COVID-19: Generations of Oaklanders share living life with Social Distancing and Shelter-In-Place

Ron Brown shares a familiar view of East Oakland from his balcony as he quarantines in his home. Photo Courtesy of Ron Brown.

The COVID-19 epidemic has affected the lives of people of all ages, despite efforts to prevent further spreading of the virus through social distancing and shelter-in-place orders. These methods have inconvenienced everyday life. Generations of Oaklanders ranging from college students to senior citizens spoke out to share their experiences on what has become the new normal of the place they call home. 

Donnie Reman, 22, a 3rd generation Oaklander said that he hasn’t worked since early March and is stressed not having any income. He said that the shelter-in-place order has not only affected his finances but also his college graduation ceremony. 

“When you’re looking forward to your hard work paying off and the most you’re going to get is a screen filled with people in caps and gowns, you realize the severity of the situation as well as how much the ceremony doesn’t mean anything,” Reman said.

“If you can’t look forward in dark times then you shouldn’t be complaining.”

Fern Stanson, 28, from “the Dubs,” a 3rd generation Oaklander said that she and her entire family have recently become unemployed due to COVID-19. Being forced to shelter-in-place under one roof, Stanson said that her family has grown tired of each other and that it has stymied her from attending classes that would have prepared her for nursing school.

“I was supposed to go back to school to be a nurse in the Fall but now that’s not going to happen. Nursing school students need hands-on training but we can’t do that due to the crisis,” Stanson said. “I’m tired of being stagnant and feeling unproductive. I am sick of being at home.”

Ron Brown, from East Oakland, a first generation Oaklander said that he’s frustrated with the shelter-in-place order. As a retired veteran who has COPD and underlying health conditions, the coronavirus appears minuscule in comparison to being in two wars. 

“People today are acting like this is the end of the world, but when you’re experiencing combat and have been doused in Agent Orange, a shelter-in-place order is a walk in the park,” Brown said. “All of the people complaining about being in lockdown know nothing about what it’s like to be in hell.”

Carl Roberts, 66, a second generation Oaklander who grew up in the Fruitvale said that due to social distancing he has had to wait hours in line to get his medications. He expressed disbelief on how the world is combatting the virus. “People need medications in order to live. This isn’t fair that we have to put up with this,” Roberts said. 

“I’ve lived through the assasination of President Kennedy, the Loma Prieta Earthquake, and 9/11. Never in my lifetime would I have imagined we’d be fighting an enemy that we can’t see.”

James Ng, 64, a second generation Oaklander who grew up in Brookfield Village expressed his concerns on the social economic impact from COVID-19. He said that despite being an essential government worker, he’s taken a hit financially.

“Whatever money and assets I’ve saved up over the years, has just gotten wiped out because of COVID-19. The stock market has gone down and my investments have gone to where they’re worth virtually nothing,” Ng said. 

Despite these ordeals, Ng looks to change the negatives into positives. He’s grateful to remain in good health and survive the pandemic.

“I encourage people to prepare the best you can because surprises will always come. You plan for the worst thing that could happen and you hope for the best.”

Author Profile

Ryan Barba is an Oakland native who is following his passion of writing. It has lead to his desire to further his knowledge and insight in this profession by learning and sharing with others. Ryan attended primary and secondary schools in Oakland and has ties to various community outreach programs throughout the East Bay. Having spent his life in Oakland, he looks forward to using this opportunity as a platform to tell stories that are occurring in his wonderful community.


  1. Great article with lots to think about. It is true we are fighting an invisible enemy that one hopes will not take them out.

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