Four stories: A year into COVID-19

Unique perspectives from Quinnipiac students

Graphic by Michael Clement

By Bryan Murphy

It’s so cliché to say, but I went home on spring break thinking I would see all of my classmates and roommates in just a few short days. And those few short days turned into a few long months.

And I can’t lie — it’s been hard. I never would have thought my final undergraduate year would end the way it did. I had to finish my time with The Quinnipiac Chronicle with meetings on Zoom, without a final proper goodbye as my tenure as Editor-in-Chief came to end. I never got to soak in that final deadline day or the final weekly meeting.

After working hard and taking extra classes to graduate early in three years, the “reward” was a diploma sent in the mail. My roommates and I huddled around our laptops in our kitchen in August, waiting to see our name pop up on the screen for five seconds during our graduation ceremony.

Bryan Murphy is studying to receive a master’s degree in sports journalism. (Morgan Tencza/Chronicle)

And now as a graduate student, in my final year of college, it hasn’t been spent balancing classes with work for my career like a normal graduate student. Finding a company that was hiring was about as rare as finding people roaming on campus in the fall semester. I haven’t been able to see nearly as many of my friends as I was hoping to and if I did, COVID-19 was always lingering in the back of our minds. Most of the activities and good times you hear about from others that have graduated before are hard to relate to because frankly it’s not possible to do those things right now.

But while it certainly hasn’t turned out the way I thought it would, and despite all the bumps in the road, I still made the most of it and enjoyed my year as best as I could.

My roommates and I have spent countless hours together, whether it’s yelling at a football game on the TV, spending too many hours playing video games or just sitting around a table with a drink in hand (we’re all legal, don’t worry) and having some of the best late-night conversations.

I’ve learned a lot through Zoom University, ahem, I mean my graduate courses. Jokes aside, the professors have been awesome and extremely caring during this time. While they continue to push us, they know how hard it is for us and how adaptable they have to be.

Most importantly, I know how much worse things could be for me and the people I’m around. There’s so many unfortunate events happening, whether it’s people losing loved ones or businesses being forced to shut down, that it puts it into perspective how lucky we are. We still get to attend classes and get ourselves ready for the real world, all while being idiots in college.

I have no idea what’s next for me after Quinnipiac. But if the pandemic has taught me anything, your life can change in a matter of seconds. And it’s OK to not know what that change will be.

By Allison Damigella

I had never worked in health care before.

Yes, I am in a medical program, but this was my first job in an actual hospital. When I imagined my summer in 2020, it never included spending over 36 hours a week in a psychiatric hospital in Southeastern Massachusetts, and it certainly never included COVID-19. I feel as though these two experiences alone are a lot to handle, but when put together — let’s just say things got interesting.

Allison Damigella is a sophomore athletic training and physical therapy major. (Photo contributed by Allison Damigella)

COVID-19 ruined so many lives. I have family friends that died from the virus, and I know so many people who have also lost a loved one during these unprecedented times. When we were sent home last year because of the pandemic, I knew that I wanted to work somewhere that would allow me the opportunity to help others. Mental health has always been an important matter in my life and with the shutdown, it was apparent people would suffer.

Now, working at a hospital requires you to wear personal protective equipment (PPE) such as masks and gloves when interacting with patients. As employees, we were required to practice proper PPE usage during our time in the hospital. Upon arrival, we would be screened to make sure that we had not contracted the virus — but this didn’t account for employees who didn’t show symptoms.

As the people that got to leave the hospital, we were the biggest threats to our patients. Patients could not come and go. They would need a doctor’s order to be discharged. On top of that, we were not equipped to handle any active COVID-19 patients as we were only a psychiatric hospital.

With that in mind, it shouldn’t have come as a surprise when, during my first week on the job, I came into contact with a COVID-19-positive patient. I never got the virus from this encounter because I had my mask on, but we couldn’t force patients to wear masks. That week we sent out two positive patients.

One of the units I worked on was focused on patients that were detoxing. It was on that unit that I could see just how much the pandemic had ruined people’s mental health.

Generally speaking, the pandemic made it hard for people to stay sober and sent many individuals to rehab due to a relapse. I encountered so many people that felt broken from isolation. Many of them either relapsed or had worsened mental health issues that they could not handle on their own. I was faced with the reality of the impact the pandemic had on people’s struggles. It was one thing to see statistics and read about relapse rates and the decline of mental health, but staring these issues in the face was such an eye-opening experience.

My time in the health field was much different from the many heroes that were working on the front lines during the pandemic. However, with my job, I was exposed to individuals whose suffering worsened from the pandemic. Not only did this grow my compassion, but it made me realize just how much we need to fight for mental health issues. This experience was just one look into how much people’s lives had been affected by this awful virus and how we, as a society, need to do so much better with our compassion.

Illustration by Michael Clement

By Emily DiSalvo

It was March 2020, and all I could think about was the Democratic Primary.

President Donald Trump had just been acquitted after an impeachment trial in the Senate. I had been in the Capitol Building throughout the trial, and while I didn’t get close enough to see it, it still felt momentous.

I was horrified and sad to see my two favorite Democratic Primary candidates, Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders, falter after the Iowa caucus and Super Tuesday. It seemed like the biggest story of the day was politics, because I was in Washington, D.C., where politics is the center of life.

