This story was based on reader submissions that placed a spotlight on the personal experiences and perceptions of Pittsburghers living through the last two years of coronavirus. While we could only choose a handful of the experiences shared with us, we want to thank all of our readers who submitted their experiences. To see the original call for submissions, visit here; we’d still like to hear from you. With you, our journalism is made better.
Two years of living with COVID and many lives have been changed forever. Facing challenges like precarious housing and a quickly changing job market, Pittsburghers are still working to live well and connect more deeply. We asked our readers to reflect on what’s changed in their lives and what they hope will come of the future.
Many readers noted changes that can be felt across the community — living with grief, disrupted education for children and the social impacts of a politicized public health crisis.
“I feel I am one of those who played by the rules, masking up, social distancing, getting vaccinated and boosted. And, yet, here we still are,” Brenda Walsh wrote.
One reader shared their ideal vision of the future succinctly: “Hopefully alive. Hopefully loved. Hopefully safe.”
All the submissions showed that Pittsburgh is still healing, still striving and still finding beauty while living through it all.
Here’s what respondents had to say.
What has changed in your life with the ongoing pandemic and new, developing COVID variants?
Josie Fisher, a professional writer living in the East End
“What changed for me in the pandemic is that every choice became life or death for a while — because I was a caregiver.”
Brenda Walsh, 64, a travel advisor living in West Mifflin
“I still rarely go out. I don’t want to mask up … I forgo concerts and will wait it out ’til I can enjoy an expensive and time-consuming outing maskless.”
Christopher Field, 49, a business development manager living in Morningside
“It’s not a huge deal in the scope of what others suffered, but it hurts to think of the time I missed with loved ones, and vocational experience and income lost, and whatever emotional damage may evolve in my kids from the shake-up of losing their routines and school friendships.”
Janet Gunter, 68, retired and living in Perry Hilltop
“Except for doctor’s and hospital appointments, I haven’t left my house since March 14, 2020.”
Kipp Dawson, 76, a retired Pittsburgh Public Schools teacher, living in Park Place, Regent Square
“I keep learning and working to keep myself and everyone else safe as conditions develop, and to find ways to be and grow more connected with others to take on the problems we all face, and to work against the uglinesses and hatred and destructiveness of the anti-social destroyers.”
How has your view of COVID and its impact changed?
Nicholas Michalenko, 32, a marketing professional living in Moon Township
“I thought the lockdown wouldn’t last very long and almost welcomed it as a respite from an otherwise busy life. No more commuting, social obligations, etc. When my wife got pregnant and our babies were born, my perception changed dramatically. As a new parent of three babies who are too young to get vaccinated, my wife and I feel like we have lived in an alternate reality. While much of the world is maskless, vaccinated or not, we continue to isolate and remain masked every time we leave home. We barely go anywhere out of safety for our kids.”
Yvonne Hudson of Lawrenceville
“I feel our society will be always changed but our new distancing habits and a natural self-defense and emotional exhaustion could reduce our empathy.”
Maggie Medoff, 23, an account coordinator living in the Lower Hill District
“I’m now seeing more clearly how COVID has tested our empathy and compassion as a society. The virus has caused some pretty polarizing conversations about collective versus individual responsibility, and I’m more in the camp of those who want to create collective change and action, for the sake of everyone’s health.”
Where do you think we will be a year from now?
Nicholas: “I want my kids to experience simple things that are good for their development like going to a grocery store and generally being out in the world with us.”
Yvonne: “We will gather more, get back to routines, but masks and protocols will be with us, especially for the most vulnerable and those close to them.”
Maggie: “I think COVID will definitely still be around, but we’ll have adjusted even more to it as a ‘new normal’ woven into our society. I don’t believe it’s going to disappear anytime soon, but I’m hoping a year from now workplaces and organizations will have learned how to prioritize people’s physical, mental and emotional health at all levels.”
Christopher: “Some things will struggle to recover, like indoor concerts and movie theaters, but innovation will spur new ideas and ways of entertaining the masses. Many people will still work from home — it will take a recession before employers are able to drag workers back to the office.”
Where do you think we will be 5 years from now?
Yvonne: “Perhaps more families will be intergenerational due to the effects of navigating the pandemic, the economy and loss. The nonprofit community will likely have had shifts with perhaps closures, adaptations and mergers changing the sector since 2020.”
Bonnie Spoales, 69, retired, living in Swissvale
“I think we’ll find that there are lasting health problems from COVID, and with no universal health care, and unfettered greed, more people will be living on the streets and suffering more than they are now.”
Maggie: “I think most people (who are able to) will be doing some version of remote work. It’s clear that remote/hybrid roles have many benefits for people’s health and personal needs, and they allow for a lot more flexibility in times of crisis.”
Christopher: “The angry politicization of this public health crisis will show to have been legitimately damaging to the U.S. civic apparatus.”
What good or bad changes arose from the pandemic for you?
Maggie: “Good: Learning how vital it is that I stay in touch with family, friends, and loved ones on a regular basis. I tend to move inwardly when I’m stressed or anxious, but I think we all need those outside support systems at times.
Bad: Learning that some family members and people I know have been seriously, and in some cases irreversibly, affected by this virus.”
Christopher: “I got to spend a lot of time with my kids, so that is good. For me, at least (haha). I wrote and exercised a great deal more than I might otherwise have. I was able to support my spouse in many ways. Those are all good outcomes.”
Kipp: “I have met others — particularly high school and middle school students and teachers — with similar commitment to young people and to our planet and to one another.”
Jourdan Hicks is PublicSource’s senior community correspondent. She can be reached at Jourdan@publicsource.org or on Facebook @Jourdan Hicks.
TyLisa C. Johnson is the audience engagement editor for PublicSource. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @tylisawrites.
Do you feel more informed?
Help us inform people in the Pittsburgh region with more stories like this — support our nonprofit newsroom with a donation.