Covid’s Ripple Effects
These area residents didn't become sick from the coronavirus, but their lives were changed by it.
Before Covid-19 found her parents last spring, Elise Williams lived pretty much in her own bubble.
The high school senior, with sun-kissed brown hair and a Chicklet smile, juggled the demands of AP and honors classes at Bishop O’Connell High School, participated in a handful of college-friendly extracurriculars and met friends for breakfast at Lazy Mike’s Deli in Falls Church.
“I’d sometimes help empty the dishwasher,” says Williams, 18, looking back on her light daily house chores. “But nothing crazy.”
All of that changed at the end of April when her dad, Greg, started getting head and body aches. A couple of days later, her mom, Tatiana, spiked a fever. Tests showed that both had Covid-19, possibly transmitted by their older daughter, a newly minted ICU nurse who still lived at home and had become an asymptomatic carrier.
Overnight, the younger daughter’s responsibilities skyrocketed.
“I had to wake early to take out the dog. Make everyone breakfast. Do homework online from teachers who never really gave homework before. Bring everyone water, lunch, a snack and more water,” Williams says.
She was the only one in their Westover home who was virus-free, although she would later test positive for the antibody. “I was cleaning the house, everything I touched, and bleaching countertops so often that my hands started flaking. It wasn’t me first anymore. I had to grow up.”
The hardest part, she says, was the physical isolation. The family continued to live together under one roof, but separately, with each patient quarantined in his or her own room. They stayed connected with group FaceTime chats, but of course, virtual conversation isn’t the same as being face to face.
“I had to deal with being scared alone,” says the teen. “I had to saddle up. You can sit and be sad, but you had to get stuff done.”
By the end of August, the entire family had recovered. Williams moved to Blacksburg to attend Virginia Tech, where she is a freshman majoring in human development. We talked on FaceTime as her mom was driving her to buy a fridge and rug for her dorm room.
“I wanted that college experience, meeting friends and being on my own,” she says, with a hint of world-weariness she didn’t have before Covid. “But I’m nervous. I want everyone to be safe.”