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COVID-19: Mapping the virus’ impact on the tri-campus community

, and | Thursday, April 16, 2020

Across the planet, students from the tri-campus community are grappling with the current and lasting impacts of the novel coronavirus. With more than a million cases and over 108,000 deaths worldwide, all lives have been touched by the pandemic in some way.

From Brazil to India, from Honolulu to New York City, peruse this map to read and hear about the transformed hometowns, unprecedented adjustments and meaningful moments marking the lives of students and faculty sheltered at home across the globe.

 

 

 

Honolulu, Hawaii

‘With a smaller island like Oahu, the healthcare system can only handle so much.’

Courtesy of Christian Llantero

The streets of Honolulu, once bustling with tourists, have remained relatively barren after the county issued a stay-at-home order.

Living in a tourism-heavy, tight-knit state like Hawaii, Notre Dame junior Christian Llantero recognizes the distinct dangers posed by COVID-19 for residents like him.

Distinguished as a vacation hot spot, Hawaii’s string of islands frequently welcomes travelers from across the world, especially those from Asia and the United States mainland. 

But this spring the islands shut down, leaving the state’s tropical beaches and streets tourist-free.

“With a smaller island like Oahu, the healthcare system can only handle so much,” Llantero said.

Llantero’s hometown of Honolulu implemented a stay-at-home and work-at-home order for all of April, with officials warning cases could rise to 40,000 by the end of the month if the mandates are not followed.

But true to the region’s happy-go-lucky nature, Llantero says residents maintain a generally relaxed attitude despite the number of cases climbing to 450 as of Friday. Most are concentrated in Oahu, the island that houses Honolulu.

“There’s a pretty laid-back mentality of people here,” Llantero said. “People are still not too worried about it.” 

Even still, challenges in the state persist for Llantero and other residents. Hawaii is a small business-oriented region that relies heavily on tourism, making the virus’ impact on the local economy especially volatile.

“The number of people going around or the people just being out and about is significantly lower than what I’m used to,” Llantero said, noting the unusually vacant streets.

And in terms of academics, with a six-hour time difference between Hawaii and South Bend, classes for some Hawaiian students start as early as 3:30 a.m. 

“It’s still difficult for students here to try and keep up with their academics and other activities at Notre Dame in the eastern time zone,” Llantero said.

But in a stroke of optimism, reports show the curve is already flattening in the state as the number of coronavirus cases decreases each day. Llantero looks to these numbers for positivity as COVID-19 in other states continues ramping up.

“I’m hopeful about here,” he said.

 

 

Seattle, Washington

‘It’s literally a ghost town.’

Courtesy of Sophie Schroth

Sophomore Sophie Schroth bikes with her mom, Tricia, and brother, Luke (not pictured), on the 520 Bridge in Seattle.

When classes were canceled through April 14, Notre Dame sophomore Sophie Schroth had a feeling it would be longer than that.

Schroth was in Florida for spring break when she got the news. She returned to campus a few days later. Schroth packed up the majority of her belongings from her Walsh Hall dorm room into her car and drove home with her dad, who flew to Chicago to accompany her. 

Seattle has been under a stay-at-home order since March 23, and the National Guard was deployed early April to help stock food banks.

“It’s just a really weird experience being at the grocery store, people kind of turn their shoulder when you walk past them,” Schroth said. “It’s kind of a somber experience.”

Schroth is home with her brother, Luke, a high school senior, and her parents. They have been hiking and biking throughout the empty city to stay active.

“Seattle’s a pretty vibrant place. People are always out and about,” Schroth said. “But I was driving through the city, and it’s literally a ghost town.”

Her plans for summer — to work at a Young Life summer camp in Canada — were canceled last week. She isn’t sure whether her brother’s high school graduation in June will happen in person, but she doubts it.

The uncertainty of the situation is one of the most difficult parts for Schroth.

“It’s not like, here’s all the things you can’t have and that’s it,” she said. “Every day there’s something new. … Thing after thing is being canceled, so it’s a lot of disappointment and uncertainty.”

