Voices from the Pandemic

A collection of accounts from people who have been sharing their personal stories about covid-19

BARRINGTON, IL - FEBRUARY 11: Kaitlin Denis, a 30 year old former Division I soccer player who is now on long term disability with longhaul covid. She has been sick since before Chicago locked down almost a year ago.

‘Tomorrow. Tomorrow I’ll start to feel better.’

Kaitlin Denis, on approaching Year Two of living with covid-19

Dr. Stanley Plotkin, 88, sits for a portrait in his home in Doylestown, Pennsylvania on Monday, January 25, 2021. Dr. Plotkin has worked in development of several vaccines over the last 60 years, and has served as an advisor to manufacturers and governing bodies concerning vaccines. 
(Photo by Michelle Gustafson for The Washington Post)

‘I was lucky to find this vaccine anywhere’

Stanley Plotkin, legendary vaccinologist, on the historic development and chaotic distribution of covid-19 vaccines

Fort Myers, Florida - January 8, 2021: 
Roger Desjarlais poses for a portrait at the Lee County Emergency Operations Center in Fort Myers, Florida on January 8, 2021. Desjarlais is the County manager for Lee County. 
(Photo by Eve Edelheit for The Washington Post)

‘The truth is, nobody told us what to be ready for’

Roger Desjarlais, county manager in Lee County, Fla., on the unanticipated challenges of rolling out the vaccine


Dr. Val Briones-Pryor, an Internal Medicine Specialist stands, stands for a portrait outside the University of Louisville hospital in Louisville, Kentucky on Dec. 17, 2020. (Photo by Luke Sharrett for The Washington Post) 


‘I needed something good to happen’

Valerie Briones-Pryor, on ending a year of grief with a moment of hope

MENTOR, OH - December 2: Bruce MacGillis is quarantining in his room at the Heartland Nursing Home in Mentor, OH on December 2, 2020. During the snowstorm, the nursing home lost power for 28 hours so he ate in the dark and slept under mountains of blankets. He is sitting at and looking out his window. (Photo by Amber Ford for the Washington Post)

‘Do people understand what’s happening here? Do they care?’

Bruce MacGillis, on the excruciating wait for a vaccine inside a coronavirus-infected nursing home

PARK HILLS, MO - November 16: St. Francois County Health Center Director Amber Elliott stands for a portrait in Park Hills, Missouri, on November 16, 2020. Elliott is leaving her position at the health department after a number of threats against her and her family over discussion of restrictions in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic. (Photo by Whitney Curtis for The Washington Post)

‘This is how we treat each other? This is who we are?’

Amber Elliott, county health director, on the high cost of doing her job

Dr. Thomas Dean. One time use only

‘Election Day is over, and guess what?’

Tom Dean, a physician, on the dire situation in South Dakota

MINNEAPOLIS - OCTOBER 19, 2020 - A portrait of Mary Jo Copeland in the food pantry at Sharing and Caring Hands in Minneapolis, Minn., on Monday, Oct. 19, 2020. Copeland is the founder and director of Sharing and Caring Hands, a food kitchen and charity in Minneapolis. 

(Photo by Jenn Ackerman /For The Washington Post)

‘Do something. Do something!’

Mary Jo Copeland, on choosing decency over anxiety and fear

DALLAS,TX- OCTOBER 8, Tony Green, 43, photographed near his home in Dallas, Texas. Green is a conservative (former) virus-denier in Dallas who threw an indoor party for his family that resulted in 14 relatives getting sick, 5 being hospitalized and 2 deaths. He was also hospitalized with covid but is home now and recovered. ( Photo by Allison V. Smith/ For The Washington Post)

‘What are we so afraid of?’

Tony Green, on dismissing, denying, contracting and spreading the coronavirus

Glen Burnie, MD United States - September 25: 

Mike Fratantuono, who co-owns Sunset Restaurant with his brother Gary and his cousin Dave stands for a portrait in front of his business in Glen Burnie,MD on September 25, 2020. The family-owned restaurant is closing after 60 years because of the Coronavirus pandemic. It’s last day will be next Wednesday, September 30th, 2020. 

