Coronavirus Hits Home

The Coronavirus, formally known as COVID-19, has struck the world as an international pandemic, igniting fear and changing the lives of millions. Major league sports, school districts, jobs, concerts and even personal gatherings such as weddings have all come to a halt in recent weeks in an attempt to curve the number of positive coronavirus cases. As of today, there are over 55,000 cases within the United States, with New York and New Jersey being the top two infected states. With over 3,000 cases in New Jersey, 15 cases in Sussex County and one confirmed case in Hopatcong, the virus is closer to home than we think. 

While COVID-19 is an unfamiliar strain of virus, it comes from a pre-existing family named Coronaviridae; the same family to which SARS and MERS are linked. All Coronaviridae diseases cause upper respiratory problems for infected humans. COVID-19, however, causes infected patients to experience fatigue, fever, altered taste/smell and coughing in addition to difficulty breathing. To our current knowledge, people in the high-risk category are those who are elderly or have pre-existing medical disadvantages. Despite the coronavirus’s 80% recovery rate, it should still be avoided at all costs, especially given the fact that younger generations can act as unknowing carriers for the virus. After coming in contact with the coronavirus symptoms often do not appear for a number of days; hence, it is highly important to practice conscientious hygiene 24/7.

Media coverage of this growing pandemic has caused grocery shortages and mass hysteria, yet thankfully, it has also encouraged proactive procedures globally. Within our own community quarantine has been highly urged; all ‘eat-in’ restaurants and non-essential businesses have been suspended for the time being and all schools have been closed since March 14. All of these changes, while unfortunate, have been necessary. However, these changes weigh a heavy burden on all of this year’s graduating seniors and college students. 

The tragedy within school closures is not the delay of minor gatherings such as talent shows and club meetings; it rather lies within the disruption of spring sports seasons and the implication of an entirely foreign learning system.

Hopatcong, along with many other high schools and universities alike, has embarked on a journey of online education. Through resources such as Google Classroom and video chat calls, schoolwork can be assigned and completed, though it is just not the same as the traditional classroom setting. When asked her thoughts on online learning, senior Veronica Carreras, responded:  “I must say that it is a bit overwhelming. The teachers are still struggling on how to teach their students through a computer screen, leaving us with a ton of work that needs to be done by the end of the day or by a certain time. However, as stressful as this all is, the teachers aren’t to blame. They’re just making sure they do their part and fulfill their responsibilities as professors. Besides, this is a new learning experience not just for them, but for us students as well.”

When examining the social aspect of High School, spring brings joy and excitement for the end of the year to everyone. Yet sadly, the class of 2020 is suffering from the coronavirus in a way that others are not. Across the country, both high school and college graduations have been simply canceled due to this pandemic. The coronavirus is threatening the moment to which all seniors have worked hard for the past four years, threatening to strip them of the cap and gown ceremony shared with their childhood friends. The same goes for the fear of cancelation of prom, fear of cancellation of the end of the year dances and senior trips across the nation. All is a small price to pay for the health of one’s community, yet it is a huge loss for the class of 2020 nonetheless.

Senior Esmeralda Paredes confides, “I fear that prom will be canceled and possibly graduation. If true, this would leave me highly disappointed that I wouldn’t be experiencing a normal, promised senior year.”

Hopatcong’s class of 2020 was born into this world amidst the tragedy of 9/11, began their junior year with mold, a senior year with 8th graders and now they hope to be able to graduate amidst a pandemic. This year’s senior class truly is experiencing the consequences of this virus in a different way than most, yet with hope and a strong community, we will eventually all make it past these trying times. 

2 comments for “Coronavirus Hits Home

  1. March 26, 2020 at 9:48 am

    Two comments on a well written statement by Ms. Gutierrez. It is the full intent of the high school and district administration to enable all of the important milestones that make a senior year somewhat special.We cannot promise they they will be accomplished in a timely fashion, but they will take place. The prom has already been moved to June with the hope that our current crisis will be on a downturn by that time. Graduation is still set at the end of the school year.
    My second comment is about the concept of “grit.” Challenging circumstances must be met head on and confronted. This is easier said then done yet I have observed that this senior class, perhaps because of dealing with the aforementioned obstacles that have been put in its path, does have a toughness that will serve these young adults well as life moves on. Do not despair. Do not sink into self-pity. Spend energy helping those who do, There is a great strength in a united group and this group has a great potential.
    Respectfully, art dibenedetto, supt.

  2. Joseph S. Piccirillo
    March 26, 2020 at 9:56 am


    I am truly impressed with your article and I thank you for not only reporting the facts of the virus but also for sharing your own personal feelings about how the virus is impacting you and the senior class. So many communities and families are being impacted by the Coronavirus and I definitely understand how unfair it must feel for the senior class to have so many wonderful Spring events canceled. It is unfair. There is no question about it. Many of these moments are moments that you and your peers have looked forward to your whole lives and the memories you make in your 12th-grade year often are the ones you cherish forever. But I appreciate that you recognize the uniqueness of this situation and the need that, at least for the time being, schools remain closed and people continue to practice social distancing. It doesn’t make the feeling of losing events during your senior year any easier to accept but, as you mentioned in your last line, we WILL get through this! And your senior class will be able to continue to show your grit, your tenacity, and your courage — just as you did with the mold!

    I can empathize in some ways with what your class is going through (although it is not 100% analogous). When I was a freshman in HS, the Columbine tragedy occurred. Many school events and trips were canceled following this event and the tragedy forever changed school security and how students and teachers felt inside schools. In fact, the impact is still felt today. Then, during my senior year of high school, the September 11th tragedy happened. This event, of course, was even more devasting than Columbine for our country, and most specifically, for our region of the country. In many aspects our world has never fully recovered from the impact of 9/11 and how it shapes our interactions with others and our sense of security. After 9/11 nearly all field trips were canceled for the rest of our school year. I almost didn’t apply to NYU because I thought it would be too dangerous to live and go to school in NYC. In the end, I did apply to NYU, was accepted, and ending up attending. Now I look back at my time in high school and I see the two events that served as bookends for my education — Columbine and 9/11 — and I know how much I grew, matured, and learned through the difficult times. Most specifically, it helped me to appreciate what I had — my community, my family, and my friends. I began to cherish those relationships more.

    I am sorry for the Hopatcong seniors. But I KNOW that the 12th-grade students will rise above the disappointment and begin to see after the virus passes, that the most important thing is the health of our community, friends, and loved ones. Together we can get through this and you will learn through this process and the many struggles you will encounter throughout your life that TOGETHER WE CAN GET THROUGH ANYTHING.

    Joseph S. Piccirillo
    Assistant Superintendent

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