Special Project: Our New Reality In VR
When the COVID-19 pandemic began, it brought uncertainty. Businesses closed and people went into lock-down. Essential items began to disappear from shelves, and masks were purchased in bulk.
Businesses have had to invent ways to stay open while maintaining a safe environment. These include curbside pick-up, social distancing and glass dividers. The creativity and ingenuity of business owners has allowed restaurants and stores to operate through challenging times.
In this series called “Our New Reality in VR,” students used panoramic photography and the Google Tour Creator site to experiment with the virtual reality platform. These photos offer an interesting glimpse into living life in our new reality.
Many local coffee shops (above) have closed inside dining areas for social distancing, while others have allowed a limited capacity. At other businesses, owners have utilized outdoor spaces for customers to sit and enjoy their drink.
No one was prepared for how long the pandemic has lasted and its effects. Businesses, schools, hospitals, restaurants, sports, and more have changed. During the first wave of cases, hospitals saw a surge of patients and a decrease of supplies. Items were placed on back-order, and members of the public were asked to refrain from using items that hospital personnel needed to fight the virus, such as N95 masks. Hospitals all around the world rushed to offer more virus testing centers.
From an increase in unemployment rates to a decline in sales and profits, some businesses have struggled, while others have weathered the storm. Some small business owners are scrapping to be in a comfortable position economically. At Walmart in Oxford, there is an increase in people using self-checkout registers. At other businesses, you will find limited customers.
Scrubs & Company (pictured in the series of photos above) is an Oxford business that provides scrubs and medical equipment to Oxford medical professionals and University of Mississippi students. In March, Scrubs & Co. moved to curbside-only pick-up for scrubs so medical professionals, working hard to keep everyone healthy, could have the necessary clothing for work. As the pandemic lessened, the curbside-only service transitioned into fully open with mask requirements.
COVID-19 has affected many people, including those who live in apartment complexes. Many are choosing to stay home. Some play on home basketball courts instead of at local recreation centers that have been closed.
In many states, there is a mask mandate when in public indoor areas. Social distancing is enforced everywhere, and businesses must follow safety protocols to stop the spread of the virus. At UM, students and faculty are practicing social distancing and wearing a mask while on campus. There are signs displayed throughout the campus reminding everyone to practice protocols and be responsible in stopping the spread of COVID-19. Most buildings around campus have designed a one-way flow of traffic where there are specific doors that only allow exiting or entering. Above, students socially distance at a bus stop.
With the rise of COVID-19, dining habits have changed for the consumer and producer. In the Rebel Market on the Ole Miss campus, seats are marked with warning labels that mandate mask-wearing when not eating, and signs all across the floor direct traffic to promote social distancing. Tables are spaced farther apart in the Student Union, and seating availability in the Union’s food court is much lower. The tables tell students to wear masks, and restaurants have markers to promote social distancing while waiting in line for a meal.
Harrison’s 1810 is a bar off of the Square near Proud Larry’s, formerly known as Frank & Marlee’s. It is an example of a business impacted by COVID-19. This time last year, the bar would have been full of people singing, laughing, dancing, and just having fun. Restrictions placed on bars and restaurants in Oxford present challenges. With limited seating, most restaurants and bars are in similar situations. Some bartenders have seen a significant decrease in tips.
The pandemic has impacted many things people normally experience, even walking your dog. We took that for granted before COVID-19. Now it is a cherished moment. At the beginning of the pandemic, there was no certainty if we could even go outside to walk our dogs. As a result, some have become closer to their families and pets.
Anna Charlotte Lavers
Students are getting creative with where and how they study and complete their classes, since many are online. Some are studying indoors, but this means masks are now necessary study materials. In the J.D. Williams Library, masks are required when studying or watching lecture materials. Seating is also limited. Typically, you would see large groups gathered around tables studying.
COVID-19 has affected the volleyball, cheer, and Rebelette dance teams. Some members of the volleyball team have been quarantining. They are practicing in small groups, wearing masks and social distancing as much as possible.
In the second photo, the Rebelette dance team is shown warming up in their masks – all six feet apart, following Centers for Disease Control regulations. The Rebelettes spent the rest of the practice six feet apart in masks learning and rehearsing routines. The cheer team is practicing stunts in small groups to limit large gatherings and prevent the spread of COVID-19.
The Student Union, usually a great place to hang out with friends, grab a bite to eat and work on homework, feels a little like a ghost town. Though there are still places to sit, and people still go, it is not as full and lively as it once was.
Many programs, collegiate and professional, across the country have been forced to shut down due to the pandemic. The University of Mississippi has been fortunate to keep its doors open for athletes and other students. Some coaches have to wear masks and gloves. Wearing masks while practicing and working out has been challenging.
At the popular Oxford Restaurant Julep, you can see an extensive construction of fences and paths, a result of COVID-19 regulations that Oxford restaurants must follow.
Fences serve as a “safe” path for people walking on the Square, and they create an outdoor space for Julep. In this outdoor space, Julep is allowed to seat more customers for dining, because being indoors comes with a specific capacity created for health and safety purposes.
This is the transition restaurants like Julep have had to make to stay in business and continue to satisfy customer needs. The protection of the health and safety of their staff and customers is a high priority.
Down the street from Julep, is a popular daiquiri and pizza bar known as Funky’s. Prior to the coronavirus, the bar did not have a patio area. They now have a full outdoor seating area with railing and TVs that can seat up to 34 customers. Customers inside the bar must be seated at all times.
Oxford Grillhouse, a popular steakhouse, and their neighbors, Funky’s and Julep, created an outdoor seating area using railings that serve as both protection and an area for Grillhouse customers to sit outdoors and enjoy their meals.
The construction outside almost all restaurants and bars shows the adaptation small businesses have had to made in order to survive amid a pandemic.
Jane Rob Pannell
Although Covid-19 has taken much away, Greenwood, Mississippi, has stayed strong. There is always a sense of peace that visitors feel when visiting the Mississippi Delta.
A local restaurant has placed a colorful sign in the window that says, “We Are Greenwood Strong.” At the beginning of quarantine, the children of Greenwood made these signs for local businesses to hang in their windows. This shows that COVID-19 did not eliminate hope, and the signs were created to unify the community.
The calm Tallahatchie River runs through the center of Greenwood. The pandemic has not disrupted God’s creation or the peaceful, still-waters.
To see our previous photo series “Signs of the Times” of images taken at the beginning of the pandemic, click here.