"I just want it to go away."

A three-month time capsule of life under lockdown.



This story originally appeared in print in the 2020 Vol. 5 issue of Louisville Magazine.



ITdidn’t take long for the pandemic to scramble time. Remember March 2020? You know, 10 years ago?

Less than a week after going into lockdown on March 13 — Friday the 13th — I was in my bedroom-slash-makeshift office at a flimsy desk between two laundry hampers, where my wife or I attempt to work while the other tries to defeat but ultimately surrenders to the toy swarm threatening to overtake our home. (Aaaaaaaand that was Elsa’s Frozen LEGO castle exploding on the tile floor in the kitchen just now.) That afternoon, on a FaceTime call, senior editor Dylon Jones, managing editor Mary Chellis Nelson and I decided to talk to people about how they were coping. Did they know somebody directly affected by the virus? Did they still have a job? And, yeah, OK: Did they have enough toilet paper?


From mid-March until early June, when the city started to open back up again, almost 30 writers interviewed nearly 100 Louisvillians — hair stylists, Uber drivers, bartenders, musicians, painters, chefs, grocery workers, ministers, nurses, people who’ve lost family members to COVID-19 — which we’ve published here chronologically and in each person’s own words, edited for length and clarity. A three-month timeline of Louisville under quarantine. We’ve included a timestamp with each interview because we know things change fast. (For example, it didn’t take long for people to stop talking about that TP.)


But time hasn’t changed everything. This package’s headline — “I Just Want It to Go Away” — comes from an April 13 interview with ICU nurse Brooke Hall a month into quarantine. Who hasn’t said some version of that every day for the past four months?



Bruce Allar, Rachel Amin, Bill Doolittle, Michelle Eigenheer, Nikayla Edmondson, Christine Fellingham, Sara Havens, Cassia Herron, Tom Johnson, Michael L. Jones, Matthew Keck, Sarah Kelley, Chris Kenning, Jenny Kiefer, Taylor Killough, Jenni Laidman, Mark R. Long, Anne Marshall, Katie Molck, Josh Moss, Mary Chellis Nelson, Brandon Quick, Tatiana Ryckman and Amy Talbott



Joon Kim, Adam Mescan, Ted Tarquino and Mickie Winters

"At the end of the day it looks like a pack of wolves went through the store."
A shelf of vodka with a sign reading, "Attention, if you are trying to make sanitizer the alcohol percentage needs to be 60% or more. Normal vodka will not work." 03.23.20, by Mickie Winters

Summer Auerbach, second-generation owner of Rainbow Blossom Natural Food Markets, now understands her grandmother.

“Our sales are two to three times what they normally are. My staff feels lucky that they’re among the people who get to keep their jobs, but they’re also scared and feel like they’re put more at risk.

       “I keep saying this is like the Great Depression, where we’re going to be forever changed because of it. I can remember not understanding why my grandmother saved every piece of food. I was always being told, ‘She lived through the Great Depression.’ For a long time we’re going to be thinking about what it means to be in big crowds, and I think this is going to increase the hygiene of people for years and years to come.”




Andy Treinen, president and CEO of the Frazier History Museum, misses watching his kids play sports.

“Gosh, I sure as heck hope we get back to some semblance of normal in our lives. Everybody has a level of uncertainty, and I think a lot of that uncertainty is probably because we don’t know how long this is going to last. I hope that by the first Saturday in May I can go to a restaurant with my wife or to the park with my kids. I hope that the Frazier History Museum is back open and serving people in person, instead of virtually. I hope that my daughter, who’s a senior in high school, gets some of the end of the school year. I hope she gets a prom. She plays lacrosse and their season just got flushed. I would love nothing more than to go watch both of my kids play a lacrosse game on the first Saturday in May if we can’t have a Kentucky Derby.”




Dr. Stephen Cawood, medical director of the emergency department at Norton Women’s and Children’s Hospital, buys patients time.

“Nobody’s immune system has ever seen COVID-19, so there are no antibodies already circulating.

       “I type up an email to convey information to our team, and sometimes by the time I’ve finished up the email I have to go back and redo some of it because information has changed.

       “They’re not going through this with their family at the bedside. You can’t tell them, ‘Hey, we’re initiating these four things, and these four things are going help turn this patient around.’ You’re saying, ‘We’re putting the patient on the ventilator to buy them time to let their body fight this on their own.’”


Khalil “Charlie” Batshon, owner of Khalil’s sports bar and restaurant on Dixie Highway, missed March Madness.

“When they canceled college basketball, I lost $40,000 in revenue. Monday rolled around, and we were only going to be allowed to do carryout. I shed a couple of tears, quite frankly.
       “We’re down 75 to 80 percent right now. We laid off 25 or 30 employees. What is working for us is, I’m just putting the business out there, which is allowing me opportunities I didn’t see before. We’re catering to the National Guard every single day — 115 meals a day to the National Guard, 113 today for the fire department in Anchorage, and this morning the fire department on Bardstown Road in Buechel.

       “I’ll be honest with you here: Parts of me are fearful. I’m afraid certain things aren’t going to come back to normal.”




Donnie Adkins, real estate investor, needs a good drink.

“I miss going to the gym at the start of the morning: I miss the sweet-potato casserole at Ruth’s Chris. And of course I miss Club Cedar. I don’t even drive by it because it makes me sad. I order a Crown with Coke or ginger, or Courvoisier and ginger.”


Christopher 2X, executive director of the nonprofit Game Changers, works to end violence.

“A lot of my work going on 19 years now has been dealing with children and families as it relates to education and violent crime. Since the governor gave the order to shut down businesses, I’ve been interacting with people by phone and messaging. What is so disheartening is that, even in the atmosphere of this pandemic, the pause button never went off on violence, on gunfire. This kind of violence has always been fueled by health disparities and poverty. These issues are heightened under the current pandemic.”


Cheri Bryant Hamilton, former District 5 Metro Councilwoman, stays up as late as she wants.

“Even if I’m not going anywhere, I make sure I get dressed and made up daily. I’ve drawn inspiration from Tom Sawyer while painting a recently installed fence and using muscles I haven’t used in a while. I play Wordscapes on my phone and do crosswords in the New York Times to keep my mind active. I’ve also enjoyed listening to DJs on Instagram, like Questlove or D-Nice, who has Club Quarantine several nights a week until early in the morning. I have been retired a year, and I feel most folks self-isolating at home now are spending many of their days like I do on a normal day: reading, writing, cleaning, organizing, cooking, eating, talking with friends and family, getting much-needed rest and napping after staying up as late as they want.”



David Flaugher and Madison Browning of DC Timing — which handles timing for high school and college running and cycling events — miss when time made sense.


Browning: “Our medals weren’t coming in from China. Then our scoreboard wasn’t coming in. We were like, ‘This is weird.’”


Flaugher: “As silly as it seems, I’d give anything to have a day in the timing trailer right now, even if it was hectic as hell. I would pay money to do it right now.”



Jon Powers, long-haul driver, rolls down the truly open road.

“To be honest with you, it’s actually a beautiful thing, because there’s no cars on the road. I drove through Chicago last week, and what would normally take me about two and a half hours took me about 30 minutes. You’re driving through Chicago at primetime, and you’re just rolling!”


Mackenzie Smith, shift lead at O’Shea’s, explains the pandemic to her kids.

“I’ve worked at O’Shea’s for eight years and never once thought I would be without a job, especially on St. Patrick’s Day. Luckily, I am able to pick up a couple carryout shifts. But being at home every day with two small children and not working and having to try to explain to them what’s going on hasn’t been easy. I just try to tell them, ‘There’s a virus going around, and we can’t get sick.’”

A bicyclist wearing a mask. 03.23.20, by Mickie Winters
A swing set wrapped in caution tape. 03.03.2020, by Joon Kim
The Humana building, lit in green light. 04.08.2020, by Adam Mescan

Virginia Moore, executive director of the Kentucky Commission on the Deaf and Hard of Hearing (you might know her as the American Sign Language interpreter for Gov. Andy Beshear), pulls on her ear to send a special signal.

“You’ve got these face masks on, and deaf seniors or hard-of-hearing seniors have to lip read. And that’s not possible. It’s a challenge that we’ve never experienced before. I had a daughter contact us the other day. Her father is severely hard of hearing. He’s a senior and he has COVID and was in the hospital. He couldn’t understand anyone. The daughter could not go and help him. And the hospital is overwhelmed. And she felt like he didn’t get the care he needed. She’s reaching out, and she kept pleading, ‘How can I get in there to help him?’

       “There was a video that went viral of a nursing home facility out in Leitchfield, Kentucky. One person was acting like me, signing, and the other person was an older gentleman acting like Andy Beshear. Somebody sent it to me. I called the nursing home and said, ‘I saw your video. It’s beautiful. This woman who was signing, is she deaf?’ They said she’s deaf. Well, she touched me. So I said, ‘If I send you a video, can you show it to her?’ I told her, ‘At the end of the press conferences, if you see me pull on my right ear, it’s for you; it’s for all of the individuals who are in nursing homes or can’t communicate with their loved ones.’ So every once in a while, you’ll see me pull on my right ear.”


Dr. Sarah S. Moyer, director of the Louisville Metro Department of Public Health and Wellness, understands the need for public health.

