The coronavirus is the closest thing to a worldwide shared experience since World War II. There are very, very few areas of the world that aren’t being affected in some way by the virus and COVID-19. The Rockford Register Star is reaching out to Rock River Valley natives throughout the world to how their lives are being altered.
Kevin Collins, Guilford High School, class of 1986. Collins has been working for Microsoft in Redmond, Washington, for 26 years. He’s been working on Microsoft’s HoloLens product for the past five years. HoloLens are mixed-reality smartglasses. Microsoft is shipping out HoloLens 2 devices to companies for free use in COVID-19 activities. He provided his answers on April 5.
How did you end up in Washington working for Microsoft? My software consulting company was acquired by a software company in Bellevue, Washington, in April 1992.
When did you first hear about the coronavirus? The middle of January.
When did it begin affecting your life? When I was in Seoul, South Korea, the first week of February for work and vacation. I got a taste of what it was going to be like in Seattle in less than a month.
What is life like for you now? What are you restricted from doing? Where can you go? Washington had the first case of COVID-19 in the U.S. in January and also had the first COVID-19 death in the U.S., so the restrictions on life were first felt here in Seattle. We have been working from home since early March and have had stay-at-home orders since mid-March, with no date set for returning to work.
Life as we knew it has changed dramatically both from work and from a social perspective, and it is very surreal. There is no place to really go as most every place has quarantine orders if you travel there and if they don’t there wouldn’t be much open in any interesting place in the world. The only form of exercise I really have now is to ride my bike to work and immediately ride back home.
How long is your governor saying this is likely to last? Washington has the stay-at-home order now until May 4, but it is likely to go longer as other states are not following stay-at-home guidance; thus, those in the other states are likely to restart infections if they come to our state or we go to their state. The likelihood of this ending is low unless there is a national stay-at-home order with the same locations being closed.
What do you miss doing on a daily basis that you never thought you'd miss? Going to work. Eating out. Working out at the gym. Playing basketball.
Are there any positives? I still work from home and have just as much work as before. Because I work from home, I am sedentary versus when I am at work moving between conference rooms for meetings.
Have you lost anyone close to COVID-19? Not yet, but friends of mine have.
How do you think life might change when this is over? There will be a new normal until a vaccine is discovered. I suspect that large gatherings will be banned outright until there is a vaccine. I suspect many businesses will be forever closed due to the stay- at-home orders.
I hope that the federal government will take this seriously and be more prepared for the next pandemic. The response I saw in Seoul from their federal government compared to our federal government was shocking. I’m convinced if we would have had half the preparedness and response to COVID-19 that South Korea did we would not be in the same situation that we are in now. I was there for 1.5 weeks and saw what happened in that amount of time, compared to what took our country months to do and still has not matched Korea’s response. The infection rate to the population proves out those measures.
Alex Gary is a freelance correspondent.