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  • Writer's pictureMary

In the Shadow of COVID-19

Updated: Apr 4, 2020

Tonight, I set out to write a post about what I've been doing to keep myself sane in these strange times. Instead, something else materialized as I looked to put words to feelings, a little deeper than my initial intent, but still I thought I'd share in this space.

It should have happened much earlier than it did, but the cloud of uncertainty around COVID-19 rolled into New York City over the course of last week and has settled like a thick fog.

I have been working from home since last Monday, and over the weekend, my office officially directed employees to remain at home until further notice. Kev is here as well, with his office closed and everyone working from home. We've stayed indoors aside from walking the dogs, dropping things off at our new place, and the handful of grocery store trips we've needed to make. Otherwise, we've been hunkering down and cooking all of our meals. When we do go out with the dogs, I see the magnolia, plum, and cherry trees in my neighborhood blooming more and more each day; it's so strange to go into hibernation just as spring is arriving.

Home office set up
Today's work from home setup

The city has ground to a halt. Ridership on the MTA has decreased 60%. Restaurants are being hit very hard, and I'm afraid that many of our beloved establishments won't be able to make it through. Just today, Danny Meyer's Union Square Hospitality Group (USHG) had to lay off 80% of its employees. Our cousin who works/worked at Gramercy Tavern was among them. Kev's sister manages three restaurants, one of which is located at the South Street Seaport and battled back after Hurricane Sandy. The impact will be huge, and no one knows what the next weeks and months will bring.

And yet, the news coverage of the economic impact has been somewhat frustrating to see. To me, the focus right now needs to be on the virus, on stopping the spread, on measures governments and individuals need to be taking. We need to stop the virus first.

Something that has also weighed on me during this time is the anti-Asian sentiment that has risen in volume. I'm lucky to have grown up in a city that wears its diversity as a badge of honor, but still, over the course of my life I have felt what is to be discriminated against. There's been an uptick in hate crimes in NYC lately, with a case hitting the news from my neighborhood, a little too close to home. I'm afraid of what all of this will mean for Chinese and Asian people in general around the world. Every day I'm saddened by what I see on social media and even in the comment section of the New York Times. What will it be like for people who look like me after this? How will it be when I travel next, or the time after that?

I also think about all of the small businesses out there that, unlike myself, do not have another source of income. The heartbreaking thing is that people don’t go into small business unless they truly and deeply love what they do, so much so that they are compelled to undertake the many risks that line this path, forgoing the security and predictability of traditional employment. It’s a hugely vulnerable feeling to open the doors to your heart and put something you love that much out into the world, to hold it out with an extended hand for judgement, to want so badly to see it take root, grow, and perhaps even thrive. This new challenge is one that many businesses probably never seriously thought they'd face.

At the beginning of the year, I resolved to be more discerning with my consumer dollars and set a goal to furnish our new home with goods from small and local businesses as much as possible. We've practiced this intention by purchasing supplies from Etsy sellers and our local hardware store. Right now, this intention is more urgent than I could have imagined, and my commitment is redoubled. I've found a local shop on Etsy from which I can order our radiator covers, and I'm currently picking out flower seeds from a seller in California.

Despite the grim reality, I am uplifted by the kindness that prevails. A silver lining against recent news has been seeing the outpouring of support for the small biz community. And beyond, here and all across the world. New Yorkers are stepping up and fostering more shelter animals. There is a fund organized for those employees who of USHG who've been let go. The music being made in Italy. The closure of Wuhan's last emergency hospital. The quiet in the streets.

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