This is the view I’m getting used to: my fellow multimedia journalism students and our professors meeting virtually. The couch that was once an end-of-the-day comfort is now where I spend a majority of my time.
COLUMBIA, S.C. – It took me some time to warm up to working in a college newsroom and seeing the same people every day.
It felt like elementary school for young adults, but I acclimated quickly. Soon, I felt at home walking into the University of South Carolina journalism school with my morning coffee for my 9-5 p.m. shift in the Senior Semester capstone program.
I put off decorating my desk, unlike many of my coworkers who had done so early on in the semester. Maybe it was out of forgetfulness or laziness, but by some stroke of luck, I remembered to bring some important personal belongings in on March 6. I wanted my desk to look like home the way that it began to feel like home. That turned out to be my last day in the newsroom.
I didn’t like talking about coronavirus when I left to go on spring break, but now it feels like that is all anyone talks about.
Today, one of my best friends is quarantined with his parents at his home in Delaware because they may have the disease. I had a conversation with one of my best friends in Columbia and told him I couldn’t see him because he may have been exposed to the coronavirus. The reality of the situation has set in and I regret not taking this seriously at first. But who knew this was going to happen?
I, along with many people I know, lost my job in the restaurant industry because the small deli I worked for couldn’t handle the loss of revenue. Small businesses and big businesses alike seemed as unprepared as many were for something like this to happen.
In the beginning of March it felt like the coronavirus could never catch me. At the time it seemed like I was too young and healthy to concern myself with this when the rest of life hadn’t slowed down. As March drew on I realized that COVID-19 was very fast; must faster than I could run.
I drove home to Delaware to get a shoulder evaluation for surgery on March 9 before Delaware had any confirmed COVID-19 cases. On March 11, after I had left Delaware to return to my college apartment, the first confirmed case in the state caused the University of Delaware to shut down. I was escaping the virus for now, but where was I supposed to go?
Shortly after, the NBA season was postponed and UofSC’s spring break was extended. I knew life wasn’t normal anymore. When I got back to Columbia there were no cases of COVID-19 in South Carolina, but it didn’t feel that way. I was running faster than the virus for a little, but now I was sedentary and it was going to catch me the way it had caught so many.
The situation changed. It was no longer a question of where the virus was going to spread, but when and who it would spread to. Everything from school closures to widespread event cancellations felt unprecedented even when I asked people much older than myself. The drama has increased since I returned to Columbia.
Genuinely, I hope that this is something that’s remembered as something we all took too seriously. The statistic from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that I can’t get out of my head is that 70% of the United States population could catch the coronavirus if people aren’t careful. I worry that it may already be too late.
The hardest part for me is having to wait it out. It’s hard to sit idly by and simply hope that my loved ones are ok and that everyone ends up ok, but that’s what we all have to do right now.
The price of a couple of weeks or months of boredom and worry is worth the safety of people I care about and people I’ve never met before.