“We’ve been talking for years about the importance of public health, how the city and the state and the nation should be investing in public health, but we’ve just been getting cut and cut and cut, and now, all of a sudden, everything relies on public health. It’s great when people are listening and seeing the value of public health.

       “Hand-shaking is probably done for at least a generation.”


Natasha Sud, co-owner of ShopBar, spreads the wealth (of toilet paper).

“The Friday before we closed, we had the Watson Twins play a show. It was sold out, but we were thinking about canceling it because the virus was making us nervous. But then we spoke with the girls, and they came up from Nashville for what was a perfect night, not knowing that it would be our last night open. I heard from so many people who attended that it was the last night they left their homes. Monday, the governor ordered the shutdown. We met with our employees and had a shot and some beers for one last hang.

       “We are doing everything possible to keep going as ShopBar. We’ve been delivering care packages, trying to think of what people might need and want. We have so much toilet paper because we ordered it for ShopBar before we got shut down, so that goes in all of our care packages. We’ve been teaming up with Farm to Fork Catering for Sunday brunches to take home, and we’ve been doing drinks to go. I miss the chatter of a busy bar.

       “My last online purchase? Green light bulbs.

       “How’s my hair doing? I look like I got electrocuted.”




Matt Rhodes, director of operations at the Louisville Metro Department of Public Health and Wellness, sees it coming.

“In January we started having meetings at least weekly to try to prepare ourselves. We knew, given the nature of the disease, that if it made it to the United States, that especially given the type of country that we are, believing in civil liberties, we felt like it might be even more challenging. Our stomachs were churning.

       “What’s surprised me the most is that laypersons think they understand this disease, and they simply don’t. I’ve heard a lot of people espouse that this is no different than the common cold or the seasonal flu, but we can see from the data that this disease is much more serious.

       “There’s a sense of a lack of trust between what were once considered trusted resources — government and the media. For whatever reason, there seems to be a distrust of those institutions that were once widely trusted.”


Rui Zhao, communicable disease supervisor and epidemiologist at Louisville Metro Department of Public Health and Wellness, was in Wuhan in mid-December.

“I was born in a city not far from Wuhan called Yiehang. Now most of my extended family has moved to Wuhan because that’s where the economic opportunities are, especially for people of my generation. My grandmother died and my mom’s side of the family is from the region. I went back for 48 hours, and when my family found out what I did for a living, they were kind of sharing stories about what at the time were rumors about this flu-like illness.

       “Public health has been underfunded for years, long before I entered the field, and now we’re facing the repercussions of that. The analogy we use is: It’s like we’re trying to build a car while we’re driving, while the road shifts under us constantly. We have formalized polices now, but initially employers were calling up and asking, ‘What do we do?’”

Garage Bar's empty patio. 04.04.2020, by Joon Kim

Quinnettee Connor, DJ and Kroger associate, feels the distance.

“I was doing well until last Sunday. My aunt and uncle visited, but they wouldn’t let me hug them. We stood 10 feet apart and talked. I got really sad.”


Cass Irvin, author of the memoir Home Bound and co-founder of the Disability Rag, a disability-rights periodical published in Louisville since 1980, gets to know some chipmunks.

“There’s no room in my house where you can’t see outdoors. It’s just the way my father built the house, so I’ve been trying to pass the time by looking at the tiny things. The traffic flow is different. You see different people walking. Now couples are walking their dogs, which means they’re both home at the same time. I’m watching how the leaves change, the robin’s eggs hatching in the nest in our gutter. The chipmunks in the yard become extremely entertaining because, when you have time to sit and watch a chipmunk for a while, it’s just like a Walt Disney cartoon.

       “I hate the expression ‘this too will pass,’ but I had an aunt who always said that, and I keep hearing her voice throughout all this. Because of course it does pass. Just keep breathing in and out. That’s really all we can do. Just don’t breathe in and out on each other too much.”

"The analogy we use is: It's like we're trying to build a car while we're driving, while the road shifts under us constantly."
Shoppers wearing masks pushing a full cart. 04.08.2020, by Mickie Winters
An empty bar. 04.04.2020, by Joon Kim
"I can't remember the last time I hugged by six-year-old."
The top of the Kentucky Center, lit in green. 04.07.2020, by Adam Mescan

Bobby Benjamin, who runs Butchertown Grocery and Butchertown Bakery, keeps the doors open with bourbon.

“Seventy-one employees. I sent an email out right away and told everyone to file for unemployment immediately. I only have seven employees now. I told the others to hold on tight. I hope to bring them back when they’re needed.

       “We just bought 50 pounds of mushrooms from one farmer, and he was in shock. We can move them, and he can’t because the farmers’ markets are closed. We’re buying 75 to 80 dozen eggs at one time from another farm. The whole idea is: Let’s see what the farms have, then make a menu. One farm, I’m getting 96 chickens from him a week, and we’re doing chicken pot pie. That’s what people want right now — comfort food. Another farmer is bringing me 15 pounds of morel mushrooms tomorrow for practically nothing. He knew I couldn’t afford the typical $30 to $40 a pound. He said, ‘Hey, man, you’re good people. Why do you want these mushrooms so bad?’ I said, ‘Because I love morel mushrooms, and I want my guests to experience really good ingredients they can’t get right now.’ I’m going to do a goat cheese ravioli with asparagus and morel mushrooms.

       “We’re selling so much bourbon now too. It’s stupid. If it wasn’t for bourbon, I’d be under right now. I had about $100,000 in bourbon before all this happened. I had 19 barrels. It was definitely a blessing, because if I didn’t have it, my doors would be shut.”


Mera Corlett, minister at Okolona Baptist Church, tries to make Easter normal.

“For Easter, my husband and I went to the church and decorated the most that we could for the virtual service. We ended up putting up tons of candles with gold holders and draping everything in white. We did our very best to convey what we would normally do for Easter. We had silk lilies rather than going out and shopping for fresh lilies. I’ve been embarrassed by the churches that have been giving the governor a hard way to go.”


Robert Curran, artistic and executive director of the Louisville Ballet, pirouettes into technology.

“I’m teaching conditioning and ballet class over Google Meet to about 25 dancers every weekday morning. I miss being in the studio with them. I miss the sound of the piano coming from the studio, either for class or rehearsal.

       “A quote that made me laugh, somebody said, ‘My house is like Vegas — I’m losing money by the minute, cocktails are acceptable at any hour and nobody knows what day it is.’”


Brooke Hall, ICU nurse at Baptist Health Floyd, picks up an extra shift.

“When I picked up an extra shift, when all of this started, even my husband was like, ‘Why would you want to risk exposing yourself by being around it?’ It sounds super-cheesy, but this is what I signed up to do.

       “I just keep telling myself, ‘I just want it to go away,’ but I know it’s not going away. I think it will make us all appreciate seeing our friends and family and going for leisurely trips to Target. As silly as it sounds, I can’t believe how much I miss just going to Target and strolling through all the aisles.”


Connie Mandel, deputy director of the Louisville Metro Department of Public Health and Wellness, processes complaints.

“I think we’ve gotten 1,500 complaints at this point. We’ve been to GE and UPS and Lowe’s and Home Depot. I think it was a Home Depot where they had an employee walking around with a pole that was six-feet long, just to demonstrate: This is six feet. That’s what we need, those visual cues. A lot of places are putting paint marks or laying down tape to spread people out. We’ve had to close some places. I think there have been 25 closure orders. One was an open bowling alley we had to close. A Western-wear shop, a barbershop. But most places have taken our recommendations to heart.”


Kira Patterson, owner and operator of Toza Soap, invites curiosity.

“My store had been closed two days, and the weight of that was bearing heavily on me. I took some of the last cash I had in my bank account and headed to the grocery store with my family.

       “We felt a bit panicked that we may soon be unable to leave our homes. We pulled up to a packed parking lot early, and I remember thinking to myself: This is not normal. We entered and began to peruse the aisles for a month’s worth of essentials: beans, rice, meat, eggs — all gone. Masked patrons in varying degrees of makeshift PPE (personal protective equipment) filled their carts with anything they could find left on the shelf. Standing in the mile-long checkout line, I felt tears well in my eyes.

       “I went from eating exclusively out to eating exclusively at home. Every meal we have is prepared from scratch. We have even been baking our own bread and plan to make our own pasta. We have planted a large vegetable and herb garden to help sustain us through the rest of the year

       “We’ve also been toying around with the idea of getting some backyard chickens so we can enjoy fresh eggs. We’ve had to make room for 50-pound bags of grain and flour in our kitchen. We’ve also made a point to keep the windows open during the day and have fresh flowers in the house. Little bits of cheer here and there keep things feeling bearable.

       “We’re all adults here, right? Spending months on end at home with your partner leaves plenty of time for sex. It invites curiosity into the bedroom and allows for an exploration of intimacy that you may not otherwise be able to achieve. I hope we aren’t the only ones taking advantage of copious amounts of time with our significant other.”

Empty Bardstown Road. 04.04.2020, by Joon Kim

Jasmine Jarrett, labor and delivery nurse, hears some crazy baby names.

“I’m proud of the people who aren’t going to the emergency room for non-emergency reasons. I hope this continues, even after things calm down.

