Georgia Sasser, Narrator
Lauren Johansen, Interviewer
March 29, 2021, Conducted on WebEx in Greenville, North Carolina
LJ: Hi, this is Lauren Johansen here with Georgia Sasser are working on an oral history project on how COVID has affected college students. Why don't you introduce yourself Georgia and say how you're affiliated with ECU?
GS: Yeah, so I'm Georgia Sasser, and I'm a junior at ECU. I am double majoring and rehabilitation services and psychology.
LJ: Okay, do you think your major career path has given you any interesting or unique insights on the COVID-19 pandemic?
GS: I would say a little bit so in rehab services, because we are such a health focused field. Some of the effects that we kind of. We've, seen some things about how telehealth has been really affected and effected some of the professions we're affiliated with. And I've also gotten the ability to work on some internship research work about how research has been affected, just in and of itself on, in terms of funding and things like that by the COVID pandemic. So, yeah, I think I think it's given me kind of interesting perspective.
LJ: Are you involved in any extracurricular or student organizations?
GS: Yes, so I am the president of the Pre-occupational Therapy Student Association. I'm also the president of a new organization called, Find Your Voice, which I co-founded as a part of my signature honors project and that focuses on sexual assault education and advocacy. I am a volunteer at Vidant medical center. I am a research intern at Brody School of Medicine. And I'm involved in campus ministry and children's ministry at my church.
LJ: Were you involved in these organizations before the start of the COVID-19 pandemic?
GS: Yes, except for my internship, I was involved all in all of those, but a lot of them took a break between March and August.
LJ: Was it discussed, or handled by any of these organizations before campus closure?
GS: No, I don't think any of our organizations had really talked about it. No one really thought it would have shut anything down. So, no one was really prepared.
LJ: How did you learn about the university's decision to close campus and cancel activities?
GS: So, during the week, leading up to the cancel a cancellation enclosed well, the week before our extended spring break, I was actually on an alternative break experience and we had an administrator there with us who would talk to us about how, we wouldn't necessarily shut down unless the entire UNC system shut down. Uh, so we were kind of prepared for it by the time we got back from that trip, and we were able to say for the whole duration of that trip. And that was when I learned about the extended spring break was that night after I got back on email, and I don't remember where I was when I got the email that we were canceling for the rest of the year. But, I think I just got into an email.
LJ: Right. How do you rate the decision and its implementation? What is your basis for this rating?
GS: Um, given that it was a UNC system decision to cancel, I would say it was probably an 8, I think the transition could have been handled better in terms of supporting both teachers and students in terms of the online delivery. But, no one really saw this coming and so you have to give people credit and to some degree administration is not necessarily caught up on the newest technologies because they're older people. So, I think they probably did about as well as they could.
LJ: So, you agree with the decision to shut down classes in March of 2020?
LJ: Okay. How do you rate ECU communication skills at this time? Like, do you think that they were providing adequate information to students? Do you think a lot of students were in the dark?
GS: I would say it was probably 5 I think they were probably providing as much information as they had at any given time. Because again, ECU is controlled by the UNC system and the government, there's not a whole lot that they can do in terms of making decisions to themselves, but, I don't think they necessarily did a good job of, supporting how we were supposed to transition, or what our resources were supposed to look like, or what the expectations were gonna be. I think they could have done a lot better at that.
LJ: Okay, what was your experience actually leaving campus?
GS: Well, I was on campus in my dorm when I found out, we were going to have an extended spring break. So, I started packing for things and packing up things for my roommate to give textbooks and stuff to her. But leaving campus, when I came back for all my stuff it was emotional. It was really sad because we missed the 2nd, half of Freshmen spring, that's there were so many events that we never got to experience, like barefoot in the mall and, you know, finals even like the stuff that they had going on during finals. The end of spring anybody we knew who was graduating. I mean, that was kind of hitch of just how much we were going to miss out on. But also understanding that it wasn't necessarily safe for us to be there. So, it was bittersweet.
LJ: That's understandable. What kind of help did you have during this process? Was there any kind of moving help or was it just kind of a, you're on your own thing?
GS: Well, my parents didn't come help me move out, but my roommate had plenty of help. They were very helpful.
LJ: So, there is no university help. I know during move in, there's a lot of people helping and organizing, and it was just you do it yourself.
