As New York Begins to End Its Lockdown, I Wonder If I Can End Mine

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And a lot of us are scared. We’ve been through a lot. Where I live, there are a lot of masks on the streets, a lot of people walking nervously past each other on the sidewalk. We know what the stakes are. In New York City, we’ve lost 21,893 human souls. We’ve swam in a sea of death. We’ve lived through the overflowing-morgues stage, the refrigerated-trucks stage. I have four friends who’ve lost their dads — but now my fatherless friends are being told by Governor Cuomo that it’s time to go out for brunch. TV advertisements implore us to “go to your doctors,” that we need to resume our regular checkups and non-essential surgeries. My kids’ orthodontist keeps calling me. “Everything is safe now.” But how do we really know?

Back on March 11th, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said, “If you’re not sick, you should be going about your life.” Four days later, New York City schools were shut for the rest of the school year and the rest of us were told to shelter in our homes, making it clear that de Blasio was obviously wrong about going out. But now, three months later, with de Blasio saying that on July 6 indoor dining will resume at restaurants and that nail salons, spas and tattoo parlors will be allowed to reopen, we’re supposed to assume that the mayor knows what he’s talking about?

On Monday, we New Yorkers went into Phase 2, which means that most stores are open and outdoor dining is allowed everywhere, I mean everywhere: many Manhattan restaurants have expanded into the street, which is fun but seems a little scary for diners. But there’s still no coronavirus treatment or vaccine so …. What do we do? How do we live in this brave new world? We all know that masks prevent disease. But what about elevators: should we wait for the next one? What about taxis? How worried should we be about surfaces? What about eating outside? Is that safe? What about indoors?

Like many married couples, my husband and I are completely at odds about how to live in the post-surge, pre-vaccine world. I’m careful but I sort of think I’ll be okay if I stay cautious, where my husband is sort of convinced that he is going to die of the coronavirus. I told this to a friend who told me that he also believes he will eventually die of the virus.  The fatality rate for the virus is less than 1 percent but then none of us really know. I don’t think I will die of it, but honestly none of us knows anything. Even months into this thing, we have more questions than answers.

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