       “Before, the culture has been that people try not to use their sick days unless they are truly febrile. People have traditionally come into work with minor sinus infections and other allergy-related respiratory issues, but I don’t think it will be allowed anymore. I also don’t think people will hug as often after all of this, which will be hard for me because that’s how I show affection.

       “I’ve heard some crazy baby names in my day. Someone already named their twin girls Corona and Covid.”



Husband and wife Craig Oeswein and Jenny Kute own and operate the Save-ALot on Taylor Boulevard.


Oeswein: “I don’t usually work a ton on Thursdays, so when I called that night — Thursday, March 12 — to find out what our sales were, I was like, ‘Holy cow.’ And then Friday was insanity. We broke our one-day sales record by 5 o’clock on that day.”


Kute: “It didn’t matter what you put out, it was going in that cart. Certainly the canned goods, shelf-stable meat, ramen noodles, pasta, peanut butter — all those belly-fillers that are shelf-stable. We’ve been out of ramen noodles for two weeks. And then meat. A lot of other stores ran out of meat and we didn’t, so we had lots of people coming in just buying tons of meat. Toilet paper is finally starting to come back.”


Oeswein: “By Sunday, the tone shifted. We had to put quantity limits on things and it got more contentious. People were more nervous.”


Kute: “Employees who came home from college were like, ‘Do you guys need any help?’ We were like, ‘Yes, you can start right now.’”



Carl Paul is a resident at the St. Vincent de Paul homeless shelter in Shelby Park.

“This is my first time being homeless in all my 47 years. I lost my apartment about a year ago. I was traveling with a carnival company that sets up and operates rides at church picnics and fairs. I was getting paid $9 an hour and tried to keep up on bills. But I fell behind on rent. Last June, I returned home to my west Louisville apartment, put my key in the door, but the locks had been changed. I went to the office and they told me that I had been evicted. All my stuff — gone. I didn’t know what to do. I’ve got family in Lexington who’ve told me I can come live with them, but I can’t bring myself to do that. That first night without an apartment, I wound up at the Salvation Army shelter and eventually landed at St. Vincent de Paul in Shelby Park.

       “It was hard at first, going from my own apartment to all of a sudden you’ve got 60 guys around you. They get loud. There’s bickering. No privacy. Then you have to follow shelter rules. I can’t go smoke whenever I want.

       “In March, just before the pandemic hit, I was working at the Kentucky Expo Center. I helped set up and tear down events, like that one with the tractors (the National Farm Machinery Show). I’d take the No. 2 bus from St. Vincent de Paul — a straight shot to the Fairgrounds. I’d be there by 7 in the morning and work until 4:30 or 5 in the evening, often six days a week. I took home $250 a week. I was off on Sundays. I usually went to the library and got on the computer.

       “One morning in mid-March, I took my bus to work like any other day. When I got there, my boss told me I was laid off. No events, no need for me, I suppose. I’ve filed for unemployment. I haven’t gotten it yet. I’m hoping this week. Right now, I have zero income.

       “This virus is really bad for a lot of us homeless people. There’s no place to go. You have to leave the shelters in the morning, and you can’t come back until check-in at three in the afternoon. Nothing is open. I mean, they had to put porta-potties out around the city because all the restaurants, the libraries, none of those places are open.

       “Inside the shelters, we’re not six feet from each other. Our bunks are, but when you go to the TV room, you might be close to another person.

       “I don’t think people understand. It’s a public life. It’s impossible to shelter in one place. A regular person has a house they don’t have to leave. We have to go out and get our resources. In the morning, I leave my bed at the shelter, sign out, and if I don’t return at a certain time my bed is gone. I come to St. John’s day shelter for homeless men. I hang out and help bleach rails and door knobs every hour. Around lunch, I leave and head over to the Franciscan Kitchen. In one day, I might travel four or five places just to eat and find something to do and rest.

       “I’ll be glad when they can get people tested. You never know if a person next to you could have the virus. At St. Vincent de Paul, sometimes me and other guys talk as we lie in bed. What keeps us up is that, even after we’re through the worst of the virus, how much longer before things open back up? When will conventions and events at the Fairgrounds return? I pray every night that the virus ends so I can get back to work.”

On the corner of an empty Muhammad Ali Blvd. 04.11.2020, by Mickie Winters
INTERVIEWED 4.15 & 4.16

Louisville Orchestra musicians Maria Semes, Lillian Pettit, Evan Vicic and Annie Daigle perform as the Social Distancing Quartet.


Semes, violin: “Everyone seemed to be singing ‘Happy Birthday’ while washing their hands for 20 seconds. We were thinking: What if we could bring out something new every day to stream to people as they’re washing their hands? That would be kind of fun. That got the ball rolling very quickly, and it’s been rolling for more than a month now.

       “What we do is record a 20-second clip each day that’s kind of a teaser for a full piece that we release the following day. We’ll do a movement from a classical string quartet, like Haydn or Mozart, then alternate with a popular song. We’ve done several Beatles songs, like ‘Yesterday’ and ‘Here Comes the Sun.’”


Pettit, cello: “We record ourselves daily, which means we have to be very critical of ourselves every day. I think it’s going to make us better musicians.”


Daigle, violin: “One of the biggest challenges — and adventures — of not being in the same room is matching sounds and bow strokes and intonation. I think that’s a huge thing because, when we’re together, we respond in the moment and physically communicate with each other as we play. Now I’m kind of using musical intuition.”




Harry Dennery, Uber driver, parks his car.

“I have been driving Uber for a year, and I really miss meeting all the different riders I pick up. I have never had a bad experience in the car, other than all the glitter I had to pick up from the young ladies I drove for Forecastle. I had to vacuum it out three times. I stopped driving when I picked up two people from the Speed Ball and drove them to their hotel and learned they had been sitting next to a person who four days later tested positive for COVID. I have had three heart surgeries and am diabetic, so I need to be careful.

       “When the country reopens, my biggest concern is the independent restaurants in Louisville and around the country won’t survive. Before I retired that was the business I was in, as a supplier to these operators, and I am fearful that many may not be able to get through this and we will have a long time before we can build back to having as many great restaurants as we do.”


Makel Johnson, eighth-grader at Western Middle School, misses playing basketball at the park.

“When they removed the basketball rims at parks, that frustrated me. I bought an indoor rim and there’s a three-week wait. I’m staying in shape by jumping rope and doing push-ups and sit-ups. I use my glove and ball sometimes, but throwing to yourself gets old after a while.”


Amy Nic, formerly of 97.5 WAMZ, goes camping.

“I lost my job in mid-January, so my family had already sat down and worked out the loss of my income. I almost feel like we were ahead of the game in terms of rethinking our expenses.

       “The kids are 16, 14 and 12, and I know there will be a time when they are grown and gone. We have dinner together every night. We play board games, have picnics. We have a plot of land in the back of the neighborhood, and one day I just decided that we should camp on it. So we brought a big eight-person tent and we all slept outside and we could keep running back to the house to get anything we needed. It was a lot of fun until I found a tick on me!

       “We also have our Spanish exchange student here. She is like a daughter to me and, while the program we are working through said we could send her home because of the pandemic, I couldn’t put her on a plane and send her to a country that was getting hit harder than we were. She is sad because this is her only chance to experience an American high school, and she won’t get to go to prom, though she did get her big ‘promposal.’

       “‘Corn teen’ is probably the funniest thing I’ve heard yet. Come on, y’all: We may be from Kentucky, but we gotta know the term is ‘quarantine,’ not ‘corn teen.’”

"What's a job that won't disappear?"
Interviewed 4.17

Natasha Foley, freelance soprano for the Kentucky Opera, serenades the neighbors.

“I was unfortunately laid off from what I call my muggle job — my daytime gig as a house manager for a family in Norton Commons. It was a luxury for them, so I wasn’t surprised.

       “I’m supposed to be getting married at 3rd Turn Oldham Gardens in October. For now, we’re keeping the date. I mean, October is so far away, it’s hard to fathom that this COVID will cause an issue then, but who knows? It’s so stressful planning a wedding anyway, but during a pandemic….

       “I’ve gotten to know my neighbors, who, before this, we’d never done more than wave. And now we found this whole cul-de-sac of couples our age and we’ve all even brought our chairs outside and sat six to 10 feet apart and hung out a little. And I love seeing people on the Nextdoor app helping each other. I’ve missed singing, so one day I was just singing in the backyard and a neighbor yelled over the fence. I thought he was going to tell me to be quiet, but he said, ‘You have a beautiful voice. You have to do this more often.’ So I’ve been thinking that maybe I’ll do some backyard concerts.

       “I keep saying I wish I would have bought stock in Zoom.”


Jessica Sayles, show promoter for Zanzabar, gets mindful.

“I think streaming events will still take place after this. But I really miss live music.

       “I try to spend at least a good 30 minutes or so a day cleaning, oftentimes first thing in the morning. I have really been enjoying Good Morning, I Love You, which is a really great mindfulness-practice book. I call my mom, dad and nana either daily or every other day. I am not big on video chatting, so this is kind of putting me at a distance from people a bit. My boyfriend and I have been having lots of bonfires in my backyard. And I like to watch my dog chase bees. I used to have to put ‘cook dinner’ into my schedule. Now it’s just a part of my daily life. SO much comfort food: Vietnamese beef stew, greens, mashed potatoes, mac ‘n’ cheese.

