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YPIE QuaranTimes Volume 21

Updated: Sep 5, 2021

June 9, 2021

Leafy by Shemar Forbes, YPIE Scholar 2025

In this Issue

  • COVID-19 Vaccination Rates are on the Decline

  • CDC Guidelines Modified: How the General Public and Anti-Maskers are Reacting to the New Regulations

  • COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution: Is it Encouragement or Coercion?

  • Tension Runs High Between Israel and Palestine

  • Music Festivals in the Midst of a Pandemic?

  • 2021 Senior Formal

  • Elon Musk’s SNL Performance

YPIE QuaranTimes Staff


Salamatu Lawal, Editor-in-Chief and Pandemic News Editor

Alyssa Lee, Assistant Editor-in-Chief and Our Voices Heard Editor

Catarina Mendes, Politics Editor

Julia Azulay, Entertainment and Lifestyle Editor

Shemar Forbes, Layout Editor and Director of Communications

Yismel Castro, Layout Editor


Julia Azulay

Anabelle Bradley

Yismel Castro

Shemar Forbes

Salamatu Lawal

Alyssa Lee

Catarina Mendes

Amber Morales

Raquel Negrón


Max Silverman

Welcome to the YPIE QuaranTimes

Produced by YPIE’s Journalism major, the YPIE QuaranTimes is a way for YPIE students to connect and share experiences during these unprecedented times. YPIE Scholars are using this time in so many creative, meaningful ways. As such, the YPIE Journalism major hopes to highlight all of the talents in our community through this publication.

Pandemic News

COVID-19 Vaccination Rates are on the Decline

By Catarina Mendes, YPIE Scholar 2025

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused extreme disruption to everyday life, which everyone has long-awaited to end since it began. Scientists have worked tirelessly to design and develop COVID-19 vaccines, in which they have succeeded. Some of these vaccines have been available to the general public since as early as January, and by now, every American aged 12 or older who has been waiting for the vaccine is eligible to receive one.

In the beginning, vaccines were rather scarce, and it was quite difficult to schedule an appointment for one. Many Americans lined up at pop-up clinics for hours in order to receive their first dose of the vaccine. As the number of people eligible for the vaccination expanded, it has also become more widely available, especially as local pharmacies and other health centers have begun offering them.

So, with only 37.5 percent of Americans fully vaccinated against the COVID-19 virus, why are vaccination rates in the U.S. dropping? According to data from the CDC, what was once an average of over four million doses given in one day at the beginning of April has now declined to less than half that at less than two million doses given on some days in mid-May. It is noted that during the beginning of this decline, the Johnson and Johnson (J&J) single-dose vaccine was paused for evaluation; however, it is now available to be given to the public again.

Researchers have noted that between 70-85% of Americans would need to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 in order for the country to be able to largely curb the spread of the virus. However, it is unlikely that the U.S. will ever reach herd immunity, in part due to the declining vaccination rates. Another contributing factor is the rise of new COVID-19 variants, which scientists do not know enough information about, such as whether the vaccines will be as effective as it was initially. These new variants have pushed the originally desired threshold of having 60% of the population fully vaccinated up to at least 70%.

Some feel that the lower vaccination rates are due in large part to hesitation from those who have yet to be vaccinated, as well as difficulty in booking an appointment to receive the vaccine. People have also expressed concerns about taking a vaccine that was developed so quickly and is under emergency use authorization from the FDA rather than having gone through the normal approval process, which would take significantly more time. They argue that not enough time has passed to truly know how the vaccine affects people in the long term. However, the FDA and CDC claim that the vaccine is indeed safe and quite effective.

In fact, there appears to be a noticeable disparity between vaccination rates in rural and urban areas, especially among older adults. It also seems that some older adults from urban areas signed up for vaccines in rural areas. This could be significant as older adults were the first group who became eligible to receive the vaccine back in January of this year and have therefore had ample opportunity to do so. This could be a further indication that interest in taking the vaccine is waning.

In an effort to remove one significant barrier deterring people from receiving their vaccines, President Biden has announced that a tax credit will be issued to employers who allow employees time off to receive their vaccine and recover from any potential reactions they may experience.

Another factor in decreasing vaccination rates is believed to be fear of adverse reactions. While side effects after the first dose tend to be mild, it has been widely reported that the reaction experienced after the second dose is significantly worse. Side effects include arm soreness as well as fever, headache, nausea, and fatigue. Of course, the severity and range of the side effects vary from person to person. As a result of these occurrences, some people may have decided to forgo their second dose out of fear or anxiety. While only roughly 38% of Americans have been fully vaccinated, over 50% have received at least one dose, and this could be part of the reason behind that gap, besides people simply awaiting their second dose.

