Wearing a N95 mask and brown felt cowboy hat, pharmacist Matt Johnson shovels four inches of snow off the sidewalk in front of Lyon’s Corner Drug in downtown Steamboat Springs. At 8:30 a.m., he unlocks the front doors, turns on the lights and sits on a stool in front of the empty counter of the pharmacy’s soda fountain, which usually attracts a crowd three deep.

Johnson, a father of four whose wife is also a pharmacist, says his focus these days is on creating an atmosphere of calm for his customers. “There’s an underlying anxiety we see in people’s eyes, and one of the most important things we can do here is maintain normalcy,” Johnson says. “The population this virus has the potential to really devastate are also the people who take the most medications, so it’s a real precarious situation.”

By mid-afternoon, Johnson is busy—filling prescriptions, checking in with doctors, negotiating with insurance companies. He fields one phone call after another, taking delivery orders, answering questions, and talking to patients seeking reassurance after days of isolation.

He hasn’t fully comprehended how the novel coronavirus will change him, but he says he believes it could spark a recalibration of sorts. “We don’t need to go back to churning our own butter,” he says, “but I hope we come out of this with a more wholesome perspective of what it means to be part of society.”

Two weeks ago, Johnson purchased a supply of N95 masks. He kept some for his employees and donated the rest to pharmacists and technicians in town who he says weren’t getting the personal protective equipment they needed.

“I think it’s just natural to want to take care of your colleagues,” Johnson says.

At 8:30 p.m., Johnson locks the pharmacy’s doors and heads out to make a few more deliveries. Arriving home an hour later, he undergoes a process that has become ritual for him and his wife, Kelly. They disrobe, put their clothes in the washer, and take a shower.

“And then, only then, is when we get to hug each other and give each other a kiss,” Johnson says. “And finally, I’m home.” —Lisa Schlichtman / Steamboat Pilot & Today

This story is powered by COLab, the Colorado News Collaborative. 5280 joined this historic collaboration with more than 20 other newsrooms across Colorado to better serve the public.