TaiKiah Phillips shares her experience during the COVID-19 pandemic in Madison, as well as Arizona. She talks about how the lack of guidelines and support for seeking healthcare during the early days of the pandemic led to losing her job. She describes successfully navigating local Madison resources like Urban Triage and the Tenant Resource Center before ultimately moving to Arizona, but experiencing severe delays with statewide and national government assistance. TaiKiah also talks about supporting her young daughter through the experience of virtual learning.
Narrator Name: TaiKiah Phillips
Interviewer Name: Andres Torres
Date of interview: 10/20/2020
[00:00:02] - Start of Interview
[00:00:47] - Tell us about your experience during this pandemic over the last several months
[00:08:29] - How is your daughter responding to what's going on in the world right now?
[00:10:38] - Thank you so much for sharing your experience
[00:11:01] - Do you have anything else you'd like to add?
[START OF RECORDING]
Interviewer: Hello, my name is Andres Torres, and I’m here with Stories from a Distance, part of the Living History Project, which is an archive of stories and testimonials from people living in and around Madison. Today I’d like to welcome our narrator.
TaiKiah Phillips: Hi, my name is TaiKiah Phillips. I was born and raised in Madison, Wisconsin. I’m a thirty-year-old single mother, born and raised there. I grew up in the Madison School District and went through the UW-Madison Odyssey program in 2012, so, a true Madisonian.
Interviewer: Welcome, TaiKiah, thanks for being here. The question I have for you is can you tell us a little bit about your experience during this pandemic and what the last several months has been like for you?
TaiKiah Phillips: Yes. So, since the pandemic has gone on I have experienced lots of different things with work, with childcare with my daughter, just different things. When it first happened, my job actually when I was working in Madison, ended up making all of their employees work from home. And, they did that before the Executive Order, which was really nice. So, we were already settled in our homes before that happened.
They were willing to work with people who had children, because school ended up being closed for a while and we were concerned about that, about losing our jobs, what that would mean as far as staying home with kids and things like that. The transition from work to home was really well, the transition from getting my daughter to school wasn’t as easy. But, we made it work. I had a little space set up in my home for that and for her.
I ended up losing my job there because of Corona. What happened was I had, my mother and I went to get tested for it, this was around the time when it first came out and there weren’t really any insurance guidelines about it or anything like that, and we were turned away from the urgent care because they were scared there were too many people, basically, there. If it wasn’t an urgent matter then you were being turned away. In which case I let my employer know, and then they wanted me to go back to get records showing that I had went, but there weren’t any records because you were being turned away. So, that was the situation.
And, I didn’t want to go back anyways because all these scares were coming out about COVID-19 and just people getting it more and more, and people were uncertain about everything. It was just a really scary time. So I ended up, because I could not get a doctor’s note saying that I was there, I ended up losing my position as a voluntary termination, which was very unfortunate.
I have been applying for unemployment since then and still have not received anything for that. I don’t know how far behind they are with the claims for that, but yeah. So, I was pretty much– Luckily, I could not be evicted due to the Executive Order, but I reached out to lots of different resources during that time, the UW Odyssey Program; I reached out to the Tenant Resource Center. I reached out to energy services, to Urban Triage, lots of different places. Luckily, early enough, to where they were able to help. Because once the ball got rolling with COVID-19, lots of those resources had limited funding. So, thank goodness I was able to get what I needed ahead of time.
My thirtieth birthday was in May. At that time, I decided I wanted to move to Arizona, because mentally, I just felt drained with everything going on and just needed a new environment on my end. So, I ended up planning to leave as my lease was up in Madison at the end of July, so I needed help paying for that. And, again, those resources came through so that I was able to leave and not owe anything. So that was a blessing. Got to Arizona. Don't know why I moved to a place where the rates were higher, but I came. The transition here was pretty easy. I luckily had family here that was able to help me until I got a place of my own.
