Kent State students interview Ohioans about their thoughts on COVID-19

If anything is clear, all Ohioans have Covid-19 experiences


After Your Voice Ohio conducted five online dialogues with Ohioans in which they expressed concern for unclear messaging, lack of a plan, and politics taking precedence over science in the era of Covid-19, student interns in the Collaborative News Lab @ Kent State University were asked to interview several people from various parts of the state about their experiences dealing with the pandemic.

Over the next few weeks, Soapbox will share these stories.

Among the questions were: Have you been tested? How do you engage with others who have different perspectives? Gina Butkovich, Tramaine Burton, Paige Bennett, Jenna Borthwick, Kelsey Paulus, and Madison MacArthur did the reporting. Associate professor Susan Kirkman Zake advises the staff. The program is sponsored by the Scripps Howard Foundation.


Engaging with the public: Be empathetic and factual


Name: Kevin Jones

Hometown: Columbus

Age: 22

Occupation: College Student

Kevin Jones will be graduating with a political science degree from Wright State University in December. But like so many other college students, he will be taking his last semester of classes online due to the COVID-19 outbreak.


“I had to move back to Columbus,” Jones says. “It's affected the way I’m able to learn, instantly switching over to remote learning and then finishing out my last semester of undergrad. So it's affected me that way, and it’s affected me mentally. I’m an on-the-go type of individual, so not being able to go out as much at the beginning of quarantine and changing the way I maneuver in society — it’s affected me mentally.”


Jones was tested for COVID-19, something he said he did as both a precautionary measure and as a way to show the importance of being tested.


“It’s one thing I’ve really been pushing personally, because I do have underlying health conditions and as we know, COVID, at least here in Franklin County, has affected my age group the most,” Jones says. “And it affects African-Americans in a much more disproportionate way. I’ve been pushing getting tested, social distancing, the proper health precautions to ensure that we’re staying healthy.”


In addition to attending school, Jones works as the chief communications officer for Central Ohio Young Black Democrats. In his position, Jones will often come across someone with differing views from his on COVID-19.


“A lot of times we’ll have people message or comment or respond to different posts that we make or share,” he says. “My response is usually very gentle and empathetic, yet factual and informative. What we know. What the facts are that we know. I understand what you’re saying, I understand what you feel, but what’s the facts?”

Jones trusts the pandemic-related information he gets from his state and local governments, and says that, although he isn’t a Republican, he absolutely trusts the leadership of Ohio Governor Mike DeWine.


“I’ve been trusting them my entire life,” Jones says. “And I don’t think COVID is a situation we should handle differently. Although we have not seen anything like this in our lifetime, we know that we’ve been here before. Between the Spanish flu, between the swine flu, between the Ebola outbreak. We’ve been in many different cases where we’ve had no option but to trust government. And I believe that we have the best doctors here in Columbus. We have some of the best resources here in Ohio.”

-— Gina Butkovich


Name: David Brothers

Hometown: Albany, Ohio

Occupation: Pastor

Age: 69


David Brothers of Albany, a small town near Athens, is among those skeptical of COVID-19. The minister at Blackburn Hill Church of Christ in Athens wonders why college students are permitted back on campus but restrictions remain tough in public places such as restaurants.


“Is it truly a medical condition where we should all be panicked and holding up in our houses?” Brothers asks. “Or is it more political, where maybe there might be an attempt to control people?”


He would like to see more honesty and consistency from political figures who are guiding the country through the pandemic. Specifically, he wants an explanation about why Ohio Governor Mike DeWine received different results from two COVID-19 tests earlier this month.


“According to his regulations, if you test positive, you should quarantine yourself for two weeks,” Brothers says. “Did the governor quarantine himself for two weeks? No, because he took a second test and the first test came out positive, the second one came up negative. Now, should he be quarantined for two weeks? According to his rules he should be, but no, he took another test. And he’s going by the information from the second test, which he says, evidently, is more accurate than the first test he took. Why is that?”


Brothers said there is not enough consistency or solid information about the coronavirus for the amount of money and politics involved.

— Kelsey Paulus

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.

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