GS: I think they had the, the carts and stuff put out, but there was no real direction.
LJ: Okay, where are you living now?
GS: I live in a student apartment off campus.
LJ: How did you come to end at the student apartment? Did you ever try to live on campus again?
GS: I did, so I moved back to Gateway at the beginning of fall semester on campus, living as a part of my returning LLC. I was able to do that and I lived with a roommate. And then when the decision was made to move to fully online again, in the fall, we were advised at the time to move off campus for a short 3-day, period. And then they kind of backtracked that. But in that 3 days, I realized, I didn't really trust campus living anymore and I didn't trust them to not fully kick us out at some point during the semester. I also didn't want to go back to Raleigh, though, because a lot of my friends and connections and just some of the opportunities I wanted to be involved in, were all in Greenville. So, I said, well, I guess I'm going to move to an apartment and so I searched Facebook pages and stuff until I found a sublet and yeah.
LJ: What's daily life like for you, how are you affected by any restrictions? What adjustments have you had to make in order to change your routines to fit into coven? Just what is a day in the life of Georgia Sasser look like.
GS: Well, in the mornings, if I don't have meetings or anything, I try to go to the gym, but our gym isn't open until 9. So, it is pushing my schedule a little bit more than I would have just because the restrictions stuff kept it later have but-
LJ: Were you upset when the gyms shut down for almost 6 months? I think, during the [pandemic].
GS: Not necessarily I, I think especially given that we didn't really understand the contact risks. I think it was again probably about as good as it as it could have been made knowing now that obviously it is more respiratory and isn't really contact spread. There is also the danger of people doing cardio if they're not spread out and heavy breathing and stuff, but it's a little bit less. And as long as there's like, a reasonable space and capacity limits, it makes sense. Now, knowing what we know to open things back up more, but, I think it was it was a reasonable decision to make. gyms weren't and are not essential. People can exercise outside. If they need to, and that's what I did. So, I think that was fine, but other than that, I'm usually home for a lot of the day. I do occasionally have some in person things for extracurriculars or volunteering. Some other involvement, but I'm typically home for a lot of the day. I'll have some online, like, zoom meetings or zoom like, workshops and stuff like that. I cook a lot. I'll go grocery shopping or something like that if I need to. But, um, yeah, it's not as much as I probably would have done and I definitely don't get out of my apartment as much as I would have if we had things more in person but it's I wouldn't say that my opportunities have been restricted as much as some other people have.
LJ: Okay, how our classes going, what kind of messages have you received for professors? How well do you think you're handling the transition and how has technology played a major role in this transition from in person learning to online learning?
GS: Yeah, classes for me are going well. I would say I probably handled the transition better than most because all through high school. I was home schooled, but I took all my private school classes. So, we had classes twice a week at a certain time and online platform. And we had the rest of our homework was just do whatever the syllabus said. So. It's pretty similar, and I think a lot of people didn't have that kind of experience and preparation. So, I was more prepared than most.
So, it's just kind of like going to high school, but, in terms of messages from professors, though, it kind of varies. I've got some professors that have handled it pretty well none of my classes, except for 1 of my Labs is doing a synchronous meeting. So, I have no in person classes, and only 1 synchronous meeting. Some of my professors have Prerecorded lectures that are pretty in depth. And consistent when they're posted, you know at the modules opening date and, you know, until the date of the exam very consistently. And then I've also had some professors who post whenever they do and give assignments out randomly on email and they're do whatever they said and not super well-handled and communicated. So, I think in general, the, it's been very much just kind of up to Professor preference and what they know about technology and understand about technology. Yeah.
LJ: Have you received any messages from these professors about COVID or anything related, or has it mainly just been instructional?
GS: I think I have a I have 1 class that's a research mentoring class and we talk about COVID and how that's affecting our project as an ongoing thing. In terms of other professors, we get the kind of like we had stuff in the syllabus about, you know, if you get COVID and they would say that in an email beginning of the semester, like, if you get COVID, you know, here's what you should do. But because my classes are all online and asynchronous mostly we haven't really gotten a lot. I haven't really dealt with. I haven't gotten COVID. I haven't had to deal with communicating that and having to take time off, but. Um, I wouldn't say we've gotten a lot.
