Affinity teens share their experiences as Covid-19 shakes up global norms
Note: The information below is current as of March 16, 2020. Updated information around-the-clock on the novel coronavirus and how to stay safe can be found on the World Health Organisation’s website here.
The novel coronavirus Covid-19 has wreaked a kind of havoc across the world in the last two months, causing bouts of panic buying, touring bands to call off concerts, and forcing many affected communities into lockdown (as well as generating a fair share of toilet paper memes).
The virus’ deadly impact on the elderly has been widely reported, but teenagers from around the world have also been dragged into coronavirus panic and preparations. Many schools have opted to postpone back-to-school dates, while others have closed altogether. As of March 14, Education Week reported that at least 57,000 K-12 schools had closed across the U.S., affecting as many as 25.8 million students. Students have had to pick up ‘e-learning’ en masse, though many are raising questions about feasibility. In their local communities, teenagers report “hysteria” of all kinds.
To get a better idea of how Covid-19 is affecting teenagers worldwide, Affinity talked to its global network of writers on what it’s like where they live.
Huda Z, staff writer
Hi! I am in Iran and the virus has been here for a while and though things were very scary initially, they’re slowly coming under control now. A significant amount of patients have been discharged from the hospitals and quarantine wards after they recovered. Our educational institutions have been closed for almost a month now and all the classes, including those of primary and secondary school, have been shifted to virtual platforms, so we’re still studying from home. Of course, it’s not the same as in-person classes, but at least we’re not losing much time. We’re doing all our grocery and other shopping online. All pharmacies are instructed to give out free face masks and disinfectants on public funds per a set quota. The IRGC’s (Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps) volunteer group is the most active these days. They’re going door-to-door distributing disinfectants, gloves and surgical masks. Per a new announcement, we’re required not to leave our homes as the streets are being disinfected countrywide and the army has announced that every resident will be visited and tested for the virus within the next ten days. We won’t get to travel these Nowruz (Iranian New Year) holidays as all the tourist spots within the countries have been closed down and it’s quite difficult to find flights abroad.
Minseo Park, Arts & Culture Staff Writer
South Korea has the fourth most confirmed cases. We’re staying at home mostly, but we’re also not overly careful. The Korean school year usually starts in March. In 2020, the first day of school for Seoul schools was supposed to be March 2, but it was pushed to the 9th and then to the 23rd. We picked up our textbooks and my school, in particular, has assigned homework and pages to self-study. Many schools have decided to push back summer break. On the healthcare side, South Korea is doing very well. Over 250,000 people have been tested in a short amount of time and more are getting tested every day. A text alert informs citizens if there is a confirmed case within the vicinity. People can call a direct line (1339) for help and information. Infrastructures have been set and medical professionals are working around the clock to minimize damages. Although South Korea was one of the earliest victims of the virus, I can freely say that I feel at more at ease due to the healthcare systems set in place.
NEW: today’s update of coronavirus case trajectory tracker introduces some improvements
• Malaysia is added, and appears on a similar path to Japan
• Iran & Italy paths shifted by one day to better reflect when they reached 100 cases
— John Burn-Murdoch (@jburnmurdoch) March 14, 2020
Daryl Perry, Arts & Culture Staff Writer
The total number of Maryland coronavirus cases has risen to 26 people and we have had our first community case of the virus. Our state’s public schools are closed from March 16 to March 27, and Governor Larry Hogan introduced an emergency order to guarantee child care for “providers of healthcare, emergency medical services, law enforcement, and other services” during this school closure to prevent the spread of the virus. My college, the University of Maryland, College Park has extended our spring break for an extra week, making it two weeks total. Following our extended spring break, we have two weeks of online classes. I am a journalism major, so while my lectures won’t be affected too much, we probably won’t be able to have guest speakers as we did at the beginning of the semester. And with our extended break, professors have to change their syllabi to make sure their classes end before finals week. Online classes will be a massive shift, and my philosophy class will be shrunk down to 15-minute pre-recorded videos, with our discussion being transitioned to an online board. Students had to move out for four weeks with little notice, and most international students can’t go back home. This situation is stressful for both students and professors, and our administration has encouraged social distancing (which is extremely difficult, especially if you haven’t seen some of your friends in over a year). I’m hoping for the best, and in the meantime, hoping my national government makes more ethical decisions, like my state’s government.
Mia Vittimberga, Arts & Culture Staff Writer
The total number of coronavirus cases in Massachusetts went up to 123 on Friday, which is 15 more than we had on Thursday. Our governor has declared a state of emergency and banned gatherings of over 250 people. My high school has extended its spring break by a week, making it three weeks total. After our break, we’ll be taking classes online. All my classes this term are academic — Spanish, Science, and Algebra 2 — but some of my friends are taking classes that won’t be possible to do online, like Film Photography (you need a darkroom to develop photos) or Sculpture. I’m not sure how my school will address that. While no one has died from it in Massachusetts yet, tensions are still very high. Supermarkets are overflowing with people stocking up in case of a lockdown (the most commonly bought items are pasta and toilet paper if you’re curious) and places that are typically bustling with crowds like Harvard Square are scarily empty. I can only hope that everything will be under control soon. But I think it’ll get worse before it gets better.
Eric Chang, Feminism Staff Writer
In Georgia, counties from all across the state have officially begun to close, with waiting periods ranging from two weeks too much longer if needed. In terms of state affairs, Brian Kemp declared a public health emergency as over 60 cases had been confirmed in the state, and as of March 15, the presidential primary has been postponed. Beyond that, every major tourist site has been closed, including Zoo Atlanta as well as Fox Theatre. In Fulton County, after two employees have tested positive for Covid-19, every school has been sanitized and cleaned for the past week, and everything will be going digital for the next two weeks. There are two-hour lectures every day to replace class time, with teachers sending out various assignments to be completed online. Meals are also being provided for students that need them, and they are delivered on weekdays. Nearly every supermarket is consistently packed, as people are flooding the gates for toilet paper, soap, and other items. They are limited to two items each, but the price of various goods has risen dramatically. Many of the students here are still oblivious to the fact that danger is near and are instead celebrating their free time away from school. I believe that the situation will get much worse very soon and that the sentiment around me will shift once a student tests positive.
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You may have seen that today we announced a range of major steps to further protect the health of New Zealanders and reduce the transmission of COVID-19. Below is a quick summary: 1. We have increased New Zealand’s border restrictions. This now means that anyone entering New Zealand from any country aside from the Pacific Islands is required to self-isolate for 14 days on arrival. This decision will mean New Zealand will have some of the widest ranging and toughest border restrictions in the world. 2. We also announced a temporary ban on all cruise ships coming into New Zealand. This will be in place from midnight tonight until at least 30 June 2020. 3. New border restrictions apply to people, not products. We will be working to ensure we keep freight routes open for imports and exports – so there’s no need to rush out and stock up at the supermarket. 4. Protecting New Zealanders health is our number one focus and we’re taking strong actions to respond to the changing global situation, however, all New Zealanders have a role to play in stopping further spread of the virus. Stay home if you’re unwell and keep up simple things like washing your hands and sneezing or coughing into your elbow. 5. We are also encouraging New Zealanders to avoid all non-essential travel overseas. This helps reduce the risk of a New Zealander bringing COVID-19 back with them. If you’re on Facebook, you can see more details on my page. As always though, if you have any questions, do post them below and I’ll try my best to cover them in another update. Till then, stay tuned for details of our business continuity and support plan, which will be announced on Tuesday.
San Diego, California, USA
Joanna Hou, Politics & Books Staff Writer
Everything was going along smoothly in San Diego and particularly in schools until this past Thursday when Mayor Kevin Faulkner declared a state of emergency because the cases shot up from one to seven in one day. Community spread has been detected and led to widespread panic. Our local grocery stores are completely out of every canned and packaged goods. Schools in San Diego almost all abruptly closed on Friday, March 13, but especially in public schools, teachers have had to struggle with trying to create last-minute plans because no one thought the conditions would be so critical. San Diego’s school closures are all varied, but most schools plan to re-assess on April 6. While all teachers try to figure things out, one school branch has had it worse than all others: our performing arts classes and programs. We were supposed to conduct a fundraising gala for our programs, which desperately need money, but those events had to be canceled. Our band directors are struggling to see how we can take band online and simply handed us a couple of pieces to try and learn during our month off of school. Thankfully, our schools have continued to provide free and reduced meal services to students during this time to aid those in need, which is positive during this dark time.
