Thanks to the magic of Zoom meetings, it seemed like a great idea to hear from Mike Lassel's cousin Wolfgang Lassel, who lives just outside of Salzburg, Austria, to talk to us about what life is like under the influence of COVID19 out there in Austria.  We had hoped to hear all sorts of encouraging news about how disciplined citizens can keep the virus under control, but were dismayed to find that many of the issues we face in America they have also been facing in Austria.  Although a self-proclaimed "master of life" who enjoys boating in the summer, Wolfgang described life once COVID hit Europe.  There were massive shutdowns in February, hard lockdowns in March, but by the summer the numbers had decreased substantially so life improved somewhat.  Unfortunately, the next spike arrived in mid-November and their cases rose to 9200 vs. the 1300 they had during the summer.  So the country went into "lockdown lite", with only stores and markets opens.  However, since the 17th of November, they have been in a hard lockdown.  Just like here, people are experiencing pandemic fatigue.  The country's leadership wanted testing to increase, but only 22% of the population took them.  Sadly, people have lost faith and trust in their government in the handling of this crisis.  Germany, too, is in hard lockdown now.  If one travels between countries, the person needs to quarantine for 10 days.  People are working from home, kids are learning from home, but, unlike us, the average size of most homes/apartments is about 650 square feet.  Imagine a family with working parents and kids trying to learn, all squeezed into such tight quarters.  One repercussion of this is an increase in domestic violence.  People must wear masks everywhere, even at home.  About 10-15% of the population refuse to wear masks.  Austria has a population of 8.5 million people, and with no restaurants, no hotels, no businesses running normally, the economy is in crisis, too.  There have been limited government subsidies, with people receiving at the most 70% of what they need.  They, too, suffer from mixed messaging coming from the government about this.  It's very discouraging.  So if, like me, you expected to hear some encouraging news and great ideas for dealing with this, the talk was definitely a downer.
Token of our Appreciation to First Responders
What better way to cheer people up than to thank them and give them chocolates and gifts?  That's the plan for our club activity during the week between Christmas and New Year's.  We have already gotten the chocolates, the baggies, the ribbons, Brenda is preparing the thank you inserts, and Lena has created some artwork expressing our thanks to each of the departments we will be honoring.  We envision having a little parade, ringing bells, and then dropping off our gifts to first responders and others.  Stay tuned.
Not sure who our next speaker is, but it's always pleasant to get together at 8:00 a.m. on Thursday mornings when Deb organizes a Zoom meeting.