• The Cougar Chronicle

2020: The Year The Earth Closed

By Aron Shklar

World News Editor


As of the middle of May, 2020, famed tourist attractions stand empty. Normally filled streets are devoid of traffic and pedestrians. Religious congregations are empty. This might seem like a scene from a horror movie, and to some, it is. The world has responded to the coronavirus in several ways, but one is most prominent: asking residents to stay at home and avoid social gatherings. Due to this, theme parks, theaters, and landmarks stand devoid of visitors.

In many large and famous cities, their well-known sites remain empty. For example, the Kotel, or Western Wall, in Jerusalem, is ordinarily packed with people praying on Passover or other major festivals. Instead, it is almost abandoned, with only the occasional pilgrimage-maker still arriving. In Mecca, Saudi Arabia, the Kabba stands alone, despite being the most important site in Islam. It should be surrounded by Muslims making their annual pilgrimage, but instead of crowds, there are sparsely spread out individuals. Another example is Times Square in NYC. One of the most busy and popular places in America now has just a few cars and people moving through it. Other normally packed buildings, such as malls, are completely shut down. Cities appear like ghost towns, seemingly abandoned, as residents are advised to stay indoors.

Religious sites and tourist attractions aren’t the only things that have been closed. Many concerts, conferences, events, and other activities that would involve large gatherings of people have been cancelled or postponed. Tours, such as the Map Of The Soul Tour, by BTS, and the upcoming Foo Fighters tour, have been postponed to later dates. Festivals such as Burning Man, the Webby Awards, and the E3 Gaming Conference, have been moved to an online format, while others, such as Eurovision and many film festivals have simply been cancelled.

All over the U.S., the situation has been similar. Almost every state has initiated “stay at home” policies, and closed all businesses that aren’t defined as “essential.” The governors have also made many requests that people stay at least six feet apart and wear masks while they are in public. Those measures are safety precautions for the public, to slow the spread of the virus and keep others safe. Places such as grocery stores have adjusted hours, with blocks of time for the elderly to shop before products are bought up by other shoppers. Other states, like Florida, have treated the outbreak and dangers with far less caution. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis refused to close the beaches, but the mayors of Miami, Fort Lauderdale, Tampa, and Naples all ordered their beaches to be closed. However, hundreds of college students on spring break still flooded the beaches. Shortly afterwards, on April 18th, Governor DeSantis ordered all beaches to open again. This proved to be a bad decision, because Florida did not contain the virus well.

When it comes to Barrack students’ perspectives, there are many opinions about social distancing and staying home. Danny Cohen ‘22 says, “Although there are a lot of negatives, it allows me to do things that I wouldn’t usually have the time for, like creating online sports quizzes for fun.” Some people have been taking up new activities, like knitting or writing, to spend the quarantine usefully. Many others are using tools such as social media to stay in touch with their friends at this time, which can prove to be difficult. Josh Graub ‘23 notes that “keeping a social life is hard but necessary. I try to stay in contact with my friends and that helps get me through the solitude that everyone is going through.”

It’s unclear how much longer everything will be shut down. While some states are reopening, others are cautiously moving slowly. Until life returns to a semblance of normalcy, attractions, businesses, and many aspects of ordinary life will remain closed. For now, it is extremely important to keep sane, safe, and healthy, by following the guidelines.



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