       “I don’t even want to think about what would be going on if Bevin were still in office.”

A kid drawing with sidewalk chalk. 04.14.2020, by Mickie Winters

Erin Hill, harpist, returns to Jeffersonville from New York.

“I realized that every dollar I make is from going somewhere and singing and playing the harp for a bunch of people — a wedding, a funeral, a cocktail hour, a gala, a party, a concert. I feel like my career has been taken away from me. I really hope I’ll be able to go back to doing concerts where I’m always in danger of getting stepped on because it’s so crowded. I can’t imagine not getting to do that again. I can’t think about it too much because it’s too terrifying and disturbing. When will I be able to do what I spent my whole life doing? And what else can I do? I guess I have to learn something new. I don’t know. Become an insurance agent?”




L Gnadinger, artist and co-founder of online art criticism publication Ruckus, finds beauty.

“I live in Old Louisville right now, and I have never walked around this part of the city more than I have in the last few weeks. I’m feeling lucky to be stuck here specifically. I’ve always found Old Louisville to be beautiful, but I’m finding it to be unrelentingly beautiful. I’ve made a habit of going on walks without my phone, and I always try to pick my newest favorite building. Today my favorite is this faded baby-blue house-turned-apartment-building toward the end of Fountain Court. I don’t know the first thing about architecture, so nobody should waste their time correcting me, but it looks like an oversimplified French chateau that has been shoved inside of a dusty flat rectangle. It’s perfect and it should be mine.”




Dallas Buse, ICU nurse at U of L Health Mary & Elizabeth Hospital, confronts the fragility of life.

“We’ve all been working 50 or more hours a week to help fill in the gap. One nurse I work with has been staying in my apartment on an air mattress because she lives in Elizabethtown and has a daughter. If you’re at home on your day off just sitting around, all you do is think about your co-workers and your patients because you feel like you’re abandoning them if you’re not there helping. As a team of nurses, we are becoming a lot closer.

       “We went from being so focused on one patient, who ended up not even having COVID, to now where every room is filled with people who we know are positive. It’s just crazy how fast it escalated. We’ve been trying to eliminate our exposure to COVID, so instead of having the IV pole inside the patient’s room, we’ve had to run extension tubing from all the way under the patient’s door outside into the hallway. That way, if the pump’s beeping for something that we don’t necessarily have to go into the patient’s room for, we can just fix it from outside the room.

       “One day I went in and I had this patient who was younger than me” — Buse turned 23 in June — “and he was on the ventilator, positive for COVID, and he was like the celebrity of our unit because he was so young and so sick. I was assigned to him for the day. So, for the 12 hours I’m there, I’m super-focused, non-emotional, getting the job done, doing what my patients need me to do for them. And then at the end of the day I can cry, I can be emotional, I can call my friends and my mom and just bawl on the phone to them. That young man eventually was doing better and was moved out of the ICU.

       “I think this is going to raise awareness of how easy it is for our life to change out of nowhere, how easily everything can just be taken away from you.”


Vian Sora, painter, finds figures in isolation.

“I am informed by my previous experiences when I lived in Iraq witnessing many wars, having to shelter in our house and often escape to small villages away from a heavily bombed Baghdad. Though the quarantine experience is completely different, it still rings similar anxiety and fears that led to tapping into a unique place of creativity.

       “The use of figure and intimacy is back in my work after years of creating abstract landscapes, years of keeping the body hidden or unrecognizable. The figures started to appear naturally through the process after quarantine, and I decided to pursue it. I believe it’s a reaction to lost in-person experiences. The figures were demanding to be seen, and I thought the timing is perfect.”

A yard full of flamingos with a sign reading, "The flock is in shock, Mary Pat is 62!" 04.08.2020, by Adam Mescan
A view up an empty Third Street. 04.10.2020, by Mickie Winters
Looking through a window at an empty restaurant. 04.04.2020, by Joon Kim
"One of the weird things to me is having to wash a bottle of wine like a baby."

Dr. Valerie Briones-Pryor, medical director of the hospitalist program of U of L Health, wants to hug her son.

“The thing about COVID is, it really has no rhyme or reason. We have seen anywhere from 30-year-olds to 90-year-olds, men and women, folks who have chronic medical problems and folks who have been completely healthy. What we’ve really figured out with these patients, is: Every one of them is on their own timeline. It was amazing when we first opened the unit how quickly some of these patients deteriorated. They would come on the unit, and they looked fine, and then a few hours later you could just see their oxygen requirement increasing, and then suddenly they would crash.

       “The first positive patient we had here at Jewish, he was my age. He was 44 years old. He has no medical problems prior to when he got COVID. He had been in the ICU on a ventilator. When he got off the ventilator and came to us, he would just sit and try to move his legs to the side of the bed. And on eight liters of oxygen, that movement would drop his blood-oxygen saturation into the 70s. (Normal is 95 to 100.) Just from that little movement of his legs — things that we take for granted every day. But then, all of a sudden, he just started getting better.

       “My husband says that as long as I shower at work and I don’t touch them, he won’t banish me to another room. I can’t remember the last time I hugged my six-year-old. It’s probably been four weeks since I’ve touched him, and same with my husband. And that’s probably — that’s the hardest thing.”


Lisa Campbell, director of program services at the Kids Center for Pediatric Therapies, lets in the light.

“I wake up in the morning and open every blind in the house so that I get as much natural light in here as I can.

       “Before this pandemic we did all in-person visits. We do occupational therapy, physical therapy, speech therapy and medical nutrition services, and now we are doing all of our visits via telehealth. Before this, we never really got a chance to go into the family’s home to show them what works in their home. Now, through screens, we’re in their home. And I’ve actually had a couple of therapists report to me that goals that they’ve been working on for a while, they met within two sessions because they were able to see the child in their home setting.”


Keltie Ferris, Louisville painter currently living and working in Woodstock, New York, throws rocks into a stream.

“I’m working with watercolor for the first time in a couple decades. I’ve been looking for a really strong, almost difficult-to-look-at color. A color that’s challenging and intense.

       “My son is a year and nine months old, and it’s interesting to spend so much time with someone who doesn’t know what’s happening, who’s sort of coming into awareness and doesn’t know what death is or a pandemic is. I find his innocence and his joy in existence really inspiring. We spend time throwing rocks in the stream. That’s his favorite activity.

       “I miss accidental run-ins. There is this level of friendship that I have with people where I don’t know them well enough to have their phone number, but if I saw them at a party I would talk to them for a long time. Right now, I feel like that outer ring of friends, I don’t have as much connection to.”


Toya Northington, mixed-media artist, ponders post-pandemic fashion.

“Prior to COVID-19, fashion trends were glamourous, with mink lashes, polished hair and makeup, and tailored clothes. Now, celebrities are posting pictures with bare faces, ungroomed hair and sweatpants. COVID-19 took away our hair salons, barbershops, makeup artists, our ability to show off our clothes at crowded public events. The question is, can we or will we want to return to that way of life after adjusting to living simple lives? I think excess will feel unnatural or somewhat inappropriate for a while. I expect design to be focused on livable, fashion to be comfortable and free.”



Interviewed 4.22

Racheal Caudill, respiratory therapist at Baptist Health Louisville, keeps people breathing.

“This attacks the lungs. At work, you’re in these people’s faces. You have to be to be able to take care of them. When you’re leaning over and listening to their lungs — if they have to cough, they can’t hold it back. Unfortunately, it’s right in your face.”



Interviewed 4.23

Becca Busch, nurse manager at ICU Towers U of L Health- Jewish Hospital, makes hard decisions.

“We have an emotional-support line that we can call if we’ve had a really hard day, just so that we can talk to somebody. And having to make those really hard decisions of not letting somebody’s husband or wife come up to see them — that’s not something that comes easy at all. At the end of life, we will allow one visitor for a patient, unless they have COVID. Unfortunately, if they have COVID, we’re not allowing any visitors. We just do the iPad approach.”


Dr. Monalisa Tailor, internist, appreciates the sidewalk chalk.

“I will never forget the first person I saw, because her symptoms weren’t classic for a sinus infection, they weren’t classic for the flu and they weren’t classic for bronchitis — the things I’m most commonly seeing at this time of year. Her constellation of symptoms included getting short of breath just dressing to come see me. She was having chills. She was tired. She was having muscle aches. And everything had kind of started in the three days prior to her coming to see me. That constellation just didn’t make sense.

       “The part that is blowing my mind — and the part that makes it hard for physicians — is you’re what I call ‘throwing’ different medications at the patient to try to help them with how they are feeling. And this virus can linger. This same lady called in last week and said she’s still having trouble with a burning sensation in her lungs. I’ve had three of four patients like that who got diagnosed in mid-March who are still complaining of symptoms.

       “My lunch goes with me in a Kroger bag, that way I’m not using one of my reusable lunch bags. I’m wearing washable Crocs. My partners have laughed at me, but I’m putting my cell phone in a Ziploc bag while I’m at work, so I don’t have to be touching it with my fingers.