Someone in my class attended the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in the final week of February and shortly after, we learned there was a case of COVID-19 there. All I remember was that I read an article about how all these cases of “corona” were tanking Corona’s brand image, and the kid who had attended CPAC found this to be hilarious.

Days later, I boarded the metro, which was so full that it was standing room only. I was pressed between bodies — blazers, unwashed hoodies and the unrelenting stench of urine — and I distinctly remember someone coughing.

I snapped a photo and sent it to my mom. “LOL germs,” was my uninformed and ironic caption.

That weekend, I visited the National Mall, the Navy Yard pier and many other popular tourist spots, surely surrounded by people who had flown in from across the country, and maybe even the world.

Emily DiSalvo is a third-year 3+1 journalism major. (Michael Clement/Chronicle)

Despite the threat, the whole issue seemed very distant. Then, one night I tuned into the Rachel Maddow show.

One of my favorite primetime TV hosts, known for her winding lectures and deep analysis, was uncharacteristically to the point that night. She described a very contentious and dangerous situation in Italy. She described it as a cesspool of disease that was rapidly spreading through the region.

I wasn’t stupid. I knew people traveled between Italy and the U.S., and I knew we would soon be doomed. But no one here seemed to be talking about it other than how similar it sounded to beer.

The idea that those people could transmit a virus to me without showing any visible symptoms of sickness didn’t cross my mind. I didn’t know what a coronavirus was. I didn’t understand that it could be deadly. And in this way, I feel slighted by the government for failing to share this information as soon as it had it.

While in D.C., I was interning at The Hill. The offices remained open into mid-March and coming into the office was “optional.” I never considered the idea of showing up to work as “optional” before. The notion that I could just watch Congress on my computer and write about it rather than actually attend was radical and actually a little humbling. I realized just about anyone could be doing the work I did as a reporter, with or without the press pass.

I watched my last congressional hearing as an intern on March 12, from the couch of my apartment. I wrote a story about two medical marijuana bills that were advancing in the House. It wasn’t, in my opinion, any worse than any article I wrote in person. The possibilities of lazy journalism startled me a bit, but I assumed the return to the office would be imminent.

Two days later I left the city. The Smithsonian museums had closed. The Capitol Building had been shut down to tourists. Still, people moved about the city without masks. I brought home an extra loaf of bread for my family, but I failed to find any toilet paper.

One year later I reflect on the downfall of America in that week and how close I was to the buildings where all the important decisions were supposed to be made. And, instead of making those decisions, they kept quiet so as not to ensue panic in Americans. One year later, I am still panicking, and I wish I knew to be scared back when we still had time to fix it.

Many of the restaurants and businesses I grew to love in D.C. have closed due to the economic fallout of the virus. When I return, it will most definitely not be the city I left behind.

By Lachie Harvey

When I first stepped onto Quinnipiac University’s well-maintained grass, the campus stole my heart. I knew that I wanted to spend the next four years studying here. I haven’t changed my mind, but during 2020, I came pretty close. After I found out that the university planned to cut our semester short in March, I was devastated.

At the time, I was less worried about my studies — I knew the school would endure. I was far more concerned about the relationships I formed with my college friends. While everyone else I knew went back to their homes across the East Coast, I got on a plane and flew all the way back to New Zealand.

Lachie Harvey is a second-year 3+1 media studies major. (Michael Sicoli/Chronicle)

The next few months were hell, watching all my friends in America have to sit inside in fear while, after a short lockdown, all my New Zealand friends went out and acted completely normal.

As it turns out, I was wrong not to worry about my studies. Due to the time difference, I was waking up at around 3 a.m. most days to attend lectures. I felt completely lost, and I hated not being able to speak to my professors in person. Long story short, I was tired, anxious and miserable.

After the semester finished, I spent my time in New Zealand free while trying to distract myself from the coming fall and its inevitable problems. When the day came for me to return to Quinnipiac, my mum was even more upset than the first semester she had to say goodbye to me. I flew through an eerily empty Los Angeles airport and an equally empty Chicago terminal before arriving in Hartford. I had a terrible experience in isolation when I arrived at Quinnipiac, but I’ve already written about that.

The semester itself was not very enjoyable for me. I was unable to see many of my friends who were living on the Mount Carmel campus due to residence hall restrictions. I didn’t get to play flag football, an activity that brought me and my closest friends together freshman year. I hated hybrid learning and my friend group that I was so invested in became somewhat fractured by the inability to go out and socialize with others. Near the end of the semester I suffered nerve damage in my back and spent my final weeks bedridden and despondent.

When I returned to New Zealand, I couldn’t have been happier. My mum got married, and I went to a festival over New Year’s Eve. I felt free. It took all my strength to get back on the plane and come back this semester. Every single person I’ve spoken to has asked me why I came back. I’ve given a million answers, but the truth is I still love this place. Maybe I’m crazy, but I still have hope that there is light at the end of the tunnel, and I know if I gave up on this place now, I’d never forgive myself.

So how have the last 12 months gone? They’ve sucked. But it’ll take more than one bad year to stop this Bobcat.