The coronavirus – creeping onto the world’s scene only a few short months ago and then exploding into our day-to-day lives. Every day we hear about the impact of corona and COVID-19 on – well, almost everyone. But how is it affecting disabled individuals? Today on Blind Abilities we explore just how blind and visually impaired individuals have experienced and adapted to corona and COVID-19.
In our previous episodes, we have circumnavigated the world, from Australia to Malaysia-
My name is Elise Lonsdale, and I’m from Northern Australia.
This is Chee Chau, from Malaysia.
Hi, my name’s Steve, and I’m from England.
-Trinidad and Tobago-
In this, the eleventh episode in our series Around the World With COVID-19 From a Blindness Perspective, we come back to the United States of America-
Brooklyn Rodden Kelly:
Our guest today is Michael Babcock. Michael is a production assistant in Coquille, Oregon. Michael joins Blind Abilities to share his perspectives on how the coronavirus and COVID-19 have affected him as an employee of a company that owns eight radio stations in his local market and its impact on his two younger brothers and his son. And now please welcome our guest, Michael Babcock.
Dr. Jennifer Vines:
Hello again, good afternoon – for the record, I’m Dr. Jennifer Vines, I’m the Multnomah County Health Officer, and I am sad but not surprised to announce the first confirmed COVID-19 case. This is a man in the 55 to 74-year-old age range hospitalized at the VA hospital.
American Newscaster (female):
Breaking tonight – a 70-year-old Multnomah County man died from COVID-19, the first coronavirus death in Oregon.
COVID-19 has affected Oregon a lot slower than it has affected our neighbors to the north and south, Washington and California respectively. This being said, however, the cases of COVID-19 in Oregon have substantially increased – for example, in the month of July there were more cases in the first 13 days than in the entire month of May.
Governor Kate Brown:
Thank you, and good morning. Nine days ago I announced we had Oregon’s first case of COVID-19, coronavirus. Late yesterday evening, we learned of seven new cases in Oregon, bringing the total number of cases in our state to 14, and I am declaring a state of emergency-
American Newscaster (female) 2:
The state just reported 375 new cases today-
American Newscaster (male):
-cases are increasing among people younger than 50.
American Newscaster (female) 3:
Starting tomorrow, two new rules are going into effect statewide in Oregon.
American Newscaster (female) 4:
Governor Brown announced that she will be enhancing the facemask rule. You’ll be required to wear a mask outdoors if you can’t stay six feet away from people outside of your immediate household, and if you’re hosting a party, you’ll have to keep the guest list short, capping it at 10 people.
COVID-19 has affected me personally in a few different ways. In March, when the cases started to take a hold in the state of Oregon, our governor requested that we all stay home to save lives. This encouraged the closure of barbers, gyms, and dine-in restaurants. In March, I had just passed my one-year anniversary of employment as a production assistant for a company that owned eight different radio stations in our local market. Because our advertisers, like everyone else, had no clue as to what the future would hold, they started to pull their advertising back. Governor Brown’s Stay Home, Save Lives order also encouraged employers to allow those who could to work from home. My employer then told us that all of the employees who could would work from home, and only essential broadcasters would come into the studio to produce their live shows. However, after we worked from home for about a day, my employer also advised me and the other production assistant that both of us were being furloughed for the foreseeable future.
Oregon Employment Department Official:
During the week of March 15th, the Oregon Employment Department received a record number of initial claims for unemployment benefits. There were 76,500 initial claims filed, and so far in the first few days of this week, we’re tracking near those record levels again. That’s a sharp increase from 4900 during the week of March 8th.
This, then, started me down the path of unemployment exploration, and I can say that I was eligible for unemployment. However, as of the time of recording this audio, my unemployment benefits will run out in the next week or two, both state and the federal offset. This being said, I did accept a conditional offer of employment yesterday, and I’m excited to see where this new adventure in my life will take me as a customer service agent for a major company.
American Newscaster (female) 5:
Good evening, we start with breaking news on the COVID-19 health crisis. Within the last hour, Oregon governor Kate Brown ordered a statewide closure of all K-12 schools starting Monday.
American Newscaster (male) 2:
The governor is ordering a closure of all K-12 schools in Oregon from Monday, March 16th to Tuesday, March 31st.
I have my 6th and 8th grade brothers living with me. When the pandemic took hold in March, the schools closed down, which prompted both of them to have to start learning from home. Andrew, my 8th grade – going into 9th grade now – brother, had no problem with transitioning to doing his schoolwork from home, except for the fact that there were some inconsistencies in the teacher’s instructions. Granted, the teachers were definitely not prepared for teaching from home, and there really was no live lectures provided, it was assignments that were posted for him to complete with the books that he had and worksheets that the teachers submitted.