       “This might sound funny, but the sidewalk chalk and the messages I’ve seen when I’m out for walks help get me through. I’m out on Frankfort Avenue a lot, and I’ve noticed that, at some of the homes that are in that area, folks have put on their doors notes thanking the healthcare workers, the workers at Kroger and others. It helps you keep going.”


Tori Murden McClure, Spalding University president, keeps on rowing.

“I’m extraordinarily fortunate because I row in a single scull on the river. There’s nobody on the river, so I can still get out and exercise. And I roller-skate in the park.

       “A couple years ago I bought some ENO hammocks for the university, and over time they blow out. My husband throws nothing away. So this bad habit of hoarding random stuff has come to me in 20 years of marriage. I had these old hammocks and I sewed masks out of them and put interfacing in them so that they have a pocket for coffee filters or whatever extra filtration you want on the inside. Most of campus safety is wearing old hammocks for masks.

       “I expect what will happen is, first we’ll start bringing back some of our laboratory, hands-on experiences before we bring the classroom experience back face to face. It’s pretty hard to teach someone how to properly apply a splint virtually. Spalding already does a lot of online stuff. We have entire disciplines that are online. The other benefit is our classes are small enough that a faculty member can reach out to every single student and make sure they’re able to access the technology. We serve a segment of the population that tends to be a little more challenged financially. We’ve got students who are literally sitting in the parking lot at McDonald’s to get on the Wi-Fi.

       “I’m so far from being a touchy-feely person, but I do miss that actual human interaction. And that was true on the Atlantic.” (In 1999, she became the first woman and first American to row solo across the Atlantic. — Ed.) “I was surprised at how much I missed people on the Atlantic, because I’m a world-class introvert. I think we’re all feeling that sense of separation right now. It isn’t replaced by just being able to see and hear somebody.”

The bat outside Louisville Slugger Museum, with a sign reading, "Flatten the curve." 04.27.2020, by Adam Mescan

Julie Puckett, cafeteria manager at Doss High School, keeps kids fed.

Puckett’s job shifted to passing out pre-packaged food in front of Doss on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, at one of dozens of feeding sites open for JCPS families to pick up breakfast and lunch. By the time of this interview, the district had served 675,000 meals.

       “We have a lot of families coming through with six kids, so they’re really depending on us. I talk to them through their back hatches as I put food in. You hear everything. There are tears shed. There have been families who’ve come in and lost people to this virus. I’ve heard about parents losing their jobs in factories.

       “Rain or shine. Mondays and Wednesdays are double-days — two meals per child. I’ll serve anywhere from 700 to 860 meals per day on those days. The younger kids love the Lucky Charms cereal for breakfast, but I think their favorite meal is Uncrustables peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Even the high-schoolers, they love them. I know what they like, how they eat. In March, the kids don’t eat as much because the girls — they’re dieting, you know, they have prom coming on. And milk? That’s a good one. They won’t drink that in the hot months, but they love milk in the winter. Our kids love hot or spicy anything. They love the hot and spicy patties and hot and spicy wings. I wish I could go in there and cook some hot and spicy patties. I can imagine their faces. They’d be in heaven.

       “When I’m sitting at my laptop at home, I have to blare the radio louder than I normally would because I just miss that noise of the cafeteria. It’s like having a house full of kids. The noise of it is peaceful to me.”


U.S. Rep. John Yarmuth

“There has never been an economic crisis that hit this country so broadly, so deeply and so quickly. Because even in the Great Depression, the stock market crashed in 1929, and the depth of the Depression was two or three years later. It was a precipitous event, but the impact on the economy and on people was more gradual. And this economic crisis from the pandemic was one that hit, basically, like a bomb. Immediate, and everything shut down within a matter of weeks. So we’re dealing with something that no generation has ever had to deal with. It certainly makes it difficult for policymakers to craft solutions.

       “One thing that will change is, I think there are going to be far fewer business trips. I think businesses and organizations will say, ‘Hey, do we really need to fly people from all over the country into Louisville or Washington or Las Vegas? We can do these things remotely and save a lot of money.’ That’s going to have an impact on every local economy — on hotels, on airlines, on restaurants. The repercussions will be significant.

       “I think one of the things I have become much more aware of — and I think the country probably has too — is how interconnected we are. And we lose sight of how important the person who delivers the groceries to the store is, and the person who stocks the shelves. And you begin to realize how integral their role is — and if they’re not there, so many things fall apart. It’s the small cog that, you take it away, and the machine breaks down. We’re seeing that on multiple levels.

       “I don’t want to be too snarky, but I think Matt Bevin would have basically tried to pray it away.

       “We’ve got a lot of people who are suffering, a lot of people who are having trouble getting food and paying their bills. So: Family first, then see how you can help others.”




Carrie King, co-owner of HomePage Realty, sees a resilient market.

“The market is strong. Historically, if you’d ask the best time to sell a home, it’s Memorial Day, and you hope to sell it and be out and into something else by Labor Day. We’re still seeing homes that are going into multiple-offer situations, and the inventory is still very low. So we are still showing properties. However, we are now doing that in gloves and face masks and with Clorox wipes.”




Adal Castellon Jr., owner of Spanish Fly Barbershop, misses his chair.

“March 18th we were ordered to shut down, but the fear of the virus had already set in, so my two barbers actually stopped a few days before that. But I kept going until the 18th at five o’clock. It was really daunting knowing your livelihood is going to be put on hold. Barbers, we serve as, like, therapists, but that last client was a friend and he was almost like my therapist. How am I going to keep myself afloat? I do have a really great landlord willing to work with me. One way I’ve been keeping sane is by going to clean the shop, which can open back up in about a month. And I did buy a bike which I’ll ride around Beechmont, just zigzagging the streets.

       “I went from talking to like 10, 15 people a day to only talking to my wife and two kids. It’s been weird. When I do get a phone call or a porch visit, I feel like I talk a lot because I’m so used to talking to people and have so much bottled up. Now I spend like 40 or 50 hours a week just me and the kids. Our daycare lady, I told her, ‘I already appreciated you before, but I appreciate you so much more now.’ My wife and I were talking about how the kids will always look back at this time like, ‘Oh, dad was around a lot.’ My wife works for Wicked Sheets, and they have a never-ending order for masks because they have the capacity to make them. Thousands and thousands of masks.

       “I long for those days when you can just go to the shop and shoot the shit.

       “We’ve had people tell us, ‘My fade has faded away.’ If you’re gonna buzz your hair, leave the edges alone. People underestimate how sharp the smaller trimmers are.”




Roger Huff, co-owner of Gallant Fox Brewery, sells out of growlers on his first weekend open.

“It’s hard to get to know my regulars when everything is to-go, and everyone is wearing a mask.”




John (a pseudonym), an employee at the JBS Swift plant in Butchertown, loses pay to stay healthy.

By early May, nearly 60 employees at the JBS pork-processing plant in Butchertown had tested positive for COVID-19, and one employee had suffered a virus-related death. Nearly 1,200 workers at the plant slaughter and process 9,000 to 10,000 hogs daily. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly 5,000 meatpacking plant workers in 19 states had tested positive for COVID-19 as of April 27. Hundreds of those cases were in Kentucky. John, who is originally from Cuba, had a relative serve as translator.

       “JBS is mostly production lines. About 80 percent of the workers are Hispanic. We work quite close together, practically glued. The corridors are narrow, as wide as a pool table. People rub against each other as they walk through the corridors. I work as a forklift operator, and I examine meats. On April 4, I was working and started to feel sick. I had a cough, fever and sore throat. I didn’t know if there were people who had the coronavirus because there were many people who went home with symptoms. But I had no information of any kind.

       “I went to the doctor and they told me I should quarantine in my house. If, by chance, I was short of breath, then I should call 911 to be taken to the hospital. I wanted a coronavirus test to be done, but for reasons unknown to me, my doctor’s office did not want to do it. I am concerned because I am a person who gets sick easily. I have bone problems and I have several medical problems. I practically spend the whole year with a cold because JBS is very cold. I don’t know if I could distinguish if it is the coronavirus or a cold because I am always sick. I decided to leave work April 6 to quarantine. It was unpaid leave.

       “I watched on television that many old people were losing their lives. I was scared of being sick, of losing my life or spreading it to my daughter. All the workers who had a fever were sent home, but the company did not inform anyone if they had coronavirus or not. Since most of the workers are Hispanic, many do not understand news in English. They cannot read it. My daughter, who knows English, told me that there were several cases in JBS. She found out on WDRB.

       “In the 13 years I have worked at JBS it has been the economic support of my family. I have never had problems with anyone. I have never been sanctioned in the workplace. I have good relations with the workers and all the supervisors and leaders. But regarding the coronavirus disease, I think the plant took a long time to take action.”

       In a statement to Louisville Magazine, Cameron Bruett, a spokesperson for JBS USA, wrote, “We follow CDC guidelines. If someone who works for the company tests positive, while we cannot know where or when a team member has become infected, we inform all team members who may have been within close contact to the individual. Due to HIPPA requirements we do not share this broadly.” By mid-April, after John started feeling sick, JBS implemented protective measures like temperature checks, barriers between workers and extra sanitization. And in late May, JBS USA announced $200 million would go to factories like JBS Swift to pay for bonuses, extra cleaning staff and enhanced safety measures like ultraviolet light technology that can combat virus spread.




