Written By Alexandrea Flanders
At the beginning of this year, I was getting ready to attend a trip to the Virgin Islands with some colleagues to participate in an emergency management conference over our spring break. I remember my excitement; I was finally going to see the ocean for the first time in my life. I’d never left the country, and it would be a first as well, especially going so far south. My excitement came to an end when COVID-19 started vastly impacting the entire world, and my trip went to a close before it had even begun.
As soon as the coronavirus hit the Midwest, my school went entirely remote, and so did my job. I planned on doing an internship that summer as well, which was put on hold. I moved back home earlier than scheduled with no reason to stay in the dorms anymore. At first, I was afraid to leave Omaha and come back to Winnebago. The reason being is that I was in a city that was being hit hard compared to surrounding areas. But if anyone knew me, I tend to stay indoors a bit more than the average person. I knew I hadn’t been in contact with anyone other than my roommates, but the thought of knowing I could potentially get my grandmother sick frightened me. Out of a cry for loneliness, I returned to Winnebago for the summer.
Then the unthinkable happened - I got sick at the very place I considered my safe haven. I tested positive for COVID-19 at my home. It was never intentional; it never is. I wasn’t the only one in my household who got sick at the time either. My mother and I both tested positive for the coronavirus simultaneously. I started asking questions like “How?” and “When?” I kept thinking about the last steps I took, where I was, who was I around... When my mother and I would go out, we would wear our masks. We would use hand sanitizer and take all of the necessary precautions. In the end, it didn’t matter in our case. We both got it and we quarantined well after the fourteen days that is recommended by the CDC just to make sure. Although I didn’t experience a lot of severe symptoms like others have reported, I still had long-term effects. I recently regained my sense of smell and taste back.
According to the Biden-Harris Tribal Nation Plan, “Even before the pandemic, Native Americans had a 5.5 years shorter life expectancy than the average American and suffered from higher rates of chronic diseases, including diabetes, heart disease, and asthma. They are also more likely to be uninsured than any other racial or ethnic group.” Being a part of this demographic can be daunting at times, but I am thankful. I’m thankful to those who offered their hand in making sure that my family and I were well cared for, whether it was for keeping me in their prayers or checking up on us. I’m thankful that I am a young and healthy Native woman.
Throughout this pandemic, much like everyone else, I haven’t had much social interaction with people I usually would, and it sucks! As a college student, I miss having those in-person discussions and activities, especially in class. I miss having meetings with my student organization in person. Lastly, I miss going to concerts and having the opportunity to relax for a moment and jam out to some music with other people who enjoy it. Sounds typical for a college student in their twenties, right? Although I do not drink alcohol or anything, I miss the fun interactions.
I think that it's great to see people wearing masks, washing their hands, and social distancing. In addition, people should opt into getting the COVID-19 vaccine. It is imperative that the Biden administration enforces a strong COVID-19 response. President Biden promises in his Tribal Nation Plan, "...he will ensure wide availability of free testing and eliminate cost barriers to preventative care and treatment for COVID-19 - ensuring Native Americans are not left behind." Although we have a long ways to go to get through this pandemic, I've learned to be thankful. We need to continue to practice proper hygiene rituals on top of putting pressure onto the current administration, local governments, and public elected officials.
Written by Alexandrea Flanders.