Those voices are discussing COVID-19, the rapidly-spreading respiratory illness that’s brought forth more changes to society than the speeches of every Academy Award recipient combined.
Communities around the world are facing unprecedented uncertainty as they continue to grapple with the virus, marking the January weekend in which the former star of “The Apprentice” launched a missile attack against Iran’s second most powerful military figure in the middle of his impeachment seem like a quaint period of relative calm and stability.
The global pandemic has dramatically altered life around the world due to social distancing, a method of separating yourself from society at large that, up until now, was only practiced regularly by those friends of yours who got sucked into CrossFit.
To reduce transmitting the virus to others, working from home has become the new normal, giving the Roomba somebody to talk to, and schools have closed down for perhaps the remainder of the year, fulfilling every high schooler’s dream of a never-ending spring break, spent on a living room couch next to a shirtless father, who’s trying to figure out how to turn off the camera on his Chromebook during a teleconference.
In the United States, the realities of a locked-down life are only beginning to settle in. At the peak of the virus in China, citizens were forced to do their best impression of a Twitch streamer after the government mandated that they could only leave the house once every two days.
In Italy, the current epicenter of the outbreak, even gatherings like weddings and funerals have been banned, which has presumably devastated the market for black suits.
Mandatory shutdowns of bars, restaurants, and retail stores in cities like New York are only just beginning to take effect, which is likely to lead to that local “artisan” gift shop selling t-shirts with illustrations of the shape of your state going out of business a few months ahead of schedule.
All of these measures are essential to help “flatten the curve” and prevent the healthcare system from being overwhelmed by the sheer influx of coronavirus cases.
And even though dramatic action is being taken now, there’s a palpable sense that it’s still not enough — even today, tons of people are hanging out on beaches across Florida, which is insane and something I would never do, even if there’s wasn’t a virus.
One major reason people might not be taking this pandemic as serious as a word like “pandemic” seems to suggest is that up until recently, Mr. Trump himself seemed to believe that this virus wasn’t much of a problem; there’s no need to apply bronzer around the circles of your eyes when you’ve already covered the rest of your face.
But this thing is nowhere near being over, and I don’t know how prepared we are to grapple with its long-term impact. I’m not talking about running out of toilet paper; I’m talking about running out of patience.
It may seem like a novelty, at first, to work from home for a week, putting on “Westworld” in the background as you fake being proactive on Slack. Now subtract daycare, add a sick parent, and multiply by two months.
The energy we’ve seen so far behind this sense of collective sacrifice has been encouraging, and I hope we’ll be able to maintain it as things become more difficult and people become bored, exhausted, and depressed from the confines of studio apartments across the nation.
I’m not a particularly sentimental guy, but over the next few weeks and months, the only people we’ll be able to turn will be each other — which is another way of asking you to subscribe.