Day 1-March 18

My name is Brandon Rollo. I’m a second-year journalism student at Sheridan College, film fanatic, and lover of Walmart’s pretzel buns. Today felt strange because it was so still. Since the new year, I’ve spent almost every Wednesday working on a live newscast with my classmates from about 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. After that, I would typically stay at the school to work on homework until about 9 p.m. This Wednesday, however, I got to spend most of the day working on assignments from home. 

 My new classroom.

After the college announced last Friday that it was canceling classes this week to figure out how it was going to deliver courses to students during this pandemic, I moved to Windsor, ON, to live with my mom and siblings. One of the reasons I came home was because I have to take transit in Oakville and was afraid that being in a vehicle with several other passengers might increase my risk of contracting COVID-19. Now that I’m back home, I can get a ride with my mom until I feel safe taking transit again. I also moved back to save money on expenses like groceries and rent. 

One of the worst things I’ve experienced since the outbreak is the cancellation of internships at several prominent news organizations. I worked tirelessly for my entire two years in Sheridan’s journalism program. I pulled all-nighters, constantly took on more than I should have, and gave up my social life to put myself in the best position to get a potentially life-changing internship and it was taken away from me in an instant. It’s been devastating.

If there is a bright side, it’s that I get to be with my family. I don’t get to visit them often because of my workload, so I try to spend as much time as possible with them while I’m around. My mom and I went grocery shopping two days ago. We wanted to buy enough so we didn’t have to shop again for a couple of weeks. Unfortunately, the four stores we went to had low quantities of meat and were sold out of certain types, like plain chicken breast. 

The almost empty meat section of a grocery store in Windsor, ON, during the COVID-19 pandemic.

It was also surreal to see how they were completely sold out of toilet paper and paper towels. The long aisles of empty shelves felt almost apocalyptic.   

A drug store in Windsor, ON, limiting the amount of toilet paper customers can buy after demand increased during the COVID-19 pandemic.

We decided to go out again today in hopes of finding meat. The first two stores we went to had a very limited selection of meats and were out of toilet paper and paper towels. Finally, we found meats like chicken at Walmart. But they limited it to one per person so we’ll probably have to go out shopping again next week. I hope this find doesn’t change my mom’s mind about cooking that turkey mentioned in the video. 

Day 2-March 19

Today my sister Savannah and I were feeling a bit stir-crazy from staying indoors, so we decided to get out of the house. We thought going for a hike would be a great way to get some fresh air while maintaining a social distance. We took Ella, her Mini American Shepherd, along with us to Malden Park.

Savannah and her dog Ella walking through Malden Park.

Ella was so excited she ended up walking me most of the way.

Ella, pulling me along through Malden Park.

We stopped at a spot with a cool view of the Detroit skyline at the top of the trail. Minutes later it started raining. We were in the middle of the park, so by the time we made it back to the car Ella was muddy. 

View of the Detroit skyline from Malden Park.

She wasn’t a fan of the bath we had to give her after. 

Savannah giving Ella a bath.

I felt refreshed after the walk. I definitely needed a distraction from COVID-19, which at this point is nearly impossible to avoid reading about if you’re on social media. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) acknowledges that this can cause stress and recommends taking breaks from reading, watching, or listening to news stories about the pandemic.  

The walk didn’t completely wear us out, so we were able to squeeze in a few rounds of a video game we loved to play during our childhood called Just Dance 2. The highlight for me was our dance to Rihanna’s SOS because I won.

Playing Just Dance 2 with my sister.

I’m in bed now feeling pretty worn out, but in a good way. Hopefully this means I can pass out quickly. When I’m stressed out, like I am about school and this pandemic, I can toss and turn in bed for hours before I fall asleep. 

Day 3-March 20

I didn’t leave the house today. 

