The school quarantined me for a week because of the coronavirus

February 12, 2020 — by Selena Liu

I had no idea what I was in for.

Two weeks into second semester, my parents made the sudden decision to buy plane tickets to China to spend the Lunar New Year with my family. After all, they reasoned, I was a second semester senior and I could afford to miss one week of school to spend some time with my relatives, whom I hadn’t seen for over a year. 

Little did I know that I was traveling to a nation that had fallen prey to a prolific virus and that I would later be mandatorily quarantined and prohibited from coming to school for a week.

I knew something was going to be different about this trip the moment my mom received a phone call from my relatives, who begged her to buy face masks from an American pharmacy before flying to China. The new Wuhan coronavirus had the entire nation in panic. 

Face masks in China were all sold out, and for families who needed some, they were sold online at stunning prices of more than $100 each. Even in cities like Shenzhen in the Guangzhou province 700 miles south of Wuhan, which was where my aunt lived, I hardly saw anyone outside without a face mask.

Soon, word about the coronavirus spread around the globe. The World Health Organization labeled it a global health emergency, and the virus made headline after headline as American media tracked more than a dozen outbreaks here.

Concern escalated across the Saratoga community as well. When word spread that I had recently returned from China, within three days the PTA president emailed my parents suggesting that I start wearing a face mask to school. A couple days after that, principal Greg Louie pulled me out of class and handed me a notice from the Santa Clara Health Department. 

Originally, I thought that I would be under voluntary self-quarantine. the Santa Clara Health Department notice that Mr. Louie handed me said that students would be given the option to voluntary self-quarantine. However, not even an hour after I sat down to talk with Mr. Louie, the office pulled me out of class and issued me a mandatory quarantine. Apparently the office decided that all students who had returned from China, even from a city other than Wuhan, had to be under self-quarantine until 14 days after the date of return — which meant that I would have to stay at home for an entire week.

Having a week off was refreshing and allowed me to fix my jet lag.  My parents even joked that we could take another vacation if we wanted to. Despite this, missing two weeks out of a six-week grading period was tough. During that week of self-quarantine, not only did I need to study for two math tests  — I was supposed to take one of them on the day I was issued the quarantine — but I also could not meet any of my friends at school. In the end, the week was hardly productive — I spent most of it watching romantic comedy movies in my pajamas.

Despite these difficulties, my struggles could not even compare to the difficulties that my relatives and other citizens in China were going through. My father, who spent the Lunar New Year in Shenzhen with me and my family, could not return to his apartment and business in Beijing because domestic airlines and train stations were all closed. My cousins could not go to work in Shenzhen because companies instructed their employees to stay at home. Many Chinese doctors, reluctant to endanger themselves by being exposed to a potentially deadly disease, refuse to travel to Wuhan to help the infected. As a result, thousands of those infected in Wuhan have been left with inadequate health care.

The coronavirus has affected the entire world, but China most of all. 

Throughout the entire week of my self-quarantine, I thought about how fortunate I am to be living in an area where people are still employed, schools are still running and grocery stores are still open. Most of all, I thought about how grateful I am to be able to go outside and enjoy the fresh air, without being at risk of inhaling deadly pathogens. I hope, in the months to come, the U.S. can continue to stay that way.

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Photo of the week

At UC Berkeley, PhD student Abrar Abidi and research assistant Yvonne Hao have embarked on a goal of creating hand sanitizer for the Bay Area's most vulnerable populations, including the homeless and the incarcerated. Their hand sanitizer includes glycerol mixed with other products, in accordance with a formula from the World Health Organization. So far, they are producing 120 hundreds of gallons of sanitizer each week. Photo courtesy of Roxanne Makasdjian with UC Berkeley.

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