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OP ED: Holding Each Other from a Distance

Two weeks ago, my biggest worries concerned managing my classes, having three dance practices a week, organizing events for the Harvard College Women’s Center, and writing this column. But two weeks ago, I didn’t know that I would be packing up my things and leaving Harvard for the rest of the semester. I didn’t know that I would be getting stuck in Hawaii for a week with my older brother, scrambling to move my cousin out of her apartment with the threat of her being out of a job soon and unable to cover rent. And I didn’t know that all three of us would be flying to American Samoa together with the fear that we could be carrying a deadly virus back home, threatening the lives of, not only our families, but our entire community. To say that the things I was worried about two weeks ago now seem small and insignificant is quite the understatement.

In fact, as I sit quarantined in an apartment building, separated from my little brother, parents, grandparents, uncles, aunties, and cousins, I can barely summon enough concentration to carry on with classes over Zoom or even write clear sentences for this piece.

All I can think about every day is whether or not I might be carrying the virus. What if I’ve somehow already transmitted it to my family? When my little brother pulls up a plastic chair to sit outside and talk to me and my older brother through the glass window every day, all I can do is count down the days until I can give him a big hug. But when will I be able to guarantee that that is even a safe thing for me to do? Without the ability to test for COVID-19 in American Samoa, there’s no way for anyone here to know whether they might be carrying the virus — making social distancing all the more imperative.

Now more than ever we must hold and take care of each other, but the best way to do that is from a distance.

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