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COVID-19: What It's Like in Henrico, Virginia

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What’s happening in Henrico, Virginia: Hi! My name is Jae and I live in Henrico, VA, but am originally from Hampton, VA. I am 33 years old and I am a female. My parents are Black, Native American and Irish, and I live with lupus, fibromyalgia, supraventricular tachycardia (SVT), atrial fibrillation, hypertension, asthma, allergies, gastroparesis, IBS, autoimmune urtecaria, endometriosis, adenomyosis, anemia, sickle cell trait, chronic kidney disease, chronic migraines and peripheral neuropathy. I am a nonprofit professional and I enjoy going to museums, brunching, spending time with family, reading and writing. 

In our state, COVID-19 cases have been steady. Currently here are our stats: 74,431 confirmed cases, 2,007 deaths, 7,020 hospitalizations. In our state, most cases have affected Latin Americans (24,015) and Black Americans (11,689). These two ethnic groups also make up our lowest socioeconomic status and fall well below the poverty line. These communities have launched massive testing events in order to support themselves, and I’ve seen people canvasing to distribute “COVID Packs” with masks, gloves, hand sanitizer and information on the virus. 

COVID-19 has affected locals here greatly. Many businesses have closed permanently due to the fact that people are not spending money. Literally there have been places here today and gone tomorrow. Many restaurants have converted their parking lots to outdoor dining spaces to be in compliance with state regulations of social distancing in order to keep their doors open. We have seen schools implement meal distribution sites so kids can have food and we have seen some daycare locations offer special rates and programs for front line workers so that their children have a place to go during the day. These times have been very difficult all the way around here.

Perhaps the biggest thing I have seen and heard is about the financial burden this has had on families. Our state approved additional unemployment benefits for people who lost their jobs because of COVID, and even extended benefits to gig workers and the self-employed. However, there have been many hiccups in people receiving their payments and some to this day still have not received their first payments.

Businesses closing due to COVID

Then there are some who have been called back to work, but their jobs are not fully open so they have reduced pay, which is less than what they were getting from unemployment and now they cannot make ends meet. The impact from COVID is very real in communities and the impact has been very greatly felt across the board, especially in minority communities. However, one thing that has worked during this process is the issuance of emergency SNAP benefits in a timely manner and many families have been able to benefit from that and at least be food secure. There has also been a halt on evictions. However, those protections are coming to an end and many families are still uncertain of their future, especially now that unemployment is running out and jobs are growing scarce. 

My observations about masks: Masks, oh masks! This has been such an ordeal here in my area. In many of my groups online, I have seen people come to blows regarding wearing masks and goodness gracious it makes no sense! People are really mad and have become quite unhinged at the fact that it is a mandate to wear masks here in the Commonwealth. Many establishments are enforcing this rule and will not allow entry. However, there are many places that are not enforcing this and there are folks who feel they don’t have to wear a mask.

For instance, I went to the grocery store and there were so many folks with masks around their necks. I just want to say something, but here is the reality: they (mostly non-people of color) feel like they can do whatever they please. However, if I don’t wear a mask then I’m afraid I’ll be accosted and asked to leave the facility. This is just how unjust things are in our community on a larger scale. 

My experience out of the house: When COVID began, I limited my outings as much as possible: the drugstore for medications that could not be mailed (CVS luckily waived the fee for the program to mail prescriptions in order to keep patients safe), Kroger for grocery pick up (they also waived their fee for grocery pick up) and lab work and treatments for my conditions. I would rarely go out to pick up an item or two if I ran out of something or if Kroger couldn’t fulfill my entire grocery order for a week (which happens often because items are in such high demand it’s all uncertain each week).

Very rarely I went to pick up take out from some of my favorite restaurants, and I made sure the places had employees wear masks and gloves and it was contactless. Two places that did it oh-so-right were Grapevine Greek and Jason’s Deli! And things were great. I even have a system for when I leave the house: I have a set of clothes for just going out the house and when I come back in the house I strip at the door and then go shower immediately. I then put on my house clothes so I can sit down and enjoy my evening. I also have resorted to ordering so many things online such as disinfectants, clothes and other things I use on a regular basis. Luckily I have been able to restock my supplies!