LJ: Okay. How are you doing in terms of the impact of COVID-19? How many times have you been tested and have you ever tested positive? I know. You just said that you haven't gotten it, so any false positives?
GS: I've gotten tested. I got tested before I came back to campus in the fall I got tested before I went home at Thanksgiving. I got tested once at the beginning of, around the beginning of spring semester, and I think 1 other time. Other than that, maybe some time in the fall, but I don't remember exactly when. I've never had a positive my result. Mine have always been very quick, except for in the summer. But in terms of impact, I haven't had a lot of close friends and relatives who've gotten any severe form of COVID so emotionally, just kind of the result of being home all the time, but not necessarily directly COVID related.
LJ: Okay, and have you gotten the vaccine?
GS: Yes, I, and because I'm a volunteer at the hospital, I qualified under frontline health care workers, and I received my Pfizer vaccine at Vidant. I received my 1st one around, like, January. Late mid to late January and I got my 2nd, one in early February.
LJ: Did you have any adverse reactions or effects?
GS: I had a sore swollen arm for a couple of days after my 1st and 2nd doses, but honestly less significant than I usually get with the flu shot. It was not very bad. And then, I think I had a little bit of chills and aches after the 2nd, one, but very, very mild. I wouldn't even be able to specifically say it was from the vaccine.
LJ: Okay, what are your impressions of the media coverage of the pandemic? And if you wouldn't mind, could you give your idea of the, um, media coverage from before the pandemic reached the U. S. to now, how it transitioned through the presidential election just what are your thoughts over all of that media.
GS: I think the problem with the media is 1st of all, they're incentivized to make click bait, click bait stories. So, sometimes you have a problem of accurate reporting being mixed in with the need to make money, but with that in mind, I think media overall, I don't necessarily think they've done malicious at all through this process or they're intentionally spreading more fear than need to be. But, there is always going to be a problem. When you have journalists, who are trained in current events and reporting, trying to interpret scientific data and medical data. So, you can have people that are medical experts, report something or a study, come out and talk about the results of something. And then you have someone who's not trained to read or understand that information, or doesn't have a basis in the science that information trying to make a headline out of it. So, you're always going to have some, not even just some, you'll have bias, but you'll also just have some accidentally misinformed or misrepresented information. That's just media in general. You've also had media outlets that have been more malicious in terms of downplaying the effects of COVID or only covering certain sides, um. I think before it reached the US, it was a little bit more downplayed or was definitely a lot more downplayed in terms of how it would impact us, I don't think and that's great. I don't think anybody had a good understanding of how it would impact the world for a year, going on. But it wasn't really made personal what the impact could be once it reached the US. There was a lot of uncertainty, and there's always been a lot of uncertainty, but especially when there were big crises, like the very beginning or when there were some big spikes over the summer as well as over the holidays and things at the vaccines as well. Because media and news are so constant and things come out all the time. You have outlets reporting stuff multiple times a day. Trying to make news out of every little event doesn't take the whole scope into picture. So, there is reporting an example of this would be how some of these vaccines have been reported on. There was a bunch of news that came out and some pretty quick reactions from some governments because a couple of people had blood clots following AstraZeneca vaccine, versus if we had just waited a couple of days to see what was going to come out about that it wasn't no more than blood clots in the average population, there's no reason to believe it was connected to AstraZeneca. But we had a lot of fearmongering because of that, because people had to jump on the news so quickly. The presidential election, the news is always kind of messy, because it's the presidential election. I don't, I think some of the COVID news there definitely a lot of assumption from some sides that COVID would basically go away after the presidential election, which wasn't true and it was never going to be true.
LJ: Did you think there was an extra effort to politicize the virus just in general during the election?
GS: Probably and if some of it was, it wasn't all bad there, because in some ways, like, how you handle the death for 500,000, people will always be political.
GS: And certainly, the policy around that of what is the boundary of what is freedoms how do our freedoms fall into the need to protect public safety is always going to be a political discussion, but the science was politicized more than it needed to be because we saw the results of vaccines didn't need to be politicize the actual data didn't need to be politicized, but it was.
LJ: Right. Do you think that that's slowed down after the presidential election? Like, right now do you think that there's still the media is doing a good job reporting on COVID? Do you think that they're still going a little bit too far with it or how are your opinions on how it is right now?
