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Quarantine Chronicles: Josh Stewart

JOSH STEWART is a photographer and pharmacy technician based on Tybee Island. While his photography job is on hold, he’s going to work at the pharmacy every day, where he sees people he knows should be at home.

This is his Quarantine Chronicle.

Let’s talk first about your photography gig. What’s that been like for you?

As far as the photography stuff goes, since I go out and shoot real estate or portraits, I can’t really do any of that anymore. As far as photography goes, the best I can do is sell prints that I have right now. I go to the post office and mail them, and that’s about all I can do.

I’m trying to post pictures still and keep people entertained online, but as far as actually performing photographic services, it’s not happening right now. It wasn’t specifically said as a non-essential business, but I don’t want to take the risk.

And since I work in a pharmacy, I just have to assume that I might have it, even if I don’t. I don’t have any symptoms, but at the same time, I’m around sick people all day. I mean, it’s my job to be around sick people. I just have to assume.

What does that feel like?

It causes a little bit of anxiety, but since I’m not showing any symptoms, I’m also not extremely anxious. If I start showing symptoms, then yeah, then I’ll be scared. But It’s one of those things that if I was that anxious, then I wouldn’t be showing up to work.

And you probably have the option not to come to work if you don’t feel comfortable.

Exactly, I have the option to not show up if I want. And it took a weekend of really sitting down and thinking about it. This is what I do. It’s my responsibility to society to keep going out there and doing what I can and doing my job in the pharmacy.

Have people been treating you kindly at the pharmacy?

It’s mostly people that are really kind about it. We’ve definitely gotten a lot more thank-yous. I’d say it’s doubled, the amount of, “Hey, thank you guys for what you’re doing here.” That’s a nice feeling when a patient thanks you.

There are other people that come up and are like, “This is stupid. Why do I have to stand back four feet? Why do I have to stand at this little marker in line and wait for my prescription?” That type of thing. But there’s always those.

I haven’t seen anyone try to overbuy, so I’m really thankful for that. Nothing’s closing! The stores are still open! There’s no reason for you to hoard!

I’m interested in how you said you’re being engaging online.

I’m just starting to do it. I wanted to wait. Like just today, I posted a picture, it’s one of my older ones, of one of the Do Not Drown signs, and all I did was photoshop the Stay Home sticker from Instagram onto it. People really seem to like it. I’m going to keep doing stuff like that, trying to spread this message in the best way I can.

You’re a Tybee resident. What’s the verdict, as you see it, on the beach situation between Mayor Shirley Session and Governor Brian Kemp?

It’s very much split online, but in person—of course, my amount of people I’m hearing it from is very limited since I can only hear my immediate neighbors talking on their porches. But from what I’m gathering, and from online people that I know who live on Tybee and are full-time residents, the general consensus is, “Shirley is being amazing right now.”

It’s not that we don’t want people on the beach, we just don’t want to attract visitors to the island when you don’t have to. Stay home is very much stay at home, don’t come out. You can go on your porch or your yard, you can take a walk up and down your road, but going to public places is not a great idea. If someone has it, they don’t know they have it, they cough on a handrail, and someone touches the handrail, well, you’re just spreading it more?

Does it make you feel more secure to have some sort of medical knowledge right now?

Secure maybe isn’t the word I would use, but I feel better equipped, I guess. This isn’t a magic particle that’s floating in the air to me. I understand what it is, I understand that it’s a lipid layer and there’s RNA inside, I understand how things are transmitted. If worse comes to worst, I understand what drugs I can take that could potentially help. I feel a little better in that sense, that it’s not a complete mystery to me. I guess that does make me feel a little more secure.

What other ways does this pandemic affect you?

Personally, the stress at work is definitely higher. I do come home more stressed, but that isn’t a super bad problem. It’s inconvenient; I can’t go shopping after work anymore because at the end of my shift, there isn’t any more meat or toilet paper or anything. That sucks. I have to be smart about it and come in early or sneak out during my break and go grab something.

But that’s really it. I have to be smarter about the way I do everything, and I have to mentally calm myself down more than usual.

It does suck not having the extra photo income, because I do like that. I’d prefer being out there and using my creative brain. But I also know at the end of the day, eventually, this is going to go away. Trying to stay sane is my biggest personal problem.

What would you like other people to know and to be aware of?

The obvious repetitive “stay at home” message, for sure. I’m worried for some people because in the past week, even after Savannah said to stay at home, I’ve seen a lot of elderly people and people that I know have immune problems because I give them drugs to help with these medical issues, I’m still seeing these people everyday, and some of the people that are near everyday customers are still coming in nearly every day. That is worrying.

Make sure to stay home. Limit your trips out. If you have an elderly relative you can go out for, do shopping for them, and when you get home, wash your clothes. It’s disturbing seeing all these elderly people and people that I know are sick out and about, endangering themselves.