Brooke Vaughn reimagines Please & Thank You’s business model.

“We opened our new Prospect location in November, which is one block away from the busiest Starbucks in the state. To be able to compete, we invested in an app that would let people order curbside, but it wasn’t getting traction when we opened. But with COVID, with just a press of a button, we went from curbside to curbside and delivery on our app, and we were able to launch it at all of our locations. It’s hard to say, because I’m such a fighter, but without the technology we probably would have closed the doors, rode it out for a few months and tried to reopen.

       “Pretty much immediately we closed our location on Floyd Street downtown because that was basically there to service overflow of large events when our Market Street store is insane during Derby and Forecastle, plus the people who work at Humana and Atria nearby. I don’t think we’ll ever reopen that location.

       “Before COVID, we tried to use local purveyors to sell us flour, butter and eggs, but it was always cheaper to go through a bigger company like Restaurant Depot. And now, with our volume and their unfortunate lack of sales because so many restaurants are closed, we’ve been able to get better pricing through local vendors.

       “I already had delivery drivers on the road because of our commissary bakery in the West End. Now delivery and curbside account for about 75 percent of sales, with the rest from contactless walk-ups. This has transformed our business forever. We’re never going to stop delivery. Right when all of this started, I knew immediately that the best thing to do was to cut everything off the menu, minus coffee and cookies. For the past two years, our top five sellers have been: cookie, bag of cookies, dozen cookies, coffee, latte. And those are our best profit margins. We are moving about 8,000 to 10,000 cookies a week, plus about 300 cookie cakes. I’m never going to bring the menu back. We’re now a chocolate chip cookie bakery and coffee shop.”




Ben Huffman, racing secretary for Churchill Downs, finds the quiet disquieting.

“I walked out from the paddock to the main track for the first races on the Saturday we opened. You know you’ve got the trainers and grooms spreading out on both sides of the tunnel there. But it was dead quiet. Just eerie not having the sounds of the racetrack and people cheering.”




David “Dirty Dave” Johnson, attorney and lead singer of local punk band the Glasspack, looks “all crazy.”

“With my law practice, I have some divorce cases. I ran a Facebook ad a couple of weeks ago and the headline was, ‘Are You Tired of That MFer You’re Stuck Inside With Right Now?’ Everybody hit like and laughed about it, but there is a sad side to that too. I think there are probably people trapped in abusive, violent relationships stuck inside together. I’ve also had a lot of calls from people trying to come up with anything they can to get a case. People are running out of money and they are trying to think of ways to get more money. So I’ve seen people call me about probate matters or personal-injury cases.

       “This is the third year of my law practice, and I was doing good before the coronavirus. I got a nice car for the first time in my life. Paid cash for it, no car payment. I kept working after the stay-at-home order, but today is the first time I got a paycheck in two months. Between Feb. 15 and March 1, that’s usually when I get a bunch of business, because people are getting their tax returns back. But everyone stopped calling. It completely shut down.

       “One of the weird things to me about the coronavirus situation is having to wash a bottle of wine like it’s a little baby. I’ve been wearing a particle mask for drywall when I go out. When I go into the grocery store, everybody walks around me. I feel like I stepped out of a Mad Max movie. In general, I have that dirty look anyway. I put that mask on and, shit, I look all crazy. At first, I was wearing a bandana, but I was getting crazy looks at the liquor store. I’m not sure they wanted me in there like that.

       “Now that I’ve started working more electronically, I feel that’s the way things are going to go — dealing with clients over the phone or email and filing stuff with the court electronically. I haven’t worn a suit since the beginning of February.”




Mark Wourms, executive director of Bernheim Arboretum and Research Forest, watches nature bounce back.

“Because Bernheim is closed and it’s so quiet in the arboretum itself, nature has responded. We’re seeing coyote droppings all over the place. We’re seeing birds at ponds — green herons, for example, are coming to our ponds. And I hadn’t seen a green heron at those ponds for eight years, because there’s been so many people. Now I’m seeing them on a daily basis.

       “We’ve got a phoebe nesting under our main bridge across one of those ponds, which on a normal day would be trampled across by hundreds if not thousands of people. And now, suddenly, the first time ever that I know of, we have a phoebe nesting there. So it’s been delightful in that way. Nature we’re caring for. Nature we’re connecting with. But we can only connect with people remotely.”




Jack Mathis, co-owner of Work the Metal, gets social.

“Before quarantine, social media was important, but I always relied more on in-store sales. Now, I have been focusing on online sales with curbside pickup and shipping. It’s an area I needed to focus on in the past, but never actually spent time developing it until the virus took over the world.”




John Dant, owner of the Back Door, remodels.

“I’ve been ready to open back up since day one. I’m not saying that there isn’t a pandemic, but we can’t live in fear. That’s my personal opinion. Some of the regulars are definitely ready to come. You kind of worry about it because of some of their ages, but I think the younger generation will be out. I do wonder if I’ll get my regulars back. I think eventually I will. I guess it depends on if they get a vaccine for this virus or not. I feel bad for the places that won’t reopen. Small businesses are the backbone of America, and I hope we all come back.

       “My kitchen staff here doing curbside, they’re saints. They’ve stuck with me. They could have drawn unemployment, but they stuck with me, and I praise them for that.

       “I’ve remodeled the whole bar inside. I only expected to be closed a few weeks — I thought this thing would pass. I ended up putting new floors in with what was supposed to be my operating cash. I decided to just go ahead and remodel the front room — new ceiling, new floors, new walls. Although I did keep the mural of faces — God forbid if I ever take those down!”


Ashley Nichole Sims-Cleveland, assistant teen librarian at the Newburg Library, worries for patrons.

“Filing unemployment over the phone is not easy. I’ve heard from people that they would be on hold all day. Then they’ll get in queue for a call back and wait a week. As soon as we closed to the public, we were getting calls from people about unemployment because the website doesn’t work on mobile browsers. Most of our patrons tend to only have cellphones, especially when you’re talking about Newburg, the West End.

       “May 3 was the official furlough date, but that was a Sunday, so my last day was the Friday before that. We found out two weeks before that. There was a two-week period where we all knew we were going to get furloughed. It felt weird for that month that we were in the library with no patrons there. I am getting unemployment while I’m off, and the city is still covering their end of health insurance for full-time workers. Of course, there are quite a lot of part-time library workers. Absolutely everyone is worried this is going to go from furloughed to laid off.”

"Parents seem to be discovering parts of themselves they didn't realize they had lost and sharing more of themselves with their kids."
Interviewed 5.20

Greg Galiette, senior vice president of the Louisville Bats, wonders how the minor league moves on.

“The challenge for us is, the business model of Major League Baseball is different than ours. They are planning to play in empty stadiums, but they’ve got the ability to flip on those TV cameras and make the TV revenue from the national and regional TV deals they have. Unfortunately, minor league baseball doesn’t have a TV package. We rely on the old-fashioned way of opening the doors and having people in the ballpark. How soon that comes back, who knows?”


Interviewed 5.21

Mason Bratcher, Male High School student, gets a date.

“During the pandemic break from school, I started to get to know my neighbor, Breanna. She moved right next door to my house last fall. She goes to my rival school, Manual, and plays lacrosse too. Now she’s my girlfriend. She’s beautiful.

       “Even though prom was canceled, Breanna and I still wanted to make it special. The only thing open was Target, so I just bought a suit from there for my tux. Breanna already had a dress from a dance she went to last year. My mom’s a hairdresser, so she did Breanna’s hair at our house.

       “On a Saturday a few weeks after when prom was supposed to be, we got dressed up and headed out and took pictures. We went to the Mellwood Art Center next to this graffiti wall with a huge M, and said it stood for our high schools, Manual and Male. Then we went to the waterfront and took pictures in front of the Belle of Louisville, and over to Frankfort Avenue on the train tracks.

       “Later that night, my friend had a party in their backyard. We danced to all kinds of music and had steak and mashed potatoes with lights strung up over the yard, like lights would be in prom.”


Brittany Danko, pilot for Republic Air, misses all the passengers.

“I have a routine when I get to the airport at the start of a trip. I arrive early so I can grab Starbucks and walk to my gate. When I arrived one morning, there was not a single passenger in the main area of the airport and all of the restaurants were closed. While walking to my plane, I only saw 10 passengers in the entire airport.”


Karen Stout, stylist at Joseph’s Salon and Spa, misses talking to “everybody and anybody.”

“My professional life stopped on March 18. I was paralyzed and in tears the first day. I went from cutting and styling and coloring 12 to 14 people a day to none. And from talking to everybody and anybody to talking to three people. I filed for unemployment for the first time in my life. I went from a people person to a dog person, taking Butter for three-mile walks every day. From talking all the time to maybe one or two conversations a day.”



Interviewed 5.22

Merlin Cano, barn worker on the backside at Churchill Downs and at the Backside Learning Center, finds solace in horses.

“I get here at 4:50 a.m. We have to be wearing a mask all the time. We get a different paper bracelet every day. Someone checks our temperature in the morning, and they put on a different color bracelet every day so that they know your temperature was taken already.

