COVID-19 BLOG: Checking the numbers

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Aminah Beg meets with her colleagues on the leadership team of the Ott Memorial Writing Center on a Zoom call April 21. Top row (L to R): Rebecca Nowacek, Aminah Beg and Nikita Deep. Bottom row (L to R): Maria Shenny, Jenn Fishman and Ariana Chapas. Photo courtesy of Aminah Beg.

I was packing up my suitcase after a long, uneventful spring break of sitting on the couch of my home in the suburbs of Chicago. I was ready to come back to Marquette on Sunday to start the last quarter of my junior year. I had heard about the coronavirus more and more, but I kept telling people it was nothing to worry about. Despite me being a person who regularly likes to check the news, I had not heard any official statement from the government on the situation. I had no idea how many cases were even in the United States. 

Then my friends from Chicago who attend universities such as Loyola and the University of Illinois at Chicago began getting updates from their schools. Emails were sent outlining the increasing danger of the coronavirus and the ways it would affect their education. We would talk about our reactions to the virus and how we were confused whether it was even something we had to start panicking about. 

Then a couple of days later, it happened. They got an email saying their schools were shifting online until the end of the semester. I was shocked and confused. This was the first I heard of schools shutting down due to the virus, especially to this extent.

The country’s leaders did not make the problem clear to any of us. President Donald Trump continued to downplay the severity of the issue and deny the how real the spread of this virus was. He continued to put the blame on China and foreigners while ignoring giving the public any sort of solution or plans for the future. Not enough was done by both the government and Trump to make the problem known to the American public. 

Just the week before I was telling people to be calm about the coronavirus, but now schools were getting shut down. What did this mean? Should we be freaked out? There were a lot of questions running through my mind. 

At this point, Marquette had not sent any sort of update to the students. I assumed maybe we would still come back because I had no idea what Marquette was preparing or considering due to the looming pandemic. I was worried though. I started to hear about the exponential increase in cases in the United States. I was scared that Marquette would force us to return despite the significant potential of safety concerns. 

Finally, after what seemed like much later, we got word from Marquette. The school was going to be shifted online until April 10.

The email kept emphasizing the fact that this was not an extension of spring break. We were still expected to follow through on our studies. I was perplexed why the university kept highlighting this because this was not my concern: All I could think about was the state of our country and the safety of those around me. 

Then the numbers started getting really bad. Every morning I would wake up and immediately refresh the statistics to see how many cases were in the United States.

Aminah Beg looks out the window in her bedroom as the sun shines through. Photo courtesy of Aminah Beg.

It started as us being eighth on the list of countries with the highest number of cases, then seventh, then sixth. Before I could even fathom what was truly happening, the United States moved to third just under China and Italy.

China and Italy still seemed so far away from where we were as a country. Just a week before, we were talking about Italy as some kind of other world that was facing extreme conditions. We heard of the country being on lockdown, but we did not really know what that meant.

The numbers were increasing at a frightening rate. The cases were not just going up by thousands every day, but tens of thousands. We started getting orders to quarantine ourselves at home and completely isolate ourselves from others. I had never believed it could even get here. 

I realized to keep some of my sanity I had to stop checking the numbers every morning. It was making me anxious about the future and completely uncertain on where my life would go.

Now it is today. I have been quarantined for 46 days. Marquette has officially been declared online until the fall semester. My summer internship is canceled. The United States is now at more than 776,093 cases. It is at the top of the list of countries across the world with the coronavirus. Tuesday brought nearly 26,000 additional cases.

I wake up every morning to open the blinds and let the sun in. I try to look forward to the future and cherish what I can in the space I have.

This story was written by Aminah Beg. She can be reached at aminah.beg@marquette.edu.