None of us are strangers right now to the menace that is COVID-19. It has had horrible impacts all over the globe and has had detrimental affects to many different countries. It started to really impact my state around March 9th and got worse once the first death from COVID-19 in Georgia was announced. The death was actually in my county. My classmates, friends, and I all woke up to the news and instantly felt fear. A lot has happened since then that I feel is necessary to talk about.
At first, we were pretty much in the dark. My professors began to train for online teaching in case the university closed and some of my classes that week were called off due to their training. The day that the first death was announced, the University System of Georgia closed most of the universities in the area, including mine. I was actually attending a Shakespeare performance on campus when the email was sent out that the school was closed for 2 weeks and we all stopped what we were doing to read it. The actors on stage tried their best to remain in good spirits but it was difficult for us all.
During all of this, I was training for my promoted position at work. As my training went on, our hours continued to get significantly cut until we were a skeleton crew. Three days after that email from my university, my job announced that it was closed down for at least two weeks. Luckily, I was still getting paid for those two weeks despite none of us working which is a huge blessing I know many people don’t have. Late that same day, students were sent another email stating that the remainder of the semester would be online and that everyone living on campus would have to leave unless they had valid reasons to stay.
I spent several days frantically packing and moving my belongings into a storage unit I am sharing with my best friend in the event that our reasons to stay were not accepted. My university only sent updates via email 10 minutes before midnight every night that week. I wasn’t told if my reasons to stay were valid until the last possible second, but luckily I was accepted to stay. My fiance was told to stay home for 2 weeks shortly after that, where he will not be getting paid during his time off and now has to file for temporary unemployment.
I had to watch as all 3 of my roommates moved out. One of my roommates was forced to go home with her mother, who she does not get along with. Another roommate had just moved into her room in December and already had to leave despite finally getting settled. I woke up to everything being gone from our shared living spaces. I looked out of my window to see one of the apartment dumpsters piled high with things students couldn’t fit in their vehicles or didn’t have the time to pack.
The students who were forced to leave were only allowed 3 hours to pack up and move out, plus they were only allowed to have 2 people help them. The entire week was chaotic and parents were running around trying to desperately help their child get out before their scheduled move out time. I’ve taken a few walks around my campus since everyone moved out and it feels like the beginning of a post-apocalyptic movie. Some people forgot to turn off their bedroom lights so you can see bright light flooding out of their empty bedroom windows. Some balcony doors were left open and breezes move the doors so they squeak.
No grocery store within a 10 mile radius of me had milk, hand sanitizer, soap, toilet paper, or canned food for two weeks. I had to travel several hours away to visit my mother in order to find a gallon of milk. Even now on March 30th, there still isn’t any toilet paper at any store. Specific items like toilet paper and milk have a limit on how much you can buy.
I am a senior in college and I have lost so many “last” experiences. I won’t be able to attend any on campus events. I don’t know what is going to happen with the actual graduation ceremony that’s happening in a few months. I won’t be able to have that “going to class for the last time” experience. It also hit me at 3am that I will never step foot in a classroom again and I just cried. My last memory of being in class was the buzz between my classmates when the University System of Georgia announced they were going to close all of the universities in the area and my professor near tears telling us that she loves us and to stay safe.
I know in the grand scheme of things, losing some of these “lasts” should be the least of our worries. However, most of us have been in school our whole lives so far. These priceless memories are important and we’re losing them. We’re forced to stay indoors and not leave. My classes that are now online are moving even faster than before while expecting everyone to quickly adjust to only being online. I’m watching students lose their jobs, co-ops, and internships due to having to move in with their parents. I’m watching people drop courses due to stress. It’s pure chaos.
The amount of stress that myself and many others are enduring is hell by definition. Not knowing what will happen is what’s messing with me the most. My fiance and I check on the amount of new cases every morning and feel our stomachs drop. We’re constantly checking for updates on our county, which as of now still hasn’t completely shut down non-essential stores. Some people are stuck doing absolutely nothing and feeling the mental strain. Then there are people like me, who still have classwork to do through the stress and still have to attend conference calls for work. I’m still not sure which end of the spectrum is worse.
I have seen very different sides to people. Some people have become almost feral just for a gallon of milk while others have opened up their hearts to help others during this scary time period. Surprisingly, the majority of humanity has teamed together to help wherever they can. If we’re to overcome this pandemic, every single person needs to take it seriously. I cannot put into words how utterly livid I become when I see people my age and slightly younger still traveling for spring break or going out to do things when they’re putting themselves and many others in danger. Please practice empathy during this difficult, confusing time and remember that there are many others out there that are not safe from this virus.