One Santa Ana Family’s Experience with COVID

February 17, 2021

Our reporter, Mercedes Barriga (center), with her grandparents Mercedes and Trinidad Barriga. (Mercedes Barriga)

Editor’s Note: With the highest cases in Orange County in the city of Santa Ana, many Santa Ana Unified School District students have experienced the coronavirus firsthand. Here is one student’s story from our own newsroom.

The end of the semester wasn’t ideal for most people, especially me.

Finals week is always a rush and blur, but having it online this year made it in some way easier. I thought the whole week would consist of typical student things: staying up late studying, worrying about my tests, and even procrastinating. I should’ve known not to expect anything normal in 2020.

I was halfway through my AP Calculus test when my mom burst open the door in a frenzy and said those four words, “Your aunt has COVID-19.” 

When you have grandparents in their 80’s who are at high risk, a positive result in the family is a nightmare. My aunt had been my grandparents’ strongest support system throughout the quarantine, running errands, cooking food, and keeping them company.

Shortly after, my grandfather tested positive for COVID-19 as well, while my grandmother tested negative. The fear became even more real. 

With anxiety from my own COVID-19 test rushing through me, I said yes, when my mom asked if I could take care of my grandmother, who had developed a cold. I knew she was alone in her house, isolated from my grandfather, and it was my time to step up and help. 

I began a new routine that day. 

Right after finals, every day at 1 p.m., I’d pack my things (books, Chromebook, studying materials) and head on over to my grandma’s house to stay until 7 p.m. An uncle would take over afterwards and stay each night. 

Days at my grandparent’s house were routine after routine. Put on a mask. Disinfect. Sit on the farthest couch possible and keep distance. Disinfect again. Study for finals and do homework. Talk with my grandma as we tried to find a way to conquer the boredom. Cook and try to convince my grandmother to eat. Clean and disinfect again. 

The hours felt long for both of us, especially my grandmother who was so used to being active outside and in the company of my grandfather. After 60 years of marriage, this had been the first time they had been separated for so long.

I took care of my grandmother all of finals week. I soon got the call that my grandmother had also tested positive for COVID-19 and would now quarantine with my grandfather. 

In our house, we tried to wear masks at all times and stay as far away as we could.”

Now the new worry. Did I have COVID-19? My family worried. I had kept my distance, worn my mask, and cleaned each time, but the risk was still there. I knew that. But I didn’t regret taking care of my grandmother–not when she had done so much for our family. 

I didn’t have much time to think about whether I had COVID-19 or not once my mom got sick. She had body pains, fatigue, and a runny nose—symptoms she thought were just a common cold. Still, she wore her mask and kept her distance as a precaution. Nobody had thought it was COVID-19. Since she spent most days in bed, I cooked throughout the week and did any major chores she was responsible for. 

Christmas soon came around and it was uneventful. I tried to brighten up the mood by helping my mom make tamales and by baking a cake. We spent the night around the T.V., ordering COVID-19 tests and wishing for our family’s quick recovery. There were no hugs, photos, or any fun activities in 2020.

The weekend hit and we got another surprise: my dad fell ill. Like my mom had previously, he too spent all day in bed. The COVID-19 tests we had ordered arrived and the results followed a few days later. Both my parents received positives while my brother and I were negative. 

In some twisted way, maybe this had been our Christmas present. 

Living with two parents who have COVID-19 was tricky to say the least.

In our house, we tried to wear masks at all times and stay as far away as we could. We began to use separate bathrooms. When I cooked food, I served it to them since they couldn’t touch anything. My dad couldn’t work, my mom couldn’t go out, and so my brother and I became in charge of the weekly grocery store runs. 

The new year came and after about two weeks of keeping our distance, cleaning, and trying to stay healthy, we were all given negative results and so were my grandparents.

With both my grandparents now vaccinated, 2021 has begun with a hopeful start.

COVID-19 can happen anywhere and to anyone. Although I’m grateful that no one in my family suffered from serious symptoms, I know that many people can’t say the same. Every family has been impacted differently. I hope that these anecdotes and information on test sites, vaccines, and other resources will help you and your family stay safe and healthy. 

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