Toilet paper and other necessities have been scarce in grocery stores since early March; this photo of a barren toilet paper aisle was taken in Manhattan on March 13.

With the knowledge that we are living through historic events, staff at Geary County Historical Society have recorded some of their day-to-day observations for a “coronavirus diary” project.

Would you like to contribute? Check our Facebok page for a link to a list of questions we are asking folks to answer about their experiences. Feel free to answer the questions and email them to us at Please write to us – as much as you'd like! – about how COVID-19 has affected your life.

Some excerpts from our staff “diaries” follow.

Heather Hagedorn, Curator


Coronavirus Diaries: Week 1

I could talk about grocery shopping, but I think everyone knows the drill: no toilet paper, pasta or bread and if you need some eggs you can only buy a carton at a time.

So instead of talking about those empty shelves, I’ll talk about the people.

The people watching at the grocery stores right now show the complete swath of concern over the situation. Last time I went to the store I saw some people with bandanas tied over their faces, others with gloves—rubber or winter—on their hands; some not only thoroughly wiped down their carts, but gave themselves a Lysol wipe bath as well, while others walked in, grabbed a cart and didn’t disinfect at all. Some Dillon’s workers restocking the bare shelves wore masks over their faces and kept the appropriate “social distancing” space of 6 feet between themselves and the customers, while others walked around mask-free.

But the thing I saw in Dillon’s that solidified this experience the most were two old friends meeting in the produce section. You could tell that they hadn’t seen each other in a while. A shout of surprised a hello and big smiles as they caught each other’s eyes across the department. One of them moved their cart closer and they both stepped in for a hug…but wait! Social Distancing! The hug abruptly stopped. With arms still raised, the two friends awkwardly backed away from each other, realizing that they could no longer greet each other like they might have a month, or two, before.

And that’s been the hardest part of this experience for me so far: the desire to still be close to our friends and families but realizing—sometimes mid-hug—that right now that love needs to be from afar. So, from afar, I hope that everyone reading this is safe and healthy, and feeling the love of their friends and families. Even if it is from afar.

Jennifer Dixon, Director of Programs and Education

Friday, March 13, 2020

I worked at the museum with Heather today (John was out and Katie was home sick) and it was announced the local school districts were going to stay closed after spring break to help stop the spread of COVID-19 by social distancing ourselves. It feels surreal – it’s hard to get out of my head. I’m not anxious or scared, but subconsciously know that normal life is changing and who knows how long this will go on.

Heather and I bleached the museum, every door handle, light switch, hands-on areas, and even door frames that are touchable places. It smelled like a swimming pool.    

Friday, March 20, 2020

Grace, Maggie and I went to find the Geary County Lake Waterfall. I had to call my friend to redirect my lost self, but WE FOUND IT! It’s beautiful and no one was there, so we did our best social distancing. There were pictures aplenty!

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

I cried unexpected tears today. My two younger girls have been out of elementary for awhile now, but I forced them to come out and watch two Amanda Arnold Elementary School “car parades” pass by. The teachers and staff drove through neighborhoods in their school zone waving and encouraging their current and former students. I adore many of those teachers and they were so excited to see us…Grace and Maggie were equally happy to see them. I’m thankful I had my sunglasses on to hide my mess! It felt like the first day of normalcy by seeing friends. 

Friday, March 27, 2020

While most people are raiding their refrigerators and pantry for snacks and calling it the COVID “15”, a reference to the freshman 15 gained the first year of college, I am having the opposite issue. I’ve had some abdomen pain and a trip to the ER four weeks ago, and today I had more exams. Kidney stones, uterus problems, appendix ruptures have all been ruled out with a CT scan, so I’m hoping to get some answers.

I have read that abdominal pain is related to COVID-19, but I don’t have other symptoms, except tiredness. The word Crohn’s disease was mentioned, but that would be a game changer and very frustrating. I was certainly fortunate to have these procedures with many buildings starting to close due to the virus.

Monday, March 30, 2020

Today is the first day we are to shelter-in-place to social distance ourselves from catching or spreading the COVID-19 virus. The Governor of Kansas has ordered us to stay home for 14 days unless it’s important to leave (grocery store, outside exercise, or essential personnel).

Ironically, this is also the day our middle school has selected as the day to pick up all items from my daughter’s (Maggie) school and PE lockers! I envision the police pulling me over and having no knowledge of the middle school’s plans, so I’m going to drive slowly, or at least the speed limit.

Locker clean out must have been a scary task for the teachers, because I know there are many clothes that have NEVER made it home to be washed. Even though I feel Maggie’s school is safe, Maggie says they will probably find drugs in some lockers.

Back to the supply pick up – we were told to come today according to our last name initials and drive to the front of the school where a teacher would bring over a clear trash bag with all of Maggie’s magical bag of surprises. Once the bag was delivered to the car the teacher stepped back, we chatted a bit from a distance, and then Maggie got out to put the bag in the car.

Random, unrelated side note: I just yelled to my children, “Do not put her in a trash bag!” Oh, help me!

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Results of my biopsies came in today. The great news is there are no abnormalities and no Crohns! My doctor believes I had an infection of the gut and I’m now at a post infection stage with irritable bowels from it. She believes time will make it better and it could take several weeks. As we talked, I mentioned COVID-19 with the expectation she would giggle at me, but her response was  “It is a possibility.” Huh!

