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This truck-driving couple’s Brief But Spectacular take on surviving COVID-19

Married couple Chante and Ron Drew are truck drivers transporting groceries and other essential supplies across the country. They take turns driving and sleeping. But when they came down with COVID-19, their ability to hit the road -- and earn an income -- vanished. They offer their Brief But Spectacular take on living through coronavirus.

Read the Full Transcript

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Truck drivers are on the front lines of the pandemic, facing lower pay these days and higher risks, as they deliver much-needed food and supplies.

    Tonight's Brief But Spectacular features Kansas city-based husband and wife truckers Chante and Ron Drew.

    After Ron began experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 last month, producer Steve Goldbloom conducted a series of interviews with the couple over the course of several weeks.

  • Chante Drew:

    Ron and I are a married couple. We drive a team freight across the country. We haul a lot of groceries, a lot of produce, a lot of meats, things like that.

  • Ron Drew:

    Truck drivers, we have always been kind of like — we don't get a lot of respect. We're kind of looked down upon.

    But people saw how crazy things got when their toilet paper ran out. Can you imagine if you go to the grocery store and there's no food in there? I don't know why they're not making more of an effort to get personal equipment for drivers.

    You need us to run, so you can have food.

    We have got two beds. The bottom bed, we leave as a table, so we have some place to sit and eat.

  • Chante Drew:

    When I'm driving, he's sleeping, and when he's sleeping, I'm driving.

  • Ron Drew:

    I first started experiencing symptoms when I was in Phoenix last week, mostly like body aches, hurting in my knees, hurt in my elbows.

    My fever would just spike. And I just start just aching and aching.

  • Chante Drew:

    Hot, cold chills.

  • Ron Drew:

    Hot, cold chills.

    But I trooped it out, got her done.

  • Chante Drew:

    And then we just went today to get his test, finally.

  • Ron Drew:

    You had to crack your window down, and then they just squeegee your sinuses.

  • Chante Drew:

    I figured, since — if Ron's positive, obviously, I will be positive as well. So, we figure, save the testing for somebody else. We have both got it, probably.

  • Ron Drew:

    Hopefully, we will know by Wednesday at the latest.

    I feel horrible. Since Saturday, I have not been able to get really out of bed for anything. I have dropped about 30 pounds. I have never experienced anything like this, where you just — you sleep constantly.

  • Chante Drew:

    We got Ron's COVID test back, and it was positive. I opted at first not to get tested. I figured I'm probably positive.

    But then, after talking to the nurse, she said, it's probably a good idea to go ahead and get tested. I'm not showing too many symptoms, other than just being extremely fatigued. I'm pretty sure that I will test positive.

    We have been in contact with the company that we are leasing a truck from, and they have suspended our truck payments for as long as needed.

    We're probably going to go lay down right now and just rest and recover and hope and pray that nobody else has to go through this.

    I was tested for COVID. I tested negative. Our doctor and the health department both told us to go ahead and assume that I had it, since I had all the same symptoms as Ron.

    The doctor told me that they're getting a lot of false negatives, just with the way that a lot of the people are doing the swab testing. But we have been slowly recovering.

  • Ron Drew:

    One morning you wake up, you feel great. You go outside, just do a couple things, and next thing you know, you're winded, you're in bed, you're sleeping again for 12 hours straight during the day.

    Almost 20 — 22 days, we have been off work. We got turned on to a resource called St. Christopher's Fund, which is for truck drivers. And they ended up making our rent payment for the month.

  • Chante Drew:

    That was huge.

  • Ron Drew:

    Which helped a ton.

    Luckily for us, the company we drive for, they got freight right now.

  • Chante Drew:

    I'm glad our first trip is going out to Seattle. It's always fun going out that way.

  • Ron Drew:

    I just wanted to get back out and get moving.

  • Chante Drew:

    Get the wind in your hair, and get the dogs back out at the rest areas, and do what we do best.

    (LAUGHTER)

  • Ron Drew:

    This thing is no joke. Like, your lung capacity doesn't come back up right away. You still can't taste or smell for God knows how long this is going to be.

    I still get pain in my knees that I didn't have before. Just don't brush it off, thinking, oh, 99 percent of us are going to get well.

    Well, you're not going to get 100 percent well.

  • Chante Drew:

    My advice would be to have compassion for each other, and quit trying to hurry the process of getting back out there and getting back to work, because it'll happen. It's just you have got to listen to the experts.

    Before the pandemic, I think a lot of people didn't realize where their food came from. We have heard friends that have seen signs that people are saying, we love truck drivers.

    Truck drivers have never asked for hazard pay. You know, in fact, our rates have gone down since the pandemic started. So, we're making less overall than when this first started. And we just want to still be able to do our jobs. And I just hope that people don't forget about it as time goes on.

    My name is Chante Drew.

  • Ron Drew:

    My name is Ron Drew.

  • Chante Drew:

    And this is our Brief But Spectacular take on living through COVID-19.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And here at the "NewsHour," we love truck drivers.

    And thank you, Chante and Ron. We're so glad you're better.

    And you can find all of our Brief But Spectacular segments online at PBS.org/NewsHour/Brief.

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