Real-life stories of people paying the price for the lockdown


She's been working hard for multiple decades, and is a little more than a year away from retirement. Only there's a serious catch: In order to go back to work, she's required to get a flu shot. "I haven't had one in years," she says, "because each time I got one before, I became incapacitated." 
"This isn't the job we signed up for," the flight attendant says. She's speaking from Austin, where she's visiting a friend. This is not a layover, it's an actual vacation—because she's now retired from an industry that, she believes, abandoned its senses.

"For February, March, and April, our airlines told us not to wear any masks because we didn't want to scare the passengers," she says. She had a lot of connections to and from Asia at that time, and, she reports, "No one got sick." 


The voice of the man on the phone is a sad one as he relates the story of his nephew. A promising and ambitious young adult, he struggled in his first year of college, and found himself facing mental illness. 
She works in the field of wellness, but, she explains, "I wasn't taking care of myself." How could she? Days before the Shelter in Place order in March, she'd had surgery on her chest. She'd put all the pieces in place to have her 3-year-old son cared for while she recovered, and transitioned to running her business fully digitally, from home. But with the state-ordered lockdown, all of that fell apart. No in-house assistance. No extended family visits—not even from a sister-in-law who lived two blocks away. 


"I would consider myself a medium level casualty of Covid. It's really altered my life in big ways. It used to be, for a while, I could get down the stairs by holding onto the wall and take a cab to Trader Joe's or to the drug store. Now I can't do that. Jewish Children and Family services delivers dinners Monday through Friday, except that today is a holiday [referring to the day of this interview] and there is no delivery. I planned ahead, but still: there's a problem. All I have left is one big frozen chicken pot pie and I have trouble lifting it out of my microwave."
"I saw a lot of potential in the space," a San Francisco gym owner says. "I always wanted to create a gym where I would want to be a member. Stripping the vanity piece from fitness—a place that was more about working out and staying active for the health benefits. If you move well then you feel good." 
She was in dental pain but wasn't going to make the call to the dentist. It was her wife that forced her. "I knew there were going to be weird Covid protocols that I didn't want to play along with," she says, "so I was just going to ignore it." But she couldn't. "She had an infection; it was obvious," her wife calls out from the background.


Both her mother and stepfather have been hospitalized and diagnosed with Covid, but what she's been realizing is that it's not the Covid that is hurting them most. It's the isolation. 

"The piece of the puzzle that's missing is the isolation. It's torture. It's the most harmful part of this," she says. 


No one wants to wake up and find their car towed, but it happens. For one young man, however, a trip to the impound lot to retrieve his car brought with it the company of six police officers. His crime was boarding a MUNI bus without a mask, through the back door. 


For the past 20 years, she made 60% of her income as a kids' entertainer. "It was perfect for my personality," she says. "It was hard work. I was good at it. It was fulfilling." She has a theater background, and clowning, she says, was a natural. 

"I made a good living. I wasn't rich; I wasn't poor. I enjoyed the freedom of participating in society in a way that was commensurate with my gifts," she says. "Now: absolute zero due to Covid. No interaction with any people whatsoever. Total lockdown. Total welfare and dependency on the government."
"It almost feels like there's no Covid here—or a lighter version," a San Francisco restaurant owner remarks when he tells his story from the southwest U.S. city where he's now living.


"I have four children, one in preschool, one in elementary, one in high school, and one in college," he says. Usually, that statement would be accompanied by pride, but this time it brings with it a grim assessment. "The closures have ruined their lives and the lives of all of their peers."
"The kids are anxious, I can tell you that much," a teacher explains. She's been seeing her high school students only digitally for months now. She teaches English, and, she says, that leads her to get to know them better. "I talk to them years later. Somehow, they get my phone number. I connect with them."