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After watching and keeping up with what had been going on in China, I imagined how disastrous the USA’s reaction to the coronavirus could be.

 I was sent to Colombia for work, at ease knowing the infection was only an issue in China. I could monitor it from afar. Then the virus continued to develop and finally arrived in Washington state. It was inevitable.

Europe reported deaths daily and it fully spread throughout Italy, the world’s 8th economic power, to the point of a full shutdown. Reality set in and thoughts of not only how but when it would impact me directly and spread into one of the world’s epicenters, New York City. How does one prepare while living in one of the most vulnerable places on earth? 

Fast forward two weeks

I am flying back to JFK and being handed a form asking where I have traveled and my overall health status. Waiting in line in JFK I see doctors in hazmat suits, checking people’s temperatures. As they pass immigration, each individual is asked if they have noticed any symptoms.

Still relatively unphased, I finally get home in an uber, noticing how desolate the streets are. I get there in record time, with little to no traffic. 

My first day back in NYC

I begin to receive emails from my employer, saying that since I had traveled aboard, I have to work from home to protect my fellow coworkers. Seeming a bit dramatic at the time, I happily oblige. 

My second day

I am now following the media closely. The situation is getting worse and worse by the second. News report like this are everywhere:

Italy declares a complete shutdown.

Virus spread all over Europe. 

I begin to frantically follow its constant spread by the hour.

 I start to adjust. I am still doing my daily routine, having my coffee at a nearby coffee shop, the barista making jokes about the situation. Nothing seems that serious, but more news that the situation has escalated continues to pour in. The NBA has suspended the season. Even our beloved Tom Hanks has been infected.

Fila para entrar a un supermercado en Nueva York. Foto: Ezra Lizama

At this point I realize that this might be real! It’s taken over the media more than I ever imagined. I figure I should stock up on groceries and find a line out the door of people waiting to get in. At this point, it’s almost comedic how NYC could feel apocalyptic. Shelves empty, people visibly stressed. Queues like I’ve never seen before.

 I keep receiving emails from theaters to which I have memberships that they are closing. I catch the last screening of a film, only to find the theatre empty, save a few brave soldiers. Someone sneezes and an elderly couple jumps out of their seats. The tension and distress are apparent Even on the subway  everyone is on guard. I am unable to sleep following the news and tweets of people claiming the new apocalypse is unfolding right before our eyes.

 Cynics and the public worried about how the US would react based on our current healthcare situation and overall state of confusion about our leadership. Matters only seem to worsen as NYC calls for an emergency, banning large events and schools being shut down. How will we cope? I am talking to friends, baristas and bartenders and they are stressed out, as they rely heavily on tips and people coming into their establishments. NYC is an economy where the service industry is one of the largest being hit as people are urged to quarantine themselves.

A city such as NYC  has no solution or system in place for such events. It feels like it has forgotten a large majority of the workers that are unable to work from home. You can see the overall isolation on once busy streets and empty subway rides. It feels like the city that claims to never sleep has suffered heavily, and will continue to suffer, as long as we have to stay home.