Coronavirus highlights importance of optimism


Graphic by Kaela Dockray '20

From school closures to unemployment to the coronavirus’ tremendous death toll on the U.S. population, this pandemic has affected every facet of society.

Making sense of these past few weeks has not been easy. From the lines of anxious shoppers donning masks outside grocery stores to headlines stating that the coronavirus’ death toll has now surpassed 50,000 in the US alone, it feels as though we are living in a dystopian universe taken from a scene in “Contagion.”

Given the tragedy that has come to define society today, lamenting over the potential of not having a Senior Prom or a high school graduation feels both trivial and narcissistic. I myself have struggled to accept that March 11 was possibly the last day I walked the halls of Staples as a high school student; yet, I understand that there are far more dire concerns that we must face. 

Although I am nostalgic and somewhat wistful about how my secondary education is wrapping up, the historic weight of this pandemic has forced me to recognize the importance of putting these thoughts in perspective. 

For me, this pandemic marks one of the first times in my life where everything feels uncertain. These past four years of focusing on college admissions and what I will make of this next stage of my life seems inconsequential, as I now try to wrap my head around the reality that my next chapter could very well begin in the confines of my own home. 

But as the coronavirus continues to disproportionately impact minorities and vulnerable communities — forcing millions of Americans to wonder where their next meal will come from or how to even file for unemployment insurance — it has become evident that this crisis means something different to each of us.

According to the Los Angeles Times, in Michigan, African Americans have made up 41% of the city’s deaths due to Covid-19, despite representing only 14% of the state’s population. In Chicago,  black residents have accounted for 72% of the deaths, though they comprise only 20% of the population.

The coronavirus is anything other than “the great equalizer,” as Madonna claimed in a recent video to her fans. Instead, this pandemic exacerbates the sad reality that the dysfunction in America’s healthcare system is divided along racial lines. 

It is therefore more important than ever to try to remain optimistic. And there are silver linings to celebrate. As data from the National School Safety Center makes clear, last month was the first March without a school shooting since 2002. Additionally, the lockdown measures imposed across the world have caused air pollution to drop to unprecedented levels. People in Punjab, India say that they can see the Himalayas for the first time in over 30 years. According to CNBC, there has been a 60% decrease in fine particulate matter in New Delhi alone. 

These past few months have also given me the opportunity to spend much-needed time with my family before I leave for college — whenever that may be. From daily dog walks with my parents to virtual Passover seders and zoom calls with my entire extended family, I am able to appreciate the importance of finding a way, however unconventional, to stay connected to the people I care about most.

This pandemic has brought people together, providing an unparalleled sense of community. I have seen lines of cars filled with friends shouting, honking and holding signs to celebrate birthdays. Teenagers run errands for their senior neighbors who are confined by the coronavirus. In New York, residents even started a social media campaign called #ClapBecauseWeCare to applaud healthcare workers who are battling on the frontlines. The selflessness and unity brought about by Covid-19 is something to celebrate. 

Reaching the second semester of my senior year was something that I looked forward to for as long as I can remember. I will not allow this crisis to diminish this milestone or our collective achievements as a graduating class, even if the end of our senior year looks far different than what we had anticipated. And while the possibility of a traditional senior internship feels unlikely, we are all gaining critical life lessons regarding uncertainty and resilience in the face of tragedy.