The Southwest Journal is documenting the coronavirus pandemic by recording the personal stories of Minneapolis residents and workers whose daily lives are in a state of flux. As the outbreak evolves, we will be checking in with the participants regularly. Read all of the stories here.
All interviews are conducted over the phone, and conversations are edited for length and clarity.
Jen Wilson, co-owner, True Grit Society gym
I did an NPR interview with Angela Davis. Someone contacted me and said they wanted to talk about gym reopenings and I told them, “Our story is a little more complicated than that.” They had one woman who manages Lifetime Fitness in Plymouth and a woman who has a pilates studio in Wayzata. They both had, like, 85% of their members back, and I was thinking, “Either you’re lying or there’s something more to be said for people who have been traumatized who live in the city, because they’re just not ready to let all of that go and get back into a normal routine.” Because we’re not seeing anything like that; we’re still at 20%.
I really truly feel that the protests took a lot out of people, and I don’t know if they’ve got it back enough. Or maybe they’re just not ready to get back into a normal life because things are not normal yet. We know a lot of people who are still going to protests.
I was talking to Marcus the other day and I said, “Look, the business right now is scary.” The concern is that these people who have quarantined for four or five months now, then been involved in the protests, they’re not going to wake up and say, “Today is the day.” There has to be something that happens that makes people feel safe going around people again and taking that chance.
And it’s actually going backwards from that — things are getting worse with the virus. It’s hard to think that it will change because things are sort of going backwards, they’re not really getting better. I don’t think it helps when Trump is running the Southern strategy and getting certain voters to side with him. It’s retraumatizing, like when he said “kung flu” and you see videos of people harassing minorities in public and it’s like, what the heck?
All of it together, it’s hard to look at our business and think it’s going to get any better. It’s tough. We’re still checking in with most of our members to see how they’re doing. They understand that it’s not a pressure to come back, it’s simply, “How are you doing?”
The problem, though, is I don’t think there’s any confidence in a movement toward making this better. And really what you see is it getting worse in some states. I have my foot in two states, I work for a company in Arizona and live in a state where we are doing things completely different, and you can see the difference between the two. My company in Arizona had 30 COVID cases, we had layoffs because we can’t make the product we produce. This company for many months said, “You can wear face masks if you want, but it’s not required,” and then now we have 30 people who have COVID. I’ve seen their steps along the way, and I’ve seen what we do here.
This has been our thing the whole time. Who is the one saying businesses should be open? Is it businesses themselves or is it somebody else? I know a lot of businesses that have shut down, many deciding to do it because they don’t want to work twice as hard to make half as much. Is it they got behind and their landlord isn’t giving them time to pay back their rent? We know a lot of people in that situation.
VOICES FROM THE PANDEMIC
- Barb Joyce, infection preventionist, Jones-Harrison senior living
- Marcia Zimmerman, rabbi, Temple Israel
- Arminta and Ron Miller, residents, Waters on 50th senior living community
- Tracey Schultz, science teacher, Clara Barton Open School
- Peter Kumasaka, Linden Hills, emergency room physician
- Jen and Marcus Wilson, co-owners, True Grit Society gym
- Marion Greene, board chair, Hennepin County
- Jesse Vasquez, Uptown resident
You can read all of the stories here.