With the unprecedented arrival of the COVID-19 Coronavirus, the country has been struck to its knees. Thousands of businesses and schools have been shut down and each state is being forced to create measures to cope with the hit.
It has now been 54 days since Saint John Vianney High School has closed, and it will stay that way for the rest of the year as of May 4. Previously New Jersey schools were to be opened May 15 under state mandate. Some states such as Arizona, Alabama, California, Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Michigan, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, and six others have already elected to close for the rest of the school year.
The death toll of the virus has now reached 71,921 people and continues to rise. The places we can go and the hours we can leave our homes as well as strict social distancing practices have been put in place in an effort to flatten the curve.
In an attempt to decrease the exponential spread of the virus, critically ill patients in ICU cannot spend their last moments with their loved ones. Not only has the virus separated families, but it has left people feeling alone and fearful of an uncertain future.
As the threat of COVID-19 has continued, the states and the federal government have been divided over how and when America should approach reopening society. Without a formal vaccine or extreme drops in numbers, it is difficult to start thinking about re-opening businesses, therefore bringing people back into close proximity.
SJV Sophomore Carson Salonia spoke on the topic saying “my main concern is all of the small businesses that are being forced to close and all of the unemployed who do not even know when they are going to get back their job.” The unemployment rate has soared from 1.4 million to 7.1 million in March alone. As of April 18, it was announced that there are 22 million unemployed workers in the United States. The stock market has significantly dropped and supplies are going out of stock at increasing rates with a loss of almost 20,000 manufacturing workers in the last few months.
Several states such as Michigan have seen angry protests over citizen’s rights to resume functioning society. Workers are eager to go back to work to earn a salary and employers to earn enough to pay to keep the business running.
There is still the looming fear of the imminent second wave of the virus. While the idea of fixing the economy is tempting, it is important to remember what is at stake. The current fatalities of the virus are being compared to the total number of people killed in the Sept. 11 attacks (3,000) daily, and the unemployment rate compared to that in 1933 during the Great Depression (24.9%) in America alone. It was also released that the amount of deaths in America has now surpassed that of the Vietnam War. This along with many other factors has made a solution increasingly hard to imagine.
Recently President Trump announced that he desired to start opening to the country on May 1, saying that 30 states are in “extremely good shape.” This goal seemed unviable to some states such as California, as Governor Gavin Newsome had already created his own six-point plan keeping the state shut down past Trump’s date. Trump desires to create a set of guidelines for all states to follow but understands that each state is going to face the virus in its own time and that they must wait until they are ready to start business again.
This set of guidelines consists of a three-phase set of plans to get the country back up on its feet. Phase one includes schools remaining closed and as many employees as possible working via computer or telephone. This phase also includes the basic shelter-in-place goals, limiting any travel. Phase two involves a gradual decrease in the restrictions set in place in phase one. The goal of this phase is to prevent a serious second wave or relapse of the virus over recovering states. Finally, phase three consists of finishing the re-opening of society and slowly bringing back social norms into working and learning.
While this plan sounds viable, there is also the factor of time. How long is stage one going to take until the country is ready to make these steps? By this time the economy could have reached an all-time low and the country will have no choice but to very slowly remove restrictions. SJV Sophomore Sophia Gambale concludes “Coronavirus has disrupted everyone’s lives and I think it is going to take a while for people to start living normally again.”
The threat of the virus and limited conditions of the hospitals makes it difficult to even imagine the right time to re-open at this point. Another important factor is to get businesses started again and it would be mandatory schools open so their kids are situated. Average high school hallways are 8 feet wide and with hundreds of kids scattered throughout that hallway, the virus could spread exponentially.
While the infection of teens and children may not seem that life-threatening, it is impossible to know who they are going home to after school. If they are a carrier they could infect other more susceptible members of society, maybe a vulnerable sibling or a grandparent?
High school students are also now having to deal with the repercussions of their absence in the classroom when applying to college.
SJV Junior John Li says “one of my main concerns is how colleges will take the students’ grades into consideration for applications. Many students focus more on grades than extracurriculars like myself and will be greatly impacted negatively.”
The decision that is going to force each state to make the choice when to start phase two is going to be difficult, to say the least. While the virus is greatly impacting each of our lives now we have no idea what a detrimental second wave may look like. SJV Sophomore Frankie D’Amore explained, “certain people aren’t taking it serious enough and could be causing delays to last longer than needed.”
It may seem like this quarantine period is the hardest thing we may face, but the possibility of a second wave could bring unimaginable destruction and fatalities that we have to be wary of. When the country does re-open, at whatever time that may be, the places we may have known will forever be different.
While this shelter in place seems like it is being continuously extended, it is important to remember it is for our own safety, and for those we love. Re-opening the country may seem like the impossible task, but sooner or later we are going to have to face it.