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Dr. Halverson’s COVID-19 articles presented to museum

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Ojai Valley News photo by Grant Phillips

Dr. James Halverson presents the 60 COVID-19 articles he wrote for the Ojai Valley News to Ojai Valley Museum Executive Director Wendy Barker, right. With them are OVN Publisher Laura Rearwin Ward and Phil Caruthers. A board member of the Ojai Valley Community Hospital Foundation, Caruthers compiled all of the doctor’s columns into a bound and indexed document.

 

Grant Phillips, Ojai Valley News Reporter

Longtime Ojai physician Dr. James Halverson has been documenting the pandemic for the community since April 2020 through weekly articles published in the Ojai Valley News.

Halverson’s articles, which he devoted Sunday mornings to writing, became a vital tool for the community to better understand the pandemic. They were widely read in the paper and had thousands of views on the OVN website, becoming a weekly point of reference.

Halverson said inspiration came from a variety of sources, ranging from the newspaper to medical updates to personal experiences in his practice.

Phil Caruthers, board member of the Ojai Valley Community Hospital Foundation, collected the 60 articles and compiled them in chronological order in a bound document that was presented to the Ojai Valley Museum on June 30.

Caruthers said he was “amazed each week” as Halverson “came up with some new angle and source of information that was always very useful.”

The original intent behind the collection was to provide them to local schools, so students could learn about the pandemic in-depth, he said. “As we went on, I thought, this is really historical stuff.”

The museum is collecting COVID-19 artifacts, including masks and photos of surreal scenes such as the closed-off playground at Libbey Park and the portable hand-washing stations in the Arcade.

“It’s a chance to use hindsight to see how did we cope with this particular pandemic and disaster,” said Caruthers. “It well chronicles the development and the way the nation and the world reacted.”

When Ojai Valley Senior Reporter Perry Van Houten reported on how Ojai fared during the 1918 pandemic, the museum’s archives were invaluable. “When researching an article about the Spanish Flu pandemic of 1918 for Ojai Magazine, I found that the only thorough information came from the pages of the local newspaper,” said Van Houten. “What struck me were the similarities in how communities reacted to the health crises — the masks, the quarantines, the closings of schools and businesses — they were all there in 1918, as well.”

With vaccines rolling out and the state reopening, Dr. Halverson decided weekly updates are no longer necessary. However, he continues to monitor the pandemic and said he is ready to resume writing about it if the need arises.

Halverson’s last column on June 4, “Lessons learned,” concluded with the ending from his first on April 3, 2020:

“When this is over, may we never again take for granted a handshake with a stranger, full shelves at the store, conversations with neighbors, a crowded theater, Friday nights out, getting the kids ready for school, coffee with a friend, a roaring stadium, a deep breath or life itself.”

All of Dr. Halverson’s articles can be found at www.ojaivalleynews.com and now at the Ojai Valley Museum.

 

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