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Annet Quevedo, Melissa Palomo

-- Anett Quevedo 00:00

Today is November 15, 2020. My name is Annette Quevedo, and I'm interviewing Melissa Palomo for the University Library Special Collections and Archives at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley, hereafter abbreviated as UTRGV. This project is in partnership with the Voces Oral History Center at the University of Texas at Austin. Please know, Ms. Palomo, that this interview will be placed in the University Library Special Collections and Archives at UTRGV and shared with the Voces Oral History Center at the University of Texas at Austin. If there's anything you do not wish to answer or talk about, I will honor your wishes. Also, if there is something you want to talk about, please bring it up and we'll talk about it. The University Library Special Collections and Archives will archive your interview along with any other photographs and other documentation you're willing to share. UTRGV University Library will retain copyright and non-exclusive rights to the interview, and other materials you donate to Special Collections and Archives at UTRGV. Because we're not conducting this interview in person, I need to record you consenting to make sure you agree with our interview procedures before we continue. So, I'll ask you a series of six questions. Please say, “Yes, I agree,” or “No, I do not agree” after each question. Do you give University Libraries Special Collections and Archives at UTRGV consent to archive your interview and your materials at the UTRGV University Library?

-- Melissa Palomo

Yes, I agree.

-- Anett Quevedo

Do you grant UTRGV University Library Special Collections and Archives right, title, and interest in copyright over the interview and any materials you provide?

-- Melissa Palomo

Yes, I agree.

-- Anett Quevedo

Do you agree to allow UTRGV University Libraries Special Collections and Archives to post this interview on the internet, where it may be viewed by people around the world?

-- Melissa Palomo

Yes, I agree.

-- Anett Quevedo

Do you grant the University Library Special Collections and Archives consent to share your Zoom interview with the Voces Oral History Center at the University of Texas at Austin for inclusion in the Voces of a Pandemic Oral History mini project which will include posting the interview on the internet?

-- Melissa Palomo 02:08

Yes, I agree.

-- Anett Quevedo 02:10

As you recall, we previously filled out a pre-interview form. We use information from the pre-interview form to help in research. The entire form is kept in a secure Voces server at the University of Texas at Austin. Before Voces sends it to UTRGV University Library Special Collections and Archives, we would have stripped out any contact information for yourself or family members, so that will not be part of your public file. Your public file will only be accessible at UTRGV University Library. The final two questions ask for your consent on what I just described. Do you wish for us to share the rest of your interview and your public file available to researchers at UTRGV University Library Special Collections and Archives?

-- Melissa Palomo 02:53

Yes, I agree.

-- Anett Quevedo 02:56

On occasion, UTRGV Special Collections and Archives and Voces receive requests from journalists who wish to contact our interview subjects. We only deal with legitimate news outlets. Do you give consent for us to share your phone numbers, or your email, with journalists?

-- Melissa Palomo

Yes, I agree.

-- Anett Quevedo

Thank you for your consent. Your experiences and stories mean a lot to us at UTRGV Special Collections and Archives. I look forward for all you have to say in the interview questions I will now ask. My first question to you would be to tell me a little bit about yourself.

-- Melissa Palomo 03:34

I am currently a student here at UTRGV. I did just transfer. I'm a junior. I'm a full-time student, full time employee.

-- Anett Quevedo 03:49

Okay, how did you come to find out about the virus?

-- Melissa Palomo 03:55

Um, social media. I had seen this video of how the virus affected people in China and how serious it was. So yeah, that's how I first heard about it.

-- Anett Quevedo 04:12

Did you take any precautions when you found out about the virus or did you think it wouldn't come to the United States?

-- Melissa Palomo 04:19

Honestly, I didn't. I didn't even think it was going to come to the United States. I was very ignorant about it. Um, so yeah.

-- Anett Quevedo 04:32

What made you start taking the virus seriously?

-- Melissa Palomo 04:37

Just hearing stories about people who actually went through the virus, and hearing, like, the deaths, the amount of people that have died and how it was really hard to bounce back after like getting it. So yeah.

-- Anett Quevedo 04:59

How did you feel about the lockdown?

