This whole pandemic thing is weird. Isn’t it weird? Gathering spaces and businesses are shut down, people are hoarding toilet paper and not leaving their homes.
If you see people talking it is always outside and at a more than respectable distance. Is the apocalypse happening? Was “I Am Legend” a prophecy?
In all seriousness, it is a scary time. The world is having to rapidly respond to a virus that is both deadly and mysterious.
We are all taking in whatever information we can and trying to do our best to stay safe and keep those around us safe. Or at least I hope all of us are doing that.
Because the truth is, there is something that I think is more deadly than this virus that more often than not keeps us from responding as we should: fear.
My name is Molly, and a lot of you don’t know anything about me. However, many of you do know me as the first confirmed case of COVID-19 in Marion County.
When I found out that my test for this virus came back positive I had a lot of emotions. It probably didn’t help that I was, quite literally, sick and tired. Now I had to deal with the fact that, despite having very mild symptoms, I had a virus in my body that doctors know little about and had killed a lot of people.
A press release went out to let the county know that COVID-19 had reached us. A few hours after this happened I felt my chest grow tighter and tighter and I was having trouble taking a deep breath. This was not from the virus.
After the press release came out a surge of angry people followed on social media. People, despite not knowing me and how cautious I’ve been, were calling me stupid, demanding the health department release my information. I felt like a woman in 1690s Salem.
I can’t say that I am mad at how people were responding. They were scared. I would have been, too.
However, my information wasn’t shared for many reasons, and the truth is that it was no one’s right to know that I had the virus.
One concern people had was that they had been in contact with me and didn’t know it. That’s why they wanted my name or location. In the press release from the county, it stated that anyone who I had been in contact with had been notified and was being monitored.
This couldn’t be more accurate.
You see, my travel history is this: I had been living in London pursuing my Masters of Fine Arts degree in Acting. I loved living there and was really looking forward to my last months of school, which would have included getting to act in a theater in London’s West End.
The pandemic started getting worse and countries in Europe were closing their borders.
Then a recommendation came out from the U.S. government that all students studying abroad in Europe should come home. My school announced that the final term would be online (no West End show), and the school my husband was working at announced that it would be closing for the foreseeable future. With all this in mind, my husband and I came to the conclusion that it was time to leave London and come home. We were devastated but knew this was the right decision.
We purchased plane tickets and packed up our lives in a matter of days. There were a lot of goodbyes we never got to say. It was all eerie, like we were fleeing.
When we arrived at the Wichita airport, our parents were there. We did not hug them, something that would have been a great comfort, but we stayed well away from them.
We drove to Hillsboro in our own car to an empty house which someone in the community kindly said we could quarantine in.
During our quarantine we came in physical contact with exactly zero people.
Our parents kindly stocked our house with food and whenever we needed something they left it outside for us to get without touching them.
Then I got sick. The Marion County Health Department was dutifully checking in on me and they decided I should be tested for COVID-19. I tested positive and here we are.
When the news broke that the virus was in our county I wanted to laugh because I hadn’t actually stepped foot in the county.
Then I wanted to cry because it felt like the entire county was talking about me, even though, at that time, no one knew it was me.
However, about a week after the press release went out, and by this time I was feeling better and no longer contagious, I got a call from a concerned friend letting me know that my information was out there: people knew I was COVID Number 1. (I gave myself this nickname. It’s the little things.)
Fear response is ugly. It’s often why we hurt people, and I have seen a lot of it going around, not just in our town but all over the world.
I think, at some level, we are all scared of what’s happening. Many of us are scared because we don’t know when the next paycheck will come, many of us are scared because we’ve had to cancel a lot and life looks different. Many of us are scared that we or someone we love will get the virus and die.
I’m not saying we should stop being scared. I am saying that we don’t need to let our fears control us. Before we respond to things it is good to take a moment and think: why do I want to say this? Is it out of fear or love? Will it do more harm than good? We aren’t all going to respond to each other perfectly every time, but I think it’s something to strive for!
To those of you who took the time to read this article, thank you! Also, thank you to those of you who did respond out of love when the press release came out.
For every five comments I read that were angry, I read at least one that said they were praying for me and would help me out if they knew who I was.
Thank you to the kind people who allowed my husband and me to safely quarantine in their empty house.
And my biggest thank you to the woman at the health department who was in charge of checking in on me. You were kind and patient and made those daily check-ins something I could (almost) look forward to.