There is something wrong with the “new normal”
Letter to the Editor | Tuesday, March 31, 2020
On March 16 my friends and I showed up six to seven hours early at the Dublin airport for our return flight home from our study abroad program. The airport was packed with U.S. citizens scrambling to return to America after President Trump announced vague travel bans from Europe that eventually included the U.K. and Ireland.
After waiting in Customs lines for close to four hours, we finally talked to U.S. officials who asked us a few quick questions about our health, reported what we said to the CDC and eventually cleared us to board the plane for our flights back to the U.S. Even though we were saying final goodbyes to new friends and to a country that enthralled and enchanted us, there was an immediate sense of relief that I felt just sitting down in my seat knowing I would be home that day.
However, when I boarded my connecting flight from Chicago to my hometown of Seattle, I quickly realized going home would not be the same. There were about 60 to 70 people on that Boeing 737-800, which can normally hold up to 190 passengers and crew members. Apparently, Seattle was not a popular travel destination at the moment.
Upon returning and in the week since, the once bustling and ever-growing city with notorious traffic problems has been pretty quiet. The area that started as one of America’s epicenters of the coronavirus outbreak has become shuttered with almost everyone I know electing to work from home (now mandatory since Gov. Inslee’s stay-at-home order). The streets are essentially empty, except for the scattering of dog walkers and people out for a stroll or a run. Gyms have closed and any passerby on the sidewalk will go out of their way to maintain social distancing. Trips to the grocery store are the only times my family and I will drive anywhere.
Just a few weeks ago, our own community was impacted when the owner of our neighborhood market fell down a set of stairs and was taken to the hospital. There, doctors noticed a spot on his lungs that they found to be COVID-19. In just a matter of days, he died without his loved ones by his side.
Stories like this one have been commonplace in the Seattle area ever since the coronavirus tragically hit the Life Care nursing facility in the neighboring Kirkland, Washington, where at least 35 deaths have been recorded. If these stories and sentiments aren’t your new normal and you think the few cases in your area will stay that way, you don’t have to look much further than New York to see how fast this virus can move and bring life to a sudden halt.
Except I hate the term “new normal” because nothing about this is normal. Watching professors struggle with online teaching or students forget to mute their microphone — while often hilarious — is not how things should be going. Seniors should be living up their last two months on campus, and all students should be wearing their Chacos at the first sight of spring, and then complaining when they have to bring out their L.L. Bean boots again the next day when it snows. We should be looking forward to Southwest salads on Thursdays instead of once again ordering takeout from local restaurants.
If we want any of these things that resemble a sense of normalcy to return, we have to remain vigilant in our social distancing, quarantining and, in some cases, isolation if we become sick. That’s why it is so irritating when I see fellow people in Seattle not get the message and fill Alki Beach, Green Lake and Rattlesnake Ledge on a sunny day. They are only extending the problem (and the eventual conclusion) of this terrible pandemic.
Just like other crises, this too will pass, but it will pass a lot faster if we stay home, wash our hands and listen to our public health officials (looking at you Dr. Fauci).
The views expressed in this Letter to the Editor are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.