Monday, March 23, 2020

NYC day 5 (?)

I'm counting quarantine from Thursday.

When I was a small child, I was obsessed with the idea that if I just had a bathroom off my bedroom, I could seal myself off and float away in it like a little boat. My apartment is now that little boat.

The landmark days have come fast and furious.

On Thursday, March 5 I hosted a small book party for a friend. I didn't think of canceling it (it was perhaps fifteen people in my living room, not thronged), but I bought extra hand soap and paper towels and made sure everything was spotless so that being in a social gathering wouldn't provoke undue anxiety.

On Sunday, March 8, Columbia emailed us to say that Monday and Tuesday classes were suspended in preparation for a move online starting Wednesday. (Spring break was the following week and would give us additional adjustment time.)

I was following the news closely; Columbia recommended against non-essential university travel, but I weighed the pros and cons and did indeed fly to Cayman on Wednesday. My main reservation was that I was coming from a high-spread area to a low and that it might be irresponsible; Brent noted that since 10,000 cruise passengers were still coming ashore every day, the additional risk I might contribute was negligible.

Thursday night I realized I shouldn't go to Friday 6am hot yoga in case I was an asymptomatic carrier. Downloaded a hot 26 timer app and did a session on Brent's balcony. Started soft social distancing (worked at home rather than heading to Cafe del Sol), though we had early (deserted) dinner at Fidel's that night and picked up pizza from XQs to take to Gord and Enoka's on Saturday evening. But

The first Cayman death was announced later on Friday - an Italian man in his 70s, in bad health, who was rushed from his cruise ship to Health City for cardiac treatment. Health City closed down its hospital for two weeks to sterilize everything.

I was watching the news closely. My ticket home was for Saturday, March 21. It wasn't a disaster if I got stuck in Cayman (friends in NY urged me to stay there), but it equally wasn't a choice between two options - I am on a tourist visa there, and the health system isn't robust (patients with serious illnesses are usually treated in Miami, and the per-capita hospital bed count is lower than NYC; rationing would prioritize Caymanians).

On Monday, March 16, Cayman announced that the following Sunday, the island would close to passenger air traffic for three full weeks. Visitors would be prohibited entry from Thursday.

The next day, JetBlue emailed me to cancel my flight. I hastily booked myself onto a flight the next day, Cayman Airways GCM-JFK.

I was nervous, but it went incredibly smoothly. The airport was underpopulated. I had a mask from my friend Dr Enoka (I failed to press it down over my nose, I should have looked it up on the internet, I couldn't understand why it was making the bridge of my nose so sore!) and didn't eat or drink anything once I was in the airport. Last pee in airport bathroom, with soap and water handwashing, but underhydration sufficient that I didn't need to use the toilet on the plane (they are hives of germs at the best of times and I had a little bottle of sanitizer). I paid $150 for a business upgrade and it was almost like having my own little room - the seat next to me was empty and I could reach my legs out straight at a right angle to my torso and still not touch the bulkhead.

Taxi driver at the airport (it was maybe 8:30pm) said he'd been in the queue since 7am and I was his first fare. He was going to drive an hour and a half home to Long Island after he dropped my at my apartment in Morningside Heights.

So I'm counting from Thursday. Hard social distancing, a couple brief shopping trips. I'm running outside (and walking the 2 non-run days) with a buff as face cover and a pair of running gloves - it stops me touching my face and makes it less likely I'll get droplets on anybody else.

Without testing, none of us really know what's going on. I'm pretty sure that I haven't had COVID-19 already in its asymptomatic variant - I get lung involvement even with minor colds, and I haven't been sick at all since early January. Risk of exposure from when I arrived in Cayman on the 11th seems to me quite low.

I've brought Light Reading back to life so that I can write here for the duration. Facebook is ephemeral, chaotic. I would like a record. And I will be making light reading recommendations too.....


  1. I've come here from your list of books to read in quarantine. Thank you for the recommendation. Hope you're safe.