2020 will never be forgotten. It is the year where we became intimately familiar with terms like “global pandemic,” “social distancing,” “stay-at-home orders,” “distance learning,” and “Zoom.”
It is the year when a smile could be elusive, hidden behind a mask, and a hug or a handshake was sometimes replaced with a fist bump or, more often, no contact at all.
2020 was the year we became more deeply divided as a nation, not just by policy and rhetoric, but by the politics of the pandemic itself. Social media made us all economic experts, amateur virologists, crusaders for personal liberty, and plain old busy bodies.
And whoever thought that going out to a movie or dining in at a restaurant would seem like a thing of the past, or worse yet, that by year’s end, more than 400 friends, neighbors, loved ones, or even just strangers would die from a disease for which there is no cure?
Whatever your take on COVID-19, it has left many of us changed. Perhaps permanently.
“Early on, COVID was something you heard about on the news or read about, it’s not something you really thought about being here in the Imperial Valley,” said Jonathan Hinshaw, a mathematics teacher at Southwest High School. “Initially, there was a lot of shock when schools sent the kids home in March. With a lot of students and teachers, it hadn’t hit them that this is happening, and this is serious.”
Students thought it was going to be a long spring break and they would be back in school in a few weeks.
“Initially, we thought it’s going to be a nice break, we’ll do school online for a few weeks,” said Jose Devoux, a 17-year-old Holtville High School senior. “There just seemed to be a lot of confusion about when or if we’d ever get to go back to school.”
Confusion seems to be the common theme of 2020. Confusion among the young, the middle-aged, and the elderly. Confusion on how to accomplish everyday tasks while combatting COVID-19.
We took a look at three Imperial Valley households to see how they managed to cope with a worldwide pandemic in 2020.
Jonathan and Elisa Hinshaw, COVID-19 Survivors
2020 didn’t start out well for Jonathan Hinshaw, who as a lifelong Los Angeles Lakers fan couldn’t believe it when Laker legend Kobe Bryant and his daughter died in a helicopter crash in January. But as a family, the Hinshaws were in a good place when 2020 kicked off.
Elisa had just finished her volleyball coaching career at Southwest High School and decided she wanted to spend more time with her two young children, daughter, Kailani, 10, and son, Keanu, 6.
Jon, a math teacher at Southwest, had just finished a season coaching the Eagles freshman boys’ basketball team and was looking forward to getting back to coaching the girls’ team during its upcoming season.
Their daughter was excelling at school and Keanu, who is autistic, was showing signs of improvement in his school thanks to a new medical treatment.
“Things were all moving in the right direction, and then all of a sudden we had to shut things down,” said Jon, who is in his 21st year teaching at Southwest High. “As a family, we took every precaution we could when the initial shutdown happened. We took things very serious.”
A November family trip to Big Bear turned out to be a misstep for the Hinshaws, as they rented a cabin to enjoy some time outdoors. Unfortunately, COVID-19 made its way into the cabin and all eight adults staying there tested positive for the virus.
“We did everything we could. We weren’t going skiing, and we weren’t hanging out in town. We were just enjoying the fresh air with family,” Jon said. “We’re not sure how it got in the cabin, but it infected all of us.”
While Jon and his two children had mild-to-no symptoms, COVID hit Elisa hard. Once back in El Centro, she struggled to breathe, lost her sense of taste and smell, and was having such a hard time she was taken by ambulance to El Centro Regional Medical Center, where she was diagnosed with pneumonia.
“The hospital did great work with her. The fluids, the medication, the treatment she got there was outstanding. Our doctor prescribed her the hydroxychloroquine cocktail, and the next day she was noticeably better,” Jon said.
Elisa said the ambulance ride and the fact she couldn’t hug her husband and kids while in quarantine is what would bring her to tears.
“That was my family, and they couldn’t be with me in the hospital, and I couldn’t be with them when I got home,” she said. “I could hear them outside the bedroom, but I couldn’t give my babies a hug, and it felt horrible.”
The family has all recovered from COVID and is back to taking every precaution they possibly can.
