NEW YORK, NY - Times Square, normally a bustling sight at any given time of day, sits largely empty of traffic and tourists due to the COVID-19 outbreak early in the morning of April 9, 2020. (C.S. Muncy/Zenger)
The novel coronavirus came for New York City. More than 13,000 residents are dead, and the rest have little to do with their weeks but worry and wait as the unwelcome guest wears out its welcome.
The Big Apple’s avenues are broad but barren. Times Square glistens for no one.
Eyes peer out from behind surgical masks, painter’s masks and scarves. Everyone breathes through a filter.
This is the way New Yorkers live now: bowed but unbroken, weary yet determined.
They go to the store, but only a few at a time—and separated by 6-foot buffers as they form block-long columns of human patience to go inside. It’s an often fruitless search for toilet paper, nitrile gloves, bottled water and hand sanitizer, with 8.4 million people competing for cans of soup and other scarce prizes.
They go out for lunch but tables and chairs are gone; footsteps echo on bare floors.
And they go, by the thousands, to the hospital.
Intensive care beds teem with the stricken and scared.
Volunteers from one Christian charity staff a popup medical center in Central Park to ease the strain.
Some days the COVID-19 statistics seem to recede, only to swell again after daybreak.
New Yorkers have learned to wait, to leave their apartments only rarely, and to leave their eyeglasses at home when they do: Breathing through a mask makes them fog up.
The modern silent spring is pierced only by sirens. Ambulances whisking the sick to where they can’t infect the well. Police cars hunting looters. Fire engines carrying hope.
New York’s Bravest launch a buoy when nothing urgent beckons their red trucks: Hundreds of them gather, squad by squad, outside hospitals that dot the five boroughs. They stand and cheer as doctors and nurses emerge from their too-long shifts.
Their slogan is #ClapBecauseWeCare and the daily hurrahs make the rounds on social media. The city sees them through hand-held screens instead of taxi and bus windows.
Inside, exhausted medical staff have learned not to take off their masks and plastic face-visors—not even on their lunch breaks. They can’t know where the devious enemy might lie in wait, and they don’t know when this will all be over.