Reflection after One Year in Quarantine

Arwa Ouali

The first case of COVID-19 was reported on March 4th in New Jersey. Our last day of in person classes was on Friday, March 13, 2020. That night Kearny families received a phone call stating schools would close for two weeks and reopen after the school got control over the situation that unexpectedly came about. After two weeks of distance learning, students were notified that the Kearny district would remain virtual for the remainder of the school year.  Students, parents, and teachers alike were stunned by this unprecedented pandemic and survived until the summer. From March 2021 to the next school year, cases spiked and the situation only got worse. The school remained virtual for the 2020-2021 school year and Kearny students, like thousands of others, are still virtual one year later.

This has truly been a shocking experience. Pandemics are rare and when they do hit, they come with force. This pandemic has mentally taken a toll on me personally, and most likely a majority of others, as I have lost the social connections with friends and have been isolated at home, restrained to the walls of my home. Studying remotely has definitely been a challenge and has left me longing for a return to normal. Concentration has become a task in itself with the constant motion of siblings running back and forth, bored with nothing to do. This pandemic has taken away some of my energy and motivation, but I have nonetheless, persevered and optimistically look at what’s ahead of me as a source of inspiration to continue putting my best work forward.

Throughout this period of quarantine, I have had more time to think about my decisions and the world around me. This pandemic has taught me and countless others to value life because life is short and can be taken away in a sudden. In addition, families have been brought together because everyone is stuck at home. We, as people, have learned to appreciate all the blessings we have and help those who are in need. This pandemic has shown us that we are all people in the end, no matter how we identify or look, and we need to support each other to get through these unprecedented challenges. However, the pandemic has uncovered some vile situations that are occurring right under our noses. The inequality in pay and resources has left minority groups further behind their counterparts and these people have more health conditions/fewer medical centers that have resulted in them contributing to a larger percentage of deaths. When we think of essential workers, we think about doctors and law enforcement workers, but we forget about the everyday grocery workers and truck drivers who put themselves in harm’s way, so we can have food to eat. We have learned to cherish the little things and be thankful for all that we have.

During the lock-down, we have seen the effects of relying on physical interactions and the issues that come with everyone online. Technical issues have been at their highest points and the discrepancies with internet connectivity and the resources one has are more evident, as those who have less are struggling more than the rest. Emotions have been running high with all the stresses and anxiety that come with the restrictions such as lock-downs. Many small businesses have shut down because they can’t afford to remain open and thousands have emigrated out of larger cities in more suburban and rural areas because they can’t keep up with the cost of living. The world has been turned upside down and people have become desperate. The current system hasn’t been able to keep up with the demand and children have been forced to work to provide extra income for their parents who may have seen reduced work hours or loss of a job. The only way to get to the other side of the tunnel is to embrace everyone, lend a hand, and become one giant family.

From living through a pandemic for almost a year now, I can conclude that the issues the pandemic has caused to resurface need to be addressed. The cost of living has risen as minimum wage has stayed the same. Minority groups have been left with less help and everyone has seen the strain on hospital workers as there are not enough beds and oxygen tanks to go around. I have learned that we must lend a hand and donate to those who are in need, because if we were to ever fall down, we would want someone to help us out of it. The current system has shown its flaws and needs to be corrected so we will be prepared in the future.

Moving forward, we need to develop a pandemic plan and have one ready in case something like the COVID-19 pandemic affects us. We need to build trust within communities and make sure that the information the citizens are receiving is valid and truthful. Conspiracies and all the hesitancy needs to be dissolved so that everyone is on the same page and the situation is taken seriously. We must learn to create a system that can reach out to all citizens and take action as quickly and efficiently as possible. If we are ever overcome by another pandemic, we need to get a grip on it immediately and make sure all citizens know the situation is a concern to our safety, and enforce protocol to protect all of us. Next time, we can not let the virus corner us and take as many lives as it did in this pandemic. We ought to stand up and show the virus the strength in community!