Santa Maria ride-hailing driver, family write letters to loved ones during pandemic
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Santa Maria ride-hailing driver, family write letters to loved ones during pandemic

When the coronavirus pandemic ended classroom instruction for kids in California, ride-hailing driver Kyle Carter and his two daughters started writing letters to loved ones across the world. 

Carter, 35, and his wife, Carmela, came up with the idea of a letter-writing campaign to maintain some normalcy in their Santa Maria home and as a creative outlet for daughters Ariceli, 15, and Jaslynne, 11.

It's also a way for them to stay in touch with family and friends who are now harder to visit because of the pandemic. 

"My biggest thing is how people are going to connect," Carter said. "But then you think this is a global event. It's a very unique situation." 

The handwritten "corona quarantine letters" are sent to family in several states, including Texas, Colorado, Wisconsin and to a cousin deployed with the military in Iraq, according to Carter. 

While considered low-tech in the world of smartphones and the internet, the letters are well-received, said Carter, who estimated they have written 20 to 30 since California's stay-at-home order on March 19. 

In one instance, Ariceli and Jaslynne wrote a letter to their great-grandparents in Alabama, who responded by sending pictures, Carter said. 

The correspondence offers a glimpse into how the pandemic has affected people in other parts of the world. Because the state was the first to issue a stay-at-home order, letters indicate to Carter that California is ahead of the curve. 

"Family is experiencing a week or so behind what California is experiencing," Carter said. "We've been able to keep each other in the loop, giving people a heads-up on what's going to happen."

Once a routine activity, checking the mail has become more exciting than ever for Ariceli and Jaslynne. 

"It's fun to check the mail these days," Carter said. "It's such a joyous moment in a world of chaos."

Although the pandemic hasn't upended Carter's family as much as it has others, he's had to adjust by switching from driving Uber and Lyft passengers to making restaurant and grocery deliveries due to a drop in ridership. 

Many other ride-hailing drivers have made the switch to food deliveries given the reluctance of riders during the days of social distancing. 

Carter stays in touch with fellow drivers through social media groups, where members share supplies and keep each other informed about ride-hailing opportunities. 

"At the end of the day, it's all about community," Carter said. 

Coronavirus Series: Local impact and reaction to COVID-19 on the Central Coast

We are working hard to get answers about the impact and reaction to the coronavirus in Santa Barbara County, this is a collection of those stories. Do you have a question about coronavirus in Santa Barbara County? The Santa Maria Times news staff will work to answer your questions. Post them to our Facebook page, or email MCooley@SantaMariaTimes.com.  You can support the work of local journalists working hard in your hometown by signing up for a News+ Membership online

The series “Our neighbors: Living through a pandemic” is a collection of short vignettes highlighting the struggle and the hope of residents quarantined on the Central Coast. Through their stories it becomes clear that we really are facing the coronavirus together.

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