Coronavirus Chronicles: Luke Byrnes ’23

Read about freshman Luke Byrnes’ experience of living in New Rochelle’s quarantine zone in the middle of the Coronavirus outbreak in Westchester County.

A google map image of New Rochelle, including the one-mile containment zone around Temple Young Israel of New Rochelle where Coronavirus transmission was at its highest in the area.

Google Maps

A google map image of New Rochelle, including the one-mile containment zone around Temple Young Israel of New Rochelle where Coronavirus transmission was at its highest in the area.

By Kira Ratan, The Masters School

CONTAINMENT ZONE, NEW ROCHELLE, NY:

As of March 14, there are 613 cases of COVID-19 in New York State, with 113 of them located in a small cluster in New Rochelle, originating from the 50-year-old lawyer who was the first to test positive for coronavirus in the area.

On Tues. March 10, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo established a one-mile containment zone within New Rochelle around The Young Israel of New Rochelle  Synagogue that had become the center for transmission. Cuomo has deployed the National Guard as of Thursday morning and opened a drive-in testing center as of Friday in a desperate attempt to subdue this highly contagious and rapidly spreading virus. 

Masters freshman Luke Byrnes is currently staying at his father’s house, which is located directly across the street from Glen Island Park in New Rochelle, where a drive-in test center was opened on Friday. Here’s what his experience has looked like from the inside:

Q: So how long have you been living in New Rochelle?

A: I’ve been living in New Rochelle for 15 years, so my entire life.

Q: How do you feel when you found out about the first case in New Rochelle?

A: Honestly I was really surprised, I guess, because like out of anywhere that it could have happened, it happened in New Rochelle.

Q: How integrated are you into the New Rochelle Community since you go to a private school that’s further away?

A: I would say I’m not really integrated first-hand anymore, but the majority of my close friends are from here and go to New Rochelle High School and I know kids who go to the synagogue where this all started and so that’s pretty crazy.

 Q: So, how do you feel your community has coped to deal with this outbreak?

A: I feel that they have really coped more negatively than positively in a way. I mean I guess I wouldn’t really call it coping. It’s more of just a reaction to everything. I just feel so horrible for all the fallout of local businesses. Like, just the other day, I went to my barber, Rosario, to get my haircut – he’s this 70-year-old Italian dude–and he just looked so sad because there was no one in the shop and no one had been there. 

 Q: What’s it like being at the center of it all, especially as someone who isn’t a part of your community academically anymore?

 A: I mean personally I’m not really afraid of getting it or of my loved ones being susceptible and I’m really lucky to have all of my family members and relatives be in good health. I’m not really worried for myself and my family, it’s more of just a shock. It’s crazy to me that this is happening here, and personally I think it’s a little overblown, everything that’s going on, so I just think it’s kind of funny; not saying that I don’t feel so horribly for the people who are actually being affected by this virus of course, but the response from our local government, like only two schools in the area have closed, and all the kids are upset because they might have to miss at least six weeks of school. I think it’s being really ineffectively dealt with and I think everyone around me is more worried about the way it’s being dealt with than the actual virus itself.

Q: Have you had any encounters with the National Guard yet?

A: Okay so my dad’s house is directly across from a park called Glen Island Park, and that’s where the National Guard is. When I go downstairs to my living room, I can literally look out my window and see all the cars lined up for the drive-in testing site. Today I was going to go and try to skateboard over in the park and my dad was like, “That’s a really bad idea because the National Guard is there and there are people there trying to get tested for Coronavirus!”

Q: So what have you been doing with your time holed up at home, then?

A:  Right, well we can’t go to public meeting spaces like the movies and things like that and now they’re saying that we can go to restaurants but I mean my mom’s still a little hesitant to follow that one. I’ve just been hanging out, both of my siblings are home from college for an extended period of time, so it’s been nice to catch up with them. 

Q: So, what are you thinking about what could come next?

A: I would say it’s really hard to try and guess, but I mean, I’m hoping that the number of affected cases will start to decrease as more frequent testing become available and a vaccine is developed or medicine to treat it is created.  I don’t personally understand why, but I know people are saying that when the weather gets warmer, cases might go down, and I mean, judging from the states with the fewest cases, which are in the south, maybe temperature might have something to do with it.  I honestly do think it’s going to eventually go away though, but for now, I’m just here chilling.

This story was originally published on Tower on March 15, 2020.