In this episode of the COVID-18 podcast, VoiceWaves reporter Yesenia Pacheco shares a story about the pandemic experience of Elijah Gray, a 23-year-old Long Beach City College student. Gray talks about how he’s been dealing with school, attended protests, and handled safety precautions to protect his family at home.
COVID-18 is a podcast exploring young people’s experiences during the COVID-19 pandemic. This season, reporters throughout the state are contributing stories about the experiences of youth in their communities. For more episodes from VoiceWaves and our youth media partners across the state, subscribe to the COVID-18 podcast on your favorite streaming platform!
A transcript of this episode is available below.
Rachel Livinal: Hey, this is Rachel Livinal. As previously mentioned, this season we’re going to be diving into other cities all around the state of California, hearing young people’s stories on all topics concerning the pandemic and youth. Today we travel south, to Long Beach, as Yesenia Pacheco reports a story about a young man’s experience during COVID. From yli’s office, VoiceWaves. You’re listening to COVID-18, a podcast that explores young people’s experiences during the pandemic.
Yesenia Pacheco: Although to some it may feel like decades, COVID has just surpassed a year. And to Elijah Grey, it has shown both positive and negative impacts in America.
Elijah Gray: It’s a.. it’s a little stressful, but it’s slowly like, it’s kind of normal now, I guess. Because it’s already been a year now. It’s like coming up on, like, it’s been a year.
Yesenia Pacheco: Elijah is a 21-year-old student going to Long Beach City College, located in the heart of Long Beach. But for the past two semesters, Elijah has been attending from his home.
Elijah Gray: The fact that like today, I knew my class started at 10. And I set my alarm for like, 7:30 to like, tidy up my room and I went back to bed until 9:45. [laughs] Like, it just shows you that like, you’re meant to learn in a different environment from like, what you’re staying in the whole time.
Yesenia Pacheco: He didn’t plan on that.
Elijah Gray: I took, like, a year and a half off after I graduated high school just to work and build up my work résumé. But I went back to school and then it started in person. And then like halfway through the semester, they sent us all online. So it was just like, and I paid for tuition, and I’m still paying full tuition. [Laughs] And I’m like, aye, yo bro, I’m not getting my, I’m not getting my full college experience here. But it’s whatever I guess.
Yesenia Pacheco: And on top of that, there’s the days and time.
Elijah Gray: And like I recently got into the habit of like trying to do like do my whole week’s worth of homework before Friday, because I’m just like, it’s like a month into this semester and some of my teachers like they don’t know that, like we have other classes or they just don’t care. So it’s like, I’m tired by like, Thursday, Friday. I’m like burnt out. And I still have a class and assignments that are supposed to be due on Sundays. No one wants to get canceled, and no one wants to seem like the bad guy.
Yesenia Pacheco: As with many government officials, Elijah points out that California governor’s do-what-I-say-not-as-I-do attitude.
Elijah Gray: I mean, Gavin Newsom couldn’t even follow the rules, he had a fucking party at his winery. And that had white people going crazy. Because they’re like, he could party, but I can’t party? But it’s like, he’s a government official. I’m pretty sure he was safe. I mean, even if he wasn’t, I’m pretty sure they can track down every single person that was at that party.
Yesenia Pacheco: And when it comes down to the virus and safety, Elijah has pondered back and forth on what he’s noticed America has said is best.
Elijah Gray: If you value education, and you know, people and societal services, over money, and all that type of material stuff, then of course, you’re gonna side with the vaccinations and wearing a mask and staying six feet [apart]. But if you believe that the only way for America to get out of what we’re in, which is debt, and literal epidemic, that by making money and like, relying on our somehow relying on our government, its resources to get us out of it, then of course, you’re gonna decide on opening everything back up, because the only way to make money is to open everything back up. And that’s literally the only argument that I’ve heard for opening things back up. It’s not It’s not like, they’re like, yeah, we know, it’s not safe. Like they just opened back up Texas. And it’s like, yeah, we know it’s not safe, but we’re losing money.
Yesenia Pacheco: And so what it really comes down to…
Elijah Gray: Okay, lose money or lose lives.
Yesenia Pacheco: Elijah lives with his grandma, someone who was at risk for the majority of last year until she recently got the vaccine. According to the Sacramento Bee, research shows that about 71.9% of California’s 65 plus population has received at least one vaccination dose as of March 2021.
Elijah Gray: My worst fear is to come home and give them something you know, get them sick, and then me be fine. Because you know, I’m younger. So like my grandmas were vaccinated.
Yesenia Pacheco: But over time, things have changed. And a lot of that has to do with certain events like the Black Lives Matter marches in early June. Elijah went to one of these where he witnessed a lot more than just a possible case of COVID. This is the sound of one of Elijah’s cousins getting tased by the police. Elijah talks about how we formulated the problems at play from most to least urgent.
Elijah Gray: I’ve taken risk a lot during COVID. I’ve partied. I’ve played basketball. Like I’ve drank. I have, you know, went out to Huntington Beach where, you know, they had the riots for anti-masks and everything. Like I went out hung out with the homies and stuff, but it’s like, at the end of the day, I come home, take a shower, immediately wash my clothes. Like, it’s like that episode, or not that episode [but] that movie back in… what’s the one movie with the monsters? You know what I’m talking about? DreamWorks movie? With the monsters… Monsters Inc.
Yesenia Pacheco: I definitely feel that way when going grocery shopping, especially with more traffic going to my local Food 4 Less due to other locations closing down. It’s crowded, which makes an already time consuming errand take even longer. As the rest of the world moves on from COVID, Elijah recommends Americans learn to live with it, however they see fit.
Elijah Gray: You know what? If you’re sick, or if you’re scared, just stay at home. Like that’s been my thing. So it’s like, I think the governments in the states are going to start being like, if you’re still scared about COVID like they’re still going to be curbside pickup, they’re still going to be deliveries. You know what I mean? There’s still gonna be that type of stuff. So you don’t have to have that much contact but for people that don’t scare who have been vaccinated, who it’ss basically not fair to, we’re gonna open everything up. I feel like that will happen in like the next five months probably.
Yesenia Pacheco: This is Yesenia Pacheco signing off from VoiceWaves Long Beach located in Long Beach, California.
Rachel Livinal: Next week we’ll travel to the Coachella Valley and listen to the importance of farm working in the city, as well as the impacts farmworkers have had to experience during the pandemic. This is a production of VoiceWaves Long Beach and Youth Leadership Institute. I’m your host, Rachel Livinal.