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The COVID-19 Diaries: A Portrait of American Life Through Pandemic

March 15th-22nd was the week we left our known world of work and routine behind. These 45 powerful micro-stories showcase what the "new" world looks like across the country. 

Words by Jaymie Wahlen, Visuals by Emi Tolibas

"We go through life just thinking nothing can change, and then all of a sudden something like this happens and just totally derails what anyone thought possible." Taylor D. 28 | Playa del Rey, CA

Some call it unprecedented, some call it catastrophic, some see it as a chance to come together. However we decide to look at this new, mid-pandemic world, it's important that we really see it.

At dscout, we can't do much by way of providing direct support; we can't create respirators, or masks, or hand-sanitizers. But we can do research. We can highlight what people—delivery drivers, nurses, teachers, students, cashiers, folks like us and our neighbors—are going through. We can look at how they cope and adjust, and we can give them a means to share their stories. 

This installment of the COVID Diaries was a high-speed, quant-qual mashup. It was fielded on Friday, March 20th to 877 participants from all walks of American life. And it reminded us that while we may not know what will happen next, we can at least learn from, empathize with, and take stock of what is happening.

Key Figures

  • 79% of those surveyed agree: "COVID-19 is the most serious challenge our country has faced in my lifetime."
  • Only 8% believe that the government is overreacting. 60% find the reaction appropriate, 32% say it's been under-reacting.
  • 95% are reducing their interactions with others "A great deal" (60%) or "somewhat"(35%)
  • Most Americans think things will return to normal in a few months: 46% say within 2-3, 25% say within 4-6.
  • Liberals think a return to normalcy is further off. 48% think it'll take longer than 2-3 months, compared to 34% of conservatives.
  • More results

At a Glance: Life March 15th-22nd, 2020

From cancelled birthday parties, to virtual funerals, to acts of kindness that doubled as acts of bravery—the changes to American life this week were sudden, horrible, exceptional, and visceral. Here's a 2-minute look.

When Shopping Turned Traumatic

Just as daffodils hit the flower buckets outside America’s supermarkets, the aisles became a battlefield. The run on Lysol wipes, bleach, hand sanitizer, canned beans (but not black eyed peas), toilet paper, and chocolate chips (but not white chocolate chips) was the fodder for late night jokes and awkward encounters. Anxious citizens grabbed for comfort.

"I felt like I was in Armageddon."

In Fort Lauderdale, Brenda hoped to beat the crowds to her local Trader Joes by going on a weekday morning. She called in advance to confirm they’d received a new shipment. She arrived at 7:30 AM, 30 minutes before the store would open. Already a line wrapped around the corner, more than 50 people who had the same idea. "It was just madness and chaos. I got most of what I needed but I've never felt so anxious and so on-edge shopping—people had no sense of social distancing."

Brenda N. 29 | Fort Lauderdale, FL

“This is America.”

For Laura, the empty shelves are what drove home how different things were. It wasn’t just people’s behavior that upset her, it was the shock that America’s breadbasket could actually run out of things like bread, potatoes, and bottled water.

Laura O. 55 | Las Vegas, NV

“It’s ridiculous.”

Kevin stocks groceries and is responsible for ensuring that the shelves stay full at the Publix in Moore, SC. He couldn’t believe the hysteria and chaos in the beverage aisle. As soon as he replenished the bottled water, customers would jockey for position and grab multiple cases, leaving others without any. The desperate struggle for bottled water left him exasperated.

Kevin F. 25 | Moore, SC

“My work has gotten a lot more stressful.”

Seventeen-year-old Harper is a student who works part-time at a Walgreens pharmacy in Brunswick, MD. After receiving a new shipment of toilet paper, Harper hustled to stock the shelves, only to watch everything Harper put out immediately taken by frantic shoppers, even with a two-package limit. To them, the most upsetting part isn’t the hoarding per se, it’s the lack of empathy and care for others implied in people’s actions. 

Harper E. 17 | Brunswick, MD

"I don't even have this stuff in my home."

A shopper on the (futile) hunt for toilet paper, Lysol wipes, and hand sanitizer took his anger out on Melinda, a retail worker in Orange, TX, calling her “evil” and “Satan.” "I was just like, “God bless you. I hope you have a better day. I'm sorry we don't have this stuff but I don't even have this stuff in my own home.”

