The clock struck 5 p.m.
Lynn and Jim Gorman stepped out of their Dubuque home and walked to the end of the driveway, standing at the edge of the street like children eagerly waiting for the school bus.
About one minute later, their neighbors across the road came out and gave a friendly wave. Moments later, Rita and Jack Garside, from two houses up the block, also ventured outdoors.
It wasn’t long before nearly every neighbor was standing in or near their respective yards, waving and making polite conversation. And all the while, they practiced social distancing, a key strategy to slow the spread of COVID-19.
This has been the evening ritual for the residents of Shetland Court since Saturday. At 5 p.m. each day, they leave their homes to say hello to their neighbors and have short conversations before heading back inside.
“It’s everyone coming out and checking in on each other,” said Rita Garside. “We want to make sure everyone is doing all right, and say, ‘Hello.’”
The daily check-in was the idea of Vicki and Joe Danner. The two have lived on Shetland Court for many years and have grown close with many of their neighbors.
“We would have block parties all the time,” Joe Danner said. “We have always been a tight-knit community.”
However, with the onset of COVID-19, a potentially deadly strain of coronavirus, the residents of Shetland Court, like many in Dubuque, largely are quarantined. But Vicki Danner still wanted to be able to interact with her neighbors, despite being confined to home.
“I thought it would be good to get out and see everyone,” she said.
Vicki typed up and printed out a stack of notes and had her husband tape them on the front doors of every home on Shetland Court.
The instructions on the letter were simple: step outside at 5 p.m. each day to say hello.
Lynn Gorman said she wholly endorsed the idea.
“I think it’s awesome,” Gorman said. “It’s good to get out of the house and say hello.”
Danner said many of the residents of Shetland Court are in their 70s and 80s, so the daily check helps them ensure everyone is staying as healthy and safe as possible.
“A lot of us are retired,” Danner said. “We try to keep count of everyone who is coming outside just to know they are doing all right.”
Rita Garside said she appreciates having a reason to get out of the house.
“We’ve been in quarantine for two weeks, and I’m already stir-crazy,” she said. “I’m glad I can come out, get some fresh air and talk with people.”
Vicki Danner said the plan is to continue the evening check-in each day until the quarantine is lifted. She hopes that the neighbors can go back to the usual methods of visiting each other soon.
But for now, everyone appears to be eagerly waiting for the clock to strike 5 p.m.