I once had a teacher who was very concerned about the threat of a pandemic, and as such, she showed us a movie about just that. The movie was terrifically frightening, not least because my teacher made it perfectly clear to us that such a situation is plausible. Well, we had the bubonic plague in the 14th century and the Spanish flu in 1918. Now we have coronavirus.
I'm no medical expert, but, as a poet, I suppose that I am pretty sensitive to the tremendous drama of current fears about COVID-19. It's quite something to have anxiety about coronavirus adding an element of hysteria to the normal fears of flu season.
Going to school in New York City is, for various reasons, wonderful. It adds a whole other element, though, to fears over coronavirus. In college, you're constantly surrounded by other students, and, in a big city, you're constantly surrounded by a great crush of people. I could hardly have expected as a freshman that such a phenomenon would be marking my final semester; after all, I have several things on my bucket list before I graduate. There are a good many things in the city (example: the Staten Island Ferry) which I have yet to experience, and I'd like to have a fun time exploring a bit before Commencement. Well, if this all boils over, it will; if it won't, it won't. Lent, at any rate, is a time for repentance, and the debilitating effects of disease probably encourage that.
The Bronx is the poorest borough in NYC and very poor compared to lots of other areas of the U.S. as well. New Orleans, where I'll be going in 2 weeks (donate here before the end of this Friday!), is also marked by extreme poverty. Systemic injustices in this country (and all over the world) make it the case that the economically disadvantaged are disproportionately affected by disease. (Not to mention the racism involved in fear of pandemics.) I hope that the coronavirus will not reach a stage at which that kind of thing will play out.
NYC represents a lot of things that are wrong with the world, certainly, and the hellishness of cities' impersonal crowds is amplified by the threat of close contact engendering disease. It's a beautiful place, though, and I'm glad to be here.