For now, she’s focusing on her classes. Schroth said they have become more difficult since transitioning to online, and she struggles to stay motivated at home. When she’s not doing homework, she hikes, bikes and bakes — anything to pass the time.

“I’m kind of an emotional wreck, up and down,” Schroth said. “Happy one moment and sad the next.”

 

 

 

California

‘People are hopping the fences, tearing down caution tape, moving signs and continuing to go to beaches and parks even though they’ve all been closed.’

Courtesy of Nicole Aggarwal

Saint Mary’s senior Nicole Aggarwal celebrates her 22nd birthday in quarantine.

Before California initiated its stay-at-home order March 19, many people in Nicole Aggarwal’s hometown, Ventura, did not seem to be taking social distancing seriously, the Saint Mary’s senior said.

Gov. Gavin Newsom had requested March 15 that anyone over the age of 65 stay home. But when Aggarwal went to the local Whole Foods to order a cake for her 22nd birthday, she recalled seeing an elderly man who would not keep six feet away from her and continued to touch everything around him, despite not wearing gloves.

Now she’s concerned people still aren’t taking the stay-at-home order seriously.

“People are hopping the fences, tearing down caution tape, moving signs and continuing to go to beaches and parks even though they’ve all been closed,” Aggarwal said. 

California had 22,416 known cases of COVID-19 and 634 coronavirus-related deaths as of Saturday.

Aggarwal’s father is an insurance agent who is working with small businesses dealing with the economic fallout of the pandemic. Her mom is a pharmacist and still on the front line, working with people on a day-to-day basis.

“She’s definitely strong and healthy, but I still worry that she could be affected,” Aggarwal said.

Aggarwal is also in quarantine with her grandmother, who is from India. She only speaks Hindi, and Aggarwal has been working to communicate her situation to her grandmother, despite the language barrier.

Between keeping up with her online classes — which no longer have any synchronous class time component — Aggarwal has been taking on more responsibility for domestic chores and cleaning around the house and going on bike rides and walks around her neighborhood.

“It’s pretty difficult to focus on schoolwork and try to get things done and finish up my senior year without my GPA dropping amidst all of this,” she said. “And [it’s] not even just living at home, but just the general stress that comes with this virus is pretty difficult to manage among everything else.”

For Holy Cross sophomore Carter Silva, who lives in San Diego, the shift to online classes has meant a much earlier start to his day. At Holy Cross, he had class Monday through Thursday starting at 9:30 a.m. EST. Now, being in California, he must wake up for class at 6 a.m. PDT.

In San Diego, Silva said, things seem to be pretty quiet. Driving home from the airport, the normally busy freeways were empty. In Silva’s neighborhood, he will occasionally notice people out for walks, but people aren’t leaving their homes much otherwise.

However, people have been stocking up on groceries.

“My mom sent me out to find beans the other day and there was none on any of the shelves,” Silva said. “Toilet paper and all paper products are gone. So it’s pretty hectic.”

 

 

 

Chicago, Illinois

‘There’s a lot of essential workers that are still commuting to and from hospitals.’

Courtesy of Mary Trainor

Despite Illinois’ stay-at-home order, Chicago and its suburbs have still seen traffic as essential workers commute to and from work.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker enacted a stay-at-home order for the state of Illinois starting March 21. However, there’s still traffic in the Chicago streets, Saint Mary’s junior Maddie Hopek said.

“It’s still pretty busy because there’s a lot of essential workers who are still commuting to and from hospitals,” said Hopek, who lives just 15 minutes outside the city in Brookfield, Illinois.

As of Saturday, the city of Chicago had 7,784 cases and 249 deaths while surrounding suburban Cook County had 5,633 cases. One of Hopek’s uncles, who lives in Crown Point, Indiana, was called to work in a downtown hospital as facilities across the state seek to replace sick staff members.