I started the day working from bed. It may be comfy, but it’s challenging to get students to produce content for my college’s radio station, Sheridanlife Radio, from here. One of my responsibilities is to write daily news updates and then find Sheridan students to record them. It’s important we’re still posting content like this on our social media to maintain our presence with the school’s community. However, it’s been incredibly difficult doing this remotely because I can’t simply walk out of our station to a classroom filled with journalism students who are willing and ready to help. Instead, I have to reach out to students online and hope someone responds in time. It’s tough because they seem to be online at different times now that classes aren’t keeping them on a set schedule. 

A tough part of self-isolation that hit me this afternoon is the distance I have to keep from my friends. I love being around people and I make an effort to see them in person. I’m trying to find new ways of interacting with them to make up for this. For example, I started playing mobile chess with one of my best friends. I found that the game actually increased our communication as it required both of us to participate. We also teased each other between moves. It’s beginning to feel like the quick banter we’d have if we were hanging out together.

Text messages with my friend Erin about our mobile chess game.

Later in the evening, my sister Sarah and I watched a movie from home for the first time in years. We have a tradition of going out for dinner and a movie. It gives us one-on-one time, which we don’t get much of because we have so many siblings. Still, we thought it would be unsafe and irresponsible to go out and risk catching or spreading COVID-19. We watched Always Be My Maybe on Netflix and enjoyed our time together just as much as we do when we go out, even though our mom tried to get in on the fun.  

Watching Always Be My Maybe with my mom and sister.

Unfortunately, the night did not have a happy ending. After the movie, my sister showed me a recording made by a Canadian ER doctor. In it, he talks about the virus and how carriers of COVID-19 can show few symptoms, or even be asymptomatic. He also says that the number of cases he’s seeing does not properly reflect what’s being reported. I made my sister stop it after a few minutes. It was too unsettling to hear and made me extremely uncomfortable. I think it was so disturbing to me because it gave me a deeper insight into how dangerous the pandemic is and its growing reach. None of family members or friends have been affected by COVID-19 (at least none that I know of) so I started to think that maybe it wouldn’t hurt anyone I loved. However, the recording has made me realize it could soon. 

Day 4-March 21

My goal for today was to create a workout that I could do from home.

I was pretty active when I was living in Oakville. I had to walk about 15 minutes to the bus that took me to school and then another 15 when I was coming home. But they were no ordinary walks; I had to hike through part of the Morrison Valley Trail, which had some steep hills. It was fantastic exercise. I would also try to go to my campus gym a few times a week after classes to work out my abs, chest and arms.

Now that I’m back home and social distancing, I’m finding it’s far too easy to stay glued to the couch. I actually noticed I’ve started gaining a bit of weight. So, inspired by some 80’s music I discovered during my time home, I worked out to an old aerobics video. Savannah decided to join in while my mom criticized my moves.

I followed this with some exercises, like planks, crunches, and pull-ups.   

Doing crunches in my mom’s living room.

COVID-19 was the main topic of our conversations during dinner. We talked about how closures caused by the pandemic were affecting us. For example, my sister lost her shifts at Windsor’s Lone Star Texas Grill when it closed. The conversation then switched to misinformation surrounding COVID-19 and my mom asked about similarities between it and the common flu. Instead of trying to give her facts about a topic that I’m not an expert in, I directed her to the suggested sources of information listed on our website.

I ended the night with a video call with one of my best friends, Brianne Nicholson. She also has a blog on this website

Video chatting with Brianne Nicholson on FaceTime.

This was our first time communicating outside of text since Sheridan closed. We talked about how the pandemic has impacted our ability to partake in internships, which we were looking forward to and working toward for a year and a half. Brianne and I also discussed how we’re still adjusting to our lives indoors and trying to keep ourselves motivated to finish the semester strong. It was comforting to see the familiar face and it really brightened my night. The call brought a bit of normalcy back into my life, which still feels like it’s been turned upside down. 

Day 5-March 22

Today was a great day!

Something good has sprung out of this quarantine. My sister and I have decided to stick with the aerobics we tried yesterday and do it together every afternoon. It’s an absolute blast! I’ve never had so much fun and laughed so hard during a workout. And boy is it ever one; I’m breaking a sweat and begging for it to be over just three minutes in. 

