The week began with premonitions. It was not hard to believe that there seemed to be some sort of disparity between the presented risks of the virus and our medical administration’s cognition and grasp of their science. COVID-19 became a talking point where no information seemed to be accurate. We remained oblivious, doubting that a calamity of this scale could exist in our world outside science fiction novels or grotesque apocalyptic action films. This was the history we read, not lived. Yes, the presentiment was there, under our skin and in the back of our minds, but we thought we were untouchable. Still, news travels fast. Online courses, extended breaks, and class cancellations were all the talk. As change grew, so did our concern and the nervous chatter.
But the real panic was yet to come.
On March 11th, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared COVID-19 a pandemic. The organization, which had been assessing the outbreak around the clock, grew “deeply concerned both by the alarming levels of spread and severity, and by the alarming levels of inaction,” according to WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. Eight countries, including the U.S., now had over a thousand cases each. The stock market reacted quickly, the crisis instituting a massive revenue shock to the economy. As the days went by, businesses were prohibited from remaining fully operational during the imposed quarantine and countless employees were let go in hopes of settling labor costs. But this wasn’t the only “stock” that plummeted. The people’s panic left shelves rid of products, from toilet paper to cheap frozen pizza. Grocery stores were overwhelmed with long lines of customers, packed aisles, and jammed checkout lanes.
On March 13th, Trump declared COVID-19 a national emergency as a 30-day travel ban was issued on non-U.S. citizens who had visited European countries within the past few weeks. The president sent out multiple tweets expressing his confidence in the nation’s measures taken to reduce this threat, claiming them to be “the most aggressive and comprehensive effort to confront a foreign virus in modern history.”
The rest of the month brought with it the expanded use of Telehealth, requests of financial relief, statewide issued stay-at-home orders, and extended shutdowns. Eventually, the CARE Act was signed into law, providing direct payments and expansions in unemployed insurance. The pandemic lingered, and we adapted to our newfound way of life.
We continue to live at a distance, looking over our shoulders as history happens. Reminded time and again of the tedious hold we have on our setting. But we have matured, even though our circumstances remain stagnant. Remember, grass still grows, even if it is through the cracks of sidewalks.