For her part, Hopek has been quarantining with her parents and two sisters. Even though they couldn’t go to an in-person church service, Hopek’s family planned to dress up in their Sunday best to watch Mass on television and enjoy a family brunch and an Easter dinner. They’ve also been bonding over baking, cooking and Netflix.

“We’ve done very elaborate dinners, like Thanksgiving-style dinners, just on a random night because there’s nothing else to do,” Hopek said.

Saint Mary’s senior Mary Trainor, who lives in Oak Park, said her family has taken to picking up their groceries instead of going into the store. At one point, when Trainor’s mom went to buy toilet paper, the store limited each customer to a single roll.

“I think that was when it was really bad,” Trainor said. “But I hate to say I almost laughed because I was like, ‘What is going on?’”

In her spare time, Trainor has been going for runs, watching “New Girl,” baking and hanging out with friends virtually. 

“I FaceTime my friends a lot,” she said. “It’s just so funny because they’re like 15 minutes away from me, but you know, we can’t see them until this is all safe.”

 

 

 

South Bend, Indiana

‘I didn’t expect anyone I knew was going to get it.’

Courtesy of Katie O'Sullivan

Grotto candles spell out 2020 on March 31, the day Notre Dame announced it would be canceling this year’s commencement ceremony.

Over the course of just a few days, ZaNiya Sconiers lost a childhood friend, a cousin and a great-aunt.

The Holy Cross sophomore is used to the normal grieving rituals of reading obituaries and going to funerals. But because of the risk of spreading COVID-19, the viewings for Sconiers’ deceased loved ones were limited to seven people. She didn’t even find out about the death of her friend until after his funeral had passed.

“Only the most important people can go see the person, you know. It was kind of hard,” she said.

The three deaths were not coronavirus-related. However, one of Sconiers’ family friends has been in the hospital with COVID-19. St. Joseph County had a total of 168 confirmed cases as of Friday and three deaths as of Saturday.

“She’s getting better, but it’s still kind of scary though because I didn’t expect anyone I knew was going to get it,” Sconiers said. “But, I mean, I guess anyone can get it.”

Sconiers is trying to stay inside as much as possible. However, because she doesn’t have WiFi at home, she has to go to a cousin’s house to do her online classes.

“It’s just a struggle because I’m nervous about going out,” Sconiers said. “I feel bad when I have to come over to my cousin’s house. … She’s very on edge because she went to medical school.”

On March 24, SpartanNash — which owns Martin’s Super Markets — announced it would be installing plexiglass sneeze guards at “[e]very cashier station, deli counter, pharmacy, customer service counter and Quick Stop fuel center checkout” in its stores.

“I’d never seen it until like two weeks ago,” Sconiers said of the shields.

For some Notre Dame off-campus seniors staying in South Bend, the emptiness of campus and the surrounding area is haunting.

“Because no one’s really leaving their homes or socializing, you have no idea if the neighbors are home,” senior Katie O’Sullivan said.

She’s been taking walks and runs around campus. After the University announced it would be canceling this year’s commencement ceremony, O’Sullivan visited the Grotto where the candles spelled 2020.

Senior Jordan Isner, who is from Connecticut, also decided to stay in South Bend. He and his roommates have taken advantage of their increased free time to bond over homemade pizza and sushi, watch “Survivor” and play video games, such as Mario Kart. They’re trying to enjoy the remaining weeks of their senior year as best they can.

“It sucks being trapped in your house or feeling like you’re trapped in your house,” he said. “But I feel like we’re definitely in pretty good spirits considering the circumstances.”

 

 

 

New York City, New York

‘We’re the city that never sleeps, but right now we’re in hibernation.’

Courtesy of Laksumi Sivanandan

In Queens, New York, senior Laksumi Sivanandan said the streets are dead silent as public transportation lines are all shut down due to the pandemic.

Notre Dame senior Laksumi Sivanandan never anticipated her home state becoming the world’s epicenter of the novel coronavirus. In fact, when she packed up her college apartment and tossed everything in the back of her Nissan Rogue Sport on March 22, she didn’t know what to expect.

