When I first learned about Covid-19 in February, like many others, I thought it was another sensationalized media story meant to fan the flames of racist fears and xenophobia. After all, in the 24-hour cable news cycle, when everything is “Breaking News”, is anything breaking news? Like the swine flu and bird flu, I thought it would be a headline for two weeks before corporate news moved on to the next scare story.
I live in subsidized artist housing in midtown, Manhattan where most of the residents in our building are employed in various jobs in the theatre and are mostly gig economy workers. Over the past few months, our neighborhood has watched as the world changed, moving away from “BCE”, the before-coronavirus-era, and into what has been described by residents as “a dystopian landscape”. While some local businesses are beginning to come back with limitations, for many cultural, restaurant, and gig economy workers, the coronavirus has had a particularly devastating impact. The pandemic has once again, demonstrated how fragile the New York ecosystem is and how the most marginalized people are always the most vulnerable, (and most essential). This essay looks at the changing landscape of Manhattan from March through May 2020 during the coronavirus shutdown and quarantine.
Toilet paper, candles, and a rubber ducky. Shortly after toilet paper became available again in supermarkets and pharmacies, community groups would leave rolls out for anyone in need. Only weeks prior, the toilet paper aisle of the grocery store was under 24-hour surveillance by a security guard.