Students reflect on COVID-19 lifestyle shift


In March 2020, few GVSU students could have anticipated just how long the pandemic would be a presence in their lives. (GVL Autumn Pitchure)

Autumn Pitchure, Staff Reporter

A year ago on Mar. 10, 2020, Michigan had confirmation of its first two COVID-19 cases. At the time, many people didn’t understand the impact this virus would have on their lives.

Schools and colleges had to face the challenge of moving classes online. Two days later, there were twelve confirmed cases in Michigan. Numbers of the virus started growing rapidly every day.

On Mar. 16, Governor Whitmer issued an order to close all bars and restaurants dine-in, gyms, coffee houses, and most public places as COVID-19 cases totaled more than 50.

On Mar. 17, just a week after Michigan had its first two cases, Michigan confirmed its first COVID-19-related death. Cases broke the 100 mark.

A major game-changer occurred on Mar. 21, when the US-Canada border began to close to nonessential traffic.

“I remember being kind of excited to have online classes, but little did I know it was going to be way more than a month-long thing,” said senior Hayley Bryce, a Biomedical Sciences major.

On Mar. 23, something happened that had no precedent in Michigan history. Governor Gretchen Whitmer issued a statewide stay-at-home order for all non-essential workers. Individuals were informed that they could only leave their homes under very limited circumstances such as working in a hospital. The number of COVID-19 cases broke 1,300, while the death toll rose to 15.

Senior Hayley Bryce wears a mask as she poses with her sister’s baby, who was born near the beginning of the pandemic. Courtesy | Hayley Bryce

“When the actual lockdown began, I stayed in my apartment in Allendale for a while due to working nearby at an assisted living center,” said Bryce.

When the pandemic was worsening, Bryce decided to head home to quarantine herself due to her sister having a baby on the way. She didn’t want to take the chance of getting the virus from her roommate or co-workers.

“I went home for some time during the summer to be fully quarantined,” Bryce said. “But a few days after I was home, my Dad tested positive.”

From being in contact with her Dad, Bryce was not able to see her newborn niece.

“As my quarantine was up, I came back from my hometown on the east side of the state to Grand Rapids to begin a second job at Spectrum Health Hospital,” Bryce said. “It was really hard to sit back and not do anything to help. I knew I had to help because my future plans included medical school.”


Healthcare workers were deemed essential during the pandemic and vitally important to maintaining the health and care of people, but the stress of dealing with COVID-19 cases is a heavy weight to bear.

“I have seen so many of the worst-case scenarios from working in the hospital,” Bryce said. “I have seen things like too many people on ventilators to a kid that literally lost his limbs due to not enough oxygen circulation from COVID. Even though I am fully vaccinated, I am still afraid of a third wave.”

With the pandemic still hovering over her life a year later, Bryce struggles to envision what the future looks like.

“I really can’t picture life afterward,” Bryce said. “I know one day it will be like nothing ever happened, but currently it is still hard to think about. I cannot wait for it to be gone, and for it to be safe again so I can see my little niece. As cheesy as it is, I just want the normal human interaction again along with hugs.”

Junior and Health Communication major Mikaela Brzuchowski got the news of Michigan’s first case while in Florida with her mom on spring break.

“When I first heard the school was closing down, I really just thought it was going to be an extension of spring break,” Brzuchowski said. “I didn’t think for a second we would be where we are today.”

The following year has been a struggle, though Brzuchowski still tries to remain positive under the hard circumstances.

“It’s been a ride trying to manage mental health in the past year,” Brzuchowski said. “At first I was just kind of confused, and now I’m just anxious for it to be over. I’m excited to be able to do things with my friends while simultaneously still being safe instead of isolating.”

Restrictions have lifted somewhat in Michigan, with restaurants now seating up to 50% capacity. Although some things are looking up, there are different strands of the virus that are being carefully watched: the pandemic is undeniably not yet over.