New Rochelle, a city in Westchester County, New York, is home to many Lehigh students. The small city took quarantine and social distancing measures early on, which have been effective in managing the number of coronavirus cases. (Courtesy of Claire Moloff)

Students experience the country’s first coronavirus containment zone

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New Rochelle exists as the country’s first coronavirus containment zone.

On March 12, the National Guard arrived in New Rochelle, a small city in Westchester County, New York to support residents combat the spread of the coronavirus.

As of March 20, New York State has reported 7,102 cases of COVID-19 with 798 of those cases from Westchester County. New Rochelle had received national media attention as outbreaks were seen around the county.

The zone is a one mile radius around the Young Israel of New Rochelle synagogue, where a member tested positive for COVID-19 after interacting with others in the synagogue. 

Lehigh students, who reside in New Rochelle, have noticed large differences in their daily lives. There are fewer people out of their homes, due to effective quarantine measures. (Courtesy of Claire Moloff)

Claire Moloff, ‘20, said life has gone on as normal — as the containment zone isn’t a quarantine, but rather a limit on large gatherings — so fewer people have been out, with more staying in their homes.

“It was the first to happen in the U.S. so now people are kind of actively afraid of New Rochelle,” Moloff said. “I know some nearby businesses won’t let people from New Rochelle in, and it’s upsetting because you should want to help everyone out — help New Rochelle businesses.” 

Moloff said while the local grocery store is located outside of the zone, her family living within the zone can still move in and out of the zone to shop as needed. 

She said New Rochelle has made great progress in containing the virus, being the first in New York to establish a drive-through testing site.  

Mackenzie Lynch, ‘23, a reporter for The Brown and White, also lives in New Rochelle. Her home is located two blocks outside of the containment zone. She said she is not leaving her house unless it is necessary to do so, and said the entire town is on edge. 

Lynch said while the situation is very serious, when people hear things like ‘containment zone’ and ‘National Guard,’ they are getting the wrong impression. 

“I remember when I was still at school, and this was coming up, I would read the news and see New Rochelle — I was shocked because you kind of never think this is something that is going to be so close to you, and affect you in that way, but it does, and it is possible,” Lynch said.

Lynch said the National Guard is there to clean schools, synagogues and churches, and to deliver food. 

Owen Fitz, ‘23, lives right outside of the containment zone. He said he has driven in and out of the zone since he has returned home, noticing a lot less people out of their homes. 

The zone has given people a sense of emergency, with grocery stores becoming more crowded, and shoppers wearing gloves, Fitz said. 

“It’s not the containment zone, but the craze of the virus that is causing people to panic and buy goods at the grocery store, and bulk up,” he said. 

Fitz said he has been staying home and avoiding public spaces, being extra cautious with his hygiene and hand washing. 

Lynch said the national attention of her city feels “really weird,” but said that other cities are also beginning to see these negative impacts..

Moloff said they are not in an ideal situation, so everyone has to do what they can to make the virus go away quickly.

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