The decision to come home wasn’t an easy one. Looking back, she says she felt significantly safer in South Bend, where positive COVID-19 cases are a fraction of the number in New York. But with a closed campus, distant friends and an unsettling feeling of loneliness, not much was left for her in the Indiana town she once called home.

The normally 12-hour journey only took 10 with the abnormally barren arteries of New York. Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania. Each encapsulated the same picture: shuttered businesses, empty streets, rare signs of life. And then she reached her home in Queens.

In a borough that deems public transportation its lifeline, subways and buses are all closed. The streets leading up to her house, normally bustling, are empty. Local businesses, unable to reach the customer base needed, are shut down.

“It’s just dead silence,” Sivanandan said.

New York reached 170,000 cases of COVID-19 on Friday, with New York City accounting for more than half of the total. Hospitals in the city are overrun with patients and short of supplies. More than 7,000 people in the state have died.

With an immunocompromised father, Sivanandan recognizes the anxiety familiar to many Americans in the time of COVID-19. Never before seeing a need for drivers licenses, her parents now rely on her to transport them from place to place for essentials. 

“We’re the city that never sleeps, but right now we’re in hibernation,” Sivanandan said.

Sivanandan, who looked forward to her graduation as a first-generation college student, grapples with disappointment when she considers the opportunities stolen by the pandemic. Even so, she acknowledges the sheer luck it takes to come home without the virus, which infects indiscriminately.

“I don’t know if I shouldn’t be upset that I can’t do all those things because there’s a pandemic, but at the same time, that’s just a part of my life that I’ll never get back,” she said.

 

 

 

Washington, D.C.

‘What’s most challenging is that there’s no end-line in sight.’

Courtesy of Thomas Kellenberg

Professor Thomas Kellenberg said his yard has become his refuge since the Maryland stay-at-home order was issued.

In his 22 years as executive director of the Notre Dame Washington Program, Thomas Kellenberg has never experienced a situation like this.

After the Sept. 11 attacks, which he called a homeland security failure, classes continued. During the recession in 2008, an economic failure in Kellenberg’s eyes, the program did not end.

But March 10, the program experienced a first: Students were required to go home.

“We’ll get through this, as we did after the attacks on 9/11 and the great recession, but I think this will test us, will test this generation, more,” Kellenberg said.

Kellenberg lives outside D.C. in Montgomery County, Maryland, the county with the greatest number of COVID-19 cases in the state at the time of the interview.

Recently, an ambulance and a fire truck pulled up across the street and took an elderly man away. The emergency providers were wearing protective equipment. The presumption was that he has the coronavirus, Kellenberg said.

The state of Maryland is under stay-at-home orders, with residents only leaving the house to go to the grocery store, the pharmacy and to exercise.

Kellenberg’s days are even busier than before. On top of transitioning his classes to an online format, current students are seeking refunds for their D.C. housing and incoming students are concerned about finding internships for the fall.

“Once the semester ends, then I think my day will be quite different,” Kellenberg said. “But until then, every day is spent primarily at my desk online.”

Luckily, none of the Washington Program students contracted COVID-19 while in D.C. They were sent home shortly after a pastor in Georgetown, about a mile from the students’ residence, tested positive for coronavirus.

“What’s most challenging is that there’s no endline in sight,” Kellenberg said. “All we’re doing is stamping out embers before they become forest fires.”

For now, Kellenberg is eagerly awaiting the creation of a vaccine.

“Until then, I think we’re going to be floating around on a life raft in the middle of a storm,” he said.

 

 

 

Florida

‘A lot of people are misunderstanding how Florida is handling the crisis.’

Courtesy of Carson Collins

After prom was canceled for Carson Collins’ younger sister Camden (center), the family decided to dress up and celebrate from home. From left to right, Jennifer (their mom), Carson, her sisters Camden and Campbell and their father Peter pose for a picture in their prom attire.

