The New York Times’s coronavirus newsletter debuted in March 2020, and we asked readers to send their stories about how they were coping with the virus. Since then, more than 20,000 readers have written in to share their pandemic experiences.
We’ve published many of those responses in the newsletter, and we have often received notes from other readers telling us about similar experiences, offering help, taking issue with what’s written or sending their condolences. Many readers have asked us what happened next — so we checked back in on some of the readers whose stories resonated.
Making up, and moving on
In December 2020, we published this note from Danielle Lehtinen, from Scranton, Pa.
My husband of 27 years and I got our final divorce paper a month ago. After traveling for two years in Europe, I was grounded by the pandemic and moved to a rental 20 minutes away from our small Pennsylvania house. Even though the ex and I found that we can’t live under the same roof together, we admitted that we’re both lonely in this pandemic and started making local fitness dates with each other: soccer, walking, or swimming as a “family bubble” at the Y in one lane. We then decided to enjoy Friday pizza evenings together and Sunday supper at the house. I love to see the cats, use the fireplace, and realized my ex can use a little help running the house. Even though we still annoy each other in the same ways, we found that this strange new situation gave us a way to grow a new friendship. And we no longer feel lonely.
In the past year and a half, “Things have been kind of up and down,” Lehtinen, 66, told me in a recent phone conversation. “First of all, we got our vaccinations together.”
During quarantine, “We were both very lonely,” Lehtinen told me. “And under extraordinary circumstances, I think an extraordinary thing happened: We were able to coexist in a peaceful way. But once that danger kind of went away, we both, I think, realized that we’re better off separately.”
Starting high school in the pandemic
In April 2021, Sadie McGraw, in Boston, sent this note:
Point of view: You’re a teen during 2020-2021. Your school has transformed into a tiny computer screen that only sometimes works. Your grades are as low as they have ever been. You’re not exactly depressed, but also you find yourself crying at the smallest things. Your group texts have been silent for so long and you don’t even know how your friendships will survive this. You’re angry when you see other people hanging out, but also envious of them. You can’t sleep at night and can’t stay awake during the day. You just feel numb.
“When I wrote that, I had a lot of anxiety,” McGraw, 15, told me last week. “A lot of people in power and adults and teachers were just like, ‘This is new and unprecedented, and we don’t really know what to do.’ And that kind of scared me.”
In March of last year, McGraw, who was in eight grade at the time, went back to in-person learning, under a hybrid model, which she said felt inconsistent. “I couldn’t really get used to either at-home learning or at-school learning,” she said. The vibe of hybrid schooling was also strange: In one class of more than 20 students, only 3 were in person.
Overall things are better now, McGraw said. She has a new friend group and spends more time reading, making art and shooting short videos in which she sometimes employs her friends as actors. “There are a lot less periods of numbness,” she said. “I’ll still go through mood swings, but I don’t know if this is just, like, normal teenageness, or if it’s worse because of Covid.”
Ultimately, she’s glad to be back in school.
“Yeah, I had a lot of anxiety, but I think sometimes you just have to do it scared,” she said. “And that’s what I did.”