In an effort to keep vaccination rates up and encourage more Americans to get vaccinated, many companies and groups, such as United Airlines as well as Krispy Kreme, have begun offering special promotions to people who take their vaccine. Notably, both the New York Mets and New York Yankees have announced that they will offer free baseball game tickets to those who get vaccinated before a game. Local and state governments have also been encouraging vaccinations through public service announcement campaigns. Advertisements appear on television and can be heard on the radio urging people to get vaccinated and citing the benefits not only for the person but for society at large.

Decreasing vaccination rates are worrying, as not enough people are fully vaccinated and therefore the spread of COVID-19 can not be properly contained. Officials are hoping that the easing of mask restrictions for those who are vaccinated will incentivize some who are unsure about taking their vaccine to do so. Many colleges and universities have also stated that they will require all students to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 before arriving on campus for the Fall semester. Some employers are also requiring vaccinations for their employees.

Although vaccination rates have been decreasing, there is significant evidence that proves the effectiveness of being vaccinated. As the CDC puts out more guidance on what people who have been fully vaccinated can do, many Americans are hopeful that this is the beginning of the end of the COVID-19 pandemic. This is something we have all looked forward to, and people who have been fully vaccinated can begin to feel safer about slowly returning mostly to normal life.

Safe Place by Anabelle Brandley, YPIE Scholar 2028

CDC Guidelines Modified: How the General Public and Anti-Maskers are Reacting to the New Regulations

By Julia Azulay, YPIE Scholar 2027

In recent months, which have been heavily impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, public health organizations, such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), have consequently had to enforce strict guidelines for civilians to follow.

For instance, state-wide mask mandates were applied in restaurants, stores, and many other public facilities in order to maintain coronavirus prevention in various areas. Social distancing has also become a societal norm to perpetuate disease prevention.

However, with the recent distribution of vaccines transforming the trajectory of the pandemic, the CDC must account for individuals who are fully vaccinated and therefore protected from the virus. Thus, as of Sunday, May 16th, the CDC has established modifications to COVID-19 mandates that stray from any previous guidance during the pandemic.

Recently, the CDC announced that those who have received all doses required for a selected coronavirus vaccination are permitted to resume activities that were put on pause due to the pandemic. This instruction additionally allows fully vaccinated individuals to resume these activities without wearing a mask or socially distancing themselves from others unless such restrictions are mandatory by federal, state, or local laws.

While there are exceptions to this new policy, this decision can be considered a milestone in terms of the progress made during the pandemic. The rapid dispersal of vaccines has allowed for the loosening of restrictions, which has greatly affected the daily lives of people worldwide.

However, it is important to evaluate the opinion of the people and how they interpret such drastic changes.

Some individuals, including certified healthcare workers, are hesitant to play into the CDC lifting mask mandates and social distancing measures out of concern for their safety.

The United States’ largest nurses union, National Nurses United (NNU), for instance, has condemned the CDC’s new guidance in a statement issued on Saturday, May 15th. The union proclaimed that these recent guidelines could potentially put patients, frontline workers, and nurses at risk amid the ongoing pandemic due to a spread of misinformation regarding mask use remaining mandatory in healthcare-related settings.

Perspectives such as those belonging to the NNU union argue that this point in the pandemic should not be the time to relax protective measures. The NNU’s statement specifically highlighted that over 35,000 new cases are tallied in the U.S. daily and that developing variants of the virus may not be curbed by vaccine immunization.

On the other hand, an opposing point of view is becoming a pressing matter in the face of these recently updated guidelines: the stoicism and stubbornness of anti-maskers.

Given that anti-maskers are fervently against mask-wearing in public spaces, they are speculated to take advantage of the CDC’s relaxation of protective guidelines. Although this specific group may not take interest in getting vaccinated for the sake of public health, they might interpret these new instructions as justification for their actions. Furthermore, occurrences involving people continually refusing to wear masks despite not being vaccinated may contribute to and further exacerbate the pandemic.

The CDC’s controversial decision should not be taken lightly, but rather, be exercised with great care and caution. Despite some American populations being enthusiastic about such a large step toward normalcy, it should be noted that the virus is still highly dangerous, easily transmittable, and not completely stunted in its spread because of newly-created vaccines.

Even for individuals who are fully vaccinated, taking necessary precautions such as wearing masks in crowded areas and engaging in socially distant activities to protect oneself, family, and fellow peers remains significant to ending this dreadful pandemic once and for all.

COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution: Is it Encouragement or Coercion?

By Yismel Castro, YPIE Scholar 2025

During the beginning stages of the COVID-19 pandemic, one of the biggest concerns for the population was getting a vaccine distributed to the general public. The vaccine campaign became increasingly overwhelming as many states started to become saturated with cases while swimming in the midst of national panic.

When the vaccine was finally released, a large amalgamate of individuals rushed to get vaccinated. Emergency authorities took over stadiums, big box-stores, and community centers, all of which were staffed with nurses, and volunteers to provide immunization to thousands of people per day.

As time progresses, however, the daily vaccination rates in the United States have declined from a high of 3.2 million daily vaccine administrations to 2.5 million per day. This trend has raised concerns as the probability of the general population becoming immune to the virus or reaching final herd immunity is expected to be roughly 70%. In other words, at least 70% of the population has to be vaccinated, and with this drastic decrease, the nation is falling behind.

The relatively low rates of vaccinations fall among adults between the ages of 18 to 49, of which 9 to12% are fully vaccinated people, as opposed to people between the ages of 50 to 64, among whom more than 27% are fully vaccinated.

As a result, several corporations and government officials have taken it upon themselves to try and convince the population by offering “little rewards” reserved for those who received the COVID-19 vaccine. The vaccine incentives include free Krispy Kreme donuts for the rest of the year, free Shake Shack Fries for New Yorkers, cash, and even the opportunity to cosplay as Ricky Bobby for Floridians.

Adults between the ages of 18 to 49 appear to be the target of these incentives as they include opportunities that the younger population may be interested in. However, these enticements are encouraging some and making others even more suspicious. The argument is that if the population has to be rewarded to receive immunity, then there must be some drawbacks.

For instance, some individuals feel as though the vaccines are being forced upon the population and with these new incentives, they now feel coerced.

It is difficult to pinpoint the motives behind these incentives, but the reality is that there is immense desperation as individuals have been faced with a pandemic that turned their whole world upside down. The nation wants to get back to normal and as of right now, the vaccine appears to be the only viable solution.

The population is still being heavily encouraged to get vaccinated despite reasonable doubts and concerns that individuals are having. Regardless, there is a common goal, which is to return to normalcy. With that being said, the best option is to work together in order to move forward and finally put this pandemic to an end.


Kintsugi by Anonymous

Tension Runs High Between Israel and Palestine

By Shemar Forbes, YPIE Scholar 2025

The decades-long conflict between Israel and Palestine has escalated on Wednesday, May 19th as the Israeli army deployed airstrikes on the Gaza Strip to counter continuous rocket fire from Hamas. At least six people have been killed and a large family’s home has been destroyed; Israel has also faced a separate barrage of rockets from Lebanon.

The Israeli military stated that Lebanese rockets were fired at Israel from the north, with one being intercepted by air defenses, one landing in an open area, and two falling into the sea. Lebanese security officials said that their rockets were fired from the outskirts of Qlayleh, a southern Lebanese village and that four more rockets fell on Lebanese soil. Both officials spoke on the condition that they would remain anonymous.

In response to these attacks, the Israeli military hit 40 underground targets in a militant tunnel network around the Palestinean towns of Khan Younis and Rafah with 52 airborne rockets, killing a woman and wounding eight people, according to Gaza’s Health Ministry. One of Hamas-run radio station Al-Aqsa radio’s reporters, along with five other people, were also killed in a separate strike, in spite of warning missiles being deployed before the airstrike.

“We had just gotten down to the street, breathless when the devastating bombardment came,” said Ahmed al-Astal, a university professor. “They left nothing but destruction, the children’s cries filling the street,” he continued, adding that some women did not even have time to cover their hair with the traditional Muslim headscarves. “This is happening, and there is no one to help us. We ask God to help us.”

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict reignited earlier this month on Monday, May 10th. That day, after days of clashes between the two sides at the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, Islamic militant group Hamas launched several long-range rockets towards Jerusalem, killing eight members of a Palestinian family; however, “This wasn’t an Israeli attack,” and was actually a misfired rocket from Gaza, according to Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus, an Israeli military spokesman.

The latest strikes came as diplomatic efforts directed towards Gaza’s infrastructure, which was already on the brink of collapse due to the blockade Israel and Egypt imposed after Hamas took power in 2007. Necessities such as medical supplies, electricity, and water are currently low in the area.

