March, April, May: the mood of the city darkens as the crisis seems endless


With no clue when the pandemic might subside, the short-term discomfort becomes long-term despair: “I feel like I accepted this and gave up.”

Michael Wilson


Credit…Juan Arredondo for the New York Times

A walk in the park leads to tense pushes: step back, you are too close. Oh really? So stay at home. A noisy neighbor, once fleetingly annoyed with urban life, is a reason for complaint for the city. Wake up at noon, still tired. The city’s resilience has given way to resignation and random tears.

In Queens, 28-year-old Nicole Roderka knows she has to wear a mask outside, fears the anxiety it might bring and puts it aside. In Brooklyn, Lauren Sellers grinds her teeth at night; there are sores in his mouth due to stress. When a 3-year-old boy in Manhattan’s Inwood section, Eli McKay, looked around and said, “The virus is gone today, we can go see my friends,” said his mother as if she were from one of her picture book fantasies: “Maybe tomorrow. “

A feeling of sadness running through frayed nerves could be felt in conversations in and around the city as the epidemic of coronavirus in the epicenter of the world dragged on to its sixth week, its end still too far to be seen.

“This is the week I feel like I accepted this and gave up,” Euna Chi of Brooklyn wrote in an email. “My daily trip to the couch seems” normal “to me.”

The journey that started in March with a unit against us, with homemade masks and do-it-yourself haircuts and happy hours Zoom, has become for many a sad slog. It was as if the city had carefully approached a promising turn, a new page in the calendar, to find nothing, and beyond, always more.

Evidence of a mood change could be seen in small spikes on the city’s compiled ECG.

Complaints to 311 increased significantly in the revealing categories. Nearly doubling of noisy TV reports in the past five weeks compared to the same period last year, from 400 to 794, suggests sufficient line drawing. There were 16,901 calls in a whole new category, lax social distancing.

Elsewhere, another line has flattened: traffic to news sites was well below the surge that accompanied the arrival of the virus, according to data from the Chartbeat website, a strong indicator of information fatigue. .

The most recent weekly survey of 1,000 New York residents, about half of them from the city, by the CUNY Graduate School of Public Health and Health Policy asked how socially connected people are. felt. Just over two in five responded “not at all”. It was about double the number of people who answered this way four weeks earlier.

Forty percent of the latest survey respondents reported feeling anxious more than half the time in the past two weeks; 32 percent said they felt depressed.

“There is this mourning for life as we knew it in the past, as we tried to come to terms with the new reality,” said Greg Kushnick, psychologist in Manhattan. “I see it much more in my practice. People are really starting to get more depressed. And people prone to depression, this is the kickoff now. “

New York City, always something different for everyone who lives there, remains out of reach in a way that no longer seems temporary. City and state leaders, pressed daily for a timeline to normality or a fleeting description of what it might look like, respond with shrugs and talk about tests and curves. The city might as well be a snowball on a high shelf, its many riches – art collections, jazz clubs, athletes and chefs, high-C tenors and DJs from Brooklyn – are not available.

Three friends in a group agreed that they did not have the energy to make music at the moment.

“I think my” wall “earlier this week was that I was finally leaving the” denial “phase … it’s no longer” a fun change of pace, “” wrote one of them, Annalisa Loeffler. , in an email to friends she shared. with the New York Times. “The things that are super important to me and that make the rest of life bearable may not be physically possible for very long. I try not to “borrow trouble”, but it is certainly worth accepting sorrow for what has been lost. “

The virus has even modified the very seasons of nature, effectively canceling summer as if it were another public gathering. No swimming pools in town and beaches that don’t open.

The parks are always open as respite, but also as places of confrontation.

“The joggers in the park don’t think of walking two feet from me, unmasked and gasping,” wrote Cathy Altman of Manhattan’s Upper West Side in an email, noting her vulnerabilities: she is over 60 and survived cancer. “When I call” Six feet! “They tell me to stay inside if I don’t like it. A woman in her thirties gave me my finger. “

To communicate with the outside world, Elizabeth Matthews, a mother of two who lives in the Bedford-Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn, uses electronics like many parents – and found the experience missing.

“Part of what makes New York New York is public spaces – it’s like interacting with people you know but also people you don’t know,” she said. “To lose that, it makes New York a great place to live. “

Others have lowered the bar considerably for the incredible things they are missing.

“The local guys play dominoes, like the seniors, the people who play basketball, you know, the ice cream man who goes around the block,” said Eddie Gomez, 37, who works in a Manhattan hospital.

“To be able to relax,” said Kisha Jacques, 39, shopping in Elmhurst, Queens, with her two young children. And also: “Their yellow school bus”.

Yet around the city, as they have faced disasters of the past, many people have sought out amid the loss of light, good news to savor – and have located it.

Adriana Villari, 28, who works in a city hospital, said the deaths were down.

“Watching people get released and watching people recover makes me more positive,” she said. “I think with the way things are going, at least in my hospital, it looks like there is a light at the end of the tunnel. “

Mr. Gomez said he had contracted the virus and that his complaints were insignificant in relation to the gift of life. There were worse things than boredom, he said, “You learn a lot about yourself by just trying to kill time. “

At Hackensack, a mother, Amina Montoya, 35, found joy in her new routine. “I always wanted to go home,” she said. “So it was like a great opportunity to be able to try it out, and, like, they’re really flourishing. “

And Joshua McKay, father of Eli, the 3-year-old optimist at Inwood, found himself impatient almost every night to find a new restaurant that offers take-out food.

“We are just trying to make the most of it, and food has been our only pleasure during all of this,” he said. “New food and alcohol for us, and cars and Hot Wheels toys for him.” “

In the Fort Greene neighborhood of Brooklyn, a retired bus driver, Wesley Cook, 55, has suffered losses after losses in recent weeks: a brother, a cousin and two former colleagues, all caught by the virus. He could be excused for falling out of despair.

Even so, he found a special moment to cherish each night – the one when his son, a firefighter, came home.

“I say,” Did you have a good day? “” Said Mr. Cook. “He says, ‘Yes, dad,’ and I give him a hug. It’s a good day for me. “

The reports were provided by Jo Corona, Lauren Hard, Derek M. Norman, Azi Paybarah and Nate Schweber.


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