of relief. Everyone I know was so excited for graduation. At graduation we finally would be honored for everything we have done in our high school careers, just like every class before us has. All the years we have sat in the stands watching our siblings and friends walk across that stage and thinking to ourselves, “oh my gosh I can’t believe that’s gonna be me in a few years”. The valedictorians who have spent all of high school maintaining perfect marks and staying involved in the school so they could be recognized at graduation. The parents who use this time to say goodbye to their babies’ and say hello to the new adults they’ve become.

I don’t want to sound like I’m ungrateful for my high school experience by any means. I loved high school. I am so grateful to have met so many amazing people and to have had so much fun during the last four years. I learned so much about who I am and who I want to become in the future. I understand the necessity of social distancing. I am very fortunate to have my health and my family during these crazy times.

So, to the class of 2020: I know this is hard and may seem unfair at times. However, I don’t think we should look at this as a time of sadness and pity but rather a time of change and evolution for years to come. We can set an example for future classes on how to deal with adversity.

COVID-19 & the Class of 2020.

Brylee is a graduating senior at Burlington-Edison High School. She will start at the University of Washington in the fall where she plans to study Environmental Science and Terrestrial Resource Management.

No Opening Day

When will it be Opening Day?

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Sports and COVID-19

No sports?! What do we do between now and Opening Day?

It took just a few hours on March 11th for life in America to change completely.

Yes – people had been uneasy, but things weren’t bad like in other countries. Then President Trump gave a somber address shifting COVID-19 from a nagging concern to an immediate national threat. Next the widely beloved Tom Hanks shared he was diagnosed with coronavirus. And the trifecta dropped when we heard Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert – a 2020 an All Star and a two-time Defensive Player of the Year – had COVID-19. Before that news sunk in, Commissioner Adam Silver announced the NBA season was suspended. It made sense health-wise. The NBA is all about boxing out, sharing the ball, and getting up into the other guy’s face. That’s more chance for straight-on coronavirus transmission than most of us would have in months.

Of course, the NHL followed suit, along with baseball’s spring training, pro wrestling, March Madness, the Masters, on and on. Our national pastimes just went poof and disappeared. Shots of stadiums full of empty seats were eerie as a ghost. A lot of us are used to coming home from work, plopping on the couch and catching a game. At lunch break, we might pause to check the box scores. These bits of sports are footholds throughout our day. They give us a little reprieve from the pressure and rushing around. Looking for a silver lining in all of this? The Mariners are in first place! Actually, Seattle is tied for first place with every other team, each with a 0-0 record. But it’s first place all the same.

We need sports more than ever.

Sports are not a life and death thing. But I’m reminded of a story a sportswriter shared a few years back. He loved sports more than anyone, but he was a little embarrassed by his profession. He was a grown man devoting his days to games. Then he lost his mother to cancer. Grief just swallowed him whole. And part of that grief was he couldn’t sleep a wink. Depressed and battered, he found a reprieve. In bed, in the dark, he started replaying the most important games in his head. The World Series, Super Bowl, Final Four, NBA finals. He relived the thousands of games his profession enabled him to see in person. Triples plays, flea flickers, logo 3-pointers. Plus the regular stuff – the grind-out fullbacks busting through the line for first downs, goalies withstanding shot after shot on goal, a crossover dribble, or a drag bunt single. He immersed himself in the things he loved. Then sleep found him, sweetly giving him relief. It was much better than counting sheep!

Life has become hard — and just when we need them most, sports have gone missing. But don’t let the fact that ESPN has stopped live broadcast sink you into depression: revel in past moments of glory. Catch your favorite games of the past, and remember why the greats were so great! Also, settle in real quiet and think for a moment how indescribably sweet opening day will be. A batter will dig in next to the plate. A pitcher will wind up. And in that moment, a rush of anticipation will take over, all the pain will drop away, and the world will be well, perfectly well.

A footnote: If you want to check out the intersection between sports and COIVD-19, see Stephen Curry’s interview of Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases who serves on the President’s Coronavirus Task Force:

Should I Wear a Face Mask? The Answer is yes

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How and when to cover your face to slow the spread of COVID-19

For weeks people have been asking, “Should I wear a face mask in public?” In short, the answer is YES.

Staying at home and limiting contact to only people in our household is best. But at some point, many of us will need to go to the grocery store, or the pharmacy, or to our jobs if we work at one of the identified essential businesses.  How do you stay healthy and keep others safe when you need to venture out into the world to meet you or your family’s essential needs?

The CDC and Skagit County’s Health Officer are now recommending we wear face masks or coverings in public for any group gathering, including workplaces. This will be a key tool in preventing the spread of infection from COVID-19.

Wearing a mask/covering does not mean you should go about your life as before. To stay safe for yourself and others you still need to:

  • Maintain good social distancing practices – 6-feet of physical distance from non-household members, and
  • Frequently wash your hands with soap and warm water (best) or with alcohol-based hand sanitizer (good second choice when soap and water aren’t available) , and
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth. Never touch your face with dirty hands.

Wearing cloth face coverings will not prevent spread of COVID-19 without these other protective measures.

Why Now?