When Notre Dame senior Caterina Breuer flew home to Palm Beach, Florida, on March 15, she took a connecting flight through Detroit, Michigan. In the “almost vacant” Midwestern airport, passengers kept their distance and wore masks.

In Palm Beach, it was a different story.

“There were many flights out of the airport, people were laughing and clustering together and nobody had a mask on,” Breuer said in an email. “Gyms and restaurants were still open, and friends were spending their days at the beach. I was shocked.”

The state did not officially shut down until April 3, though various local governments announced restrictions beforehand. Gov. Ron DeSantis faced criticism from government officials and public health authorities in the weeks leading up to the decision, as he refused to enact a state-level stay-at-home order.

“This has been in the news a lot,” Notre Dame senior Carson Collins said. “A lot of people are misunderstanding how Florida is handling the crisis.”

As of Saturday, 18,986 Floridians were known to have COVID-19 with 446 deaths from the virus. In Collins’ hometown of Tampa, city and county officials clashed over stay-at-home orders, before local officials approved restrictions March 26.

While “nonessential” businesses are closed, Collins has been spending time by her backyard pool, enjoying the warm Florida weather and reading for fun.

“It kind of feels like I’m on an elongated winter break,” she said.

Collins’ younger sister, Camden, was supposed to celebrate her senior prom this month. And she did — but not on a crowded dance floor with hundreds of other students.

Instead, her family decided to recreate a prom-style celebration from the safety of their own home. The Collins sisters styled their makeup, donned long dresses and took pictures with the rest of the family. Their mom created a corsage for Camden and adorned the house with prom decorations. Then, the family sat down to a dinner of steak and mashed potatoes.

“We made a nice four-course meal and then just spent some time talking about how this was affecting us and just making sure that we get to celebrate those little moments,” Collins said. “Even if they are different from how we originally imagined.”

 

 

 

São Paulo, Brazil

‘This time, I really didn’t want to be in Brazil, I really wanted to be on campus.’

Courtesy of Laura Henares

Henares cooks pasta in her home, one of her favorite ways to pass the time.

Laura Henares was lucky.

The Badin junior was spending spring break in Florida when she got the email announcing the cancellation of in-person classes. She was at a friend’s house, not a hotel, so she was able to stay longer than planned. She had brought the necessary documents for her to travel internationally, despite thinking she’d be returning to South Bend after break. 

Five days later, she was heading to São Paulo.

“It was so terrifying because when I got in the plane I remember thinking, ‘If I can’t come back and I lose the semester, I don’t know what will happen,’” Henares said, “‘but I’m not staying in the U.S. in a moment like this because I need to be with my family.’”

While Henares has universal healthcare and a physician mother in Brazil, in the U.S., she only has the University health insurance. 

But the city she returned to is very different than the one she left. 

Some of her friend’s parents who work in hospitals moved out to avoid risking their families’ health. Grandparents stay with the children, and the parents occupy their vacated homes.

The normally bustling city — the highly populated economic hub of Brazil — is almost completely void of cars and people. Each Brazilian state can mandate their own restrictions, but São Paulo has been under a quarantine since March 21.

“At the end of the afternoon, we don’t see the grey line on top of the skyscrapers at the end of the horizon anymore, you only see the sunset,” Henares said. “Much less air pollution.”

Everyone who can is working from home, Henares said. The ones who aren’t fall into two groups: They must work to afford food, or they’re following the lead of president Jair Bolsonaro and doubting the coronavirus’ severity. 

When Bolsonaro called the virus “a little flu,” Henares’ apartment neighbors banged on the walls. 

Some nights, Whatsapp chain messages organize demonstrations, and people bang pots with wooden spoons out their windows. 

“Generally I have class at that time, so I close my window and hope to God my professors don’t hear,” Henares said. 

She spends most of her time studying or cooking with her brother John, who found out during the lockdown that he was accepted into Notre Dame. 

Her parents are working from home and taking advantage of the time with their kids. 

“Whenever I’m on campus, I always say how much I miss Brazil, but this time, I really didn’t want to be in Brazil, I really wanted to be on campus,” Henares said. 

