Lucas Messing: “Coronavirus in My Backyard”

Throughout these past few months, the community of Wilmington, Whitingham, and Dover, as well as our state, country, and world, have endured the deadly wrath of the COVID-19 virus. Given the numerous viewpoints on the virus and its social and psychological impact, the Nudge Theory is a useful behavioral framework to explore and apply. It suggests that positive behavioral actions can lead to better decision making, creating a safer environment for individuals and groups of people. 

Nudge Theory – Health Psychology Consultancy

(Healthpsychologyconsultancy & Davies, 2011)

Perhaps because our community is so small and reliant on the ski resort, we moved farther up the Nudge Theory steps than other communities of similar size. One nudge was due in part to second homeowners coming every weekend from other states. Governor Shumlin by executive order placed restrictions on travelers arriving in Vermont, while Vail Resorts decided to close the mountain to skiers.

These precautions were necessary to keep everyone safe. Dr. Davies stated, “Nudges are about long-term benefits – we won’t necessarily see them now. Stages of change – a nudge can push us along those stages of considering or acting on change.” (Healthpsychologyconsultancy & Davies, 2011). Since we may not be able to see the change occurring right now, we have to look ahead to the future.

A lot of people still aren’t aware of how dangerous the virus is, it’s distant, something on the news. But when you put a human face to something this catastrophic, it suddenly becomes real and makes a world of difference.

On Friday, April 3rd, and April 9th, 2020, we lost two amazing people in our community due to COVID-19.

Cleon and Leon Boyd

(VTDigger, 2020)

Twin brothers Cleon and Leon Boyd were deeply involved in the community, and therefore a beloved part of it. They meant so much to the community and, of course, to their families and friends. They enjoyed telling stories, singing, working at the family farm, Cleon grooming trails at Mount Snow, Leon mowing local lawns, and going to their camp.

I interviewed one of their family members, Mary Genella:

All we keep hearing is they were the two guys to greet people with hugs and make everyone around them happy. They each would always have time to tell stories, they were the two that knew everyone. The Boyd family is so big that even though you didn’t know either of them directly, you knew their family or you heard about them working at the farm, Cleon at the mountain, or Leon mowing lawns. Being twins, they have known so many different generations, you always hear about something of them. Even though you didn’t know them, you can still mourn his loss because you know someone that is in his family. That is what makes the biggest difference. (M. Genella, personal communication, April 10, 2020)

The twin’s death brought everyone in our community together. A procession was held in Cleon’s honor on April 5th, and Leon’s procession followed on April 12th.

(Mays & Reformer, 2020)

Over 500 cars filled with family and friends drove past the Boyd Family Farm and houses of Boyd families. Both men were only 64 years old but were in healthy condition.

With their deaths, the virus became a personal matter within our community, and raised awareness even more. This has led to widespread concern over whether second homeowners are following specific guidelines and requests made by our governor.

Currently, the Windham County district has the third highest cases of the virus in Vermont. Also, the town of Wilmington alone accounts for 20% of the deaths in the state.

Screen Shot 2020-04-22 at 10.58.11 AM.png

(Vermont Department of Health, “Current Activity in Vermont”, 2020)

It’s shocking to see how many people, families, businesses, and communities have been affected by the virus. The Nudge Theory helped many people and businesses in our community find ways to adapt to the crisis and this new lifestyle. In an interview, Laura Sibilia, one of our State Representatives, told me,

It is hard to find an aspect of life that it has not disrupted. Some businesses are seeing an increase in activity and seeing real disruptions in how they are able to work. They have to work to keep their customers and workers safe. It is catastrophic and we had a pretty serious workforce hit prior to this. Although it is disruptive and chaotic there will be good things that come out of it. (L. Sibilia, personal communication, March 27, 2020)

Due to the impact, the virus has had on our community, we were able to reach the final step of the Nudge Theory. Not too many communities have been able to do this, but because of COVID-19’s impact, we worked to sustain this behavioral change for everyone’s health.