My sister and I headed to the grocery store after our workout. We were hoping it was no longer limiting the amount of meat customers could buy so we could stock up and not have to shop again for a couple of weeks. Unfortunately, the limit was still in effect and the store was completely out of the meat we wanted.

An emptied section of meat at Walmart.

We moved on and started shopping for other groceries. It didn’t take long for COVID-19 paranoia to hit me. My sister touched the handle to the fridge containing milk with her bare hands. I reached into my jacket pocket where I usually keep a bottle of hand sanitizer, but it wasn’t there. I freaked out and started playing out various scenarios in my head of how she could spread the virus if it was living on the handle (which in the moment I thought was incredibly likely because I assumed milk was a popular item at the store) to something I’d touch unaware of the risk. We couldn’t find any sanitizer in the store and she had already touched her phone and our other groceries, so I tried to distract myself by keeping up a conversation with her. Luckily I didn’t have to worry about her touching many other surfaces in the store because we only had one thing left to grab. 

That last thing was a juicer. 

Savannah posing with her new juicer.

Savannah and I love fresh juices and go out for them every couple of days when I’m in town. However, we haven’t gone out for some since I’ve been home because of the pandemic. This juicer was the perfect solution to enjoying our favourite treat indoors. We made two juices out of a stock of celery, two red apples, two cucumbers, half a lime, and a whole ginger root.

I’m in bed doing homework before I go to sleep. My abs and thighs feel like they’re on fire, but I’m feeling less anxious about school and the outbreak since I started exercising again. In fact, I actually forgot all about my sister touching the handle at the store until I wrote this blog. 

Day 6-March 23

Online classes started today. My first one consisted of an hour-long video conference to talk about this website. 

Conducting a class over a video conference with my classmates and professors.

It started at 10 a.m., which is early for me because I’ve fallen into a schedule where I go to bed around 5 a.m. I got stuck in this sleep schedule trying to stay up late every night doing homework. I passed out an hour after our class and didn’t wake up again until almost 3 p.m. 

My sister Sabrina called me shortly afterward. I hadn’t seen her in person in a week because she lives in Michigan and Canada and the U.S. put restrictions on travel to allow only “essential” travel between them. I was already disappointed about this because I have a close relationship with her and my nephew and I try to spend as much time with them as possible. One of the hardest parts of living away from home is missing seeing him grow up. I got pretty bummed out when she told me that the Michigan’s governor had signed an executive order that directed, “all non-critical businesses to temporarily close, all Michiganders to stay home or six feet away from others during [the] COVID-19 crisis.” This made it clear to me that I likely wouldn’t be seeing them for at least another month. I completely support these measures, which I believe are necessary for tackling this pandemic, but I miss them. I also feel bad for my sister who is stuck in the U.S. while her parents and siblings are in Canada. 

Elliott, our nephew, showing us how to “crush it” over video chat.

I had dinner for lunch because I slept until the late afternoon. Another nice part of this quarantine is having my sister join us for dinner every day. I wish she didn’t temporarily lose her job, but I must admit it’s a hoot having the clown of the family eat with us. 

My mom and brother eating dinner, while my sister plays with her food.

Savannah and I waited an hour after dinner before doing our daily aerobics workout. It wasn’t any easier today, but it was just as fun.

Doing aerobics with Savannah.

Despite the disappointing news that I wouldn’t get to see my sister or nephew in person for a long time, COVID-19 has hardly been on my mind today. I think I may be ready to start diving back into the news tomorrow. 

Day 7-March 24

The pandemic got a lot more personal today. 

I called my dad to see how he was doing. He lives by himself in Michigan, so I’m afraid he might be feeling lonely while he follows the state’s order to self-isolate. We talked about the pandemic for a long time and the measures the world is taking. Then he tried explaining to me how to roll his 401(k) plan into mine if he died. My dad is afraid that COVID-19 might kill him if he contracts it because he had part of his lung removed seven years ago after suffering from pneumonia

The thought of losing my dad was so scary. I had to fight back tears. I kept trying to change the subject and assure him that he wouldn’t die to make the both of us feel better. I haven’t stopped thinking about how life would be different without him. 

