Nearly everyone is impacted by the coronavirus pandemic — either directly or indirectly.
“COVID-19 turned my life upside down, around and probably back. I feel like I was on a rollercoaster at Cedar Point,” says Indya Elie of Northeast Ohio.
In March, when the governor shut down Ohio, Elie and her two children shifted to online learning. She came down with COVID symptoms but couldn’t get a test at the time. “I have to be on my death bed to be tested,” she said. Nonetheless, she pushed through, got well, finished her semester, helped her sons with online schoolwork and applied for unemployment benefits, she says.
Another woman from central Ohio said she left her college campus in March and didn’t return. She graduated in May, watching the ceremony on YouTube in her living room and has limited her outings to protect her health. “It completely changed how I interact with the world.”
While some Ohioans resist wearing masks, others see the public health benefit of doing so.
Schroeder, from Bowling Green says, “People without masks all over the place scare the hell out of me.” The coronavirus mask issue prompted him to write a letter to his city councilman, asking for quick action on a mask mandate.
“I definitely think that folks that are not wearing masks or shouting at people who tell them to put their masks on are ridiculous,” says Josh Culling, a father of two young boys in the Toledo area. “I think this whole talk of freedom and tyranny of being made to wear a mask is ridiculous. I also think it’s ridiculous that we need to shut down schools completely forever until we get a vaccine.”
Another Toledo area resident states: “I don’t understand how people get so angry over the situation. It’s a mask and I don’t want to minimize it. It’s uncomfortable. Think of Anne Frank in World War II and what she went through. What we’re asked to do during this pandemic is nothing.”
COVID pulled back the curtain on health care disparities for the public — something Adrienne Zurub of Cleveland has seen for a long time as a registered nurse. Zurub says for many Black people, it’s just six degrees of separation to knowing someone who died of COVID-19.
“That really hits home and again it exposes the disparity in health care that we’ve experienced in health care since we touched these shores,” says Zurub, who is retired. “…Everyone thinks that we have the greatest health care system in the world. We don’t. When you’re telling nurses and front-line workers to put on a bandana and a scarf and a garbage bag and go out and essentially sacrifice yourself — that should say something.”
Subhead: Protests elevate racial justice issues
The recent protests over police brutality have elevated the issues of racial injustice for many Ohioans.
Jo’el Jones says oppressive public policies have long been her top priority. She worries about raising two Black sons and what might happen to them when they get their driver’s licenses or go out for a run.
Mykell Rose, a gay biracial man from Hamilton County, says equality issues have become a top priority for him.
And Carol Lynn of Dayton, a mother of a Black son, says the video of George Floyd’s killing brought the issue of racial justice to the forefront for her.
It’s not just Black Ohioans who care about Black Lives Matters.
“I’ve learned a lot the past few months and I have educated myself. I’ve educated my children. I think there needs to be more formal education with our history and not so much the white-washed history I had as a child,” says Stacy Dodson, a white woman in Wheelersburg. “My eyes were opened to what was going on in the world and my heart was broken.”
Rick Phelps, a retired EMT and law enforcement officer who lives in Southeast Ohio, says he is worried about the outcome of the November election. “I never would have dreamed four or five months ago we’d be talking about defunding the police. It is unfathomable to me,” he says, adding, “I just cannot believe where one party is and the other party is. We’re supposed to be working together here. We aren’t African-Americans, we’re not Asian-Americans. We are Americans, first and foremost.”
Despite the challenges of the protests and pandemic, both are a source of hope for Ohioans.
Carol Lynn of Dayton said she was encouraged to see Blacks, whites, young, old all protesting against racism and injustice. “It’s a united front fighting against these issues and that the young people are taking the lead,” she says.
Jo’el Jones of Dayton is hopeful the protests will bring real reform. “The ugliness of racism and fear is exposed and because it is exposed there is outright anger. And out of all of this, leaders will arise. The way we look, talk and even politic will be very different. I think out of all of this, I’ll get that courageous leader that I pray to come soon.”
Michelle Anderson of Wooster says she likes that Ohioans — and business owners — are starting to stand up against displaying the Confederate flag. She sees it as a recognition of the pain that the flag causes. “That gives me hope.”
Others say they’re lifted by seeing acts of kindness — people delivering meals, crafters making homemade masks, donors contributing to food banks — during the pandemic.
“The pandemic has brought out the best in people in a lot of ways. I think we’ve all seen that with people helping neighbors,” says one Toledo area woman.
And Reghan Buie says she believes the next generation is ready to step up and lead. “We are coming for the Senate, we are coming for the House. We’re coming for everything. We want to improve this nation.”
While there is tremendous division in America, Ohioans recognize the value in hearing from those who hold different opinions.
Josh Culling says he moved back to his hometown of Toledo in part because of its diversity. He celebrates that inside a Toledo bar he can find hourly workers, professionals, Muslims, Christians, Republicans, Democrats sitting together. He described it as a chance to venture “outside my little bubble.”
Roger Davis, a Cambridge man who works for a non-profit, says he consumes stories from multiple media outlets but would like to hear more voices in those news stories from people who hold different political views.
“Sometimes it’s good to be challenged in your ideas,” he says. “I don’t necessarily always like to hear what I already think I know. Sometimes I like to see the other point of view, even if I disagree with it, I like to now other people are being heard.”
Laura Bischoff is the statehouse reporter for the Dayton Daily News, Springfield News-Sun and Hamilton-Middletown Journal-News. She can be emailed at [email protected]
About the project: Your Voice Ohio is the largest sustained, statewide media collaborative in the nation. Launched nearly five years ago, more than 60 news outlets have participated in unique, community-focused coverage of elections, addiction, racial equity, the economy, and housing. Nearly 1,300 Ohioans have engaged with more than 100 journalists in dozens of urban, rural, and suburban communities across the state. Over and over again, Ohioans have helped journalists understand their perspectives and experiences while sharing ideas to strengthen their local communities and the state. Doug Oplinger, formerly of the Akron Beacon Journal, leads the media collaboration. The Democracy Fund, John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, and Facebook are the primary funders of Your Voice Ohio. The Jefferson Center for New Democratic Practices, a non-partisan non-profit engagement research organization, designs and facilitates Your Voice Ohio community conversations.