So, About the Coronavirus….

12 Mar

I feel like I have been having to start my posts off with caveats recently. This is largely because it seems as though – in my experience – people right now are always primed and ready for a fight and, honestly, I just don’t have it in me. This isn’t an attempt to discourage discourse; rather, it is me making my intentions clear so people don’t jump to incorrect conclusions and then e-yell at me. I’m too tired for that. We all should be. So, with that being said, here is my caveat for this post:

I am not diminishing the risks of the coronavirus nor am I trying to tell people how they should or should not feel or act in regards to it. These are just my worries and I wanted to share them so, here goes.

I want to start out by saying that I, like all of the people I know, am not an infectious disease specialist. I would say that I am pretty unknowledgeable about diseases in general. We are also living in a time where reliable information seems harder and harder to come by. The government doesn’t have any fucking clue what is happening and it certainly does’t help their cause that they put Mike “My Callous Inaction in the Face of Clear Warning Signs Exacerbated an HIV Outbreak in Indiana” Pence in charge of the response. It also doesn’t help that Trump decided to make massive cuts to the CDC budget and, even in the face of a fucking pandemic, seems dissuaded from using that money to….fund a border wall? I think? And all of this while he and his cronies have spent the entirety of his presidency acting like science isn’t an actual thing that matters in the real world. And so here we are! With a gutted Center for Disease Control and Prevention, a media that seems to not fully understand what’s happening, and an entire country in a state of panic. What could go wrong?!

So, with the knowledge that I am not very knowledgable about the spread of disease, I am going to lay out what I do know, or at least what I think I know. Coronaviruses are actually super common – they are an extremely common cause of colds and other upper respiratory infections. This new coronavirus – COVID-19 – is named as such because it is a novel virus that was first found in 2019. A lot of people who are infected with the virus will have no symptoms whatsoever, while others will get fever, runny nose, coughing, sore throat. Flu-stuff. COVID-19 can also cause more severe symptoms such as high fever, severe cough and shortness of breath. Like the flu, a small percentage of people will die of this disease. Also like the flu, those more likely to die from the disease are old folks and people with underlying medical conditions. COVID-19, however, has a higher mortality rate than the flu. So we all need to make decisions to protect the most at-risk among us. This means washing our hands, not touching our faces, cleaning our phone screens, FaceTiming our grandparents and immunosuppressed friends and relatives rather than visiting them in person and not buying out all the stuff at the store that at-risk people need far more than we do. But we all know this already.

So I am not nervous about personally getting COVID-19 and dying. I am very nervous about something else, though. Money. And also people being racist idiots.

For those of us living here in NYC, we were informed that the city, as of now anyway, will not be closing the public schools. It is a last resort. Why? Because we have a homelessness problem here in New York. The NYC public schools serve more than 1.1 million students. Of those students, 750,000 are considered low income and 114,000 are homeless. These are populations who will be disproportionately effected by school closures and it’s not just because they won’t go to school for a few weeks – a lot of these students and their families rely on the public schools for free breakfast and lunch, shelter during the days and other basic necessities. If they don’t go to school, who will look after them? Does this mean their parents can’t go to work? Do those parents then lose their jobs, deepening the cycle of financial insecurity they are already trapped in? What about those people just hovering on the edge of homelessness or financial ruin? Having to arrange childcare could mean the difference between having an apartment and making rent and… not. There are a ton of unintended consequences that occur when we make decisions regarding the more vulnerable among us.

And also, we are seeing a rise in the gig economy and non-office work. People who don’t have traditional, salaried jobs and instead rely on freelance gig work. I am thinking about all the taxi drivers for UBER, Lyft and Via, tutors, music teachers, people who make money off apps like Task Rabbit, personal trainers, dog walkers who all of a sudden lose a bunch of clients because people are working from home. These people don’t have the ability to work remotely and stay away from others. They don’t have paid time off or sick leave. To all the people complaining about having to use vacation time to recover if you get sick – and you are 100% right in being pissed about that, that shit is trash and late-stage capitalism is fucked – there are also a ton of people who don’t even have vacation time. These are people who if they get sick and can’t work, they can’t earn a living. These are people who could, and probably will be financially fucked.

Also, people working in China Towns or at restaurants and businesses owned by Asian folks. You guys. Just because the virus started in China, does not mean that every Asian person is infected. In fact, there has not been a single confirmed case of an Asian person being infected in New York City AND YET Asian-owned businesses are going under. The media needs to immediately stop using photos of Asian folks in masks when reporting on coronavirus. It is racist and misleading and is having real serious impacts on the livelihoods and safety of Asian Americans across the country. Also, btw, do you know where else there is a huge outbreak of COVID-19? Do you know what country is basically on complete lockdown? Italy! But I don’t see people boycotting pizza! So if you order in, think about getting some Chinese food! It’s delicious! And tip the delivery person extra because I guarantee you they are really struggling right now.

And do you know how I know that? Because I am a bartender. I am a bartender and people are being told to avoid gathering in groups. Do you know how I make my money? By selling drinks to people gathered in groups. We are coming into springtime which is the time of year when I and many of my colleagues make a chunk of our money for the year. This is the time of year we start putting money aside to save for the slower times. A serious and sustained drop in business will ruin my budget for, no joke, an entire calendar year. And bars don’t operate on a huge profit margin. If this panic lasts a few months, my jobs might no longer exist. There are a lot of us out here watching this not just with concern for the health of our friends and families and people we don’t know. We’re watching this unfold with the knowledge that this could cause a massive disruption in our ability to live and pay our bills. This is really scary for those of us not guaranteed a salary. This is really scary for those of us whose income relies on people showing up, not self-quarantining, ignoring health officials. And I am not telling people to do that. I am just saying that while people are concerned about health, keep in mind that there are a lot of people on the brink whose livelihoods could be entirely destroyed over the next few months.

Personally, I’ll be okay. It’ll be uncomfortable but I have a safety net. I have friends and family willing and able to help me if it gets tough. I am lucky. But there are so many people who don’t have that. So while you are sharing information telling people to not leave the house, maybe check-in on the people who rely on others to leave the house in order to survive and see how they’re doing. As I said, there are a ton of unintended consequences when we deal with something of this magnitude. It’s not only about health. This is going to cause a huge economic downturn. And I know it is tempting to be excited about the impact an economic downturn could have on Trump’s likelihood of reelection, but just be aware of who you’re talking to. Maybe…don’t say that. And I know it isn’t just up to us. The government needs to step in and do something. I am just really, really afraid that they won’t.

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