Guest post by Jonna Huseman

Profession/involvement in community
I don’t know how to answer the question because I technically don’t have a job—I was furloughed. I used to work at a local restaurant. I did so much there—part wine store, part cashier, some social media.

How has your life changed since the community has been impacted by Coronavirus?
It really didn’t change a whole lot because I’m a homebody and introvert, so I’ll go out and then need to stay home to recoup. Wine regions will host events where you can taste with different wine makers, and a lot of those got cancelled. The wine makers couldn’t even fly in for the events. It didn’t change that much other than not being able to go to work. People keep saying “I miss gatherings” and I think that was coming from people who like to go to the bar and meet new people. I don’t miss the crowds.

Are you working more or less?
I’ve taken the opportunity to work on the internet presence that I have with wine. I’ve tried to build a media kit and I’m getting ready to send it to PR companies and wineries to make a little money off on my blogging. Some will pay you some money to sample their wine and write about it.

What are you most afraid of?
I’m worried about what this will do to the local economy. I’ve been worried about how many local businesses will make it. When it comes to retailers, I think national chains will have an easier time.

I see some people trying to tell other people what to do. I think some people are taking the health guidelines too literally and too seriously. As a hypothetical example, the CDC might say wash your hands 20 times a day, knowing most people in the general public will wash their hands 10 times a day. Experts are going to over-emphasize minimum standards to try to get as many people as possible to increase hygiene and social distancing practices. I think the point is you don’t have to be perfect—but just try. And if someone isn’t doing something the way you think it should be done, don’t get mad. Just offer a gentle reminder.

What are you most hopeful for?
That this will put anti-vaxxers in their place. I do hope it will help countries to cooperate more instead of being against each other and hurting each other.

What has been the most challenging part of this experience for you?
At first, it was just trying to figure out unemployment benefits because I’ve never had to rely on that before. The state said they were going to make it easier for people to get unemployment because they know so many are getting furloughed and laid off. To get my benefits, I had to keep calling every couple of days and I had to stay on hold for three or four hours. It wasn’t the unemployment office’s fault—the system was inundated. They had thousands of people calling as soon as they opened.

Dealing with my own issues with anxiety has also been challenging, but I think I’ve worked through it for now.

Is there anything—even a tiny thing—you enjoy or like about sheltering in place?
It’s given me time to try to work on a side business. I’ll be overjoyed to go back to my job, but having plenty of time to watch too much television hasn’t been bad. Of course, I watched Tiger King. All of those people are too much for me. At the end of it, I don’t think Joe is a great person, but I don’t know if he deserves to die in jail.

What do you think society as a whole will learn from this experience?
I was raised with this radical idea that if you go outside, you can get sick just by touching surfaces, so when you come back to your home you should take your shoes off and wash your hands before you start doing anything else. I was really surprised when people said they didn’t wash their hands when they got home from work or chores or riding public transit. I think people will take hygiene more seriously going forward.

How are you coping with stress/taking care of yourself?
I decided to go back on my anxiety meds—daily anxiety medication, not emergency anxiety meds. I like to bring that up because the idea of therapy and medication when necessary should be de-stigmatized.

When future generations ask, what will you tell them about this time in your life?
I’m going to tell them it’s happened before and it’s happened again, and they need to do everything possible to maintain single-payer healthcare.

What would you like your friends and neighbors in Silver Spring/Montgomery County to know?
Don’t use this as an excuse to not let more people live in your community by not building more affordable housing.

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.

Mike Diegel