As the COVID-19 pandemic was declared by the World Health Organization on March 11, I knew my life would dramatically change. I just didn’t know how much.
Some professors were already talking about transitioning to online learning, some of my plans were starting to fall apart, and I found myself washing my hands at every chance I had.
At first, things were not that bad – Spring Break had been extended for a week and my university decided to transition to online learning for the rest of the semester. As I live on the Mexican side and study and work in the U.S., this meant that I didn’t have to cross the border every day for the next two months a half – quite a relief.
For the next weeks, my life was fairly tranquil. I had the time to read more than I normally do – something I was overly happy about.
I was able to cook more often than I normally do, and generally had to improvise because going to the supermarket every time something was missing wasn’t really an option.
I even started planting my own chiles.
Though I knew things were not alright and people all around the world were suffering the devastating effects of this pandemic, I still found some comfort in cooking with my family on a Friday morning.
It was until mid-April that the pandemic started affecting me negatively – or my plans to be precise. I had submitted a paper to a conference in Oneonta, New York, which was cancelled due to the outbreak in the state. Fortunately, the conference organizers created a website where the accepted papers can be found.
I was also planning on taking a language course in Germany during the summer, which was also cancelled.
I thought this was bad enough to be honest. Some of my biggest plans for the summer had fallen apart because of this new Coronavirus. I never imagined how much worse it could get. It must have been my privilege that made me blind.
Around the same time I had discovered my plans were being abruptly changed, two people in my family were suspected of having the virus. One of them was severely affected, the other was in a more stable condition but by the time he found out that he had tested positive for COVID-19, he had already infected most of his family.
As days passed, things were not getting any better. In a matter of weeks we lost two people in the family.
I hesitated a lot about sharing this story, but I finally realized that I couldn’t not include them in a story about my life during COVID-19.
As Texas starts opening up and maquiladoras in Ciudad Juarez – my hometown – are trying to reopen, I felt it was my responsibility to share the story of real people who were fatally affected by this pandemic.
This is no simulation and we shouldn’t minimize it. People are dying.
I assure you all, you don’t want to look back at these times thinking of people you’ve lost.
Editors Note: Frank Hernandez spent the summer doing a remote internship with Investigate Midwest, an independent news publication of The Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting. Due to the high level of contributions he made to reporting projects, the organization extended his internship into the Fall 2020 semester.