Staying fit during a time when citizens have been ordered to stay at home is local CrossFit coach Jena Fealy’s focus and her way to help other people who want to stay active while homebound. / Photo courtesy Jena Fealy

Coping with COVID-19: Upshur Countians dig in and pitch in

“During recent weeks, as we’ve all anguished about the arrival into our community of this invisible challenger, the coronavirus, I have observed the best of our humanity,” the mayor of Buckhannon wrote in response to a question about the community’s response to the coronavirus. “I think, overwhelmingly, most people are kind, supportive, caring and compassionate.”

In keeping with the Mayor’s statement, amidst the unprecedented Covid-19 public health crisis, local people are experiencing a renewed commitment to their communities and to one another.

As citizens across the state simultaneously watch Governor Jim Justice’s statewide addresses and President Donald Trump’s press conferences, people are tuned into one stream of information in a way they haven’t in years – maybe even decades.

This uncharted territory that’s interspersed with frequent updates from politicians and medical professionals in real time has oddly brought a renewed sense of shared experience and shared responsibility to a country that has been harshly divided in recent years.

As the country hunkers down and tunes in, many locals are stepping up and pitching in to help each other, using the catch phrases “Buckhannon Strong” and “Buckhannon Together” as slogans.

McCauley said, “I do lend great credence to the words of Alexander Pope upon whom I often rely to get through my own rough patches”: Pope wrote in “An Essay on Man” published in 1732, “Hope springs eternal in the human breast.”

“We should all be reminded about our human hope, that element of our essence that keeps us going, fighting on, no matter how perilous the battle,” McCauley said of the unfolding crisis.

In keeping with the mayor’s thoughts, many local businesses and individuals are simply doing whatever they can to prepare for and diminish the spread of this disease and are preparing to do whatever it takes to see this crisis through.

Local businesses are offering carryout and delivery; grocery stores have created special hours for senior citizens and those at heightened risk of contracting the virus; parents and teachers are working collaboratively to educate the county’s students; schools, charities and senior centers are providing bagged lunches; people are delivering meals and prescriptions to the elderly and sharing ideas and resources to help each other.

From neighbors asking neighbors for the proverbial cup of sugar or flour rather than driving to the nearest store to larger grassroots operations creating face masks and providing meals, Buckhannon is, once again, coming together in a crisis.

Buckhannon resident Misty Post, said she recently created the Facebook page, “Buckhannon Together,” so local people could share just such positive stories with each other.

Post also helped organize an endeavor with local 21 Century Realtor, Tom Thacker, and local clothing wholesaler and manufacturer, Ashland Sales & Services, to create face masks to compensate for recent shortages.

“CAMC (Charleston Area Medical Center) has an approved design for face masks,” Thacker said. “They are the only hospital that I’ve found that had a design approved.”

WVU Medicine and St. Joseph’s Hospital are currently evaluating their policies regarding homemade personal protective equipment in clinics and hospitals. Right now, however, St. Joseph’s is accepting donations of new and unused N95 respirators face masks, ear loop isolation masks, isolation gowns and nitrile exam gloves, according to a recent press release from the hospital.

Any of those items may be dropped off at the loading dock in the rear of the hospital, on your left as you come up the hill to the hospital.

“There’ve been a lot of side volunteers that have also started making masks at home and have donated material,” Post said.

Handmade PPE sewn at Ashland Sales & Services / Photo courtesy Misty Post.

According to Post, local resident, Rosalee Hummel, is making 60 masks out of Post’s old Crown Royal bags.

“I have over 2,000 Crown Royal bags, and I’m willing to donate them to whoever wants to make masks,” Post said. (For a full story on the local mask-making operation, click here.)

Staying fit during a time when citizens have been ordered to stay at home is local CrossFit coach Jena Fealy’s focus and her way to contribute her skills to other people who want to stay active while homebound.

Fealy, who is also an oil and gas abstractor, said she began posting home workouts on Facebook after the governor ordered all fitness centers and recreational facilities to close on March 18.

“I want to show our athletes that it may not be ideal, but we do have the capabilities to still maintain fitness with what we have to work with. I want to be a motivating factor for them, and they keep me accountable for myself as well. I have also found that the videos have motivated people that are not a part of our CrossFit community, and that is just as rewarding,” Fealy said.

“The response has been phenomenal, and it is amazing to see so many people thinking outside of the box,” said Fealy who added that Almost Heaven CrossFit has turned the gym into a “virtual gym by utilizing our Facebook page where we send videos of our daily workouts, nutrition tips, question of the day and small challenges.”

While everyone can’t mobilize a large campaign, many local people are trying to do whatever they can to help each other, be it big or small. Teresa Woody, who is a U.S. Census Bureau Recruiting Assistant currently on a work-at-home order, said she has been sharing and swapping groceries with her neighbors and close friends as a way to limit their trips to the grocery store and exposure to large groups of people.

“We’ll trade an avocado for a bag of rice or whatever we may need for a recipe,” said Woody.

“My son trimmed my hair,” she said with a laugh. “I’ll need my regular stylist when this is over.”

“My friends and I have traded our supplies with each other from our homes. It’s preventing us from unnecessary exposure or potentially spreading the virus…onions for a loaf of bread, eggs for milk, fruit for veggies. You get the idea,” Woody added. “I love my neighbors.”

While residents are making the best of this situation, McCauley, added a somber note.

“I have witnessed people I know and care about tear up over the prospect of losing their job, or their business,” he said. “These same folks have often been the most reassuring, encouraging me to continue to help look out for the best interest of our community, to help get us through this difficult time like most of us have never seen before.”

“I believe there is much to hope for, as the goodness in most people shall prove to be our greatest strength,” he added.

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