 

 

 

Lausanne, Switzerland

‘Everybody still feels pretty clueless, we’re all just living day by day.’

Courtesy of Angela Overlack

The view from junior Angela Overlack’s home in Lausanne, Switzerland. Switzerland tops the charts for most coronavirus cases per capita in the world.

Notre Dame junior Angela Overlack misses the high-peaked mountains, the mild weather, the scores of people taking in the day around Lake Geneva — all the things she typically loves about coming home.

In her hometown of Lausanne, Switzerland, Overlack remains sheltered at home with her parents as the number of COVID-19 cases in the nation ticks past 24,000. The small country of about 8.6 million tops the charts for most coronavirus cases per capita in the world, with 2,734 cases per million residents as of April 8.

Bordered by the hard-hit countries of Italy, France and Germany, Switzerland’s various cultural regions are all on high alert, with public places locked and closed and town squares shut down. 

The country has adopted a systematic nature unfamiliar to Overlack. Open parking lots are replaced by specific drive-through areas. Small businesses actively restrict the number of people inside. Town squares lined with clothing stores and restaurants are empty. 

Even so, the area isn’t completely deserted. Accustomed to the outdoors, people are still walking, running and biking, treading new paths in place of the now-closed hiking trails, parks and other public areas.

“You want there to be an end,” Overlack said. “But right now everybody still feels pretty clueless. We’re all just living day by day.”

Six hours ahead of Eastern Standard Time, Overlack is still adjusting to online learning, with her classes running until 11:30 p.m. her time. Her dorm, now more than 4,000 miles away, is still filled with her clothes and the materials she didn’t realize she’d be leaving behind for months when she flew home for spring break. She worries about her senior year, which she sees as up in the air.

“After such a shock you can’t really just go back to normal,” she said.

But despite the dramatic adjustments, there’s a glimmer of hope for the country as coronavirus cases in Switzerland begin, slowly, to plateau. Plans are in place to ease restrictions by the end of April. Up to 8,000 members of the military have mobilized, helping with medical services and sealing the landlocked country’s borders to prevent further outbreaks.

“Mostly what I worry about is a second wave, and then it just hitting again,” Overlack said. “Because you never know.”

 

 

 

Nairobi, Kenya

‘Anyone who did violate the curfew was sent to be beaten.’

Paulstern Madegwa // Unsplash

The neighborhood of Parklands in Nairobi, Kenya. Kenya has reached 225 coronavirus cases and 10 deaths as of Thursday, resulting in a county-wide lockdown and a strictly enforced curfew.

It was just one day, but it was enough.

Hope Hajir vividly remembers looking out from her window when the pandemic first hit. Peering out into Nairobi, Kenya, she witnessed a picture she couldn’t have expected upon flying home for spring break a few days before: Outside, people of all ages were being beaten by police. 

It was a message Hajir says Kenyans heard loud and clear: Stay home or be beaten.

“It was scary,” Hajir, a Notre Dame sophomore, said. “For the first time, I saw the practical side of the real-life application of what it feels to be a low-capacity state.”

The brutality served as a warning to citizens in a country that reached 225 coronavirus cases and 10 deaths as of Thursday. But with a wide economic gap between the haves and the have-nots, and a large amount of Kenyans who live hand to mouth, Hajir says different counties in the state are reacting differently to the mandates.

“Anyone who did violate the curfew was sent to be beaten,” Hajir said. “There have been deaths that have resulted from that, deaths of even children. And so it’s heartbreaking. People don’t know how to feel really.”

But from Hajir’s vantage point, her hard-hit city of Nairobi — known for its vibrant arts, culture, music and food — has taken on a stiffened atmosphere of forced compliance, with most citizens obeying the curfew and county-wide lockdown out of fear for the consequences. 

“I came home but I cannot visit my home. I cannot,” Hajir said. “I only exist in it but I cannot be myself at home right now.”

