I went for a bike ride early Sunday morning. It ended my longest indoor streak yet: five full days. I suppose my area of Brooklyn bustles more than most, but after reading about how everyone staying inside had given major cities the appearance of ghost towns, I expected a lot less activity. And more masks. The CDC’s guidance recently shifted to a recommendation that everyone cover their nose and mouth when going out. It makes sense: symptoms take days to emerge and one in four carriers is said to be asymptomatic, so no one should assume they’re not infected. Let’s all keep our potentially virus-transmitting droplets to ourselves. But maybe a third of the many people I saw out and about early on a Sunday morning either didn’t get the memo or chose to ignore it.
We’re now a little over three weeks into the White House taking this thing seriously, if you can call its ever-mutating circus of shrugged shoulders a serious response. By any reasonable account, it was at least a month late. Maybe one day we’ll know precisely how many thousands of people would have lived if they hadn’t been under the thumb of a pathological narcissist who was convinced that warnings of a global pandemic were a conspiracy devised to thwart his reelection.
The day before much of the country was officially asked to stay home, Leah and I made an offer on a house and it was accepted. We have no idea what the world will look like when our settlement date arrives six weeks from now. As we prepare to hand over most of our savings, we’ve seen 10 million Americans apply for unemployment benefits in two weeks’ time—last week’s numbers aren’t available yet—a spike so shockingly severe and unprecedented that it requires some innovative graphic design to properly visualize.
Whenever our move date turns out to be, I’m not sure how physically functional I’ll be. I have adhesive capsulitis of the shoulder, colloquially knowns as frozen shoulder. It’s severely restricted the range of motion in my right arm for months, something I began working to correct with physical therapy at the beginning of March. Those sessions now happen online, which limits my progress. After months of atrophy, the muscles in my dominant arm are currently at about half strength.
In a separate bodily betrayal, the colonoscopy and endoscopy I had scheduled for last week were indefinitely postponed. I have an elevated carcinoembryonic antigen, or CEA, which might be an indicator of colon cancer. The gastroenterologist says she’s not very concerned, but she’s concerned enough to have me do some less invasive testing in the meantime to see what’s what. I’m going in for a CT scan this week and will likely also get to pay an exorbitant fee for the privilege of mailing someone my excrement. My insurance is apparently unlikely to cover any of this.
On my ride, I passed the hospital in my neighborhood. There are refrigerated trailers parked outside. I wondered how many corpses are in them. It was a palpably grim moment in a slow-burn crisis that doesn’t often show its teeth, at least not to me. The worries enumerated above notwithstanding, I’m very lucky. I have yet to be adversely affected. I’m able to work from home, my job doesn’t seem to be in imminent danger, and as far as I know, I and my friends and family are healthy. But whether or not this thing comes for me personally, the daily news of overwhelmed hospitals, the rising death toll, and the kakistocracy at the helm feed an ambient despair.