Country Reaches COVID Anniversary

I often hear people remark that they recall exactly where they were and what they were
doing when Kennedy was assassinated or when the Twin Towers were struck by two
commercial airliners. Although I was not alive during either of those events, I will always
remember how it felt when our world shut down due to COVID.
On Thursday March 12, 2020, The Prep declared a long weekend to sanitize the
school. Students were initially ecstatic, as they looked forward to a couple of days off from
school. What a way to start the third trimester! However, as surrounding schools and
workplaces began closing first for a month, and then longer, it hinted that something bigger than
just “a couple days off” from school was looming on the horizon.

Initially, people’s first instinct would have been to make plans with their friends and
maybe go out for food. However, due to new regulations put into effect by Governors
nationwide, such routine activities became prohibited indefinitely. Standardized college testing,
like the SATs, came to a grinding halt. High School juniors were left wondering how this would
affect their upcoming college applications. Upcoming college visits were also quickly wiped off
the table. COVID was initially thought to only rapidly spread during the colder seasons. With
Summer around the corner, many were hopeful that this outbreak would slow in the warmer

Few realized yet how much this would change the world. While in-person classes were
still put on hold, there wasn’t much else to do. March Madness, a huge college basketball
tournament and one of the biggest annual sporting events, was cancelled. Sports leagues that
were in-season were suspended. For many, there was nothing to watch on TV at night.
Streaming services like Netflix and Hulu saw their subscriber count soar. Many were afraid to
leave their houses, and risk putting their own and their family’s lives in danger. Masks, hand
sanitizers, toilet paper, and other necessities were instantly sold out. Supermarkets started
limiting the number of customers allowed entry. People speculated about whether the food
would run out or what would happen if the grocery stores closed. The public did not know how
long this later-called “pandemic” would keep them indoors.

In the coming weeks, Seton Hall Prep and all schools extended their at-home mandate
for the remaining school term. Now, it was up for schools and work places to figure out how they
would continue the year. Cancelling school for the remainder of the year was not a reasonable
choice, since there were two and a half months left. With research into virtual platforms, school
and work place administrators found apps like Zoom and Microsoft Teams to cater to their
needs. In the coming months, Zoom became a $9.2 billion dollar company. Microsoft Teams
also saw ramped up activity due to the pandemic.

Fast forward exactly one year post-pandemic declaration and we see how much the
world has changed. People learned the new rules and have adapted to the many new
requirements: mask wearing has become a regular occurrence, hand sanitizer is around every
corner, and six-foot distancing is the new norm. COVID tests are offered at many local
pharmacies, with results returning in just a few days. Sporting venues are beginning to reopen
to the public. One example is Madison Square Garden, home of the New York Knicks and
Rangers. MSG is offering 10% capacity for upcoming home games. It requires its spectators to
produce a negative PCR test, taken within 72 hours of game day. New York City has recently
re-opened indoor dining, as an addition to its options of spaced outdoor tables and even tables
inside their own bubble or “igloo.”

Activities that were once called normal have seen alternate methods due to COVID’s
impact. The emergence of vaccines are predicted to reduce the severity of COVID illness,
hospitalizations and death. The availability and accessibility of such vaccines can help the
world pivot in the right direction. Although masks are still required at indoor places for now,
hopefully America will be back on track to returning to a maskless, full capacity life in the
not-too-distant future.