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Hey, Why Are You Still Out? Fear And Duty Collide For Concerned Detroiters

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Image credit: Laura Herberg / WDET

State officials have urged everyone to stay home to avoid catching COVID-19. But some Detroiters say that isn’t an easy choice.

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State Fair Transit CenterLaura Herberg / WDET
Laura Herberg / WDET

State Fair Transit Center

There have been thousands of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Detroit and more than 200 deaths.

The city has been deemed one of the nation’s hot spots for the disease. State officials have urged everyone to stay home to avoid catching the infectious, potentially deadly, virus.

But some people are still out and about.

I went to the State Fair Transit Center on a recent weekday afternoon, where I found it buzzing with activity.

I had a simple question: Why are you here?

Click on the player above to hear why Detroiters are choosing to venture out during COVID-19, and meet them below.

Derrick Carter: Getting Some Air

If 100 people came over here right now, I’ll just get up and leave.”

Carter: Taking a break from a friend's family.Laura Herberg / WDET
Laura Herberg / WDET

Carter: Taking a break from a friend’s family.

The first person I meet, Derrick Carter, sits inside a glass bus shelter. Most people here have masks or gloves on, but not Carter. 

He agrees that self-isolation is preferred during the pandemic, and says he’s mindful of his environment.

If 100 people came over here right now, I’ll just get up and leave,” Carter says. 

I point out there’s about 20 people around him right now, any of whom could be carriers of the virus. Carter says it was a difficult decision to come out. 

Right now, I’m staying with a friend, she has a couple of sons. And they cry a lot, man. That’s why I’m out here right now,” Carter says. “I’m just trying to get some air.”

Jerome Driskell: Homeless, Trying to Stay Warm

I try to keep washing my hands and face at all times.” 

Driskell: Riding buses to stay warm.Laura Herberg / WDET
Laura Herberg / WDET

Driskell: Riding buses to stay warm.

For others, the choice to stay inside isn’t so simple. 

Jerome Driskell is homeless and has been riding buses to stay warm, switching buses when drivers notice. 

Driskell says the shelters are full, but that he is concerned about the virus. He’s wearing gardening gloves and a mask so thin it’s translucent in parts.

I try to keep washing my hands and face at all times,” Driskell says. “I keep my gloves on, you see I got a mask on. I don’t want to die, like the next man.”

Hear Jerome’s full story. 

Pamela Brooks: On a Mission for Her Son

Today I’ve learned my lesson. I must stay home because I feel just defeated.” 

Pamela Brooks is wearing a coveted N95 face mask. She only has one, and she’s reluctantly left the house with it on to buy a thermometer for her son’s family. He’s at home with COVID-19.

He’s not doing that well,” Brooks says. “Because the fever is up there now.”

Brooks saw online that digital touch-free thermometers were being sold at a Target in Taylor. So she hopped on the bus to go get one, even though the whole trip would take her more than four hours. Brooks is almost done with her journey, but she’s heading home empty-handed.

I couldn’t find it so I’m a little disappointed right now,” Brooks says. “So I think today I’ve learned my lesson. I must stay home because I feel just defeated.”

Deione Jackson: “I Still Have to Eat”

I think everyone is doing the best they can to stay safe while you’re out here.”

Jackson sells snacks after being laid off.Laura Herberg / WDET
Laura Herberg / WDET

Jackson sells snacks after being laid off.

Nearby, Deione Jackson has set up shop at the transit center. He’s selling snacks out of trash bags next to a bus shelter. He says business has slowed down.

With the corona thing going on, everyone’s trying to hold on to their dollars. So it’s not as good as it was, say three months ago,” Jackson says.

Jackson worked for a cleaning company for a few years in Downtown Detroit, sweeping litter and emptying trash cans. But he says he lost his job after the coronavirus hit and most of the staff were laid off. Now, he’s waiting for his unemployment insurance to begin. 

I think everyone is doing for the most part the best they can to stay safe while you’re out here,” he says. But “people have to work. I still have to eat, so I tried to make a few dollars to support myself.”

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Laura Herberg, Reporter

Laura Herberg is a Reporter for 101.9 WDET, telling the stories about people inhabiting the Detroit region and the issues that affect us here. She is a proud homeowner in Highland Park, Mich.

laura.herberg@wdet.org Follow @HerbergRadio

This post is a part of Coronavirus in Michigan.

101.9 WDET, Detroit’s NPR Station, is committed to providing accurate, up-to-date information on coronavirus, and it's related illness COVID-19, in Michigan. 

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