On a typical spring day, Amanda Palin looks out her window and sees people crowding the sidewalks rushing to work and taxis braving the traffic. Now, the streets are empty.
The state of New York, which is home to approximately 530 students according to the Registrar’s Report, is the epicenter of the coronavirus in the U.S. According to Johns Hopkins University, as of April 27, there are about 290,000 cases in the state.
Palin, a junior from Elon University, lives in Manhattan, where there are about 160,,000 cases of the coronavirus, which is also known as COVID-19.
“I grew up with a million people on the streets, looking out my window and seeing people,” Palin said. “This is not a reality anymore. Also there is no traffic. This is unheard of in NYC.”
Junior Amanda Hetzel said she realized the seriousness of the outbreak the moment she returned to her home in Long Island. According to Hetzel, the scariest part is not knowing how long social isolation will last.
On April 15, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced he was requiring all New Yorkers to wear masks whenever they are unable to social distance. Both Palin and Hetzel say they always wear a mask and gloves, especially when grocery shopping and walking outside.
Both Palin and Hetzel have friends and family who were diagnosed with the coronavirus. For Hetzel, the most challenging part about quarantine is not being able to see her loved ones.
“We are very close and not being able to see them is sad,” Hetzel said. “Some days we do a drive-by to my grandparent's houses to see how they are doing.”
For many college-aged students, the unknown status of summer jobs is in the forefront of worries.
“I work in a restaurant and I am not sure what will happen with that,” she said. “I also work as a nanny for two families. I question if this job will happen too.”
Meanwhile, Palin has been working for her family beverage-making business, which has been sending protein smoothies to healthcare providers in New York and Boston. Palin says she has found the work very rewarding.
While everyday brings more tragedy, New Yorkers are finding little pieces of positivity, from planned applause for essential workers, to simply being friendly to each other.
“People are saying hello to strangers,” Hetzel said. “I am pretty sure no one wants to feel alone during this situation. Everyone is trying to stay positive despite the bad news that surrounds us every day.”
New York is following a stay-at-home order through May 15. Palin worries that after the end of the COVID-19 pandemic, the city may not be the same one she grew up in. However, she tries not to focus on the negativity.
“I obviously really care about the world around me, but I have learned that I can’t live in fear,” Palin said.