The act of quarantining: an immense privilege


United States Interagency Council on Homelessness

There are over 20,000 public school students experiencing homelessness in the state of Virginia.

Isabel Engel, Opinion Editor

As I’m sure you are all aware, this year’s spring isn’t looking like any one we’ve ever seen before. Instead of sitting out on the quad during lunch and getting ready for prom, we are being forced to social-distance at home. Rather than spending time with our friends, teams, and classmates, we are communicating through our screens. 

I’m sure we are all sick of staying at home, and we can all agree that Zoom is no match for live conversations. 

During stressful times like these, it is easy to get bogged down by the negative. We could so easily dwell on all that we are missing. But, let’s all remember, it’s honestly a privilege to quarantine. Think about it. 

Governor Northam mandated that all Virginia residents stay home through June 10 and self-isolate to prevent the spread of the pandemic. Sure, it is not an ideal situation to stay at home for months on end, but what about the people without homes? 

In the state of Virginia alone, there are around 6,000 homeless people on a given day. Where do they quarantine? According to the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness, during the 2017-2018 school-year an estimated 20,393 public school students experienced some level of homelessness. 20,000 students like you and me did not have a regular place to call home. What are these students doing now? 

Homeless shelters do incredible work, but make it very difficult for people to social distance. These statistics are saddening, but they are real. If you have a roof over your head and a place to call home during this quarantine, you are unbelievably fortunate. 

Being able to stay safe at home during a global pandemic is a privilege. Let’s count our blessings before complaining about the monotony of staying inside. 

Quarantining at home also requires the ability to stock up on food and groceries. According to Feeding America, “in Virginia, 863,390 people are struggling with hunger – and of them 247,470 are children.” That is one out of every eight children in Virginia. 

How are these families, these children, able to quarantine and self-isolate without a consistent source of food? 

Additionally, a global pandemic of this nature has left many without jobs or steady sources of income. An economic depression only worsens people’s ability to purchase basic human necessities. If you don’t have to worry about where your next meal is coming from during a time of economic depression, again, you are immensely privileged. 

None of this is to say these weeks at home have not been difficult. I would be remiss to discount the fact that each one of us is experiencing our own hardships. 

Whether they be mental health challenges or the sadness of missing out on important milestones, your emotions and frustrations are absolutely valid. And, I know it is certainly challenging to be optimistic during a global crisis of this nature. But, since when have Potomac students been the ones to shy away from a challenge? 

While you are home, I urge you to take stock of what you are grateful for. Count your blessings and cherish those around you. When we remember our immense privilege, this whole quarantine thing might not seem as bad.