Living through coronavirus: Middletown waitress working through uncertainty after closures

This feels different than the other health scares Jenny Azwol has experienced.

She has lived through the swine flu, SARS and Ebola.

And now the coronavirus.

“Everybody was scared of all those things,” she said. “But this feels worth being scared of now. It’s kind of scary, really. It doesn’t seem like a media hype. If anything, it’s a under reaction, a late reaction to what we should have been doing.”

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The latest reaction from Gov. Mike DeWine was closing all Ohio restaurants and bars as of 9 p.m. Sunday, though customers are allowed to carry food out or have it delivered. That directly will impact Azwol and the more than 2.5 million waiters and waitresses in the United States.

Azwol is a waitress at Gracie’s, a family-owned restaurant in downtown Middletown.

Her reaction to DeWine’s decision?

“Oh crap this is real now,” she said.

She relies on the minimum wage salary and the tips to support her 2-year-old son, Logan Irvine, and her boyfriend, Matthew Irvine, 34, who works in a local factory. She realizes her hours at Gracie’s will be cut, and thus she will make less money. That’s bad news for someone who says she and her boyfriend live “paycheck to paycheck.”

Azwol, 29, said the owner of the restaurant, Ami Vitori, and her family are supporting employees through the process by helping them with applying for financial assistance.

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She said her family — her mother, who has asthma, also lives with them — is “hoarding money” by placing any extra $1 bills in an envelope. The goal, she said, is to “make it through and have money when we get to the other side.” She has 30 days worth of food and diapers in the house.

She works Thursday through Sunday at Gracie’s and probably will help with carry-outs or delivery until the governor reopens restaurants and bars. Until then, Azwol understands her tips won’t be as high. Tips that normally are $12 to $13 a table will be $2 and $3 for carry-out.

She’s worried about providing for her family. She went to the grocery store and it was out of diapers and baby wipes. She hopes the stores are restocked and she has the money to purchase the necessary items.

“It’s crazy,” she said.

On its Facebook page, Gracie’s said it will remain open for takeout and Door Dash services.

“These are unprecedented times and unsettling for us all,” the post read. “I am peaceful in knowing that we will be okay on the other side of this, whether that means our businesses remain or not. My grandparents did everything for their customers best interest, as do we. Our people are what is most important, our community is what matters.”


We’re looking to profile people throughout our coverage area about how the coronavirus is impacting your daily life. If you’re interested in sharing your story about how you’re affected or adapting to the situation, call Journal-News reporter Rick McCrabb at 513-483-5216 or email

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