28 Days Later

It has been 28 days since I last stepped foot outside my apartment building.
The above fact seems both bewildering and (now) unremarkable at the same time, somehow.

I’ll admit that I was later than I should have been in taking the coronavirus threat seriously. I had just come back from a bachelorette party on a cruise ship (!!) and a day trip to Universal Studios in Orlando (!!!) and went to the office on Monday, March 9 with every intention of finishing the week in the office.

My husband, on the other hand, took the virus more seriously than I did. I think perhaps I took it less seriously because of how concerned his parents were about it back over the Lunar New Year. At that time, I was primarily worried about my family in China, which was experiencing their peak of the outbreak and during which time was suffering through the biggest holiday of the year. My mother called me one day from the airport, which was unsettlingly quiet. Everyone was scared to speak to one another, wearing masks, avoiding other people.
But in the United States, at the end of January, we had 4 confirmed cases with zero on the entire East Coast of North America. So, when my in-laws suggested that we not even visit them for the new year and offered to mail us surgical masks instead, I was really dismissive.

Fast forward to Sunday, March 8. I am buying groceries because I’ve decided I am going to start a Whole30 post-traveling. (HAHA) My husband urges me to abandon the low-carb diet and stock up on staples we’ll need for quarantine. I compromise and bring back a lot of produce and freezer items.  By Monday, husband has convinced me that we should pack up our things and prepare to work from home indefinitely. I tell him I’ll probably try to pop back into the office once a week or so, and tell my co-workers that I’m likely to go back to work that Friday for our department briefing. We have already received the go-ahead for everyone in the department to work from home if they are uncomfortable coming into the office. Some of my teammates gladly take up this offer because they have long commutes.

The mood shifts in the afternoon for me. The week prior, after I returned from my trip, we had been hearing rumors about someone getting tested for coronavirus in an office building that was operated by the same property management company that ran our own. By the afternoon of March 9, there seemed to be a confirmed case in every office building near us, and the head of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, Rick Cotton, was also confirmed positive. That was the news tidbit that pushed me to start packing my desk. After all, this was the man who had been visiting major transit facilities to oversee their coronavirus procedures: all of the airports, major train and bus hubs, etc.

We leave the office early that day to avoid the crowds on the subway during peak commuting hours. The train is emptier at 4pm, but it’s tense. A handful of people are wearing masks. I feel acutely aware of people staring at us, two Asian people, while a homeless man lying across a seat at the end of the car coughs in his sleep. Read More »