It’s been moving to be checked in upon by so many friends and loved ones in recent weeks; thoughts and wishes from around the country and the world have helped sustain us through these strange and trying days and left us feeling less alone. Still, they’ve also made us worry – all these calls, texts, emails, WhatsApp messages, and Insta DMs – worry because very few people three weeks ago in New York thought anything like what we’re now living through was even remotely possible. That (now this) was the sort of thing that happened in Africa or China. We were, at most, the alarmed consumers of epidemic porn, fretting over Ebola as exactly 11 people, total, with that frightening hemorrhagic fever were treated in the United States during the mid-2010s outbreak.
This time, of course, things have turned out very differently – as the COVID-19 pandemic has rent our very sense of society and future – but moving unevenly as it does, and building up a critical destructive mass of invisible infections before clear outward evidence has manifested that it has even arrived, SARS-CoV-2 and the disease it causes prey on exactly the weaknesses that made us, here in New York City, so vulnerable to its spread. Sadly, for much the same reason, I suspect that – as I put it to my partner last night: “In a week or two, the whole country will look like New York.”
Sadder still to imagine, while New York has, among other things, immense resources, disproportionate political and economic clout, a strong healthcare system (including many under-funded but-still-public hospitals), and extensive experience in dealing with epidemic disease – plus enjoyed the benefit of confronting this trauma while most of the rest of the country watched, which made it possible for New York, and New York (almost) alone, to call on the Federal Government for the mobilization of resources commensurate to deal with our crisis – when the pandemic’s impacts begins to unfold almost everywhere across the the country simultaneously, the need will inevitably overwhelm the feeble efforts of this weak, confused, and indifferent Administration.
Or – to quote myself once more, for which I apologize – as I concluded last night: “Now what happens when this happens in twenty places at once?”
When relatives from Hyderabad call concerned about us here, my partner’s taken to responding, “We’re fine. We’re worried about you.”
Short and sweet today. I actually usually work on Sundays, but whilst staying at home, I’m giving myself permission not to. Week by week, for the past three weeks, my focus has shifted – from sounding the alarm about the impending crisis in New York; to trying to predict some of its numerical, economic, and political consequences; to trying to help prepare my friends and loved ones here in New York for the grisly weeks into which we’ve now entered (through attempting to project what our COVID-19 death toll might look like) while also beginning to look to the situation in India and striving to be a useful part of the response here. Now I’m looking to the rest of my own already-ravaged country with deep consternation, uncertain what those of us confined to our homes here in New York can do other than continue to issue dire warnings and urge drastic action: Please, please, take this seriously! As our Governor – who some people now think should be president, and I didn’t believe should be re-elected – put it: “One of the forecasters said we were looking at a freight train coming across the country. We’re now looking at a bullet train.”
If you’re in the United States, odds are – if it hasn’t reached your community already – the bullet train’s coming straight at you.
Postscript: As promised, more info coming across regarding my partner’s work toward the creation of alternative birthing sites in NYC: Her draft plan is now live and I know she’d welcome comments and insights. Also, our friend Naman has a great, short piece in The Caravan about his work at the Jan Swasthya Sahyog (JSS) hospital in rural Chhattisgarh and how the nation-wide lockdown in India is undercutting efforts at JSS to provide necessary care.