Column: The impact of COVID-19 on my life

Photo of the Lafayette County Courthouse on the Square from a unique angle. Photo by Justin Ivy.
Photo of Oxford from a unique angel by Justin Ivy

Michelle Bruce
Oxford Stories

I first heard about the coronavirus while talking about current events in my journalism class about two months ago. At the time, I thought it wasn’t a serious issue and that it would go away within the next few weeks.

Obviously, I was wrong.

Soon, the virus seemed to be the only thing news outlets could talk about—What is it? Where did it come from? How many people have died? How quickly is it spreading? How can we protect ourselves and others? The questions kept coming.

I went from enjoying my classes on the beautiful University of Mississippi campus to not being allowed back on campus until further notice. After spring break, the university urged students to come back briefly only to pack up what they needed and go home for the foreseeable future.

Because I live at Campus Walk, which is owned by the university but is technically located off campus, I had two options.

On one hand, I considered going home like most other students, just to be safe. On the other hand, I hadn’t even been out of Oxford during spring break, so I reasoned that it would be safe to stay in Oxford, where (at the time) there hadn’t been any reported cases of the virus.

I ultimately decided to stay in Oxford, while most of my friends left one by one.

That is one change I’ve experienced: the steady decline of social interaction as a result of self-quarantining and social distancing.

I was able to spend a few days with two of my friends before they left. We visited the Square together before most of the restrictions had been put in place, but we could tell that things were changing. Some shops had already started doing carry-out only, while others had already closed.

Bruce, center, and friends on the Square.

It’s been difficult to be alone so much more often now when I’m so used to seeing all of my friends almost every day. Only two of my friends are still in town, and one of them is under strict quarantine imposed by her parents, so I haven’t seen her for a month now.

Another change I’ve experienced is the move of all of my classes to the online format. I was already taking two online classes, but having six online classes is far more difficult and time consuming than having only two.

I used to spend only two hours each day on my online courses; now I spend anywhere from four to 12 hours per day focusing on them.

On top of that, I’ve had my share of frustrations due to technological problems, and I’m sure that goes for most students and professors making this transition.

While I do spend a lot of time working on my laptop in my apartment, I try to take breaks every now and then to go outside or FaceTime my family. I talked to my sister recently. She attends Missouri State University, where students were also given an extended spring break.

My sister has been similarly frustrated with the transition to online classes, especially since this means she can’t see her friends as often or at all.

One interesting change I’ve experienced is the sheer panic exhibited by consumers in Oxford. I had never seen a shelf empty in Walmart until the outbreak, but soon, entire sections of the store were completely wiped of products: toilet paper, soup, cleaning supplies, hygiene products, etc.

I hadn’t been uncertain or afraid for the future until that point.

The day the university announced that we would have an extended spring break, I went to Walmart to buy necessities. Unlike many people, I was actually in need of toilet paper. (I hadn’t realized until that day that I had one roll left.)

Up until that point, I had been seeing the internet memes about people panic shopping and buying multiple packets of toilet paper. At the time, I thought it was absolutely hilarious.

Of course, after going to Walmart and seeing the condition of the toilet paper aisle, and the entire store in general, I found it a little less hilarious than I had before—not because I couldn’t find toilet paper (there was still some in stock when I arrived), but because of the utter panic and lack of consideration displayed by the people scurrying through the store.

People were rushing the aisles, fighting over products, stuffing their carts with excess supplies in case they needed to quarantine themselves for months. It was the most chaotic, oddly comical scene I had ever witnessed.

It also made me wonder how bad the entire situation had actually gotten. Was the virus actually something that people (specifically people in Oxford) needed to worry about to that degree, or were they overreacting?

At least some good has come out of the COVID-19 situation: grocery stores are benefiting immensely. People are supporting those local businesses that are still open. People also seem to care more about personal hygiene. (Wash your hands, don’t touch your face, etc.)

My main hope is that the virus stops spreading so rapidly and that a cure can be found in the near future, if possible.

I also hope, as a student, that the university won’t eventually need to move classes online for the Fall 2020 semester. People can only go so long cooped up in their homes without any human interaction.

Personally, I couldn’t go even two days without being able to go outside. I’ve recently started taking walks at the South Campus Rail Trail.

South Campus Rail Trail

Going on these walks has definitely helped me feel better mentally and emotionally. I’m one of those people who gets jittery being inside for even a few hours, so it’s been nice to be able to get out after being stuck inside all day.

I can tell that other people feel the same way I do, as I frequently see students and families out walking—while staying six feet away from strangers, of course.

The main thing I think we should all keep in mind during these uncertain times is that we’re all going through this together, though our experiences may greatly vary. While quarantine has been lonely, we are not alone. As long as we make smart decisions and stay informed, we can all make it out of this situation together.

Michelle Bruce
Michelle Bruce

Michelle Bruce, 20, is a junior general business major with a double minor in English and journalism. She was born in San Antonio, Texas and was adopted when she was 5 along with her older brother and younger sister by parents who both worked in the Air Force.

She has lived in multiple places, including Colorado Springs, Colorado; Oxford, Mississippi; and Warrensburg, Missouri with her military family. When she isn’t at school, she resides in Overland Park, Kansas with her mother, sister; their dog, Bailey; and their cat, Marigold.

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