March 14, 2020, 12:41 p.m.
I thought pandemics only happened in movies and books. Yet here I am, in a self-imposed quarantine in my apartment.
I don’t have COVID-19, but I am temporarily immuno-compromised. I haven’t left the apartment since a surgery I had last Wednesday to correct a chronic issue. This surgery, planned months ago, might be one of the last that will take place at Mount Sinai West Hospital here in New York. So here I am. It happened slowly, then all of a sudden, in a rush: Columbia moved all classes online, providing Zoom conference links to all students.
Our Career Expo, the highlight of the Master’s program, was moved online as well, to our dismay. (How can you hold a career expo online? we wondered.) When I heard, I said, “Whatever, man,” which is what I say when I am hurt, or disappointed.
Columbia undergrads are now being encouraged to move out. My residence has banned guests. They are encouraging residents to leave, but I plan to stay put, because people who leave become trapped in place. One of my former roommates buys a ticket home but finds herself stranded in Spain, unable to fly back to Canada. “Fuckety fuck,” she says. “I’m taking a walk.”
People raid the supermarkets and stock up on toilet paper. Last week, I thought they were being ridiculous. Now, I’m not so sure.
As I write, President Trump has suspended all travel from the UK and Ireland, effective Monday night at midnight. He has already banned travel into the US from Europe in an attempt to stem the flow from Spain and Italy, the twin epicentres of the crisis.
Italy is suffering; they have tens of thousands of cases and their health system is overwhelmed. People sing patriotic tunes from their balconies. I begin to go stir-crazy in my apartment, assessing the New York City streets from my window. I have errands to run but I am terrified to leave.
NHL, NBA, sports, all cancelled. Will the Olympics still happen? Schools, cancelled. Large gatherings, cancelled. Broadway shows, cancelled. Everyone is told to work from home. Our dynamic, globalized world grinds to a halt.