UNION, N.J. — At high schools across America, senior night is bittersweet even in the best of times. This year, it became just another milestone, alongside senior proms and graduation ceremonies, erased from the calendar by the coronavirus pandemic.
The exceptional few graduating seniors will get to continue their athletic careers in college. The majority will not. For them, senior night is often a powerful mix of memories, achievements and friendships, a final hour or two to cap years invested in competitive athletics.
But how do you celebrate a final season that never happened?
“Every high school kid looks forward to their senior year being the best one out of all four,” said Andrew Sanborn, the starting quarterback at Union High School in New Jersey, who was looking forward to one more baseball season before heading off to play college football.
His baseball season, like so many others, was canceled before opening day.
“It was going great in the beginning of the year,” he said, “but then everything took a turn for the worse.”
At Union High, a school serving a diverse student body within a tangle of highways just west of New York City, the athletic department was determined to salute its seniors as it always had done.
To do it, they invited the players to the school on an evening in late May to celebrate the athletes whose last chance to compete was sooner than they expected; to give teammates the opportunity to gather one last time; to talk about what had been achieved even as so much had been lost.
The teenagers shouted out the windows of cars as they pulled into the parking lot — greetings, whoops and pure squeals of joy shared between teammates who had not seen one another in person for weeks.
Organizers were resourceful in an era of social distancing. Set up as a drive-in affair, Union’s senior night was held alongside the school’s stadium. When student-athletes were out of their cars, a fence divided them from the adults. Moms and dads, who tagged along, reminded them and their friends to stay six feet apart. Coaches did the same.
“You’re too close,” rang out in the dusk during a fireworks display.
It was hard to look ahead. For some, it was worse to look back.
Marshaan Ebuenga-Smith, an honors student and the captain of the volleyball and track and field teams, wants to become a heart surgeon. She is off to the University of Delaware, where she hopes to join the Blue Hens track team.
But first she had to endure a harrowing couple of weeks after both her parents tested positive for the coronavirus. Her mother’s case of Covid-19, the disease caused by the virus, was severe enough that she needed to be hospitalized. She has since recovered.
Those nerve-racking months behind her, Ebuenga-Smith said she was grateful for a last chance to see her teammates.
“Not being able to spend the last moments with my class and friends is very heartbreaking due to knowing we will most likely never see each other again,” she said. “We all dreamed of the day we would throw our graduation caps in the air and say we made it with each other, but it has been taken away.”
This was the year Union’s track and field team expected to ascend to the top spot in the national rankings. Union was No. 2 when the national meet was canceled by the pandemic. Instead many Union athletes have been left to stay in shape by squeezing through a hole in the stadium’s fence and working out on the track, even though it is officially closed as a precaution.
Updated June 24, 2020
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A commentary published this month on the website of the British Journal of Sports Medicine points out that covering your face during exercise “comes with issues of potential breathing restriction and discomfort” and requires “balancing benefits versus possible adverse events.” Masks do alter exercise, says Cedric X. Bryant, the president and chief science officer of the American Council on Exercise, a nonprofit organization that funds exercise research and certifies fitness professionals. “In my personal experience,” he says, “heart rates are higher at the same relative intensity when you wear a mask.” Some people also could experience lightheadedness during familiar workouts while masked, says Len Kravitz, a professor of exercise science at the University of New Mexico.
I’ve heard about a treatment called dexamethasone. Does it work?
The steroid, dexamethasone, is the first treatment shown to reduce mortality in severely ill patients, according to scientists in Britain. The drug appears to reduce inflammation caused by the immune system, protecting the tissues. In the study, dexamethasone reduced deaths of patients on ventilators by one-third, and deaths of patients on oxygen by one-fifth.
What is pandemic paid leave?
The coronavirus emergency relief package gives many American workers paid leave if they need to take time off because of the virus. It gives qualified workers two weeks of paid sick leave if they are ill, quarantined or seeking diagnosis or preventive care for coronavirus, or if they are caring for sick family members. It gives 12 weeks of paid leave to people caring for children whose schools are closed or whose child care provider is unavailable because of the coronavirus. It is the first time the United States has had widespread federally mandated paid leave, and includes people who don’t typically get such benefits, like part-time and gig economy workers. But the measure excludes at least half of private-sector workers, including those at the country’s largest employers, and gives small employers significant leeway to deny leave.
