Saira Rodriguez

From April to May, New York City was the hotspot of the coronavirus pandemic. On March 16, all New York schools ceased physical classes and announced plans for remote learning until April 20. 

As cases in New York rose, the reopening of schools was postponed repeatedly. Finally, the state decided that remote learning was the safest course of action for the remainder of the academic year.  

“I thought we would have a short break, and then go back to school,” Helena Baruch from Trinity School said.

The New York State on Pause Program, issued on March 22, ordered all non-essential workers to remain at home. This program was issued a week before New York reported more cases than any other country, besides the U.S., according to the New York State Assembly website. 

The city was desolate and deprived of the influx of life that once crowded its streets as the fear of contracting the coronavirus spread. For the youth of New York, the first sign of change was the transition to distance learning. 

“I occupied my time with online school and homework,” Baruch said, “but I was taking a lot of breaks because it was straining on my eyes, head and back when sitting in one place all day.”

By altering adolescents’ education in such a terse manner, students found it harder to find motivation to learn.

Baruch described online classes as “mentally draining.” She said that it “was harder to engage in class because of the difficulty of having a fluid conversation via a computer screen.” 

Madyson Hills, a student at LaGuardia High School, said that distance learning was more stressful than attending school. However, the stress distracted her from the current events and fears of the pandemic.

“Living in New York, everything is rushed, and there are a lot of people crowding the streets. But when cases rose, everyone was inside. That abrupt change felt like everything had been taken away. It makes you feel numb,” Hills said.

From constantly traveling outside and sticking to a daily regime, to having an abrupt intrusion of the pandemic and being thrown into a “new normal” exclusively indoors, students were disoriented and alarmed. 

Cameron Dada, a student from Repertory Company High School, said “I was just confused. I wasn’t sure how the pandemic would affect me or my family and that worried me.” 

Throughout quarantine, many teens — like Bishop Loughlin student Julian Mirville — feared the possibility of contracting the virus and transmitting it to high-risk family members. 

“My greatest fear was giving the virus to my grandmother. I’d rather lay in a bed of snakes than spread the coronavirus to my family,” Mirville said. 

Teenagers like Baruch and Dada longed for the little things in their prior daily routines, like taking the subway and eating at restaurants with friends. The danger and uncertainty of COVID-19 deprived the youth of physical connections with loved ones — outside of one’s family — throwing them into a spiral of longing, yet forcing them to have hope for the future.

Baruch said, “I missed the natural bonds we [built] by physically seeing each other everyday, but what helped me was having a positive outlook for the future.”

Despite limited physical interactions, teens have connected with one another via social media. Social media has served as an outlet for the youth to learn about current events, as well as collaborate on creating a platform for activism. Many students have created social media campaigns and various publications aimed to spread awareness about the pandemic, environmental and social justice issues, and policy reform. 

Hills said, “We’re the ones taking up social media. Now we are more aware of injustices and global issues, and we’re starting to realize that our voices matter as well.” 

New York is currently in Phase Four of reopening.