More Dogs on Main: A plaguing anniversary |

More Dogs on Main: A plaguing anniversary

We'll be debating the appropriateness of the response for years to come

Tom Clyde

Park Record columnist Tom Clyde.
Tom Clyde mug

Three years ago this week, the Covid plague hit Park City. We had a nice day of skiing on March 14t, and heard the news that Park City Mountain was suspending operations for a while. The next morning, I was getting ready to ski at Deer Valley and heard on the radio that it was closed. For the season. All dressed up and no place to go. 

The scene unfolded in ways that seemed otherworldly. We had a town packed with the spring break traffic here to ski. They woke up with the resorts closed, but also all the restaurants, stores, and, for that first couple of days, really everything closed. They couldn’t get flights rescheduled to go home, or shuttles to the airport. The grocery stores were sort of open, but by noon on the 15th, the market in Kamas was stripped bare. There was one package of frozen okra in the frozen food section. It may have been there since 1918 flu epidemic from the looks of it. The grocery stores in Park City were also stripped bare. I don’t know what the visitors ate for the couple of days it took to find a way out of here on a plague-infested flight to their equally contagious homes.

A friend’s daughter took a picture of Main Street on St. Patrick’s Day evening. There isn’t a soul visible for the whole length of the street.

Here we are, three years later, with a buffet of vaccines. The “National Emergency” declaration is finally expiring in May, as if anybody is paying attention to it anymore. We went from corpses stacked in refrigerator trucks in New York to covid being one of those things that we all will catch from time to time. Miserable but not fatal. Science appears to have averted a complete disaster, though that didn’t stop the ridiculous theories that somehow Bill Gates wants a computer chip in my neck so he can track my every move. (He made me write that.)

We’ll be debating the appropriateness of the response for years to come. The rules seemed arbitrary and stupid. Bike shops were closed, but you could buy bikes at Walmart. It was fine to get on an airplane with 300 other disease vectors coughing in coach, but a movie theater was certain death and had to be closed. Even locally, the protocols were entirely different between Park City and Kamas. Everybody in Park City masked up. In Kamas, after the first couple of months, nobody did. I’m not sure the outcome was any different.

School closures were an unmitigated disaster for kids who lost a year of social development. For all but the most motivated kids, they also lost a year or more of academic progress. But if you were a teacher, the prospect of spending six periods a day with 30 dripping noses broadcasting viruses from a hundred different households, showing up in person seemed frightening.

We had the whole work-from-home movement. Second homeowners came to Park City to avoid the plague and have never left. Population data doesn’t really bear out the theory that we grew a lot, but the Covidians were real. Occupancy of vacation homes surged, traffic is up, and the summer of the plague was our busiest ever as people discovered “outside” again. Nobody wants to go back to the office. The work/life balance has tilted in favor of “life.” That’s a good thing.

What still stands out to me is the blur of it all. There is a period of maybe as long as two years where I’m unable to clearly place significant events in order. Within the family there were a couple of babies born.  My brother-in-law died of a heart attack in their house next door to mine. I was right there with my sister and their son while the EMT’s tried to save him. It was traumatic, yet I can’t place it within two years, other than it was during that covid void where time kind of stopped. There were weddings and funerals and other births and deaths, canceled graduation ceremonies and general weirdness.Could have been a month, or maybe two years.

I had been skiing that winter with a group that included some longtime friends and also people who were friends of the other friends, but relatively new acquaintances to me. It’s a wonderfully unlikely and eclectic group, with close to a 30-year age spread. In an attempt to make sense of it all, and preserve some social contact, we started a Wednesday night Zoom cocktail where we got together on somebody’s business Zoom account and just spent an hour together. It became an anchor of normal in a world where normal was hard to come by, and casual ski buddies became close friends. Three years later, even though we are back skiing together all the time, we’re still doing the Wednesday night Zoom.

Covid left a hole behind. A hole in time, a hole where loved ones died, or frayed connections with relatives who went down the anti-vaxxer rabbit hole. Kids lost a couple of years of childhood. The elderly were shut in care centers with only the most limited access, so families lost a couple of irreplaceable years together with grandma. No way around it, “normal” is better. But the covid hole is still there.

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