In New York, the coronavirus is extremely violent and kills about one every 3 minutes, while the peak of the pandemic has not yet been reached. Katya Soldak, journalist and editorial director at Forbes, shares with us her poignant story of a walk in deserted Manhattan.
As I walk through Brooklyn Bridge Park, looking up at the Manhattan skyline jutting out from the East River, I feel like the crowd is as large as ever. But on closer inspection, I realize that these are not the usual hordes of tourists, chatting in a cacophony of foreign languages, photographers with their tripods or young people on their skateboards. In the park, there are only solitary runners, parents in jogging who take their children for walks in strollers or on a scooter. No more people playing volleyball on the sand by the water’s edge, no more families who usually invade the picnic and barbecue area. Everyone keeps their distance, some wear masks. Yet all of this does not really sound like social distancing and the lockdown advocated by the mayor and governor of New York in order to slow the spread of the coronavirus.
The few photos of the city which circulate, showing peaceful inhabitants, do not fool anyone. The five boroughs of New York (Brooklyn, Queens, Manhattan, Staten Island and the Bronx) are well affected by the coronavirus, which is spreading at a monstrous speed. The number of deaths is increasing drastically every day, and as of March 28 already 678 patients had succumbed to the virus in overcrowded hospitals in the city. In New York State, there are more than 53,000 cases, and New York City has become the epicenter of this pandemic.
The health care system is overwhelmed. I spoke to four doctors in the city who all confirmed to me the worrying rumor circulating in the newspapers: hospitals do not have enough protective equipment, single-use masks are being reused and there is a lack of beds and respirators. Medical staff are constantly picking up patients who need to be intubated to help them breathe. The city’s hospitals have set up makeshift tents to sort out the patients, but also to store the bodies of the victims. Our country is paying a heavy price for the government’s late response to the spread of the virus.
What we often remember about New Yorkers is their solidarity and support. After the September 11 attacks, the power outage in 2003 or the passage of Hurricane Sandy, we all came together.
On election day Donald Trump, the city’s residents, mostly Democrats, were even more attentive to one another, sharing their sadness and anxieties about the future of their country. Today, as schools, non-essential businesses, bars and restaurants are closed, and many people are isolated by lockdown, groups are forming to allow New Yorkers to help each other. They shop for the older ones, go and fix broken locks or seized elevator buttons. Mental health professionals also volunteer their services to help the most anxious among us. In supermarkets and pharmacies, customers creep in and queues form outside, in which everyone keeps a safe distance.
But it’s not all solidarity and respect, because fear and anxiety are also present. Many employees in the service sector and the food industry are technically unemployed, preparing for a period of particularly harsh adversity. According to the New York State Labor department, during the first days of the lockdown, unemployment rose 1,000% in parts of the state: 1.7 million people applied for emergency benefits. The pandemic highlights income inequalities, and to remedy it, more than a million children from disadvantaged families, who depended on meals provided at school at noon, are now accommodated in centers that provide them with food. lunch.
The team of Forbes, based in New Jersey, has been working remotely since early March. Everything has been redesigned: the 400 employees meet remotely and the newsroom has become virtual. Video conferences are organized every day to maintain social ties and to get news from colleagues.
The reality is that local authorities have taken a long time to react to the spread of Covid-19. For weeks, as we knew the health crisis was on its way to our country, eight million New Yorkers gathered on the subway, went to restaurants, and drove to the airport, carrying the virus everywhere with it. them.
In the absence of a pandemic unit, which Donald Trump dismissed in 2018, the federal government reacted too late. The crisis and the dangers of Covid-19 have been underestimated, since the president said in January: “Everything is completely under control”. Authorities have failed to deliver tests in a timely manner, and New York City Mayor along with Governor Bill De Blasio and Andrew Cuomo have attempted to help hospitals, but their efforts have yet to come. been rewarded.
In recent days, it is rumored that the town hall is considering closing parks and other public places. Residents could even be banned from leaving the city, or even their homes. In the coming weeks, the Big Apple will therefore also barricade itself to counter the coronavirus, so don’t forget: stay home.