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How coronavirus is disrupting life for one Forsyth County family
Mary Beth Tallant will have to balance working remotely from home and her two kids, Wynn, left, and Sailors, right, with schools closed due to the novel coronavirus. (Photo courtesy Mary Beth Tallant)

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Mary Beth Tallant is used to working from home. But, she admits, the next week is going to be different.

Tallant, a sales representative for a commercial tile and stone company in Alpharetta, and mother of two young kids, usually works from home two days a week. But the majority of her time is spent out in the field meeting with architects and designers for hotel projects. She travels around the country, too.

Not next week. Tallant’s plans to fly to Cincinnati and Scottsdale, Arizona, for meetings have been canceled. Many of her clients have postponed appointments and suspended in-person visits.

“It’s definitely not the ideal situation,” Tallant said.

The outbreak of COVID-19 from the novel coronavirus has disrupted life in Forsyth County, Georgia, the U.S. and across the world. No facet of society – from places of worship to places of athletic competition, from schools to the stock market, businesses to government institutions – has been spared.

In the U.S., President Donald Trump declared a national emergency late Friday afternoon. Soon after, Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp declared the state’s first-ever public health emergency.

Kemp also called Friday for the cancellation of public events and church services while urging the elderly and those with compromised immune systems or health conditions to follow recommendations for preventing the spread of the disease.

The day before, public school districts across the metro Atlanta area heeded Kemp’s recommendation to cancel classes for two weeks, including Forsyth County Schools. The local system decided to implement online learning days from March 16-23, and maybe longer.

That complicated matters for Tallant. It means she’ll have to juggle work and her two kids, an 8-year-old son, Sailors, who is in second-grade, and a 5-year-old daughter Wynn in kindergarten.

During the summer, it’s not so bad. Tallant is an early-riser. She gets work done in the morning, and she finds something fun to do with the kids in the afternoon.

Tallant anticipates next week will be more challenging. She needs to stay productive for work and available to her clients, which probably means lots of emails and phone calls while face-to-face meetings are on hiatus.

“There’s nothing like a face-to-face meeting with a client to discuss projects and to show them new products,” Tallant said.

She also wants to help her kids with their school work using itsLearning, the school district’s online learning management system.

“We’ve only done itsLearning a couple of times since my kids have been in school, and it’s never been [for very long],” Tallant said. “I’m curious to see how much time that will take and how much help they will need with those activities.”

Tallant also wants to do her part to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, so they plan to avoid fun activities in potentially crowded areas but also keep the kids off technology during their long stretch at home.

“There will not be any going to do something fun,” she said. “Unless we go for a walk or something.”

Still, Tallant believes it’s all for the best. She had been monitoring developments with the coronavirus closely, particularly after it reached Italy. Most of her company’s products are manufactured in the country’s hardest-hit region.

She talked with her contacts at factories in Italy, and other associates originally from the area now living in the U.S., and heard about the virus’s toll on Italy’s health care system and population.

Even so, Tallant was initially skeptical of the public fervor in the U.S. over the coronavirus. She wondered if some of it was “media hype.”

As positive cases started to be reported in Georgia, Tallant’s perspective changed.

“It doesn’t really get real until you start seeing cases pop up in Cobb and Fulton and Gwinnett,” Tallant said.

She believes Forsyth County Schools made the right decision to close schools, and that she’s lucky that she can work from home, even if life will be a little more hectic for her family the next couple of weeks.

“I know not everyone can work from home,” Tallant said, “so I think it’s just important that the people that can do, just to try to limit how much this thing spreads.”