COVID and the History of Pandemics Dr. Karl Rodabaugh
23 April 2021
Oral History Project Transcript
Memphis Jandron, Narrator
Hannah Costa, Interviewer
Duration: [00:11:02] - [00:11:19]
April 7, 2021 at the Gather Uptown Apartments Greenville, North Carolina
HC: Okay, it is April 7th and I'm Hannah Costa here with Memphis Jandron for an interview about his COVID-19 experiences. So, how are you today Memphis?
MJ: I'm alright, how are you?
HC: I'm good. So, what is your affiliation with the university [East Carolina University]? MJ: I am a sophomore Honors College student studying biology with a concentration in cell and molecular biology.
HC: Okay, I'm going to ask you some questions about the COVID-19 pandemic. So, last year, how was the pandemic discussed in your classes and extracurriculars before the campus closure?
MJ: My chemistry professor discussed with us a little bit- the recent outbreak in China- and he just told us to be safe over spring break.
HC: And how did you learn about ECU's decisions to close the campus and cancel all activities?
MJ: Well, I was sitting outside with my family at the time and I saw it on Twitter, actually, that they were extending spring break by a week.
HC: And how did you react to that news?
MJ: I was excited at first for an extra week of break, but I was also confused and a little bit worried, since I had never seen anything like this before, where a disease causes class cancellations.
HC: Okay, so how would you rate the university's decisions and their implementation of all the policies that they had?
MJ: I would say that the initial response was as good as could be expected with the unprecedented circumstances. In the fall, however, I feel like we were less prepared than we should have been as a university. I think that going back to in-person classes when COVID cases were still on the rise, and there was no vaccine in sight- I just think it was a mistake, and that was clear when after just a few weeks of classes, we went full online. HC: So, what was your experience of actually leaving campus in the spring?
MJ: My friend and I, the first day we could, the first day campus opened, and we drove to Greenville and my dad followed us, and we packed our freshman year into our cars and drove right back to Charlotte; it was a pretty quick trip. The packing process was a pain to deal with because, at the time, I had just broken my leg. It was a little hard to move out of my dorm (laughter).
HC: What were your thoughts and emotions as you were leaving?
MJ: I was a little worried- it was all starting to become real. While I was driving away, I realized this is actually the beginning of something very serious. A wave of sadness hit me- I just realized my freshman year was cut short.
HC: Where did you live once you went back home at the beginning of all the lockdowns? MJ: I lived in Charlotte with my parents and little brother.
HC: And where are you living now?
MJ: Now I am in Greenville in an off-campus apartment with three roommates and our dog.
HC: What is daily life like for you now?
MJ: Well, if I'm not in my apartment doing coursework or hanging out with my roommates, I'm just working.
HC: And how is your everyday life affected by all the current restrictions?
MJ: I wouldn't say much of my daily routine has been affected by the restrictions. I mean, the main difference is not being able to hangout with my full friend group- just my roommates-or going to parties, having to wear a mask everywhere you go, but that doesn't bother me.
HC: Okay, so switching gears a little bit, how has technology played a role in your life during the pandemic - either for your classes or just entertainment purposes?
MJ: Well in the last year, I definitely have spent more time on my computer than I have ever before. Currently, though, I only have one WebEx lab every week that I have to attend, but last semester I had no synchronous online classes. However, one way I would say I benefited from this was finding creative ways for technology to make my life easier,
utilizing things such as digital planners and note taking software. During the first couple months of the pandemic I had lots of free time, like most people did. But, I made the most of this by binging multiple TV shows and playing lots of video games with my friends.
HC: How are your classes going this semester?
MJ: I would say my classes this semester are going well. After a semester and a half of learning how to handle online classes, I finally feel like I have a good grip on it. It was hard at first allocating time to studying and doing homework with the lack of structure that online classes bring. Finding the motivation to complete work was something that took time. This semester I tried creating some structure for myself by fixing my sleep schedule and planning out my days in advance, which has helped me with time management and also with the lack of motivation.
HC: Have you received any kind of messages from your professors at all about this? MJ: Most of my professors have not been the best at communicating throughout the semesters. I understand that this change has also been hard on them so I don't hold the lack of communication against them. But Gerald Weckesser, who was my woodworking honors seminar professor last semester- he was great at communicating. We had
check-in meetings on WebEx with the whole class just to discuss how we were handling everything and just talk about things- what he could do to help. This helped compensate, also, for the lack of human interaction that comes with online classes, so that helped.
HC: That's awesome. Do you know anything about how other students are handling all the changes?
MJ: After talking with my friends, I know they've been facing very similar challenges that most students are facing right now. These challenges extend to my friends that are on campus at other universities, on campus here, and my friends that are at home that are going to local colleges- they're facing the same challenges.
HC: How are you handling it?
MJ: I feel like I've been handling everything as well as I could have hoped for. My girlfriend along with a couple of friends have helped a lot. And at the very beginning of the pandemic, when the country was in lockdown, the isolation was a large contributor to the stress I felt. I feel like lots of people felt that. But without these people, I think it would be a different story.
HC: How have your academic routines changed throughout this time?
