The Brooklyn College Vanguard

Four Meditations Under Lockdown

Every new restriction hits me like a ton of bricks. Every day some new part of our lives gets taken away from us.  Every time I make plans on how I will live my new life, that plan gets decimated.

   On Sunday, March 15 we were told that restaurants and coffee shops were going to be closed for everything except takeout and delivery. Around the same time, the college libraries were closing. There was nowhere to sit and study or work, which I never do at home. This was a blow. I just have more energy and motivation around people.

   I was going to dine out one last time ‘til I don’t know when. On Monday night, a friend of mine and I decided to eat at my local diner. However, the diner had already converted its business to takeout-only. So we went looking for another place to eat. My next two choices were completely closed for night. The following restaurant we came across was open. We walked in.

   It was the closest I’ll probably ever get to being at a speakeasy during Prohibition. Seated in the first booth was a man in his 70s, wearing a leather jacket. He was with a harder-than-nails Russian call girl with the largest and firmest fake breasts I have ever seen. I heard everyone in the packed restaurant commenting on that. There was no social distancing. 

   Next to where we were seated was another was a real cool-looking older dude who resembled a mix between J.D. Salinger and Bono. He was sitting by himself drinking and eating slowly. On my other side, within arm’s reach, was Elizabeth Moss from Mad Men and the Handmaid’s Tale. Usually I am not star struck but this was an exception. It’s one thing to see a celebrity on the street, but it’s another to sit next to them. 

   I tried to give her space, even as I texted my friend to tell them about this celebrity encounter. I wanted to say something to her, but I didn’t have the chutzpah. I was unable to really focus on my friend and the conversation we were having because her voice was exactly as it sounds on TV.  I felt like I was living in Mad Men, in this old Italian restaurant that looked like it hadn’t changed much from the 1960s. 

   I ordered the “Cheesy Burger.” You know things are bad when the waiter comes back to you and tells you that they are out of burgers. So I ordered a pasta dish that I have never heard of, as I have Italian heritage. Most people dined for as long as they could. We seemed to all agree: we had no idea when we would be able to do this again. 

   As it got close to 10 pm, the police showed up. Both Elizabeth Moss and I apologized to the police officer. We told him that we had paid our check and were leaving.  It turned out that all New York City restaurants had to close by 8 pm that night. 

   At this point, I finally spoke to Elizabeth Moss. It was actually her, and she was very nice to me.

   It was surely the most surreal night.

 

‘Self Quarantine’ vs ‘Self Isolation’ (and other things I didn’t know)

 

   Like many other Brooklyn College students, I also work. This week, someone in my company’s lower Manhattan office was diagnosed with COVID-19. We knew this was a possibility since two people from that office were sent home after having symptoms associated with the virus. One of them was advised by his doctor to get tested and the results were positive. 

   All people in that office were asked to voluntarily self-quarantine for 14 days. Luckily, I haven’t been in that office all year. 

   In an effort to have full transparency, there was a call across all of North America that occurred a couple of hours after the news broke. In fact, we have been receiving COVID-19 calls every week going back a few weeks. We learned last week that the company’s internal data science team estimated that 56,000 people in Manhattan alone have the virus. I am sure the number is much higher this week, and even higher by the week of publication.

   This week we learned that to “self-quarantine” means that, as long as you feel well enough, you can go out into the world by going to the store or getting exercise outside, but to still limit your exposure. “Self-isolate” means that you shut yourself off from the world for 72 hours after your fever goes away. People leave food outside your door, and if you share a living space, you wipe down everything after each trip to the bathroom. These two terms can be confused. 

 

From the Headmaster and 3 hours of Government press conferences.

 

   In an e-mail on March 18 from Brooklyn College President Michelle Anderson, it was stated that a second Brooklyn College student came down with COVID-19 and was in the hospital.  

   There have been changes to what is known about the transmission of COVID-19. About 20% of coronavirus patients in the hospital are between 18-45. Young people are dying too, and even though younger people have much lower fatality rates, they can still get severely infected.

  According to Mayor DeBlasio, 80% of people who catch it will survive. 

   Now, according to the Washington Post, there is some talk coming out of China that a person can, in rare cases, have a 30- to 37-day incubation period for COVID-19. 

   Last week, I was told from many sources that the virus did not have airborne spread: the droplets were heavy enough that they would simply fall to the floor. So as long as someone didn’t directly cough on you, you were okay. Now, we’re being told that coronavirus can last a few hours in the air. 

   Last week, I was told that it was unknown how long the virus can last on surfaces, but the range could be up to 12 hours. Now, Dr. Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, tells us that the virus can last on metal surfaces for up to 3 days and on cardboard for 3 hours.  

 

At least it isn’t as bad here as it was in Wuhan.

 

   By the time of this publication, the latest “shelter in place” type restriction will be put into place in New York City.  

   A good friend of mine is from Wuhan, China. Her mom and grandparents are still there. The good news is that they are still alive. I am also told that they have been in lockdown for two months. No one was allowed to leave their front door. Food was delivered by the government, but they were inconsistent. People sometimes got whatever was available.

   On Friday, March 20, the Chinese government lifted one restriction: now, people can move around their apartment building. But they’re still not allowed to leave their property, and they’re still not allowed to walk on a city street or go to a park. If this sounds different than the news coming out of China right now, well, it is.

   I hope things like that don’t happen here. But you never really know.