My grandmother didn’t catch the virus, the virus caught her

By Pryce Jamison
October 13, 2020

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In the wake of COVID-19, we weren’t only worried about our own safety and the risky interactions we had with other humans. It forced us to also worry about the family and friends that live a significantly long distance from us. Something that can further trigger these thoughts and the higher possibility of the situation even occurring, would be if that family member lived in a heavily populated region where the virus has seemed to spread rather quickly. 

This was the case for me when my own grandmother had her fair share of experience with the virus back in May as the virus swept through the city of New York. If you ask me, there’s very little that can mentally and physically tear down my grandmother, Harriet Tanksley. There’s very little things that can even keep her in the house in general, back when without a doubt, she should’ve been staying in the house. That’s when her strong will is most visible, when walking everywhere for daily purposes and continuing to attend her group gatherings can’t be hindered by anything. 

Little did she know, each of the boroughs were being hit worse than anyone expected. She was highly at risk being a resident of the Parkchester area of the Bronx.

The Parkchester section of the Bronx, which was also hit as the whole city became the U.S. epicenter of COVID-19. Photo by Adam Moss.

“After about a week, I started losing my taste and smell,” Tanksley said. “I couldn’t taste a single thing.” That didn’t appear to be reported as a common symptom ironically until a week later, so at the time we didn’t really grow too worrisome over the loss of her senses.

I can still remember my mother, Monet Tanksley-Jamison, trying to get through to her, telling her to “stay inside” and even “stop attending church for a little while,” as well as the community walks she participates in where her and an enormous group of friends from the same area walk for miles. My grandmother said after attending church in Harlem one Sunday, she started developing a dry throat and a cough by Wednesday that really started to raise the concern of COVID-19 arriving. 

On May 30, the CDC came out with key updates on the status of the pandemic in our nation that helped paint a visual on how impactful and unprecedented it was for those first few months. On that day they said that up to that point, there were about a total of 1,761,503 U.S. cases of COVID-19 and 103,700 associated deaths reported to the CDC, as well as it was common knowledge that the virus affected older people and people with underlying health conditions even worse. 

At the time, New York had a large portion of the COVID-19 cases in the United States with approximately 160,000 cases and 40,000 of them in the Bronx. My mother and I didn’t know that exact number at the time. All in all, my grandmother, being the former nurse she is, made me even more comfortable with the calmness of her tone during the phone conversations. I knew if anyone could beat such a virus, my grandmother could.

Centers for Disease Controls and Preventions, who normally tracks and supplies the masses with updated facts and statistics on this pandemic. Photo by Raed Mansour.


Vitamin C and D were essential according to her. During her two week quarantine period, she began just riding it out by simply taking cold medicine. One thing she said she started doing routinely was taking vitamin C in the form of Emergen-C. Although she tested positive with symptoms, it was nothing too fatal and concerning that really worried her and us as her family, or that needed intense medical treatment. 

My grandmother contracting the virus was the first time the pandemic hit me personally and truly seemed real that my loved ones can come into contact with. At first like many people, I talked down on the virus because of how statistics showed it to be not the most fatal, transmissible illness mankind has came across. In reality, it was simply me hoping for things to not get worse for the world population and trying to stay positive, so the experience of a family member getting it put it into perspective for me. The perspective of not letting my optimistic skew my view on what’s really going on, and made me feel for everyone else that has a family member who experienced it and developed a variety of different symptoms. It’s really about just being safe and aware of where this virus can reach. Don’t underestimate the severity of this virus, because it’s a mistake a lot of individuals have made, including me several months ago.

Pryce Jamison

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