Like most here in the U.S. I watched in awe as the sate of NY closed down slowly and finally over the course of the week March 9-14, 2020 as the COVID-19 pandemic swept the nation and changed life as we knew it forever. By the end of the day on Saturday March 14th I made the decision and announcement to pivot the 540WMain team and work to 100% remote and since that time have been diligent at self-quarantining, limiting all in person interactions to my immediate family, and spending lots of time working and communicating virtually. As someone who lives with a chronic disabling condition it was super important to me to be more than diligent at following all physical distancing guidelines and to protect both myself and others.
Despite these and so many other precautions I am the fourth member of my immediate family to contract COVID-19 during this time. Days before Memorial Day weekend my father (who has been an essential worker and was never able to work from home) fell ill. He took a COVID-19 on the Tuesday after Memorial Day and by the end of that week had a positive confirmation. My mother too received a positive test result but was largely asymptomatic. Each of my siblings and I had spent time with my parents prior to their diagnosis. On Sunday May 31st my two siblings and I went to the drive through testing site on Carter Street. By June 2nd each of us had receive a negative test and relieved felt that our efforts to keep quarantined has been successful. I was convinced that I would successfully see the other side of pandemic unscathed.
Of course, none the mental and psychological impacts of this pandemic would make me fully unscathed. As a Black man the double edged sword of trying to dodge COVID-19 despite the daily impacts of a culture and society embedded in systemic racism takes a daily toll that I may never fully understand. What I do know is that COVID-19 like so many other diseases has disproportionately impacted and killed members the Black community, a truth that is inconvenient and unsurprising. This truth was made even more evident by the uprising of #BlackLivesMatter protests and demonstrations that engulfed the world during the first week of June. I spend most of this week offline, in meditation, not responding to emails and taking a must needed rest. I was emotionally drained and exhausted and hoped that this week long respite would give me the energy I needed to reengage in my community education work.
On Monday June 8th I was “back in the habit” so to speak, responding to close to 100 emails and requests for antiracism workshops, training, and discussions. By the evening of Tuesday June 9th I was feeling drained and had an acute sinus headache. I honestly thought my symptoms were allergy related and remember going to bed early. That night was not a good night to say the least and I spent much of it experiencing ebbs and flows of being cold and hot, sweating with a developed migraine and a persistent dry cough. I barely slept all night. By Wed June 10th I had reached out to my network for support and received some deliveries of medication, CBD and other supports. The worst of the migraine had subsided but the sinus pressure was now unbearable and added symptoms of loss of taste and smell and diarrhea. By Thursday I had accepted that I more than likely has COVID-19. My sister tested positive on Friday and I went for a second test Sunday June 14th which was confirmed yesterday.
My family and myself like so many others did our due diligence to make sure that we were navigating this pandemic as safely as possible. My parents were diligent in only going out when necessary, wearing a mask, and so many other precautions. My mother who has owned a salon for decades closed down her shop and lost wages trying to keep safe. Naturally there were elements not in our control and my father deemed essential and unable to have the option to work from home and like so many other Black Americans more likely to contract the virus and spread it to those in him immediate family and circle. Despite all of this, I contracted COVID-19.
Fortunately my case like my Father’s seems to be on the more mild side. He recovered and went on to return to work this week. I am on the mend, not quite my normally functionally flared self but certainly not as bad as this past weekend. I share my story because like so many others our story matters. We matter. Our lives matter and the conditions that lead to our COVID-19 diagnosis matters.
(he/his/him) Calvin Eaton is a community educator, content creator, and social entrepreneur, whose area of expertise includes antiracism education, instructional design, and program development. In 2016 Mr. Eaton founded 540WMain a non-profit online and community-based organization for accessible education and events that promote justice for all.
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