Technology keeps community connected during pandemic

Internet programs eases sense of isolation during COVID-19 threat

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CLAY COUNTY – Most people are experiencing things they could never have conceived of before the outbreak of the COVID-19 virus. People are out of work or working from home. Restaurants and banks are open only to drive-thru service. People are being advised in some places to stay home if possible.

In previous generations, it would have been nearly impossible to continue any sense of normalcy under those conditions.

Modern technology is playing a role it has never played before. Being shut-in doesn’t disconnect you from the world. The only way to truly be disconnected is if you lose power.

Students from elementary schools to universities are attending classes online. School districts that don’t regularly host a lot of online courses have quickly adapted to virtual learning to continue the school year that was already in progress with the possibility that in-seat classes may not resume for the remainder of the school year. Many parents are getting used to virtual schooling for their children as well.

“We are new to this online school system,” said Shay Cabrera, a parent of a sixth-grader. “Although my daughter already had some homework done online. She is not used to having her full class done virtually.”

Clay County School District recently sent out a survey asking if students had access to a computer or the internet at home. They sone will be allowing students to sign out Chromebooks. Visit oneclay.net for details.

St. John’s River State College is also adjusting. Spring break for students and classes was extended to give instructors time to convert from in seat to online courses. That transition is expected to be ready by March 30.

“Many of our classes are already offered with an online option, with some being online only,” said Susan Kessler, Director of public relations. “Our math classes, English/composition, science, business, history, etc. are offered both on-campus and online. Right now, on-campus faculty are continuing to work on that transition and that includes the distance learning platform [Canvas]. Many already teach both on-campus and online classes and they are assisting the on-campus faculty through this learning curve.”

Education isn’t the only thing affected by COVID-19. With the recommendation/order that people engage in social distancing, most natural processes have been made more difficult. Technology, however, again becomes the savior.

Many people, especially here in Florida, have relatives in senior living facilities. The elderly is particularly susceptible to the virus. As such, just about all visitation is suspended. It’s here that technology swoops in again. Some facilities are setting up virtual visits where the family can visit with their resident online. Applications like Skype, Facebook, WhatsApp and Facetime make face to face communication over a distance a much simpler task.

We can do almost anything digitally. Apps on our phones allow us to do most banking functions. We can order takeout or groceries. With social distancing being embraced, e-commerce has increased in certain areas. Purchases of household goods and groceries from various online retailers for both pickup and delivery have increased significantly. Items best fit for extended quarantine such as shelf-stable milk, beans and fruit snacks are among those seeing the increase.

Restaurant dining rooms are closed to on-site service, but hungry patrons don’t need to dine in. Applications like Uber Eats, Doordash, or Grubhub, people can order whatever they have a taste for and have it delivered.

A quarantine of any type, voluntary or not, can leave everyone scrounging for ways to occupy their time. The internet, video games, and streaming platforms of tv and movies can provide endless hours of entertainment. Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime TV, among others, can give a person nearly-infinite options.

Today, almost no matter the situation, once there are devices with power and internet connectivity, there is access to the world, virtually and all without a person going beyond their own front door.

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