Studying in New York City during COVID-19 outbreak

By Brooke Hill | Contributor

When I landed in New York City two months ago, bright-eyed and ready to tackle whatever the city threw at me, I most certainly didn’t picture living in a New York without Broadway, without a Metropolitan Museum and without live TV shows. But after coronavirus cases peaked to 95 Thursday, Broadway has gone dark until further notice, the Metropolitan Museum has closed its doors and both late night TV shows like Saturday Night Live and early morning talk shows like Good Morning America have announced that they will no longer be filming in front of a live studio audience.

So if you’re thinking about taking advantage of the cheap flight prices and hopping on a flight to the Big Apple — don’t. Most of what makes New York, New York isn’t happening anyway.

When it comes to public transportation, there’s no in between — either your subway car is eerily empty during peak rush hour, or it’s packed as ever with everyone glaring at whoever dared to sneeze.

Every hour, there’s a new update. My internship has been having us bring our laptops home for almost two weeks, just in case we were to need to work remotely at any given moment. On Wednesday, we received an email that we would be conducting a work from home “test” on Friday to be aware of any challenges or road bumps that might occur so we would be aware if this became the long-term option.

An hour later, we got an email saying we would be switching to a rotating schedule where we would only come into the office a few days per week. On Thursday, we were told all New York employees across all company offices will be working from home for at least the next two weeks. In less than two days, everything changed.

This is in large part due to the lack of testing that was available in New York state. Tests still aren’t readily available. The governor banned all public meetings larger than 500. But will that even matter if we still aren’t able to test people when they fear they have the virus?

I understand the need for social distancing and the necessity of these preventative measures for the greater good. But the thought of being holed up in my little, only-meant-to-be-lived-in-for-four-months apartment all day, every day makes me want to pull my hair out.

I’m not even really sure what I want to do. On the one hand, I’m very thankful we’re not being forcefully sent home like the study abroad programs, allowing us to continue our professional internships. On the other hand, if I’m not getting to leave my apartment or enjoy the city, what’s the difference between working in my living room here or in Texas?

Obviously, it’s extremely anxiety-inducing to not know what the next few days, weeks, or even hours look like. Plans are constantly changing, and communication is more important than ever. Especially for us seniors, it’s hard not to worry about how this has delayed our graduation and made securing jobs near impossible with the state of the economy up in the air.

Being in the center of one of the largest outbreaks in America, where the only real way of getting around is public transportation, is terrifying. We’re in one of the biggest at-risk areas, away from family and friends, and fearful about what the future holds.

Tests need to be made available right now, and preventative measures should continue to be taken. The panic in this city is palpable, and the fact that almost everything is up in the air is honestly more scary than the virus itself for me. Uncertainty is always scary, but even more so when the whole world is panicking. We need leaders to help calm the public down and slow the spread of the virus, or else who knows how long shortages of food (and yes, even toilet paper for some reason) will last? Society can’t function this way for long, regardless of what part of the country we’re in.

Brooke is a senior journalism and English major from Garland.