This is a guest post by Kendal resident Arlene Rengert. If you are interested in writing a guest post for this blog, please contact George Alexander.

George Alexander’s recent post reminds me that in most cases each of us are making COVID-related decisions in the loneliness of our isolation as individuals or pairs.  So I thought I’d share a few that my spouse and I have wrestled with—in addition to the question of whether or not to return to indoor, group dining that George so masterfully describes.

The booster dilemma. My spouse has a compromised immune system (from strong medications infused regularly to treat his rheumatoid arthritis as well as serious diabetes and age).  Last summer when knowledge emerged that the 2-vaccine immunization often was not effective for those with compromised systems, and when a third “booster” was becoming available, we had a phone consultation with our doctor.  Kendal did not have boosters to offer, and could not commit to offering them until at least late September or October—if then.  Our doctor considered two possibilities at some length:  should he (my spouse) take the risk of entering a pharmacy for the booster immediately, or should he stay safe at Kendal and await the booster if and when available here.  At first she viewed entering a pharmacy as the greater risk.

This discussion was 15 days before the flu shot clinic at Kendal.  There must be 14 days between vaccines.  The final decision was that my spouse should seek the COVID booster immediately and take the pharmacy risk IF he could get an appointment the next day, which would be 14 days before the flu clinic.  This is what we did.

But first we had to decide on the pharmacy.  Three in this area were offering the boosters.  The first I called was not user friendly—there were long phone ‘holds’ to reach a person, the pharmacist, once reached, had brusk and harsh-with-attitude issues, and the chain had a policy of “walk in only,”—i.e. NO appointments.  So we settled on CVS, which has a user friendly website on which appointments can be scheduled, and a proactively helpful person that responded via phone.  Further, once the appointment was scheduled they sent the medical/health form electronically so it could be completed and submitted prior to the visit to the pharmacy, thus minimizing the time to be spent in the building.

Visitors. I will change the topic to decisions we have made concerning visits and visitors.  We share the Alexanders’ decision to not leave campus except for essential medical reasons.  Decisions about visits with relatives have been and are more difficult.  We have 2 sets of grandchildren in this area, and have decided not to visit them in buildings.  We have connected in parks or other outdoor spaces.  We have been visited by vaccinated adult children, for the most part in outside spaces.  I don’t know what decisions we will make as the weather gets cooler.

This past week the family with the youngest children, ages 2 and 4, had a childcare crisis for the 2-year-old on Tuesday and Thursday mornings. We offered to help, but not to go to their place or in their car.  Instead he has come to us in our protected Kendal.  We are loving the opportunity (and challenge) to spend time with our grandson, and so far have primarily stayed outside for his visit.  He has a mask and wears it for at least the first hour even though outside.  However, when he gets to the ‘I want my Mommy’ phase and starts crying there is no way a mask works.  So we are feeling our way these weeks.  As long as the warm weather holds we are fine with outside times together and are able to follow our doctor’s advice to NOT spend indoor time with unvaccinated children (which is all children).

The 4-year-old is in preschool at West Chester Friends School, at which all children wear masks.  The 2-year-old has a place there once he is fully potty trained, and he’s about 80% there–so our T Th care of him is not infinite.  We are ALL hoping that potty training is achieved before winter hits!

Gatherings. We have skipped all-but-one gathering outside of Kendal, including two Labor Day gatherings hosted by community friends that in pre-COVID times have been annual favorites for decades.  The exception was a memorial gathering for a dear friend who passed away from terrible cancer right at the start of the Pandemic.  Her spouse delayed a gathering until now, held outside at their home.

At Kendal, we attended one (outside) 80th birthday gathering (masked and distanced).  I have attended but two indoor gatherings:  the first was of 9 people sitting in a wide circle in the Farmhouse, each appropriately distant from others; the second was a discussion in Kendal Lounge at which initially the chairs were too close to each other for safety (but spread wider on request).  Everyone was masked except when speaking—but elsewhere in the lounge some residents were working on a jigsaw puzzle without masks on; I doubt that I will attend another gathering there, at least until George reports improvements in the statistics he cites.

Travel. In the year prior to COVID we had 6 major trips that included long airplane rides.  In addition to travel to or with relatives, we had plans for 3 exciting international trips in 2020-2021—Europe, India, and Antarctica.  Travel was our life.  But once COVID arrived we, almost painfully, decided to cancel our reservations when we could still do so without serious financial penalty.  We counted our blessings—that we have had much travel in our retirement years (including a first trip to Antarctica roughly a decade ago).  Was ANY other trip worth the risk that one of our lives might be shortened such that we would have less time with each other, enjoying Kendal opportunities, or watching our grandchildren mature?  We decided ‘no.’

These have been some of our difficult decisions.  I thank George for the opportunity to learn of his, and of the invitation to share some of ours.  “Alone” is a tough place to be in these times.