Changes to an Alabama Army base due to coronavirus

Catching up with an old friend who is sheltering-in-place on an Army base in Fort Rucker, Alabama.

State governments across the US have implemented different strategies to slow down the spread of the novel coronavirus. Three of the four most infected states—New York, Washington, and California—have issued shelter-in-place orders, and for those states President Trump activated the National Guard.

The state of Alabama has less than 200 cases of the contagion and no fatalities. Governor Kay Ivey announced that an anonymous donor had elected to donate “100,000 masks and personal protective equipment,” according to MSN News.

Having graduated from the University of Alabama in 2016, I decided to reach out to my college friend Taylor, who still lives in Alabama.

Taylor is a Youth Fitness Specialist living in Fort Rucker, AL, on the Army base, and she shared with me that “the base has essentially been shut down.” Everything has effectively shuttered its doors except the hospital, gate guards, and food employees. The soldiers are still proceeding with their duties as usual.

Even though she runs a youth gym that has closed down, she’s decided to continue showing up since she doesn't get paid if she doesn't work. She has the option to burn her paid time off (PTO) if she wishes, or leave without pay, neither of which sounds very attractive to her.

Taylor considers her job to be non-essential in the time of a crisis, and wishes that she and those in a similar situation could be put on administrative leave. She doesn't think it's right that a circumstance like this should eat up an employee’s paid time off or threaten them with the possibility of not getting paid at all.

While it seems that everyone is on social media complaining about how bored and miserable they are under a lockdown, there are those, like Taylor, who have to report to work, who don’t get to take advantage of free time at home. “I wish I could work from home at least. The time passes very slowly, but I’m trying to find things to do so I don’t become lethargic. I’ve mostly been working out.”

Taylor shared that the town has “shut down schools, cancelled extracurricular activities and events, and restaurants are only carry-out.” This is the new normal for everyone in the US. Businesses and normal operations are suffering from lack of traffic due to executive orders given by governors without providing a timeline for when things will resume as normal.

When the schools initially shut down, Taylor said that the town was more or less a ghost town. Now people are congregating at stores as usual, with their children in tow. “I think if the virus does reach here it will spread really quickly because the stay-at-home thing doesn’t seem to be sticking.”

And it’s certain that some of this restlessness is caused by not knowing when things are going to go back to normal. State governments have a responsibility to keep their citizens informed about what’s going on and how they plan to lead us through this pandemic. Shutting down businesses with no clear strategy in place to make up for lost revenue is sure to frighten and frustrate many people.

“During these tough times, I think it's important to think about other people. So, if possible, stay at home. There is so much to consider besides ourselves. Things ranging from the risk essential workers face every day, to small businesses closing down, to kids not being able to eat, to people being sent home without pay, to people's mental health being severely affected. I'd say stay home, buy gift cards to local businesses, be grateful, and move your body. Take a walk. Just don't meet up with people.”