By Jax DiEugenio
Over the course of the last nine months, the unyielding grips of the Covid-19 pandemic have impacted nearly everyone across the planet, and the state of New Jersey is no exception.
Similar to countless other individuals around the world, New Jerseyans found themselves confined in their homes, falling out of work and fearful of the opaque road ahead — and their journey is not over.
As cases continue to soar in counties across the state, the second wave is making its presence known. Offering a precautionary message for months to come, New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy noted in a November press briefing, “Looking at the data, we are taking surgical steps that we hope will help mitigate the current increasing rate of spread… However, with these actions, we need to change our mindsets. We have to shake off the pandemic fatigue that I know we all feel.”
Murphy furthered, “We remain in the midst of a global pandemic, and in case you missed it, our country is now recording more than 100,000 cases per day, every day, and New Jersey is back at levels we thought we left behind months ago. We have to snap back into reality. This virus has not gone away and it is posing its greatest threat to us in many months.”
Knowing no bounds, the pandemic has inflicted debilitating effects on many spheres of society, including education, the economy, as well as social interaction.
In the pandemic’s early stages, students across New Jersey were sent home from school for an initial two-week period, only to find themselves still out of school nearly nine months later. Zoom and Google Meet are two of the most commonly used video chat features that schools use to continue furthering education virtually. Although students ranging from pre-school through graduate school continue to learn virtually, experts suggest that this platform is not sustainable.
Noting a distinct sense of technological inequity, Dr. Rebecca B. Reynolds, an Associate Professor at the School of Communication & Information within Rutgers University, noted in an interview on SciLine, “Disadvantages to online learning include the digital divide, which prevents vast numbers of students from experiencing enriched immersive online learning because they don’t have access to high-functioning computing equipment, have low bandwidth internet connectivity, are only able to use mobile phones or devices, have to compete to use digital resources in the home with siblings and working parents, or don’t have parent and caretaker support and guidance in technology use, etc.”
While many schools are beginning to slowly transition to a more virtual setting for the winter months, this education model will continue to be crucial to students as they aim to maintain a safe and effective education during this challenging time.
Another sphere severely impacted by the pandemic is the state’s economy, most notably in the realm of small businesses. Murphy introduced Karen West, owner of a home decor shop called Perennial Home in Hightstown, New Jersey.
Murphy explained West’s situation, stating, “Karen has specialized in local arts and crafts and locally produced furniture since local artists turned to her to help them sell their works during the Great Recession. Today, Perennial Home remains a strong promoter of the local arts scene.”
West’s local art business is just one example of the thousands which have witnessed the debilitating effects of this economic downturn. Local small businesses that do not have the funds nor the expertise needed to formulate an online eCommerce forum have been lost to the pandemic at alarming rates.
As Covid-19 cases continue to soar in the midst of a second wave, Gov. Murphy has released new restrictions to help combat the spread. For example, he noted that starting on Nov. 12, restaurants and bars that provide food and drink are now required to close their indoor seating by 10 p.m., and cannot open up again until 5 a.m. the next day. Steps closer to shutdown tactics are being seen as New York state closes indoor dining again.
Murphy also expressed the upcoming steps toward a vaccination, as many are anticipating the first round to begin in upcoming weeks.
“While there is hope on the horizon in the form of several vaccines, in the interim, we are taking these steps today to protect our communities.”
Although indoor sports are hopeful to resume in the new year according to Murphy, he said this can only occur if the state continues to take precautions for now. He referenced a specific cluster of cases arising from current indoor youth sports, and gatherings.
Murphy went on to note, “Indoor sports practices and competitions, including group, competitive and/or organized sporting activities for youth and adults, will be prohibited starting Saturday, December 5, at 6:00 a.m. until Saturday, January 2, 2021. This prohibition will not impact collegiate and professional sporting activities. Private fitness classes, lessons, and training at gyms, studios, and similar locations are permitted to continue.”
In addition to sports, events such as weddings, funerals, and memorial services have served as specific sites of mass infection.
On the matter, Gov. Murphy reiterated, “Wedding ceremonies, funerals, memorial services, and religious and political activities are not subject to the outdoor gatherings limit. All other types of gatherings, such as a high school football game or an outdoor concert, will be limited to 25 individuals. Athletes, coaches, referees and other individuals necessary for a professional or collegiate sports competition are not counted towards the 25-person limit.”
Although the present is still stifling, the governor is looking forward to an optimistic future.
“Let’s focus, folks, on these upcoming six months. This is not forever and always,” he said. “We basically have a six-month window to beat the fatigue back and beat the virus into the ground. Let’s get through the remainder of the fall and the winter together. Let’s work harder knowing that if we can beat back this pandemic today, we can ultimately defeat it for good in the spring.”