Guest post by Jonna Huseman
What is your profession/involvement in the community?
I’m a student at Blair High School and I run our newspaper, Silver Chips.
How has your life changed since the community has been impacted by Coronavirus?
Early on, my mom was in India when that country shut its borders. We didn’t know when or if she was going to be able to return. That was really scary. At the same time, I’ve been fortunate to have a stable life. I’ve been able to do things I enjoy. I’ve been cooking a lot. I’ve been reporting. I’ve been pretty lucky overall.
Are you working more or less?
The transition has been different for each class. Now that school is all online, a few of my classes and teachers are giving more work than if we were still in a traditional classroom setting. Other classes have been redesigned to be in the style of learn at your own pace. You do the work when you get to it. It’s really a mix.
What are you most afraid of?
I’m a senior at Blair. I’m almost certain that I’m not going to be heading back into that building. What will really suck is not going to my first semester of college at Brice University. I know some colleges are looking at pushing the semester back and starting in November, which I would almost prefer. I don’t want to complete my first semester of college online.
What are you most hopeful for?
I’m feeling hopeful when I see the way the community is coming together. Another student at Blair, her mom just passed away from the virus. The community really did come together for that family. I think within 48 hours we raised $200,000. Of course, that will not change the fact that a human life was lost, but it’s a gesture of good will and shows how much this community really does care.
What has been the most challenging part of this experience for you?
Probably not seeing my friends. I’m more of an introvert in general. But it’s been five or six weeks now.
That, and early on, the situation with my mom. She was in India when that country shut its borders. We didn’t know when or if she was going to be able to return. She is home now, but it took a while. She was gone for about a month. She was able to come home on the second-to-last evacuation flight. We didn’t know if she would be stuck abroad. Luckily, she was staying with family in India, but the situation was still really scary. There was a chance she would have been stuck there anywhere from early March until June.
Is there anything—even a tiny thing—you enjoy or like about sheltering in place?
The time I now have to do whatever I want. I have been using my time well. I sleep when I want. I wake up when I want. I’ve been cooking a lot. I spend time pursuing my hobbies and watching all of Governor Hogan’s press conferences. If there is anything relevant to the Silver Chips audience, I can get that out as soon as possible.
What do you think society as a whole will learn from this experience?
I hope that we learn a bunch of things. That physical contact isn’t necessary. We don’t always need to shake hands. I hope we learn that drinking disinfectants is a bad idea—though, I didn’t think it would take a global health crisis to learn that.
I think we will come to understand on a deep level just how much we rely on our healthcare system and the essential workers who operate it. I think we’ll realize how weak and unstable our food supply chain is. You read about the ambassador of Mexico pressuring factories to get back to work in factory towns hit hard, or about slaughter houses in Louisiana where a tenth of the employees have COVID and they still have to keep pushing and reporting to work because people need food.
I hope we can direct more focus to fixing these shortcomings in the future. And of course, I hope we learn how important pandemic preparation is and that removing the team dedicated to pandemic preparation at the White House is not the best idea.
How are you coping with stress/taking care of yourself?
I’m generally a pretty relaxed person. I’ve accepted the situation for what it is. I’ve been focusing on the things I enjoy doing, like reporting and cooking and working out—that sort of thing. I’m sure that’s all helped me cope.
When future generations ask, what will you tell them about this time in your life?
I will probably tell them how we failed to see how bad this pandemic would be and yet, looking back, the signs were there and they were obvious. I will tell them how we almost fooled ourselves into believing this would pass.
Governor Hogan declared a state of emergency March 5. He closed schools for two weeks. At that time there were only three cases in Maryland. I remember talking to my friends then—we were all asking, “Are they really going to close schools?” We were debating whether state officials would actually close schools at all. Now, here we are not going to back to school for the rest of the semester.
And yet, when you look at what was going on in China around that time, you would have been able to predict the very situation we are in right now. Around the time Hogan declared that state of emergency, there was a study showing how a third of the people with the disease are asymptomatic. If we would have paused to look at that, we would have said, unequivocally, there is no way we would have been allowed in a crowded school.
What would you like your friends and neighbors in Silver Spring/Montgomery County to know?
Local media now is as important now as ever. The Washington Post and New York Times are doing fabulous work. They are doing good jobs holding the Trump administration accountable. But local sources are doing a great job, too. WUSA-9, Silver Chips—we are taking what Hogan is saying at the state level and communicating it in simple terms for people in the community. I hope my friends and neighbors recognize the importance of local media.
I also hope we all recognize the importance of the national capital region, and the work local leadership is doing to try to keep us all safe. Hogan, Bowser, Northam have sent letters many times to Trump telling him that we need resources here. We face a stronger hotspot than other places. If we can’t get testing, the federal workforce will have a hard time responding.
Jonna Huseman is a family photographer who serves Silver Spring and beyond. During the COVID-19 crisis, she is using her free time to document the lives of friends and neighbors living through the pandemic.
Author’s note: Over the coming days and weeks I am documenting the lives of dozens of members of the Silver Spring and Takoma Park community. My goal is to talk to teachers and students, religious leaders, small business owners, frontline workers, parents, elected leaders, and private citizens. I want to learn about our collective hopes and dreams, our biggest challenges, and our greatest triumphs. Mostly, I want to build connection and create community at a time when we need it the most. If you live or work in Silver Spring or Takoma Park and are interested in having your life documented at this time—or know someone who has a unique experience and is willing to share—please contact me. To all those who have made this project possible, including Source of the Spring, I thank you for your time and generosity. To the neighbors who will respond in the future, I look forward to getting to know you. And to everyone reading—stay healthy and safe. We will make it through.