I’ve been distracted this week and it’s affecting my ability to focus the energy I usually have on this blog. It seems silly at best and reckless at worst to post a travel guide in the midst of this global pandemic. And as for recipes, my creative voice is quiet these days. My mind is dominated and distracted by coronavirus, so I’ve decided to tell my story instead as a woman living in New York City right now.
There’s tension in the air here, you can feel it. Although people are still out and about, the crowds have thinned. The buzz of the city has quieted. The sounds of an ambulance, part of the daily background noise, now grate on my nerves as a constant reminder of the growing crisis.
I didn’t take the threat so seriously until this past Wednesday. I was seeing the news, but it felt far away. I was of the mindset that if I washed my hands frequently, I wouldn’t get sick and that was all I needed to worry about. I work remote and I have a coworking space. Earlier this week I was still going in to work there, taking public transit, going to the gym, etc. Crowds were thinning: fewer people on the subway, more empty seats in the coworking space. There were also more people with masks. Fitness instructors were more vigilant about asking us to disinfect equipment. But it also felt relatively normal.
But the tide turned later this week. Maybe it was the designation of global pandemic, or having work trips cancelled and project timelines significantly moved back. The case count and death count started to rise. We all began to take action against the virus. There were inundations of social media posts and news notifications: professional and college sports leagues closing, NYC museums closing, Broadway shows cancelled, gatherings limited to 500 or less. Then there was realizations that based on current trends, NYC is poised to be like Wuhan, South Korea, or Italy.
Since Wednesday evening, I’ve been in my neighborhood. No more coworking space, gym workouts, or trips on the train. I cancelled a trip to visit Baltimore this weekend and work travel is postponed until further notice. I’ve accepted that, although I don’t like it, it’s probably going to be awhile before I see most of my friends and family in person. Some would say I’m overreacting, but I would rather overreact than underreact right now. I recognize that as a remote worker, I have the privilege to stay home without threatening my employment and I’m grateful because I know that not everyone has that choice.
I thought the toilet paper shortage was social media noise until I went to the nearest drug store to find that they were sold out. I came home, still not too worried, figuring I would buy it online. I was increasingly panicked to see that Amazon and Target were sold out. Don’t worry, I did get some eventually, but it was definitely a moment of realization as to how worried people are. Today, entire sections of Whole Foods were empty and many products were sold out. I’m lucky to live in a city with a lot of options so I was able to eventually find everything I wanted, but the empty shelves really made an impression. I heard a woman say that it wasn’t even like this after 9/11.
This has been a time of high stress, anxiety, and fear. Particularly stressful was the fact that my fiancé is a teacher and we didn’t know if they were going to close the public schools. While I could stay home, he couldn’t, exposing himself to hundreds of students and teachers every day, not to mention the subway. There were talks of a strike or a sick out, growing pressure from parents and teachers to close the schools but a lot of uncertainty as to whether it would happen. This afternoon, finally, they made the announcement that the schools would be closed until April 20 and we breathed a collective sigh of relief. However, after reports that crowds swarmed bars and restaurants last night, there’s still pressure to close even more establishments and put stricter rules in place.
In the last week I’ve felt panic, calm, overwhelm, fear, anger, and dread. The future feels really uncertain. How will this affect my loved ones, my community, my city, my country…my world? Who will get sick? Could I have the virus already and not even know it? Will NYC go on total lockdown? Will we have enough capacity to treat those who are infected? What will happen to the economy? What happens the next time we need toilet paper? And how long will we live like this?
It’s ok to feel this mix of emotions. We all do. This too will pass but until it does please stay calm, wash your hands, and stay home if you can. You are not alone. We’re in this together.
What’s happening in your city? How are you coping with the stress of the virus? Let me know in the comments below.