       “I worry if they were to close it all down again due to the virus. That would be almost 1,000 jobless families who are immigrants, who have kids, who probably haven’t worked anywhere but this. They may not have cars to go look for work. There are a lot of people who live around the track and they just walk here.

       “It feels good to be back with the horses, but I’m still a little worried because the virus is still going on. The panic is not really over yet. Sometimes I’m worried because I’m 19 and am the only one who still lives with my parents. My dad, who worked as a groom for more than 30 years, retired last year because he was 65 and very sick. He has gastric cancer. He’s lost a lot of weight, and I’m scared I’m exposing my parents.

       “My favorite horse, she’s a filly. Her name is Go Google Yourself. And she’s a good runner and really sweet and strong. Instead of you pulling her to walk her, she pulls you. And she’s pretty. When you’re with the horses you kind of forget what’s going on on the outside.”


Evan, in treatment for addiction, takes it day by day.

“I started drinking at work around eight months to a year ago, and I entered my first inpatient facility in mid-January of this year. I started drinking almost immediately after my first treatment. My office was incredibly helpful and supportive, probably far more than a company should have been in my scenario. I chose to drink one Monday morning before going into work. About 24 hours later, I checked into another inpatient facility.

       “It was Tuesday, Feb. 25. In treatment, I remember hearing about an NBA player who had contracted COVID, and that March Madness wasn’t going to happen. And we were all like, ‘What is happening in the outside world right now?’ Eventually outside visitations stopped altogether, and all we could do were FaceTime or Zoom calls.

       “The day I got out, one of the employees at the facility, who is also heavily involved in the AA community, asked if I had a sponsor. And I realized I didn’t, because when the outside AA meetings stopped, that chance to make those connections wasn’t there anymore. This employee pulled me into the office and said he knew a guy who could be my temporary sponsor. I haven’t met with him in person yet, but he worked at the treatment facility. I’m also attending intensive outpatient treatment at the same facility. It’s not associated with AA, but it serves as a peer-based recovery and has scratched that itch to see and connect with people.

       “A buddy of mine from treatment OD’d about 24 hours after he was released. And another woman hung herself in the facility a few days after I had gotten out. Usually they would have a memorial but obviously that couldn’t happen. Dealing with that loss, but at a distance, has been strange.

       “It’s really easy to pick up a bottle or a drug when you’ve got nothing else to do and you’re bored and feeling sorry for yourself. And today, with COVID, that’s more real than ever. Because my addiction spurred out of isolation, having some sort of connection with people is huge for my recovery.

       “In a few days I’ll be 90 days sober. Breaking things down into smaller chunks, living day to day, is the only way to remain sane.”

Dairy Del with a sign reading, "Drive thru only." 04.10.2020, by Mickie Winters
Interviewed 5.26

Jeff Underhill, principal at Underhill Associates, ups the maintenance.

“At the Germantown Mill Lofts, the parking lot is full most days and people are working from home. That means they flush toilets more often. It means they stay in and fill up the dumpsters more often. Our maintenance personnel are needed more than ever.”



Interviewed 5.27

Gretchen Beach, first grade teacher at Hite Elementary, unwittingly prophesizes. 

“As we left school that last day in March, I jokingly said to my colleagues in the parking lot as we were leaving, ‘Have a good summer, everyone!’ — never dreaming that statement would end up being true. The worry that not all of my students had the support and help that they needed at home was the scariest part.

       “Even after this is over, I may keep a jigsaw puzzle in progress on my dining room table at all times.”


Melissa Graven, stylist at Icons Salon, is happy to be back to work.

“It takes a little more time to clean in between each person and everyone has to be masked. But everyone is happy and grateful to be there since we reopened. I didn’t have my hair cut or colored during quarantine. And I probably won’t for a long time because nobody has time. I did fix my hair every third day, though, and put on makeup just to make myself feel better. I would also walk with cocktails a few nights a week with my friends. We called them Walktails.”



Interviewed 5.28

Patti Aigner, registered nurse at Baptist Hospital Louisville, can’t see smiles.

“The surprising thing I’ve missed during these last several months is seeing other people smile and being able to give a smile. As soon as I get to work, I’m handed a mask and keep it on for 10 hours.”


Susan Vogt, co-owner of Rodes, wonders what buying trips will look like in the future.

“We shut down Monday, March 16. The significance of that date is that on March 17, St. Patrick’s Day, Rodes was to celebrate its 105th anniversary. It was an emotional moment. I am the fifth generation of the business, so we have survived through all the crises that have come during those generations. I am not sure how my buying trips to New York will work in the future, or if buying will only be done virtually. I like to touch and feel the fabrics and create stories for the clothes that I choose.

       “After making sure our employees were able to sign up for unemployment, I felt a strange calm: This pandemic was not anything that I could control or change.

       “I am finishing books that I start by reading every day. I have become obsessed with closing out my rings with my Apple Watch. I learned to bake English muffins, which now have become a new staple in our house.”



Interviewed 5.29

Stephanie Powers, pediatric psychologist, finds that kids are having deeper experiences.

“I am by no stretch a ‘Disney person.’ I have no idea why Disney World’s closing was the thing that impacted me. The image in my mind of that park, silent and empty, just really disturbed me.

       “Through my work, I’m hearing richer, more colorful stories from kids about their day-to-day lives. This may sound ironic or counter-intuitive, but it seems that, through having fewer places to be, many kids are having deeper and more nuanced experiences. I’m hearing about finding turtles in the backyard, discovering that Dad is an incredible Frisbee player, searches through the house for albums so they can hear how the Beatles sound on vinyl, elaborate pillow forts, and kids writing epic stories with original characters just for fun. Siblings seem to be bonding on a deeper level. Parents seem to be discovering parts of themselves they didn’t realize they had lost and sharing more of themselves with their kids.”


Shawn Gardner, Founder/Co-Director of 2NOT1

“Post-COVID, people will realize they had time to work on something and didn’t do it. Recognizing this time as an opportunity is hard.”



Interviewed 5.30

Bill Hollander, Metro Councilman for District 9, focuses on housing.

“I’m doing almost all my work from here — my adult son’s former bedroom — and all of our meetings from here.

       “To me, housing is going to be a really significant issue as we come out of this. We have a moratorium on evictions, and we have a lot of people who are unable to pay their rent and they can’t be evicted. But that does not mean that their rent is not due. And at the end of this, when the eviction ban ends, I’m really fearful that our lack of housing is going to get even worse and that we will find a large number of people who will be unable to make their rent and at risk of homelessness. That’s a grave concern of mine.” (As of June 1, the Kentucky Supreme Court lifted part of the moratorium on evictions. — Ed.)

A pregnant couple standing on their porch wearing masks. 05.13.20, by Mickie Winters
"The nurse said, 'I told him I was sorry that we couldn't save his life.'"
Interviewed 6.1

Mikelle Bruzina, senior ballet mistress and co-artistic director of the Louisville Ballet, travels to a strange land: a desk.

“Even though ballet is a ‘silent’ art form, there is a vast amount of communication that happens in the studio during the rehearsal process — both orally and physically. I am not incredibly socially active outside work, but in the studio that is all I do: interact with people. Since the closing of the Louisville Ballet building, I have been working from home at my computer through daily video meetings and countless emails. Even after nearing three months, it is a very foreign feeling to be sitting at a desk.”


Mary Summers, director of community engagement at Maryhurst, entertains the kids.

“The scale of the pandemic hit home when I got into my car after being home for nine days. All I did was pull it out of the garage, so I could move some stuff around in the garage, and I realized that I had almost forgotten how to start my car. It was like, ‘When was the last time I’ve been in here?’

       “The volunteer groups who do special activities with the girls at Maryhurst are not allowed to come right now. So there’s been a lot of creativity involved in how to get the girls active and keep their minds off of it. They have had cooking lessons and cook-offs and cake-decorating competitions. We have 12 kiddos in each cottage, and we have 65 cottages on the campus, plus there are four other cottages that are community-based. That’s a lot of minds and bodies to keep entertained.

       “I’m pretty sure that the most memorable quotes that I’ve heard during this time aren’t really necessarily inspiring or related to COVID-19. But they are things that I’ve said to my own kids. Things like, ‘Don’t put the dinosaur in your brother’s butt.’”



Interviewed 6.1 & 6.5

Cheryl Barbee, 69, one of several in her family to contract COVID, survives.

“My sisters and I were very close. We even dressed alike. Three years ago, I had sweatshirts made with three hearts on them. My name was on the first heart, Verna’s on the middle heart and Jean was on the other heart. We’d purposely put those sweatshirts on at the same time and we’d have Sister Day together. We’d go out to the Summit shops or the mall. We would go to the park and feed ducks. We would go to the movies. We would crack up together. We would start at nine in the morning and go until dark.

       “We all go to the same church — Mt. Lebanon Baptist at 22nd and Chestnut — and we all sit together. On Sunday, March 15, we had on black dresses with a little gold design, black leggings, and we all had on black and silver shoes. That Sunday after church we wanted seafood, so we went to Red Lobster. We were feeling fine. Everything was fine.

