Written by Ty Quass
Introduction: This is a brand new blog, so it’s hard to know where to begin. Here at News1, we will have lots of thoughts regarding current events, but before I get into rambling about COVID and my political opinions, I thought it would be helpful to start from the beginning. By starting all the way back in March of last year, you can really see how long we’ve been living this way. It’s important to see how it all started and how we got to where we are now. You’ll see I used to be more accepting of authority figures because I wanted to help “flatten the curve.” Unfortunately, we went from “flatten the curve” to continuing restrictions for well over a year now. Even now with so many people having been vaccinated, we’re still be told we have to wear masks in certain situations. To be clear, I’m not a medical expert and I don’t claim to know more than Dr. Fauci or anybody at the CDC. Still, as an American, I feel it’s my right and responsibility to question what seems to be illogical. We are now at the point where anybody who wants the vaccine is able to receive it and anyone who does not may assume the risks of catching COVID. Be that as it may, we still have new variants being discovered all the time and we don’t know how effective the current vaccine will be against those. Ok, fine, but can we stay in this current pandemic state forever? Hell no! You can, but at some point, we need crowded arenas and large gatherings to be a way of life once more. Humans are social creatures in need of physical touch. Since the beginning of the pandemic, I can count on one hand the number of people I have hugged. I am lucky if I get one hug per month. There is no one-size-fits-all approach at this point. Some people may quarantine and/or wear masks for the rest of their lives and if you’re one of those people, I genuinely feel bad for you. I can’t live that way and I won’t. I did for a while and couldn’t stand it.
March 2020: the last time life was “normal.” I was enjoying my spring break from Belmont University in Florida attending Okeechobee Music and Arts Festival. Although I don’t have a bucket list, going to an outdoor festival such as this would have been on it if I had one. Camped out in a field in the middle of the state, I had no cell phone service most of the time I was there. For approximately four days, I was out of touch with the outside world. It was an amazing feeling to forget about life for a while. What I wouldn’t give to go back to that festival and stay there forever. The America I returned to, the world I am now living in, is a miserable existence.
On our way back to Nashville, my friend Max and I stopped for hot dogs at The Varsity in Atlanta. If it’s open when we’re passing through, we always make a point to stop there. This is significant because it was my last time dining out in a public restaurant before state governments started placing restrictions on them. CNN was on in one room and FOX was airing in another. We were eating in the CNN room and Jake Tapper was on the air talking about what we then called “Coronavirus.” The virus was rapidly spreading in certain parts of America and Italy had just instituted a nationwide lockdown. Max and I looked at each other and shook our heads. What were we coming back into? The whole world changed while we were partying in Florida. As far as the virus goes, we already knew of its existence and as it turns out, Trump had been briefed two months prior. He instituted a travel ban in regards to China and people called him xenophobic. Nancy Pelosi told people to go to Chinatown (1). Ok, fine. COVID wasn’t spreading in Chinatown, but the virus did begin in China. This is no reason to be mean to Asian Americans and if you’re hateful to Asians because of this virus, I have no respect for you. Let’s get that out of the way. Having said that, it’s probably not a good idea to let people enter America from China until the virus is contained. We didn’t have the testing supplies necessary yet, so in order to save American lives, the best defense is to stop the spread. Unfortunately, this was pretty much the only measure he took. The American people were kept in the dark and we were all told not to worry about it. This all seemed fine and dandy as we were kept in the dark, took no precautions, and spread the virus without knowing how overwhelmed our hospitals would soon be. Make no mistake: the threat was real. At this point, we didn’t know how fatal it was percentage-wise, but we were starting to see how highly contagious it was. Unfortunately, our president had cut the pandemic response team in 2018 to save money (2). How does one put a price on public health?
Circling back on my everyday life, I found out Belmont was extending spring break for a week in an attempt to come up with a “Return to Campus” plan amidst the new pandemic in which we were now living. Students who lived on campus were asked to leave campus ASAP and return to their home states, regardless of the fact that many places at this time were much more dangerous than Nashville. Imagine being a student with family in Seattle (one of the first cities hit by the virus) and being told you had to leave your dorm to go where the virus was spreading much more rapidly. This is one of an infinite number of examples where people in positions of power make illogical decisions for the sake of doing something. We were told we would be returning to campus to finish the semester in-person, but anyone with any foresight knew that was bullshit. As of this time, we were destined to finish the semester online and still pay full price. Students who lived on-campus received partial refunds due to the fact they were basically kicked out. In the meantime, I was still working. The city had yet to start imposing restrictions and our state government was also doing nothing. COVID didn’t feel like a threat in Tennessee and I thought it would stay that way. On the other hand, one of my coworkers was religiously following the news and could sense a “quarantine” coming. She just happened to know one of the few people in Nashville who was exposed to the virus. Fortunately she tested negative, but in the meantime, we were doing extra surface cleaning at the shop. We now know this does nothing because COVID does not spread through surfaces, but to this day, many people still do this for peace of mind. My role in this operation was deliveries. I delivered flower arrangements and was paid $12.50 per hour along with 50 cents per mile driven. My hours were largely based off the amount of orders received on a given day. I never knew what my end time was, but I would generally start work around 10 AM and could count on around 30 hours per week. As a college student, I thought I had a pretty nice set-up, and I never even considered the possibility I’d lose my job. I started to sense it was a possibility when my shifts became less than four hours almost every day, even though it was the start of spring. On the Monday after I returned from Florida (exactly one week), I worked my final shift for a month-and-a-half. The next day, I was laid off.