CK: This is Claire Kosteretz interviewing Pat Flood on Thurs, April 7, 2022,for Campus Covid Stories. Student Tiffany Gebhard is also with us. Campus Covid Stories is a collection of Oral Stories from Students and Staff at the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh about their experiences in the time of COVID. Thank you for sharing your stories with us.
CK: Before we get started could you please state your name and spell it for us.
JPF: My name is Jon Patrick flood. J-O-N P-A-T-R-I-C-K F-L-O-O-D.
CK: Now for the purposes of getting a good audio recording, please tell us againwho you are and what your title is here at UWO.
JPF: My name is Jon Patrick Flood and I'm the main photographer and sometimesvideographer for the marketing department.
CK: Before we dive into your campus covid story, we'd like to get to know you alittle better. Where did you grow up?
JPF: I grew up at an early age in Mansfield, Ohio and moved to Fond du Lac,00:01:00Wisconsin, just before becoming a teenager.
CK: Where did you earn your degree or degrees?
JPF: I got my degree from Colorado State University in Colorado.
CK: How did you end up coming to work at UW Oshkosh?
JPF: I was initially a photojournalist for 15 years and then also doingfreelance work after I last left photojournalism. And in journalism, you meet a lot of people. And somebody I knew in journalism had come to work at the college and rang me up when there was an open position for a photographer and so I gave it a try.
CK: Tell me about your position at UWO pre-COVID? So before March 2020.Describewhat you do, who and what you are responsible for--
JPF: I was basically responsible for people in the marketing department. Wewould get different requests for sports for events for specific marketing materials. And it's my job to show up and figure it out. I show up at a shoot 00:02:00and try to do journalism. Wise, I show up and try to figure out what tells the story best.
CK: Let's move to the early days of COVID --When was the first time you rememberhearing about COVID-19?
JPF: I remember it was in the middle of news cycles. With President Trumpdominating pretty much everything, always speaking up every day. There was like a peppering of announcements about something happening in China and it's coming our way, but it was always overtaken by other things in the news. It wasn't given priority. So I just remember Oh, okay. Yeah, there's something going on. But it didn't look that serious at the time.
CK: What was your initial reaction to the news?
JPF: Yeah, my initial reaction was I wasn't too worried there was I'm starting00:03:00to get used to just it's always something crazy. What's next? What's next? And it was just the what's next?
CK: How would you describe your feelings about the disease itself? What are youroverall thoughts?
JPF: Um, overall thoughts? I was a little cautious. I have a wife with MS. Andso she's immunocompromised. So I was a little more careful than I think normal but not like I'm a germaphobe. But yeah, I don't use the right hand when opening a door, I use the left hand because people don't use it as much. So just little things like that.
CK: Now let's talk about your situation when the University closed the campus in mid-March.
So, we were sent home a week before spring break. What did you do during SpringBreak (March 22-29, 2020)? Travel? Stay home? Isolate?
JPF: Spring Break. It was just a normal spring break for me. I'm not a collegestudent. So I only had a few drinks.
CK: What were your feelings as everything in mid-March started shutting down all00:04:00of a sudden?
JPF: Um, well, I, like I said, I'm a bit older and 52. And by this by now I'velived through enough history, and I was just like, Oh, all right. Here we go. Let's figure this one out. Let's see what happens. I wasn't really I wasn't worried. I was just how do we do this? Just figuring the new thing out.
CK: Do you remember how long you thought the university would be closed? Did you think it would be closed for a long duration of time?
JPF: Initially, they were talking about “oh it would be just a week or two” and I thought this is an interesting hiccup. So I only thought it would be a couple of weeks – three at the most. I thought that would be odd. I didn’t know a university could shut down.
CK: With everything that happened and so quickly, how were you feeling--emotionally?
JPF: Um, well, I was actually not too bad with it. And I could use it felt like00:05:00okay, we'll get a cool break from work. But it was just also new. It was interesting. And I wasn't scared. I was just interested.
CK: Do you remember how long you thought the University would be closed? Did youthink it would be closed for a long time?
JPF: Initially, they were talking about how they'll just be a week or two and Ithought oh, this is an interesting hiccup. So I only thought it was going to be a couple of weeks three at most. I thought that would be honored. I didn't know a university could shut down.
