Photo by: Bob Yurko

COVID-19 Hits Home: AARN Editor Len Sammons, Mother Maude Fighting Back From Coronavirus Infection

The coronavirus is real. We have all seen it on the news, listened to the daily press briefings, debated whether or not it was time to start reopening the economy, and even asked ourselves… do we know anyone who actually has the virus?

The Sammons family and the staff of Area Auto Racing News found out that the virus is real and it can, in fact, affect you.

Area Auto Racing News publisher and editor Len Sammons and his 92-year-old mother Maude both tested positive for COVID-19. Pat Mason, Len’s sister, appears to have been infected as well. Both Len and Maude were fortunate to have mild cases of the virus and are well on their way to a full recovery.

After participating in AARN’s Monday deadline for 38 consecutive years, encompassing well over 1500 issues, the 65-year-old Sammons was missing from his desk at the office in Hamilton, N.J. on Monday, April 27 and for this week’s edition on Monday, May 4. Sammons hopes to return to the office later this week and return to the Monday deadline room on May 11.

During his isolation, Sammons participated in the publication of both editions, working from his home office. Thanks to advancements in technology, ISPs are able to provide a faster internet speed for working from home which proved to be a boon for Sammons and allowed him to continue work without any hindrances. In conjunction with his editorial staff, he did page layouts on Sundays from home. His computer was then returned to the AARN office where the paper was finalized on Monday before being sent to the printer. Since the Coronavirus arrived and shutdowns were enacted, AARN has continued to publish weekly despite no on-track action to cover. Office hours were adjusted and safe distancing measures were put in place when the AARN staff was in the office. Whenever possible, work was done from home by staff members.

Through these efforts, it appears no other AARN office staff members have contracted the virus. The 14 day quarantine period for Len and Maude is approaching by the middle of this week, and at that point all staff members will also be in the clear.

At this point, no employees have shown any symptoms similar to what Len has dealt with for the past thirteen days.

The question remains…how did Sammons become exposed to the virus? His daily routine was simple and basic: A trip to the Post Office, the drive-up line at the bank, work and home, with an occasional trip to the grocery store, before returning home to spend time with his Mom. His mother’s recent birthday was celebrated by a family drive-by in front of her home.

It appears COVID-19 entered the Sammons family home through someone they had never met. Maude Sammons has home comfort aides who take care of her daily. While her aides never showed symptoms, one of their other patients contracted the virus and another aide of that patient was infected. While the company took swift action and removed the aides from the job and placed them in isolation, the symptoms soon hit Len, then Maude. The scary part is that Maude’s aide never showed any symptoms. But it appears likely she silently transferred the Coronavirus without suffering from it herself.

Another aide from the same company, who also cared for the infected patient, but not Maude, did test positive. Was it this connection or from someone else?

Len and Maude Sammons were lucky to have a mild case which did not require hospitalization. After just one night of very high temperatures, Len’s fever broke. He then battled a hacking cough, back soreness and nausea before beginning to feel better this past weekend.

Maude has done surprisingly well. Despite the disease preying on the senior citizens, she is a tough lady.

Starting AARN with her husband Leonard J. Sammons, Jr. in 1963, she worked full-time at the paper until retirement 15 years ago. She has outlived every member of her family generation, including her husband who died 29 years ago. Maude survived the Great Depression of the 1930s, and a host of medical emergencies over the years.

During his absence at the office, Len’s son Danny picked up much of his work load with Assistant Editors Earl Krause and Steve Barrick along with members of the AARN staff. That includes Lauren Afflerback, who handles the AARN circulation/ subscription department, and has been at her desk every day while handling the busy phone lines.

While not tested, Len’s youngest son Davey, who is AARN’s Photo Editor, showed signs of COVID symptoms. Exercising an abundance of caution, he also worked from home while handling the photo duties. With Davey’s wife Jamie in her seventh month of pregnancy, he also isolated himself at home to protect his wife, the baby and their young child.

COVID-19 has hit home and it’s scary because of its unknown factors. It can be spread, from person to person, despite one’s best efforts and without one’s knowledge.

With plans now being put in place to resume racing, those in the sport need to realize the possible danger and follow the guidelines that are being put forth.

We all take so much for granted in life. This has been a wake-up call for everyone in the Sammons family and the office staff. Len’s car has been parked for ten days, his daily routine of working at the office put on hold. His freedom to do as he pleased was taken away, and family members who brought food to the house were forced to leave it outside.

Let this also be a wakeup call to everyone in our sport. If you were one of those who said before you didn’t know of anyone in the sport who has had the virus, you do now. Those numbers seen nightly in news reports might now take on a new meaning.

The motorsports industry does need to get racing restarted so bills can be paid. But decisions must be made properly so we’re not shut down a few weeks later because the numbers begin to increase again rather than decline.

The 2020 racing season can be saved, but it has to be done using every precaution. Remember, Len’s life was shut down for two weeks by someone he never met.

Tracks are slowly being given permission to host practice sessions or open for racing with fans. If you participate, follow the distancing rules to the letter and wear a mask whenever possible. Don’t become one of the statistics!