Covid City 2: Diaries of a New York During the Coronavirus

3/14/2020 12:05 pm

It’s hitting me now: COVID-19 took my husband’s job! Like everyone else in the entertainment industry, we knew it was coming. And, like everyone else, we also know there’s very little to do about it. Dave and I have some savings. We’re experienced budgeters. I have a reliable job. We’ll be okay. It feels like I shouldn’t be complaining given how much worse it is for others. Still, an indefinite future of two kids on one income feels intense.

Meanwhile, CUNY finally rolled out a remote-work option for us staffers but then decided it doesn’t go into effect until March 18th. All day yesterday upper management and HR kept insisting that we have to show up Monday and Tuesday while they process our at-home proposals. They seem more concerned about our output, about feeling 100% sure that we’re actually going to get our work done, than they are about our own safety. 

Or maybe they actually believe this response is appropriate? I was in a meeting yesterday where a manager said that we should still host events for up to 25 people. Others were scheduling in-person meetings and interviews (interviews!) for Monday. I was like, “Nope, I’m packing up, my husband’s picking me and all my stuff up in the car, I’ll check in from home on Monday at nine, see you maybe next month?”

The worst part – today we received an email from the dean stating that there’s a confirmed coronavirus case on the 15th floor of the building our school is located in. We work on the 10th, 18th, and 19th floors, sharing elevators and lobbies with everyone who works across all 22 floors. As a school focused on strengthening the labor movement and supporting worker’s rights, guess what our dean’s response was? That there will be a deep cleaning over the weekend and we are all expected to report on Monday morning. I am not joking. It seems as if my school is leading a revolution for everyone except those who work for the school itself.

Across the board, America has botched all aspects of containing this thing. So many don’t seem to understand the severity of it, which is baffling considering the amount of time we’ve had to prepare. Did people think America was immune? Or maybe they weren’t following the news. Or maybe they were but it was the wrong news. Years ago, back under Obama’s first term, I did an experiment where I compared the New York Times’s reporting to The Guardian’s reporting on the same issues, and I was blown away. Now, I only read The Guardian.

On my end, having an anxiety disorder has finally paid off: for three weeks now, I’ve been making quarantine plans and stockpiling goods. Hell, I even bought crafting supplies! That being said, I got nervous yesterday that three cans of formula won’t be enough for my nine month old, and so I went to Whole Foods on my lunch break, the one by Bryant Park that’s always packed, and I gotta admit, I was a little disturbed by how deserted it was (see above).

This is serious, y’all. And very, very weird. The surreality of it makes it hard to accept. I think that’s probably why management scheduled interviews for Monday and expects us to take the subway into the office midst a confirmed case in the building. These actions feel normal in a very not normal time. Denial is easier for some.

But seriously, screw them. Last night I came home to a husband––pissed off as he may be––cooking pancakes for dinner. To a chunky baby with huge toothless grin reserved just for me. To a four year old running around the living room, arms spread wide as he flew like a dragon. To a dog wagging his tail so hard it thumped against his body. To a cat meowing from her roost on the couch. 

We are so full over here. I could get lost in fear over how we’ll provide for all of these creatures, how we’ll keep them healthy, how we’ll keep ourselves healthy enough to be what they need us to be. Or I could get lost in the love, the joy, the life of it all.

Right now, I’m choosing the love.


Check back this evening for a post about ways to stay positive plus fun things to do at home. My post about talking to and meditating with older kids will come tomorrow.

Covid City: Diaries of a New Yorker During the Coronavirus

subway rush hour3/13/2020, 9:05 am

I am on a morning rush-hour train in which half the seats are empty when normally there is standing room only. I love how CUNY is chugging through, how this behemoth institution will continue serving the community of New York City no matter what, but it’s ludicrous to require the entire staff to take public transportation to an office (mine in Midtown!) when most of us can work from home. I can’t imagine this policy will last through the weekend. Even if it does, I am not returning next week; my makeshift bedroom office is ready to go.

Still, there’s an energy on campus like one I’ve never felt before. People are not standing in hallways talking the day away. It’s amazing to see my coworkers rally like this. Teachers turning entire curricula into online lessons in just a few days. IT guys working around the clock, setting up complicated systems, running training sessions every hour. Advisors rushing around, ensuring all students have access to computers, internet, food. Union members talking on the phone until 11 pm, hashing out protections for hourly employees, writing demands for our long-term safety.

As the train approaches Manhattan, seats do fill up a bit more but not fully. Only one person is wearing a mask today; I think the message that they’re useless has sunk in. It’s impossible to keep the recommended 1-2 meters of distance from one another, and so we smile as we lean away. We are all in this together.

I’m fascinated by the juxtaposition of how quarantining, social distancing, and all these cancellations feel anti-community but are actually measures to protect the community. While we isolate ourselves in our apartments, we can no longer pretend that I the individual is more important than the we the group.

Of course it’s terrifying for those who are homeless, food insecure, sick, or working low-paid jobs in one of the many industries currently crashing. There are so many reasons why we’ve been out in the streets protesting, long before Trump took office. Our system was built on a broken foundation. And now that we need the system’s services more than ever, it has crumbled, leaving those who need the most with nothing. 

No surprises there.

That being said, I’m impressed by the systems that are still working. Chug on, CUNY! While the slow response to creating a remote-work plan for staff has been frustrating, I am so grateful for my job, especially now that the governor banned gatherings of over 500 (as he should have), leaving my husband, an audio engineer, unemployed.  

What will happen to our economy? To our upcoming elections, especially considering the fact that COVID-19 will return next flu season before a vaccination is in place? What about our school system, which I’m sure will be closed by next week, leaving millions of people stranded at home?


The thing is, we need each other right now, and so we have to be proactive about setting up ways to continue our community. I’m in the process of scheduling regular video chats and phone check-ins with my people. It’s been recommended to start and/or join online groups and forums; I spend too much time on Instagram already so I’m good there. What I’m most excited about is the fun plans I’ve made with my immediate family – we stocked up on art supplies for a crafting idea L came up with, and now that Dave has all this free time, he’ll be turning part of our living room into an at-home recording studio.

All that being said, I know it will be challenging to get work done in a small apartment with two kids and a disillusioned husband all on lockdown together. That’s why positivity and connection is more crucial right now than ever.


Check back this weekend for my next entry on how we’ve been talking to L (my anxious and perceptive four year old) and how I’ve used meditation to keep us all sane. 

New Yorkers, Don’t Forget to Vote! Also, Yay for Pia Raymond!

piaraymondHappy election day, my New Yorker neighbors. Now get out there and vote in that primary! Local elections matter BIG TIME, and if we want to see any improvements in our society then we all need to get as involved as we possibly can.

If you’re in my district (Brooklyn’s 40th), then I strongly urge you to consider Pia Raymond for City Council, a smart, strong, and community-oriented woman who is truly on the side of the people in this neighborhood and is also an amazing mom, all things our government needs more of.

I am absolutely thrilled to cast my vote for Pia today, but no matter what you decide, you still better cast yours!