COVID-19 feels like watching a horror movie, except I’m in it. We’re all in it.
The loneliness of the lockdown, the shut-in nature of the sensible response to the insidious virus has made my daughter so desperate, she misses being in her middle school. She misses walking to school in the morning. She misses waiting with her friends in the cool mornings for her school to open for the day. She misses the clicking sound her lock makes when she opens her locker.
Even though she is now receiving assignments online from her school, she feels she is not learning as much as she could as if it were there.
On a recent Friday afternoon, my daughter and I went for a walk after a day of work inside. Our ordinarily vibrant Westchester County village, with its tightly constructed main street, bustling diner, crowded coffee shops, pizzerias and restaurants, and its charming book store — dense with books — looked nothing so much like an empty, dusty Texas town whose denizens have fled in the face of an oncoming tornado.
I visualized tumbleweeds, and nothing else, rolling down the street.
I worry about my mom. She’s 90 and quarantined in an assisted living facility in Connecticut. None of the residents there can eat their meals in the common dining room. They must eat in their rooms, alone. My mom is allowed to walk the hallways and visit other residents in their rooms, as long as they stay far apart. I guess they’ll end up shouting conversation at each other from way across the length of their apartments.
Since I’m a kindergarten teacher in the Bronx, I’m no longer in a classroom. Nobody is.
I spent March 20 on the phone, calling the parents of all my students, urging them to sign up for Google Classroom, which provides assignments to the children so they can learn while at home. By March 22, nine parents out of 25 had signed up. Two parents had no computers or email addresses.
I had briefly fantasized that week that I could visit students and parents in their homes, to give the children instruction. To read books to them, and provide them with word games that I have to help them learn how to read.
That hope was quickly dashed by the reality of the situation. Everything is locked down tighter than a row of storefronts on a snowy Christmas Eve.
I’ll be working at home every day to talk with parents about what they’re doing to help their kids learn, and monitoring student use of Google Classroom and reviewing the assignments the students complete.
My wife’s uncle, who lives in Quincy, Massachusetts by himself in a big, handsomely constructed home, is 79 and has diabetes. His kidney function is way down from the diabetes. My wife and I are worried that he will not get the treatment he needs to recuperate. He would not be a top candidate to get a respirator, which are in such short supply.
My mother-in-law, a widow, is stuck in her home in New Jersey. All her clubs and meeting places are closed — bridge game, canasta, mahjong, senior center, the library. She’s cleaned everything in the house, done the laundry, washed all the dishes. She’s bored and lonely.
My wife is working from home, too, of course. She’s tense.
I’m dealing with it differently. I watch CNN incessantly in the evening, and read The New York Times and Washington Post, as well as a half-dozen other news sites on the web.
I got really scared when I read about a 17-year-old South Korean boy who died from multiple organ failure. His body is being tested for the presence of the virus.
This SARS-CoV-2 virus, which causes COVID-19, this genetic monster which exists only to make more copies of itself, is threatening everything we hold dear — our families, friends, work, way of life, our existence.
I’m scared, but I’m also angry. Recently, Trump said he knew all along that the virus would cause a pandemic. Leaving aside the obvious and ridiculous untruth of that statement, my question to Trump is this:
If you knew all along that this would be a pandemic, why didn’t you do something about it? Why did you wait so long to act?