Scenes From An Epidemic

My column in Long Island newspapers and on LI news websites this week. This version in The Southampton Press and The East Hampton Press, April 6, 2020.

Among the most moving words about the novel coronavirus outbreak were those of Governor Andrew Cuomo to National Guard troops involved in converting the Javits Center into a hospital for coronavirus patients.

“You are living a moment in history,” said Mr. Cuomo. “This is a moment that is going to change this nation. This is a moment that forges character, forges people, changes people — makes them stronger, makes them weaker.

“Ten years from now, you will be talking about today to your children, and your children and you will shed a tear, because you will remember the lives lost … and you’ll remember how hard we worked, and that we still lost loved ones.”

But “you will also be proud. You’ll be proud of what you did. You’ll be proud that you showed up … When other people played it safe, you had the courage to show up, and you had the courage and professionalism to make a difference and save lives.”

James Larocca, a former state commissioner of energy and commissioner of transportation, and now a Sag Harbor Village trustee, penned an op-ed about Mr. Cuomo which ran in Newsday. “If extraordinary times require extraordinary measures, and they do, then this is the time for the Democratic Party to nominate Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo for president,” he wrote.

Mr. Larocca said Mr. Cuomo is “the only elected official in the United States today who has fully demonstrated the leadership, toughness, management skill and humanity that meeting the coronavirus pandemic demands.”

He said that “if a nominee is not chosen on a first ballot at the convention,” it can “open up to other candidates.”

Whether Mr. Cuomo might become the Democratic candidate for president because of his leadership in this crisis may or may not happen — he emphasized last week, “I am not running for president” — but certainly he has been catapulted into great political prominence.

Among the many TV pieces involving the gigantic number of people homebound to prevent the spread of the virus was a report by David Pogue, technology and science reporter on “CBS News Sunday Morning.”

“Welcome to lockdown!” he said into a camera he set up himself at his home. “How to live and work at home without losing your mind. First of all: curse the virus, but bless high-speed internet! The internet is our lifeline through this thing. It’s how we socialize, it’s our entertainment, it’s how business gets done. This is the internet’s big moment.

“It’s incredible what’s going on over video chat these days,” he continued. “Meetings, of course, but also exercise classes, concerts, church services, game nights, even weddings!

“Life goes on — you just have to go at it a little differently,” Mr. Pogue concluded.

Quite differently.

A rub regarding computers and the internet is that not everyone has the hardware. This is explored in a piece in the current issue of Time magazine, titled “The Online Learning Divide.” It focuses on online teaching caused by schools being closed, but it applies generally. It quotes a New York City English teacher saying: “I am concerned that, in 2020, all of our students don’t have access to technology or internet at home.”

The Stone Creek Inn in East Quogue reached out to “all our Socially Distanced Friends” in an email saying: “Hello … We finally have a day to reflect on this whirlwind of a week. Like you, there were moments we all felt overwhelmed, emotional, anxious, exhausted.”

The inn is limited to offering takeout meals, of course. It referenced a quote from former U.S. Secretary of State Dean Acheson: “Let us all remember that ‘The manner in which one endures what must be endured is more important than the thing that must be endured.’ … Stay well!”

For Suffolk County, an issue has been raised about folks from New York City seeking refuge here. An article in the New York Post was headlined: “‘We should blow up the bridges’ — coronavirus leads to class warfare in Hamptons.”

High up is a quote: “‘There’s not a vegetable to be found in this town right now,’ says one resident of Springs, a working-class pocket of East Hampton. ‘It’s these elitist people who think they don’t have to follow the rules.’”

Phil Keith, a columnist colleague here, posted on Facebook: “Where’s our community spirit? I’ve seen so many posts and articles complaining about ‘city people’ coming out here and hogging our groceries and toilet paper. What — we only like their money in the summer? They have kids, and fears, and parents and grandparents, just like the rest of us. Why not just extend an elbow and say, ‘Hey, neighbor — how can I help?’ I’d like to think they’d do the same for us if, for example, a hurricane devastated the East End. C’mon, everyone, lend a hand — and a smile.”

In the obituaries are the names of more and more people — heading for 200 in Suffolk County as of this writing — who have died in this terrible epidemic. All that can be done to reduce the death toll, here and everywhere, must be done.