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COVID-19: The World Responds - Sally Hendrick interviews Maelynn Johnson

Maelynn Johnson, Rural Carrier Assistant in Tennessee and resident of Kentucky, responds

This interview took place on March 31, 2020.

We grew up together in West Tennessee, and when the coronavirus news started popping up all over Facebook, Maelynn and I reconnected in the comment threads of posts on the news of this virus. I wanted to dig further to find out how the post office is responding to the crisis in the rural area near where I was raised.

Guest bio:

Maelynn Johnson works for the post office, touching 1,700 pieces of mail per day. Living in Kentucky but working in Tennessee gives her a perspective most do not have about the response of the governors in both states.




Sally Hendrick (02:16):

Hey, Maelynn. How are you doing? This is Sally Hendrick, I'd love to talk to you today about what's going on in your neck of the woods regarding this COVID-19 outbreak that we're experiencing around the world. So how are you doing?

Maelynn Johnson (02:30):

I'm good today. How are you?

Sally Hendrick (02:31):

Good, good. We go way back. So I wanted to find out from you, what is it that you are seeing in your world right now? You happen to live in Kentucky and you work in Tennessee, right?

Maelynn Johnson (02:49):

Yes. I live in the most Western part of Kentucky. If you go all the way West on as far West as you can go on the border of Tennessee and I work in Tennessee.

Sally Hendrick (03:00):

And your work in Tennessee. Okay. All right. And what is it that you're doing exactly with your work?

Maelynn Johnson (03:08):

I deliver my offer, the United States postal service.

Sally Hendrick (03:11):

Okay. And what have been the measures that the postal service has put into place regarding like how it affects your work everyday? What are you doing?

Maelynn Johnson (03:23):

Yeah, I work in a small office. There's only three of us in the office, two carriers and one clerk. They gave us hand sanitizer and of course the wash your hands don't touch your face. If we want to masks they'll provide that. Me personally, I'm not wearing a masks cause I'm not dealing with the public, you know, too much. I have about 700 boxes on my route. I tried to use sanitizer about every 10 to 15 minutes and re sanitizing my hands. I choose not to wear gloves because cross-contamination with the gloves and just, I think it's easier just with the hand sanitizer. They have changed our procedure on signature deliveries. So if you were to receive a certified letter, I knocked somewhere on the door where normally people don't touch like at the bottom and you'll answer the door. I stepped back and I find everything.

Sally Hendrick (04:24):

Oh, interesting. That actually happened to me today and that someone knocked on the door and I yelled at them through the door and I said, do I need to sign for it? And he said, no. Do you give me permission to put your name in the slot? And I said yes. And so I, he left a package for us outside the door.

Maelynn Johnson (04:45):

Yes. That's, that's what we're doing. And then they give us permission, we sign and we leave it. Whether it's in the door, on the table or back in the box, we don't get close to each other. That's one thing. And then in inside the post office, like I said, there's only two other people that I work with. We are six feet apart. We have our business, the floor, they have put up a spit spray. Like, if you go in and buy stamps, they have put in a, what they call a spit screen, just a plastic shooting or something that comes in front, like a window. But

Sally Hendrick (05:28):

Kind of like when you go to the movie theater and you buy tickets.

Maelynn Johnson (05:32):

Yes, yes, yes. Nothing to that degree. Of course, cleaning, you know, we all, we all spray and that's what we, we have done.

Sally Hendrick (05:46):

So what are you seeing as far as the public is concerned are like on the street or in your neighborhood or in Tennessee, Kentucky. What is it that you're observing at this point about how people are taking all of this?

Maelynn Johnson (06:05):

Okay. With Kentucky now, last week, now my husband and I are both saying inside as much as Kane, you know, away from people because he is an essential worker too. He runs, actually runs the jail, so he's got in mind, but he's got to keep them healthy. So we went to Paducah and we did a site or where we did it online and picked up at the store. And there was nobody. It looked like a ghost town. I mean it just, people were not out and about and we went in the store. There might've been 30 people total in the whole store.

Sally Hendrick (06:41):

And you said Sam's club in Kentucky?

New Speaker (06:46):

Yes. Paducah. Okay.

Maelynn Johnson (06:48):

So we do a lot of our grocery shopping in union city, Tennessee, which is right over the state line. We actually went yesterday and I don't, I don't see where people are staying in there. You know, they're, they're still out and about. And are there continuing to Lowe's with pack, just looking at the parking lot, everything was full. And so I've asked my husband, that's enough things we'd probably need to start doing grocery shopping in Kentucky. I think people are more serious about it. And in my neighborhood course I'm going to town with a population of 2200 I'm very small. Everybody seems to be staying inside or in their own yard. And I mean I see my neighbors that, you know, kids who are blind and then we just wave. We just keep our distance. I think it's doing, I think it's working here. I hope it is. We have no confirmed positives in our area. Now in Tennessee close, which is Union city, Obion County has one confirmed positive.

Sally Hendrick (07:57):

Okay. Well, and as we're hearing more and more about how this virus spreads, that likely has a surrounding number of people that probably have it. Did you notice that Iceland the other day released a report where they said as much as 50% of people who have, who test positive have no symptoms whatsoever ever. So knowing that if you could apply that to everyone else, which I would think you would be able to, maybe not the percentages, but at least the idea of it that that would show you that the virus is spreading much more than we actually know. And looking at the data of confirmed cases is really keeping us kind of in the dark because we don't know you know, we're not testing, if you will beyond people who you know, beyond the people who already have symptoms, they're already sick. Do you, have you heard of any, anybody a little, like how are people acting in your neighborhood as far as, are they worried about it or are they, I mean, obviously there's, they're doing what the governor says in Kentucky and they're staying at home or they're, you know, working only if they're a central like your jobs. But have you heard any body, like the way that they're thinking their emotional state with this?