Melinda W. 46 | Orange, TX

When Anyone Else Became a Threat

As Americans, we are used to our share of us vs them: regional differences, political differences, sports team differences, Coke vs. Pepsi. But only those with previous pandemic experience, or those with immunocompromised systems, really understood how the innocuous person sitting across from you on the subway, or the person walking toward you on the sidewalk, or your neighbor, or your child, could generate a life-threatening sneeze. Now, everyone knows.

“It was like a horror movie...”

Like Harper and Kevin, Mario is now working on the front line of the COVID-19 battle—he delivers food for GrubHub in LA. His COVID-19 moment came when his usual method of delivering takeout had to be adjusted on behalf of his own health and that of his fearful clients. Instead of a normal “hello” and a handoff, he rang the doorbell, placed a KFC family meal on the welcome mat, and headed back to his car. Only then did the door crack open and a disembodied hand snatched up the bag.

Mario S. 35 | Foothill Ranch, CA

“It’s freaking me out.”

As a rideshare driver in Orlando, Dwaine is anything but isolated. Every passenger is a potential vector for infection. Any time someone coughs, any time he stops at a gas station, any time a customer drinks a coffee in his car and leaves his cup in the cupholder, he is fearful of being infected.

Dwaine H. 34 | Orlando, FL

"It’s been extremely stressful."

Denine was crushed by the measures she had to take to protect herself and her staff at Trio Hair Design, a hair salon in Crystal River, FL. She had to turn away a long-time customer who exhibited COVID-19 symptoms, and then decided to shut the whole business down rather than risk harming her staff and customers.

Denine D. 53 | Weeki Wachee, FL

“My boyfriend just kept coughing.”

With the virus “coming from China,” many people of Asian heritage are experiencing this moment with an additional fear of being singled out and punished for the virus. "Me and my boyfriend were at a cooking class right before the ban on large events was about to happen.” Hellen’s boyfriend had developed a nervous cough, and Hellen was hoping he would be able to keep it in check during the class. “I just got kind of irritated but also worried that it would cause unnecessary attention on us. We're not sick—we’re OK—but it causes that. People have been very racist, not to us, but towards our nationality,” Hellen admits.

Hellen L. 25 | Chicago, IL

“It’s only my allergies.”

Fifteen-year-old high-school student Caroline didn’t even want to blow her nose. “When school was in session, I had allergies, so I would have a constant runny nose and a cough, and when I would rub my nose or cough, I worried that other people were worrying about me, that I had coronavirus.” Caroline’s concern that her allergy symptoms would be misinterpreted, or that people would accuse her of being sick, caused her to be self-conscious above and beyond the usual amount of high-school embarrassment: “I didn't want people to think I had the virus and was spreading it to others.”

Caroline C. 15 | Rocky Mount, NC

When Vigilance Became the Norm

For many people, the shift from being self-contained to vigilant was a real, physical feeling, and it didn’t feel good. Many experienced stress in relationships, whether it was trying to convince elderly or young people to take the virus more seriously, or negotiating with a spouse to level up to medical-grade handwashing.

“I tensed up.”

For Joost and many others, COVID-19 hit home when he noticed a hyper vigilance in his actions. "I was in the Dutch army where I was trained in NBC nuclear biological and chemical warfare--which may have prepared me maybe a little bit for going to the grocery store. But actually being there I realized how tensed up I was.” Even as he recounts, Joost switches tenses to the less personal: “You start to become extremely aware of what you touch, how you touch it, how often you touch it. It makes you so super aware of how connected you are to the world of viruses and how easy it is to get into your body. It was a scary moment."

Joost B. 55 | San Diego, CA

“Is this ok?”

Laura is especially aware of moments of strained social interaction. As a full-time, solo resident of an RV, it’s hard for her to avoid interacting with strangers. Recently someone helped her with a quick repair. She didn’t shake his hand, but she handed him a screwdriver. She saw his dog and decided not to pet it. What are you supposed to do (and not do) exactly?

Laura K. 52 | Palm Springs, CA

"The twist in my gut that he could have exposed us.”

Carol’s moment was one of exasperation and fear. Her 16-year-old son completely ignored the social distancing “six-feet away” lecture she had given him before he left to see a friend. Her son and his friend ended up driving to look for coffee, which is such a default thing for teens to do, and yet now, it was putting him, his friend, and their two families in danger.

Carol R. 54 | Steilacoom, WA

"It's putting a strain on our relationship."

