Coronavirus disrupts life at home and across the globe

In New York City, all public schools are closed and students begin transition to online learning.

Cooper Keane

Despite the fact that 2020 has just begun, we have already been forced to face natural disasters, international turmoil, and lately, the outbreak of coronavirus in China. COVID-19, as the virus was named by the World Health Organization, originated in the Wuhan province at a seafood and poultry market where exotic meats were being sold. Coronaviruses, the group of viruses COVID-19 belongs to, are zoonotic, meaning that they are transferred from animals to humans. Bats are believed to be the source of both this outbreak and the SARS pandemic of the early 2000s. As of March 19th, the New York Times reports that more than 221,000 people have been infected worldwide and upwards of 9,000 have died. 

In the United States, Washington state has experienced an explosion of new cases, with 100 new patients reported each day. The death toll has surpassed 60. New York has the most concentrated number of cases in America, with the total exceeding 4,000. The outbreak in New York began with a man from Westchester County who spent time on the Metro North, in Grand Central Station, as well as a synagogue, before being diagnosed with COVID-19. One of the main reasons that the coronavirus is so deadly is that people can have the virus for up to two weeks and not show any symptoms, while still passing it on to others. There is currently no cure for the virus and experts say that a vaccine could be months, or even years, away.

The last of four foreign exchange programs to Italy and France that were scheduled for Spring Break were cancelled. PSAL sports were postponed for the foreseeable future, and many performing arts productions were cancelled as well. Gilby Mitchell, a sophomore set to play a lead in the Spring musical, says that she was really upset to hear that Legally Blonde was cancelled. Mitchell was also supposed to be on the French exchange. “I feel like we are all being denied a year as high school students, since everything that makes high school special is being cancelled. I’m looking forward to when this all blows over and everything can go back to normal.” Mayor Bill De Blasio announced on Sunday that all public schools in the city would be closed and set to reopen after Spring Break, although the April 20th date was not set in stone. On Staten Island, a student who attends the Hungerford School within the New Dorp High School building tested positive for the virus on March 12th. Students were dismissed early and the school underwent a thorough cleaning. Universities across the city, such as St. John’s University, Columbia University, and John Jay University have begun virtual classes as a result of fear surrounding the spread of the virus. 

Besides the health concerns associated with a fast-moving and potentially deadly virus, there has been a rise in xenophobia towards Chinese-Americans. Across the United States, bias and racism are being fueled by the idea that COVID-19 is a “Chinese disease”. Illnesses are a natural part of life, and there is no factual basis for the stigmas that have surrounded the pandemic in the past several months. 

 Basketball, hockey, and baseball have all been cancelled at the national level, as experts warned against events of 500 people or more, although that number has since shrunk to 50. In New York City, Broadway and late night talk shows have been cancelled until at least mid-April. The World Health Organization advises people to exercise typical illness prevention measures, such as washing your hands and sanitation of objects used by multiple people. 

The coming weeks and months are going to be difficult for many students as we transition into online learning. School is a sanctuary for many people in terms of social interaction, support, and even medical care. We encourage everyone to stay updated on the status of programs being offered by the school system, such as Grab-and-Go breakfast and lunch. We hope that we are all back in school soon and that everyone remains healthy in these uncertain times.