-- Melissa Palomo 05:03

At first, I was disappointed because it was very sudden. And I mean, obviously, we had to follow the rules. And I mean, it's just…it was it was hard transitioning from, you know, going out and not being afraid of getting or catching this virus, to staying indoors and, you know, living in fear.

-- Anett Quevedo 05:27

And how has school been since the Pandemic began?

-- Melissa Palomo 05:31

Extremely difficult, um, just the fact that it went offline. I mean--offline, I'm sorry, that it went online. Um, it's just, it's different. It's a different way of receiving your education when you're used to, you know, getting, like in-person instruction.

-- Anett Quevedo 05:52

Since you did say, you just transferred schools, how was it your first semester at a different school, like transferring now to UTRGV?

-- Melissa Palomo 06:02

Um, not the experience I wanted. Just because I mean, everything's online. You know, I was looking forward to actually going to school--to a new school, and having like, face to face classes, you know, getting used to new environment, new people.

-- Anett Quevedo 06:24

Do you feel satisfied with how the university has handled COVID-19?

-- Melissa Palomo 06:30

I would, I would say, so, yeah. I've had pretty bad experiences I'd say with some of my professors. Um, when I spoke to them about, you know…I mean, I did get this virus. So, whenever I needed a little bit of help, you know, with assignments and stuff like that, it's sometimes very hard to reach out to them and, like, get the help I need. Or I felt like, some of my friends weren't understanding my situation. So, it's been kind of tough.

-- Anett Quevedo 07:02

If you could have done anything differently, by the way the university handled it, what would you have done?

-- Melissa Palomo 07:09

Can you repeat that again, please?

-- Anett Quevedo 07:12

So you're saying that you're having problems with your professors and them not understanding your situation. So if you were to change anything about how they've handled it, what would you have done?

-- Melissa Palomo 07:27

Um, well, I mean, it's kind of hard because I have to understand that…I mean, I'm not the only one dealing with this pandemic and dealing with like the changes, because I'm pretty sure as professors, they are having a hard time adjusting as well. Since I mean, everybody has been used to like in-person instruction and you know, like teaching for them. So, I'd say, I don't know maybe just be more like, aware of emails or on top of things just because it is their profession to you know, be, or have communication with their students, especially in times like these.

-- Anett Quevedo 08:09

Since you mentioned that you're a full-time employee, are you considered an essential worker?

-- Melissa Palomo 08:17


-- Anett Quevedo 08:20

And when did you go back to work?

-- Melissa Palomo 08:23

I'm actually going back to work tomorrow after not working for three weeks. I got…I got laid off because I had COVID.

-- Anett Quevedo 08:37

So when did you get a job? Was that when we were in quarantine? Or was it after quarantine was lifted?

-- Melissa Palomo 08:47

Hmm…I'd say…I think quarantine was still a thing, yeah.

-- Anett Quevedo 08:56

So if you didn't…did you experience being on lockdown, and after lockdown was lifted, them calling you back?

-- Melissa Palomo 09:07

No, I actually applied…

-- Anett Quevedo

Oh, okay.

-- Melissa Palomo

…when we were in lockdown still. I mean, that's why I was working like a little bit of hours. Just because, um, you know how like, stores changed their hours, their opening hours and closing hours?

-- Anett Quevedo


-- Melissa Palomo

So it was during quarantine.

-- Anett Quevedo 09:24

Okay, so has your workplace taken precautions that have made you feel safe?

-- Melissa Palomo

Yes, they have.

-- Anett Quevedo

What are those precautions?

-- Melissa Palomo 09:33

My boss actually provided us with face masks, face shields. You know, have hand sanitizer all around the store. And I mean, one of our jobs was to constantly sanitize the store every time customers would come in, touch like a pin pad, or touch products, and stuff like that.

-- Anett Quevedo 09:53

Yeah. So have customers respected the precautions set in your workplace?

-- Melissa Palomo 09:58

Somewhat. Some of them do get mad that they are required to wear a mask before entering the stores.

-- Anett Quevedo 10:07

So, have you ever had to get into an altercation because someone didn't want to follow the rules?