But even as Kenya slowly climbs toward its peak in coronavirus cases, Hajir has channeled her energy into launching new projects to help others. With her first, a new business called “Corona Care Kenya,” she hopes to sell hygiene products donated by others, with proceeds benefiting health workers.

She’s also filming an online digital series called “Quarantine” of her experiences under lockdown. With it, she hopes to create a digital footprint of Africa’s response to the pandemic.

“I saw so many catastrophes throughout the course of history, but there’s never been an African narrative in all that,” Hajir said. “If this can be able to contribute to that conversation in the future, I would 100% love to be part of that.”

Though she doesn’t see a clear end in sight for Kenya, Hajir credits the government for educating citizens about the real risk of COVID-19. It’s a catastrophe, she says — but one that she sees as redeeming for a developing country.

“It’s a catastrophe, it’s a crisis, but I do think that Africa has shown its dignity through this,” Hajir said. “Because for once, it’s a level playing field, so even if it’s a catastrophe I think this is a growth opportunity for Africa.”

 

 

 

Mumbai, India

‘The whole city is dead.’

Courtesy of Ananya Thakur

Thakur plays Scrabble with her mother in their Mumbai high-rise apartment.

Notre Dame freshman Ananya Thakur left campus hours after she got the email.

She acted quickly, but it wasn’t easy. As uncertainty surrounding lockdowns and international border crossings increased, flights were canceled. When she left, she didn’t expect to come back to South Bend.

“I didn’t think it was going to get any better,” Thakur said.

She was right.

For two days, she lived her normal life in Mumbai. But on March 13, her apartment community declared a home quarantine for individuals and their families, who had traveled abroad. Since then, she hasn’t left the house.

When Thakur arrived home, there were around 60 cases of COVID-19 in the country, and there were no widespread restrictions. Now, there are 8,000 cases, and the country has been under a nationwide lockdown since March 24 — a measure which Thakur said is precautionary.

“It’s not so bad out here yet,” she said. “I think for the first time in his life, our prime minister really stepped up, and was like, ‘I’m shutting it down because if I don’t, we’re just going to become like one of the countries that are severely facing the consequences.’”

Thakur is with her parents and brother, who recently celebrated his 17th birthday during the lockdown. She’s been spending her time baking, working out and studying. She said her classes have gotten harder — on top of that, they’re in the middle of the night, with her latest class going until 2:30 a.m.

The family only leaves for essentials like food and water.

“Honestly it looks like a ghost town,” Thakur said. “It’s crazy. There’s not one car in the road.”

Mumbai is one of the top 10 most populated cities, according to data from 2015. But the streets are now empty. A distance that once took her 25 minutes to walk now takes just six or seven.

To enforce the lockdown, Thakur heard police were beating groups of people seen outside together.

“The whole city is dead,” Thakur said. “Nobody is stepping out.”

 

 

 

Changzhi, China

‘There was a frustration about, why aren’t people taking this seriously?’

Courtesy of Jiadai Li

Outside Jiadai Li’s hotel room where she remained quarantined in Changzhi, China, she watched as life came to a halt April 4 for three minutes to mourn citizens who have died from the novel coronavirus.

Notre Dame junior Jiadai Li listened intently as an air-raid siren echoed into her hotel room where she was quarantined in Changzhi, China, a city about 350 miles south of Beijing.

From her vantage point, she could see medical staff mourning in the courtyard outside the hotel. Life halted for three minutes as people reflected on the lives lost from the novel coronavirus. The siren reverberated across China on April 4, honoring the 3,355 plus people who died from the pandemic in the country.

For the most part, life is back to normal in Li’s small city of Changzhi, which reported only a few COVID-19 cases over the last few months. Her home is more than 450 miles from Wuhan, the hardest-hit province in China where the coronavirus outbreak first began.

Though most people still wear masks as a precaution, Li’s parents and others in her area went back to work in mid-February. But it wasn’t always smooth sailing for her.