According to the Gaza Health Ministry, at least 219 Palestinians have been killed, including 63 children, and 1,530 have been wounded, with some 58,000 fleeing their homes. As for Israel, twelve people have been killed, including a 5-year-old boy, and between 20 and 130 of their fighters have died.

Palestinians have fired more than 3,700 rockets at Israel, reaching a number of its cities, including Tel Aviv; though, many have either fallen short of their targets or been intercepted.

The Israeli military has deployed hundreds of airstrikes it says are aimed at Hamas’s militant infrastructure, destroying one health facility, damaging at least 18 hospitals and clinics, and wiping out half of the essential drugs available. This is especially troubling because the area was already struggling to recover from a coronavirus wave that hit in February, and there are only enough medical supplies for about 55,000 people out of a population of two million.

Fortunately, the Gaza Health Ministry was able to salvage coronavirus vaccines after shrapnel from an Israeli airstrike damaged the territory's testing facility, and the operations were relocated to another clinic.

Other countries, such as the United States and Egypt, have made an effort to defuse tensions between Palestine and Israel; however, it ultimately comes down to both sides to put this issue to rest.

Entertainment and Lifestyle

Music Festivals in the Midst of a Pandemic?

By Salamatu Lawal, YPIE Scholar 2025

With the rollout of COVID-19 vaccines and the lifting of COVID-19 restrictions, Americans have initiated the process of returning to a sense of “normalcy.”

This process includes the return of music festivals--more specifically, The Governors Ball and Rolling Loud. Such large festivals occurring in the midst of a pandemic have garnered much criticism from concerned individuals.

The Governors Ball is scheduled for September 24th to the 26th in the Citi Field complex located in Queens, New York.

Headliners include Billie Eilish, A$AP Rocky, J. Balvin, Post Malone, and various other performers. However, details on the execution of the festival remain obscure.

Mayor Bill De Blasio announced in a statement that “as more New Yorkers get vaccinated each day, we are proud to support arts and culture and welcome The Governors Ball and its fantastic lineup, which includes Princess Nokia, A$AP Rocky and King Princess of New York City.” The festival itself, however, has not yet released any information on its specific COVID Guidelines during the event, but has stated that it will follow “ALL state and federal health guidelines provided.”

Rolling Loud Miami 2021 is occurring the weekend of July 23 to July 25 at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens Travis Scott, Bobby Shmurda, A$AP Rocky, and Megan Thee Stallion as some notable headliners. This popular Hip-Hop and R&B music festival was canceled in May 2020 due to the then-novel coronavirus.

Similar to The Governors Ball, also referred to as “Gov Ball,” Rolling Loud has not released any detailed information regarding COVID-19 safety protocols during the event. They have only stated that they are “currently working with local and state officials to help ensure the safety of our fans at Rolling Loud” and have told fans to “keep an eye on our social media for updated information and on what to bring and what not to bring.”

With only 45.15% of New Yorkers, 37.61% of Floridians, and 39.5% of the total U.S. population being fully vaccinated, it sparks the question: how safe is having such a large-scale music festival?

It is most likely expected that participants in these festivals will be required to be fully vaccinated or have proof of a negative COVID-19 test. Although this is a start, being vaccinated does not guarantee complete immunity to the virus.

There are still many concerns surrounding the safety of having such large-scale events and the impact they will have on these states. More details on the precautions taken are necessary in order to put Americans at ease and ensure their well-being. There is still much time before these festivals are scheduled to take place, so we must wait to observe what the COVID-19 situation will be at the time of the events and for the festivals to release detailed safety measures to allow for further discussion of the matter.

Living in Nature by Amber Morales, YPIE Scholar 2028

2021 Senior Formal

By Alyssa Lee, YPIE Scholar 2026

It has been proven, without a shadow of a doubt, that the 21st century is the era of technology. Yet, in the face of a global pandemic, the definition of “technological advancement” has changed completely.

Students are now attending classes from the safety of their homes and in the comfort of their pajamas. One of the many consequences of this rapid onset change is the loss of the “senior-experience” for many high school students.

The moments adults often reminisce about. The times when they look back and say, “Those were the best four years of my life,” all reduced to shreds.

The loss of these events, while unfortunate, is necessary to preserve the health and safety of the general public.

Although a damper has been placed on school-sanctioned events, some students have taken on the responsibilities of putting together their own version of a formal.

An interview with an anonymous student revealed the feelings that spurred some seniors’ decision to create their own formal, how the technicalities of dance planning are being taken care of, and how everyone will remain safe:

Q: What inspired you to take on the task of hosting a formal this year?

