People set up an emergency field hospital to aid in the COVID-19 pandemic in Central Park on March 30, 2020 in New York City. Stephanie Keith/Getty Images

COVID-19 in NYC

Trying to focus on the positives during the Coronavirus.

“Wash your hands for twenty seconds.” This simple instruction dominates my life right now as the whole world grapples with the spread of the COVID-19 virus.

In what seems like the blink of an eye, my daily routines and entire existence have changed. Like all other high school students in New York City, I am now learning remotely from home because all schools are closed for at least a month and likely longer. We use platforms like Zoom for class discussions and check-ins and Google Classroom for daily assignments. This is completely different from past celebratory “snow days” when school would close for a day and we would play outside freely; instead, this “new normal” means I am homebound all day, I walk outside briefly at a distance of six feet away from others and I am isolated from all of my friends and teachers.

As I try to imagine what my future life will look like, it is hard to know the full impact of this virus. Thankfully, my family and friends are healthy, but will someone I care about test positive and suffer from this terrible virus? Will “social distancing” and latex gloves, surgical masks and hand sanitizers be a part of my life forever? How soon will an effective vaccine arrive and end the long lines at Costco, the cancellation of school and sports, the ban on social gatherings and the postponement of the 2020 Olympics? 

My Jewish identity and sense of community are also adapting to this difficult Coronavirus time period. My family’s synagogue building has closed temporarily, so now we participate virtually by celebrating Shabbat services and Havdalah on a live stream together with other congregants. Watching and listening to Jewish services and prayers uplifts my family and puts my grandparents who live with us most at ease. 

While my home of New York City works hard to contain the local spread of COVID-19, I try to follow what is happening around the world because we are all battling against this global pandemic. I try to understand the different approaches and actions of various countries, including massive testing and enforced lockdowns of target cities.

By mid-March, China had suffered 3,199 deaths out of 80,849 cases. Some of China’s strategies include neighborhood lockdowns and the closure of small businesses. In Italy, there have been 21,157 cases and 1,441 people have died. Similar to China, Italy has closed many stores and all schools and universities in the north, where the outbreak has been most severe. In Iran, there have been 13,938 cases and 724 deaths. Iran has limited the hours of major tourist attractions such as palaces, museums, and historical sites; they have also closed all schools and universities until Nowruz, the Iranian New Year’s Eve on March 20. Many countries have taken similar precautions in order to mitigate the spread and severity of the virus. It is important that we all remember to learn from others and take action.

I long for the days before this COVID-19 outbreak and I pray and hope for a speedy end to this devastation. I remind myself to value the things I typically take for granted: good health, freedoms and rights, family and community and school, among many others. I also remind myself to appreciate the service and selflessness of first responders and hospital workers who care for others despite risks to themselves. Next time I am with my classmates in school or playing soccer with my teammates, I will remember this extended and isolated time at home and remind myself to not take anything for granted.  

Sarah Phillips is a freshman at The Spence School in Manhattan.

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