When [the pandemic] hit and we were told to shelter in place, it hadn’t hit me yet. I was still going to the store without a mask or gloves, but then I started to see the shelves emptied of hand sanitizer, hand soap, toilet paper, etc. I hadn’t really felt the impact of it. I was in shock.
Then, I started wearing gloves, a hat, a double mask, and I was really scared—really petrified of people and of being in public spaces. But I had to go out and get necessities.
I also have an 80-year-old mother who lives on the other side of town. She definitely couldn’t be going out shopping, so I had to be the one to do it. One time, I had just come from dropping off groceries to my mom and had to drive back across town to get home and unload my groceries. At the time, they didn’t know whether the virus could last on packaging, so I put my groceries on the floor and used bleach mixed with water to wipe everything down before I put it away. I just broke down. It was a lot. I had to remember everything I touched before I got into the house and then everything I had touched once I got inside the house and clean it all. It was overwhelming. I think I had a panic attack or something.
Then, I would go to the grocery store and have to tell my mom that they had run out of a lot of things and we were just going to have to take what we could get. It took about until the middle of May before I felt like I had a groove. But then I started seeing people without masks because they thought [the pandemic] was over. People stopped social distancing. We opened up way too early.
I just need to do whatever I have to in order to keep myself and my mother safe. It still scares me when people get too close or they’re not wearing masks or wearing them appropriately. I wonder when I’m going to snap out.
—adapted from a Story Booth recording of a woman’s experience living through the COVID-19 pandemic as someone who is HIV positive and caring for her aging mother
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