Portrait of my dad and me from 2002.

I’ve been in my own little world trying to finish school for the majority of this pandemic, but this call with my dad made it feel so much more real.

Posing with my dad and the gift I got him for Christmas of 2016.

Day 8-March 25

I’m experiencing a weird mix of emotions today. I’m feeling anxious about the amount of schoolwork I have to finish, yet also starting to suffer from boredom. 

I’ve been stressed out about homework since Sheridan switched to online learning. My professors had to give alternative assignments in place of ones that were supposed to be done in class or during field placement. I admit, I’m saving time not having to commute to school or be in classes. However, I’m someone who will spend hours trying to perfect something if I can. It’s this flaw of mine that’s causing me to work on these alternative assignments for so many more hours than I would have on the original ones as I would have only had the length of class to finish them. 

It’s draining to work on these projects for so long and then have to jump right into the next one and then the next one and then the next one. I don’t break for longer than ten minutes because I’m afraid I won’t finish the assignments in time. I’ve always experienced pressure at this time of the semester when I’m wrapping up several big projects, but it’s never felt this intense. 

It feels contradictory to say, but, despite all the homework, boredom is setting in. I think focusing on school for so many hours every day is causing it. As a result, I can’t work longer than two or three hours without needing to take a break. They range from being silly with my sister to playing a quick video game with my brother. 

I feel silly that I’m getting worked up about school while people are out of work and dying due to the pandemic. I sometimes wonder how my experience with this quarantine would differ if I wasn’t in college.  

Day 9-March 26

I did a new workout that pulled me away from homework for a good amount of time. That’s right, I cheated on the 20 Minute Workout. In my defense, my sister didn’t feel like working out and it didn’t feel right doing it without her. Instead, I picked a workout that takes an hour if you can keep up, which I couldn’t. It took me an hour and a half to finish it because I stopped for water so many times. My mom enjoyed watching me suffer during the intense workout. She found it particularly funny when I did high knees because she said it looked like I was moving in fast motion. I didn’t think it was possible to find something more exhausting than the 20 Minute Workout. I was wrong. Still, the extended break from homework was refreshing and the focus it gave me allowed me to get more done. 

Lying on the ground after a strenuous workout.

I also had my daily video chat with my best friends Lava and Bri. 

Bri (top) and Lava (bottom) making funny faces as I take a screenshot of our video call.

I noticed after that I’ve called them every day this week. It made me realize how much I miss them. School closed so quickly that we didn’t really get a chance to say goodbye in person. We’ve known for a while that classes were coming to an end, so at the beginning of the semester we made plans to go out for dinner after our last class of the semester. It was supposed to be a celebration, but also a way to try to have a very long “goodbye.” One of the things I’m looking forward to the most after the pandemic is over is finally having our dinner together. 

Day 10-March 27

My body hurt so badly from yesterday’s workout that I decided to go for a light walk through Malden Park with Savannah and Ella again for today’s exercise. It felt fantastic getting out of the house. I know this sounds cheesy, but the colours outside look more vibrant since I’ve been isolating myself indoors. I think it was a combination of these visuals and the huge open space that just completely lightened my mood. I felt carefree.  

Savannah needed to stop for dog food on the way home. I stayed in the car with Ella while she shopped. I could have come in with her, but only members of my family who need something from a store will go in. We limit the number of us who go into stores in hopes it might lower our odds of getting exposed to the coronavirus that causes COVID-19.

I saw an employee at the pet store clean the door handle after Savannah touched it. When Savannah returned, she told me about other measures the pet store was taking in response to COVID-19. 

It was comforting to hear that companies are taking the pandemic seriously and taking action to try to prevent further spread. I hope people are also taking steps to lower the risk of spreading the infection. 

Day 11-March 28

Again, I did homework most of the day and took breaks to call my friends and work out. It’s become my daily routine.

The beginning of my workout.