CK: What was decided that needed to be done in the department?
JPF: Our department? Well, basically everything shutting down, I only had somecomputer work to do like archiving. But there, there really wasn't much for me to do with no students. And there really wasn't any prep yet. It was just a, okay, just they were just turning the power off to our jobs. There really wasn't anything for me to do.
CK: With whom did you work most closely to decide your response to COVID-19? Whowas your team?
JPF: Basically, my boss, Darren Pavelski and the videographer, Jason Page, we00:06:00just figured out what you know, what projects we needed to clean up, what needed to be archived and then basically, alright, what is their work? Can we get done now that we have this low?
CK: Some employees' roles were decided as essential, meaning that they wereinstructed to come to work in person. Were you among that group?
JPF: Not during the initial shutdown. But then we did decide that there wasdocumentary stuff that needed to be done. So I started, I started coming before the furlough, I started showing up going okay, we've got to show history here shoot stuff, even though we there's nothing to use it for right now. But just to show an empty campus, which was odd.
CK: Is that what you showed in the pictures?
JPF: Um, yeah, I have a couple galleries where there's just professors doingnothing. They're sitting around killing time.
CK: What did you do when you were furloughed, how did you feel?00:07:00
JPF: Um, I actually chose furlough on purpose because I figured if I choosefurlough that somebody else in the system that they don't have to make take a furlough, I was able to take a furlough. And so yeah, I, I took that I was like, Okay, I've done this before. I'm working in journalism. I've been furloughed before. Did not ever think I'd be furloughed for months at a time though. It's usually just a week or two.
CK: Give a timeline. March 2020, Furloughed, when did you come back? What wasyour first assignment after coming back?
JPF: No, I got told that things were starting to move around campus that theywere doing stuff. So I came back. And the first thing I thought was August 19, I came back for the weirdest thing, a campus tour. So they're giving a tour on campus. And I needed to show that it's not just like any other campus to where 00:08:00the how people are spacing that they're wearing masks, I had to start showing that we were doing something about COVID. And to show that we were working to make this campus again.
CK: This is Tiffany Gebhard for Part 2 of the interview with Pat Flood.
TG: Other than the challenges we've already discussed, what other challenges didyou encounter. Say Fall 2020-21. Please describe what needs to be done to your department, area of responsibility.
JPF: Well, we were trying to show, and to give assurances to people that wantedto come to this campus to prospective students and current students to say we're 00:09:00being safe. We were working, we were doing things that showed we cared and would actually make the students safe. And so it was all, it was weird. You would go around there and there were guys putting bags on chairs, so you wouldn't sit where they were marking places off. There were crews with these spray machines for disinfecting surfaces. It was basically to show, my job was to show that we were doing something, we were doing the right thing, and we were doing it smart. To give confidence to the people that worked here and the students that would come here.
TG: That must have been so crazy to see. Just like people putting things over chairs and spraying things down. I couldn’t imagine that perspective.
JPF: It was interesting. It was history. This has never really happened in the past 100 years. I don’t know what they did in the 1918 pandemic. But, now people in the next 100 years will go “oh, ok this is what they did” whether it was right or wrong. But they’ll have evidence. This is what happened. And so I came at it like a journalist again, this is- this may be boring or this may be exciting but this is what happened. And so history can know about this.00:10:00
TG: What are you most proud of regarding your response to COVID-19? Give me an example.
JPF: I'm actually proud that I decided to take the furlough. So somebody elsedidn't have to, so somebody else could continue to get pay. I was able to survive a few months without pay. So I thought, Alright, I'll do it.
TG: How has your job changed because of this global pandemic? Essentially, whatdo you think COVID has changed permanently in regards to your work?
JPF: Mmm hmm. I don't think much has changed in regard to how I work, I did haveto figure out how less expression came through in photos because of the masks. 00:11:00But I still do like documenting history to think that my stuff will live on into the future. So what I did was basically what any journalist photojournalist would do, and that they did do, they went out and exposed themselves to semi dangerous situations sometimes. Yeah, I went out among people and went, hey, what's going on? Let's show it.
TG: What photos were you capturing?
JPF: Yeah, it was the cleaning, the just how people behaving slightly differentwas kind of hard to sometimes get photos of people together because normally you're laughing having fun while people are six feet apart wearing masks? Are 00:12:00they interacting? I can't really tell. It's yeah, it made it a little bit more challenging.
