On Thursday, March 19, this publication’s first “coronavirus issue” hit the stands and was distributed throughout the areas we cover. When the social-distancing recommendation came down, I was concerned about whether our printing plant in Long Island City would be able to function properly.
Management there assured me that there was no plan to close or even cut back on the number of employees who facilitate the production process that results in a newspaper like this reaching the market. It seems that media entities are excluded from the order to close businesses in New York and New Jersey.
That made sense to me because a printing plant is not open to the public or even its clientele. So my concern was misplaced, but I was trying to anticipate and consider any possibilities and to plan accordingly.
I’m thinking about the great joy and celebration that will be unleashed when it is announced that we are allowed to open our shuls and yeshivas. In the meantime we are really witnessing G-d’s remarkable creativity and ingenuity.
What we are experiencing here is an unusual siege. Historically, we are too well-acquainted with the type of siege-like restrictions that were far more brutal and oppressive than anything we are experiencing today. In previous times, the nemesis was visible and capable of being identified. We were overpowered and could not do anything about it other than submit and relent.
This time around, we are able to fight back in a most unusual way. It is about that which we do not do. We do not have to take up arms in this battle; our local and national governments are asking us to stay at home and, if we can manage it, not do anything at all.
As government officials are quickly realizing and as President Trump tweeted late Sunday night, it seems that battling the coronavirus is doing more damage than the virus itself. So, while things may be like this — closed shuls and stores and deserted streets — for a little while longer, this type of situation is unsustainable for too long a period of time.
Like almost everyone else, I find the Democratic Party’s virtual blackmailing of the president and the Republicans in the Senate to be repugnant and a form of abuse of the American people. Hopefully, once we get past this difficult period and we regain our footing, Election Day will communicate effectively to Speaker Pelosi and Senator Schumer how we really feel about their shenanigans.
The streets are mostly empty and the majority of the stores in most neighborhoods are closed. But the list of the businesses that are exempt from Governor Cuomo’s shutdown is rather extensive and interesting.
I was reading the list the other night, and it seemed that just about every conceivable business had the ability to say that they qualify for exemption from the shutdown. I believe what the long list of exempt businesses tells us is that while you can announce a shutdown of a city or even an entire country, you cannot shut it down completely.
A quick glance tells us that aside from vital and essential services like police, hospitals, and other medical offices, also open for business this week are auto repair shops and computer sales and repair. Hotels are able to open, though occupancy, as you can imagine, is extremely low. Others who can function at full capacity are food and beverage companies, pharmacies, agriculture and household paper product suppliers, convenience stores, gas stations, hardware and building supply stores, trash and recycling, laundromats, childcare services, banks, insurance companies, payroll and accounting firms, and there are many more.
In Israel, there are changes, too. As you see on our front page, for the first time in history the Machane Yehuda shuk in Jerusalem closed down on Monday. If there is any place in the world that serves as the antithesis of social distancing, it is this market. If you’ve been to the shuk on an erev Shabbos then you know what you are not supposed to be doing at this time of crisis.
At the same time, even as we are in extreme crisis mode, we have no choice but to look ahead and plan for the future — the very near future, G-d willing. If you follow the news closely then you know that this is not just a virus problem but a math problem as well.
One of the terms you may have become acquainted with over the last few days is “flattening the curve,” which essentially is the objective to neutralize the trajectory of the number of people the virus hits. The model the U.S. is following is that of China and South Korea; after six weeks, both countries are reporting almost no new cases of the virus.
One of the main triggers in turning to the lockdown strategy was that too many people would become seriously ill with the virus for the healthcare system here in New York to handle. In the interim, hospitals are being asked to expand facilities, the Javits Center is being turned into a 1,000-bed hospital, and the hospital ship USNS Comfort will be docked in New York harbor by early next week.
So in a sense, the race is on between the worst- and best-case scenarios. As Governor Cuomo, whose star is shining throughout this crisis, says daily, “Let’s hope for the best but expect the worst.” There are too many people ill in hospitals and at home and we daven for their speedy and successful recovery very soon.
I’m looking forward to the end of this 14-day quarantine. Hopefully, there will be some adjustments, and while we won’t be able to return to full normal life yet, at least we will be able to head in that direction.
Contact Larry Gordon at firstname.lastname@example.org.