I’ve been trying to imagine the next autum in NYC. It’s probably my favorite season in this crazy town.
But Autumn, 2020 is bound to be different. Summer will be a challenge for sure but the fall is when this town really revs its engine. Can children and teenagers go back to school? There are over 1 million public school students in the city. Will parents feel comfortable sending them onto crowded subways to attend equally crowded schools where there is not an ounce of space.
Fall also brings with it the new season for art, music, films, plays. It’s usually an exciting time. But NYC’s venues are notoriously small and cramped. I’ve always disliked Broadway because the seats were built for the much smaller New Yorkers who existed 80 years ago. Theaters are cramped. Nowhere to put your coat. I personally will not be going to Broadway any time soon and that I think is the point.
The only way NYC goes on in the immediate future is for each citizen to make his or her individual calculation about what they are willing or not willing to do in these Covid times.
Will you send your child or teenager into a high school packed like sardines? Is it worth risking your life to see a hot play? A film? Dinner at that small bistro on the corner? Brunch with friends?
Will you take the subway????? In many ways, the subway is the core issue for many of us. I took it every single day I traveled to work or school for the past 60 plus years. My commute to work is forty-five minutes. Yes it was crowded and full of homeless and I didn’t always get a seat but I miss it. I did tons of reading on the subway, novel reading that I’m no longer doing. I try reading fiction at home but I nod off.
I think the only way for NYC to “reopen” (and boy is that a loaded term these days) is for us to embrace the concept of herd immunity. In that scenario, a lot of us will be exposed to the Covid virus but the vast majority of us (probably 99 % r 98%) will not die. The so-called ‘death rate’ in NYC is about 3% but those are the raw numbers. When the state took a broader sample of New Yorkers, the death rate was much lower.
Along with herd immunity, we must embrace the concept of fatalism. Yes, some of us will die from coronavirus but not many and how else will we go on? We live with the flu and, while it’s not as contagious, it does kill between 40,000 and 60,000 Americans every year (and as many as 600,000 people worldwide).
No one screams that we should ban cigarettes (we love the taxes, right?) but lung cancer kills 300,000 Americans each year.
We live with fatalism now. If we didn’t, we couldn’t get behind the wheel of a car. Or ride a bicycle. Shit will happen. But it’s hard for any politician to even hint at this without getting his head handed to him. They can’t say it out loud but the truth is for our society to resume a semblance of normalcy (especially in a crowded, dense city like NY) we’re going to have to accept that some people will die of Covid.
Hey, I want to outlive it too which is why I, like everyone else, will weigh what I’m willing to do. I cannot see myself commuting much if at all by subway anymore. I’ll work from home, drive in occasionally when I must. It’s not worth getting into packed subway cars.
We New Yorkers are about to become major risk assessors. What are you willing to risk your life for? There are as many answers as there are people in this town.