“It’s not something to be taken lightly and not something to just thumb your nose at,” Jon said. “It’s real and it is killing people, and if you don’t take it serious, it is going to affect you or your family. We let our guard down and it got to us.”
Jose Devoux, Holtville High School Senior
Jose Devoux has been the star running back for the Holtville High School football team for three years. 2020 was supposed to be his and his team’s crowning moment, when everything came together, and they delivered a championship to the community.
A typical spring and summer for 17-year-old Jose means football practice and time in the weight room. But when students were sent off campus in mid-March, there was an air of doubt cast over all the normal routines. He saw the Class of 2020 lose out on its prom and graduate with a drive-through ceremony.
“When we saw them have to graduate like that, we just started wondering if we were ever going to get back in school or would we have to graduate like that as well,” he said. “As summer came and went and we still weren’t practicing and weren’t going back to school there began to be some doubt if we’d ever get to go back.”
Jose is one of the top running backs in the CIF-San Diego Section and was already on the radar of college recruiters and coaches. But recruiting, like everything during the COVID-19 era, came to a halt. Division I and Division II college recruiting went dark and coaches and recruiters couldn’t make contact with the high school players.
“Before COVID, I’d talked to some coaches, but when it all went dark it kind of all turned to hype and what players had all the hype pre-COVID,” he said.
While Jose has continued to work out and run to stay in shape, he admitted it’s looking less and less like a football season is going to happen for his senior year. Originally scheduled to start in September, then December, now January and possibly further, he said it is disappointing missing out on his final run as a Viking.
“This was our year. This is the group of guys I’ve been playing football with my entire life since I was a little kid,” Jose said. “We have all of our offensive line back and we have good team chemistry. We have a slight glimmer of hope that there might be some kind of season, but we’re just hoping for the best and preparing for the worst.”
One positive from the distance learning for Jose has been the realization that he wants to pursue a career in healthcare and said he’d like to become a nurse practitioner.
Jamie Chew, Calexico Recreation Department
With more than 20 years at the Calexico Recreation Department, as sports coordinator, Jamie Chew grew accustomed to working late nights, long hours, and weekends.
The first two months of 2020 were no different. The last 10 months, she has had to reinvent herself within the department and take extra precautions when going home.
“I’m used to doing day classes with the adults, after-school classes with the kids, and then trying to go catch a high school game in the evening,” said the 51-year-old Chew. “I’d stop at the house to sleep or grab something to eat, and then I was back out. In Calexico, we were just coming off a high with the boys’ basketball team winning CIF when everything shut down in March.”
COVID-19 put an end to her recreation department classes and forced her to keep a closer eye on her elderly parents.
“It’s been hard. For the last 20 years, I’ve been a hands-on person and not the type to work 8 to 5 and sit behind a desk,” Chew said. “We’ve had to do some brainstorming within the department to see what we can offer our residents. Luckily, we’ve been offering more and more classes through Zoom and Facebook Live.”
Chew has been able to turn one of her lifelong hobbies into a recreation department class called “Sketching with Chew.” She gets in front of the camera and walks through, step-by-step, how to draw a character such as a superhero or most recently, Santa Claus.
“I’m certainly not a natural in front of the camera, but this is something that comes natural to me and drawing is something I’ve been doing my entire life,” Chew said. “Pretty soon, I hope to be offering virtual basketball clinics for the young kids.”
Chew and her family have had to change their routines as well. She said they get together via Zoom about every week, where before, they’d all congregate at her parents’ house. Keeping her parents at home and safe has also been a chore for Chew.
“They’re old and retired, so they like to get out and go see things and go to the casino,” Chew said. “But that’s all had to stop since COVID because they are high risk. Now I go do the shopping for them and don’t let them go out anymore unless it’s to a doctor’s appointment or somewhere they absolutely have to go.”
A positive outlook that this will all eventually come to an end is what has kept Chew and her family going.
“I’m fortunate to still have a job and still have my parents. The holidays have been tough because we would normally have a lot of family getting together,” Chew said. “We’re just trying to stay safe, wear a mask, and stay at home as much as possible.”