TG: How did masks alter the story you wanted to tell?
JPF: Yeah, masks. Yeah. The less expression, less emotion comes through. It does mainly come through the eyes. There were a couple, I think I got a couple. Just really tight where the eyes are expressing things, expressing more. But yeah, the masks do hide up, hide a lot. And they muffle sound, you can't tell what people are. What are you saying? Just interacting with people is was did become more challenging.
TG: I know we kind of touched on this before about capturing the chairs and them sanitizing, how did you do your work?
JPF: How did I do? It? My work is mostly assigned. So the other people in the00:13:00marketing crew and the other journalists that are in there, they find that they find the stories and see how they need a photo of this, about this time, about this place. So I would catch an assignment. And I schedule it. And in between assignments is where I kind of catch the life portions. That's just that it's still operating the same way it always has.
TG: Do you have any memorable photos taken in the time of covid?
JPF: I went back and looked at my shots from just before I left and right whenhe came back and there's a couple I noticed. Like it's not the professors weren't doing anything, but they were just trying to fill their time. Without 00:14:00students. They were used to having students there. So I've got a professor in Sage. So I was walking around getting photos of the empty campus and this professor was running, he was exercising, but instead of doing it outside, it was chilly. He was running the halls of Sage, where normally a quick walk will make you run into somebody. And he had paused in well I don't know. I think it's the third floor, where there's an atrium looking out in front of Sage. And he's just looking at the window. His workout equipment is there and he's just kind of looking out. I remember. Wow, there's a professor at a college where normally everything would be bustling, and he's just exhausted trying to work out stress, looking out the window going. There's nobody here! It's kind of sad. There was another one where there's a couple of professors walking around the upstairs of 00:15:00Kolf on the track. The lights were on in the gym. And there's one guy out there, he is really small. You can see him shooting basketball with these two silhouettes of professors. They're just walking around the track. They're like, what do we do? Nobody knew what to do. They were trying to be productive, but there was nothing for them to actually do with no students. They had no idea how to handle classes yet. Nobody knew what to do. There were weeks, it was everybody's just kind of hanging out going, Okay, it's another day and nobody knows what to do. It's, so that was actually one of the more frustrating parts where you don't feel like you can be productive or work towards something. You just have to okay, just wait. Okay, how long can you wait? You need to do something. And so these guys were really frustrated and sad and just wanting to 00:16:00do something. So they would move. That's all you could do is move.
TG: Do you have an image that defined your covid story?
JPF: Um, first of all a few months when I was on furlough. We'd have weeklyfamily zoom meetings where everybody would call them. But yeah, you'd have a drink while on video computer call with friends and family. And yeah, that got old after a while. It's like, no, that's enough. It was fun. But yeah, that's kind of drinking alone. But not really. That's the way we got around it. Because again, there was nothing to do.
TG: Fastforward now in the fall of 2021, vaccines are readily available on campus and, 00:17:00in fact, strongly advocated by administration and the CDC. What were your initial thoughts about the vaccines?
JPF: My initial thoughts about vaccines? Oh, okay. Yes, I do. Remember my wifegot hers pretty quickly because she is in a school district. And she's immunocompromised. So she got hers. And I'm pretty healthy. So I wasn't, I wasn't really worried. But yeah, it was like I got it. I wanted to wait, my I was waiting my turn, like when can I go? I don't want to get in front of the line in front of anybody. But as soon as I could. I called up and said, yeah, it was incredibly easy. They were really eager to give them out. And we got bumped to a month ahead of day because somebody didn't show up for the vaccine, they called today, we've got an opening, you want to come in? Sure. And I didn't have the adverse effects that a lot of people had, they would get the shot and it 00:18:00would make him pretty ill for a day or two. Mine was just like any flu shot. I got it and everything was fine. All three of my shots so far, no problem. But I did want to make sure that I didn't catch anything and bring it home. I wasn't worried about myself. I was worried about others, and then what I might transmit to other people. So I wanted to be safe. But I wasn't worried about myself.
TG: How much do you feel things are getting back to normal? And for that matterwhat is "normal'' to you?
