COVID-19 BLOG: The weight of choices

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Jordan Johnson (top right) meets with Marquette Wire photo desk members Maddy Andresen (top left) and Claire Gallagher (bottom) April 28. Photo courtesy of Jordan Johnson.

It starts as a bit of water in a small pan on the back burner of your mind, but soon becomes boiled-over bubbles, hissing and crackling at you until you fumble with the stove knob enough to turn down the heat. It is a pan full of questions pouring over your brain in disastrous fashion. It is a global pandemic.

First, reports and unfounded rumors come from abroad. Possibly staged photos and videos warn of the major ramifications of the coronavirus. Then again, they say its lethality is less than 1% and only affects the elderly or those with immune deficiencies. It probably won’t affect my life too much. It begins to spread rapidly to other countries. There are only a few cases in the United States, but I would hate to be in South Korea or Italy. Will it even make it here?

Off to a work trip I waited for all semester. The opportunity to take photos at the BIG EAST Tournament at Madison Square Garden in New York City. I love New York — the hustle and bustle and constant flux of people and … and now the tournament is canceled. Actually, everything is canceled. This is unbelievable, everything seems fine in Manhattan. People are going about as normal. There’s toilet paper in every store. Does the coronavirus even have symptoms related to digestion? No. Regardless, I should probably get out of Manhattan, as 54 people in NYC are now positive for the virus.

Then the reality of it hits me. If I have the virus, I am going to be fine, I am young and healthy. But if I go back to Milwaukee from Manhattan now, what if I give it to my brother, the Type 1 diabetic I live with?

Home to Arizona it is, then. What about my dad with chronic heart failure? What about my textbooks in Milwaukee? What about my summer job? What about moving to a new apartment in June?

Days drip languidly by in room 319 of the Greentree Inn & Suites, confined to my room, denying cleaning service, seeing no one and doing nothing. I started developing the cold symptoms the last day in New York. Was it right to get on the plane? Am I part of the problem? Can I afford not to get on the plane? Can I afford to self-quarantine in a hotel 10 minutes from my house? Do I have the virus? My health care provider says I am not showing strong enough symptoms to warrant a test. But I am showing some symptoms. Isn’t my age group primarily showing few symptoms?

Feeling better does not mean I am better. If I do come home, I’ll need to stay in my room. This is serious, and people aren’t recognizing that this is serious. I wasn’t recognizing that this is serious — not until I had to decide between my brother or my dad. Was Arizona the right choice? What does this have to do with the stock market? Now I am on walks late at night, six feet away from people and using one square of toilet paper. Uber Eats has free delivery now? Now I am trying to teach myself bivariate distributions and oblique incidence. It feels like summer vacation, like I can put it all off until tomorrow, so I do, but I can’t. I am behind.

And now I fumble with the stove knob to try and keep the water confined to the pan; we all fumble. We all know someone who could be hurt by this. We all could be hurt by this. What’s more, the outlook is bleak. The cost of sacrifice is a protracted timeline. It’s boiling over now. How long can musical artists hold Instagram Live concerts before nobody watches? Is this the prequel to WALL-E? How long will my dad work before the company lays people off? Will my brother be able to get unemployment relief? Should I bother cleaning my room? Do I need to shower? Will I have to go to the grocery store, or can I get it online? How can I stay away from everyone and everything?

This story was written by Jordan Johnson. He can be reached at jordan.d.johnson@marquette.edu.