Dawn’s anxiety spikes every time her husband gets home from his job installing fiber-optic cable for home internet services in homes all throughout the state of Oklahoma. While many of his coworkers are working from home, Dawn’s husband is on customers’ properties measuring cable drops. Instead of “decontaminating,” he goes straight to the couch and flips on the TV. She’s tired of asking him to wash his hands. How many times can you? He doesn’t take the same precautions she does, but she does wipe down the door knobs, and the remote, with Clorox wipes.

Dawn 50 | Norman, OK

“A decontamination zone.”

Erin, a photographer from Connecticut, came home and her parents ordered her to take off all of her clothes and put them in a trash bag for decontamination. “We try to go about our daily lives within a condo with barely any room for four remote workers... There’s a subtle, bubbling feeling of anxiety that gets worse each and every day when we repeat the same routine of eating breakfast together, watching news anchors say an exponentially increasing number of deaths and infections—all coming closer with each passing minute."

Erin D. 24 | Middletown, CT

“I’ll never say goodbye. She’s always with me.”

For Adwoa, being immunocompromised with kidney disease and hypertension meant having to make a truly heart-wrenching, last-minute decision to not attend the funeral of their “Mumma.” One minute they were choosing a scarf for their mother’s burial outfit, and the next they were planning a hasty departure back to Baltimore. “I had struggled with it and prayed all night. I was woken up by my mother’s voice telling me to get home safely.” Adwoa will have a small ceremony 40 days after her death to celebrate her soul crossing into the land of her ancestors in the Ghanaian tradition. “I’ll never say goodbye. She’s always with me.”

Adwoa S. 51 | Laurel, MD

When Work Simply Vanished

And then, the layoffs, the lost jobs, and fear of financial ruin set in. As companies realized this would not be a matter of days, or even weeks, workers, especially service workers, bore the brunt of this economic sea change. Restaurants, gyms, stores, recreational sites, parks, libraries, salons, daycares, even government offices closed with no idea when their doors might once again open.

“I am terrified.”

Marie lives in Queens—an epicenter of coronavirus infection. She is an actress and comedian with an admin assistant job that helps to pay the bills. But she was abruptly let go. She can’t afford COBRA and is faced with the agonizing prospect of catching the coronavirus without health insurance. She wonders, at what point she should bankrupt herself if she develops symptoms?

Marie D. 28 | Queens, NY

“We’re not six feet from people, we’re six inches.”

Becky’s career as a dental hygienist came to an abrupt stop when her office realized that anyone doing dental work at this time is at an extremely high risk of infection. Her office closed down, and will stay closed until May 18th at the earliest. Becky just filed for unemployment.

Becky B. 62 | Kirkland, WA

"Everything just seemed to shut down overnight."

Jason was stunned when the courthouse he worked in for more than a decade in Grand Isle, VT was shut down “virtually overnight.” What sort of thing can shut down criminal proceedings, family court, arraignment—the fundamental activities of the justice system? His hours and pay are cut 50%. He wonders how much longer he will be able to hold on.

Jason 48 | Grand Isle, VT

“The shit really hit the fan."

Heather owns a quirky gift shop, "LuLus Jewelry and Gifts," in Whitinsville, MA. Things were already tight before COVID-19. With minimal savings and zero foot traffic now, she’s trying to keep her sense of humor and stay positive in the face of epic uncertainty—but as she notes, “people are only shopping for essentials.”

Heather G. 42 | Sutton, MA

"It’s a lot trying to do all of this alone."

Tammi manages a restaurant in Dayton, OH. "I have had to lay off my employees and pretty much run my location by myself until further notice.” At the time, Ohio had decreed that restaurants convert to take-out and delivery only. “It's very weird to go into an empty restaurant. It's a unique situation. And having conversations with people who still come in, it’s just so weird for everyone.” Tammi doesn’t know when, or if, her employees will return. “But everybody has a positive mindset of ‘we will get through it and things will get back to normal.’ "

Tammi H. 34 | Dayton, OH

“This is extreme.”

Like many office workers, Phillip, a network administrator for an architectural and engineering firm, moved operations to his home to telecommute. Watching the mass exodus at work, Phillip realized the impact that COVID-19 was having on all the conventions of life. “I saw firsthand people just picking up monitors, people taking their laptops and things from their desks. Even hand sanitizer and Clorox wipes. It's going to be longer than just a week or a month.”

