For Jennifer Schaerer and her family, the COVID-19 pandemic led to a move to southern Utah and an embrace of small-town life.
Other Utahns, responding to a call from The Salt Lake Tribune over email and social media, also shared what’s changed in their lives after a year under the pandemic. Wearing masks and working from home were recurring topics.
For the Schaerers, the pandemic started profitably, as they had sold an investment property in the first month of lockdown. The money was going to go toward remodeling on their home in Draper, Jennifer Schaerer said in an email, “but we happened to find a property in Kanab that we thought would become a vacation rental, so that’s where we invested instead.”
The Kanab home, she said, “became our refuge.” Jennifer and her husband, Marc, and their two children — Catherine, 18, and Max, 14 — ended up spending about 75% of their time there since June.
“Once we got the cadence of planning ahead with larger grocery runs to Hurricane, about an hour’s drive, and keeping a pantry full of back stock, we realized we could live there,” Schaerer said. So they decided to sell their Draper home — they are scheduled to close on the sale this week — and live in Kanab.
Elsewhere in Utah, Tribune readers say they are reaping the benefits of working from home.
Jacqueline Diviney, who lives in West Valley City and is a customer relationship manager for an IT service desk, works from home, “and I no longer feel social pressure to leave said home,” she said.
Cj Wilkinson, a stay-at-home mom of special-needs children in Murray, said the pandemic has taught everyone “exactly who can actually work from home, and who cannot.”
In other words, Wilkinson said via Facebook, “we know bosses were just being jerks to people who had sick children, or were sick themselves, and were made to send kids to school regardless, and made to go into offices regardless, to spread that crap around to everyone else.”
Wllkinson also noted what doctors have called a beneficial side effect of measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19: “Primary Children’s Hospital hasn’t admitted a single RSV patient this season. That is huge! And our pediatrician’s office said this is the slowest season they ever had. Folks, this is miraculous, the opportunity that COVID gave us to learn how to do things a little better. Let’s not screw it up the moment COVID is over.”
Kristal Zaugg, an intensive care unit nurse living in Orem, is processing what she has experienced this year. “I saw more people die this last year than I think I ever have working in health care,” she said.
“Once it’s over,” Zaugg said through Facebook, “I do not plan on wearing a mask or social distancing if not necessary, but I do plan on paying more attention to hand hygiene and staying home when feeling under the weather.”
JJ Jean Esplin, who lives in Salt Lake City and works in the mental health field, said that the pandemic “has taught me that some people are more selfish than I would ever have thought possible. They really don’t care about anyone else but themselves.”
More optimistically, John Bird, a fire inspector in Salt Lake City, said he “was reminded to appreciate all the ‘little things’ in life and reminded how important respecting science is to the well-being of all humanity.”
In Kanab, the Schaerer parents work from home, while the children take online school — Catherine has been taking general coursework through Salt Lake Community College, and Max is a freshman at Mountain Heights Academy, an online charter school. Max is considering enrolling in Kanab High School next fall, his mom said.
The Schaerers are planning to invest in more real estate in the Kanab area. Jennifer Schaerer said they expect vacation rental houses — through apps like AirBnB and VRBO — to gain popularity with “families who can now travel at more random times.”
The isolation brought by the pandemic, Schaerer said, “has helped us understand the value of intentional connection and the planning that goes into it. Near or far, we can make it happen with quality, if not quantity.”