Li remembers feeling emotionally stressed for weeks at Notre Dame, where realization of the seriousness of COVID-19 hadn’t yet hit in the U.S. As she heard from friends and family about the disease’s impact in China, those around her continued life as normal.

“China paid so much for this already, and people [knew] in late January that it is serious in China,” Li said. “There was a frustration about, why aren’t people taking this seriously?”

As a reflex from her time in China, where news of the virus dominated social media and daily life, Li closely monitored the cases in America as COVID-19 reached the continent.

“It’s like, why is this happening, like why?” Li said of her thought process at the time. “It’s on both sides. Like why is this happening in China, and why is it happening in the United States? It was like, ‘Oh, God.’”

Though total cases are decreasing and people have emerged from lockdown in Wuhan, Li still fears a second wave of COVID-19 hitting China’s shores. Residents continue to wear masks and self-quarantine whenever they travel from city to city or come back from abroad out of an abundance of caution. 

But for now, Li’s main concern is America, where the number of cases continues to soar each day.

“I didn’t expect it to happen, and I just feel so sorry for it,” Li said. “I don’t know what’s going to happen in America, and I guess I am worried because there are so many cases.”

 

 

 

Yangsan, South Korea

‘In Korea, I feel much safer because they’re tracking the confirmed cases.’

Courtesy of Stacey Cho

A view from junior exchange student Stacey Cho’s bedroom, where she quarantined for 14 days after returning home.

Stacey Cho’s first time in America ended with an abrupt halt when she received the email.

Notre Dame is closing its campus, the message read, and all international students are encouraged to fly home as soon as possible.

The junior exchange student panicked.

As she hurriedly packed her belongings for the long haul home, Cho reflected on how her semester of opportunities in the United States had been suddenly cut short.

Despite the warning signs, she had been holding out hope for a small miracle — but now she was scrambling, forced to change her travel schedule three times and spend more than $800 to find a flight back home sooner than expected.

“It was sad when I had to pack my stuff,” Cho said. “I was in [a] panic, as well, because the situation changed too fast.”

She landed in South Korea and was immediately directed to take a coronavirus test. A five-hour car drive later, she was quarantined in her home, where she’s been sheltered since.

“I was stuck in my room, doing assignments, eating what is given,” Cho said. “I only went out once with [the] car to get another coronavirus test.”

With cherry blossoms blooming and spring upon them, South Koreans have begun venturing out, most still sporting precautionary masks after the virus infected more than 10,000 citizens earlier this year. 

Since then, South Korea has been lauded worldwide for its speedy success flattening the curve of new coronavirus cases. Even so, threats of a resurgence loom over the country, which has mandated all international travelers quarantine upon re-entry.

“In Korea, I feel much safer because they’re tracking the confirmed cases,” Cho said.

Cho now writes papers in place of many of her online courses, an option granted to her given the 13-hour time difference between Yangsan and South Bend. She worried about transitioning to online courses, so much so that she waited until the last moment to take a flight back home.

But there now, Cho says the situation in America is worse than she expected — and though her semester abroad was cut short, she feels more secure back home in South Korea.

“I think America cares more about privacy issue[s],” she said. “I think it might be harder to know where the people have been and how they get infected. So I think that kind of situation makes people get more scared.”

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About Kelli Smith

Kelli Smith is a senior at the University of Notre Dame. Originally from El Paso, Texas, she served as Editor-in-Chief at The Observer for the 2019-20 term. She is pursuing majors in political science and television with a minor in journalism. // Twitter: @KelliSmithNews

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About Natalie Weber

Natalie Weber graduated in 2020 from the University of Notre Dame, with a Bachelor of Arts in English and minors in journalism and computing. A native of Grand Junction, Colorado she most recently served as Managing Editor at The Observer. // Email: [email protected] // Twitter: @wordsbyweber

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About Mary Bernard

Mary Bernard is a senior with a major in Anthropology and a minor in Journalism, Ethics and Democracy. She grew up in St. Louis, Missouri, and is the Social Media Editor for The Observer, managing and overseeing all things audience engagement.

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