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My COVID-19 Point of View: What Life Is Like in Atlanta, Georgia

What’s happening in Atlanta, Georgia: I am Maya. I am a 47-year-old lesbian woman who lives with bipolar and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as well as other mental and medical conditions. I live in a county that is partly Atlanta proper. I moved to Atlanta to attend college back in 1990. I fell in love. They call Atlanta the Black Mecca. I saw immediately why. I spent a short while in Boston attending graduate school, but I immediately returned to the place I now consider home. I have spent my career working in non-profit management. Mainly supporting battered women, the homeless and early childhood education. I now work for my counties Felony and Misdemeanor Mental Health Courts where I serve as group leader for the participants. I sew when I feel up to it and I like to listen to music in the afternoons and lay down. My favorite Pandora stations are Emeli Sande and Enya.

Georgia has been a hot spot for COVID-19 for some time now, but we are just now seeing a spike. As of July 15, we’ve seen 127,834 cases and 3,091 deaths mainly in the metro Atlanta area. We had an early hot spot in Dougherty County in Southwest Georgia (what would be considered a small rural area). This was due to two funerals that occurred in late March. So far, they have 2,182 cases with a population of just 90,000. In the eastern part of Atlanta in the county I live in — DeKalb County — we’ve had 8,784 cases and 183 deaths. The case counts are rising, and we anticipate a surge in hospitalizations in the near future (of course the deaths will follow). Our governor basically said we were ready to open May 1 because we have enough hospital beds for all the coming sick people. He really went ahead and said the quiet part out loud.

In my opinion, we closed too late and opened way too soon. We did not even close things we should have. I feel the governor feels pressure from the business community to stay open. His entire advisory board is made up of business leaders and politicians. All he has talked about is the economy and the budget.

This angers me as a Black woman because Blacks are disproportionally impacted by COVID-19. As quoted in Business Insider

“A new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention… found that 83% of people hospitalized with COVID-19 in Georgia during March were black. ‘The proportion of hospitalized patients who were black was higher than expected based on overall hospital admissions,’ the report said. Black people account for 52% of the overall population in Atlanta and 32% in Georgia, meaning they were significantly overrepresented in COVID-19 hospitalizations. 

The first thing the Governor did at the end of April was open beauty salons and barbershops. A main gathering place for Blacks in the Black community. My people are literally dying by the thousands and the Governor seems to not care.

In Alabama, another state with closing too late and opening too early, my cousin Janice died from COVID-19. Not only did she get sick but so did her daughters (who needed ICU care) and her grandchildren. This did not have to happen. This has had a major impact on me and has me worried about my own fate if I come down with the virus. I do not want to die from this. So, I stay home. She did not have the privilege to stay home so she died.

My observations about masks: I have only left home to mainly go to doctor’s appointments. On my first trip out, I went to urgent care for an ear infection. There were no patients there and only staff who were wearing masks. Then I went to my chiropractor who I have been seeing for 20 years. That whole experience was awful. When I made my appointment, no screening questions were asked nor was I told to wear a mask. There was no sign on the door describing COVID 19 precautions. When I got in to sign-in the front desk staff had his mask around his chin. The assistant had no mask on. You were told to keep the sign in pen but there still was not any hand sanitizer. The doctor had a mask on, but I was in an enclosed room with his assistant who was not wearing a mask. I asked the doctor why his staff was not wearing a mask and he told me they were staying six feet a way from patients. This just was not true, and we know that in an enclosed room the virus is airborne. I have not been back. I found another chiropractor in a community Facebook group and I have started seeing someone else who has all the safety precautions in place. I am sorry I had to leave my other guy, but he is a hazard. My other doctors’ appointment has been simply fine with all safety protocols followed.

We had big Black Lives Matter protest back in June. Many of the protesters were wearing mask. There are no reports of the spike in the state being due to the protest.

My experience out of the house: I have not left the house except to see the doctor. I feel I must do my part to stay healthy and not become a burden on the health system. This virus is no joke, and I do not want to catch it.

Alisa and her two friends smiling at a bowling ally
Bowling with friends pre-COVID

My health: I am currently doing psychiatry and therapy via Doxy.me. I did tell my therapist if she were going back into the office anytime soon, I was not coming because I could not possibly do therapy through a mask. She assured me that she was not going back into the office anytime soon and may very well never have a physical office again. I prefer in-person therapy because I feel she does not get to see my body language and other cues over video, but I am willing to do it so I can keep seeing her. She has been very helpful during this pandemic and I could not have managed as well without her. I do not know how people are doing it without some form of therapy.

My quality of life: I have really suffered during this shutdown. I have been home since March 13, 2020. At first, I was coping well then after week or two I fell into a deep depression. I felt I was sitting around wasting time and should be doing something

My therapist let me off the hook and told me I could in effect do nothing the entire pandemic and that was OK. That we’re all going through a collective trauma and should give ourselves a break. That advise seemed to hold for a while.

As I expressed how bored and distant I felt from others, my therapist began to discuss the fact with me that I was depressed and should see my psych about a med change. I cried when she suggested that. Finally, I knew that I would not have to suffer in silence anymore. I met with my psych nurse and she changed my meds and after a few tries it worked out and I am feeling more hopeful.

Even though we have opened up, I have not even gone to my favorite spot Local 7 in downtown Tucker to play Team Trivia with my friends. I look forward to doing this in the future.

A young girl holding up cookies over a screen
Sonja cooking with Grandma over Zoom

My unique COVID-19 moment: I have five grandchildren. One of them is Sonja. She is 9 years old. When we spoke on the phone recently, she reminded me how she and I baked cookies last time she came to my house. She expressed she would like to do that again. Her other grandmother said we could do it via Zoom. So, they got all of the ingredients at their house. So did I, and I taught her how to bake cookies over Zoom. It was the most fun I had the entire pandemic. She was so excited about the apron she had made just for the occasion. Her mom and grandma said she was beaming for hours after our little baking session. So was I.

My hopes for the future: I am not sure what to say about this. I think we are going to have to learn to live with the virus. I am currently doing all my work online since I would otherwise have to go to the courthouse, which would really be unsafe. I am doing all my treatment by telehealth and that is going OK.

The only thing that is missing is my social life. I really rely on getting out with friends and going to eat to keep me mentally stable. This is not possible during the pandemic. I am overly cautious and see restaurants as high risk. I am sad I do not get to have my annual birthday party bash so I will have to come up with a substitute. So, I will stay put for now and hunker down for the long run.

Every time I decide to stay home, I feel I am saving a life. Every time I choose to wear a mask, I feel I am doing my part to love my neighbor.

I hope we all turn out to be better people when all this is over.

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