Phillip L. 30 | Chicago, IL

When Students (and Teachers) Went Home

COVID-19 is upending an education system for which established patterns of school life have been completely derailed. For the many students in our research, that iconic moment came as an abrupt announcement from a principal or a chancellor or a dean regarding the closure of their school. For high school and college seniors, the sense of loss and adjustment is particularly poignant. They feel that COVID-19 has taken away the age-old rites of passage of graduation, and they’re not sure what kind of a world or economy they’re graduating into. Many students are also unexpectedly returning to live with their parents, missing their friends, and even worrying about burdening their families.

“I have to lose out on experiences that are typical for all other generations.”

During a symphonic band concert at A.C. Reynolds High School, Tara’s world fell apart. As parents gathered to hear their children play, her principal abruptly cancelled their planned trip to Los Angeles. Days later, they closed her school. Cancelled school, cancelled trip, cancelled prom. She probably “won’t even get to walk the stage.” Tara feels the injustice. "I’m a high-school senior. The class before me and the class after me will get to graduate as normal.”

Tara J. 18 | Fairview, NC

"My dreams have just been halted."

Jaida is a student athlete at West Valley College, where she was getting geared up for beach volleyball season—and a chance to transfer to a four-year school. When her season was cancelled, she was not only grieving the loss of her team and the joys of competition—she wondered if she would ever be able to get a four-year degree. 

Jaida W. 18 | Tracy, CA

“It was eerie."

Brady, a graduating senior at Notre Dame, went back to campus to pick up a few things once the semester was officially cancelled. He packed up two duffel bags and then walked through a campus that was empty and devoid of life. He doesn’t know if he will ever be coming back. “All my interactions are digital,” he says. "Leaving college was an emotional experience anyway. I'm a senior and it's all changing."

Brady K. 22 | Notre Dame, IN

The same sense of dis-location fell to teachers who were adjusting rapidly to a whole new way of interacting with their students, and to parents who were now thrown into the role of homeschooling their kids.

“You're my teacher now, Mommy.”

Usually, Kathleen’s husband walks her 8-year-old son to school on Monday mornings, but this week was different. She spent most of her Sunday night developing a lesson plan, planning speech therapy, and making sense of the materials provided by her son’s school district. “It's been a huge emotional drain as a parent...and now I'm having to be an educator as well."

Kathleen K. 38 | Woodridge, IL

"We had one day to prepare an entire virtual curriculum."

Chris is a Special Education teacher in Upper Arlington, OH. The rumor had started to spread around that the next day would be their last day and everyone had to prepare to say goodbye for the school year, and prepare to send home materials that would still connect with their students. In that moment, neither he nor the rest of his colleagues knew what to expect for their kids, or their careers. “So that was quite a whirlwind. I’m still reeling from it and trying to stay in touch with our students and figure out a way to finish off the year."

Chris W. 28 | Upper Arlington, OH

“Their education is still my responsibility.”

"I was in the auditorium with 135 of my students and we were notified through an email that our school would be closing until April 13th at the earliest,” says Beth, a teacher in Valparaiso, Indiana. “In that moment I had to notify my students that they had to get every item out of their locker to take home with them because I wasn't sure when I would be seeing them again.” Beth also had to figure out how to give her kids digital access to materials and put together what they would need to have at home in order to accomplish the learning objectives. Switching from in-person teaching to online teaching is a challenge. “So each day now I wake up thinking of ways that I can communicate and give information and lessons to my students because their education is still my responsibility. I'm constantly looking up new resources and ways to have contact with them that are meaningful and instructional."

Beth M. 38 | Valparaiso, IN

When Plans Went Out the Window

From the minor to the monumental, COVID-19 started a domino effect of changed or canceled plans. Having hit the US just before spring break, people didn’t know at first if they should cancel their plans. What a difference a few weeks make.

"It breaks my heart."

Lauren was planning to host a ballet-themed birthday party for her 3-year-old daughter Caroline on Saturday. Caroline is obsessed with ballet—she dances all around the house wearing her tutus and slippers, she uses the proper French names for positions, and knows scenes from Swan Lake and The Nutcracker by heart. She was set to attend her first ballet class the day before her birthday, but it was postponed indefinitely. Caroline was excitedly decorating chocolate cupcakes with vanilla frosting and sprinkles when her parents told her that other kids couldn’t come to her party. “She didn’t throw a tantrum. She didn’t say a word, just furrowed her brow and put her head on the table.”

