Strict quarantines: Some students not leaving house at all

Devin Allard-Neptune, Staff Writer

Even though most Americans are currently cooped up inside their houses, there are some families that maintain stricter quarantine rules than others. Halley Robbins (12) has not left her apartment on the Upper West Side of Manhattan since March 16, the first Monday after school was cancelled.
Upon her return to the city after spending the weekend with friends, Robbins’ father P’16 P’20 decided that their family would “fully quarantine” for the following weeks, Halley said.
For the past 11 weeks since her father announced the family quarantine, Halley, along with her brother, sister, and mother, have not set foot into their building’s hallway, she said.
Towards the beginning of their quarantine, the family ordered food from grocery stores, and Robbins’ father picked up the items from the lobby, Robbins said. However, as the condition of the pandemic worsened, the Robbins’ began to order in bulk from a restaurant supplier that has started offering home deliveries to families during quarantine.
Helena Yang (11) has also been under strict quarantine since the middle of spring break, she said. Yang is quarantining with her brother and mother, and they have scarcely left their Upper East Side apartment.
Yang’s family ordered necessary items online and her mother only went outside to buy essentials, she said. Shopping online during the pandemic has made getting basic supplies harder, she said. “A few weeks ago, it was really difficult just to place an online order because everything was out of stock,” she said. Although at one point it was difficult to get necessary items, online shopping has recently been easier for Yang’s family because items are being restocked.
“The first week, I thought our super strict quarantine was a joke, and it was going to become more lenient in a week or two,” Halley said. When growing used to quarantine, she regularly wanted to see friends or go on a walk, and not being allowed to do these things was one of the hardest parts of starting quarantine, she said.
To avoid negative emotions associated with self isolation, an article in the Washington Post recommends that one should do what they can to create the best life possible given their current position, and find meaningful activities to engage in. By staying in contact with friends, exercising regularly, and focusing on self care rituals, one can maintain a positive mental state during quarantine.
“I’m trying to make my quality of life better while I’m inside.” Halley has found that focusing on small things has helped her cope with not being allowed to leave the apartment, she said. By working out, cooking, and watching TV, she has been able to take time to do things she enjoys in order to make the most out of quarantine, she said.
The Robbins’ terrace has also helped Halley during quarantine. Being able to experience a different environment than the inside of her apartment is important in maintaining normalcy, she said. “Even if I’m not going on real walks, or can’t see people, or go into stores, there is something so nice about being able to step outside and get fresh air.”
The reason for the Robbins’ strict quarantine is the reported news during that time, Halley said. Her father believed that the virus would reach its “peak,” or the time period with the most number of cases, shortly after they began quarantining. His goal was to prevent anyone in the Robbins’ family from getting sick during that time which was the most dangerous point in the pandemic. During the peak, it was likely hospitals would not have the sufficient amount of respirators and beds to keep up with the influx of patients, leading to some not receiving the appropriate care, she said.
Halley’s father’s initial decision was influenced by a lack of information about the virus, Halley said. “He didn’t want any of us to be part of the first massive wave of people that are getting sick, because his theory was that in a few months, the whole world would have more of an understanding and a better way to treat [the coronavirus] in case any of us did get sick.”
While some people made the decision to strictly quarantine out of a lack of information, others decided to based on what they have heard from others.
“We have family members in China, so we kind of realized what the worst was going to be before it even came over to the United States,” Yang said. Because of their prior knowledge of the impact COVID-19 has had on China, Yang’s mother decided to heavily quarantine once the virus arrived in New York, she said.
Access to online goods has not been the only element of quarantine in her life that has returned to somewhat normalcy. Another aspect of her life that remains somewhat similar is time devoted to school, she said. For the past few weeks, a significant amount of her time has gone towards studying for her AP exams she said. All of Yang’s normal extracurriculars, like her ballet classes, are also being hosted online, so she has been keeping busy, she said. “I still don’t really have that much free time just because my time has been blocked by those activities,” she said.
Yang’s mother stresses that if there is no good reason for her family members to go outside, then they should not go outside, Yang said. However, if there ever was a reason for Yang to leave, she would be able to, she said.
“There’s no added incentive to go outside besides taking a walk in the park,” Yang said, “But I haven’t really had time for that regardless, just because of how busy my schedule has been.”
Yana Gitelman (11) went through a period of strict quarantine towards the beginning of the shutdown, but recently her family has been getting out more, she said.
In the first weeks of her quarantine, Gitelman and her family only got out of their apartment for important errands. They had food delivered, and did what they could to exercise inside of their home, she said.
According to the Washington Post, studies have shown that it is important for people to develop routines in everyday life. This practice becomes even more relevant during quarantine, where students do not have the structure of school to lead them through the day. Additionally, creating a consistent and predictable schedule can help people to feel in control during the pandemic.
Throughout quarantine, Gitelman has developed a routine in spite of the lack of a structured school day. As a result of HM Online, it is generally harder for students to maintain a work-life balance with the amount of work given, she said. Though Gitelman acknowledges her work-life balance is not perfect, she does what she can to keep to her routine. “I always make myself breakfast and watch an episode of TV before class every day,” she said.
Gitelman lives in an area where many people do not follow the precautions out in place by the state, so her family has to be especially careful whenever they leave their apartment, she said. The decision to strictly quarantine was partially influenced by this, but the main intention was to protect family members more susceptible to the virus. “I want to be able to visit my grandparents and not feel super worried about it,” she said.
“The first few weeks, I was able to not go crazy while staying mostly inside,” Gitelman said. “I would have a window open, but I feel like I need to go on walks.”
Eventually the Gitelmans realized that their living situation was more long term than they had originally thought, she said. Once they came to this understanding, they accepted that they could not continue to live in this way for the past few weeks. “You can’t live indoors forever,” she said.
A few weeks ago, Gitelman took a walk with her friend while they stayed six feet apart from each other and followed the rules of social distancing, she said.
After being in quarantine for almost three months, Robbins feels lucky that she is still in good spirits, she said. “I don’t know how much longer I’m going to have to do this for, but I can imagine that at some point it will become very difficult,” she said.
“I’m trying not to think about the big picture, because that’s when I get kind of down about it,” Robbins said. “But by taking it day by day and trying to do things to entertain myself, I feel less cooped up.”