By Jacob Brooks
The first time I heard about it, I was sitting in my bedroom on spring break. I was told about “a highly contagious disease going around rapidly in the U.S.” I sat and pondered how close it would come—it wasn’t even in my state, let alone in my hometown. I wondered what the disease symptoms were. I had the curiosity to look it up. Fever, tiredness, and a dry cough; it didn’t seem that serious. It affected people with weak immune systems. I just shrugged it off as the numbers grew.
The news kept strict updates every hour. This was when I noticed it spread like a wildfire. A few days later, my roommate said there was a positive case in Wayne county, where our school is located. We weren’t affected greatly even though we were on break, but students planned to go back a week later. I knew this was the end of face-to-face classes for this semester. I had so many questions: How am I going to have motivation for work? When will I do it all? How will I learn, and will I get good grades? A week passed. My sister’s school shut down, went to all online. Edinboro, PA had zero cases while a county near my school had one. We were still open, but this is when I knew Wooster would shut down. I thought about how I could never get the disease, but what is going to happen to everyone. After this, I talked to my parents and they said it’s getting more serious as the days go on. They lectured me for a long time. Then they lectured me for another 30 minutes. How I better take school online seriously. Of course, I rolled my eyes because I knew how serious school was.
School-wise, I decided, it could go a number of ways. My grades slip up, they stay consistent, or they get better. I had no clue what was in store. At home, I would always have distractions: my family around me more often, my job calling me in knowing I am home, my friends wanting to hang out. Then the biggest distraction: video games. Although I had it at school, it felt a lot different knowing I would have more free time during this lockdown. I always think I have more time to do homework later. This would be the biggest problem, but my goal was to make sure my grades improve even through my distractions.
A few days later I woke up to 100 messages from my fraternity, some of my friends, and my girlfriend. The first thing I noticed was the email saying classes are no longer face to face for the remainder of the semester. I knew that this would happen if there were zero cases in Pennsylvania, but Edinboro had already shut down its schools for the year. I was worried about how this would affect my social life and my school work. I wasn’t worried about me or who in my family could get it.
With classes canceled and an order to move off campus, I had to drive one Thursday morning to gather all my belongings. An area that was normally pretty populated had only a few people walking around. Only a small percentage of students were still on campus, moving out. There were only two people in my dorm. I thought of two things. First, that’s a good thing, since it meant I didn’t have to associate with too many people. Second, that not a lot of people could have touched things in the dorms. I wanted to tell my dad that I wasn’t in contact with anyone so I could avoid another lecture.
I was with my girlfriend the majority of the day in Wooster, we went to get Chipotle. They had all their chairs stacked and no access to sitting. We had to go inside and order. My girlfriend and I spent the rest of the day cleaning our rooms, packing, and hanging out. I still thought some people were overreacting, but at this point, I understood to a degree. I took a visit to my fraternity of the guys who were there that day. Everyone was carrying hand sanitizer and talking about the situation. After we all shook hands everyone took a squirt. All of the older guys were drinking and spending their last night on Wooster drunk, they didn’t seem down but I knew in my head that this affected them the most during break and would after the break. The seniors only had a little bit of time left to have parties and celebrate the completion of their independent studies. The stress that was put on them all year was ten-fold compared to us underclassmen, but they would not be able to celebrate I.S Monday, the day they have officially completed their studies and a day where they can go wild all day.
The next day, my girlfriend started to tear up a bit but I told her everything was going to be okay. Although I was sad, I had to reinforce that nothing serious would happen to either of us. I had to believe what I said, my family and I had to take precautions and her family as well. I realized we might not know for a while when this would end. I gave her a big hug and said: “I will see you soon.” We both knew inside that it wasn’t true.
I drove back home. I unpacked everything in my garage because I didn’t want my father to go crazy. After all, anything could carry COVID-19 germs. I found extra clothes and I took a shower and threw the others immediately in the washer. I planned to leave my stuff in there for as long as I could. I just wanted to stay in my room with whatever I needed and not worry about it.
The days continued. My dad stopped going to work. My mom complained because she still had work. My siblings were both in their apartments. I was stuck in my room, with my Xbox and school work. At first, it felt really good. Mainly, when others wanted to go out, I just wanted to relax and play a game or two. However, continuously gaming, while being forced to stay inside, I became bored with it fast. I checked my phone while I sat in my room. I noticed the first case in Pennsylvania. This gave me a bigger concern. It could easily be around our county. I still cracked jokes about me getting it, and others. Then slowly it was getting close and closer. Stores started shutting down. Essential places were selling out of essential goods. I went to Walmart with my mom and absolutely everything was gone. Empty shelves upon empty shelves—and it wasn’t even to our city yet. I still thought people overreacted too early. Then we saw someone with five gallons of milk. “Pointless,” I thought to myself, “They will expire soon.” This just meant how other families couldn’t get what they needed to. It made me a little mad.
I went home and noticed there was one case. Two cases. Three cases. Four confirmed cases. A few more days went by: thirty plus cases. My parents were going crazy about the work, people coming in and out of the house. It came to the point where I was told to wash my hands after I touched our wall. This irritated me because it was close. I thought to myself, what would happen if one of us got affected. I still convinced myself I could never get it.
My family and I watched a movie called “Contagion,” made in the early 2010s. In the end, the movie disease came from a pig that a bat bit into. That pig was then made into food for humans. The movie itself was not that good but it followed a disease where people had similar symptoms, but the death was more intense. That is what my brother and I figured—I realized I haven’t seen how the people died with COVID-19. It had me wondering why I didn’t know. In the movie, death happened fast and people had foam in their mouths. The contagion rapidly increased, people raided stores and robbed houses. The movie showed the worst side of things, with the government trying to organize and people going insane. This was not a good thing to watch while the disease grew around us. A movie that went for an hour and forty minutes took our family two hours and thirty minutes. Everything that happened, my mom paused and related this to our situation somehow. Then one of us three children said something. This then started an argument. I know now never to watch something that relates to what is happening in the current situation.
I checked my phone and the cases in the U.S significantly increased. I saw people still attended parties, acting like they couldn’t get it. Although I had the same mentality, I took precautions. This made me realize how we actually will never know if we can live our normal lives again unless every person takes it seriously. Germs on a handshake can spread to up to eight people.
My attitude of all this has finally changed with how many cases are close to my family. I stopped making jokes, I began to realize how serious this was and I began to take serious precautions instead of just smaller ones. So far, we are doing well, but everyone is on edge 24/7. The rest of the summer I will be working and playing games, none of our usual plans will happen because of this. I know if this ever stops, it will be looked at as a crazy time for our generation . . . especially the events of 2020 so far. The fires in Australia, the rumors of World War 3 starting and the death of Kobe Bryant. And lastly, a pandemic that could last a long time.