A Perspective on Quarantine
by Briana Livelsberger
(note: This article was written before recent events in which people are leaving their homes in the pursuit of justice.)
When I was in fifth grade, I was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis (an autoimmune disease) and was put on medication that also suppressed the immune system (i.e. chemotherapy, biologics). I got the medication on Fridays, around lunch time, so that I could go to school on Monday (after taking the medication, it was advised to avoid contact with others for 48 hours). As a result, my Fridays turned into half days. Since I took immunosuppressants, I wasn’t able to go to school whenever flu and cold season came around. For most, the flu was an annoyance that passed by. However, for those with suppressed immune systems, the flu could turn into pneumonia and become life threatening. For me, even getting a cold was serious because it could cause my autoimmune disease to flare up. It was a chance that was too risky to take. In addition, I was home whenever a classmate was ill in an attempt to avoid getting sick myself and whenever I was sick, I didn’t go to school so that I wouldn’t end up getting something else. I worked from home for more than two-thirds of the year. After the year was over, it was apparent that brick and mortar schooling just wasn’t going to work. So, I was enrolled into an online school and there I stayed until high school graduation (which I did attend in person).
When I first had to stay home from brick and mortar school, I remember feeling angry. I felt angry when I couldn’t go to my club that took place on Fridays after school. I felt angry when I couldn’t be in the holiday play after I got sick because of my weak immune system. I felt angry that I was stuck at home. And, I was angry that when I did go to school I had to wipe off my desk with disinfectant and that everyone else had to do the same because of me. My mom bought mickey mouse masks that I was supposed to wear whenever I went out. I disliked those masks so much. They made me feel like I couldn’t breathe. They also made my face sweaty and made me anxious. I felt hate towards my body and I wondered what I ever did to deserve the total disruption my disease caused me and others. Eventually, I realized that I was more than my disease and that I had a lot to offer the world, which allowed me to love myself.
When the coronavirus first popped up in the US, I was terrified. I was afraid because I knew it would spread and that those with health issues like mine would be particularly susceptible. I was afraid, while many peers at my college seemed to not think much of it. So, I thought that, if it was nearby, the healthy might just brush it off. Especially since I heard a conversation in which people were talking about how it would be a good opportunity to get rid of the older population. I found this idea troubling, not only for the disregard of life towards one generation, but also the fact that no one seemed to think of how others could be affected (such as those with suppressed immune systems or low incomes). Granted, there is a huge divide between the generations, but the ability to belittle the deaths of one group of people makes it seem likely that it would be easy for them to not care when other groups are shown to be affected. But this disregard wasn’t only displayed by my peers. I remember hearing President Trump say, “If you’re healthy, you’re fine.” As someone who is not healthy, I felt I was being told that my life was okay to lose. I felt that the lives of immunocompromised family and friends were made to be unimportant.
Because of what I heard from my peers and President Trump, I worried for the safety of my family and friends. It seemed like a lot of people didn’t care. Even if I was careful, I could still get sick because of others’ irresponsibility. And it seemed that no one outside of those who directly knew me would care.
Ultimately, I was relieved that my college closed and went online. Needing to work from home didn’t phase me because I went to school online before. I was most concerned about adjusting back to working at home and having nowhere to go. I was also worried about how my relationships would hold up since I would see everyone less often. However, I felt that I would adjust and that I would figure out a way to keep my relationships going (both of which have proven true so far).
For many others, the idea of going online was horrible. I remember hearing someone shout that they would rather go to an 8 a.m. class than take classes online. At the time, I felt that was quite harsh (given that I am not a morning person and 8 a.m. classes felt like torture, even with an awesome professor). Plus, an 8 a.m. class with the risk of getting a deadly virus? No thank you! And the complaints that people made on social media annoyed me so much. I remember thinking, “I did this for seven years, it’s not that awful.” I forgot how it first felt when I couldn’t go to school or be around my friends. I forgot how much I struggled to adapt.
I didn’t anticipate that my time at home would be full of anxiety. I’ve been worried for my friends and family, hoping that they don’t catch the virus. I’m also afraid of getting it myself. I don’t want to get the virus. I don’t want to pass it on to anyone else. I don’t want to die. I don’t want my family, my friends, or anyone else to die.
Because of these fears, I can’t understand those who don’t protect themselves when they go outside. I don’t understand the people who think that it is an infringement on their rights to be forced to wear a mask. One person alone can come into contact with many others, who come into contact with many others, and so on and so forth. When one makes the choice to not adhere to these safety guidelines, they take away the ability for others to be healthy. They not only put those who are most susceptible in danger but they also put those who have to leave their homes to work at risk. People say they want the choice to live free, but I want everyone to have the ability to live. I am afraid that this claim of freedom will only take away the freedom of others to live. If there are too many people who have the virus at one time, then more people will die, due to the lack of resources needed to care for the masses.
I understand that it is hard to adjust to a new way of life. But I also know that it is possible to adapt. I did. And many others have as well. I have a lot of respect for those who are staying home as much as possible and go out with protective gear despite their frustrations about adjusting to a new way of life.
In addition, I can’t fully understand the rush to open states back up. I think it’s still too early considering the fact that we still have a lot of cases in the U.S. I am afraid that people will use these re-openings as an excuse to go back to normal instead of staying cautious. I am afraid that the reopening will cause another spike in cases and deaths, as the death toll continues to climb. I understand that there is a lot of fear about losing work, about the economy tanking, and many other losses that would make it harder for us to keep a steady income. However, reopening now puts everyone at risk for the virus and decreases the possibility of the country being able to recover from the virus quickly.
In some ways, my life hasn’t changed much since going into quarantine. Before, I didn’t go out much. However, I would go out for doctor’s appointments. I didn’t like going out when it was hot due to a low heat tolerance. Before, I would try to see my friends on a regular basis, though my health sometimes made it impossible to keep those plans. Now, I see my doctors online. I video chat with my friends often, in some cases seeing them more often now than I did on campus. I stay inside, avoiding the heat. But now I dislike the idea of needing to go anywhere because of my fears of getting the virus. In this way, so much has changed.
For those who are doing their part, thank you! I appreciate everything it is you are doing to fight this pandemic, whether you are working in hospitals, grocery stores, or anywhere else where you have to risk your life to work during this time. I also want to thank those who are volunteering to provide people with food, clothes, masks, and other resources. This isn’t an easy time but all of you make it easier. You give me a reason to believe in humanity during all of this uncertainty.
I hope you’re all safe and well!