It’s likely a more common virus that caused the pain. We will do a bacterial test as well, but that will need to be tested for at a later date, because it’s a breathing test – can’t be breathing on people right now.

Tomorrow Grace and Maggie start online classes, so we went fishing today. No one was near us…not even the fish. 

April 1, 2020

Last night Molly pierced Grace’s ears. Shenanigans! My mom sense kicked in and I felt something was going on as I had already headed for bed. I found all the sisters in Molly’s room and she had one of those piercing guns in her hand headed for the one ear. Thankfully, this was not an ice cube and needle situation. Grace has wanted this done, but couldn’t because basketball is usually year round for her. I’m not upset with the girls, but it’s a good thing I found out, because I had saved a set of piercing earrings. Those girls only had one and didn’t know what to do with the second ear. These incidences happen around here all the time. Arms up – shoulder shrug!

Online school starts today. Maggie is in a Zoom meeting at 9 AM and Grace has one at 11 AM.

April 2, 2020

Is everyone else thinking they have COVID-19 symptoms? Is this the norm? As stated before, I had severe abdominal pain that is still causing some discomfort even this morning, but not nearly what is was 5 weeks ago. I read an article last night titled “Diarrhea is First Sign of Illness for Some COVID-19 Patients.” It goes on to say, “Finally, those with digestive symptoms were much more likely to have the new coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2, detected in their stool… This finding suggests, but does not confirm, that this virus infects the gastrointestinal tract…” It would be irresponsible of me not to read the news, but there is a line where one has to step away and focus on something else. Work and the kids’ school have helped.

Katie Goerl, Executive Director

Full disclosure: I got sick early in March. I got an appointment with my doctor March 10, and the flu test came back negative. “The elephant in the room,” he said, was coronavirus, but he didn't have any tests at that time. He explained that to test me, I'd have to be admitted to a hospital and put in a negative-airflow room, but my symptoms weren't severe enough to warrant that. At the time, the only documented cases in Kansas were in Johnson County.

I stayed away from work as soon as my symptoms started, fearing the worst, and the unavailability of tests meant that I would never know what virus had stricken my respiratory system. As a result, I have been staying at home a little longer than most folks.

The worst symptom I experienced was loss of smell and taste, which hit me March 10, the day the doctor prescribed me a steroid. I blamed the medication for my sudden inability to taste much beyond “warm” or “kind of spicy.” I wrote a haiku memorializing the experience:

Crying and eating

noodles that I cannot taste.


By Thursday, March 12, I was starting to become very concerned about our elderly volunteers. On Friday, events started moving quickly. That morning, I spoke with Heather and Jennifer and asked them to call our volunteers and tell them not to come in that day. Within hours, USD 383 had announced they would be closed until March 30. It was easy to make the decision to close the museum to the public after that. Even then, I think we all still hoped this would all be over within a few weeks.

By March 17, the state had ordered schools across the state to be closed.

On March 23, still experiencing shortness of breath and a hacking cough, I attended the graveside service for Terry Reed, husband of our longtime Research Center volunteer and board member Mary Reed. Along with Heather, I stood at the back of the small crowd; people kept their distance much more than usual, and a speaker urged us with a smile to get closer so we could hear. I tried very hard not to cough during the service. I was nervous about signing the guestbook. Why had I left the hand sanitizer in the car?

I will close this out with a little something I wrote Friday, March 27, when I was feeling rather emotional about the number of deaths facing our nation (something that fills me with dread with each passing day).

It is Friday, March 27, and I am thinking about coronavirus. I just got off the phone with Dewey Terrill of KJCK who interviewed me about the Spanish flu and its parallels to coronavirus. The article I sent in for this week's Museum Musings column in the Daily Union was about the 1918 Spanish flu, which is a topic of interest due to coronavirus. I check and multiple times per day for the latest local coronavirus news. Sensing a theme?

Like many other people, I haven't left my house in days. I am down to one roll of toilet paper. Bereft also of Kleenex, it is now illegal in my apartment to use toilet paper to blow my nose; if I do, I am authorized to arrest myself. I have already reached and surpassed the part of social distancing where I got so bored I cut my own hair (I did an excellent job, thank you for asking). Heather gave me what was by the slimmest of margins the second-best coffee cake I've ever had in my entire life (first place honors go to Nita Miller) and it was so good both of my cats tried to steal it. It was the talk of the apartment for days. Other than, you know, coronavirus.

When I am not thinking about coronavirus, tallying daily deaths and calculating the rise in numbers if they double in three days, two days, one...when I am not worrying about whether it is possible I had COVID-19 earlier this month...when I am not worrying about our elderly volunteers and historical society members...when I am not surveying my pantry considering whether I can make my next meal something I actually want to eat...when I am not trying to accomplish work for the museum despite the distraction of a thousand worries...when I am not thinking of the hundreds of young men, men my age or even younger, who died at Fort Riley 102 years ago, gasping for breath...when I am not thinking of my own grandfather's death, which came shortly after he told me he had the lung capacity of a canary, but did not result from his inability to breathe but instead from the only firearm, a shotgun, that had not been confiscated from his home....

When I am not doing any of those things, generally, I am playing Animal Crossing.

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