Recent studies show that many people with COVID-19 transmit the virus even when they are not showing any symptoms. This means people who don’t feel sick or look sick can spread COVID-19 through speaking, coughing, or sneezing. In light of this new evidence, the CDC and Skagit County Public Health concluded face masks or coverings are necessary to the Skagit community’s health.

Cloth Face Coverings vs N-95 Respirators

Cloth face coverings made from household items and common materials at low cost is recommended. Do It Yourself (DYI) cloth face coverings are also called “face masks”.

The CDC is not recommending N-95 respirators for the general public – these are critical supplies that must continue to be reserved for healthcare workers and other medical first responders.

Cloth Face Coverings 101

Don’t have a face covering? Check out these options – even if you don’t sew, there are effective options for everyone.

How to safely wear your new cloth face covering.

The CDC notes that cloth face coverings should:

  • Fit snugly but comfortably against the side of the face.
  • Be secured with ties or ear loops.
  • Include multiple layers of fabric.
  • Allow for breathing without restriction.
  • Be able to be laundered and machine dried without damage or change to shape.


Social Distancing – Living Room Ruckus Edition

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One Skagit family’s struggles with staying home, staying healthy.

It was day eleven of my family’s social isolation, and my three year old was beginning to lose it. On a normal Sunday, by 2:30 pm we would have sped through a host of weekend activities: grocery shopping, play dates, church, visits to the park, etc. But not today, not on day eleven. Today we hadn’t left the house, hadn’t even changed out of our pajamas. I find myself stumped. How can I explain to my toddler daughter why we can’t play with friends or go to her classes, especially when every fiber of my being wants to be able to do so?

No surprise — within minutes I have an unruly little child on my hands, plus a fussy infant, and a dog pleadingly staring at the front door for run to the dog park. In the middle of this ruckus, my neighbor calls to see if my daughter wants to come jump on their trampoline. I’m thankful for the questioning look on my husband’s face, gently nudging me to do the right thing when I say no thanks. A wave of frustration and anxiety wells up in me and I barely can shove it all down, knowing the last thing I want to do is to break out crying. That would only add more mess into our living room drama.

This social distancing thing is really tough! Humans are social creatures and we thrive on routine. So the sudden absence of both these things leaves us reeling. I laugh at memes like the one that says “Our grandparents were called to war. We’re being called to sit on the couch.” This in no way describes what I’m doing as a mom of a toddler and a baby during the age of COVID-19. Without daycare, I spend my days trying to balance mothering and this new working from home thing, while struggling to fit in a moment to jump in the shower.

Don’t get me wrong—this struggle rings true for all of us, not just for moms of small children! All over my social media feeds there is a sense of mourning, a sadness and nostalgia for a past that was only a couple of week ago. Personally, I am wrestling with how to tell my daughter that we can’t have her friends over for her third birthday party in April. The guilt and frustration piles up and I snap into anger. But who am I mad at? No one dreamed up COVID-19 – it just happened.

What is being called of us is not easy, and it isn’t “just sitting on the couch.”

Our actions (or actually, inaction), will make all the difference in the end.

Staying put and staying home is courageous and strong. It’s patriotic. So while these so, so incredibly long days drag on, it is important to remember we are helping to write history. We can be the next greatest generation.

How do we do this?

  • Well, we accept a new normal…for a while. How long is unknown. It won’t be like this forever. So, let’s make the best of it, and feel a little grace along the way. This is your big chance to lead a work meeting in your pajamas, or hear your boss’ kid crying in the background of a conference call. There is something hilarious about cobbling together dinners made solely out of canned goods, or rationing out toilet paper amongst your family members.
  • We will learn new things about ourselves…I am learning a lot of things about myself and how I handle a crisis. For example: a) I can feel lonely, even in a room full of children, a husband, and a dog. b) Not being able to go to the grocery store when I want to causes me to feel claustrophobic. c) Starting the day off with a shower improves my mood and helps me be a better mom and employee.
  • We will practice self-care…Aside from forcing myself to get dressed every day in something other than sweats, I am trying my best to practice that thing we might talk about but never really take seriously: self-care. When my brain gets too foggy, I take a walk. When I begin to feel overwhelmed and anxious, I do some deep breathing. And I encourage my toddler to do the same. Just as my Director, Jennifer Johnson, said on our Conversations COVID-19 video talk show, “this is truly a time to lean on others” (from at least six feet away!). When my kid couldn’t go play with her friend on Sunday, we hit the pavement with sidewalk chalk and wrote secret notes to her buddies. Come Monday morning, our driveway was scrawled with messages from kids from throughout the neighborhood, and the joy in my daughter’s face helps me to know we will get through this.
  • Skagit County, we can own how difficult this is. We don’t always have to be so tough. Along the way, we can help each other make it through the challenges we face. This is already happening! After all, it does not take much to find encouraging and heartwarming and stories in the news and on social media. The heroes are all around us – probably right next door. These stories tell us something about ourselves – they show Skagit’s ability to find the positive in a seemingly negative situation. Just stay tuned and you will find more in upcoming editions of Skagit Health Connection.

So, here’s one Public Health employee saying, “You can do this.” And please just know, you’re not alone. 

For great ideas and support for families, check out United Way of Skagit County’s COVID-19 Resources for Parents & Caregivers: