How have you seen COVID-19 affect your community?
It’s been so strange for me to live in an area where people don’t seem to be taking COVID-19 seriously. There’s this incredible discord between the feeling of urgency expressed by public health officials every day and the lax attitude of individuals failing to take even basic precautionary measures. Just the other day, I was walking down my neighborhood when I saw a group of eight elderly people chatting together in the middle of the street without masks, less than three feet of space between them. People have no problem buying all the toilet paper and hand sanitizer in town, yet when it comes to following the actual recommendations of public health officials, so much of my community seems deaf.
I live in an incredibly liberal city and in a fairly liberal neighborhood. The response I have seen has been pretty amazing. People abide by stay-at-home orders, exercise social distancing at the parks, and, for the most part, wear masks. The majority of people who live in my area are young families, so there is a pretty high incentive for people to stay protected. My main haunt, the grocery store, looks similar to my neighborhood demographic-wise. Even the elderly are taking necessary precautions. The only exception to this is the protests. In Downtown, about 25 minutes from where I live, there have recently been a series of peaceful protests. Some protesters seem to be following social distancing practices, but that is not true across the board. From a public health viewpoint, this is concerning, but ultimately, the cause is more important.
COVID-19 has brought about vastly different and unjust experiences for Kenyans. I feel extremely lucky and blessed to live in a household that hasn’t been affected as much as others have, since my parents are able to work remotely without any drastic financial impacts. However, our family is one of very few, and that financial stability is not something most Kenyans can attest to. Because of the high poverty rates and the nature of the informal employment in Kenya and Africa as a whole, many have opted against observing social distancing and stay-at-home guidelines — they simply can’t afford to. Many lament that they’d rather die of a virus than die of hunger, the latter being something they can control. You really can’t blame them, especially as our government, drowning in debt, not only does not have the resources to offer relief funds to all suffering families, but also lacks enough resources to adequately test, and thus, attempt to control the virus — and all this, in the wake of other confounding variables such as floods that have rendered nearly 200,000 homeless in just three weeks. The dichotomy in experiences with COVID-19 is very real and amplified, especially during such a time of global distress. It only reminds me, once again, to appreciate my privileges everyday and to do what I can to help others in the midst, even if it’s as small as staying home simply because I can.
In the past several months, COVID-19 has, without a doubt, upended many people’s worlds. Many losses, both big and small, have made this period of quarantine difficult for many. At home, my community has been decently accepting of social distancing guidelines, taking care to wear masks and gloves and staying away from each other when outside. Still, there’s a lingering sense of fear that has festered into hate and suspicion. Though people wear masks and gloves now, they didn’t always think that was right; there was a time when those who didn’t wear personal protective equipment refused to accept those who did. Going to the grocery store is already bad enough given the virus and social distancing, but getting suspicious glances always makes the experience just that much worse. Still, my community has been spared the worst of the virus’ impacts, and for that I’m eternally grateful.
Los Angeles, CA
By watching a family friend run a restaurant in downtown L.A. during the coronavirus pandemic, I have been able to further educate myself about the tremendous effects COVID-19 has had on food businesses. Many restaurants are facing various concerns such as sanitary issues and fewer customers. Likewise, worries surrounding physical contact have escalated: both consumers and restaurant staff are wary of the spread of coronavirus through even the slightest possible physical interaction. I, personally, have also been careful about getting take-out from restaurants, preferring home-cooked meals most of the time. Furthermore, with dining-in prohibited, restaurants have been forced to shift to take-out only. As most restaurants — even ones that were dine-in-only prior to the pandemic — are now using delivery platforms, competition among businesses has proliferated with companies fighting to attract customers’ attention.
COVID-19 brought about abrupt goodbyes, a sudden end to our sense of normality, and waves of fear. Despite these changes, the response to the virus in my local community was admirable as people made sure to isolate themselves and reduce any risks of the virus spreading. However, I can’t say the same about Canada as a whole. As a university student whose school year has been cut short and who takes extra precautions even when meeting a handful of people, I couldn’t help but notice the ignorance and irresponsible nature of university students at other schools. Hundreds of students from a select number of universities in Ontario continued to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day out on the streets with zero acknowledgment of the impact their actions might have on communities nearby. When local news networks asked about why they had proceeded to follow through on celebrating St. Patrick’s Day during an especially vulnerable time, the students had shown their belief that the virus is selective in impact and, as such, only the elderly population is at risk. In witnessing how COVID-19 has impacted Canada, I can say that it has brought out some good, some bad, revealing a hint of ignorance. However, this statement, I assume, holds true for most countries in which the virus has brought out a divide in actions taken by its residents and the opinions that have been formed along the way.
As a first-year student in college, I was really excited about my second semester because I loved all of my professors and had started to make many new friendships. However, the announcement on March 12 about my school closing down within the next five days was not only devastating but also stressful, as I had only a few days to figure out plane tickets and pack everything up. The next few days felt very long and gloomy. Every day, there would be updates of several deaths and hundreds of cases within the Boston area. However, the situation back home in Cache Valley, a county located in the northern part of Utah, was drastically different. With no deaths and only a few cases, I found myself in a relaxed and care-free environment where nobody was wearing masks and groups of people would go eat out and attend parties. My valley never seemed to have closed down. With the exception of a few restaurants closing down or limiting their number of customers, it felt as if the pandemic did not exist in this area.
