A Journal of the Plague Year 2020–chapter 23

The jackboots arrive.

Tuesday, March 31

What’s that? A mailed fist pounding on the door just before dawn? Uniformed men out front, ready to take us away?

There are now 5,791 cases of the coronavirus in Suffolk County, and there have been 44 deaths.  A drive-through testing site has opened in Riverhead, the first such facility on the East End of Long Island. How did COVID-19 get way out here…from New York City, which is 100 miles away?

When Rhode Island authorities recently announced they would be conducting door-to-door searches for refugees from hot-spot New York City, telling these undesirables to go back to from whence they came, it seemed maybe all of the city’s exiles had become pariahs. Perhaps we would be forced to wear some kind of Gothamist insignia on our garments. Stranger things have happened.

Governments across the globe—from Hungary to Britain, Israel, and Chile—are using the crisis to seize new Big Brother powers: canceling elections, ruling by decree, employing the military against protesters, tracking people via their cellphone data, closing down courts, and even detaining citizens indefinitely. Never waste a good crisis, as Reagan hatchet man David Stockman once instructed.

And in the U.S., three out of every four residents are under some form of lockdown and must expect at least another month of it. The U.S. has surpassed Italy as the country with the highest number of coronavirus cases, more than 163,000. Some 245 million are at their homes, and millions of these have lost their jobs.

With little else occupying one’s mind, paranoia is always lurking. 

The disease itself is frightening enough, and accounts of the hell that health-care workers face daily are grueling just to read. https://nyti.ms/2JqAYr2

But the sun is out, here, for the first time in a while. The saws are busy—I think workers on the still-uncompleted house next door are putting in some bathroom tiles. We go to the town dump to get rid of a week’s refuse, and I’ve never seen it so busy. Then at a small grocery, we are able to get several vitally needed things, including lettuce, garlic, a cucumber, an apple, and dishwasher detergent. What could be better?

Back near our city apartment, the Union Square greenmarket is open, a group called GrowNYC reminds everyone in its blog. https://www.grownyc.org/blog/greenmarkets-are-open  But, the posting says, the following rules will apply: 

• Only Producers and their staff may handle products. Customers must not touch any produce or products until after they have purchased

• Market staff will separate farm stand spaces with at least 2 feet of distance between the tents, more where possible

• There is no sampling of products at markets until further notice

• There is no selling of apple cider by the cup

There is no joy in Mudville, it goes without saying.

Tonight’s dinner: more meatballs and spaghetti, with a salad of lettuce, avocado, and celery.

Tonight’s entertainment: dare I admit it? More of The Crown, then an episode of the new German thriller Berlin Babylon.

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