JPF: Oh, my normal doesn't really qualify my normal's kind of odd, I suppose.I'd say we're about 80-85% back to normal. I still stand in line at the Kwik Trip gas station, I still leave a little bit more room than I used to. If somebody in a small area is coughing, okay, you just everybody pays a little bit more attention to it. If somebody has the sniffles, you're not standing so close 00:19:00to them. You're just more aware, it's nobody's coming down on anybody for it. But it's just, it's like a nerve that got exposed. That it still gets tickled every once in a while, that you pay attention to, I imagine that will eventually, eventually go away. I don't remember stories from the 40s of people talking about that big pandemic in 1918, that they're still aware of. It's going to slowly go back to normal and the world is kind of an odd place. It's just what's the next thing and every generation thinks their next thing is oh, it's the biggest thing. Okay, granted, this is pretty bad. This is pretty big. But people worry about this, that, and the other thing, but that's just the cycle, it just keeps going. So I'm not too worried about this, or the next thing, or the next thing after that. Eventually I'll be gone and the generation after you 00:20:00guys will have to worry about the next thing and the next thing, but you just don't get too worried about it. Because when I was young lakes used to catch on fire and the rain used to take the paint off your car, well, that doesn't happen anymore. But now there's other things. So there's always going to be the next thing.
TG: Knowing what you know now, what would you have done differently during thetime of COVID?
JPF: Well, there's things I wish I would have done differently. Like, yeah, Iwish I would have gotten, you know, prison jacked and lifted and done. But no, I sat on Zoom and drank with my family. There's not much else I would have done. It was just, it's interesting. I can go, I mark that one off. What's the next thing?
TG: Now after living and working during the time of COVID, what have you learnedabout yourself and others?
JPF: COVID is really what solidified it. I remember being really excited when00:21:00Trump got elected, but my dad was still alive when Trump was elected in 2016. And he just thought it was hilarious. And I'm like, why is this guy gonna ruin everything. No, son, he's just the next thing. And that's when COVID came, I realized, okay. Yes, yeah, freak out, be a little, be really careful. Do what you can try to do the right thing. But it's just the next thing. Don't stress about it too much. Stress has affected my children, me, everybody so much. It's like, alright, relax a little bit, a little bit. Things will be okay. It's just the next thing. You try to always do the right thing, try to think of the right things. Give the right level of concern. But, really, don't let your head fly off. It's just the next thing.
TG: You are the photographer for our COVID Campus stories. How has that been for you?00:22:00
JPF: This has actually been really cool. I normally have to; I'm makingmarketing materials. So they kind of have to really, hey, happy faces, and cheer, and come here, we are, we're selling a product. It's a good product, and everybody should have it, but it is selling. What is interesting about this is I got to; I don't get to get too artsy with the stuff. While maybe I'm just not able to do this, I was able to go black and white. Because it portrays emotion more, you're not looking, you're not trying to interpret color in your head, which is another piece of information to translate. So it's black and white, emotion really comes through. And in this one, it just kind of organically happened. If you are in the military or in the service, somewhere in the photo and it's not loud. It'll just be in there. They'll be a small flag. I tried to work on things that were in everybody's everyday life. A person came in, they 00:23:00have a notebook in their phone, they're like, oh, should I set these down? Like no, that's that you. Take your phone in their hand, I want the phone, I want the mask, I want all that stuff in the photo, some stuff, we staged a lot like somebody that with an instrument all will hang the mask of the instrument but a lot of it's organic, I just say keep the mask with you just keep your daily stuff with you. Let's take your photo. If there are three quarters all in, it's interesting to include just the regular life. Because again with history in 50 or 100 years, people get all luck and antique iPhone or whatever, they won't have these things. So, it's part of history and the masks and the daily life and everything that they have with them is part of history. It was neat to include this in black and white and they're pretty straight and emotional. Some people are happy. Some people are more straight faced because yeah, this did affect people and was stressful. So there's not a whole lot of selling joy. It's like 00:24:00this is it straight faced. This is what I lived through. This is my story. So hopefully you'll see the photo. Oh, wow, who's this person? Then you'll go into the story that they have to tell, because it's a lot. It's pretty serious.
TG: Thank you for sharing your stories with us. We appreciate your contributionto the Campus Covid Stories at UW Oshkosh.