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COMMENTARY: Self-quarantine is solidarity

I have been in self quarantine since March 10, the evening that Rutgers announced campus closure in response to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak. 

In days, I have been trying to make the most of the situation. I have been cleaning and disinfecting my apartment. I am finally getting around to the things I had been too busy for, like hanging up picture frames I bought when I moved in. I, of course, have also been watching lots of reality TV and finishing shows I had long forgotten about. 

But for the most part, and for better or for worse, I have been spending the bulk of my time on social media. Not for escapism. On the contrary, I am finding myself frustrated clicking through people’s stories and scrolling through their posts and realizing how few of my peers are doing their parts to “flatten the curve” (slowing down the spread of the coronavirus to help our healthcare system keep up with the amount of people who need treatment). 

I have seen people book last minute vacations to take advantage of cheap flight prices, people taking day-trips to New York, people crowding local bars and the list goes on. It is exhausting to see half of the people on my feed miss the point and consequently jeopardize the health of the other half of the people on my feed who are making posts begging people to stay at home as much as possible.

I understand that last week was supposed to be our spring break and that most of us had plans. I am also disappointed that my campus experience is being cut short in my last semester before graduating. I know that staying home alone is definitely not glamorous. But, for those of us fortunate enough to not have to go into work at this time and healthy enough to not feel like COVID-19 impacts us: We must understand that self-quarantine is a form of solidarity and that social distancing will save lives.

It can be hard to think in the abstract and imagine how exactly limiting our social interactions and physical proximity to others will help an unknown number of the loved ones of your loved ones’ loved ones. But that should not stop you from trying. The realities of COVID-19 are probably not even as far away from you as you think. 

Your friends and family should not have to disclose their medical information to you, but it is important to keep in mind that chances are you know someone in a vulnerable population if you know someone who smokes, someone who has diabetes, someone who is asthmatic and more. So if you think flattening the COVID-19 curve is beyond you because you are just one person, you are just plainly wrong. 

If you just wish the government was doing more, I agree with you! We should hold our local and federal governments accountable together by pushing for mortgage and rent moratoriums, supporting policies like Medicare for All and paid sick leave for all, caring for the houseless members of our communities, among other things. We must think systemically in addition to acting on our individual levels.

Additionally, panic buying is not the answer either. Encourage your loved ones to keep enough around, but do not stock up just because other people are doing it. Families who live paycheck to paycheck will suffer by not finding necessities like baby formula or water in stores when others have enough for the rest of the year. If you think you have more than you need, donate to local food pantries and shelters. Mutual aid is more important now than ever.

If you can and do choose to self-quarantine, it can only be as good for you as you can make it, and of course I know that everyone has a different situation at home. Maybe you can spend some time painting, playing iMessage games, reading a book you swore you would get to eventually, writing in your journal and/or trying out a new recipe. But we all have a role to play, and vulnerable populations need us to take them seriously. 

If you are healthy enough to go out for fun and keep ignoring this crisis, just reconsider and think of those who cannot. For people like us, self-quarantine is ultimately an act of solidarity.

Laila Abbas is a School of Arts and Sciences senior double-majoring in history and middle eastern studies with a minor in women’s and gender studies.


*Columns, cartoons and letters do not necessarily reflect the views of the Targum Publishing Company or its staff.

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