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.
Name: Norm Kujawa
Hometown: Toledo, Ohio
Occupation: Shipping and receiving clerk
Before the pandemic hit, Norm Kujawa and his wife had date nights every Friday. They would go to the movies or a sporting event, but as guidelines from the governor’s office and social distancing forced movie theaters and sporting events to close, it also forced the couple to stay home.
“We would go out and relax and we don’t do that anymore,” Kujawa says. “You don’t know where other people have been or who they have been in contact with.”
Life in lockdown disconnected them from friends and family. It also reshaped the way they communicate or share their opinions with others about the virus, which leaves them feeling apprehensive at times. A difference in perspectives with their neighbor helped them to understand that not everyone gets their information about the pandemic from reputable sources.
An acquaintance is “for certain that he’s right and we’ve debated a little bit,” Kujawa says. “We want to maintain a good relationship with them, so we back off.”
Kujawa says he heard the conspiracy theories and tried to get a broad spectrum of opinions, but in the end, he trusts the national scientists and doctors. These different perspectives, he says, make it easier for some to profit from the fears of others and so it is important for people to check the facts and their source’s reliability.
“I put a lot of faith in science and in the process,” he says. “It gives me a little bit of comfort when a vaccine or some kind of treatment does come about that it’s going to be pretty secure and safe.”
Although a vaccine is still under development in the United States, Kujawa said the pandemic would be better controlled now if the government had taken immediate action when they first were warned about the virus.
“If we had a national reaction and a plan, we could have been through this by mid- to late-April and back to normal,” he said. “We have reacted very poorly.”
Kujawa says Ohio Governor Mike DeWine is doing a great job leading Ohio through the pandemic, but he would love to hear more from legislators and congressional delegates. He says if the government responded quickly, it could plan for things like unemployment to better provide citizens with loans and grants.
“I think it’s been disappointing that it’s been a lot of political lines,” he says. “There’s really not that strong of a response from the party in power in the country.”
With the upcoming elections, Kujawa says it is important to ask state leaders what their plans are going forward and what will be done to get cases under control.
“We are kind of in a wait and see mode,” he says. “We are trying to get back to a normal lifestyle, but we still have these issues hanging out there that nobody seems to be asking about anymore.”