New York Pre-Pause

It feels strange to resume a blog about a city you can only see from your window, whether actual or virtual. As New York began reporting cases of the coronavirus that causes COVID-19, I was preparing to fly back to it from Argentina, which had just started reporting its own cases.

The flight landed at JFK (partly full and with passengers taking selfies of their masked faces) and passengers cleared security quickly. Then I found myself twiddling my thumbs on the Airtrain platform for 30 minutes while they “cleared debris at Federal Circle”—whatever that means. People were crowded together and no one was exercising any particular precautions. (This was early March.) I pulled on some latex gloves and then proceeded to immediately rip one while unzipping a bag or a jacket or something, since they were too big. #GloveFail.

Transferring to the subway at Jamaica was quick, but even at 9:15 in the morning, it was full—standing room only. Again, no visible precautions from my fellow riders, though the car seem to have been freshly washed—at least I hope that was why the floor was wet. At the Jackson Heights stop, I walked upstairs to the bus terminal and finally got one after a 15 minute wait. There was a line of people waiting to get on and while the bus was not crowded, we were closer than 6 feet to each other.

Shortly after getting home, I walked around my neighborhood, with a stop at a Szechuan restaurant for lunch (plus take-out), a pharmacy, as well as a grocery store for staples. The restaurant was empty so I had the whole place to myself as I plowed through fish with peppercorn and sour cabbage.

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and then toted home some mapo tofu and spicy chicken. Just to be clear–this is normal rather than pandemic-buying for me.

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On the way home, I saw a pharmacy selling masks and picked up a couple, though their efficacy is doubtful.

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The grocery store was full, but the shelves were stocked and there were minimal indications of panic-shopping. (I did overdo it, but not by buying 20 packages of toilet paper—just a new bottle of laundry detergent, an unnecessary purchase since I would be staying home alone and barely doing any laundry in the foreseeable future.)

At that point (around March 11), schools and offices were still open and it was largely life as usual, though the news out of Italy was worsening and the world market had tanked once already. You could feel people preparing to batten down the hatches for the upcoming storm.

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