BLACKSBURG, Va. – To many, New Rochelle is known as the epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic in New York, but for two sisters in Blacksburg, it will always be home.
Hannah and Talia Weiss grew up in New Rochelle and moved to the New River Valley for their careers and education. Talia is working on her doctorate at Virginia Tech.
“Kind of grew up reading those pandemic books but I never wanted to live through one,” said Hannah.
The two grew up in what they call a medical-field household. Their mom was a nurse, their dad, a doctor. Hannah now has her bachelor’s degree in biology, but nothing prepared her for this.
“It’s still pretty weird to see my elementary school, my middle school, high school, they’re all actually within that containment zone so they were shut down before all the other schools were shut down so it’s very strange,” Hannah said.
The news of tents, hazmat suits, medical masks and the state of New York’s first drive-up testing facility taking over where their father, brother and many friends still live came as a shock to them.
“My lab mate who is currently at DC basically texted me and said ‘Are you okay? Aren’t you from New Rochelle?'" said Talia.
"I think I received 10 messages in a row and then I turned around and called my dad, " Hannah said.
Hearing, then seeing on the news what was happening in their hometown made what seemed like a distant possibility a surreal reality.
“Everything shut down, there’s a quarantine zone. I don’t know if I was expecting that to happen anywhere,” Talia explains.
The circumstances are now forcing loved ones to support exciting moments, like Talia’s doctorate presentation at Virginia Tech, virtually.
“That’s kind of disappointing, because it’s usually kind of a big moment to share what you’ve been doing for the past years with your friends and family,” explained Talia.
With Virginia Tech’s spring break ending this weekend and classes starting online on Monday, the sisters worry what students returning to off-campus apartments and homes may bring.
“I’m certain students are going to come back and they’re going to come back from places that do have active infections.”