       “Now, some of the information I’m going to tell you is a bit cloudy. The virus came on quickly. That Monday, Verna mentioned she couldn’t use her left arm. I said, ‘You might be having a stroke. You need to call your doctor’s office.’ Before I knew it, she was at Norton Hospital downtown on the ventilator. She went in

first, and then Jean went in on March 18 at Baptist East. Jean also ended up on the ventilator.

       “On March 19, my son — he’s a radiology technician at Jewish Hospital — he called at 10 in the morning and asked my husband, ‘Where’s mom?’ My husband says, ‘She’s still in bed.’ My son, Tony, said, ‘What? That’s not like her.’ He had my husband take my temperature. It was 103 degrees. My son said, ‘You got to get her out of there now. Go to the hospital.’

       “My husband was upset because normally when I go to the hospital he stays with me because I’m blind. But because of the pandemic, no one could stay. He didn’t realize he was sick too. I was in a medically induced coma and on the ventilator for 18 days, if not longer. I was at Norton Hospital downtown. Verna was in the CCU (cardiac care unit) and I was in the ICU.

       “I’d have these dreams. I remember one: There was this little girl; she almost resembled my granddaughter. She had this big feather and she’d tickle my feet. Our marriage anniversary was on March 27. I dreamt my husband had given me a new ring and my granddaughter wrote down the words: Will you marry me again? And I said, ‘Yes!’ Well, one day, after I got off the ventilator, I’m looking all over the hospital for this ring and I couldn’t find it. And my son said, ‘This didn’t happen.’ He called these dreams ‘being on that other cloud.’

       “When I came off the ventilator, I had no idea where I was. I told God I was so tired. I said, ‘Love me, but let me go.’ But the spirit told me, ‘No, I’m using you.’ So I had to apologize to the Lord. I can only say the spirit of the Lord was in me. In the hospital, I was so weak. I had no energy whatsoever. And that cough. It was so deep. I mean, real deep. It would just take my breath away, and that’s why I had to have oxygen. I still sleep with oxygen. And I’ve had to see a lung specialist because of side effects.

       “Let me tell you a little about Verna. She’s a cancer survivor, a double mastectomy. She went through a year and a half of chemo and six weeks of radiation. They thought she wasn’t going to make it because of what her body has been through.

       “The day I was discharged in April, hospital staff had banners and were clapping. It was overwhelming. I just stopped and started praising the Lord. When we got to the house, my son just fell across me and broke down and he said, ‘I thought I lost you.’ He’s 42. It was a very touching moment.

       “On May 7, Jean’s daughter called us. Jean had had a tracheotomy maybe the day before they transferred her to Kindred. And when she got to Kindred, her numbers bottomed out and they couldn’t revive her. I was in shock. It was 9:30 at night. I just started walking through the house. It didn’t seem real. At four in the morning I broke down and my husband just grabbed me and hung on to me.

       “People marching don’t have a mask on. I feel like the pandemic is on the backburner and they’re opening up everything now. And I feel like the pandemic is going to get much worse. Our church is opening up this Sunday and I’m not going. There’s too many people out there who still think this is a hoax. It’s real. And I would never want to experience anything like that again.

       “Verna and I talked about it this morning. She said, ‘You know, I still haven’t cried.’ To her, it’s like Jean is still here. Our parents taught us to be close, and even growing up we were dressed alike. Sometimes, just sitting around, I think about her. I have to realize she’s no longer with us. What gives me peace is that she was sick. And there’s no more suffering.”



Interviewed 6.2

Anna Smith, a nurse with a doctorate in business administration, lost her mother (possibly due to COVID-19).

“I live in Jeffersonville, Indiana, and my mom, Virginia, only lived about 10 minutes from me. She was 89. She did have some health issues, like pulmonary hypertension and congestive heart failure. But she was a rigorous 89. She was very outgoing, very independent. She was a huge bowler for the last half of her life. She was in two or three leagues. She’d get trophies and travel. She was a big churchgoer too.

       “She wanted a home most of her life. We mostly rented growing up. We were a military family. She bought her first home at 78 and was very proud of that. It meant a lot to her. She was on the stubborn side; even when she needed to be in assisted living, she wanted to stay in her home. But about two months before all this COVID stuff started, she ended up in a long-term care facility.

       “On Tuesday, March 10, I went to go see her. She was asleep and I told her I got ice cream for her. She loved ice cream, so I had gone to the store to get her cherry chocolate amaretto ice cream — her favorite. She was smiling and talking a little. I’ll be honest: When I saw her that Tuesday she was breathing oddly while she was sleeping. But it wasn’t overly alarming. I left thinking I’d go back and visit on Wednesday or Thursday. But the facility left a recording on Tuesday evening saying there was no more visitation. I’d never heard of such a thing. My head started swimming. No more visitation? Then, on a Thursday, I’m sitting on the couch and I get a call from Clark Memorial Hospital saying my mom was in the ER. She had arrested (a malfunction in which the heart stops beating). On Friday, March 13, she passed away, and on Saturday I was at a funeral home planning her funeral. It was so quick.

       “I was heartbroken. I had just lost my mother, and with COVID, it made planning a funeral like walking through molasses. On that Saturday we’re making plans, we’re writing the obit. We were going to have a two-hour service at Green Street Baptist Church (in Louisville) and we were planning on a visitation. I think Monday is when the restriction came that you couldn’t have more than 10 people in a group. By Wednesday I canceled the service. My family that would’ve come couldn’t travel or didn’t feel safe coming. I couldn’t blame them.

       “A few people came to the funeral home, no more than two at a time. We were going to do a graveside service. We go to Veterans Cemetery in Radcliff, where my dad is buried, and a man hands me a note and says you can’t get out of the car. My heart was really trembling. He said there can be no service. He said the pastor can say one little something, but no service. My heart broke, it busted. The guys unloaded the casket from the hearse. The pastor said one scripture and then he said we have to go. From the time we drove up to the property to the time we left, it was 10 minutes.

       “I was so demoralized and so hurt. But no one was doing it deliberately. Mom, you know, would’ve been very upset that she didn’t get to have her family and friends there. She would’ve been upset about the way it all ended. She would’ve been upset that COVID turned into such a big, big thing.

       “I miss her opinions, her personality. I miss everything about her.”

An empty basketball court at a park, 07.08.2020, by Ted Tarquinio
Interviewed 6.8

Adam Ruiz, chaplain at Norton Women’s and Children’s Hospital, comforts families.

“I work as a mother and baby chaplain. Wherever there’s a baby who’s ill, that’s my role. During COVID-19, I branched out doing more with adults. But my first COVID experience was when I got called to a labor delivery in early March, and I wasn’t sure why. I walked into the room, and there was a mom there by herself. I noticed a baby was in the crib. And I realized the baby had died. She said, ‘I’m alone. My husband is out of town. And he’s on lockdown. And my mother is a little older. She’s an at-risk category, so she can’t come.’ I asked, So then, you delivered here by yourself?’ She said yes. And it was at that moment I realized the impact of COVID. It was an already traumatic experience made 100 times more difficult because no one was there with her.

       “One chaplain told a wife he was going to go in to pray with her husband, the patient. He was going to stay in there until the patient passed. And so I was on the phone with the wife. We videoed part of the prayer, and then I stayed on the phone with her because she wanted me to stay with her on the phone and narrate what was going on until her husband died. And so for 20 minutes, she was telling me stories about him and them and their family, her faith life, how difficult it was to be unable to come, because it didn’t make this real without being able to see him, to touch him. And I was telling her that my colleague was in there, holding his hand, and that we were going to be the family for her and him.

       “There was one man with COVID-19 who died, and they invited me into the room to pray, and his wife was draped over him. And when he died, she turned around and came to me and I knew she wanted a hug. And in my mind, I was thinking, ‘Oh, I want to comfort you, but I want to be safe.’ And in the end, I hugged her. And she hugged me. And I thought, ‘You know, this is just what I had to do, what she needed, and it was OK.’

       “There was another experience where I was outside the room with a wife. And her family did not want her to go into the room, because they were already losing their dad, and they didn’t want to lose Mom as well. And so we were outside the room, looking through the glass doors. And there’s a couple nurses. One of the nurses put her hand on the husband’s head, and then on his shoulder. And I remember that nurse, she leaned down at one time and whispered something to him. I asked her afterward, ‘What did you say?’ And she said, ‘I told him we were sorry that we couldn’t save his life.’”



Interviewed 6.17

Allerie Hanlon, physical therapist at Treyton Oak Towers, works through loss.

As of mid-June, more than 2,000 residents and staff at long-term-care facilities across Kentucky had tested positive for COVID-19; 325 patients and three staff had died. At Treyton Oak Towers, more than 30 residents and 19 staff had tested positive. Fifteen patients had died.

       “It’s so scary because it’s so contagious. You don’t know who’s going to get it. I remember a patient, I think she was a retired schoolteacher and she had grandkids. I had laid her down and I put her to bed and she was telling me, ‘Thank you so much for taking care of me.’ She was more fatigued than usual. She was going to sleep, and she offered for me to sit down on her bed. She said, ‘You can rest if you need to.’ I was like, ‘No, I’m good. Thank you.’ I didn’t want to be sitting on one’s person bed and then go in another room.

       “The next week she found out she had it. And a few weeks later she passed away.”

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