I remember when it was late February, and I was going to meet some friends at a bar, and I was reading an article on my phone about how they’d found evidence of “community spread” in Seattle, and the article was using that term with no descriptors, and for some reason I could not understand what it meant. (I am what you would call “stupid” when it comes to science.)
I remember stopping on the street and googling “community spread” and seeing all these definitions that basically said, “it’s when something has spread through the community,” which I found unhelpful. Then I went to the bar and we had a whole conversation about community spread, and it all felt interesting but academic, a theoretical discussion about someone else’s problems.
And now it is August—over five months later!—and 155,000 people have died in this country, and boy do I have an intimate understanding of what community spread means. I was not put on this planet to know this much about disease, but here we are.
How is it August already? How did all this time pass? How have we been swimming in these shark-infested waters for so many months and moved exactly nowhere?
Can you believe that any of us ever thought we’d be even partially out of this thing by now? Even during the bleakest depths of the horror in New York, I never quite envisioned the period we find ourselves in—this rolling, amorphous, suspended-in-mid-air feeling, this sense that we are continually falling but never quite hitting the ground. March and April felt like a constant, screaming emergency, but one that would come to a natural conclusion. This is somehow both more mundane and even worse—not a hellish interruption of our lives, but rather just what life is now. The country is letting all the bad stuff happen and shrugging its shoulders, and I suppose we’ll do that until…I wanna say 2022?
Every day I look around and am astonished at the total inability of people in power to meaningfully confront what is taking place all around them. Take this passage from a story in today’s New York Times about the collapse of small businesses in New York City:
In New York, the restaurant and hospitality industry has been one of the hardest hit. More than 80 percent of the city’s restaurants and bars did not pay full rent in June, according to the NYC Hospitality Alliance.
Among those restaurants was Glady’s in Brooklyn. Its revenue plummeted by two-thirds since March, to about $12,000 per week in June. The majority of its sales were from tropical rum drinks served through a side window of the restaurant.
The owner, William Garfield, said he decided to close in June before officials started allowing outdoor dining after his landlord said he had to start paying the full monthly rent, $8,000, starting in July. Mr. Garfield said the healthy revenue from drink sales was still not enough to make ends meet.
Gee, if only there was something easy that could be done to ease this man’s rent burden! And if only there was an easy way to fund that easy solution! Ah well, I guess the good people who run New York will just toss this man and everyone like him on the pile, or else offer nominal protections that still leave people open to landlord-driven misery, all while refusing to tax billionaires. There’s simply no other choice that could ever have been made.
I should be less astonished than I am. It’s not like America is a place with any particular interest in keeping people healthy and secure even in “better” times, so the idea that we would suddenly get anything at all together should, in retrospect, have seemed ludicrous. But you really don’t walk around with the scenario of “unprecedented social, political, moral, and health crisis that people just kind of let happen for many months” in your head. Instead, it’s like a tsunami happened but the water is overtaking us really slowly, and millions of people are screaming to do something about it but we just don’t. It makes you feel quite crazy.
So happy Monday, and happy August! Things are definitely gonna turn the corner this month, I can feel it.