(Photo by Matt Roth for The Washington Post)

‘It’s like Trump said: The cure has been worse than the disease.’

Mike Fratantuono, manager of Sunset Restaurant in Glen Burnie, Md., on the death of a family business

SANFORD, FL - SEPT 17: Christopher Anderson, the Seminole County Supervisor of Elections is in charge of ensuring the safety of approximately 300,000 voters in the Florida county. (Photo by Edward Linsmier for The Washington Post)

‘What could possibly go wrong?’

Chris Anderson, the supervisor of elections in Seminole County, Fla., on the risks of running a presidential election in a pandemic

GILBERT, AZ - SEPTEMBER 4: Jessica Santos-Rojo at home in Gilbert, Arizona on Sept. 4, 2020. (Photo by Caitlin O’Hara for The Washington Post)

‘Mom, help help help help!’

Jessica Santos-Rojo, on working, teaching and parenting at home in the coronavirus crisis

ALEXANDRIA, VA - AUGUST 16: Matthew Graveson, 16, and his brother, Timothy Graveson, 15, pose for a portrait outside their home on Sunday August 16, 2020 in Alexandria, VA. Matthew and Timothy both spent over a month in the hospital due to Covid-19. (Photo by Matt McClain/The Washington Post)

‘How is this possible? What are the odds?’

The Graveson family, on what the coronavirus has done to them

HOUSTON, TX - AUGUST 13: Tusdae Barr poses for a portrait at a friend’s home in Houston, Texas on August 13, 2020.
(Photo by Mark Felix for The Washington Post)

‘May rent. June rent. Late fees. Penalties.’

Tusdae Barr, on being evicted from her home during the coronavirus crisis

Jeff Gregorich, Superintendent of Schools at Hayden-Winkelman Unified School District sits for a portrait at Hayden High School in Winkelman, Ariz. on July 30, 2020. A teacher in his district, Kimberley Chavez Lopez Byrd, contracted COVID-19 while teaching summer school and died on June 26, a day after she was put on a ventilator. 
(Photo by Caitlin O’Hara for The Washington Post

‘I’m sorry, but it’s a fantasy’

Jeff Gregorich, superintendent, on trying to reopen his schools safely

ORIENTAL, NC - July 15: Lori Wagoner, 63, poses for at Inland Waterway Provision Company, a small market and boat supply store where she works in the little coastal town of Oriental, NC, Wednesday, July 15, 2020. Wagoner is one of the many retail workers on the frontlines of COVID-19's dangerous spread. Lori has strictly enforced mask policy at the store in effort to keep her, her coworkers and other patrons safe, going so far as to only unlock the door for a masked face.  (Photo by Eamon Queeney/For The Washington Post)

‘No mask, no entry. Is that clear enough? That seems pretty clear, right?’

Lori Wagoner, retail clerk, on trying to enforce a state requirement to wear masks

Seattle, Washington, USA - July 2nd, 2020

Ian Haydon, 29, in Seattle, WASH. Chaydon is part of a trial for a COVID-19 vaccine being developed by a Boston-based company called Moderna Therapeutics. Haydon is one of three people in the trial who had a systemic adverse reaction to the vaccine; after receiving a second dose, he developed a fever and after being released from an urgent care facility, fainted in his home.

Here Haydon waiting for his take out coffee at his neighborhood coffee shop.

Photograph by Stuart Isett for The Washington Post

‘We’re all starved for hope’

Ian Haydon, on the trial and error of being injected with a covid-19 vaccine

BROOKLYN, NY.  - June 17, 2020: FDNY paramedic Anthony Almojera, poses for a portrait outside of the 7th Avenue FDNY Station, in Brooklyn New York.

(Photo by Demetrius Freeman / for The Washington Post)

‘Heroes, right?’