Now one thing I dreaded during this time was getting my car inspected, which is mandated here in VA by the State Police. They granted us a grace period from when our inspection expired, but my grace period ended so I had to get this done. I made an appointment at my dealership, Nissan of Richmond, and they had a great process. I dropped my car off in the night drop and they used gloves to conduct the safety inspection. They then cleaned my vehicle and sealed it. I paid over the phone, and my key was left in an envelope in a designated area and I picked it up and there was no contact! I was very pleased with the concern and care of their team! 

Now my very first real outing once restrictions were lifted was to a local mall called Stony Point. This mall is outdoors and my neighbor and I went to one of the restaurants because it was 1. outdoors and 2. they had advertised very safe practices. Les Crepes, the restaurant we went to, not only had disposable menus, they had very spaced out outdoor dining, disposable dish ware and kept their distance while we dined. Added plus: we were the only patrons, which made me feel great and safe! So glad this was my first outing. Afterwards, we took a walk around the mall, got some fresh air and just enjoyed being the only humans around seeing something different than our apartment complex! 

Me after lunch!

My health: COVID has affected my health a lot. Most, if not all, of my doctor’s appointments have been telehealth. And while this is fine, I have found myself needed to connect more with some doctors due to some of my symptoms, and eventually did have to go into the office. I still have to go into the office for labs or certain treatments. To even come to my appointments I had to call when I arrived, be escorted into my appointment, get my temperature taken, answer questions and then I could come in for my appointment. One appointment I was almost not seen because I had a fever, but this happens to me sometimes because I am autoimmune. They called my doctor and they allowed me to come up once it was explained this was not related to COVID.

Very recently I had to go to the hospital and did not get the best care because of COVID. I went to the ER three times and received no help, well  because I didn’t have COVID and the doctor’s even said they felt their hands were tied because of all that was going on. I have felt bad for days and it wasn’t until I could follow up with my doctor’s that some progress was actually made. And that is just sad. I’ve also had to wait on some appointments and tests because of COVID. Now that some of our state’s restrictions are lifting, some things are getting better. Some, not all

My quality of life: Honestly, COVID has provided me with time to refresh and renew. I have been on the go a lot with my job and don’t always take care of myself. The world coming to a complete stop was good for me. I actually needed this time to take care of myself. 

Most people have complained about the isolation and not being able to do things, but for me I needed this time. And the thing is, I did not know exactly how much I needed it until it happened.  I was exhausted from just being on go 24/7 and not having time to slow down and rest. I have been working from home and not having to rush to get dressed or fight traffic has allowed me to slow my pace and renew. And for that I am very thankful. 

My unique COVID-19 moment: Hmm, funny COVID moments? I honestly don’t know. I think this is funny, yet sad. I call my mother my lifegiver and my dad her accomplice. During this time we have increased our communication and I’ve found I have to parent them. I’ve made a little segment about it on Facebook called “Parenting My Parents.” My friends just get a kick out of the things my mother says because she’s just a funny old Black lady. She is so opinionated about everything, but she also has some great wisdom.

Visit with my lifegiver

I went to visit them because the accomplice wasn’t doing well and the two of us were able to sit and talk. I got to listen to her women’s Bible Study. I got to sit on the porch and rock back and forth and hear her talk about the Civil Rights Movement and how the events of the world mirrored much of went she endured years ago, and how it pained her. And then I got to laugh at her and her fly swatter and it brought back memories of her tapping my legs as a child whenever I did wrong. This day made us forget all about COVID and that family is still first and we are there for each other in times of need. 

My hopes for the future: COVID has taught me a lot, and it is my hope that all of this will teach people a few things. First, I hope it will teach them to slow down and enjoy the simple things in life. We rush around so much that we barely just sit and enjoy the people we love. Second, you cannot treat people any type of way. Respect is something we all deserve. Third, the recognition of privilege. We need to have more conversations about this and how you cannot treat people of certain races one way and then those of another like trash, or exempt one race from one policy/procedure because of their status or skin color and then harass others because of how they look. It is time for change. Lastly, while I have known this, COVID has certainly reiterated that we cannot pour from empty buckets. 

Local resources: 

Originally published: July 16, 2020
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