Pamela Hunt, mother and personal care aide of Yehoshua Yehudah Jr., cleans his hand. As many people stop wearing masks and resume pre-pandemic outings, Hunt said she feels forgotten. "It looks like it's really going to be a great summer this year, and I want us to be a part of it," Hunt said. Yehyun Kim / ctmirror.org

Despite the persistence of highly contagious strains of COVID-19 in Connecticut and elsewhere, restrictions designed to curb the spread of the virus are more relaxed than ever. 

And while many are resuming travel, dining indoors or attending large gatherings, some who are immune-compromised or care for an immune-suppressed loved one face a very different “new normal,” one in which they feel left behind.

For some who live with or care for people who are immunocompromised, or who themselves are immune-suppressed, the “new normal” is anything but.

Pam Hunt has been extra cautious since the pandemic hit. Her 25-year-old son, Yehoshua, has Trisomy 13, also known as Patau syndrome, a genetic disorder that can cause seizures, decreased muscle tone, intellectual disabilities and skeletal abnormalities, among other conditions.

Yehoshua is deaf-blind, has cognitive disabilities and relies on the use of a wheelchair, his mother said.

“He’s just an amazing young man,” she said. “He wasn’t supposed to live to be a year old. So to know that he’s going to celebrate 26 years next month, that’s an accomplishment.”

Keeping her son safe from COVID-19 means forgoing get-togethers with family and friends, talking to visitors from their cars, skipping activities like the movies, and limiting trips out of the home to what’s necessary, such as doctor appointments or grocery store runs.

“It’s not so much I’m afraid for myself; I’m afraid that I might bring something back here,” said Hunt, a breast cancer survivor who lives in Norwich. Along with the other risks, Yehoshua relies on his sense of touch and smell, and some COVID patients have lost their sense of smell.

As many people stop wearing masks and resume pre-pandemic outings, Hunt said she feels forgotten.

“It’s like there’s a part of us that are being left behind, because the majority of people are quote-unquote normal and healthy, can just get up and go, and kind of live life in this new normal,” she said. “But then there’s so many of us who don’t have that luxury.”

Pamela Hunt, left, and Yehoshua Yehudah Jr. spend time in their backyard because she feels unsafe in public places where many people don’t wear masks. “Our alternative, we have to stay home and hear about it, read about it,” Hunt said. “It’s just gonna be kind of sad for those people who can’t really get out and enjoy life as we want to.” Yehyun Kim / ctmirror.org

To Hunt, the message seems to be, “We got to go with the majority, and the majority of people can handle this new normal. This is for the good of ‘the more.’ … ‘We’re going on with life and the world’s going on. And hopefully one day you can rejoin us, but if not, good luck.’”

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Yehyun KimPhotojournalist

Yehyun joined CT Mirror in June 2020 as a photojournalist and a Report For America Corps Member. Her role at CT Mirror is to tell visual stories about the impact of public policy on individuals and communities in Connecticut. Prior to joining CT Mirror, Yehyun photographed community news in Victoria, Texas and was a photo and video intern at USA TODAY and at Acadia National Park in Maine. She holds a master’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri-Columbia. Yehyun was born and raised in South Korea.

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Jenna CarlessoHealth Reporter

Jenna is CT Mirror’s Health Reporter, focusing on health access, affordability, quality, equity and disparities, social determinants of health, health system planning, infrastructure, processes, information systems, and other health policy. Before joining CT Mirror Jenna was a reporter at The Hartford Courant for 10 years, where she consistently won statewide and regional awards. Jenna has a Master of Science degree in Interactive Media from Quinnipiac University and a Bachelor or Arts degree in Journalism from Grand Valley State University.