My name is Jayde Waibel. I live in a charming small town in Northeast Pennsylvania. In my county, there are currently 190 COVID-19 cases with seven deaths. None of these are people I know. On the news and in the papers, we are told that these already terrible circumstances will get so much worse. I am scared. I am scared for my grandparents, parents, friends, doctors and nurses. Praying has become a part of my nightly routine, as nothing is very routine about what is happening in the world.

In January, I thought the coronavirus was solely an issue in China. It just seemed so far away. These naive thoughts continued to swirl through my mind as the months passed and COVID-19 continued to spread. It was not until the second case was in the same county as my grandparents that the problem materialized before me. Then my school closed. Track season was canceled. My dance classes were canceled. Everything was put on hold. Even now, sitting at home for the third week in a row, it still does not feel real. It feels like I have been thrown into a science fiction novel. I pray that this book has a happy ending.

When everything started getting canceled, I was selfish and angry. Upset that I could no longer participate in my beloved activities, I neglected to remember that people are dying. I forgot that we are doing all of this to save people. My schooling has gone from face-to-face encounters to face-to-screen Zoom sessions. I feel grateful for the ability to further my education, but online schooling can never be the same as actually being at school. Frequent headaches are a side effect of Zoom for me, as staring at a screen is not ideal. But again, none of this is.

Social media has become so much more than an outlet for me. It is now a lifeline. FaceTime and Snapchat are my saviors. They are the only way to stay in touch with my friends while complying with social distancing. Being unable to see my friends in person is NOT the end of the world, though. I miss them, of course, but I do not miss them enough to endanger the lives
of others. On social media, though, I scroll through pictures of my peers who are disregarding social distancing suggestions. It enrages me to think that while people are putting their lives at risk to treat coronavirus patients, others unnecessarily risk their own exposure.

I have written letters to close family and friends in an attempt to brighten the days of my loved ones. After all, one can only put together puzzles for so long without straining her eyes, so writing was a nice break. Books, baking and biking have occupied the time not spent Zooming.

The town I love has become ever more tranquil as more cars are off the streets. I have seen more neighbors out for biking or running than I have ever seen in my lifetime. Everyone is eager to be outside exercising. I have dragged my dog with me on countless runs and walks. He enjoys it, but he is exhausted, for his little legs do not carry him very far.

Time has slowed down. I am determined to remain optimistic about the future. Without optimism, I would lose the most valuable thing: hope (NOT toilet paper). I hope that when I am older, I can look back and reflect with a rueful smile on the time when I was 14 and quarantined.

Jayde Waibel is a freshman at Scranton Preparatory School.