I follow Ellen Jovin on social media. She’s also the Grammar Table, which started when she took a small table into Verdi Square on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, arranged an array of usage manuals and hung out her shingle: Grammar questions answered here. Now she’s developed a bit of notoriety, enough that she and her husband, Brandt, took Grammar Table on the road and are working on a film and a book about their experiences.

On social media, Ellen often turns the tables on her followers, asking them questions, and polling respondents on whatever crosses her inquisitive mind. Recently, she asked folks for a reading on the pandemic in their communities:

“Dear Facebook friends around the world, where are you currently located, and what is coronavirus life like for you in your location right now? I am in Manhattan, and I don’t hear as many sirens from emergency vehicles as I did for several weeks when it was really bad. I can’t report much on life on the ground, because my world since early March has mostly been confined to my apartment. Grocery stores are open, and pharmacies are open, but many other things are closed, and I have groceries delivered to reduce contact. I exercise with a mask at night every other night when there are fewer people out. I am wondering how you are experiencing this global event.”

I read this on my phone and realized that a response would take more effort than I was willing to put my thumbs through, so I waited until I was in front of a keyboard:

Dear Ellen:

Coronavirus life in our corner of Alabama is, frankly, discouraging. We had a couple of weeks of “lockdown,” with a relatively weak gubernatorial mandate to stay home unless you really need to go out, and that’s now been lifted. I’ve been to the grocery store a time or two, and it seemed only slightly less busy than usual, with far too many people unmasked. For several days, it seemed surreal, and then things began to inch back toward normal.

Meanwhile, in the city’s two hospitals, the number of cases slowly grew, and increasing deaths followed.

Now the state is “slowly reopening,” and an alarming number of people apparently believe the danger has passed. One day recently, I ran a couple of errands that involved little human interaction. Business as usual. Few masks. Fewer gloves.

And the number of cases — and deaths — continues to climb.

On Thursday before Memorial Day weekend, the governor further relaxed restrictions from the capitol in Montgomery, which, ironically, reported that only one ICU bed remained in the city, that the situation was worsening and that patients were being shipped up to Birmingham for treatment. The beaches are open, as are restaurants, and Memorial Day traffic on the way to the coast is expected to be about the same as in previous years.

I’m fortunate to have the option of working remotely, and I do so from the patio, where the greatest threats to my well-being are the occasional chipmunk or skink, and too much pound cake and carryout catfish. Our plans are to stay in, pretty much, for another good while. Someone else can be the canary in the coal mine.

My hair is approaching a state not seen since the ’70s. I have a tentative appointment in a month. We’ll see.

Hope y’all are OK. Hey to Brandt.

Bill Perkins is editorial page editor of the Dothan Eagle. Email: bperkins@dothaneagle.com.

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