We the Patients

Being a Student in the Time of Covid-19

Being alive right now is sort of unnerving.

As a student at NYU, I was told to leave our dorms permanently with 5 days of notice. Then found out from the New York Times (not even our own administration!) our dorms were being converted into potential hospital overflow. We still don’t know when we’re going back, physically, to college. There are some indications that fall 2020 will only partially be an in-person semester. There’s still no date on when this year’s graduation will be. 

Personally, it’s worrisome to know that some of my TAs and even people who lived in my building have contracted Covid-19. One friend who contracted the virus has a whole host of preexisting conditions, leaving then even more susceptible. There’s a real chance I emerge on the other side of the pandemic knowing someone who passed away.

To be involved in public health during all of this is another level of horror.

Every day I see a society hunkering down and a medical system imploding, all while having to maintain my GPA in order to stay on the Dean’s List so I’m competitive for grad school and law school. Watching the state and federal governments fail to not only live up to their stated goals but even to live up to their obligations has been harrowing. Talking about the US as a potential ‘failed state’ with a government unable to meet even basic expectations is now fairly common in the public policy classes I’m taking. It feels a little bit like living through an immersive horror movie, and I’m just waiting for the last jump scare so I can finally have a reason to scream.

At the same time, it’s important to remember that this is in our hands.

Not just in the way that we can reduce the risk of infection by practicing social distancing, washing our hands, and maintaining other good health practices, but in the way that we can create a new way of being after this. None of this was inevitable: We reached this point because of choices that we made and because of the choices our elected officials made for us. We have the ability to, going forward, change all of this. Organizing and campaigning will be even more important in the future, now that we’ve seen just how fragile our reality is, and how it isn’t billionaires, corporations, or politicians who will save us: We have to be our own saviors, and we have to act in recognition of that. When this ends, we owe a new and better world not just to ourselves but everyone who passed away because of our collective failure.