Over the past several weeks, COVID-19 has affected the entire university. Campus closed abruptly, classes went virtual and the Tufts community now lies scattered across the world. As the virus has spread, some locations have been hit harder than others.
According to data collected by The New York Times, over 370,000 cases have been reported in the New York metropolitan area, including over 21,000 deaths. In late March, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo ordered the closure of non-essential businesses, limited public gatherings and ordered essential businesses to implement changes so as to facilitate social distancing.
In a subsequent executive order on April 15, Governor Cuomo mandated that all people in New York wear face coverings in public. Other restrictions have been implemented as well — schools are closed through at least May 15 and Broadway will remain dark until at least June 7. In addition, restaurants have converted to curbside pickup and delivery only. Many of these same restrictions have been implemented by Governor Phil Murphy in New Jersey. Living in the epicenter of a pandemic, Tufts students in the New York area have adjusted to a new lifestyle.
“I’m inside the house,” Max Album, a first-year student from northern New Jersey, said. “I have not actually driven anywhere for the past month or so … When I go [out] and walk my dog, I wear a mask … and I wear gloves outside, too … and [I’m] social distancing, of course.”
These rigid practices serve more to protect his father than himself.
“My dad, he’s a senior citizen basically, so he’s super worried,” he said.
Mary-Joy Sidhom, a first-year from central New Jersey, expressed a similar change in lifestyle.
“I’ve stayed pretty much in my house all day. I’m just trying to do my part,” she said.
Sidhom, whose parents are both doctors, has extended physical distancing measures to inside her house in case her parents become infected.
“I know you don’t necessarily have to [physically distance] from people you’re quarantined with, but we have tried to distance to some extent just because, in case they do contract [COVID-19], then not everyone in the house contracts it,” Sidhom said.
Along with mandated physical distancing, students also expressed a noticeable change in etiquette in their communities.
“I try to walk every day [and] I do run into people. But if they see me from a distance, they’ll usually just cross the street, out of politeness. It’s the polite thing to do nowadays,” Ben Lanzi, a first-year currently residing in Long Island, said.
Yet while physically distant, Album noticed that members of his community have become more friendly.
“When I’m on a walk, I noticed people will say ‘hi’ more often … I noticed people are trying to be more social and more outgoing in this time,” Album said. “And I think it gives off a positive vibe to the community.”
Album has also noticed changes in the ways he interacts with his friends, and in the content of their conversations. Over FaceTime he has connected with friends from Tufts, and he described these virtual conversations as “more intimate” than the ones he had in person.
“We’re sharing our feelings in this time of distress, trying to make everybody feel good,” Album said.
Sidhom has also stayed in touch with her peers, including a Zoom meetup with the Tufts Ballroom Dance Team. As for Lanzi, who leads an all-first-year jazz ensemble, isolation boredom led him to coordinate a virtual performance of Duke Ellington’s “Don’t Get Around Much Anymore.”
As such, these formerly mundane activities — interacting with friends and rehearsing music — have become more complicated than ever before. Grocery shopping, perhaps the most quotidian activity pre-pandemic, has become similarly complicated and stressful.
“[We] try and order [food] as much as we can,” Album said. “But the problem with the ordering systems [is] that so many people are just ordering all the time [so] it gets hard to get a slot … You just have to be on the computer, constantly refreshing,” Album said, referring to grocery stores which offer pickup of online food orders. “[It’s] not really an efficient system.”
In an email to the Daily, junior Dan Berkowitz, from central New Jersey, said that in his town, most grocery stores have been fully stocked except for a few items such as frozen foods and canned veggies.
These complications — of interacting virtually, of physically distancing and of obtaining food — are not unique to those in the New York area.
Numerous other areas of the U.S. have been similarly affected by COVID-19. In California, many Tufts students are under shelter-in-place orders until at least May.
Ashley Trejo, a first-year student from Santa Rosa, Calif., is one of those students.
For grocery shopping, Trejo and their family have tried to support local businesses which may not have access to as many resources as larger companies do.
“The Targets, the Walmarts, all the … big names [are] still staying open. They’re there, but I think those smaller Latino-owned and Asian-owned markets around us — we’re trying to go to those and support them,” Trejo said.
Madeline Keipp, a sophomore from Los Angeles, has supported local restaurants by ordering takeout. She has also passed the time by going on runs and playing games with her family.
For all of these students — whether from California or New York — finding motivation has been the most challenging aspect of this pandemic.
“If you’re looking at it objectively, it should be easier to do work now. [But] I think … right now … everyone’s a little scatterbrained,” Lanzi said.
Album echoed this sentiment.
“You don’t realize until you leave Tufts how much of the mindset that you get … You have your routine, you have your set stuff, [you] get your homework done. When you go home, [it’s] like you’re in high school again,” Album said.
While unmotivated, Sidhom said that one saying has kept her centered: “We’re not working from home. We’re working through a crisis and as a result of that, we’re at home.”
Alex Viveros contributed reporting to this article.