When we got here, my sister -- it was my sister, me, my daughter and my niece. Like a week or two later, my sister worked for a company that did COVID testing and they had to get tested weekly. Well, sure enough she ended up being diagnosed with COVID-19 when we were here. There was one point when I was here that I was really sick, and there was one day where I, like, could not move and things like that but I never got tested so I'm assuming that I had it and then she had it, but she got tested obviously, so she tested positive. About a week later, I ended up testing negative for it, thank goodness. So I've had really close experiences dealing with COVID-19 and been fortunate enough to get through every negative one. There's a lot of people that I know that have not been able to be as fortunate as I am in that regard so I'm grateful for that, and grateful for everybody that was able to help me during that time because it was not easy.
And again, if you're waiting on government assistance, I don't know how people are doing it, because again I still have not seen/heard anything from unemployment and I have a job here now. I started in July. But if I was dependent on that to basically continue living life, that would definitely be hurtful because I don't know how people are doing it. But yeah, that's the gist of my experience with that. It's been rocky but we're getting through, so thank goodness.
Oh, my daughter started -- they eventually started virtual -- they had virtual learning when we moved to Arizona. They just started hybrid learning this week where she goes two days out of the week and only half the students go. So if your last name begins with A through L, you go Mondays and Thursdays, things like that. And then one day out of the week is still virtual learning. That is much -- it's bittersweet for me. She's only in first grade so I know she needs that face-to-face interaction with her teacher and with other students, but I'm also concerned because of COVID-19 and so it's really scary. They make them wear masks. They make them sit six feet apart. You know, they're doing all the necessary things that they need to do per CDC guidelines, but as a mother, it's just -- it's really nervous. Yesterday was her first day, and I had so many questions to ask her and her teacher. And they've been really good with responding to me and making me feel comfortable with everything. So far, so good, but it's nerve-racking but -- yeah.
Interviewer: Has your daughter expressed any kind of anxieties about COVID-19 or what's going on in the world right now?
TaiKiah Phillips: Kind of. I know children her age like to joke about stuff like that, which is what concerned me too with school, because I know kids that'll be like, "Ooh, you've got COVID," you know, and chase each other, things like that so -- but her main thing -- virtual learning is just not for her. It's not her thing. She dreads it. She does not like it -- but her teacher was trying -- we've had computer issues, Internet issues. We've had to take her Chromebook back and forth multiple times, so that experience for her is just not a good one, but we -- again, we made it work. She enjoyed her first day. They make them wear masks the entire five hours unless, obviously, they're drinking. They have their own special water bottles, things like that. The experience is different than what she's used to, but it's better than what she was just doing.
My niece, she's in kindergarten. I feel bad for her, because she doesn't really get to experience how fun school can be for kindergarten. You can't play with people. You're at the playground. You have to be away from people. You're eating lunch, you have to eat lunch away from people. It's just really sad. I've seen people have graduations virtually. They can't walk across the stage. Or even high school seniors, they can't go to prom or things like that. I felt so bad for those kids, but you know we're living in a weird, weird time right now -- but hopefully things in the future will come back together and be better so --
Interviewer: Yeah. I think we're all hoping that. I had a couple questions to ask you but you've pretty much covered all of them so thank you so much for sharing your experience. It sounds like you've had a lot of stress and anxieties but you've gotten through it and you've done a pretty good job.
TaiKiah Phillips: Thank you.
Interviewer: Yeah. Do you have anything else you'd like to add?
TaiKiah Phillips: No, just for people who are struggling with it, just keep pushing through. Keep reaching out to people for your own mental sanity even if it's just checking in. Just keep reaching out to people. That's the only way we'll get through it, so --
Interviewer: I like that. Thanks again for being here with us today, TaiKiah.
TaiKiah Phillips: Thank you. Thanks for having me.
Interviewer: Yeah. Of course. You have a good night.
TaiKiah Phillips: You as well.
[END OF RECORDING]