Omaha, Nebraska, USA
Elle Ward, International Staff Writer
The coronavirus was seen as an aggrandized empty threat throughout Nebraska until Thursday, March 12, when the Big East basketball tournament, featuring Creighton University, was shut down at halftime and the fans were ushered out. Soon, the College World Series, the University of Nebraska Lincoln, the University of Nebraska Omaha, and the University of Nebraska Medical Center all followed suit. Before you knew it, the stores had all been raided and people were selling toilet paper rolls outside for $20 a pop. My school shut down that following Friday and started training teachers on how to teach us online, as our governor recently announced that he is prepared to close down Nebraska schools for 6-8 weeks should we start to get community-spread cases. This would affect our state ACT testing, amongst other things such as A.P. tests and SAT IIs, making the college applications coming up in fall, difficult territory to navigate for current juniors. I believe it would be best for people to continue social-distancing and start taking the virus seriously, as the quicker we stop the spread, the faster we can get back to our normal lives.
Matteo Di Maio, staff writer
We’ve been fairly isolated from the virus and the viral panic here. We had a respite from news reports over the last six days, and three further cases were confirmed in the last two days. There is little evidence of person-to-person transmission here, with the majority of cases either foreign nationals or Kiwis returning from a hotspot abroad. We’re taking a precautionary approach, it seems. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has announced New Zealand will enforce self-isolation for everyone entering the country (including returning Kiwis), and limits on gatherings over 500 have been put in place. Covid-19 seems more of an international issue than something affecting us right here though. My school is operating normally, and most students seem unaffected by worry about the virus; the one year anniversary of the March 15 Christchurch terror attacks occupy a bigger space in the student consciousness currently. Needless to say, our national press has quickly sensationalised the crisis — the NZ Herald ran a “World War V” headline a couple of weeks ago. But in the Waikato, everyone seems to be calm and my local paper has yet to run more than two stories on it. Many foreign language trips have been called off over the last few days, though, which has brought it all closer to home.
Being an island at the bottom of the world definitely helps in times like these!
Fatima Rizwan, Feminism Staff writer
Qatar has confirmed 238 new cases and the count has been rising totaling at least 320 as of March 13, 2020. The State of Qatar has taken necessary precautions by closing schools, universities, public places and a few shopping malls to restrict a crowd. They have also implemented a travel ban from 14 countries. The diagnosed individuals are in quarantine to ensure the safety of other residents. This global pandemic has caused residents to be distressed as they impatiently wait to be reunited with their traveling family members. Academic institutions have introduced online classes for students to carry on with their courses. The ‘work from home’ system has been implemented across all public companies and institutions. A common feeling shared by most residents is of assurance. They feel safe as Qatar has prioritized their safety and well-being. However, the reality is troublesome and it is only through a personal and global commitment can we witness a safer environment.
Rosiana Putri, Arts and Culture Staff Writer
Things escalated quickly and got scary real fast. Yesterday, March 13, there were sixty-nine confirmed cases and now, March 14, just or less a day later, the confirmed cases escalated to ninety-six. With just roughly eleven days from the two first confirmed cases, this has been a drastic escalation. Some universities, especially those in Jakarta, have been ordered to do online classes. While in West Java, specifically my university, we have just been told to take online classes too – even though not as drastic as in Jakarta- and stop any events that have many people involved. Schools in Jakarta also have been ordered to be closed for about two weeks. According to CNN Indonesia, the virus has already spread to five cities in Java and also in Manado (Celebes), Pontianak (Borneo) and Bali. There have been five deaths and thankfully, even though just a small number, eight people healed. Things here might not be as drastic as in other countries that have been affected earlier. However, it is still a scary thing to experience, especially as a college student who lives away from parents and family. I wish everyone safety and please, try to stay calm and stay healthy.
Featured image via Theonlysilentbob