On January 20th, the first case of COVID-19, the disease caused by the new strain of coronavirus, was reported in the United States. Ever since then, reports of cases continue to grow exponentially with states all around the country shutting down schools and workplaces. Hospitals throughout the County in hard hit New York are preparing for an onslaught of cases as virus testing ramps-up and have begun to repurpose their facilities to treat coronavirus patients. On March 18th, President Trump signed the Families First Coronavirus Response Act which expanded access to testing, food and medical aid.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the virus is thought to spread mainly from person-to-person or from contact with contaminated surfaces. Due to this, both secondary schools and higher education institutions all around New York have been shuttered and are being replaced by remote or distance learning. The CDC has also introduced the concept of social distancing and self-quarantine within towns and communities in order to prevent the spread of the disease. At the individual level, this means maintaining a personal distance of six-to-ten feet while in a public space. At the community level, it means banning large gatherings in places of worship, restaurants, sporting events and gyms to mention a few.
Social distancing is widely supported and is quickly becoming the norm in many households. However, many people are experiencing feelings of isolation in their homes.
Caroline Gershman, a junior at Horace Greeley High School is one of them. While being self-quarantined in her house, she realizes that there are restrictions from many of the daily activities she used to partake in.
“Quarantine wasn’t so bad at first because it just felt like a long vacation. Now, I feel a little trapped because I’ve barely seen my friends or done any of the normal activities that I would’ve done to pass the time,” Gershman asserts. “The worst part is probably knowing that this could go on for an undetermined amount of time.”
However some others are not experiencing the feelings of confinement that Gershman is describing as internet use explodes. For that reason alone, Ethan Wecksell, a sixth grader at Bell Middle School, hasn’t felt the effects of self-quarantining. “On the weekdays I use Zoom to talk to my friends and teachers. I don’t feel the need to cope with quarantining yet. Because I’m talking to my friends over Zoom, my life hasn’t really changed.” With the increased amount of time students are spending at home, it is worth questioning whether they are spending more time with family members. “The ratio of time I spend with my family members to time on screens is 7 to 3, but there is also a gray zone where I am on the screens with my family members.”
Regardless of the dramatic changes to their daily lives, people are discovering how their daily routines have changed during this unprecedented period.
Town resident, Cat Wecksell describes how being at home all day made her reflect on how she lived her life.
“Things are less rushed around the house and I do feel like we have had a moment to exhale. Even just reading some of my activity cancellations makes me realize how much I was running around and taking them places, and how hectic that was.” She also describes how being in quarantine at home impacts her familial relationships. “I really try to strike a balance for family time. There are times we all are together, but also time to be apart which I think is very important, especially under these conditions. Also, we are having dinner together every night – actually almost every meal together. Before we would try to have dinner a few times a week together but sometimes people had activities and we had to be divided at dinner time.”
However, both school closures and social distancing are creating feelings of disappointment among high school seniors looking forward to graduation and prom. Zain Jafar, a senior at Horace Greeley, explains how social distancing has impacted him. “I think I speak for any senior currently when I say this entire situation has really brought an abrupt stop to our senior year. For many of us, the next few months were supposed to be a euphoric stream of lasting memories. There was so much to look forward to.” However, he also sees the silver lining: “One advantage of the quarantine is that I’ve been able to be in the company of my family, without the normal distractions. It’s really nostalgic: I feel like a little kid again, happily watching movies and playing board games with my parents and my siblings. Something about that feels right just before I leave for college.”
The COVID-19 virus and its impacts on broad swaths of society is unprecedented in modern times. The responses and actions not only as a local community, but as a nation during this period will allow us to reflect on the lessons that can be learned in order that we can all be better prepared for possible future occurrences.