In the last two weeks 69 people in my New York City zip code tested positive for the coronavirus. I wasn’t one of them. My antibody test results, which I received last week, show that I hadn’t contracted COVID-19 before then, either. None of my close friends or family members have been among the 216,000 New Yorkers stricken by the virus, let alone the 18,000 plus who have succumbed to it. I should feel better about this than I do.
I’m proud of my city. We have been New York tough: smart, united, disciplined and loving. For the first time since this hell began, no new COVID-19 deaths have occurred in the city over the last twenty-four hours. Let’s keep it that way!
I feel closer to my neighbors than ever before. We all wear masks, casual acquaintances ask after each other’s well-being while dog walking, apartment dwellers offer to shop for those more immunocompromised, my upstairs neighbors returning from Florida are strictly following the fourteen day quarantine regulations.
So far, this summer hasn’t been too hot, too muggy, too rainy. I’ve been able to get outside almost every day for long strolls in Riverside Park. I’m reluctant to go so far as to dine at one of the many restaurants offering curbside service, despite how charming many eateries have made these spaces. Sometimes, I feel almost as if I am in Europe, with the corner bodega bedecked with tiers of flowers and plants and the many vegetable and fruit stands peddling their wares street side, outdoor cafe life in full swing.
But this isn’t Europe. It’s Trump’s America. Lord knows when we will ever again be welcomed as tourists in Europe, or Asia or most anywhere else. I’ve been nagging my husband to renew his soon-to-expire passport for months, but now I wonder whether he should even bother.
Listening to Governor Cuomo give one of his signature updates this morning, I was at once heartened and immeasurably saddened by his tone of frustration, even anger at the failure of the federal government to take the lessons learned in New York and apply them to the rest of the country. I’m not the only one heartbroken by the fact that our collective pain hasn’t been redeemed by preventing a similar fate from happening elsewhere. And it threatens to stealthily return in the bodies of those who come here from places that haven’t done the things proven to keep people safe.
My world has shrunk. Not just because of “New York Pause” and the three months I spent virtually imprisoned in my apartment, but because now that I have the choice to move about more in the world, I either can’t or don’t want to. We haven’t even had an indoor get together with our family members yet, let alone strangers.
My family canceled our vacation out of state in early June once we knew that we would have to quarantine for the entire two weeks. We’ve rented a cabin in upstate New York instead, where we know that we will still be under the mandates set out by our governor.
The thought of traveling to a location that doesn’t observe social distancing, where people refuse to wear masks, where I might even be castigated for protecting myself, is just too anxiety-producing. My husband is regularly tested as part of his cancer treatment regimen. My daughter and son-in-law got tested in advance of our trip just to give us all peace of mind that none of us are asymptomatic.
I’ve heard people refer to the time before lockdown as “the before times.” I have a hard time imagining what “the after times” will look like. I’ve lost so much faith in my country’s government not to mention my fellow countrymen. My lifelong Quaker testimony to “look for that of God in every man” is being challenged by every viral video of a new Karen or Kyle. I cringe listening to Republican officials try to spin the unspinnable. I am angered that Dr. Fauci is being attacked in an effort to shift blame from the White House, that Roger Stone has been pardoned, that Breonna Taylor’s killers are still out free, that Trump won’t release his tax returns.
So much has been exposed in the last six months, that I wonder what it will take to cure the plagues of racism, callousness toward the less fortunate among us, police brutality, xenophobia, corruption and ineptitude that have ridden on the back of the pandemic. My heart is broken as I watch my country become a pariah state. I’m struggling to breathe, not from COVID-19, but from the exhaustion of staying positive in the face of the willful disregard of science, of history, of basic human decency and common sense that I see each day.
And then I remember my own Nana’s advice, the mantra that has saved me from despair so many times in the course of a long life: “This too shall pass.” Time to tackle my To Do list before going on vacation, time to email a few friends, time to bake some bread, time to get over myself, to buck up. “See you on the flip side,” as we used to say ;-).