Bean Photo

Amanda Bullock Vanhook often wears a mask when out shopping during flu season. She is concerned about viruses in general, not just COVID-19, due to a compromised immune system.

Amanda “Bean” Bullock Vanhook can’t escape the effects of the coronavirus outbreak.

The Somerset resident is being hit from all sides. She’s a tattoo artist – an independent contractor at Ink Envy – whose job got put on the shelf due to Governor Andy Beshear’s orders to shutter non-essential public-facing businesses.

She a member of the Somerset City Council, but her role there has been limited due to the cancellation of council meetings.

And on top of all that, she has a compromised immune system. She suffers from a condition called ulcerative colitis, which requires immune system suppressing medicine to treat.

“My shop got shut down. City council has been canceled. I have to stay at home,” she laments.

Still, she is trying to keep her spirits up.

“I made the joke on Facebook that we're all being forced into our New Year's resolutions,” she said, meaning that we’re all being forced to work less, take time out for family, going out to eat less and not going to bars.

“I'm trying to stay positive and trying to say that maybe this will be better for us in the long run,” she said.

Part of that betterment is from cleaning and sanitizing practices she sees others doing for the first time that she feels should have been in place already.

“For the sake of people like me and people like the elderly,” she said.

She sees people being more mindful, businesses sanitizing frequently-touched items more often, and other things.

Vanhook’s condition is an inflammatory condition in which sores are created in her lower intestine.

“My immune system is what’s attacking me,” she explained.

That’s why she has to take an auto-injector to suppress her immune system and stem the effects of the condition.

During flu season, she often leaves the house wearing a mask and other personal protective equipment. Any disease, including the flu, could be detrimental to her.

If she sees any signs of upper respiratory infection, it’s an immediate trip to her doctor, she said.

So even before the state and country began taking precautions, Vanhook had been keeping an eye on the spread of COVID-19.

Although in her 30s and being younger than most of those who have died from the virus, she feels that if she were to get it, she would definitely show symptoms and may have severe complications from it.

At her workplace, she had made requirements of her clients. She was doing tattoos by appointment only, not allowing clients to bring anyone with them, and asking anyone who was sick to reschedule.

She said that her clients were aware of her situation and were very accommodating.

“I was in a very good position to keep going because of the privacy,” she said.

But then the governor's order came down, and she was forced to close shop. She said she was sad about that, but added, “I'm happy to comply when it comes down to it.”

Her husband, Brandon Vanhook, continues to work at Cracker Barrel, which gives the household a little income. She admits she has to “sanitize her husband” when he comes back through the door every time he goes to work.

She is also still getting her paycheck for being a city councilor, although her duties are limited. She said she is still getting a few phone calls from concerned citizens, but rather than the usual calls on street or park issues, she’s fielding questions about how city utilities will operate and whether out of town family will be shut out of the city.

Vanhook assures them that the city is not restricting travel right now, and that their water, sanitation and electricity will continue to work just as it always has.

She knows she is in a better position financially than some in the community, but she said she is still concerned about bills, since major expenses like car insurance are coming due.

When all this is over, she knows she will have the ability to go back to her job, too.

“Once we have the ability to open, I can just book myself solid until I get caught up,” she said, but is well aware that other’s can’t do the same.

And that is where the emotional toll of the virus outbreak reaches Vanhook. She knows there are so many in need, but she cannot always help because of her own health.

She said she wants to watch children for those who don’t have childcare right now. She wants to pick up groceries and medicine for those in need. She simply can’t do that and continue to keep herself safe.

“I'm wanting to be out helping, but I'm one of the compromised people, and I just can't,” she said.

She said she does see people in the community pulling together, though, and she is thankful for that.

“I would like to see more,” she said, “but I've seen a lot of people picking up medicines, giving rides.”

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