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Pandemic Stories from Readers Around the World

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 07, 2020

In the latest issue of the kottke.org newsletter sent out on Sunday evening, I asked readers if they would share what they’ve been up to during the pandemic and how their families and communities are coping. I received a bunch of responses from people all over the world and beginning today, I will be sharing a few excerpts on kottke.org and in the newsletter — you can read all of the responses here.

A doctor writes in from Cape Town, South Africa:

We are well accustomed to working in a resource-scarce setting, and improvisation and decisions about which patients qualify for resuscitation, ventilation and ICU care are the order of the day for us generally. I have been very interested to read media reports about the moral dilemmas facing doctors; first in Italy and now in other parts of the first world where these types of ethical decisions are less commonplace.

From a French schoolteacher:

I am glad I live in France and I know that no matter your social background and bank account status, if you get sick, you get treated the same way and for free.

A pastor from Jackson, Mississippi:

I live in Jackson, MS, which is somewhere between Yonkers and Syracuse in size — something like 170,000 people, and the largest city in Mississippi. Some things about Jackson that make this particularly difficult is that Jackson was already desperately poor before all this went down — 25% of the city has a household income of less than $15,000 a year, and 75% of the the city was a USDA food desert when everything is “normal”.

As a result, most of Jackson has to travel significant distances to go to the grocery store, and there aren’t huge amounts of money floating around to buy up supplies, anyway. So a big part of my work, as the pastor of a small church down here has been helping people get access to food and supplies.

A report from a central Ohio suburb:

Here in our small tree-lined suburb in central Ohio, we have been carefully observing the social distancing and stay home instructions for nearly four weeks now. As native southerners, we count ourselves lucky to live in Ohio where our (Republican, wow!) governor acted early and rapidly to take measures to flatten the curve of Covid-19. In his first address on the subject he proclaimed that he would be “guided by science” in passing guidelines to protect us, and we look at other less-proactive states and worry about our families there.

New Zealand is in lockdown:

The fallout from our lockdown is going to be massive. No one is really confident at what it will look like, but numbers being thrown around are 30% of small to medium businesses (the category which most of our businesses fall into) will not be able to reopen when the lockdown is lifted. Thousands of people are being made redundant. It’s like nothing most of us have seen in our lifetimes here. Even the GFC didn’t have this bad an impact on our economy. Our parliament (the house of government) is closed, with most of our Members of Parliament locked down at home like the rest of us. What we have in place of the normal sitting of both government and the opposition parties, is a committee made up of representatives of all parties who scrutinise how the government is responding to the virus. The daily sittings of this committee are broadcast online so anyone can see what’s being asked and answered. This seems to be working well and at least safeguards some of our democracy in a time when we’re effectively on a war-footing.

A reminder from Winnipeg, Canada:

School is suspended indefinitely and everyone is home. I’m fortunate to have a family who gets along well and children (10 and 12) who I don’t have to worry about if they miss school for an extended run. I’ve tried to focus on how lucky we are as a family to be able to be together and sustain ourselves. One of the things I heard on the radio early in this period was a discussion on CBC Radio’s As It Happens (one of the nation’s greatest radio programmes, and a great source of information at a time like this) with authors Margaret Atwood, Waubgeshig Rice and Daniel Kalla. Something Rice, an Indigenous author, said, really stuck with me: “I think we’re all scared in some ways. But I think if your first response is fear, it’s important to acknowledge your privilege in that you maybe haven’t been to the brink before. Whereas a lot of marginalized communities have experienced that and continue to experience that. And there’s a long list of examples in Canada of world ending for different communities. You know, you can look at the destruction of Africville in Nova Scotia or the internment of Japanese Canadians. You know, it’s important to take a look at what your personal perspective is and your place in society and just, you know, acknowledge that privilege of being part of the dominant culture and things being generally good in Canada in the last 150 years or so.” I try to remember this as I think about my own fears and my own family’s situation.

The independent spirit of southwest Wyoming:

It’s strange to think about having to shelter in place when we have so much empty space that we can occupy our time with outside, so people are still out and about around our town. And I am completely in favor of shelter in place policies in major metro areas, but somehow it just doesn’t seem like it would work here given the political and personal leanings of the people of Wyoming. I am new to Wyoming (have lived here 2.5 years), but there is a certain way people seem to think this is still the old west and, for better or worse, they tend to have that independent spirit. The virus has just recently arrived in our county, but to be honest the scariest thing for me is the fact that this is Trump country and that people believe him. I’m more scared of jackasses flaunting this as a hoax and not taking the proper precautions when they are at the grocery store with me or my family.

Again, you can read all of the responses right here.