As my state of NJ is just going into our Phase 2 of a reopening plan, I have been wondering what everyone’s personal experience has been like with covid-19.
New Jersey was the number two state as far as cases. From March until just this past Monday, June 16th, we were basically shut down. At one point, parks were even closed, so you were only allowed to go to the grocery store or a store deemed essential, and walking around your neighborhood was really the only place you could be.
For all of us that do suffer from either mental or physical illnesses, we know what it’s like to not be able to go out shopping or not seeing friends and family a lot. We know the feeling of being confined to our spaces and what it can do to your emotional well-being.
When the governor shut the state down, it really didn’t affect me a lot because I had already been subjected to this all before. It’s odd to say, but I felt prepared for this and it wasn’t much different than my everyday life. The things I struggled with were extreme fear of getting the virus and anxiety of when and how I would be able to get a food order.
As soon as New Jersey had its first positive case of Covid-19, I was done going in stores and seeing anyone outside of my house. I was so scared, as someone with autoimmune issues, that I would be so easily susceptible to the virus. I stopped going to my doctors that I see so often to help me manage my conditions and only used the drive through to get my prescriptions.
I found myself angry that the opinions kept changing on whether or not we should wear masks. My stress levels were at all time highs; I could not step away from my computer until I could guarantee that I had a reserved time-slot in the near future to get groceries. Even when I did secure myself a grocery order pick-up, there was no guarantee that I would get any of the items that I had requested. The first couple of times, the food stores contacted me telling me that half of my order could not be filled due to lack of products. Imagine 56 items of your grocery order not being available. It was scary. My generation has never experienced something like this before.
My local news outlets would report what stores in the area had people testing positive every day, many of which I was getting my food from. The Facebook videos of family members of those I knew who were working on the front lines of hospitals were devastating. The governor here held a live news conference every single day on tv reporting the new number of cases that popped up overnight and the steps we needed to take to “flatten the curve.” There came a point where I had to stop watching and reading because I knew that was the only way for me to be able to calm myself.
It wasn’t until May 3rd that I went into my first store. It was a one time thing because it was my friend’s 40th birthday; I had placed an order for a very special photo book that I had to go inside to pickup. I felt horrible that it was a big birthday for her but she couldn’t do anything to celebrate.
I went to my local CVS expecting customers to be following the 6-feet social distancing guidelines and mandatory wearing of masks. A lot of stores had apparently made changes in their aisles so that you would not come face to face with anyone; I expected that this would be the case. I was so very wrong.
I walked inside and felt like I was in a daze. Within two minutes, I had sweat pouring down my face, distorted vision, and was going into a panic attack. It was a terrible experience that I regretted instantly. The amount of people in a tiny drugstore was way too much. There was no specific setup to avoid passing people face to face. Six feet distance? It was a total joke. One man was getting as close as possible to everyone because he was on a hunt for Altoids and annoyed that he couldn’t find them. Really buddy? You are risking the lives of others for a nonessential item like that?
I left telling myself I couldn’t go into another store. That trip solidified for me that people in NJ were definitely not adhering to the orders meant to protect us.
A couple of weeks later, I tried once more at a nearby Dollar Tree that only had two cars parked in their lot. This store was so empty and made me feel a lot more comfortable. I still felt weird physically, but it was not as bad as at CVS.
As of today, June 18th, I have not been in any other stores. I have no idea what any of the food stores look like inside; I hear the cashiers have shields in front of them and even behind them at the registers. I have not stepped foot into any big box stores like Walmart or Target. On Monday, June 15th, outdoor dining became allowed as did indoor shopping with limitations.
I have seen with even the smallest ban being lifted, people are not following guidelines. As soon as a state park opened back up, the lines were completely backed up. The first day that anyone could purpose beach badges for the summer, people were lined up on the boardwalk, some without masks and most not maintaining six feet distances.
It may just be my opinion, but I believe a second round of covid is in the near future. I’ve already heard about Florida, Texas, and Arizona’s numbers going up since things became open again. I don’t know how long I will continue to distance myself from others, but I can definitely say this is my new normal. I’m trying to adjust as best as I can. It’s been very offensive to me to hear others say that this pandemic is not real. It’s those same people that are the ones who could be asymptomatic, not wearing masks and spreading it to us with existing conditions.
The virus is real. I know of others that have family members impacted by this.
So, I’m curious, what’s it been like for you? I would be so interested in what’s going on in other states, if you at all contracted the virus, and how you have been managing.
Wishing everyone safety during this unfortunate time.