Lauren W 39 | Horsham, PA

“The impact really hit home.”

Walker, who works at Trader Joes in Saint Paul, has held a regular dinner with his wife, two younger sisters and their partners, and his parents on Sunday night for years. His parents always make the main dish, and the kids bring the sides and dessert. “It’s a tradition” that has been put on hold “indefinitely” as he and his siblings stay away from his parents to protect them. “Tonight, all eight of us will be video chatting via Zoom to at least share conversation.”

Walker C. 30 | Saint Paul, MN

“It was sort of heartbreaking.”

March 19th was Nowruz, the Persian new year. Raman has been celebrating this “big event” for as long as he can remember with his entire extended family in Southern California. Typical dishes include kuka sabzi, a sort of herbed frittata, and mahst musir, which is a yogurt dish with dried shallots. This year, Facetime had to suffice, as Raman and his fiancee called to check up on their parents and other family members. It was a shadow of the festive event that he had known since childhood, subdued and somber.

Raman M. 36 | Laguna Beach, CA

“I got to say goodbye, but so many other people who loved him did not.”

Heidi’s father unexpectedly passed away on a Wednesday morning. Because of the pandemic and social isolation policies, neither a funeral nor a visitation were possible. As next-of-kin, Heidi and her brother were required to formally identify him, and so were granted the opportunity to say their goodbyes, but none of their dad’s brothers, sisters, nieces, nephews or many friends had that chance.

Heidi H. 45 | Hopkins, MN

“Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” (Hebrews 11:1)

Jodi’s regular Wednesday church service took on a surreal twist as she drove up to the Heritage Baptist Church in Picayune, MS. The church live-streamed the service for those who could not attend, but the need for fellowship and community brought others together in the parking lot for a “drive-in” service. Pastor Jeremy Wilson stood on a makeshift platform, delivering a sermon on faith from Hebrews 11:1 over the church’s radio station. From the safety of their cars, parishioners tuned into 100.5, followed passages in the book of Hebrews and sang songs independently by following lyrics on the church website. “Even though we are not gathered in our church, we still came together as a church body in these unusual circumstances.” As they left the service, church members wearing rubber gloves and masks visited each car to collect tithes. 

Jodi A., 49 | Picayune, MS

“I just feel more isolated and depressed and frustrated and anxious about the whole situation."

Melinda had been saving up for a “once in a lifetime” trip to Italy with a dozen friends and family members. She had planned her itinerary for months —figuring out where to stay, what to see and what meals she would have. “We had planned on going for 7 days, to Vatican City, Florence, and Rome. We wanted to see the Leaning Tower, the Colosseum, The Pantheon, David, the Sistine Chapel, the Pope...take a cooking class with an authentic Italian grandma, learning to make homemade pasta...lots of stuff.” Instead of looking forward to her trip, Melinda can’t go anywhere.

Melinda D. 37 | St. Louis, MO

When a Simple Cough Sparked a Mortal Fear

In the shadow of COVID-19, every illness became a moment of fear and worry. Parents worried about a child’s cough. Sons and daughters worried about their parents' runny noses. And while many people called their doctors about their own symptoms, very few were able to get tested.

“The only medication I’ve taken is Advil.”

"I first experienced symptoms two weeks ago,” says 26-year-old Marcela. “I was told people my age weren’t being tested because of the ‘low probability’ of getting it, so I wasn’t able to get diagnosed." Despite having symptoms, despite knowing that she needed to isolate from her family, Marcela could not get a COVID-19 test—let alone a diagnosis. “I just felt like I was kind of turned down in the wrong way, like I wasn't even a thought. I felt very rejected and at the time I felt very sick. And they didn't offer any advice or recommendations."

Marcela G. 26 | San Antonio, TX

"It is always on my mind."

Callie’s mom has been in poor health for some time. But that week she started having labored breathing, her lips were turning blue, and she had a dry cough. She called her mother’s doctor, who asked a few questions and recommended they stay home, unless she knew for sure that her mom had been exposed. He said that COVID-19 tests simply weren’t available. 

Callie S. 34 | Canyon Lake, TX

"It just felt like a punch to the gut."

