NORMANTOWN NEWS - By Lisa Hayes-Minney

In February, as the news of Coronavirus spread ahead of the virus itself, I made a mad-dash weekend to Mother’s in Belpre, Ohio to stock her house for the coming shut down. Little did I know at the time, I would not return for four months. Thank goodness for friends and family who have helped her in my absence. I’m heading there tomorrow to spend the weekend and do some needed projects.

I’m leaving Gilmer County (10 total cases) and will travel through Calhoun (2 total cases as of today, 1 possible pending), and Wirt (4 total cases), then through Wood (55 total), into Washington County, Ohio (117 total cases). Mother has chronic back pain, so while I’m there she wants to go to the hardware store (Wood County), the discount store (Wood County), the grocery store (Washington County), and the pharmacy (Washington County).

In addition to the normal things tossed into my overnight bag, this trip includes two masks, (one Ns5 with filters), disposable gloves, and three bottles of hand sanitizer. For a fleeting moment, I considered packing Frank’s bee suit to serve as some measure of a hazmat suit if needed. Am I being paranoid? I prefer to think I’m a “better safe than sorry” kind of girl. I wear a mask in indoor public spaces. I wear gloves to pump gas and use hand sanitizer after I touch anything public.

I’m being diligent, and I have to admit I get frustrated by people who contaminate my imaginary sterile field. I know it’s mostly in my head, but at some time in the last four months, my preferred personal space amongst most others has expanded from three to six feet. I’d prefer that strangers held back at ten. I raise my eyebrow at those who cough or sneeze in my presence.

I have to say, if you’re not wearing a mask in indoor public spaces, behind my mask I am quietly judging you. I can’t help it. We’ve been told to wear masks for others’ safety, not our own. So, why aren’t you wearing a mask for me? Why aren’t you wearing a mask for someone’s mother?

As West Virginia and Gilmer re-open, I see more people out and about, some wearing masks, some not. Everyone has the right to their own choice, don’t they? I believe in American freedoms to choose. As I understand it, social distancing of 6-8 feet decreases the risk of infection by almost 80%. When you come closer than six feet, that’s when the true need for masks kicks in. When closer than six feet, a mask can lower your risk of infection 82%, more than that if both (or all) persons that close are wearing masks. So, if you keep your distance outdoors, all should be fine without the mask. (Of course, all bets are off when indoors, and circulating air units are functioning.)

It’s no surprise that 20 states in the nation are seeing surges in the virus. In one state, their numbers are doubling every day. Suddenly, I want my own personal bubble. Coronavirus is not finished with us yet.

Here in Gilmer, our risk is low. Ten cases in four months. We are so very lucky. We are so rural and tucked out of the way, our chances of infection are minimal, and we can adapt to safe, spacious, outdoor gatherings and encounters much easier than those in urban areas. I actually feel pretty safe here, whether you wear your mask or not. But as I mentally process experiencing a public urban environment with my 80+-year-old mother, safety becomes more important. As I shift into “protect and assist” mode, I want everyone to keep their distance from her (and me), and I want them all to be wearing masks. Six feet AND masks, even though I know the recommendations aren’t quite that demanding. But… Better safe than sorry.

I saw online where one restaurant attached pool noodles to hats for their customers to wear to maintain social distancing while dining. It might be fun for Mother and me to hit the town wearing pool noodle hats this weekend--masked, reeking of hand sanitizer and bleach. I’m quite convinced it’s a great idea, but I’m sure Mother will never go for it. I have a spray bottle of disinfectant I’m thinking of wearing on my hip like a gun in a holster. That should help folks keep their distance.

So. I’ve taken a side on the mask issue. If you’re in an indoor public space, you should wear one--even if only a flimsy disposable. I’m coming to see masks as an issue of respect for others as much as for safety and health. Me wearing my masks tells elders and high-risk friends and family that I’m willing to put in the effort for their safety, if not my own. My mask says, “I am concerned about others’ health and well-being.” What does your stance on the mask issue say?

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Normantown Historical Community Center received a grant of $10,000 from Scott Electric Foundation to replace light fixtures with LED lights. They have decided to start with the gym and the concession building. They then plan to start in the cafeteria after that. Donations to NHCC can be made online at or mailed to NHCC, 3031 Hackers Creek Road, Jane Lew 26378, c/o Margaret.

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Lisa Hayes-Minney is an author, teacher, librarian, and artisanal publisher. For more information about her workshops, services, and books visit To sign up for Lisa's free seasonal newsletter, visit