Hannah Umphlett Oral History Interview

The COVID-19 Account of Hannah Umphlett
Interviewer: Steven Bradley
Interviewee: Hannah Umphlett
Date: 4/28/2021

SB: Hi, I am Steven Bradley, the interviewer. The interviewee is Hannah Umphlett. The date is April 13th, 2021, the topic is COVID-19. The first question - what is your year and major?
HU: So I'm a biochemistry major, but I'm technically considered a senior while only being a sophomore but my senior year is going to take up next year so I don't really know what to consider myself - maybe a junior?
SB: Yeah, what were your thoughts on COVID-19 prior to the campus closing?
HU: I remember very distinctly like reading the emails that the chancellor and the dean of students would send out and being like "oh man that really sucks, I really hope they get it under control." I remember them saying they were just monitoring the situation in February, but I didn't think about it that much. I was just like "Ah that's not going to happen. It's going to be like ebola."
SB: Do you think the university handled the situation well given the information at the time?
HU: In like closing in March?
SB: Right.
HU: Yeah I think that was the best course of action because they wanted to prevent any potential spread. I mean, the virus is already in the country and probably already on campus. I know a lot of people who said they were extremely sick. They would go to the Student Health Center and they had all of the classic symptoms of COVID in late February/early March and they would test them for the flu, meningitis, pneumonia, bronchitis - everything was negative and they were just told "Oh yeah, you have a viral infection. It will go away eventually." So I do think the university did the best they could.
SB: What about coming back in the fall?
HU: I think that was a bad idea because we closed within two weeks and we all knew that it wasn't going to be over by the summer because no one was taking precautions seriously, there was no vaccines, so I think it should have remained online so that people didn't have to pay full tuition for an online experience.
SB: How did the closure affect your grades or relationships?
HU: So in terms of grades, it wasn't too bad. I will say like last spring when - I kind of gave up attending class like they would have WebEx lectures with non-mandatory participation and I would just sleep through them and look through the Powerpoints after so the quality of my learning decreased but that was my own fault. My grades didn't greatly suffer last spring and they didn't this past fall but I would definitely say the quality of my learning suffered this past fall as professors still had no idea what to do or how to do it - especially the less technologically advanced professors, but in terms of relationships, I did lose a friendship. I currently live with her so it has made things pretty terrible. I can go into detail about that but relationships definitely suffered.
SB: How have your friends' grades trended - upwards or downwards?
HU: Downwards. A lot of people I know - their mental health issues became exaggerated during COVID. Exaggerated is probably not the right word - they just like worsened overall. A lot of people just struggle with online format. They aren't learning as well as they would in-person. Some people just suck at online schooling so most definitely a downward trend for most people I know.
SB: Have you been able to participate in any extracurricular activities like clubs, intramurals, or volunteering?
HU: So I volunteer at Vidant Hospital. I've been doing that since before COVID but I only restarted it in November, when I felt comfortable going back to a hospital where there was a COVID floor and I felt like it was safer, so I was able to do volunteering. It has mainly been volunteering. I'm in the Rotaract Club so it's just like a youth Rotary Club for ECU students and that's just volunteering as well so our meetings are all online but other than that I feel like my extracurriculars haven't been too badly affected.
SB: How has COVID-19 affected your mental health throughout the course of the pandemic?
HU: It has been pretty bad. So I had never had stellar mental health. I've had mental health issues since like early teenage years probably like middle school, but it got really really bad this past September. I'm going to a therapist and a psychiatrist now. I have panic attacks pretty regularly so, yeah not stellar. Not pretty good.
SB: Have you been more stressed as a result of the pandemic because of the virus itself?
HU: I don't know how to like phrase this without sounding like kind of na�ve and selfish, but I really feel like even last semester there was a lot of magical thinking for a lack of a better word like "Oh that's never going to happen to me," but when it did happen to my family - my mom's a labor and delivery nurse and she delivered a woman who had COVID and my mom brought COVID back to our entire family during Christmas and I was the only one who didn't get it, but my 83 year old grandmother got it. That was extremely scary. I was worried for her - she has like a bad hip, I mean she's old - so yeah, it was a lot of stress towards when I realized how horrible it actually is to watch people you love have COVID.
SB: Have you been vaccinated for COVID-19? If so, which vaccine did you receive and why?
HU: So I am fully vaccinated. I got the Pfizer vaccine and I chose Pfizer because, as a volunteer at Vidant, we were given the opportunity to either get Pfizer or the Johnson & Johnson vaccine and I don't mind shots like I don't care about getting shots. It's whatever to me, so the Johnson & Johnson one was less effective. It was 85% and Pfizer is 95% and I think in minors it's 100% - they published a study recently - so I was like "Yeah, I'm going to get Pfizer, that's a good one." It turns out, they had those six cases of women who had blood clots after getting the Johnson & Johnson vaccine and it was like a really dangerous blood clot so I'm glad I got Pfizer. I've had no real issues after.
SB: How do you think the government response to the pandemic has been from the Trump or Biden administration?
HU: The Trump administration's response was very bad - really really bad, I think. Obviously, there's sort of a great division in whether people like to believe in science - as much of an oxymoron as it is, you can't not believe in science. I feel you either reject it or accept it as it is. So he really encouraged anti-maskers which, you know, worsened the spread. He didn't care about people travelling to different states. He picked on governors who were very strict in how they handled the COVID response. I will say the New York COVID response wasn't the best considering they just let the elderly die in the nursing homes and knowingly infected them, but the Trump administration - they did a lot more damage than they did good. When he recommended the Hydroxychloroquine as a potential like treatment for COVID, people with lupus had a shortage of their medicine and a lot of people suffered and lupus is an autoimmune disorder and that's one of their main treatments so he hurt a lot of people, but the Biden administration - it's been three months - and he promised in his campaign to have a mask mandate - a national one. That did not happen. That didn't happen - I don't think Texas even has a mask mandate anymore, or Florida. So it's not as bad as Trump's but it's definitely not as good as it could have been. So the vaccine rollout is pretty good so good job, Joe.
SB: When do you think restrictions will be lifted enough to return to normal life?
HU: So, obviously, Roy Cooper, the governor, said that when two thirds of North Carolinians are vaccinated like half are fully vaccinated, then the mask mandate goes away. I think that's a good stepping stone. I feel like that's going to be the end of the summer probably - maybe like July. I'd say by August/September, I think things are going to start going back to what they are. A band I like is actually going to Durham in September to perform so I think by September, hopefully.
SB: Is there anything else you want people to know?
HU: Please get vaccinated. Masks suck and although I definitely wear mine - I will wear mine in public - I don't enjoy wearing it and it is hot and it is sweaty and I don't like "maskne" so please wear your mask.
SB: Alright! Thank you!

Hannah Umphlett Oral History Interview
This oral history was recorded as part of Dr. Karl Rodabaugh's spring 2021 HNRS 2011: COVID-19 and the History of Pandemics course. Hannah Umphlett was interviewed by Steven Bradley.
April 28, 2021
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