-- Melissa Palomo 10:12

I have. Um, it was actually this customer who didn't want to wear a mask. They were very upset at the fact that I had to let them know that before coming into the store, they needed to put on their mask. And they were very stubborn on not wearing it because they believed that the virus wasn't real.

-- Anett Quevedo 10:31


-- Melissa Palomo 10:32

So yeah.

-- Anett Quevedo 10:35

Since you did mention you got sick, have you lost time, and or income from work due to the COVID?

-- Melissa Palomo 10:42

Yes, I have.

-- Anett Quevedo 10:44

So how did you contract the virus?

-- Melissa Palomo 10:47

My parents went out of town for like, two weekends straight. And I mean, I was back home by myself, or actually, with my brother, and once they came back, I noticed that my dad started feeling sick, as well as my younger sister. So we went to go get tested, and that's how we contracted it. I mean, through them.

-- Anett Quevedo 11:13

And you currently live with your family, correct?

-- Melissa Palomo 11:16


-- Anett Quevedo 11:17

How many are you guys?

-- Melissa Palomo 11:20

Five in total, counting me.

-- Anett Quevedo 11:23

And what were the first symptoms you or your family felt?

-- Melissa Palomo 11:28

Fever, and loss of smell and taste.

-- Anett Quevedo 11:34

And you mentioned you got tested, so what type of test did you and your family take?

-- Melissa Palomo 11:40

So first, we had the one where they put like a cotton swab up your nose, and blood taken out. We got tested like three times.

-- Anett Quevedo 11:55

Why three times?

-- Melissa Palomo 11:57

Because the first time that we got tested was just to check it like we did have it, of course. And my dad and my sister tested positive, but my mom, my brother and myself tested negative. So, then the second time that I went to go get tested, um, was because I started like getting symptoms, but I still came out negative. So, I'd say the first two tests we did were like false negatives. So then by the third time that I got tested again…you see these tests are different. The first two tests were the same. But the third test that I got was…it was like, they still put on the cotton swab up your nose, but like, it was deeper and and it really hurt. Yeah, that one was very uncomfortable. And I mean, test results came in, and sure enough, I did come back positive. So yeah.

-- Anett Quevedo 12:55

And you think the first two came out negative because they didn't properly do the swab test?

-- Melissa Palomo 13:01

Um, I'd say so.

-- Anett Quevedo 13:05

And all three tests, they were the swab testing and the blood, the blood test as well?

-- Melissa Palomo 13:11

No, the first two were, the last one wasn't.

-- Anett Quevedo 13:16

Oh, okay. How did the doctors and nurses handle you coming out positive with COVID?

-- Melissa Palomo 13:23

Um, they handled it pretty well…well, the doctor. But the one that, like, did the test run was very, like, harsh. Um, I don't know, if it's because they constantly deal with, you know, clients that actually have COVID and they're scared or something, which makes sense. But I mean, after that, once I got prescribed medication from the actual doctor, they were very, positive about the recovery process and just like, motivating, because, you know, getting COVID is not like something to take lightly.

-- Anett Quevedo 14:09

Yeah. Did you or your family ever feel sick enough to go to the hospital?

-- Melissa Palomo 14:14


-- Anett Quevedo


-- Melissa Palomo

My dad. He is currently on his third week at the hospital. He's the one who, you know, has been suffering the most. Um, he's actually connected to the oxygen tank because he can't breathe on his own, so.

-- Anett Quevedo 14:36

Did you ever have a negative experience with the hospital or like the clinics that you went to?

-- Melissa Palomo 14:42

We did actually. Um, when we went to the emergency room to take my dad so he can get checked, the doctors and nurses didn't speak Spanish. I mean, yeah, didn't speak Spanish, and my parents are Spanish speakers. So, they were rude, and would give them attitude because they wouldn't understand what they would tell each other. So, um, myself and my siblings would help my parents out by calling and like…what's it called…translating what they're trying to say, like back and forth. And I mean, the treatment at the beginning was very harsh. It was very upsetting and very, like nerve-wracking, because you know, they are taking care of one of your family members. And it's like, if you can't communicate well enough with them, then it's just…I don't know. It was very stressful.

