Tuesday, March 10, 2020


It seems that all anyone in New York City is talking about is the corona virus. I can't tell whether it's incredibly hyped up or a true crisis. Columbia University and Barnard College up the street from me have shut down all in person classes and activities. My husband's museum told everyone to take home whatever they needed to work from home for a while. He works with the Ichthyology collection. He and his coworkers put their heads together to figure out what they could do from home and came up with a solution: Binge watch Netflix.

My son thinks everyone is being a little bit insane, but I'm secretly glad he's a firefighter now and not a paramedic making EMS calls. Although he came over this afternoon so that I could help him update and format his resume (my OCD is useful for such things) because he plans to pick up a side gig as a paramedic at a time when health care professionals are more in demand than ever. Meanwhile my daughter's co-workers in midtown are bemoaning supermarkets that are all sold out of hand sanitizer, Lysol spray, canned goods, and toilet paper. "This isn't happening in the hood," she told us. "I went into the grocery store on my block and all the so-called scarce items were right there." I guess some folks simply don't have the means to be stockpiling goods based on a maybe.

Yet the hype is such that people are even avoiding Corona beer, which led one of my son's friends to make a point of patronizing a restaurant named Corona in the neighborhood of Corona, Queens, where he sat drinking a Corona beer. Serendipitously, our son was on speaker phone sharing this story with his dad and me as we were driving to Brooklyn last Thursday, and right after I'd snapped that photo from the highway of houses in Corona. Earlier in the day, I'd gone into the offices of the magazine for which I edit freelance, and the executive editor greeted me by opening her arms and saying, "Let's hug now while we're still allowed."

Just three days later, at my choir rehearsal, everyone greeted each other by tapping the toes of our shoes, laughing at the foolishness of it, before offering a squirt of hand sanitizer. Anyone who coughed got the side eye, and my Lyft driver that evening worried about bringing the virus home to his diabetic mother. It all feels like a slow motion catastrophe, so slow you’re not quite sure it’s really happening. And yet the numbers of the sick keep rising, and massive institutions, whole countries even, keep closing down. No telling what comes next.


  1. The caution becomes understandable if you or a loved one are elderly (which the WHO says is "over 60" for this one), have compromised immunity, or one of several pre-existing conditions. In my family, we cover a lot of those bases. The WHO is also saying this should be taken seriously by all ages and by healthy individuals, as the actual morbidity rate now appears to be 10 times that of seasonal flu. See this CBC article (which unfortunately is not very well written in terms of sentence structure; the editor must have been asleep): https://www.msn.com/en-ca/news/canada/a-newfoundlander-is-leading-the-global-fight-against-covid-19-and-wants-you-to-know-the-facts/ar-BB10ZBzg?li=AAggNb9&ocid=mailsignoutmd

    This is information from Dr. Bruce Aylward who headed the WHO efforts in China. In summary, his message is "do not panic, but be deeply concerned".

  2. Reading the above comment I just wonder how in the hell you can be deeply concerned and not panic. Good advice but how is that done? It's all scary, even as we laugh at ourselves. I do not like this.

    1. I believe the doctor was intending his advice primarily to those who are not taking the virus seriously and who are therefore ready to ignore the advice on washing, postponing travel, staying home if sick, self-isolating if in contact with a someone who has tested postive - that kind of thing.

  3. I didn't until today, but I think it's going to be HUGE.

  4. Most of us will be okay but many will die too. The virus seems to spread quite easily. Perhaps mother nature felt it was time for a cull. No children are dying which is a blessing. I just read an account written by a doctor in Italy about life in Italy and health care in Italy. More patients than beds. Infected health care workers. It is scary and there is little we can do.

    My neighbor's husband was exposed to the virus this afternoon on a plane, in Alberta, he's being sent home to self isolate with a wife and three kids? Needless to say this doesn't help me sleep. I worry about Miss Katie too who touches everything and covers everybody within two feet with her saliva.

  5. I'm not too worried because I live in a small town albeit outside a large city and I don't go anywhere and don't know anyone who has it. my daughter and her husband both work in the city, he at a convenience store and she at a copy shop so both are exposed to a lot of people every day. the city is just now getting it's first confirmed cases. I admit I have been washing my hands when I have been in a store with a lot of people. but the hoarding of toilet paper. what's up with that? of all the crazy things.

  6. I agree with your son. I think this is all a little crazy. But talk to me again in a few weeks!

  7. We're going out for more toilet paper. If I have to self quarantine I want toilet paper! We've got a small stash of shelf stable food, it's a little light on fruit and vegetables. I guess we can eat the terrible oranges that grow on our tree. It's the fact that it's been circulating in the communities that worries me. It's also the fact that there is insufficient testing and no one really knows what it's doing. It really is like a slow moving disaster.

  8. I am among the at-risk should this develop. My latest post has some good information. None of us has lived through a pandemic, so the future is unknown. All we can do is listen and follow directives and prepare our homes for living away from others should need arise. We will be living differently.