Maelynn Johnson (09:30):

I think the older generation is taking it seriously. They really are. Some of my neighbors, you know, I've checked in on the the lady next door and, but I know a few that are in their thirties and forties that just say, Oh, it's just the flu, you know? And I'm like, well, I don't want to find out.

Sally Hendrick (09:49):

Yeah. Yeah. I don't want to find out either. So what is your biggest fear in how things are coming out right now?

Maelynn Johnson (09:59):

I'm afraid of the, not knowing the unknown, you know, how will it affect me or a family member? You know, I'm not really afraid to get sick. It's just how will it affect me. I may have an underlying condition that I don't know about that may bring something out. I don't know. I'm not afraid of it. I'm just the not knowing, you know, I'm fairly healthy. I'm really healthy and go to the doctor once a year. Last time I was sick was in January. You know, I thought I had the flu thing but, but

Sally Hendrick (10:36):

I'm thinking of that you mentioned, I saw online where you had mentioned that a lot of your family had gotten sick back in January. Was it January that you said?

Maelynn Johnson (10:46):

Well, we, we got together on Saturday, December 20. I think there were 15 of my family members that got together for just to get together after cause we didn't get together Christmas and I'll just break it down. They were all adults. There were some college students from, there was one from Knoxville, one from Memphis, one from Michigan. My one family had just returned from a cruise in a week or so before. And so like we got together on the 28th and four days later we all started getting sick. With, with basically the flu, like symptoms, some had worse condition. My husband and I both got sick and I did test positive for the flu and one other test and positive. Okay. So we all had flu like symptoms. Some has the congestion and the coughing and respiratory. I did not. And I just thought, I'm 52 years old. I've gotten together with family every year, never have 12 gotten sick from one visit and we work together maybe four hours. You know, it just puzzles man. Just wondering if maybe, you know, I really have about convinced myself that we might have had this virus in January the first of the year. Right.

Sally Hendrick (12:22):

So did everybody recover? Okay. From that?

Maelynn Johnson (12:26):

We did.

Sally Hendrick (12:27):

And how long did that take typically for everyone?

Maelynn Johnson (12:31):

Seven to 10 days. 12 days. You know, we're all healthy, you know,

Sally Hendrick (12:37):

And so nobody got, nobody went into pneumonia or anything.

Maelynn Johnson (12:40):

Yeah. It was all basically a mile. I would say a mile. Yeah. We ran the fevers. We had the chills. We had all them the cough. Yeah.

Sally Hendrick (12:53):

But could very well have been the flu. Could have, who knows? We didn't have tests back.

Maelynn Johnson (13:00):

No, I've never experienced 12 people either out of 15 get sick, you know, with different variations of symptoms, you know. Okay, we all have a fever, we all have blue lights, but we won't know exactly. Yeah.

Sally Hendrick (13:19):

So what is your hope of what's going to happen coming up soon? Like as far as like the way that people are responding to it? Are you hoping that we'll get more, you know, better information from our leaders? What is it that you're hoping for?

Maelynn Johnson (13:36):

Well, I'm hoping people would start taking it more seriously and, and realize the seriousness of this virus and whether they believe it's true or not, they're not gonna lose anything by just remaining to their self and being healthy. I mean, I just want people to have to be serious about it so it doesn't multiply in into their families and the older generations. And I think the economy, I think it'll take back up. I really do. I think our leader are getting, giving us good information. In my case, I think our Kentucky is do it. Our Kentucky governor is doing a great job with information and getting with his people and I just wish that they hurry up and maybe find maybe a vaccination for it. My hope is, and I know it'll come, it's just, you know, maybe a faster time.

Sally Hendrick (14:42):

Yeah. We wish, we don't know. I mean obviously they have to do all of the tests that they need to be able to do with it for the safety, the general public, because you know, they could make it worse if if the dosages aren't right or if there's something in there that could you know, hurt a certain pop, you know, portion of the population. So yeah, that may take a while. Hopefully. Also the treatments that they're coming up with will be able to be tested and, and quickly enough to be able to help some of the people who are getting sick. And of course, let's hope that we don't have an overrun of our communities, like they're seeing in New York and Louisiana and some other places. Where the resources are really slim and and they're needing to, you know, call in for resources from other States and within their States and so on and so forth. All right. Well thank you. Maelynn if there's anything else that you want to mention now's probably a good time. Is there anything else that you want to say?

Maelynn Johnson (15:51):

Well, just wash your hands and don't touch your face. We touch our face over almost a hundred thousand. And I'm like, really? That's a lot of times it is. It is, but it's hard not to touch your face, but just keep them hands clean.

Sally Hendrick (16:13):

Yeah. Keep your hands every time you touch anything. And that's gotta be hard if you're pushing that much mail around every day. But I'm glad that you're staying on top of it.

Maelynn Johnson (16:24):

Yeah. We have to. You have to, I have to do it for my brothers and sisters out there, everybody in my community and just keep each other, you know, safety and health starts with you. So that's, that's where I think it starts with me and I've got to start it. And then it was me. All right.

Sally Hendrick (16:43):

Well, thank you so much for talking with me today and I hope you have a wonderful, wonderful day.

Maelynn Johnson (16:48):

Thank you. I enjoyed it. Thanks.

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