Erin Amato: Reflecting on Impact of Coronavirus

It feels like just yesterday I was sitting in my Foundations of EMS class at 6 pm on a Wednesday, looking at a website that displayed the world map with a little red circle over parts of China. This circle resembled the people affected by this new virus that no one knew much about besides its name: coronavirus. Every week in class we would recheck the map to see how much it grew. I recall looking at the numbers and thinking it would never reach us here in the United States. Little did I know that in weeks to come, schools would shut down, I would be forced to move out of my dorm, and businesses and places ranging from gyms to movie theaters would be closed. But fast forward to the present day and here we are, and the lives of millions of Americans have changed drastically in a matter of weeks.

At first, when I found out the virus reached the U.S., I was surprised but I didn’t think too much of it. Then the numbers continued to grow. It was the new talk, social media, news, articles, etc. Coronavirus was posted and talked about everywhere.

As the numbers grew, things really started to change.

The week right before spring break, I was getting excited to go home. If I knew what was about to happen, I wouldn’t have wished for it to come so soon.

I lived in Bergami Hall and I remember walking out of my dorm with my roommates to see the room right across the hall being extensively cleaned by people in what looked to be full hazmat suits. We were friends with the girls who lived there, so we asked them what was going on and they told us their suitemate had been sick and had possibly encountered someone that tested positive for the virus.

This news brought so many questions and lots of confusion. Not only did I not think the virus would come to America, but no way in the world did I think it could be as close as it was. Ironically enough, an hour or so later we got an email from the school saying we were going to depart campus a week early for spring break and everyone in my room was excited about it. We now had two weeks of spring break and two extra days. While we were excited about going home, no one knew what the future held. My roommate and her boyfriend had a trip to Disney planned over spring break; little did they know it would be canceled because Disney would close.

No one knew that would be our last time in our room, nor that it was our last time seeing each other face to face. I packed only the essentials for two weeks, not knowing the next time I would be in my room would be to move everything out.

Watching the President and Connecticut’s governor talk about this virus was eye-opening. Life changed for everyone and quarantine became a thing. My older sister’s school closed down, so she was home, as was my younger sister who is still in high school. The talk of online classes became a big discussion. When I found out UNH would remain closed for the rest of the semester I was in shock and upset about it, considering I knew I would not be returning next semester. I didn’t know everything I did would be my last.

My last walk to all my classes.
My last class with all my classmates and professors.
My last time going to the Rec Center.
My last time studying in the library.
My last time eating in the dining hall.
And there was absolutely nothing I could do about it, it was just what it was.

Throughout the coronavirus pandemic, people have been told to social distance and stay home. I have been staying home slaving over school work for most of the day while taking breaks and taking walks with my sisters and dog to stay active. While I have days like those, I also have days where I wake up early and go to work for 7 am in a grocery store, the “best” place to be during a pandemic. I can truly say I feel like I’ve seen it all working at a grocery store.

The fights over toilet paper, the restrictions placed on certain products in high demand, the customers and workers always in masks and gloves. I’ve watched the laws come into effect. When the screens were placed in front of the registers. I’ve seen the lines grow at the door because there is now a restriction on how many people can be in the store at a time. Tape on the floor now marks where to stand, and tape in the aisles marks which direction to walk in each aisle, and constant announcements boom over the loudspeakers reminding people to do their part and stay six feet apart. The store adopted new hours, opening early for the seniors and high-risk patients on top of closing two hours early. The bags that were once ten cents now free to customers, while reusable bags are discouraged due to the possibility of carrying the virus.

It is also interesting to see the different kinds of people. Those who come in wearing full masks, gloves, glasses, hoods while staying the true six feet apart and then seeing those wearing normal attire with no safety precautions taken.

I can see people are trying hard to stop the spread of the virus through all these acts, but it still amazes me to see all the people who come into the store. Personally, I feel like the grocery store is more packed than before and I believe it is that way because people are scared to lose their freedom. People who most likely don’t even need anything will come out anyway just to get out of the house. They want to feel like they can still go somewhere and not feel completely trapped.
This is the new normal. The worst part is, nobody knows for how long.
It is crazy to think about how and when we are going to overcome this.
So many questions, so many thoughts, and so few answers.
Not knowing if someone you love will get it, or if someone you just encountered had it and doesn’t know.
It’s scary to think about the ways you can get the virus. It seems so easy, but at the same time so little is known about it.
I just hope this is over soon so life can get back to normal, things can open back up, and events won’t continue to be delayed or canceled.
I question if going back to normal will even feel like it once did before this life-changing pandemic.

I always wonder what people are going to say about this in the future and what people are going to tell our kids years from now about this crazy time that no one knew was coming.

As this continues to progress, I can only say I wish everyone well and I hope everyone is able to entertain themselves and enjoy life to the fullest even in quarantine. Sometimes getting outside on a nice sunny day is all you need, or maybe even just binge-watching a Netflix series and wearing comfy clothes all day because why the hell not. Let’s just take a minute to be thankful for what we do have and make the best of this crazy time.

Erin Amato, ’23, is a paramedicine major at the University of New Haven’s School of Health Sciences and from Oxford, Connecticut. This piece is part of the “Caught in the Pandemic” project in collaboration with the Principles of Communication course taught by Health Administration and Policy professor, Alvin Tran, ScD, MPH.