Until recently, some of us – outside the world of infectious disease research – cheered ourselves into believing the new super-flu COVID-19 was a creation of the 24-hour news cycle.

We blissfully overlooked the fact that it can be deadly and those who survive will suffer permanent lung damage. It is the stuff of which science fiction stories and disaster movies are made.

Our hopeful hearts relied on optimistic but untrue reports that a vaccine would be available soon and in plentiful supply. Everyone will be inoculated and life will return to normal, the optimistic muse.

The unavoidable truth isn’t going to unfold that way or that quickly and we need to prepare for what our brave new world will look like during the COVID-19 era.

Here is our forecast for our tiny corner of the world. It begins with a question but, then, everything is a question in this new reality.

Will there be a Blossom Time this spring given the annual festival is the polar opposite of social distancing?

No word from the Chagrin Valley Jaycees yet.

If it comes to a Blossom-less spring in 2020 it will mean bad news for the charities and nonprofit organizations who receive the proceeds from the annual festival.

And there will be dozens of other scenarios like this playing out among other organizations whose event plans remain in limbo.

Meanwhile, Chagrin Falls merchants vow to put up a fight and survive this new world by getting creative about marketing. That has meant going beyond the borders of their brick and mortar shops to internet ordering and delivery options.

While that happy innovative trend continues, those dependent on the face-to-face tourist trade will take a hit and those under-capitalized businesses or ones who were on the edge before the virus, will close. Empty storefronts could be the landscape of our downtown.

It won’t end there. Since our downtown business and retail district represent half the village’s real estate and income tax revenues, Chagrin Falls will suffer its own recession and face cuts in services.

We return to backyard burn piles. The air thickens, turns grey as ashes fall onto our pretty porches. River Run Park on Solon Road is returned to its earlier use as the village dump, but soon the runoff finds its way to the river named for the town that is now fouling it.

In our disaster movie, our tidy town will begin to look more like Bedford Falls than Chagrin Falls. There will be hoarding. In fact, it has already begun.

There is not a bottle of hand sanitizer to be found anywhere including the usually-reliable internet sources, so people are sharing homemade hand sanitizer recipes and making their own, if they can get the ingredients.

But, since there is no formula for making “TP,” people are standing in line at Costco to get their hands on toilet paper. There is plenty now but what to do when that runs out? It’s too complicated to make since Sears Roebuck stopped printing their catalogue.

Because this disease is a sneaky one, there is no telling who has it and who does not. Some of us are carriers. And so we will turn inward and isolate ourselves from everyone who does not have a smartphone and cannot post, tweet or email.

Flash forward. But our disaster movie has a satisfying ending. We have been through Hell and back and we are a kinder, gentler people for having shared the harrowing experience.

During the bad times, even in our isolation and loneliness, we continued to share cute kitten pictures. And did not care about the senders’ political party, religious affiliation or economic standing.

Eventually, we ventured out of our homes and worked together to clean up the mess we made of our town and our river. Blossom Time returns and ride bracelets are $10 apiece.

Equality reigns and we are happy again. No more divides, except those among us who had the foresight to acquire stock in companies that make toilet paper and hand sanitizers and the good sense to buy low and sell high.

Elbow bump, everyone. Now go wash your hands.

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