A: “Just the absolute disappointment that the school wouldn’t do anything… They were proposing to have us pay $50 to walk through the school one more time. The majority of the grade, myself included, were just overwhelmingly frustrated by the school’s administration and effort into any senior events, or lack of, and they weren’t taking any ideas or suggestions. So, our only option was to do something on our own.”

Q: What measures are you taking to ensure everyone’s safety at the dance?

A: “Everyone in attendance is required to submit a negative COVID test, regardless of their vaccination status, within 72 hours of the event.”

Q: Since this event is not affiliated with the school, how have you taken on the responsibilities of a formal? Such as payment, venue, catering, etc.?

*Note: There are three people who are involved in the planning process.

A: “The other two people are taking care of social media, the dresses, and helping with decoration. This is the part that I’m doing. So, essentially I called around to all the different venues I knew of that were a decent location and size. Then, I compared who gave the best deal and negotiated the price. The venue with the best offer was $85 a person…and they included a photobooth, DJ, staff tips, and an $800 chocolate fountain into the price [which is why the formal tickets are $80, increased by $5 to pay for decor and photographer]. In terms of catering, we’re having a buffet provided by the venue, and I get to choose a number of items based on their menu. The venue is indoor/outdoor with a newly restricted 250 person capacity. Ticket payments are being taken through Zelle, Cashapp, Venmo or cash and then are recorded on a massive spreadsheet that lets us keep track of all the information.”

Q: What does this formal mean to you?

A: “It’s going to be the only part of my year that seniors normally get. We didn’t get Senior Lockers, Spirit Week, Pep Rally, or Breakfast, and I’m not even going to see my friends walk across a stage...I can’t even clap for them. I haven’t seen my class in a year and a half--and if we’re being honest, I might never see a lot of them ever again. The school isn’t giving us a way to be able to see them again, so this is the one senior event, the one time we get to feel special and see the school friends one last time before we all depart around the world. It’s like a last chance.”

Mountain Scape by Anonymous

Elon Musk’s SNL Performance

By Raquel Negrón, YPIE Scholar 2026

On Saturday, May 8th, 2021, Elon Musk appeared on Saturday Night Live (SNL) as a host alongside musical guest Miley Cyrus.

The billionaire chief executive of Tesla and founder of SpaceX incited many different opinions through his presence in some of the sketches that took place that evening. Many have a negative view towards Musk, but after last Saturday, people had more positive things to say about his character than usual.

On the Sunday following Musk’s appearance on SNL, there were over three million views on the YouTube video, which showcased his monologue. This influx in views was caused by many individuals wanting to catch a glimpse of what he said that night, especially since he is one of the richest and most controversial people in the public eye.

It seems that, in order to boost his own public image, he went on the program to present himself as more likable and relatable to viewers. However, one may ask, why is he disliked by so many to begin with? Well, Musk has done and said some questionable things, with the majority of them taking place on Twitter.

There are many resources that offer information about Musk’s controversies. For example, on March 6th, 2020, during the beginning stages of the COVID-19 pandemic, he tweeted, “The coronavirus panic is dumb.”

Another major reason why people dislike Musk is because he is considered one of the largest contributors to the global wealth gap, which is the unequal distribution of assets among the world’s population.

Many of the regular SNL cast members are not the biggest fans of him either. Aidy Bryant, a longtime SNL cast member, expressed distaste towards Musk with a screenshot of a source from Bernie Sanders, which stated “The 50 wealthiest people in America today own more wealth than the bottom half of our people...That is a moral obscenity.” Many other cast members have their own issues with Musk, as well, but not all have been publicized.

Elon Musk did mention during his appearance that he was diagnosed with Asperger’s, a developmental disorder that affects a person’s ability to effectively communicate and socialize with others, which is now grouped as a part of the Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).

Asperger’s distinguishes itself from typical autism as individuals experience a lack of language and cognitive delay. However, those symptoms are not diagnostic criteria for autism; therefore, it is no longer appropriate to use the term Asperger’s, which is the term Musk used that evening.

It is important to know this information because many people were not informed on the subject. For instance, friends of mine were very surprised to hear that he has ASD. Most people are not very knowledgeable on the topic unless their family, friends, or most loved celebrities have had it.

Overall, people had mixed feelings about Musk's performance that night. Some found the sketches funny, while others did not enjoy the show at all, but Musk showed a different side of himself that night, and the viewers interpreted it in their own ways.

Learn more about the YPIE QuaranTimes.

Interested in contributing? Email or Max Silverman, YPIE QuaranTimes Advisor and Director, College Readiness.

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