One of the assignments I’ve been working on is my portfolio. It’s so fun that it doesn’t really feel like homework and I find myself spending hours on it without noticing the passage of time. 

Editing a video that will be one of my portfolio pieces.

The portfolio is an assignment for my Field Placement class and is intended to help us get jobs. It made me think about my future a lot today. 

I had two specific plans for my future. The first was to find a balance between journalism and acting, my other passion. Auditions and shoots for acting gigs happen almost exclusively during the week, so I saw myself doing that Monday through Friday and squeezing in long shifts editing video for newscasts on the weekend. I believed I could achieve this perfect schedule after gaining a few years of experience as an editor. 

My other plan also included a mix of journalism and the film industry. Again, I saw myself editing video, just not restricted to weekends. I would spend my days off writing profiles, as well as scripts for film and television. I love writing both fiction and non-fiction, especially when that writing is focused on people, or characters, and believe that becoming better at writing one of the genres makes you more skillful at writing the other. Eventually, in this perfect world, my film and television scripts started getting produced. Essentially, what I’m saying is I want Ryan Murphy’s career. Not asking for much, huh? 

This chip on my shoulder to be successful in a career I’m passionate about can be traced back to when I was eight. My brother had just graduated from grade school and received the most awards out of anyone in his class for his academic and extracurricular achievements. My family praised him for months and the plaques were hung on a wall in the dining room for everyone to see. I tried as hard as I could to get excellent grades and got involved with numerous clubs to try to reach his level of success. I haven’t slowed my pace or lowered my goals since.  

In my mind, both of these plans were foolproof with my work ethic. But they were quickly derailed when the pandemic canceled my internship that was supposed to launch them.  

Thinking about it tonight made me realize that while it’s okay to have big career goals, it’s important to remain open-minded as the unexpected is bound to happen. Perhaps, this pandemic has actually saved me from bigger disappointment in the future by showing me I can’t expect life to go exactly how I plan it to.

As I had this moment of self-awareness,it started to rain. The rain’s perfect timing made it feel like a scene out of a movie- I know how cheesy this sounds, but it’s true! I sat on my porch and listened to it for a few minutes before bed. It was really peaceful.

My friends told me it’s weird that I did that. Doesn’t anyone else ever stop and listen when it rains? If not, you’re missing out.    

Day 12-March 29

My day started off with my mom telling me something that upset me.  

She told me that two of my older siblings had stopped by to chat with her from our sidewalk. At some point in their conversation they told her that the coronavirus could be killed by hot water. I immediately had suspicions and started questioning their claim. She gave me explanations and got frustrated when I doubted them. 

It took me less than a minute to find an article about myths surrounding the coronavirus. A quote from an epidemiologist debunked my siblings’ misinformation.

I got angry they told her this because it made me think that she might have stopped being so cautious about contracting it if she thought it could be easily cured by simply drinking hot water. Then I got even more frustrated thinking about the amount of misinformation regarding the coronavirus that could be circulating. I’m afraid that myths could end up costing some people their lives. I think everyone should be required to take a journalism class focused on verification because we live in a digital age when misinformation spreads across the internet like wildfire.

I decided to let my steam out by exercising. I hadn’t worked out my arms in at least a month so I used the lightest weights I could find in my house. 

The two weights I used to work out.

Unfortunately, I didn’t give myself a break to video chat with Lava and Bri; I was making a lot of progress on my portfolio and didn’t want to stop.   

I can’t believe this is my last blog entry. It feels like I just started it a couple of days ago. Going into this project I thought by my last entry I wouldn’t be fazed by the pandemic any longer. However, that isn’t the case. I have fallen into a routine that is comforting and have developed some coping mechanisms, but there are still days when COVID-19 leaves me anxious and frightened. I’m still scared my dad could die. I still get nervous when anyone from my family goes shopping. I can’t help but think about how many other deadly outbreaks could happen during my lifetime.  

My biggest hope right now is that everyone continues to take precautionary steps to lower the impact this could have on our lives. 

Thank you for reading. Be safe.

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