Anthony Almojera, on being a New York City paramedic and the injustices of covid-19

LIVERPOOL, NY - JUNE 4: Paul Swann poses for a portrait at his family’s home. Swann nursed his mother, Darlene Krawetz, until she succumbed seven weeks after contracting the COVID-19 virus. (Photo by Todd F. Michalek for The Washington Post)

‘The fires were everywhere’

Paul Swann, on the death of his mother, Darlene Krawetz

HARTFORD, CT – MAY 28, 2020:  Nursing home nurse Francene Bailey contracted COVID-19, and passed it onto her mother, who died as a result. Bailey poses for a portrait at her Hartford, CT home with her father, Lebert Bailey Sr. Photo by Katye Martens Brier For The Washington Post

‘It was me. I know it was me.’

Francene Bailey, on passing the coronavirus to her mother

TAMPA, FL—May, 2020: Johnny Rivero waits on a food line for the first time in Tampa, FL in May 2020. He, his wife, and his daughter lost thier jobs the same week in March 2020 because of the coronavirus pandemic and subsequent lockdowns. (Family Photo)

‘But what happens if they run out?’

Johnny Rivero, on his first time standing in a food line

Darlene Krawetz

‘How long can a heart last like this?’

Darlene Krawetz, on what life becomes when covid-19 won’t go away

HASTINGS - MAY 1, 2020 - A portrait of Gloria Jackson, 75, at her home in Hastings, Minn., on Friday, May 1, 2020. Jackson has underlying health conditions and is grappling with loneliness and living alone. 

(Photo by Jenn Ackerman /For The Washington Post)

‘I apologize to God for feeling this way.’

Gloria Jackson, on being 75, alone, and thought of as expendable

ALBANY, GA - April 23: A portrait of Dougherty County Coroner Michael Fowler on Thursday, April 23, 2020. A funeral held in Albany, GA in late February ignited a Coronavirus hotspot.

‘Is this another death I’ll have to pronounce?’

Michael Fowler, Dougherty County coroner, on the reopening of Georgia

DETROIT, MICHIGAN - April 15, 2020: From left to right, emergency care nurses Sal Hadwan, 30, Mikaela Sakal, 25, and Joey Friedman, 24, in Detroit, Mich., on April 15, 2020. The three quit their positions after conflict over the lack of staffing amidst the coronavirus pandemic at Sinai-Grace Hospital where they worked. Brittany Greeson/ for The Washington Post)

‘It was impossible. It’s still impossible.’

Mikaela Sakal, on being an ER nurse in an overwhelmed hospital and the decision she had to make

NEW ORLEANS, LA - APRIL 10: Burnell Cotlon, 53, poses for a portrait outside of the small grocery store he owns, Burnell’s Lower 9th Ward Market, on April 10, 2020 in New Orleans. Cotlon opened the store in 2014 after seeing a need for a grocery in the Lower 9th Ward in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. The nearest supermarket is in neighboring St. Bernard Parish and he says getting there requires 3 different buses each way. Due to job losses in the community related to COVID-19, Cotlon is allowing customers to buy items on credit. He says that so far he has about $2,000 in goods written into his ledger. “They’re coming in for milk, eggs, bread, cheese; stuff to feed their kids, I can’t tell them no,” he says. “I just have to keep a positive mindset that they’re going to come in and honor it,” he says of the time when customers will be able to repay their debts. (Photo by Edmund D. Fountain for The Washington Post)

‘Wearing a mask won’t protect us from our history.’

Burnell Cotlon, on his beloved community and why he’s keeping a secret list

CHICAGO,IL- Portrait of Corey Deburghgraeve, an anesthesiologist at UIC Hospital in Chicago who is currently incubating Covid-19 patients. (Kyle Monk For The Washington Post)

‘You’re basically right next to the nuclear reactor.’

Cory Deburghgraeve, on performing one of the pandemic’s most dangerous jobs

INDIANAPOLIS, IN--MARCH 26, 2020: Tony Sizemore at a park near his home in Indianapolis, Indiana on March 26, 2020. Sizemore's girlfriend, Roberta "Birdie" Shelton, was the first person to die from the COVID-19 virus in Indiana. (Chris Bergin for The Washington Post)

‘Anything good I could say about this would be a lie.’

Tony Sizemore, on the death of Birdie Shelton

Eli Saslow is a reporter at The Washington Post. He won the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for Explanatory Reporting for his year-long series about food stamps in America. He was also a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in Feature Writing in 2013, 2016 and 2017.