The Switch to Social Distancing

An eerily abandoned Manhattan. Image by Iliana Lara.


Within a matter of weeks modern life as we know it has been turned upside down. Businesses closed. Streets vacant. Schools empty. Sports cancelled. The common way of life for most people in the world is no longer. A virus that made mainstream media in January of 2020 seemed like it would be nothing but a bad cold and China had the worst of it. However, two months have passed and every person on Earth is feeling the effects of the coronavirus and their lives are altered in ways they never thought possible.

Most people in New York had their lives changed on Sunday, March 15th when it was announced that public schools will be closing until April 20th. This came as a shock as it was made very clear that this would be a last resort. However, the decision was announced and schools used the following week to set up a ‘remote learning system’ to continue educating students.

Ann DeCanio, an elementary school teacher at P.S. 86, found this transition to online learning especially challenging.  “I was definitely struggling with the setup of online learning because you have to be very tech savvy to make everything work,” she said. 

In addition to the initial struggle of figuring out how to set up online assignments, another battle was being able to make this system user-friendly for younger kids.

“I teach elementary school kids and they’re little so a lot of their time is taken up trying to figure out outlets like google classroom and zoom. It’s so hard for a 1st grader to just go on a laptop and do an assignment on their own without help,” Ms. DeCanio added.

Along with schools being closed on this day, many businesses decided to follow the recommended ‘social distancing’ practice as well.

The sudden shift from working everyday in an in-person setting to being fully online at home is a practice that a lot of businesses are following. However, not all businesses are able to change to this system and be able to work properly.

Victoria Guerra, a dance teacher at Marylou’s Dance Studio in Queens, was devastated when news broke of the studio that she teaches at is closing until further notice.

“I remember watching the news when the governor announced that public schools were closing until April 20th and I just sat there and cried. I just had a super productive rehearsal at the studio that morning and the first thing that came into my mind was devastation,” she said.

She went on to express her concern about how her and the rest of the teachers at the dance studio would be able to complete their dances in time for a show in June with over a month of rehearsals taken away.

Another concern expressed by Victoria was for the well being of the young artists who attend the dance studio.

“I am worried about my students and their wellbeing. Dance is a place where they can forget about everything else and focus on something that they love. It’s a place where they can be themselves and be artistic. The thought about them not having a space like this during such a hard time is really upsetting to me,” she added.

The change to everyone’s daily lives are extremely challenging to handle. However, this type of change can’t be seen as a be-all end-all. Rather, these new challenges should be viewed as roadblocks in a temporary situation and the best way to overcome them is to take on the obstacles head on and adapt the best one can to continue a semi-normal life and remember that everyone is going through all these unknowns together.

– by Matthew Weinberger  ’20