News Editor

Stephen Milligan is the news editor of The Walton Tribune. He lives in Monroe and is a graduate of the University of Georgia.

My brother seems increasingly convinced I am going to die.

Although a native Georgian himself, my brother took his wife and child up to Pennsylvania last year when he accepted a job at Penn State University as a professor of digital humanities at one of the school’s satellite campuses.

It’s been interesting to hear him talk about the adjustments needed to live up in Yankee territory, far above the Mason-Dixon line, where sweet tea is a myth and no one’s ever heard of Zaxby’s.

His misadventures grew more complicated, however, when the coronavirus reared its ugly head and turned American life everywhere into a game of whack-a-mole, where people are too afraid to peek out of shelter lest COVID-19 bop them on the head.

This complicated life quite a bit for everyone. We had to adjust to not seeing him again for some time — which isn’t that hard, except that we would like to see my niece far more often than we do, and he usually feels the need to tag along.

Even when everyone was in the same boat of sheltering in place, he would message me periodically wondering how we were weathering the situation.

When my parents and I went to eat at a restaurant in mid-March, right before everything shut down completely, he was lambasting me over text message for exposing ourselves to the dangers of the outside world.

Never mind that he stays home all the time, teaching classes over the web, while I go to work in person every day already. No, it was a jaunt out to get a chimichanga that would spell my doom.

Now Georgia is first out of the gate in easing back restrictions and he’s once again freaking out, convinced we’ll do something to catch the virus and die because we dared step out of our front door.

I’m not entirely convinced myself we’re not ending shelter-in-place rules a bit too early, but on the other hand, that didn’t stop me from going to get a haircut as soon as I could. That was nearly two weeks ago and I haven’t dropped dead yet.

There’s no good answer, of course. The virus has not hit Walton County hard — due in part, I’m sure, to the stringent measures we’ve observed so far.

To get the economy rolling once more, we need to emerge at some point, but that may risk seeing infection rates rise if we’re doing it too soon. Yet there’s no way to stay indoors forever.

I’m not too worried, myself, and I’m ready to get out there a bit and live once more.

But I always can rely on my brother to predict my imminent demise, just in case.

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