GS: I think there was a very weird dynamic happening between the president presidential election and the inauguration that was kind of its own weird little capsule of time. Where it was, we were also covering the, the holiday surge, and the vaccines all coming out, so there was a very weird dynamic going on where it was like becoming political how Biden was going to handle it and also very, weirdly, reported on how Trump is going to handle it. Since the inauguration though. I think the way the media has covered by Biden's response, probably isn't with the same ones as they covered the Trump response partly because Biden is coming in at the clean slate and his-he's not as responsible for the desks that have happened. Because a lot of them happened under Trump, so he's probably not getting quite the same treatment just on that grounds. But his response has been somewhat appropriate, and I'd say some somewhat, appropriately analyzed in terms of the way that he dedicates resources and the way that they've managed certain restrictions and things like that. But also having to understand that he's not totally responsible for when the disease course happened. I think depending on what outlet you look at, that's sometimes fair and sometimes has isn't fair because a lot of that is set up by what was going on during the Trump administration, so, it's a mixed bag I don't know if that totally answer the question, but I think it's a mixed bag.
LJ: Yeah, that's good. What seemed normal before and now seems strange? Like, something that you would do regularly before that now just seems completely crazy.
GS: I mean, going out in crowds without masks. And not saying that I haven't been going to reasonable gatherings are legal and whatever, but the idea of going to concerts now is interesting, because there's just so many people that not even in terms of COVID but like yeah, that's how you get the flu and lots of other diseases and things like that. Or there's some of the sanitation, I think is one of them too. I remember saying when I moved on campus again, they were talking about the differences and how some of the procedures are going to be handled that they were gonna be increasing the amount of times that they cleaned the bathrooms and clean certain other things. And I was like, that sounds like a good thing. Why were they not being cleaned that often before?
LJ: Right? So, you think well, has helped to improve just general sanitation?
GS: And awareness around cleanliness, I hope people recognize it a little bit more about what it means to appropriately wash your hands things like that
LJ: that was surprising to me how little people knew how to wash their hands.
GS: That was the amount of signs that had been put up reminding people to wash their hands for 20 seconds. It's really funny to me especially in the bathroom.
LJ: I know.
GS: And another thing I think was weird, was weird before or is weird. Now, that we wouldn't have is, the way that restaurants are handling the take out, like, you can take out from so many restaurants. Now, it seems like that should have been something that happened before, but it's not but you can order take out from almost any restaurant now and that's that just seems normal. It seems like something. You should be able to do delivery apps have really increased order delivery from those restaurants too and that's such a normal thing now, but right.
LJ: What are you doing now that you hopefully next time this time next year will seems strange?
GS: Wearing masks everywhere I ready to not have to do that and I will wear mine even though I'm vaccinated, I will wear it as long as they tell me I should be, but I would like to not because it is frustrating. And sometimes it's hot.
LJ: very much so
GS: foggy on the glasses for sure.
LJ: Oh, for sure. Have any of your plans changed either your changed or becoming uncertain about your future career path or are you just taking some time to adjust to the current period, but hopefully we'll get back on track once COVID over?
GS: In terms of like, my current things that were kind of changed I think they're probably worth some opportunities I would have done aren't available and volunteering options that aren't available. Right now, in terms of there was a program. I volunteered within a school last year that they don't have volunteers for that right now. Because I am interested in pursuing occupational therapy, something that we do a lot in preparing for graduate school is shadowing. And most places don't allow shadowing right now, or it's hard to get into. Or it takes a long time. So, that's something that I haven't been able to do as much. And I've had to really substitute that with some of my research experience. So, that's definitely something in terms of my future plans, it hasn't necessarily changed it. I still want to do occupational therapy. I'm just kind of aware of what it looks like of which settings are still working. Right now. Acute care has always been working, but outpatient had to adjust to Telehealth to some degree in some settings. I'm just being aware of what that looks like to adjust to telehealth or what settings would still be in person, but it also did kind of get me more interested in the health care research side. Because I saw how important that wasn't. I was already interested in that before, but seeing how important that was over the course of the pandemic. Definitely got me, it got me interested in continuing that to kind of look into that route.
LJ: Interesting, how would you rate the Government's response on a local, state or federal level?
