“When I was in high school….,” the prepositional phrase before a convivial event such as prom or graduation. This is supposed to be one of the most memorable times in a person’s life, filled with self discovery, first kisses, cramming for tests, late night milkshakes with friends, and even heartbreak.
Living in a pandemic, quarantined in a bubble, when someone does go out it is legally required to wear a mask. The more daunting truth, no one knows when this will end.
Many seniors across the nation are all feeling the same way right now, gypped out of their high school experiences. I felt this way too, March 11 was my last day at Owego Free Academy before what an original four day weekend spiraled into an extended closure of school with return dates changed time after time with the most recent order from the governor claiming schools will return on May 15; but that isn’t set in stone and is still subject to change. (Note from the editor: Since we went to print, the Governor directed that schools remained closed for the remainder of the academic year. You can read that story here.)
Although the school has rescheduled prom and conversations about graduation are still going on behind the curtain, one thought that races through my mind is, “Will it even be safe to go to prom or my own graduation if restrictions are relaxed?”
Will I be left choosing between a rock and a hard place, of pretending like life has just flipped a switch to normalcy to allow my prom or graduation? Or will I choose to not attend these painfully anticipated and pined for events with such a large gathering of people?
Why would I even have to choose if restrictions are let up, one may ask? If restrictions are eased that means we are out of the woods, right?
Wrong. The truth is, no one cares about Upstate New York. The Governor has talked about potentially turning on Upstate first, before New York City to see what happens here before considering a New York City reopening. If that doesn’t sound like Upstate New York is being used as test subjects to you, then I don’t know what is. After Cuomo’s claims to open New York region by region (Upstate first, obviously), he was asked about the infection rate in Upstate New York versus Downstate New York in which he responded, “We have not done those calibrations yet.”
How does someone lay claims to reopening a part of the state that they govern when they haven’t taken the proper measures to analyze the situation there. Cuomo also stated, “[The] North Country has a totally different situation than New York City.” This completely contradicts his previous statement about not having done the calculations yet on Upstate New York; so how could he possibly know what the situation is like to comment on it or even to form an opinion?
If there is going to be talk about opening Upstate New York before New York City there needs to be more testing done for all counties.
Spectrum News had reported that “Testing of the virus was not readily available in recent weeks outside of New York City,” hence the reason the numbers from Upstate New York may be perceived as lower.
Tioga County has no coronavirus testing locations and the closest to us would be in Broome County, UHS and Lourdes hospitals. The problem you encounter when dealing with rural areas Upstate, for example, people who have mild symptoms may be nestled away perhaps in Candor (in Tioga County), far from the “nearest” testing location in Broome County; this would be approximately a 42 minute drive, and if some people lack transportation or the financial resources (due to recent closings and restrictions) to get to a testing center they will remain untested and their number will go uncounted.
If Upstate reopens solely based on positive test numbers and as people in rural regions come out of their homes and go back to work, it will spread, rendering our quarantine and prior social distancing actions useless. This is a vicious cycle that only testing can help stop; the faster we get as many people as possible tested and the more people who cooperate with social distancing requirements, we will be able to have a life after COVID-19.
Governor Cuomo, despite his imperfections in regards to Upstate New York, has done a tremendous job for the State as a whole during the COVID-19 pandemic. Cuomo has given daily press conferences appealing to the hearts as well as pragmatic sides of all who tune in to listen. Offering facts about the empire state dealing with the crisis and giving comfort with the New York strong attitude.
He has issued some executive orders for all of New York State in an effort to stop the spread and flatten the curve, some of those include shelter in place protocols, closing schools and non essential businesses, requiring people to stay more than 6-feet away from one another, and the most recent requiring face masks / coverings to be worn in public.
Although we don’t know what will happen in the future regarding this pandemic, whether high school seniors will have a prom or graduation, whether the economy will wake back up, will bowling alleys and movie theaters be open for the summer, will schools remain online? What we do know is that life after COVID-19 will be a new normal, one that everyone will have to get used to and make the best of.
Owego Free Academy
Class of 2020
(Note from the editor: Jenny Jacoby is in Chris Evans’ Public Speaking class at Owego Free Academy.)