Corrie Melton said she didn’t really understand how serious the novel coronavirus was until she and her family went on vacation.
Many families attempted to leave for spring break last year as usual after Leon County School District classes ended on March 13, but it became nearly impossible to outrun the spreading outbreak.
Melton, vice president of membership and talent development for the Greater Tallahassee Chamber of Commerce, took off with her husband Cal and 10-year-old son Phillip for a skiing trip in Beaver Creek, Colorado. Florida had announced around 51 positive cases at the time, but Leon County had yet to see one.
“We were going somewhere where we were going to be outside the entire time so we thought we were going to be fine,” Melton said.
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Colorado ski resorts were busy on Saturday, March 14 welcoming tons of spring-breakers, including from soon-to-be hot spots like New York, Texas and Florida.
Colorado had 101 positive COVID-19 cases, with 39 of those from the counties where the resorts were located. Eagle County, where Beaver Creek is located, accounted for 20 of those 39 cases.
As the Melton family arrived that Saturday, the head of Vail Resorts decided to shut down its North American operations for eight days, including Beaver Creek. Colorado Gov. Jared Polis followed later in the day with an executive order temporarily shutting down all of the state’s resorts a few hours later.
“By the time we got there, the grocery store was empty, the town was empty,” Melton said. “It was like a ghost town.”
They stayed just long enough to book a return flight to Tallahassee
By this time, spring break had been extended by a week for all school districts in Florida due to the pandemic. Melton thought that once classes were back in April, everything would be back to normal.
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But reality quickly sank in.
Gov. Ron DeSantis ordered a 30-day statewide shutdown for the month of April as cases climbed day after day in Florida and around the globe. Melton worked from home while her husband continued his chiropractor practice as an essential worker.
While Cal was following federal health guidelines when seeing patients in his Centre Pointe office, they were both caring for their aging parents and their son. So they made protecting them from the virus their top priority.
Melton said Cal would throw the clothes he wore to work into the washing machine before entering the house when he arrived home each day. He’d take a shower before greeting his wife and son to prevent any exposure to COVID-19 from possibly infected patients.
“If it had just been us and even with our son, you know we’re all healthy, I think we probably would have been not quite that worried,” she said. “But we just had too many other lives we interacted with all the time that we just couldn’t take that chance.”
Working from home challenges
Philip has spent a year and some change doing remote learning. Schools closed through the end of the school year and she took on the role of parent, teacher and working professional on a daily basis.
“We turned the kitchen table around and I had my workstation and (Philip’s) was literally right next to me so I could kind of keep my eye on what was going on,” she said. “It was tough at first because it was so completely different and even I didn’t understand all of what they were asking them to do.”
Melton said after this stressful experience she relates to at-home moms because she was busier than she had ever been before.
“You work harder at your work because there’s that little piece of you that you want people to know that you’re doing your work and not just watching TV or cleaning the kitchen,” she said. “But on top of that, you’ve just got everything. You’ve got kids, you’ve got parents, you’ve got animals. You’re in the house so you realize when things need to be done. But you still have to wait until Saturday to do those.”
Melton feels blessed that no one in her family has become ill or lost their job, a situation she knows was not the case for many other families in Tallahassee.
Despite the Delta variant sickening tens of thousands across Florida this past summer, many families returned to normal routines after the vaccine rollout.
Melton works full-time back at the chamber downtown.
Cal no longer sheds his clothes outside and showers before entering the house to see his family.
And Melton said Phillip eagerly returned in person to class this fall.
About this project
This project is funded by the Knight Foundation as a part of its community grant program, which supports projects which promote economic opportunity through the arts, journalism and entrepreneurship. The project, which is being published in online and print editions of the Democrat over a series of days, is a partnership of Knight, The Village Square, the Community Foundation of North Florida and Skip Foster Consulting. See more stories from the project at www.tallahassee.com/pandemic-economy. This series is available to all online readers, but we hope you’ll subscribe to support local journalism like this at offers.tallahassee.com.
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This article originally appeared on Tallahassee Democrat: A Rocky Mountain COVID nightmare for Tallahassee Chamber VP