Does asymptomatic transmission of Covid-19 happen?
So far, the evidence seems to show it does. A widely cited paper published in April suggests that people are most infectious about two days before the onset of coronavirus symptoms and estimated that 44 percent of new infections were a result of transmission from people who were not yet showing symptoms. Recently, a top expert at the World Health Organization stated that transmission of the coronavirus by people who did not have symptoms was “very rare,” but she later walked back that statement.
What’s the risk of catching coronavirus from a surface?
Touching contaminated objects and then infecting ourselves with the germs is not typically how the virus spreads. But it can happen. A number of studies of flu, rhinovirus, coronavirus and other microbes have shown that respiratory illnesses, including the new coronavirus, can spread by touching contaminated surfaces, particularly in places like day care centers, offices and hospitals. But a long chain of events has to happen for the disease to spread that way. The best way to protect yourself from coronavirus — whether it’s surface transmission or close human contact — is still social distancing, washing your hands, not touching your face and wearing masks.
How does blood type influence coronavirus?
A study by European scientists is the first to document a strong statistical link between genetic variations and Covid-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus. Having Type A blood was linked to a 50 percent increase in the likelihood that a patient would need to get oxygen or to go on a ventilator, according to the new study.
How many people have lost their jobs due to coronavirus in the U.S.?
The unemployment rate fell to 13.3 percent in May, the Labor Department said on June 5, an unexpected improvement in the nation’s job market as hiring rebounded faster than economists expected. Economists had forecast the unemployment rate to increase to as much as 20 percent, after it hit 14.7 percent in April, which was the highest since the government began keeping official statistics after World War II. But the unemployment rate dipped instead, with employers adding 2.5 million jobs, after more than 20 million jobs were lost in April.
What are the symptoms of coronavirus?
Common symptoms include fever, a dry cough, fatigue and difficulty breathing or shortness of breath. Some of these symptoms overlap with those of the flu, making detection difficult, but runny noses and stuffy sinuses are less common. The C.D.C. has also added chills, muscle pain, sore throat, headache and a new loss of the sense of taste or smell as symptoms to look out for. Most people fall ill five to seven days after exposure, but symptoms may appear in as few as two days or as many as 14 days.
How can I protect myself while flying?
If air travel is unavoidable, there are some steps you can take to protect yourself. Most important: Wash your hands often, and stop touching your face. If possible, choose a window seat. A study from Emory University found that during flu season, the safest place to sit on a plane is by a window, as people sitting in window seats had less contact with potentially sick people. Disinfect hard surfaces. When you get to your seat and your hands are clean, use disinfecting wipes to clean the hard surfaces at your seat like the head and arm rest, the seatbelt buckle, the remote, screen, seat back pocket and the tray table. If the seat is hard and nonporous or leather or pleather, you can wipe that down, too. (Using wipes on upholstered seats could lead to a wet seat and spreading of germs rather than killing them.)
What should I do if I feel sick?
If you’ve been exposed to the coronavirus or think you have, and have a fever or symptoms like a cough or difficulty breathing, call a doctor. They should give you advice on whether you should be tested, how to get tested, and how to seek medical treatment without potentially infecting or exposing others.
“We were set to win it all,” said Brian J. Kwarteng, the senior class president, who plans to enroll at Tufts University, where he will compete in the 400-meter hurdles for the Jumbos.
For Elizabeth Arias, the pandemic and its effects have been important preparation for college and beyond. She was a four-year starter in softball and an avid reader. She thinks Benjamin Franklin was a wise man when he said, “Change is the only constant in life.”
“How has Covid transformed my senior year is quite simple,” she said. “It’s showed me that whether we like it or not we are all going to go through change, and it’s up to us to accept it and decide how we will move forward with it.”