I Only See My Family Through FaceTime

Illustration: Elena Scotti/Photos: Getty Images, Shutterstock
Illustration: Elena Scotti/Photos: Getty Images, Shutterstock

Are you a frontline worker dealing with new stresses or irresponsible management? Is working (or not working) from home starting to take a psychological toll? How are you coping with reopening? Submit a story using this Google form or send me an email with the subject line “My Covid Story” and provide as much detail as you’re comfortable with.

Authors’ identities have been verified, and submissions have been edited for length, grammar, and clarity.

Anonymous, violinist, South U.S.

Every day I question the value of my life as a musician. I spent my whole life perfecting how to play my instrument and now it feels superfluous.

We received the stimulus check near the end of April or early May and without that, we would be in really dire straights. We have managed to stretch this out for quite a while. We will use it up this week probably.

I have been paying Cobra health insurance for me and my son since I left my job last year. It runs out in September. My husband’s insurance costs the same amount if we join his, so this will remain a very difficult cost to shoulder. This constitutes the single largest expense in our monthly budget at $US1,300 ($1,818) per month.

Then, my husband had tests done in March showing he needed a heart stent. So we have all of those bills as well. We have been exercising since then and eating well using My Fitness Pal and have lost weight (him 12 kg and me 17). We both feel better but are really tight financially. I have since played some weddings (outdoors of course) and have more lined up for the next two months or so but that doesn’t make up for such a loss in income.

The orchestras are all trying to plan a season that has smaller sized concerts with spread out audiences which we all appreciate but it remains to be seen if they actually happen. It will still be significantly less than our normal work schedule.

Why don’t I get another job in ultrasound? Well, I did get one, but after the first day, I was an emotional wreck. The outpatient job I thought I got turned into them putting me to work in the hospital. I have kidney disease which puts me at higher risk if I caught covid-19, so I quit that evening. Now I’m not sure what I should do to preserve our finances, but I don’t want to put my life at risk and return to a career I hated.

Originally, I quit music because I was told I had an injury that would just get worse and worse and eventually I wouldn’t be able to play at all. That is what provoked me to learn something else. After about seve years, I noticed that when I tried to play, I could do it, so I started practicing again. Once I got it back I didn’t want to lose it ever again!

Coralis, laboratory technician, Caribbean

I work in a hospital with positive patients. I decided that I was going to be isolated from my family to prevent anything from happening. Since March, I only see my family through FaceTime.

When is time to buy groceries, I don’t want to expose other people, so I ask for delivery and prepare and area so the person that brings the food leave it there until I grab it. If I need to get out of my house to do something, I put on all the PPE possible.

One week ago my aunt was positive to covid-19. She was admitted to the hospital where I work and I saw her die… It was really difficult because there was nothing I could do to help her or to minimise her pain and I knew it. All I could do was stand near her until she died.

Right now I am working more hours — 12 daily — because most of my coworkers tested positive. Some people are not showing symptoms, but others are.Those are the ones that hurt more, because I know I am doing everything in my power to help them, and I feel worse knowing that they are in pain and alone and I cannot do anything to take the pain away from them or their families.

Andrew, former assistant store manager, Missouri

I was fired by [the drug store] early in the pandemic, March 31. It’s been tough trying to look for work during lockdown.

I thought my pay was ok, not great, certainly not as much as my time is worth, but well over the federal minimum wage. But even taking that into consideration, I am bringing home much more through unemployment payments. No health insurance, no 401k, and I elected not to withhold taxes, something I’m sure I’ll regret come April 15, or whenever tax day comes around again. But I was worried about not getting anything when I had to make that election. It took almost two months for me to get my first payment. [The drug store] had responded to an inquiry from the MO Labour Department that my employment had not been terminated, that I was simply on a leave of absence and therefore not eligible to receive benefits.

And it’s true that I was on leave at the time they fired me. I requested a leave because they were doing nothing to limit our contact with the public or protect us in any way during the first few weeks of the pandemic reaching our area. In fact, my district manager was encouraging us to spend extra face time with customers in order to sell [paid program] memberships. I told him that I didn’t think it was appropriate to ask us to worry about selling memberships to people who were just desperately trying to find toilet paper.

I hated working for [the drug store], and I haven’t missed my job at all. But I’m still upset when I think about how things shook out. I’ve got my fingers crossed that I don’t get sick while I’m uninsured.

I’m finally in the process of starting a letter-carrier position with USPS, at least as soon as I get the go-ahead to come in for training. My hours will not be guaranteed, and I may make just enough to push me off unemployment.

Anonymous, Nordstrom employee, Southwest U.S.

Our store closed in March with a three week pay offer. Week by week we received group emails updating progress. As time progressed, medical benefits were extended. Eventually we were invited to join a conference call where we were informed our store was closing and our benefits would expire June 30.

Though severance was offered, only three of my 13 years of service was recognised as I had left the company for personal reasons and forfeited nine years of service. This was understandable except for the fact that in every other milestone my 13 years was celebrated. It was disheartening at the least.

At 63, I was planning three and a half more years at this income level (was working on getting out of debt). I wanted to take Social Security and keep working, thinking I could reduce my stress level by using SS to further reduce debt. I have been eating away at my meager savings in order to keep bills current.

I am blessed but still very concerned about the possibility of running out of money and ending up in bankruptcy court. Being only moderately computer savvy and out of the administrative world for so long, finding work with a livable income is challenging. Working two jobs would be nearly impossible though may be inevitable.

I pray daily for our country and local leaders and trust the Lord for a way through these troubling times. Therein lies my hope. However, my heart aches for those who are not surviving physically or financially and have no hope. I am very thankful for the added stimulus and hope for future monies, but it has been a lesson in humility as I have always made my own way. Perhaps I am becoming a better person for working through this time.

If you would like to be included in a future edition of Sick Days, please use this Google form or send me an email with the subject line “My Covid Story.” Stay healthy and safe.