ESSAY: Watching ‘Rona through a kaleidoscope

Like a lot of other regular people in the states, I didn’t think that much about COVID-19 towards the end of last year when it started popping up in China.


China is far away, we’re over here, China has a good healthcare system and everything will be okay, I thought. When people here in the states started getting worried about it, fear didn’t cross my mind, and I went on with my days as I had been normally.


This was only a few months ago, and I don’t need to tell you how different the entire world is now from just four months ago. Things happen fast. Looking back, It was probably my natural ignorance as an American to not take this as seriously as I should’ve. “If it’s not in the US yet, why should I be stocking up on supplies? Why should I worry?” Even our own President told us not to worry, and that it was all under control.


When we’re seeing events unfold through a screen, especially if it's happening not where you are, it’s hard not to feel disconnected from it. Things can get distorted, and It’s hard not to feel that it’s not really happening since it’s not affecting you directly. This shifted a little over a month ago one morning when I was doing my weekly visit to East Lansing, right by Michigan State University, to visit my girlfriend at the time.


She had just gotten a mass email from the university saying that somebody on campus has COVID-eque symptoms and for safety concerns, they were shutting the campus down until further notice. Michigan State University, according to a Fall 2019 enrollment report, had nearly 50,000 students enrolled. We went out later that day to get food at the local Asian-mart nearby.


There were lines all around the store.


Meijer was entirely packed, and the traffic was unbelievable due to everybody from the dorms heading home. I was in the same town with somebody who later ended up having COVID-19. Who did they have contact with? Were they near me? Did they live in this apartment building?


I called my mother, who recently moved to Tennessee, to tell her what was going on and she responded with a familiar response at the time. “It’s not as big of a deal as people make it out to be,” she said. “It’s only old people who die from it. If you get it, it’s not a problem. You’ll be fine.”


More information started trickling out bit by bit throughout late February and the first weeks of March and more people I knew started getting nervous. Once again, it was not until it directly touched many of their lives until the worry truly started to set in. My father, who works at a car insurance agency, had to pull all of his guys off the road due to safety concerns. A close friend of mine, who lives with her elderly grandmother, has not been allowed to leave the house for weeks due to fears of getting her grandmother possibly infected. It was only less than two weeks later that Governor Whitmer issued the statewide lockdown, when only 14 days previously the first COVID-19 cases were identified in Michigan. As I’m writing this, I haven’t seen any loved ones—besides the ones I live with—in roughly three weeks, and Governor Whitmer is pushing for an extension on the lockdown from 30 to 70 days.


I committed myself to an entire quarantine around a week and a half ago, and the family I live with is starting to do the same with the news that cases in Flint and Grand Blanc areas are rising. We’re beginning to stock up more on food and ration it so we don't have to head to the grocery stores for a while.


I’m not sure what will happen next, how much worse this will get, or how long it’ll be until I can safely hug or be physically close to one of my loved ones. All I and others can really do is just stay inside as much as possible, despite the cabin fever, and ride it out while keeping clean.


I worry for the people who have lost their jobs, can't pay rent, and whose jobs are now harder to do. I worry for my friends currently enrolled in Zoom classes who can’t understand why, nor have the motivation to learn or work under these stressful and confusing circumstances.


COVID-19 is almost kaleidoscopic in the way it affects the lives of me and people I know. When looking through a kaleidoscope, you see multiple different images and shapes, but they are repeated in a pattern. Abstract in its presentation, but it all has a degree of cohesion. This virus is affecting the lives of people I know in vastly different ways, but we all share the same feeling of anxiety and uncertainty, and it may still be that way even after it’s all ‘over’, whatever that means.



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