COVID-19 has forced people all over the world to stay at home on strict quarantine, but some folks manage to find a way to stay positive. While Italians sing from their balconies, and the French applaud their doctors, neighbors in Bethesda, Maryland, are dancing and singing together — while keeping their distance.
Ann Johnson, a retired artist, and Michael Fetchko, a biologist, are doing their best to lift spirits at their apartment complex. They organize daily “drive the virus away“ performances to distract people from everyday worries, if only for a little while.
“We are trying to raise people’s spirits, that’s what we’re doing,” says Johnson. “It started with my neighbor in the other building. She called me and she said, ‘Come out to the balcony. We'll wave because we hadn’t seen each other for a while.’ We did that a few times and we thought maybe other people would like to do it, so we passed the word.”
Johnson is joined by Fetchko, her neighbor.
“Part of it is just to make sure that everyone has some outlet each day where they get to see their neighbors,” he says. “You feel very isolated when you are inside. You are doing the right thing, but you want to remind yourself that you are not alone in this. So it’s just a matter of getting people to know that everyone is in this together.”
Otherwise, the neighborly singers spend the rest of their day like most Americans — staying at home following the guidelines of local and state authorities.
“My husband and I are trying to keep a schedule,” Fetchko says. “We have a dog, so she keeps us up and out when she needs to go. So that helps.”
Johnson says she looks forward to her daily musical time-out from self-isolation.
“It’s so nice to be with my buddies, too, even if it’s at a distance,” she says. “It lifts me for the whole rest of the day.”
The song-and-dance enthusiasts intend to continue their performances, doing their best to help cheer up their friends and neighbors. Because, in a time like this, they believe even 15 minutes of dancing can make a difference.