Rebekah’s Pandemic Diary: Back to Work We Go!

3 Jul

Whelp, it’s official. This country is a fucking disaster. I guess no one told the Trump administration that the narrative of “American Exceptionalism” is a load of bullcrap and that even if it were true, which it most assuredly is not, that no amount of exceptionalism would have made us immune to the spread of this fucking virus. We have, what, 131,000 dead now? That is 131,000 lives lost; 131,000 communities that are now without a loved one; 131,000 families and friends forced to mourn from a distance. And that doesn’t account for whatever long term effects those who were severely stricken by the coronavirus might suffer from down the line. That number also doesn’t account for people who could not get the medical care they needed for other illnesses as a result of the strain this virus placed on our healthcare system, or for the people who were too scared to enter a hospital and put off lifesaving care. And of course, there is the mental health toll this has taken on the entire medical field – specifically those in the hardest hit areas like here in New York City.

For those of us who remained in New York through April, it feels like  we will never be the same. It was a goddamn horror show. Overrun hospitals, people standing in long lines desperate for care, refrigerated trucks parked outside to collect the bodies because there was no more room, funeral homes and cremation centers overutilized, daily coronavirus briefings from Cuomo who documented the seemingly never-ending surge in infections, hospitalizations and death. Going to the grocery store felt like walking into certain death. Leaving the house for things as routine as dog walks and bodega visits was fraught with anxiety. Everyone you passed was a potential super spreader, a lethal germ machine unknowingly spewing droplets to land on what? And for how long? Do you bleach everything you buy from the store? Does it make sense to wear gloves? Does Trump know, or care, that people are dying? Does the CDC have any fucking clue what it is talking about? Are other citizens watching? Do they know what’s happening here? Do they realized it is already in their grocery stores, gyms and restaurants, silently spreading? Do they know they will be here too? That it might already be too late to stop it?

And then it was.

And here we are.

So, what now? What do we do now? The past 3.5 months have been really hard. Us New Yorkers have largely stayed home, stayed safe, masked up. For awhile, it seemed like nothing we did could stem the tide. It felt like those numbers would keep climbing, our loved ones succumbing. And then, one day, those ever-rising numbers stabilized and then started to fall, and fall, and fall.  It felt like a miracle, but it wasn’t. I would like to say it was the result of collective action – millions of New Yorkers staying home to protect themselves and others – and in some ways that is true. We did stay home. But let’s be honest, a lot of people stayed home because there was nothing else to do. No museums, bars, restaurants, salons, gyms, jobs to travel to, schools and after school activities to ferry kids to and from. But now that our numbers have fallen and stayed low, things are starting to open. And as I said back in March when I hoped that bars and restaurants would be forced closed, if things are open people will go to them, regardless the risk. And if people go to them, they have to be staffed.

Listen, I get it. We are stir crazy. People want to see their friends, return to some degree of normalcy. But as far as I am concerned, these decisions to reopen are not about us at all. They aren’t about our happiness, health or well-being. They are about the fact that, as I stated at the offset of this piece, this country is a fucking disaster. The unemployment benefits, with the $600 weekly extension, are set to expire at the end of this month along with the moratorium on evictions. So people’s unemployment and housing security will both be gone at the same time. The House has passed an extension of the federal aid – called The Heroes Act – that was supposed to extend the $600 through January 31, 2021. Mitch McConnell will not allow that to get through the Senate. So these re-openings, in my opinion, are largely being pushed through too early because people need to pay their bills and without continued help at the federal level they will not be able to. So, back to work in the middle of a deadly pandemic we go! But not to worry because the governor has put a travel restriction on people traveling here from…16 states where coronavirus cases are on the rise. People arriving here from

  1. Alabama
  2. Arkansas
  3. Arizona
  4. California
  5. Florida
  6. Georgia
  7. Iowa
  8. Idaho
  9. Louisiana
  10. North Carolina
  11. Mississippi
  12. Nevada
  13. South Carolina
  14. Tennessee
  15. Texas
  16. Utah

are all being informed by New York, New Jersey and Connecticut to self-quarantine for 14-days upon arrival. This self-quarantine is “voluntary but compliance is expected.”

I’m sorry, what? Have they watched the news? There are people spitting on people with cancer who ask them to put a mask on because the Constitution apparently gives them the right to be goddamn disease vectors. (I tried to find a link to the article but I couldn’t because there are too many articles about people spitting on other people who ask them to put on a mask or give them space.) People in this country are monsters! Sure, most people will likely cancel travel plans to these states as some of my friends already have but as we have  seen it literally takes one person, one super spreader, to undo all the work we have done. The mantra of individualism that we bow to in the good old U. S. of A. is one that creates a society full of selfish assholes who care more about their own right to go to a fucking swimming pool than the rights of their neighbors to actually survive. This “every state for itself” bullshit doesn’t work when you have porous borders. We either have to shut down the whole country or else just resign ourselves to the fact that this will go on until there is a vaccine, as we swiftly approach flu season, while people’s money runs out. And it seems as though the government has made its choice.

So what does this mean for those of us who work in non-essential businesses that are now basically being forced to reopen during an international health crisis? It means that we don’t matter, that’s what. The federal government has essentially thrown its hands up and said “whelp, we tried!” and sent us all back out into the world. But let me remind you, that we don’t actually know that much more about this disease than we did when it first showed itself. Herd immunity could be a thing or it could not; antibodies could be helpful or they could not; blood type might be indicative of the seriousness of the virus, or it could not; this virus could form another strain and run right back through our area, or not. We know literally nothing except what has already happened – people get sick, really sick, and then they die. And so for all this talk about learning from history, we sure do have a short fucking memory. And for all this talk of American Exceptionalism, we sure are exceptionally stupid.

Maybe I am being nervous about nothing. Maybe we are safe here in New York now. But everything in my being is telling me that is not the case and we are a long, long way from where we need to be to start returning to some semblance of pre-Covid life. But, what does it matter what I think. According to the government I’m expendable. And so are you.

2 Responses to “Rebekah’s Pandemic Diary: Back to Work We Go!”

  1. Scott Frank July 4, 2020 at 2:28 pm #

    It hurts. We have to change our plans now. We can no longer come to New York. It’s for the best, but…

    • FranklyRebekah July 7, 2020 at 3:21 pm #

      I don’t think NY is going to be back to any semblance of normal for some time now, unfortunately. Not entirely sure how I am going to manage to continue to live here. But I guess I’ve figured it out before so…

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