We’re in a very fluid and dynamic situation right now. Our job as school systems is to promote and support learning continuing while students are home – not just materials available, homework packets per se, in hard copy, but we’re also posting a lot of digital resources and content as well so that they can participate in some remote learning that we’re promoting.
He’s also my athletic brother, so I think the lack of sports during the spring term has kind of impacted him, especially with his social life. Benjamin is my 6th grade brother, going into 7th, and he was already in a blended learning environment. He would go to school and do his work on the computer, and this gave him the flexibility of being able to work at his own rate. Transitioning to a school-from-home program wasn’t very difficult, and his teacher, on the other hand, did hold once-a-week Google Meet meetings for him to join and ask any questions if he had them. Additionally, one of the requirements for him to get his weekly participation was to email her once a week, causing there to be two check-ins weekly for Benjamin. The rest of the time was done by doing his own work at his own rate, like was the case when he was in a blended learning environment.
On Saturday, July 11th, Oregon had its largest outbreak of cases at 409 reported cases in one day. This reasoning has caused Governor Brown to issue a new order that restricts indoor gatherings, excluding restaurants, to groups of no larger than 10. Additionally, if outside and unable to socially distance, one must be wearing a mask. Where the pandemic will take Oregon and the rest of the world in the next six months or one year, I’m unsure. How this will impact me, I also am unsure of. I can, however, say that I’m thankful for the opportunity to spend the summer with my son, and experience what it’s like for him distance learning as a 10-year-old as well. Nicholas, who lives in Alaska, is also doing distance learning, and doing it from Zoom, which has been an experience because I’ve been able to teach him how to be able to use keystrokes to quickly raise his hand, open the chat, see participants, and mute and unmute himself.
The pandemic has also given me an opportunity and, I can probably say, pass the technician-class amateur radio license, a goal that I’ve had for the last 10, 15 years but never gotten around. I can probably say that as of July 6th, KJ7-Papa-Alpha-Zulu, my callsign, is now on the air as a technician-class operator. Additionally, I have also had an opportunity to focus more on my podcast, the Your Own Pay podcast network, and a few other projects that I’ve been working on the side. The pandemic has affected the entire world in six months, and where we will be in the next year from today I’m unsure, and I don’t think anyone knows. However, I can say that as long as you can find some positivity, wash your hands, don’t touch your face, and spend time with your loved ones, either physically or virtually, we’ll all make it through this. A wise man once told me, “Michael, you’re not guaranteed tomorrow, so make the best of today while you can.” If you’d like to connect with me, feel free to reach out at yourownpay.com.
Governor Kate Brown:
It’s been 100 days since I announced Oregon’s Stay Home, Save Lives Order on March 8th to reduce the spread of COVID-19 infections. A little over 16 weeks ago, there were 14 cases of COVID-19 in Oregon. Today, there are over 8600 cases with more than a quarter of those cases identified in a two-week period in June. At this pace, we could reach 10,000 cases within a week. Less than six weeks have passed since the first Oregon counties began their gradual reopening process, and today, Oregon, you have a choice – do we wear face coverings, keep a physical distance, and avoid large gatherings? Do we protect ourselves, our families, our grandparents? Or do we pretend that this virus isn’t hiding and lurking among us?
We’d like to thank Michael Babcock for coming onto Blind Abilities and sharing his perspective on the coronavirus and COVID-19 from Coquille, Oregon. Be sure to listen to more episodes in our series. And from all of us here at Blind Abilities, through these challenging times, to you, your family, and friends, stay well, stay informed, and stay strong. Thank you so much for listening, and have a great day.
Music] [Transition noise] –
When we share
-What we see
-Through each other’s eyes…
[Multiple voices overlapping, in unison, to form a single sentence]
…We can then begin to bridge the gap between the limited expectations, and the realities of Blind Abilities.
For more podcasts with the blindness perspective, check us out on the web at www.blindabilities.com, on Twitter @BlindAbilities. Download our app from the app store Blind Abilities, that’s two words, or send us an email at email@example.com. Thanks for listening.
Contact Your State Services
If you reside in Minnesota, and you would like to know more about Transition Services from State Services contact Transition Coordinator Sheila Koenig by email or contact her via phone at 651-539-2361.
To find your State Services in your State you can go to www.AFB.org and search the directory for your agency.
Check out the Blind Abilities Communityon Facebook, the Blind Abilities Page, and the Career Resources for the Blind and Visually Impaired group