With that being said, the pandemic was due to hit my area sometime this summer. I thought it was impossible for everything to be alright when people are freely going out without masks and being care-free. Now, Cache Valley is tied with hundreds of new cases every day. As the situation gets worse, I have been staying at home and self-isolating. The transition from a care-free to a panicked environment seems to have occurred overnight, showing how quickly the virus can spread even in a small suburban area.
Ariel Hyunseo Kim
Seoul, South Korea
Some everyday changes I’ve noticed in Seoul:
Masks: Thankfully, wearing a mask is something most Koreans are accustomed to, especially in the spring, due to yellow dust. I’ve noticed that it’s a lot easier for Koreans to not only find but also wear masks in public without stigma or fear during this time. Most stores or restaurants prevent those who are not wearing masks from entering their facilities.
Antimicrobial copper: There are copper ion covers, on which the SARS-CoV-2 virus is unable to stick effectively or for long periods of time, on elevator buttons and door handles in most buildings.
Hand sanitizers: There are also hand sanitizers inside nearly every elevator and entrance. Some places will ask you to clean off your hands using their hand sanitizer before you enter their facility.
Checking temperature: Though not done in every store or restaurant, many popular facilities have implemented more formal systems to check and record everyone’s temperature to filter out those who may be at risk of spreading the virus.
Nightclubs, karaoke, and other nightlife: Since the very recent outbreak in Korea caused by Itaewon clubbers, the government has decided to shut down all nightclubs, karaoke stores, and other closed-off and intimate spaces to prevent further spread of the virus. Many bars that are not closed have implemented strict health check systems.
Dhahran, Saudi Arabia
How has COVID-19 affected my community? Well, here in Dhahran, things have changed a lot, with many of those changes affecting us as citizens, too. The community is pretty empty, but there are still groups of people going out all the time, almost as if there isn’t a virus going around. People do wear masks, but when they are by themselves and there is no security around, they take them off.
We had a 24-hour curfew at one point that I think that was very helpful because the amount of cases started decreasing. As a community, we have all been more supportive of each other and are more aware of the things we do. Security has become more alert of everything by doing things like driving many rounds in a certain area.
Now we are progressing through the phases of reopening so things can go back to normal. This includes things like malls, flights, restaurants, etc. I personally think that with everything opening up again, things will get worse, but we also can’t live in isolation forever. With the closing of schools and many activities, it really has shown everyone how grateful we need to be for everything and how we need to stick together to make things work.
Like most Californian residents, I live in a fairly liberal area, so much of my community was relieved when Governor Newsom issued the stay-at-home order. However, there are always a few people who believe that they are invincible, taking graduation photos with a slew of other people, grocery shopping without masks, and, in extreme cases, asininely protesting the quarantine itself (I don’t get it either).
One of my history teachers once told me to never imagine the past in hypotheticals, but when the news that cases could have been more controlled had we reacted days earlier escaped, it’s hard not to. If Newsom’s order had been issued on March 9 instead of March 19, where would we be? If we weren’t harassed by President Donald Trump’s legacy of misinformation and refutation of science, where would we be? I don’t know; some things just can’t be answered with precipitate, rash tweets.
Las Vegas, NV
My city is heavy on tourism, so it is strange to see it almost silent due to COVID-19. All of the major buildings along the skyline are closed. I live in the suburbs, so when I take walks, I do see some occasional golfers, bikers, and fellow strollers. Otherwise, it is all very quiet.
North Haven, CT
It is interesting how much you can observe the community from the window in my office. While studying, Zooming, or writing, I’ve seen several instances in which an entourage of cars will make their way into the cul-de-sac in a parade-like procession. People waving signs, overzealous honking, and the occasional person dressed in an inflatable dinosaur costume have become common scenes that I have witnessed during the quarantine 'new normal'. Needless to say, COVID-19 has certainly not stopped the North Haven community from continuing to celebrate birthdays, graduations, and other momentous events.
In general, though, COVID-19 has seen an outpouring of positivity in the community with people hanging up signs and doodling on the sidewalk with chalk to thank the essential workers. This is something I really do appreciate and hope will continue beyond the COVID-19 era.
Seongnam, South Korea
Being part of a community that has been able to combat the COVID pandemic effectively through constructive health measures and efficient quarantine systems by the government, many high school students in Korea have been able to go back to school. In terms of my school, Korea International School, the first allowed back on campus were seniors, who went back starting May 20th. My school went through some big, essential changes to help keep students safe at school for a few weeks until summer break.
Cafeteria: There are plastic sliders to maintain social distance regulations that were set by the government when students go back to school. When we enter the cafeteria, we are assigned seats and can only take off our masks when we sit down in the divided spaces.
Schedule: Before the COVID pandemic, all high school students went to the cafeteria for lunch at the same time, then headed to their advisory classrooms or clubs. However, after the COVID-19, lunch has been divided into 3 different time slots to maintain social distance. Also, we all have designated walking paths after each class to maintain social distance.
Entrance doors: Before class begins each day, everybody must get their health questionnaire (COVID-19 survey) checked off at all drop-off locations. When it is checked off, the students move onto the next station where there are thermal cameras and hand sanitizers.
Photo courtesy of Korea International School Instagram