MJ: I'd say my academic routines have actually improved. The lack of structure forced me to develop my planning and time management skills. When classes were in-person, I was a very disorganized student, but with online classes, disorganization will haunt you. I now start assignments early and I study more.
HC: Outside of classes, are you involved in student organizations, like sports or clubs? MJ: I'm involved with the Honors College Student Council as a member.
HC: And how has the pandemic affected that?
MJ: The meetings have been online, which was hard to get used to at first. The volunteering opportunities also halted for a while, obviously. And when we would meet
in-person, before campus closed and everything, there would be lots of food, discussion, and time to make friends. But, the discussion in a Zoom meeting- it's not the same.
HC: So you talked about having a job earlier- what is your job?
MJ: My job-I have a job off-campus. I work at a doggie daycare as a kennel tech.
HC: How has that been affected by the pandemic and the lockdowns and quarantines and stuff?
MJ: Since I primarily work with dogs, there has not been that much change, other than the fact that we all have to wear masks and we do a COVID sanitization checklist at the end of all of our shifts.
HC: Got it. Have you been tested for COVID-19 at all? MJ: I have. Thankfully they have all came back negative.
HC: Do you know anyone that has tested positive for COVID-19? MJ: Yep, two of my roommates- they tested positive.
HC: What symptoms did your roommates suffer?
MJ: One of them definitely had more severe symptoms than the other. The high fever, persistent cough, and pretty bad body aches. The other had more mild symptoms, although he did lose his sense of taste and smell. But other than that, it was just a mild cough, and fatigue.
HC: Are they suffering any after-effects?
MJ: It did take about a month for my roommate's sense of smell and taste to come back. HC: So, outside of sickness, how are your friends, family, significant other, or other important people in your life doing?
MJ: I'd say my family was not as affected by everything that the pandemic caused, primarily because my parents already have been working from home and my little brother was already in online school for sports reasons. So, it didn't have much effect on them.
But my friends and girlfriend have also been doing well recently as, like me, they're getting used to how everything is going and how to handle it.
HC: Are you doing any community work or volunteering as a result of the pandemic- like shopping for neighbors, donating blood, or anything else?
MJ: At the very beginning of the pandemic, around April and May, I volunteered at the local food bank in Charlotte for about a month helping get food to those in need during the strict lockdown policies in place at the time.
HC: What are your impressions of the media coverage of the pandemic, both now and when it first happened?
MJ: I feel like the media coverage has been hit or miss throughout the whole pandemic. I've seen lots of good information and warnings- cautions and stuff like that- being spread through the media, but I've also seen lots of misinformation being spread about COVID and the vaccine, recently.
HC: Of course. What seemed normal last year that seems strange to you now?
MJ: One thing that grosses me out now that I think about it is how close we used to stand next to strangers. In line at the grocery store, amusement parks, public transit. No one would blink an eye if someone was just standing just a foot or two away from you, coughing or sneezing. I wouldn't mind having those little stickers on the ground telling people where to stand to be a permanent fixture in our lives.
HC: Yeah. What are you doing now that you think will seem strange in a month or two, or however long it takes for this to go away?
MJ: Things I've been doing because of the pandemic? I'd say utilizing food delivery as much as I do now. It made sense during the pandemic to do it because you could avoid contact with others completely and still get good food and you would still be supporting businesses when they're struggling also. But, looking back on it, it is so expensive. I didn't even realize it at first, but I'm just gonna go back and look at those bank statements and regret how much money I spent.
HC: How have your plans changed- life plans, after college plans based on whats happening?
MJ: Well, I've definitely had to adjust my plans for volunteering- getting volunteer hours for med school applications, stuff like that. It has been difficult for the past year to find places willing to take new volunteers, for good reason. This will definitely be a plan that I will have to continue to monitor and change as time moves forward and the pandemic hopefully dies down.
HC: What were you planning to do this spring and summer-last spring and summer-that's now uncertain?
MJ: I had lots of travel plans for last year and this year. I had planned back in early 2020/late 2019- I was planning to go to Arizona this summer in order to help my little brother move to his new school, but I don't know if I'll be going. They'll have their procedures for limiting contact with others. But last summer I had plans to travel to Indonesia and obviously those plans had to be unfortunately cancelled.
HC: How do you rate the government response to the pandemic-local, state, and federal
- and why?
MJ: I think the initial government response was pitiful. Our government did not take the pandemic seriously despite the urgency that professionals were giving the information with. We were constantly having to react and fight from behind instead of getting ahead of the virus. The former leadership ignored a lot of the warning signs and we tragically lost hundreds of thousands of Americans to that. Instead of putting the people first, they put things like their egos, agendas, and money first. The former leadership tried to give a false sense of confidence and pretend they had everything under control, instead of utilizing the help that was being offered by organizations and individuals with the expertise to help. And it jeopardized our safety in response to that. But I'm glad the vaccines are finally getting rolled out and hopefully, in the next couple months, everyone who is willing and able will be able to get this vaccine.
HC: Is there anything else you would like people to know about this? MJ: If you're able, go get vaccinated, please.
HC: Okay! Thank you so much.
MJ: Thank you.
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