Escaping the virus: Local residents find fun activities

Jonathan Podeszwa fishes with his son Odin at Tidbury Creek Park on Saturday. Delaware State News/Marc Clery

LEIPSIC — They grabbed golf clubs and footballs, fishing poles and leashes to walk their dogs.

Others gathered in parks, pushed strollers, visited museums and went out to lunch.

Some ditched their cell phones and ignored social media, jogged and rode bikes.

For a few hours at least, local Delawareans found respite from a world seemingly overtaken by coronavirus.

On Saturday afternoon at George C. Wright Jr. Memorial Park in Smyrna, Michael McCormick watched his son enjoying the playground under a blue, sunny sky and a decent late winter temperature.

Mr. McCormick had hoped for more fun, but his carefree, energetic son still seemed unaffected by the crisis around him.

“We were going to go to the Baltimore Aquarium today but the whole state of Maryland is shut down,” Mr. McCormick said. “I had to tell him that the fish were sick and we didn’t want to get sick.

“That was my quick thinking about explaining why we were staying home.”

That’s not to say that the pandemic was forgotten. A woman leaving a small gathering at Townsend Municipal Park was heard to say, “Nice to meet you. I’d like to shake your hand but have been told not to.”

Dover’s J.D. Hogsten was at peace before teeing off at Garrison Lake Golf Club south of Smyrna. A great afternoon was ahead, he said.

“There’s fresh air, blue skies, playing with a buddy, making good shots, making bad shots, turning off the cells,” he said.

The course parking lot was mostly full as cart riding golfers unloaded and packed up their bags. General Manager Steve Farrell expected 75 rounds or so to be played in small groups.

“Our business has been solid,” he said. “There’s a nice crowd today due to the weather. Our play hasn’t been affected. We’ve taken a few phone calls this week to see if we’re still open but there’s been no feeling of panic.”

Brian Lee, left, and Dan Sullivan go one on one at George C. Wright Jr. Memorial Park in Smyrna early Saturday afternoon. Delaware State News/Craig Anderson

As her two daughters guided their Blue Nose Pitbull Ross to the car, Tonya Johnson sounded at least temporarily at ease.

“For the most part you can’t go to any channel and not hear about it,” she said while exiting Middletown’s Charles E. Price Memorial Park.

“This is a stress reliever for us and for him.”

Nearby at the dog park, a group of about 10 celebrated beagle Ollie’s birthday, complete with balloons and a refreshment-filled table and lighthearted conversation.

“Personally I’m not stressed about it at all …,” said Garrison Cooper, with his English Labrador next to him.

“I work at a hospital delivering meals, though, and I’m concerned about taking care of older people …

“Also, my sister is a Type 1 diabetic who can’t be anywhere near somebody who might have symptoms.”

Getting outside

Sipping a soda while sitting underneath a pavilion at Townsend Park, Shannon Swankowski sounded a bit conflicted.

“I’ve got one foot in each camp,” Shannon Swankowski said. “My husband works for Bank of America and he has to go in to work, he can’t stay home based on what he does.

“I’ve stayed home more and fortunately got things done ahead of time such as renewing my driver’s license, went out and bought groceries, things like that.”

According to Mrs. Swankowski, “I don’t know if I’m less stressed but at least I’m outside.”

Dan Sullivan and Brian Lee played basketball in Smyrna and planned to eat at a restaurant afterward. Mr. Sullivan had recently counseled his 13-year-old daughter to quell her coronavirus worries.

“I haven’t felt stressed, but when kids hear about it and there’s no filter the fear sets in,” he said. “They react to whatever they hear and so much information is coming their way.

A father and daughter walk in Brecknock Park in Camden on Saturday. Delaware State News/Marc Clery

“We’re making logical decisions and will be wise about how we interact out in public.”

There’s a lot of misinformation circulating, Mr. Lee said.

“Some of what’s being put out to the public may be accurate, some may not be accurate,” he said. “I’ve started to turn off the news because of the 24-7 coverage of it.

“It’s good to be out, grab a bit to eat, play basketball, just relax a bit.”

Dover’s Jesse Santiago and his dad Jose cast their fishing lines into the Leipsic River from a bridge on Del. 42 just outside of town. Father caught an 8-inch long perch and son had only a nibble so far.

“I work at a senior living home and there’s definitely some worry there,” Jesse Santiago said. “There’s a lot of people who might have trouble and it’s up to us to take care of them. We were on lockdown at one point this week so it’s obviously been a serious situation.”

On this afternoon, Jesse sounded quite content just waiting for the next bite, whenever it might be.

“It’s enjoyable, it’s calming, it’s relaxing,” he said. “We try to do as much of it as we can.”

Staying safe

About seven miles south down Del. 9, Richard Shockley was just packing up his gear at the Little Creek Boating and Fishing Access Area. He’d just finished up an hourlong session that landed a couple perch.

The Magnolia resident said he’s taken the advice to try to avoid large groups of people and said “there ain’t nobody around here as you can see.”

Mr. Shockley said he was glad to be away from getting advice about the pandemic.

“I get tired of hearing about it,” he said. “I only need to be told once or twice to wash my hands for at least 20 seconds to keep doing it, which is what I’m doing.”

Jose Santiago watches his fishing line standing on a bridge near Leipsic on Saturday afternoon. Delaware State News/Craig Anderson

In Smyrna, Mr. McCormick espoused a similar viewpoint.

“You listen to the news and its become so repetitive, you’re hearing the same things over and over and over again,” Mr. McCormick said. “We got through Ebola and SARS in the past. This is going to go away in six months. It’s just a crazy, sad world right now.”

Small groups visited the Air Mobility Command Museum at Dover Air Force Base. Operations Manager Michael Hurlburt said the tourist attraction considered closing and they would continue to closely monitor health conditions and safety concerns.

“I’ve gotten calls all week and other staff in the store have taken them as well,” he said. “If I was going someplace I’d call first too.”

Tresa Strohkirch arrived from Green Bay, Wisconsin the day before and seemed happy enough while watching her small son sprint from one exhibit to another.

“I brought tissues and hand sanitizer,” she said. “It’s been a great 24 hours so far, we’re really enjoying it. It’s nice to go to a base where there’s a feeling of safety and security.”

Helpful Coronavirus links

Delaware Division of Health Coronavirus Page
CDC: About the Coronavirus Disease 2019
CDC: What to do if You Are Sick
Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center
AP News Coronavirus Coverage
Reopening Delaware: Resources for Businesses
Delaware Phase 2 guidance

Have a question, tip, or resources about the coronavirus pandemic? Submit it to our newsroom and we’ll do what we can to provide answers.