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In/vulnerable: Inequity in the time of pandemic

Created in collaboration with

and illustrated by Thi Bui

The COVID-19 pandemic hit the United States at a moment when the wealth divide was at record levels: millions of people living paycheck to paycheck, uninsured and unhoused, in a country that is home to the most billionaires in the world. Created in collaboration with The Nib, In/Vulnerable is a weekly series that captures both the shared experience of the pandemic and the ways it has laid bare the stark disparities that shape our lives.

Manuel

Pine Prairie, Louisiana

“If the virus makes it here, this place is a ticking time bomb.”

Narration: Sean Stannard-Stockton is the president and chief investment officer of Ensemble Capital, a San Francisco Bay Area investment firm that manages about a billion dollars on behalf of some 200 clients. Sean: “I totally support the idea that when there is blood in the streets, as the Wall Street phrase goes, you should be buying stocks.”

Sean

San Mateo, California

“Scary times can be exciting as well.”

Sarah

Chicago, Illinois

“It felt like the floor was giving in on me.”

Zenobia

Largo, Maryland

“My daughter died giving her heart helping.”

Martha

New London, Connecticut

“I was going to save everybody else in this world.” 

Steven

New York City

“This is going to be a different city.”

Billy

San Francisco, Chinatown

“A restaurant is a living, breathing part of the community.” 

Billy standing next to his mom at the restaurant’s long counter, both of them packing up take-out orders. He is a young guy wearing a hoodie and baseball hat. Narration: Billy Chiu manages Grant Place Restaurant in San Francisco’s Chinatown, which his mother, Elaine, opened in 1994.

Gary

Murchison, Texas

“We’re building luxury bunkers.”

Jane Doe

Arlington, Texas

“I was forced to drive across the country during a pandemic just to get health care.”

Narration: On March 30, 2020, a 24-year-old college student anonymously filed a court affidavit in support of a Planned Parenthood lawsuit against Texas Governor Greg Abbot. These are her words. A woman’s hands hold a positive pregnancy test. On the table beneath her hands, we can see a coffee-stained pay stub for a diner and a pamphlet on how to apply for unemployment. [reference image] Jane Doe: The same week I lost my job waiting tables, I became worried that I might be pregnant, even though my partner and I had been using birth control.
Jamison sitting in front of his computer, which is open to the Facebook page of ReOpen North Carolina. Jamison says, “At the very beginning of the year, you hear rumors, but everything was seeming like it was in China – far, far away. And then, before you know it, they're telling you, ‘You can't go to work anymore. You can't go to church.’ ”

Jamison

Fayetteville, North Carolina

“A lot of us feel we are living in a state of tyranny.”

Tawanda

Baltimore, Maryland

“I have to be out there. They’re killing us.”

In the foreground, a woman in silhouette sits in a seat on the Staten Island ferry, checking her phone. Behind her is the window of the ferry and we can see the Statue of Liberty. Narration: B. has worked at Amazon’s Staten Island warehouse since 2018. She has requested that we not use her full name for fear of retaliation. b. B: “At first it started where we had three cases. And then after awhile, there was no number. It was just: We have more cases. More cases.”

B. 

Staten Island, New York 

“We’re not treated like people. We’re numbers.”

Douglas

Florence, South Carolina

“We have always been able to say goodbye to those who have left this life.”

Sherry, leaning against the counter in her large kitchen. Everything is very clean and well-organized—just as you would expect for someone who shows off homes for a living. [see reference video] Her dog looks up at her expectantly. Note: Sherry currently lives alone with her dog (Reference photos in folder) Narration: Sherry Jenks is a real estate broker who works on Long Island, including the Hamptons, an upscale beach resort community. Sherry: When I answer the phone, someone says, how are you? I say, I'm well and extremely grateful. That's the way I'm built. Now more than ever.

Sherry

Bayport, New York

“What everyone shares is the desire to shelter in place in a safe haven.”

Rajnish

New York, NY

“No matter what we did, we just couldn’t catch up.”

Dr. Rajnish Jaiswal talking to the reader as he walks down the street in East Harlem, at the corner of 1st ave and 99th street. Metropolitan Hospital rises in the background behind him. Narration: Dr. Rajnish Jaiswal works in the emergency room at a public hospital in East Harlem, which started to be overwhelmed with COVID-19 patients in late March and April. Dr. Jaiswal: It was like nonstop, basically. You had a patient come in every five minutes. We never turned anyone away.

This is a weekly series that launched May 18, 2020.

Series edited by Amanda Pike and Esther Kaplan. Interviews by Reveal staff and adapted into comic scripts by Sarah Mirk.