29 Aug Lazar Cartu States The global pandemic is personal; here are some Ohioans’…
Ohioans from across the state shared how the COVID-19 pandemic and its highly charged political aura have affected their lives and relationships, and their ideas on how officials and the media could be doing better.
After Your Voice Ohio conducted five online dialogues with Ohioans in which they expressed concern for unclear messaging, lack of a plan and politics taking precedence over science in the era of COVID-19, student interns in the Collaborative News Lab @ Kent State University were asked to interview several people from various parts of the state about their experiences dealing with the pandemic.
Among the questions were:
- Have you been tested?
- How do you engage with others who have different perspectives?
Participating in this reporting project were Gina Butkovich, Tramaine Burton, Paige Bennett, Jenna Borthwick, Kelsey Paulus and Madison MacArthur. Associate professor Susan Kirkman Zake advises the staff. The program is sponsored by the Scripps Howard Foundation.
Engaging with the public: Be empathetic and factual
Name: Kevin Jones
Occupation: College Student
Kevin Jones will be graduating with a political science degree from Wright State University in December. But like so many other college students, he will be taking his last semester of classes online due to the COVID-19 outbreak.
“I had to move back to Columbus,” Jones said. “It’s affected the way I’m able to learn, instantly switching over to remote learning and then finishing out my last semester of undergrad. So it’s affected me that way, and it’s affected me mentally. I’m an on-the-go type of individual, so not being able to go out as much at the beginning of quarantine and changing the way I maneuver in society — it’s affected me mentally.”
Jones was tested for COVID-19, something he said he did as both a precautionary measure and as a way to show the importance of being tested.
“It’s one thing I’ve really been pushing personally, because I do have underlying health conditions and, as we know, COVID, at least here in Franklin County, has affected my age group the most,” Jones said. “And it affects African Americans in a much more disproportionate way. I’ve been pushing getting tested, social distancing, the proper health precautions to ensure that we’re staying healthy.”
In addition to attending school, Jones works as the chief communications officer for Central Ohio Young Black Democrats. In his position, Jones will often come across someone with differing views from his on COVID-19.
“A lot of times we’ll have people message or comment or respond to different posts that we make or share,” Jones said. “My response is usually very gentle and empathetic, yet factual and informative. What we know. What the facts are that we know. I understand what you’re saying, I understand what you feel, but what’s the facts?”
Jones trusts the pandemic-related information he gets from his state and local governments and said although he isn’t a Republican, he absolutely trusts the leadership of Gov. Mike DeWine.
“I’ve been trusting them my entire life,” Jones said. “And I don’t think COVID is a situation we should handle differently. Although we have not seen anything like this in our lifetime, we know that we’ve been here before — between the Spanish flu, between the swine flu, between the ebola outbreak. We’ve been in many different cases where we’ve had no option but to trust government. And I believe that we have the best doctors here in Columbus. We have some of the best resources here in Ohio.”
— By Gina Butkovich
Student-teaching in a virtual classroom
Name: 21-year-old student teacher
After three years of studying to work as a teacher in a classroom, one woman’s final education will be student teaching 100 percent online due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“As a teacher, one thing that they do tell us is that you always need to be learning,” the Columbus-area teacher said. “You can’t one day know everything. So it’s a lot of learning as you go so you’re better equipped to teach the students. So I’m just trying to embrace this as a learning opportunity and take whatever comes.”
Because she intends to seek a full-time teaching job next year, she talked about the coronavirus, teaching and voting on condition that her identity not be disclosed.
She did work with children in person over the summer, at a summer camp. Masks were required, and the schedule was switched from an overnight camp to a day camp. Despite these precautions, some campers opted out of attending for a variety of reasons.
In addition, some kids struggled with being forced to wear a mask.
“We had a few campers who were just getting very frustrated with being forced to wear a mask,” she said. “Which I understand, and [toward] the latter half of the summer, all of the campers 10 years and older were also required to wear a mask. And there were some people coming in who just got very frustrated, and saying that their parents told them that it wasn’t real, et cetera.”
She followed the instructions of her supervisor at the camp: work to align the campers with the beliefs at the camp.
“Oftentimes, if they were not willing to wear their mask, we would just say, ‘I understand that’s what you believe, however, for the greater good …’ Or, ‘This is just something you do at camp.'”
Another tactic they used was to say, “Camp is about making everyone feel comfortable, therefore if you’re going to be in this place, you’re going to have to wear a mask.”
When it comes to deciding who to vote for during a pandemic, she wants to know not only what the candidates plan on doing, but what they are currently doing.
“I think it’s not only important to know what your goals or plans are, but what are you doing right now to make this happen, because if you’re not putting in steps to achieve these goals, it’s not going to get done.”
— By Gina Butkovich
Checking sources, avoiding conflict
Name: 19-year-old Cleveland State University student
Before the coronavirus pandemic began, the female college student studying mathematics said she used to constantly be around other people. In the past few months, though, she hasn’t seen many others in person, aside from a couple of friends.
“I don’t get to see my family as much,” she said. “So that’s been weird because I’m usually around people all the time.”
She’s never been tested for COVID-19. She has many questions about what life will be like after the pandemic and wants to know more about a potential coronavirus vaccine. She said she primarily relies on coronavirus information from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention because she thinks it offers the best health-related news.
When the student reads news about the pandemic, she said she checks the source before she decides whether she believes it and filters out information that comes from what she considers to be untrustworthy places.
“I feel like I always have to look where [information] is coming from and whether it’s obviously a biased source or not and just ignore those ones,” she said.
She asked that her name not be used because she was concerned about differences of opinion. If she encounters someone who has a viewpoint on the pandemic that differs from her own, the student said she typically doesn’t pay attention to it.
“I’m going to be honest, I usually don’t respond,” she said. “I just ignore it. Ignore the ignorance behind it.”
The student said she wants those running for office to take a stance on issues related to the pandemic, such as calling for mask mandates. She also said she hopes reporters will ask for more statistics about the pandemic because she feels like more information should be provided on the number of cases that occur in specific regions.
— By Paige Bennett
Coworkers became ill; grateful to work at home
Name: Hailey Lueck
Occupation: Communications coach
When she returned home from the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, which took place from Jan. 7 to 11, Hailey Lueck became seriously ill along with many of her coworkers. At that time there were no COVID-19 tests available and the virus was not widely known.
“I came home from that honestly the sickest I’ve ever been. I had a lot of COVID-like symptoms,” Lueck said about her trip. “It literally annihilated our entire office — everyone in our office got sick.”
Now, as the number of cases and unemployment claims rise in the U.S., Lueck, who lives near Toledo, is grateful to be physically healthy and to be working from home. The isolation brought on by the coronavirus is the most challenging issue for her as she misses visiting her friends and family. And the influx of information about the pandemic has definitely made her skeptical of some news sources.
“I mostly read NPR,” Lueck said. “I also appreciate that they tend to have people kind of on both political spectrums that will provide commentary and not in an aggressive manner but just like a factual manner.”
She urges people to become better at fact-checking their sources, something she says not many are doing. For instance, she speaks to associates who work in health care, asks questions of them and listens to their experiences, which she said gives her a much clearer and accurate picture of what is happening. Lueck said she has various questions about the best ways to protect and keep loved ones safe since so many Americans have died of the pandemic.
“It’s a horrible virus that’s really decimated a lot of people’s livelihoods,” she said. “You know way too many Americans who passed away due to the coronavirus.”
Lueck said it would be ideal to have more information coming from the federal…