—By Jamil Mejia
Covid-19 spread swiftly through Bergen County in the early part of March. At some point the small county made up for a large chunk of those infected in the US. This was especially scary for me because I worked as a cashier in Bergen County.
Many people failed to follow CDC guidelines, and many wore masks that were ineffective. Customers would walk in with their shirts over their mouths and most times without a mask at all.
Weeks into the pandemic the public struggled to grasp the new grim reality of retail shopping. Having to remind people to put on their masks felt like babysitting.
This work environment gave me an overwhelming sense of anxiety and fear that I would contract the virus and get my family sick—a virus with potentially no symptoms surrounded by those who do not care for themselves and others. It was a recipe for disaster.
After a couple of weeks, I saw no change in how my job and the public would keep me safe. I was forced to quit my job to keep my parents safe. The coronavirus outbreak was an emotional rollercoaster that changed the status quo of my everyday life.
Quitting made me even more anxious, but about my funds. Therefore, I filed for unemployment on March 23rd, the day after I quit.
Week after week I filed for unemployment, hoping to be compensated and relieved of some of my debts. Unfortunately, the unemployment system was so backed up that I did not receive payments until May 30th. When I did receive payment, the previous weeks that I filed were withheld from me until late July.
Thankfully, for the next two months I filed and received unemployment benefits. Financial stability eased my anxiety as the additional $600 a week erased my debts.
July came and I received the backlogged benefits from March to May. This small fortune gave me enough to buy a car.
It’s unfortunate that if it were not for the coronavirus, I would not have my first car.
In addition to getting my first car, the virus caused schools to remain remote for the Fall semester. This change is a welcome one by me as it saves me time and money that I would've spent commuting to school.
Additionally, remote learning made my schedule much more flexible. Taking classes on Zoom makes school a lot more comfortable since I do not have to go anywhere to attend.
I hope that this new normal causes colleges and universities to consider having some classes remain remote after the pandemic.
The pandemic has affected my life in both positive and negative ways. Unfortunately, it led to the loss of my job and unemployment.
Although the pandemic had its downsides, I am grateful that it did not infect anyone in my direct family.