Exsar Arguello working in his Buffalo, New York apartment.
Former Barton Publications reporter talks about life in New York, where he currently works as a news
producer for Spectrum News.
As the COVID-19 pandemic takes hold of New York as the epicenter of the crisis, life in the Empire State has eerily come to a halt.
From my downtown apartment in Buffalo, I’m used to seeing people frantically walking to work, friends meeting up for lunch, and the occasional dog lifting his leg on something he shouldn’t.
These days, however, businesses are closed, tens of thousands of New Yorkers have lost their jobs, and it seems the worse of this crisis has yet to pass.
As a journalist, my work never stops. Ironically so, times of crisis usually call for some job security in the industry. But the pandemic has grasped the interworkings of my conscience. I’m working from home these days, but the updates never stop. Another 5,000 cases today.
Another 10 … 20 … 30 cases just here in the Buffalo-area. Another soul lost.
By now, it’s becoming monotonous and somewhat numbing. The updates of the new cases just feel like a clock that never stops ticking. These numbers haunt me in my dreams almost every night.
From a mental health standpoint, the past few weeks have been draining, but I think of the nurses and health care professionals who are working countless hours to treat people with this virus, and it makes me feel blessed to be in the position I am.
As of this week, the United States now has the most cases of this virus in the world, yet the president wants to open our doors again by Easter. At least in New York, those words feel painstakingly empty, almost insulting. Two weeks ago, my partner flew in from Austin to visit me. At that time, we had virtually no cases throughout the state. Now, we’re at 44,000 as of March 27, and the numbers are increasing by the thousands a day. According to the New York Department of Labor, more than 80,000 jobless claims were filed in the state just last week alone. Nationally, 3.3 million people have filed for unemployment, federal officials announced this week.
Despite the alarming statistics, eliminating this virus must come with a caveat, at least in my mind. We must understand that an economic collapse may be imminent if we are serious about isolating populations until the virus disappears. Subsequently, we cannot have a functioning workplace amid a pandemic without numbers continuing to increase.
If we are to save our workforce, our restaurants, and our livelihoods, we must isolate and flatten the curve sooner rather than later so we can return to living.
Take South Korea for example, which at one point was one of the hardest-hit nations in the world from COVID-19, and has now flattened the curve.
As reported by The New York Times, South Korea identified over 900 new cases of COVID-19 in a single day in late February. But on Sunday, the country reported less than 70 new cases.
Health experts around the world believe China and South Korea are the only two countries to flatten the curve on new infections, but South Korea did so without the authoritarian efforts implemented by the Chinese.
The South Koreans did so by isolation, and contact tracing, among other strategies.
“South Koreans’ cellphones vibrate with emergency alerts whenever new cases are discovered in their districts. Websites and smartphone apps detail hour-by-hour, sometimes minute-by-minute, timelines of infected people’s travel – which buses they took, when and where they got on and off, even whether they were wearing masks. People who believe they may have crossed paths with a patient are urged to report to testing centers,” The New York Times reported on March 23. “South Koreans have broadly accepted the loss of privacy as a necessary trade-off.”
These are efforts we are not properly implementing here in the United States in some of the hardest-hit areas of the country. Local governments are releasing potential sites of exposure based on people who have tested positive, but that is where the resources seem to end, when in reality, that’s when the work is just beginning.
As for my fellow Texans, please listen to the experts, stay vigilant, and stay safe.
These unprecedented times have taught us to appreciate the physical contact we have with others. It has taught us to check on one another when we can’t physically do so ourselves. But most importantly, I feel this crisis has taught us to appreciate the normality in life that much more. Hold your loved ones a little closer tonight.
The people of Texas are tough. I’m cheering for you, and let’s get through this together.
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