Stephanie Wudarski (PA): ‘I Started to Exhibit Symptoms Myself and Realized How Serious This May Be’
Stephani Wudarski (30), a Democrat from Pittsburgh, PA, does not belong to a synagogue but attends High Holy Day services with her family and went to Israel on Birthright. She works for a managed Medicaid company and has a background treating substance use disorders. She was a passionate supporter of Kamala Harris and volunteered for her campaign until Harris dropped out of the race in December.
What do you think about the federal response to the coronavirus pandemic?
The federal response is better late than never. My bar for the Trump administration is pretty low, so on one hand I am mildly, pleasantly surprised they seem to be taking this seriously now. On the other hand, the whole response has highlighted complete dysfunction and how not to run the government.
What do you think about the response in your state/community?
I think Governor Tom Wolf has responded proportionally. So far, public schools are closed for two weeks in addition to non-essential businesses. He made an emergency declaration quickly after the first two positive cases in Pennsylvania. I am satisfied with how the state is handling the situation.
Has the threat from the virus been overblown?
I thought it was overblown initially, but mostly because my mother would not stop sending me articles and minute to minute updates. From a macro-public health standpoint, I think the response lagged and was underwhelming if anything. I also started to exhibit symptoms myself and realized how serious this may be.
Has the threat from the virus not been taken seriously enough?
I think we are getting there but not there yet. There are still far too many people who are going out to public spaces. Also, the White House has done a terrible job at modeling social distancing. A recent press conference in the Rose Garden was insanely irresponsible. Reporters were sitting very close to one another and officials were sharing the mic and shaking hands with Trump. It was, for the lack of a better word, stupid.
What measures have you taken in your own life to protect yourself and others from the virus?
I have exhibited symptoms myself. On March 11, I started to have a sore throat and chest pain. I figured the chest pain was anxiety related. Then I developed shortness of breath and a dry cough with some other uncomfortable symptoms. I don’t have a fever though, so I am not likely to ever get tested. I was not scheduled to start working remotely until Monday of this week, but out of caution, stayed out of the office on Sunday (a normal workday for me). I have not gone out much at all, especially as my symptoms progressed to the point I felt it was more likely than not that I am positive. I am still sharing a living space with my husband, but figured by now, if I am positive, there is no way to really shield him from it. So, we are spending a lot of time at home. I have done two virtual physician appointments; the first time due to not really knowing what I should do and/or if I should show up to an urgent care. The second time, I was looking to see if I could somehow get tested. The short answer is, it is very unlikely I will ever get approved while symptomatic.
During the most recent debate, who do you think was strongest in responding to questions about the pandemic—Joe Biden or Bernie Sanders? Who do you think won the debate?
Generally, I think Joe Biden has struck the right tone of encouraging us to listen to experts and of being a leader in a time of a crisis. I also thought it was fantastic that he made a point that Medicare-for-All would not stop this pandemic—just look at France. From all the data I saw, it appeared as if people thought Joe Biden won, which is no surprise at this point. It is hard to test this because people have confirmation bias, but really, it sounded like Bernie was not that great at showing how to be a leader in a crisis.
Is there anything else you’d like to share with us?
The primary for all intents and purposes is over but I really hope Bernie drops out and puts the party and country first. It would have been important to unite early in the process regardless of the pandemic, but now, there really is an argument to be made that he is literally putting lives at risk by continuing in the race and forcing states to make difficult decisions about how to hold primaries.