Moving home during the threat of Covid-19

How this Mercer student feels about going back to the Georgia town with the highest per capita infection rates of coronavirus


Elizabeth Morey (left), Jonathan Morey (middle), and David Morey (right) on one of Phoebe Putnam’s hospital campuses in Albany, Ga.

When President Trump declared a state of emergency, the United States was seeing high rates of infection in places like Seattle, New Orleans and New York. 

But one place people didn’t expect? A small rural town just two hours south of Macon named Albany. 

“I never expected Albany to be at the top of the list because it’s a pretty small town, it makes sense due to the context of how the virus spread around the town—I understand how it happened, but that’s not something I really ever expected,” senior Technical Communications major Jonathan Morey said.

Albany’s COVID-19 death rate per 100,000 was nearly double of the other major cities affected, having a rate of 46 deaths per capita with New Orleans following behind with 29 per capita and New York with 25 per capita, according to a report in late March from the New York Times

When Mercer gave students the option to stay on campus or go home for the remainder of the semester, the senior stayed put in his Lofts apartment.

“Initially, I stayed because I thought we would have in-person classes by the end of the semester, but when Mercer converted to completely online, the infection rate was so high in Albany that I was at higher risk being at home,” he said. “On top of that, I would have been staying with my parents and my dad has to go to the frontlines every day.”

David Morey, his dad, and Lydia Allex, his older sister, work on the administrative side at Phoebe Putney Health System (PPHS), the primary healthcare system of Southwest Georgia. His dad works as the Corporate Director for Continuous Improvement and his sister works as a recruiter within the hospital. 

His dad, a graduate from Mercer University’s School of Engineering (MUSE), has been working more than ever during the pandemic. 

“I worry a lot,” Jonathan Morey said. “He doesn’t interact with patients very often, but still, my dad is not a 20-year-old with a perfect immune system and he’s there for up to eight to 12 hours a day, five days a week and he’s on-call over the weekends, so it’s very scary to see him have to go and face that every day.”

Luckily, his office is about half a block away from the hospital.  

“I’m really lucky he’s on the administrative side so a lot of times he can stay in his office, which isn’t actually in the main hospital building, and that keeps him a lot safer,” Morey said. 

The Technical Communications major said that the healthcare system is taking the necessary measures to ensure their personnel are being safe, like taking the staff’s temperature multiple times a day, making them wear masks and moving staff where they can. 

“Anyone who can work from home is working from home,” he said. “My sister as a recruiter has basically been working home since Mercer canceled classes. She’s gone to a couple of small events or bumped around the office a couple of times, but for the most part, she’s at home. All non-medical personnel are at home.”

Now that classes are over, Morey is in the process of moving home. The senior moved some of his things out this past weekend, where he said he got to see Albany again for the first time since Mercer’s spring break in early March.

“It seemed relatively normal,” Morey said. “Businesses seemed to be a bit emptier. But everyone seemed to be on edge and trying to be a little extra cautious.” 

Between juggling finals week and moving home, the student is worried about a second wave of infections. 

“It’s really scary because I’ve been quarantining in Macon pretty strictly throughout the pandemic, but obviously, that’s going to be a lot more intense in Albany,” he said. “It’s even more stressful with the stay-at-home order ending because I feel like a lot of people are going to exploit that, and even though the numbers are finally starting to look better in Albany, I’m afraid that they’ll start spiking again.”

Still, Phoebe has been doing every they can to stay on top of it and be proactive, Morey said. 

“From a health perspective, it’s pretty scary, though (PHHS) has definitely figured out what they’re doing and they’re starting to really take control of the situation and do a lot of good work,” he said.

Now that he’s graduating, the student said that many of the opportunities he was pursuing have been postponed or canceled. 

“I really didn’t expect to spend my summer in Albany,” he said. “It’s definitely weird to be moving out of my apartment back into my parent’s house as a senior who just finished their coursework.”

Despite this, Morey said the online interviewing process has actually helped him when applying to jobs out of state.

“It’s also been beneficial though because as I’m applying to some positions out of state, they obviously can’t have on-sight interviews. Conducting virtual interviews is obviously a lot easier because of the logistics,” he said. “It makes it a lot more feasible for me to interview for these positions because I’m not having to go on the road or pay for a hotel.”

Albany has been hit with two tornados, a hurricane and a flood within the past few years, Morey said. And yet, the community is stronger than ever. 

“Albany residents are a resilient bunch. Over the past 4 years, we’ve dealt with—I wanna say—four natural disasters and now the coronavirus,” he said. “But somehow people of the town just keep getting back up and keep rebuilding. It’s really cool to see the community that I grew up in be so committed to itself. Everyone is committed to rebuilding and continuing on with their lives.”