For Gillian, the email from her three-year old son’s pediatrician will mark the week the virus became real for her. The doctor warned that her little boy’s underlying health conditions make him very susceptible to COVID-19, and that the whole family should isolate. Gillian wasn’t sure how she would manage her job at a school and be able to stay home. “There's a level of fear that exists no matter who you are. But knowing that you have a three-year-old at a very high risk and you can't leave—well, you also have an incredibly demanding job for some of the most deserving students in the city.”

Gillian Q. 35 | Humble, TX

“I can’t be there for her.”

Jennifer lives in Oklahoma. Her mom lives in Florida. She felt helpless when she received a text from her mother who felt “seriously ill.” As her only child, she felt an extra sense of responsibility to care for her. Jennifer and her husband are tending to his parents, but he is one of seven children. "I feel terrible that I can't be there with her.” Her mom’s doctor said she qualified for testing but didn’t know where she could be tested, so he recommended she go to the ER. Despite being short of breath, Jennifer’s mom is afraid to go. “So this is the worst part for me."

Jennifer W. 49 | Broken Arrow, OK

When Hospitals Became the Front Line

Healthcare workers across the county are the ones running toward the calamity, showing up for their hospital shifts despite the grave danger to themselves and possibly, their families. They shared their stories and experiences with us. What comes through is their bravery and dedication, but also a deep sense of foreboding.

“It’s been mass hysteria.”

Anthony works as a buyer for a hospital pharmacy in Ridgewood, NJ. The scenes unfolding in front of him are startling: lines at the ER, cars waiting in staging areas outside, hoarding, and severe drug shortages as people scramble to get unproven cures, like hydroxychloroquine, for COVID-19. “That's where it really hits home for me is that if this goes on long term, our employees who work directly with the COVID-19 patients may not have the necessary equipment to protect themselves properly.”

Anthony G. 49 | Saddle Brook, NJ

“I am unable to protect myself (and my family).”

Casey, an ER nurse in Pennsylvania, shared a moment when she had just gotten home from a long shift in the ER. Normally she walks in the door, puts her keys down and greets her family. It’s totally different now. She takes her shoes off outside. She puts her scrubs in a bag. Her lips are chapped because they can’t use chapstick in the ER now. Her cheeks are bright red from wearing a mask all day.

Casey B. 42 | Upper Gwynedd, PA

“I’m really nervous.”

Jonathan is a Registered Nurse and case manager at a doctor’s office in Shady Cove, OR. He received a call from a young woman early in the week and started to go through the standard evaluation process. He could hear a gasp in her voice as she responded—like “she was having a really hard time taking a breath.” He felt the pressure in that moment of having to make the decision of who gets tested and who doesn’t. “It puts pressure on you professionally to make the right call.”

Jonathan C. 45 | Shady Cove, OR

"It just changed so quickly."

For Brooke, a newly minted nurse in Mayslick, KY, COVID-19 hits home as she arrives at work: She has to get there an hour early to get her temperature checked. She has to walk by lines of people outside, many of whom are no longer able to visit and see loved ones quarantined inside. "I think it's a very surreal moment just to see people and to think that two, three weeks ago, your life was not like this at all.”

Brooke R. 21 | Mayslick, KY

“It’s insane.”

A few states away, Christy was one of those visitors. She is the grandmother and guardian of conjoined twin baby girls who are receiving care at Children’s Hospital in Philadelphia. As if that isn’t a challenging enough situation to manage, visits are now tinged with anxiety. There was the beefed-up security, and a guard in every corner. And, there was the worry that her visitation rights would be cancelled. Then, of course, the fear that she would get sick, or, God forbid, give the virus to the babies.

Christy S. 42 | East Lansdowne, PA

“Now even a month or a day that you can't go visit someone is really impactful.”

As hospitals increasingly focused all their resources on COVID-19, patients with other life-threatening illnesses felt abandoned. Janet’s sister-in-law was recently diagnosed with leukemia, and may require a lung transplant. She was scheduled to go into the hospital to be evaluated, but COVID-19 broke out the same week. “So, a lung transplant is not considered a necessary surgery right now. And her appointments have been canceled. She can't even go in the hospital because she's at such a risk—she actually can't leave her home at all, and nobody can go visit her. “It gets really scary when you don't know how long someone's gonna be around and now, even a month or a day that you can't go visit someone is really impactful.."

Janet G. 58 | Pelham, NH

When We Needed Connection (in Spite of Isolation)

There is something about a crisis that brings out both the worst and the best in us. Despite the fear, panic, and hoarding of essentials, many found ways to support and connect with strangers, neighbors, and family members.

