On March 5, we flew out of Rome back to LAX. At the Rome Fiumicino airport we were given a form to fill out regarding where we had traveled in the past month and if we were experiencing any symptoms. When getting onto the plane we individually had our temperature screened and recorded. The flight was only 30% full, it was eerie to see so many empty isles. Once arriving in JFK we retrieved our bags and went through customs quickly. They asked no questions about our travels, did not take our temperature and did not wear face masks. We got on our flight to LAX which was close to full. I couldn’t help but worry about the United States and a lack of any preventative or screening measures present. Despite Trump’s claims, I am not confident that it is “under control”.
On March 9, panic continues to spread. Coachella is threatened to be canceled and more cruise ships find themselves unable to dock. Two days ago, Northern Italy was placed on lockdown with all individuals urged to stay inside their homes. Today, all of Italy is shut indoors. All schools are closed with additional restrictions on restaurants, pubs and theaters which now all close at sunset. Earlier confusion and hesitance has given way to full spread panic– the mayor of Bergamo (in Lombardy) announcing their hospitals are on the brink of collapse. Everyday lives are quickly changing to new normals, new expectations and the change is painful.
As testing still lags behind in the US, many speculate as to the restrictions of democracy and capitalism on the nation’s attempt at halting the spread of disease. Many people are expected to ignore health warnings and continue working in order to keep their jobs. The likelihood of people remaining in their homes is slim and the government will have a difficult time imposing the necessary authoritarian measures. Trump continues to deny the severity of the disease in an attempt to alleviate stress but his loose adherence to proven facts make it difficult for his messages to have any positive contribution.
On March 14th, I am back in Riverside. Stores nationwide are out of toilet paper, hand sanitizer and wipes with people stampeding through the opening doors, clearing shelves into their carts. My housemate is sick and has quarantined herself to her room, wearing a face mask whenever going to the kitchen or bathroom. She went to the emergency room to get tested and she fearfully approached the guard outside the door who told her to wait for an escort to a private room. Class instruction has moved online until April 9th with other schools cancelling the entire quarter already. Down in San Diego, Grossmont High School district, San Diego unified and all of El Cajon elementary and middle schools announce their closure until April 10th. Coachella postpones to October; Ultra and Tomorrowland are cancelled amongst multiple artist tours. Disneyland closes its gates despite its exemption from the new california ban on gatherings of more than 250 people. The climate is shifting and this seems to be definitely foreshadowing something larger looming on the horizon. The hopes of this quickly passing through are rapidly depleting and everyone seems to be preparing for the long haul.
We are told it’s the end times and we are told to not panic. The media constantly slews contradictory messages across every platform and it is hard to remember what we all used to talk about before corona. Twitter is covered in hilarious memes. When talking to someone you almost have to be mindful of their “corona politics” with some claiming everyone is overreacting and others anxious to tears. The scariest part of all is the unveiling of the true power of destabilization and human influence. People were scared stores would run out of toilet paper so they stocked up so now the stores ARE out of toilet paper. It’s the self-fulfilling prophecy of group thinking. And it’s terrifying. Reality is completely controlled by humanity’s perception of it due to our sheer volume in comparison to any other entity or item on the planet. Whatever people think is going to happen, is going to happen. And lately, everyone has been prone to panic.
Back in Italy, heartwarming videos overtake the internet of people singing, loudly, from their balconies in a choric unison. They sing anthems and “Volare” playing violins and guitars out windows. A unified people in the time of isolation. Today The Sunday Times publishes a terrifying article in which the intensive care chief of an Italian hospital, Giuseppe Natalini, offers this warning to other countries, “Italy was the first in Europe to pay the price for mistakes it made unwittingly. It got burnt and is now learning the lesson. Anyone who gets burnt a second time is a fool. When this infection explodes, you are facing an apocalyptic situation.”. Hospitals are overcrowded, turning down patients daily and supplies are rapidly depleting. Doctors all over the country have sent their children away as a precaution against unintentionally infecting them. It is alarming to watch what is likely a preview of the very near future here in the United States.
A CNN interview of New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announces the first Corona death in the state, Cuomo saying, “This virus has spread much more than we know.” Various articles are published predicting the inability of the Western demoncratic world to contain the epidemic and it’s subsequent inability to recover from the fall out. This is due to Trump’s opposition to making difficult choices that limit individual freedom and favor government infrastructure and protection. Testing is severely limited and costly, confirming capitalism’s prejudge against the lowest class, highest risk peoples. Students forcibly removed from their university housing find themselves with no where else to go and no government assistance to turn to. Every man is fighting for themselves, knowing there will be no saving intervention from those in powerful enough positions to help. The American value of freedom might be it’s greatest enemy in the fight against widespread disease.
In some good news, in the late hours of last night the House passed a coronavirus relief bill. No one is celebrating yet though since the Senate still has to review and pass the bill next week with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell warning it will be no easy debate. The bill includes provisions for free coronavirus testing, expanded food security funding, family and sick leave parameters and unemployment insurance. Measures all seem geared toward the coming consequences of an increase in cases.