Thoughts on My 2020 Spring Break Vacation… Right as COVID Was Starting

Like many people in this country, at the beginning of 2020, I had no idea what was going on with COVID and did not take it seriously. I remember reading about it on CNN and thinking that it was something that would not come here or something that would fizzle out, and then I went to class, got a coffee, and saw my friends. Even as it started coming to the United States in January, I was skeptical, thinking that it would not get worse and there was nothing we could do anyway. 

So, when Spring Break came around, why wouldn’t I go to New York City with my family, business as usual?

People Walking on Street Photo by Burst from Pexels

We went on March 1st and came back on March 6th. Anything in March of 2020 is not a good sign, but let me tell you, when I was there, it felt normal. It was one of the last shreds of normalcy I had. I went to museums, visited friends, took the subway, ate indoors, shopped and saw Broadway shows. There were no masks, no “maximum capacity” signs, no testing centers or quarantine requirements for traveling. We even ate at the hotel breakfast buffet, which under reasonable circumstances, could be considered risky, especially the eggs, in my opinion. 

The only thing that stands out as giving an inkling of foreshadowing is how right before a play was starting, my dad coughed once, and about fifteen people turned around and looked like they wanted to run from the theater. My dad had to say the classic: “it’s just allergies,” and the people sighed and turned back to the stage. 

The day after we left New York City, NY Governor Andrew Cuomo declared a state of emergency. That is when it started to sink in. We had just left, yet when we were there, we felt fine. Things began to unravel. Broadway shut down on March 12, the day that the show I saw in its pre-shows was scheduled to open. It still has not continued. I went home for a bit and then went back to school for my second semester, until I was sent home on March 17. Ten days later, the US reached the most COVID cases in the world. Way to go, me.

COVID Testing Center Photo by Jakayla Toney

Looking back, up until I was sent home from school on March 17, 2020, I did everything you were not supposed to do. I didn’t wear a mask, I ate indoors, I traveled, took public transport and even hugged everyone goodbye. I didn’t understand what was happening yet. 

As we were moving out of school, my friend from Beijing was one of the few people I knew wearing a mask, even when masks were not mandatory. She asked me why I was not wearing one and I told her about how the CDC said at that time that only people with COVID should be wearing masks because masks could not protect you (eye roll now). She said masks worked in China, they protected people and begged me to wear one. I thought she was overreacting, but now we know that masks do protect us from the virus, as well as protect others. Scientists are always learning more and more, but what I have learned, a year into this pandemic, is that it is my job to protect myself and others to the best of my ability, as well as educate myself.