-- Anett Quevedo 15:37

Do you think if your parents spoke English, that altercation would have never happened?

-- Melissa Palomo 15:43


-- Anett Quevedo 15:44

You think they not…you don't think they would be rude to you guys if you if your parents spoke English?

-- Melissa Palomo


-- Anett Quevedo

Okay. Have you and your family recovered from COVID?

-- Melissa Palomo 15:58

Um, the ones at home. So my mom, my brother, my sister and myself, yes. We do still, like some of us can't smell or taste food still. So that's something we're going to have to like, overcome, hopefully soon. But my dad still has COVID, which is why he's still in the hospital.

-- Anett Quevedo 16:18

Is there any explanation as to why your dad isn't getting better? And your family and yourself have? Is there any underlying conditions that your dad may have that has put on, like backorder his recovery?

-- Melissa Palomo 16:35

Honestly, I'd say he had he's had like, previous health issues. But like COVID, really, excuse me, attacked him harder, rather than us. Because I mean, it affected his lungs the most. So, I mean, that's one of the main reasons why he's still hospitalized.

-- Anett Quevedo 16:55

Have you lost anyone due to COVID?

-- Melissa Palomo


-- Anett Quevedo

And you mentioned your family, or some of your family members and yourself still can't smell or taste. Do you think that's like a post COVID complication?

-- Melissa Palomo

Most definitely.

-- Anett Quevedo

And do you have any other complications due to COVID?

-- Melissa Palomo 17:15

I'd say, maybe this is weird to say, but I sweat for everything now. And like, I just find everything so hot. Like I'm like I'm constantly hot. And I was never like that; I was actually the complete opposite. I was always cold. So my body has definitely, like, changed a lot, after recovering from COVID.

-- Anett Quevedo 17:41

Yeah. So, then I'm just going to ask a couple final questions to close off this interview. Are you satisfied with the local response to COVID-19, in Alamo and Hidalgo County?

-- Melissa Palomo 17:52


-- Anett Quevedo 17:53

Are you satisfied with the state response to COVID-19 led by Governor Abbott?

-- Melissa Palomo 18:00


-- Anett Quevedo 18:01

And why is that?

-- Melissa Palomo 18:03

I feel like he could put more control over like with like the lockdown and the way he's opened up, like, businesses or like how soon he has opened up businesses or, you know, like public places.

-- Anett Quevedo


-- Melissa Palomo

I just don't, don't think he's done a very good job.

-- Anett Quevedo 18:23

Are you satisfied with the national response to COVID, led by President Donald Trump and his administration?

-- Melissa Palomo

Oh, no.

-- Anett Quevedo

And why is that?

-- Melissa Palomo 18:33

Same reason. I mean, I feel like they…I mean, they speak on the severity of it, but don't really take the right actions. I mean, death rates are still going up like crazy. And it's just like, to this day, we're still struggling with that.

-- Anett Quevedo 18:55

If you had the power to respond to COVID, what would you have done differently, if anything?

-- Melissa Palomo 19:02

I'd say, um, just be very consistent with the rules of lockdown, and extremely strict. I mean, that's the way other countries have done it. And so far, the United States and the type of leadership we've had, it's, it's been horrible, so.

-- Anett Quevedo 19:24

This is a special year in our national democracy because it is a presidential voting year. And my question to you is, did you vote, and if so, did you notice or do anything different because of COVID and the pandemic?

-- Melissa Palomo 19:37

I actually did not vote.

-- Anett Quevedo 19:41

Is there a reason why you didn't vote?

-- Melissa Palomo 19:44

Religious beliefs.

-- Anett Quevedo 19:48

Okay. Was there anything else you would like to share with me about your experiences with COVID that I have not asked about?

-- Melissa Palomo 19:54

Um, no.

-- Anett Quevedo 19:57

Okay, well, this concludes our interview. Thank you for your time with this project, your stories and experiences are valuable to us at UTRGV. And we are committed to preserving the stories of Mexican Americans and Latinos from South Texas and the Rio Grande Valley, and those who work closely with the population during the COVID-19 pandemic.

-- Melissa Palomo 20:22

Thank you.

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