March 13, 2020, was the day that the United States officially shut down. Although COVID-19 had been spreading globally since December 2019, March 13 was when then-president Donald Trump declared the pandemic as a national emergency. Little did anyone know that this situation would prevail much longer than the initial “two weeks.”
The pandemic was a major blow to working families who suddenly found themselves short of a job. Unemployment rates soared and the fragile economy was dangerously close to collapse. Health care workers were working day and night, trying to maintain the overwhelming number of COVID-19 patients. Social activism, such as BLM protests and exposure of Asian xenophobia, reached an all-time high as people spent time online and came together. The political scene also shifted: the 2020 Presidential Election had the highest voter turnout in over a century and Capitol Hill was invaded for the first time since 1812.
There were many personal downfalls to the sudden change as well. “The worst part was definitely not being able to see my family who live out of the country, as my parents and I are the only part of our immediate family living in the US,” said one RHS student. COVID-19 restrictions also caused the cancelation of highly anticipated events such as the 2020 Summer Olympics.
Many students also expressed frustration over the lack of caution during the pandemic. “It literally pains me to have to quarantine and stay home with limited social interaction and then see posts about people partying in big groups without masks,” said one student. Another student said, “I think that it is awful that this virus is still such a large part of our lives, but I am also unfortunately not surprised. I know many people who did not take COVID regulations seriously who have contributed to the length of this lockdown.” Former-president Donald Trump, who gained infamy for his refusal to wear masks, was one of these individuals. It was an ironic moment when he tested positive for COVID, landing him a spot right in the hospital.
However, there were some positive effects of the lockdown as some students discovered more about their own lives. “I definitely learned the importance of life and health over success in academics,” said one student. “Transitioning from a time where school was the only thing on my mind to a time where we were worried about our loved ones dying from this virus, I learned to cherish the important things and people, rather than only prioritizing my own goals.” Another student emphasized the importance of not taking things for granted, “Time can change everything; one minute your plans can be different and the next moment, everything can change.”
One student talked about the future of the pandemic. “We’ve made a lot of mistakes so far,” they said. “But hopefully, we can learn from them and not have to mark a second full year of COVID-19.”
Graphic: Vivian Yuan