Dawn Royster, who is 17 and a junior at Timber Creek High School in Orlando, typically runs at night. But this March day wasn’t a typical day. Having been out of school for nearly a week, due to a statewide effort to stem the coronavirus outbreak, she was determined to make the most of an abnormal situation. So she laced up her light blue Nike Zooms and set off in the early morning light. She loved being out in nature, the soft breeze caressing her face. She ran harder than usual, barely catching her breath. And while this morning jaunt offered a therapeutic release from days of isolation, something felt eerie. At the sight of a human face—once a source of comfort—an instinctual survival mechanism kicked in, a flinching need to protect and distance herself. She ping-ponged from sidewalk to sidewalk, avoiding passersby. Was this practicing ethical social distancing, she wondered. Or was this society’s new normal?
At the beginning of March, the novel coronavirus, referred to as COVID-19, seemed an innocuous specter, contained to a far-off land. Symptoms can include fever, cough and breathing trouble in healthy individuals, and can lead to death in the immunocompromised and the elderly. However, considering that there is no vaccine nor an adequate number of tests or hospital beds for those who fall ill, all Americans are at grave risk.
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Photo: Students, from left Yazmin de la Rosa, Lorena Sosa and Dawn Royster at a youth climate protest in front of City Hall in Orlando in September. Photo courtesy of Dawn Royster.
By Trina Ryan