By Clay Coleman
I can’t remember when winter ended.
I remember the shock of the biting cold after being away from its embrace for so long. I remember the tree lightings and the three-pointers during high school basketball games. And as I recall the significant events that took place in the community over the past few months, I don’t know when winter ended, and spring finally arrived. Like everyone else in the country, I was taking a COVID nap.
Since the beginning of the year, Missouri has had more than 10,000 reported cases of COVID-19 and 524 attributable deaths. As we sat isolated in our homes watching the virus spread throughout our towns and paralyzing our large cities, schools closed, shops shut their doors, and thousands of Missourians were either furloughed or lost their jobs.
But there are signs of hope. Over the last few days, the number of new COVID-19 cases in the state has been fewer than 100. Last Tuesday, Vandalia City Administrator Darren Berry announced his three-phase plan for reopening the city. Utilizing a “slow, conservative approach,” Berry said that getting back to normal would be a slow process.
“We will be following state and federal guidelines,” Berry told the city council Tuesday, “unfortunately, staying in line with these guidelines, some hard decisions had to be made.”
During phase one, which starts immediately, city crews are back to full strength and working a full time schedule. City buildings will remain locked, and the City Hall lobby will remain closed to the public, but the drive-thru window is still available. City park shelters, playground equipment, and basketball courts will remain closed during phase one, but the tennis court, disc golf course, and walking trails all will be open. The city pool will be closed for the remainder of the season.
“The hardest decision has been to keep our city pool closed,” said Berry. “Not only will it affect the people in the community, but all the summer employees we hire. (It’s) a sad thing to see our parks and basketball courts closed—and the pool adds to that sorrow.”
Sometime in June, Berry said when he feels the conditions would be right, the city would begin phase two of the reopening process. City buildings will be unlocked, and City Hall will be open to the public with limited interaction and social distancing required. City park shelters and bathrooms would open, yet “high touch” areas like basketball courts and playground equipment would remain closed. Berry reminded the council that Municipal Court and the work release crew from WERDCC might become available during this phase.
During the third phase, Berry says that everything should go back to normal, minus the need to continue to social distance, especially if you feel sick or suffer from preexisting conditions. All of Vandalia’s basketball courts, playground equipment, and city council meetings would be open to the public, and work release crews should be back at work.
America not only can survive this pandemic; we can be better for it. We must never forget that our sacrifices, our fears, that weight we carry during times of difficulty and stress are eventually released up in the air, coming back down and falling into place. Helping to lay a foundation on which we will continue to overcome anything.