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NYC these days — An eyewitness account in America’s COVID-19 epicenter

By: Jobers Reynes Bersales - Columnist/CDN Digital | April 02,2020 - 08:00 AM

 

In the two or three times I have been lucky to visit the Big Apple, New York City, these past five years, I have always linked up with two friends, one a former student, Rufo Escabarte, and the other, a fellow activist of our student years, Marivir Montebon. 

Early this week, I asked Marivir to tell me (and you dear readers) how she is doing and to give us a closer and more personal look at what COVID-19 has done to this city. Marivir has been an NYC resident for 13 years already and runs an online magazine called OSM! (read: Awesome! at www.cliqit.com). Her short essay should give us reason for pause as we too are going about this newly minted phrase called Enhanced Community Quarantine, a nicer euphemism for a lockdown. Here is what she wrote:

“I miss the days when coffee shops and restaurants were open until late. They’re the best places for work colleagues and friends to hang out, to unwind or to discuss work. For sure, small businesses, which comprise 50 percent of the total in NYC, have been hardest hit by the lockdown since early March. Small business owners were the first to cheer after a three-month moratorium on eviction of those who couldn’t pay rent was implemented. So now the city that never sleeps is still actually taking a nap. Until when? Maybe until July or August of this year. I don’t want to hurry it. I have made complete sense staying at home. It’s not just eat-sleep-Netflix routine kind of life. I have managed to perk up our virtual chat rooms on Facebook just to be in touch with everyone

“…On my workstation, which I call my war zone, is a huge picture of my beloved daughter Leani Alnica, who passed on to a greater dimension in November 2019 due to colon cancer. Staring at her picture, from time to time as I write, is actually energizing. Her smile eases my grief, and I think that perhaps if she was still around at this time, it would be doubly hard for her and me. I miss her everyday but I think that God’s time is always perfect, always meaning to make things better for us. 

NYC HOSPITAL. A medical worker directs a patient to enter a COVID-19 testing site at Elmhurst Hospital Center, Wednesday, March 25, 2020, in New York. | AP Photo/John Minchillo

A medical worker directs a patient to enter a COVID-19 testing site at Elmhurst Hospital Center, Wednesday, March 25, 2020, in New York. | AP Photo/John Minchillo

“As I write, my aunt is confined at the Elmhurst Hospital in Queens as she has tested positive of COVID-19. She was rushed to the ER for fever and hard breathing. Being diabetic and elderly, hers is a vulnerable case. Queens has the most number of COVID-19 cases in the five boroughs here. We have gone crazy checking on her through our cell phones and chat rooms. This is how a COVID-19 attack looks like: You cannot go with your loved one to the hospital, she is there all by herself. You can only hope that she answers her cell phone or the doctor answers your call. 

“At the time of my aunt’s confinement, her older sister, who’s left at home, was also running a fever. And we could not even easily get an acetaminophen for that. Amazon has refused to take more orders for the day I tried to order online. There was chaos amid prayers of hope in my clan’s chatroom. Now my aunt at Elmhurst is responding well to medication. But she is not yet out of the woods. She needed to be tested again if the COVID-19 went away. Doctors said she is still contagious and must continue to be isolated. Meanwhile, my other aunt had to continue to hydrate and take immunoboosters big time, to keep the fever at bay. 

“A disturbing reality these days in NYC is the spate of suicides. This week, two incidents of suicides were reported in the upper west side alone. And the sirens of ambulances that now happen so often have triggered my worry (I used to be annoyed by sirens in the city). Another one goes to the ER, I’d reckon and say a prayer. 

NYC NURSES. Nurses leave Elmhurst Hospital Center where COVID-19 testing continues outside, Friday, March 27, 2020, in New York. |AP Photo/John Minchillo

Nurses leave Elmhurst Hospital Center where COVID-19 testing continues outside, Friday, March 27, 2020, in New York. |AP Photo/John Minchillo

“My thought goes to the thousands of nurses and doctors and staff in the frontline of this war against an invisible enemy. I am in personal contact with friends and cousins who are nurses and doctors, and indeed I can vouch for their alarm on the shortage of PPEs. It is ridiculously true. But the pandemic is not a political concoction to bring down President Donald Trump, as right-wingers say. Frontliners are dying and they have to be given enough ammunition to fight the virus and save lives. At the end of this contagion, I don’t want to say it, but doctors and nurses may become among the rarer species of this world. New York admittedly acted late. The US acted late. No wonder it is now horrifyingly the epicenter of this new virus. 

SOCIAL DISTANCING AT NYC. Patients wearing personal protective equipment stand on line while maintaining social distancing before entering a COVID-19 testing site at Elmhurst Hospital Center, Wednesday, March 25, 2020, in New York City. Gov. Police have stepped up efforts to pressure New Yorkers to practice social distancing at the epicenter of the crisis. | AP Photo/John Minchillo

Patients wearing personal protective equipment stand on line while maintaining social distancing before entering a COVID-19 testing site at Elmhurst Hospital Center, Wednesday, March 25, 2020, in New York. | AP Photo/John Minchillo

“Decisive leadership is of the essence. And also, more importantly, community cooperation is needed. People should behave as prescribed — social distancing. Stay at home is the rule every person has to follow. It is both simple and difficult, because New Yorkers are used to moving about so much. But this is the simplest contribution each one of us can do to contain the pandemic. Of course, wearing gloves and masks are a must as well. 

Government projects that the worst is yet to come in the months of April and May. So, I sigh, God help us. And we have to be responsible too. On the brighter side, locking down New York means having to keep the house immaculately clean and to change perspectives — that all we need is to be clean, to have only the essentials — food, water, vitamins, and to exercise (thanks to my nieces in Cebu who dance the tick tock like they’re my dance coaches!). Money may not even be a main worry now, especially if rent and mortgages are suspended further. In New York these days, what matters is a clean home, a kindly relationship, and enough food supply. Hopefully, we all will become better after learning the lessons a virus has taught us.”

So there. If the city that never sleeps has in fact taken a nap, as Marivir has so aptly stated it, there is no reason why all the towns and cities of Cebu shouldn’t follow. In a previous column I already showed why social distancing is key. While we may have so much less cases in Cebu right now, we better continue staying at home and not go out unless necessary or else we may end up like NYC. This city of 8.7 million people had 43,119 confirmed cases and 1,096 deaths as of yesterday, out of New York State’s total of 76,049 confirmed cases. This number accounts for a whopping 40 percent of all cases in the entire U.S. Incidentally, New York State has a population of 19.9 million whereas Metro Manila has 13.5 million. You do the comparison from here on in terms of confirmed cases and deaths.

Be safe everyone! /dbs

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