COVID at UVA: A Sibling Story

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March 11, 2021

A year ago, UVA Today shared the melancholy story of University of Virginia students packing their bags to head back to their homes as COVID-19 began to overtake the country. Two of the students featured in that story were siblings Will and Charlotte Milone, then third- and first-year students, respectively.

At the time, they described the eerie feeling of the rapidly emptying Grounds, and the strangeness of preparing for online classes.

One year later, with students back at the University, UVA Today checked back in with the pair to learn how they have been doing. Here is what they had to say.

Second-year student Charlotte Milone, psychology major

Q. What are some specific memories you have of COVID reaching UVA in March?

A. To be honest, COVID was the last thing on my mind last March – that is, before spring break. At that point I had absolutely no idea the severity of the virus or the impact it would have (and continue to have) on all of our lives. I heard bits of information here and there about a new virus, but looking back I was so naïve. I had no clue what we were going to be in for. 

Q. What have been the best and worst moments of the past year? 

A. For me, the some of the hardest moments of the past year have had to do with trying to deal with pre-existing mental health struggles amongst COVID anxiety, periods of loneliness and dealing with the feeling that there’s no end in sight. Also, online school is certainly not ideal for anyone.

That being said, luckily, none of my close loved ones have been directly affected by the virus (health wise), as of right now. So, the best moments have been times of gratitude for the health of those closest to me. I also think I have gained greater appreciation for the little things I took advantage of pre-COVID times.

That being said, I am unfortunately writing this in bed as I am experiencing a few symptoms of what seems to be COVID (fever, headache, chills, body aches, sore throat) and am awaiting my [test] results. I am hoping for a speedy recovery, but I have to be honest, this is probably the worst moment of the past year thus far. [Milone has since recovered.]

Q. What routines and hobbies have helped you get through the year?

A. I think for me, just trying to do something during my days has helped me stay sane. It was especially difficult to not go stir-crazy in the summer, when I wasn’t working and didn’t have school or practically anything to do.

Some of my favorite activities have been doing puzzles, biking, cooking and reading for pleasure on occasion.

Q. Are there other reflections you would like to share? 

A. I’m just really hoping that next fall will be different, but I know that that will only be possible if we all act, or begin to act, responsibly. The spike in coronavirus cases at the beginning of the spring semester was worrisome. I am hoping there is a light at the end of the tunnel.

Fourth-year student Will Milone, architectural history and preservation major, architecture minor

Q. What are some specific memories you have of COVID reaching UVA last March?

A. These days I often find myself reflecting on the different ways I remember people thinking about the emerging situation (or not) at the beginning of March 2020. I remember looking at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website in late February to learn a bit more about the coronavirus and seeing nothing more than a dismissive statement on COVID. It read: “There are no known cases of COVID-19 in the U.S. at this time.” 

I also remember something interesting from a lecture on the last Thursday of fully regular, in-person classes, before spring break and quarantine began: My professor described how a friend of his who is an epidemiologist related to him that “the time for containment has passed. ... [COVID] will spread through the population.” I remember thinking, “Spread through the population? That doesn’t sound good.” Of course, I didn’t worry about it after leaving class because it wasn’t something we were talking much about on March 5. I also didn’t think that “spread through the population” meant that tens of millions of Americans would contract the virus over the next year and that our way of life would change so drastically and so quickly.

Of course, the professor still sent us away from the lecture with “Goodbye and wash your hands!” rather than telling us to wear our masks and remain socially distant, as we now know is the most important thing we can do.

Q. What have been the best and worst moments of the past year?

A. Almost every weekend for the past two years, a close friend of mine and I have met in forest parks along a river or stream to pick up trash. Since the activity readily accommodates social distancing and masking, we’ve continued through the pandemic. I have had some of my favorite college experiences over the past year on forest trails along the Rivanna River and Moores Creek here in Charlottesville, along Donaldson Run and Four Mile Run in Arlington and along the Potomac River in Alexandria.

For me, the worst part of the pandemic has been the transition to virtual substitutes for normally fun traditions and everyday social gatherings. It’s no fun having to do certain activities virtually that are so much better in person, or having to “wait until next year” for great traditions with family and friends.

Generally, I’m just so tired of staring at screens all day. Even before the pandemic, school, work and our extensive use of smartphones for communication forced me to spend far more of my day on my computer and phone than I would have liked.

Q. What routines and hobbies have helped you get through the year?

A. As I don’t need to walk to many classes or in-person engagements anymore, I have been able to consolidate what were once multiple walks across the day into one longer walk every afternoon. I’ve gotten to explore so much of Alexandria, Charlottesville and the counties that surround them over the past year on these long walks and bike rides. Especially in historic cities like Charlottesville and Alexandria, it’s not uncommon to turn off of a familiar street into a neighborhood enclave with its own special character that I may have never seen before despite living so close.

I’ve also explored so many great local forest parks, both while cleaning up trash and on walks and bike rides by myself.

Media Contact

Jane Kelly

University News Associate Office of University Communications