Life in 2020: SC residents share COVID pandemic stories

More than 3,700 South Carolinians have died of COVID-19. And untold thousands more are struggling

More than 3,700 South Carolinians have died of COVID-19. And untold thousands more are struggling as a result of the coronavirus — loved ones lost, jobs gone, routines upended.

We asked South Carolina residents to share how the virus has altered their world. Here’s what they had to say:

Crystal Reyes, Rock Hill

I’ve lost my job and have visited a food pantry for the first time in my life. I can’t pay my electric and rent with unemployment, let alone my other bills. I lost my insurance, so I hope I don’t get sick. My children are becoming withdrawn. My youngest with autism excelled socially, but now has regressed as he knows we can not get close to people. This I’m afraid will affect their personalities moving forward. This is the lowest our family has been. I’m hoping for brighter days to come.

Velia Woods, Hilton Head Island

I tested positive with coronavirus and was left with right heart failure. I feel very fatigued, tired and winded at times. Something as small as exercise makes me lightheaded. If I’m at work I get tired easily and at times need to sit and catch my breath. I’ve noticed that I have begun to have major hair loss. I’m not sure why.

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Hilton Head Island resident Velia Woods, who suffered heart damage due to COVID-19, displays medication on Wednesday, Sept. 23, 2020 she was prescribed, one of which is a supplement to replenish potassium in her body. Drew Martin [email protected]

Lauren Johnson, Columbia

The biggest impact was on my education. Everything got moved online and my grades were put at risk. Now finishing my last year of college, all of my experiences that I should’ve gotten are ruined. I also lost my job over the summer and still haven’t found a new one so paying rent has just become a burden and huge stressor on my home.

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Lauren Johnson, 21, a University of South Carolina senior, said it’s been difficult to pay rent amid the pandemic after losing a job.

Yolanda Tolton, Mount Pleasant

COVID-19 changed the way I was able to deal with my sister’s non-COVID illness and death this summer. Due to the strict COVID restrictions in New York, I had to self-quarantine for two weeks in her home before I was allowed to enter the hospital to see her and place her into hospice care. Other family members were unable to see her due to the strict hospital visitation policies until I put her in hospice care. Most of our family was out-of-state and could not attend her funeral because their states were considered hot spots. So she had a small ceremony inside the funeral home with less than 25 people attending and socially distanced.

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Yolanda Tolton, right, with her sister, Debbie. Tolton had to self-quarantine for two weeks before visiting Debbie at a hospital during the pandemic. Courtesy of Yolanda Tolton

Holly Fleming, Lancaster

I have asthma as well as other health issues. In the beginning of this pandemic, I was paralyzed with fear. Ultimately, I resorted to anxiety medication to help manage my fears. I work in a long-term care facility as well as in the home health field. I gave up my second job out of responsibility to my long-term (care) residents and co-workers, which has damaged us financially. We were starting to get ahead and build savings. Now it has been diminished. I feel so disconnected. I miss human contact. I have been robbed of being able to be a part of my first grandchild’s birth for many reasons due to COVID restrictions. … I hope this pandemic ends and that this terrible virus becomes manageable soon. I empathize with everyone. This truly has affected all of mankind globally in many ways.

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Holly Fleming lives in Lancaster, S.C. and works in a residential care facility. During the pandemic, she gave up her second job for a home health care company to minimize possible exposure to COVID-19. Submitted

Simone Beach, Greenville

My husband, 2-year-old daughter and I all had COVID in August. My husband is an EMT and likely caught it at work. Besides the huge hit to our finances that so much time out of work caused (some of which was unpaid due to running out of sick and vacation time), I am struggling with PTSD symptoms and am losing hair due to the stress. (I also have many new white hairs.) I’m 29 years old and had a “mild” case.

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Simone Beach of Greenville, her husband, an EMT, and their 2-year-old daughter all had COVID-19 in August. Submitted

Savana Boysworth, Beaufort

I could write a book on how it has affected me. Being too afraid to go see my family, too afraid to meet my great niece who is seven months now. Suffering with anxiety and depression, barely leaving the house only to grocery shop. The worst I would have to say is not being able to say goodbye to my Nana and to give my Nana a proper funeral, who unfortunately passed due to the virus. I don’t know what’s worse: having to lay them to rest or not being able to properly say goodbye at all. I can’t put into words how exhausting this year has been, but I know there are very many more people who are less fortunate than I am.

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Savana Boysworth, right, sits with her grandmother, Dorothy “Dot” Boysworth, as a child. Courtesy of Savana Boysworth

Steve Young, Hilton Head Island

I own a business that is struggling and had to lay off 90% of my employees after the Paycheck Protection Program ran out. I have been taking different jobs to keep my family afloat.