“The sense of not wanting people near me, but needing human kindness.”

First she was laid off, and then California announced a statewide lockdown. It’s a whole new world for Christina—deprived of her job or any reason to leave her house, life is limited to runs to the grocery store and walks around the neighborhood. She went to the grocery store and was brought to tears when the line was wrapped around the supermarket. “The cashier was so gracious when I was checking out and I just felt overwhelmed by the sense of not wanting people near me, but needing human kindness."

Cristina S. 37 | San Diego, CA

“If you need anything…”

Katherine doesn’t live in an especially friendly neighborhood in the suburbs of Chicago, but she knows the time for community is now. She left a note in each of the mailboxes on her street with her contact information and an open offer to help.

Katherine C. 37 | Winnetka, IL

“I was like, holy crap, these older people shouldn't have to deal with this."

Cindy manages a trailer park in rural Fordland, MO. As a low-income person herself, she worries people will stop paying rent and that she will soon be out of a job. Despite her own fears, she stopped by the store and bought provisions for all her elderly tenants, carefully using hand sanitizer before visiting each person.

Cindy C. 49 | Fordland, MO

"They're the ones that are more likely to be affected."

Nazli is a stay-at-home mom of three. After stockpiling enough food to feed her immediate family for two or three months, she sat down and ordered groceries online for her elderly parents and in-laws.

Nazli A. 40 | Dallas, TX

When People Responded

For all the anxiety of this new normal, many people felt compelled to act—to be helpful, to do something useful, to support those on the front lines. Many of the earliest actors knew someone who was a doctor, or a nurse, or someone working directly with victims. Their stories triggered a massive response from those at home.

“I really wanted to do something”

Many of Bridget’s friends are nurses. COVID-19 hit home when she heard they had to reuse masks, and show up to work even if they have symptoms. At a loss for how to help, she followed the urging from her friends and decided to donate blood. Despite her fear of needles and history of fainting, Bridget has resolved to do her part.

Bridget S. 30 | Nashville, TN

“They are running low.”

"So my friend is an ICU nurse in a hospital, and she asked if I would make masks because they are running low on PPE (personal protection equipment). So there are patterns online that you can use to make masks, and I have all this extra fabric as you can see. I took the patterns and I sewed masks for my friend, who works as an ICU nurse in a hospital in Oklahoma. And she was able to use these masks to supplement the mask that they already use in their work."

Denise B. 57 | Oklahoma City, OK

“How will I respond to such a call?"

Lori is a retired RN. She feels for the overworked medical personnel and the personal sacrifices they have to make. She was faced with a moment of soul searching when her daughter called her and said retired nurses were being called back to serve. “I had to really think: As someone over 60 with underlying health conditions, would I put myself at risk to help my fellow nurses?”

She decided yes, yes she would.

Lori M. 61 | Grand Marsh, WI

How Things Have Changed (By the Numbers)

We fielded this research between March 20-22. 877 Participants from 48 states answered a combination of closed-ended questions and open-ended prompts. Each shared one video story with us.

It’s clear that people are very concerned and recognize that we are in the midst of a singular moment.

Participants clearly see real impact on their daily lives and work.

By and large, they are taking steps to socially distance, and they either think the government is intervening appropriately, or that it should be doing more. Only 8% think government officials have overreacted.

And most Americans think things will return to normal in a matter of a few months:

These findings broadly hold true for scouts young and old, Republican and Democratic, high income and low income, and across most demographic breaks. We do see some distinctions in the degree of beliefs along political and demographic lines.

Concern is highly correlated with age:

Young people also think things will go back to normal sooner. 21% of people under 25 think things will be back to normal in a month or less, compared to only 9% of older folks.

Your outlook on when things will return to normal also differs depending on your politics. (48% of liberals think it will be longer than 2-3 months, compared to only 34% of conservatives.)

Conservatives are far less likely to believe that government officials are under-reacting (39% of liberals versus 20% of conservatives).

As of Friday, March 20, few participants reported having symptoms or getting tested themselves. 16% reported that they knew someone who had tested positive or exhibited symptoms.

Jaymie Wahlen is the VP of Customer Success at dscout, where she works to make dscout the most customer-centric company on the block. When she’s not leading dscout’s team of Research Advisors, you can find Jaymie spinning a pottery wheel, or seeking out the world’s best street food.

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