Bristol’s Missy Holland offers a picture of the pandemic we can relate to (video)
Missy Holland, like most Vermonters, has been spending time at home in Bristol during the COVID-19 pandemic, navigating the world of virtual interaction over Zoom and finding time to walk with friends (physically distanced and masked, of course).
A retired higher education administrator and a trustee of the Rokeby Museum in Ferrisburgh, Holland has called Vermont her home for the past 10 years, although she still travels to New York City, where she also has a home. Her interest in being interviewed for this project on the COVID-19 pandemic stems from wanting to help students complete projects, and I want to thank Holland for taking time to discuss her experience during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Watch the full interview online with this COVID Science package clicking here.
We began by talking about changes in her daily life, of which the biggest impact for Holland has been the loss of spontaneity. She notes how “you can’t just go do something” without considering where you are going, and that “everything has to be plotted out,” such as having a mask with you. She has also had to navigate virtual board meetings over Zoom, which has been a change, as well as travel between New York and Vermont. She recalled that on a recent trip back from New York, she took back roads, and it was nice “being in places (she) had never been before” at a time when new experiences are exceedingly limited.
Overall, Holland pointed to how quality of life has changed as a result of the pandemic.
Perhaps one of the biggest impacts in her life has been not being able to spend time with family, Holland said. She told me how the closing of the Canadian border serves as a physical barrier in that she is not able to visit her son and his wife in Toronto. She usually travels in the spring to visit them but was unable to do so this year. Fortunately, her son was able to visit her this summer as he maintains dual citizenship.
Yet it still has been difficult, and family time is different. The large family gatherings, which Holland told me happen over long weekends such as Fourth of July during the summer, were not possible. Despite not being able to see loved ones, she is thankful that her family has maintained good health through the pandemic.
We also discuss the advantages and disadvantages of living in Addison County during a global pandemic. Holland points to Vermont’s “strong leadership directed by science” that has offered “clarity and guidance” throughout the pandemic as the main advantage. She also emphasizes that having a smaller population, there is more space for people to spread out, which is certainly the case in Addison County. This space has allowed Holland to go on walks with her friends and feel safe, contrary to her experience in New York City.
At the same time, having space and living amongst a small population does have its disadvantages, and is particularly isolating. In New York, Holland described how she has gone to museums and that there is generally more to do there than in Vermont.
One of the more contested debates during the summer was that of reopening local schools and colleges, and Holland shared her perspective. She said she has great admiration for the work the private and public institutions have done. She also shared how important it was to bring students back into elementary schools, as in-person education is critical for child development. It was not as critical for high school and college students to return given that they could learn virtually, she added.
Holland’s biggest concern was regarding colleges, especially the travel of “students coming back and forth” from potential high-risk areas with many COVID-19 cases. Despite all that has been done in education this fall to continue teaching students, Holland acknowledges that there “probably have been compromises in the quality of education.”
In the video conversation, we also discussed the COVID-19 vaccine and the vaccine development process. Holland told me that “if Dr. Fauci takes it, I will take it,” and that the possibility of former presidents receiving the vaccine publicly may help in convincing those on the fence to get the vaccine. Despite her plan to get vaccinated, Holland said she is concerned about the process of developing the vaccine, especially with regard to the expedited process and monetary conflicts of interest of pharmaceutical companies. When we talked she wanted to make sure that all the protocols for getting the vaccine approved are strictly followed before vaccinations begin.
At the end of the interview, Holland shifted gears to talk about her involvement at the Rokeby Museum in Ferrisburgh, which was a stop on the Underground Railroad during the 19th century. Holland describes how the museum has incorporated advocacy into its platform in recent years in order to highlight social injustice. Although Rokeby had to close down briefly during the pandemic, one board member who is a doctor wrote an essay that was published on the VTDigger.org on how COVID-19 disproportionately has been affecting people of color. The essay, among other work at Rokeby, has been about connecting “history with the present” as a way to emphasize racial injustice and the ramifications of history. Upon reflecting on the last nine months, Holland has come to the idea that “this world belongs to the (younger generation) now,” especially considering how young people have been involved in social movements such as fighting for racial justice.
Holland also looks toward the future in thinking about her grandchildren, and what they will remember of the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite all that has transpired since March, she is fortunate to be in good health, and looks forward to getting back to the spontaneous aspect to life in the near future.
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