GS: I would say Pitt county probably gets about 7. I, there's definitely things they probably could have done better, but it's this is a low-income County, and we don't have a lot of resources here in terms of, especially in terms of health care. I mean, Vidant is like, the only significant medical center. And one of the only big medical centers in eastern North Carolina, so I think it probably did about as good as he could in pit county. The state the state, it's like a 5 just because again, there's things that they did that made sense. Some of it was too little too late. And some of it was just ridiculous. So, um, I think they're trying to phase back in the kids and schools. I think that that's being done probably about as well as it could, but the curfews were ridiculous that was not necessary and I don't think that probably did much of an impact.
LJ: Did you ever see the curfews enforced?
GS: I know it's enforced on restaurants, so I know that, like the bars couldn't open, or they couldn't serve alcohol after certain times. I don't know that I ever saw like, people getting pulled over, but I know that that was enforce on restaurants and businesses.
GS: Um, but, yeah, I think I think that, but then the, the federal government under the Trump administration, did not do well at all, except for their I would say the investment in vaccines and some of their research was probably the best thing that they did, but the leadership in terms of how the state should be handling, it was not done. Well, and it was incredibly politicized by the Administration's better, but they're also experiencing a different giant because they, they didn't experience the crisis the same way. They're experiencing how to handle the response. So, they're not handling it. They're not having the same challenge that the Trump administration had, but I would say they're handling it a little bit better. So, they probably get. You know, I'd say the Trump administration, it's about a 3 by the administration gets maybe a 6.
LJ: Okay, do you think there will be, as a psychology major, do you think there'll be any lasting psychological social or behavioral impacts on society? From how isolating this entire experience has been?
GS: I think so. I think it will be interesting to see. Well, we know that depression and anxiety has gone up significantly. I think we will see some people I'm not sure how much this has been studied yet, but the impact on people who really stayed home and isolated for the entirety of the recommended time of the pandemic. I think it will be interesting to see in terms of, like agoraphobia or OCD how that plays out in terms of sanitation and kind of just the fear that happens there. And I think it will affect group dynamic because I don't know if people will want to go back to some of the big gatherings in the same way that we used to, and I don't know if that's necessarily a bad thing. I don't think we necessarily as a society need to have massive, thousands of people concerts, but how long would it take for us to be able to trust each other again in terms of trusting each other to keep us safe and how people view their friends and relatives. That maybe were more cautious or less cautious during the pandemic. How does that affect relationships? I think that will be something to watch. So, I think they definitely will be lasting impacts. And I think there will be a lot of generation of trauma that we see from the amount of time people spend at home child development will be an interesting 1 to watch. I don't know that we have a full scope of what That'll look like but. That's definitely a study that's gonna need to happen.
LJ: Is there anything else that you want ECU or just the general public to know?
GS: I would say that the pressure to innovate has never been higher. And that includes our faculty, something that I've been very disappointing. I think, for me over the course of the pandemic is the expectation, the lack of expectations that has been put on our faculty. I think the students were, it's reasonable to give students a little bit more of a free pass because I'm paying thousands of dollars to be in school. But if I'm paying thousands of dollars to be taught, I shouldn't have professors who are dropping me for 2 weeks, and then coming back with an exam next week. And we have, like, this semester students have a little bit of lax in terms of grading, and we can withdraw from classes longer and pass fail 2 classes. But faculty don't have to use our surveys and of how they did during the pandemic to describe how what it means to be a teacher in the modern age. And they don't have to use that in their reviews. Because honestly, I understand that. Some professors weren't ready to convert totally online classes. But if you have a professor that's teaching in the 21st century, and can't use canvas effectively, that impacts their ability to teach not just this semester. But once we go back to in person. And if they're not able or unwilling to adapt to that, that says something about their ability to teach right now. And I think that that has been kind of undervalued and similarly to, if you have businesses that weren't able to innovate, it's, it's hard at. How do you handle that as an economy? Do we simulate those businesses that weren't able to innovate? Are some of them worth keeping around even though they weren't and worse some of them just not able to adapt to modern the modern age. And I think that's something we need to watch, but also be aware of. Who deserves grace here? Where is that? Where has that been earned? Who is paying for it? I think those are all things to watch and be aware of but, also, I think that this has brought our society together in a really unique way, and I think some of the camaraderie that will come out of that is also positive.
LJ: Good, good. Well, thank you so much for interview. I'll go ahead and end the recording.
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