Even so, these past few months have taken a heavy toll on everyone’s physical, emotional, and psychological lives. My father, who is a registered nurse at Berkshire Medical Center, explained what he’s had to endure, as well as at his hospital.

On a professional level, the virus has stressed me out, has caused me to lose sleep, it’s caused a lot of stress in seeing how our country and our community is affected, and how other people in our community do not follow the social distancing, putting other people at risk. Professionally it has affected pretty much everything we do in the hospital. I’m a registered nurse and it has put all of us at great risk. (D. Messing, personal communication, April 21, 2020).

Stress and anxiety are a large part of this world we are living in right now. Health care workers are sacrificing their health and risking their family’s health on a day-to-day basis.

You are tired and you just want to get away, but you must make one last effort, concentrate on each movement you make to remove all the protections. Each movement has to be slow. You can finally take off the mask, and when you peel it off, you feel a searing pain from the bleeding cuts that it made in your nose. The tape was useless — it didn’t stop your nose from bleeding or hurting. But at least you’re free. You leave the undressing area naked, put on uniform scrubs, and go to the changing rooms. (Castelletti, “A Shift on the Front Line”, 2020)

It is hard not to be confused or anxious, so it’s especially important that we continue to follow the specific guidelines and restrictions that health care professionals and our government are making. The UVM Medical Center stated:

As humans, we crave connection and social interaction. It is important for us to stay socially active and connected while we experience and practice physical distancing. Remaining connected to our community and to ourselves is one way we can keep our immunity in a healthy, balanced state. (UVM Medical Center, “Coping with the Stress of Isolation,” 2020)

Just because we have to social distance ourselves doesn’t mean total and complete social isolation. My community has done a solid job following the protocols as well as the behavioral changes. With everything that has transpired, everyone needs to understand that we can’t try to rush things.  Yes, we are not able to live our normal lives right now, and it’s because our families, friends, communities, states, countries, and the world’s health depends on our actions.

My community has been widely impacted by the COVID-19 virus, yet through it we have learned about each other, ourselves, and our world. We have suffered and grown closer for it. Yes, it’s a weird life we are all living right now, but with consideration and planning — and in the community spirit of the Boyds — good will soon come.



Mays, C., & Reformer, B. (2020, April 8). Community mourns the loss of ‘local legend’. Retrieved April 8, 2020, from,601732

Healthpsychologyconsultancy, & Davies, N. (2011, July 19). Nudge Theory. Retrieved April 1, 2020, from

D. H. (2020, April 14). Current Activity in Vermont. Retrieved April 22, 2020, from

Castelletti, S. (2020). A Shift on the Front Line. New England Journal of Medicine. DOI: 10.1056/nejmp2007028 Public Health Response. (2020, April 14). Current Activity in Vermont. Retrieved April 15, 2020, from

UVM Medical Center. (2020, April 13). Coping with the Stress of Isolation. Retrieved April 15, 2020, from

VTDigger, K. O. C. (2020, April 18). Twin Vermont brothers felled by COVID-19 made a ‘quiet yet big mark’. Retrieved April 22, 2020, from

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APA cite in text as: (Messing, 2020)

APA cite in full References as: Messing, L. (2020). Coronavirus in my backyard. Vermont Psychology. Retrieved from

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Lucas Messing: I live in Wilmington, VT and I graduated from Twin Valley Middle High School and CCV this year. I have grown up my entire life in the rural community of Wilmington, and although this community is small, I have learned so much. I work for a restaurant in my town called the Cask and Kiln Kitchen, where I run food, expedite, and bus tables. I am also a part of Mount Snow Ski Patrol where I assist injured guests and help keep the mountain safe for all guests. This rural community has given me so many great opportunities, like CCV, a job that I love and make good money, the relationships with family and friends, and so much more. I’m excited for the next step in my education and can’t wait to take what I have learned here and apply it to new beginnings and opportunities. With that said, I will be attending Gannon University in Erie, Pennsylvania, where I will major in Applied Exercise Science and play NCAA Division II soccer for the school. Psychology has always been an interest of mine for some time now and I’m excited to take what I have learned and apply it to the next level of my education.