By Joshua Moore
Special to the AFRO

For months, there have been varied responses to the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic. Locally, two Maryland residents offered their perspectives on the effects of the virus. 

Don Koonce, of Owings Mills, Md., is a man in his 50s, who works as an IT project manager and teaches at Stevenson University in Baltimore County. Duncan Fredericks of Baltimore, Md., an 18-year-old former University of Maryland Baltimore County (UMBC) student, is working to become an auto body repairman. 

Koonce and Fredericks both struggled with adapting to the changes brought forth during the pandemic. As of July 28 in the District of Columbia, Maryland and Virginia, otherwise known as the DMV, 184,463 people had been sickened by COVID-19 and 6,005 deaths, reported WUSA-TV, Washington. Nationally, nearly 150,000 people have died.

Don Koonce of Owings Mills, Md. (Courtesy photo)

Koonce was used to gathering at his local church serving as a deacon. He also made an effort to visit elders in nursing homes, but now there is an emphasis for visitors to stay away from those facilities in order to stay safe, above all else. 

“I was very involved with my church,’’ Koonce said. “Now we cannot meet in any time of gathering without a fear of catching the virus.”

Fredericks emphasized the numerous screenings and procedures to sign in on the UMBC campus to complete lab assignments for classes. He was not used to the various amounts of protocol in place.

“There are numerous regulations imposed: face mask, hand sanitization. My temperature was taken every time I entered a building,” Fredericks explained.

Meanwhile, Kuana Holley, a registered dental hygienist, said she and co-workers had to make a lot of safety adjustments because of COVID-19: “We had to wear more personal protective equipment (PPE) and install air purifiers. Everyone rinses; what was guidelines are now mandatory. 

“Wearing all the PPE makes us hot and the days seem slower. We are seeing less people, but what we actually do hasn’t changed.” 

One of the changes Fredericks experienced was racial tension. He believes that things weren’t as tense before the pandemic.  

“There’s a lot more talk centered around racial tensions,” Fredericks said, explaining there were tense conversations about the riots and looting that occurred immediately after the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis. 

“I could feel more freely as a conservative Black man. But now it’s crazy.” 

While the adolescent and middle-age males had to change their routines and livelihoods in response to this pandemic, Fredericks and Koonce have different attitudes towards the virus.

Koonce is feeling optimistic. He is sure that a vaccine is coming soon, and that people should stay safe until it’s all figured out. Although, he is frustrated with those who aren’t taking the virus seriously. 

“These happy hour gatherings with no mask on,” said Koonce. “It’s total ignorance on how devastating this virus can be.”

After a spring shutdown of schools, businesses and recreational facilities in Maryland, many restrictions were lifted in early June. Yet this week some greater Baltimore counties announced re-imposed restrictions because of an uptick in COVID-19 cases.

Fredericks said he feels stuck with all the restrictions and protocols in place. He said that at a certain point, people just need to live their lives. His frustration is rooted in the issue of staying home and the restrictions in place. 

“People have lives to live and people have livelihood to provide for themselves,” Fredericks said. “We can’t stop life from happening.” 

Alana Bynes-Richardson contributed to this report. Both student reporters attend Morgan State University School of Global Journalism and Communication.