Dr. Carol Choe, West Columbia

Patients who are sick enough to come to the ICU (at Lexington Medical Center) and require life support often die without physically seeing their family, without hearing how much they are loved, without feeling their loved one’s touch. Although we work tirelessly to get patients better, there are times when even our best isn’t good enough to bring a family member home. Wearing a mask doesn’t have to be a political statement. It is a small act to show you care about others in your community.

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Dr. Carol Choe, M.D. is a critical care physician at Lexington Medical Center. She is one of the doctors who cares for patients with the coronavirus. Tracy Glantz [email protected]

Karen Faris, Rock Hill

I have been food insecure. Unable to visit my brother in New York City or have him come down here. We are both vulnerable. I am over 65 and he is a heart patient. I feel lonely and at the same time betrayed by officials who should have acted sooner.

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Karen Faris with her brother. Both of them are vulnerable to the coronavirus and Faris has been unable to visit him.

Anne Marie Ray, Beaufort

I wasn’t able to see my daughter’s middle school graduation ceremony. I wasn’t able to help my son get all decked out for prom. I wasn’t able to see him during one of the biggest accomplishments and milestones of his life, walking across the field receiving his high school diploma and graduating. I try to have a positive mindset and tell myself that all of this is just a storm.

Olivia Williams-Turner, Columbia

The devastation of this pandemic on the children we serve (at the nonprofit, Family Promise of the Midlands) has been the hardest to watch, especially in the areas of education and socialization. This is a major blow to the education of low- or no-income children who are already experiencing deficits in learning. Children whose parents have to go to work are literally educating themselves at home, or not participating in the education process at all. I see a major uptick in depression and anxiety in the children and parents we serve.

Dr. Brannon Traxler, Columbia

I had been working nonstop on the state’s response to the pandemic since January, but it became very personal in May when my grandmother died of COVID-19. Our family is very close, and it was difficult to go through the loss without being able to come together to mourn and to celebrate her life and to be there for each other. The last email I received from her, a couple of days before she became sick, was telling me that she had watched an interview I had done on TV about COVID-19 and how proud she was of me.

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Brannon Traxler Courtesy of the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control

Terry Seabrook, Charleston

The pandemic is our 9/11. Things will never be the same. Lives lost, businesses destroyed. Fortunately, my business has slowed tremendously but I have been able to keep all of my employees.

Dr. Jaqui Jones, Columbia

Professionally, it seemed that overnight I was seeing everyone in the virtual office. I have truly become a family medicine physician, as I now know the whole family, including a few pets that stop by to say hello. There have been challenges … access to internet, cell phones, video capabilities but we are doing everything we can to serve our patients.

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Dr. Jaqui Jones is a family practice physician in Columbia, S.C. During the COVID-19 pandemic, she had to address telemedicine challenges. Courtesy of Prisma Health

Kenneth Snipes, Great Falls (Chester County)

I have had to put myself to the side and think about my job (as a teacher) more than ever. I got into education for two reasons: to try to make someone’s life better and to have more time with my family. I still feel I have the opportunity to make someone’s life better, but when my family is at church or shopping, (we all) better have that mask on and (stand apart) six feet. If I never hear that again it will not hurt my feelings. I choose this so I have to put myself to the side and do what is right! God has this under control. I believe that.

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Kenneth Snipes is a teacher in the Chester County School District. He worries about doing the right thing for his students during the pandemic.

Jason Cadier, North Myrtle Beach

I have watched the industry I love vaporize, been infected and struggled to maintain sanity all while watching the world fall into disarray. Across the country we have become polarized over racism and politics. 2020 is considered perfect vision. Is this the vision of our future? God I hope not! I have become less myopic in my life and am stunned how my little microcosm has been affected by a strand of DNA.

Julie Bailey, Greenville

I haven’t hugged my parents or son and daughters who are no longer in the home in months. The worst part has been the break up of my marriage because we could not reconcile our views on this virus. He can only see our 3-year-old on Sundays for a few hours with masks and distance. We went from a home of seven to a home of three, but I’m so grateful I haven’t lost a loved one to this virus yet.

Editor’s Note: Entries have been edited for style, clarity and length.

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Lucas Smolcic Larson joined The Island Packet and Beaufort Gazette as a projects reporter in 2019, after graduating from Brown University. He previously contributed to investigations as an intern at The Washington Post and the Investigative Reporting Workshop in Washington D.C. Lucas hails from central Pennsylvania and speaks Spanish and Portuguese.

Sam Ogozalek is a reporter at The Island Packet covering COVID-19 recovery efforts. He is also a Report for America corps member. He recently graduated from Syracuse University and has written for the Tampa Bay Times, The Buffalo News and the Naples Daily News.

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