• Rachel Brooks

New York, COVID-19, and Me.

A Blog/Diary Entry from my experience in New York City during the beginning of the Coronavirus Pandemic.


Traveling to a city affected by the Coronavirus Wave is like living in a futuristic movie; a movie we watched that foreshadowed a not-so-outrageous future for our planet, but I never took it seriously.

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As I entered the airport in Milwaukee, WI. it felt as though nothing had changed. That the week of anxiety and somewhat chaos among the population was forgotten. It was just a busy morning filled with passengers of all ages excited about their destinations.

TSA was no different. No extra precautions. "Welcome to TSA Concourse C, where Dreams Come True," a TSA member joked. No one seemed to be panicking, except the woman who didn't want to take her shoes off to walk through the metal detector. Yes, my flight to New York was fairly empty. But I've been on empty flights to and from New York before. And, I have had rows to myself before.

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It wasn't until the pilot came on the intercom to remind us to practice clean hygiene and to stay healthy as we arrived into New York, that my concerns were slightly confirmed. Although, he didn't mention the Coronavirus by name though. I do have to mention that I did spend my flight watching CBS News & New York News and their Coronavirus Segments to bring myself up to speed on this ever-changing situation. I wanted to have some sense of what I was walking into.

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When I stepped off the plane, the first lady standing in line to board our plane was wearing a mask. Then I saw another girl wearing a mask; she couldn't have been older than 13. A majority of passengers were not wearing masks, but if you looked for them, they were there. LaGuardia didn't feel empty, and there was extra janitorial staff you could tell. Everywhere you turned there was a yellow vest with a swiffer, disinfectant, and towelettes. I was impressed, but I wasn’t really surprised. I mean they closed Broadway. This was serious.

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Once I got to baggage claim though? A ghost world. A worker asked me if I knew where I was going. I did know where I was going and I don’t think I looked lost. Honestly, I am worried she was trying to “warn” me. Saying instead, “You couldn’t possibly want to be here.” My bags were waiting for me as I got to baggage claim. This was a first. I grabbed them quickly and headed to the app pick-up car lot. It was an estimated 30-minute wait until my car would arrive but, within 5 minutes, it was there. Another first. Usually, I am sitting in this parking lot without a place to sit for at least 20-40 minutes! Things were moving all too quickly and the city was far too quiet.

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I shared a Lyft with a young girl flying in from Chicago. Her flight had been cancelled the night prior and instead of being rested for her 11 AM interview, she was being shuffled around the morning of. Why? The Coronavirus.

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Before our Lyft driver started driving us, he got into his seat and double pumped his hand sanitizer. It was at once refreshing … and a bit terrifying. And as we drove around the New York streets they did look emptier. It was true. New York City, my second home, the “City That Never Sleeps,” was obviously impacted by this virus.

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But the realest part of the pandemic came as I rode the Subway. Gloves and masks were on more people than not. I even saw someone with what looked like a handmade hazmat suit. Announcements were made often. Workers were cleaning and wearing intense protective gear. Some train stations had LED signs with reminders to practice common health standards and what to do if you thought you may be sick. These messages also cycled through various languages.

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I felt slightly ill-prepared without a scarf around my neck to breath into. I constantly reminded myself to touch nothing, especially my face. I picked places that were secluded from others. I found myself people-watching even more intently than usual. My thoughts raced, “Maybe they symptoms" or "Should that person be in quarantine?"

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Then I realized that everyone on this train was probably looking at me thinking the very same things, especially with the little bit of cough I still had from my recovering bronchitis. And at this point, in a city like New York, who hasn’t come in contact with someone who has been in contact with someone who had or was exposed to the Coronavirus?

This was only “Day One.”

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“It's a changing world.” I found myself thinking. “A world I almost thought wouldn't be possible in my lifetime.” And the additional fear came to mind that this would not be the last time I would experience something like this in my lifetime.

By the time my trip had come to an end so much had happened … and the city that I was leaving felt much different than I arrived.

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Although the atmosphere was noticeably different. Friday, when I arrived, people were still out and about. When Christina and I went to Jacob's Pickles on Amsterdam Avenue, New Yorkers were living their lives. Laughing, smiling, enjoying their meals even outside on a mid-March evening. “How could this be a state with a National Emergency going on?” I thought to myself.

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But, I’m not going to lie, I was glued to my phone pretty much my whole trip. When I left, I wasn't overly concerned for my safety or my health; I'm not one who easily freaks over sickness or germs. But I watched nearly every press conference given by both the President and New York Governor, read every new article I could get my hands on, and have tried to stay up to date on all things COVID-19 while I was in New York City. The situation was clearly progressing at a rapid pace. There was a lot of information being provided. But my biggest worry? I wasn't going home on Tuesday. I was going to be quarantined in this city I knew so well, but felt so very different now.

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Sunday evening was when everything changed drastically. A major shift in policy for the city caused panic. New York City had now surpassed Winchester County in Coronavirus cases... Schools were closing, which was said to be a big “No, No" when I arrived on Friday. Bars and restaurants were now only allowed to offer delivery and carryout.

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My friends, and friends of friends we're losing their incomes left and right as their workplaces closed for the foreseeable future. Paying rent in New York City is already incredibly tough to start with, but now? My heart hurt for these people.

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Christina's roommates discussed their plans to get their errands done on Monday to prepare for laundry mats to close and to grab the essentials they needed before those essentials flew off the shelves. San Francisco was reported to be locked down and, with fewer cases than NYC, I felt it was only a matter of time before New York would be next.

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Of course two of my biggest disappointments from my trip were, first, not being able to make my LaDuca Appointment and, second, not being able to do all of the things I loved in this city.: no Broadway shows, limited visits to my favorite spots and a general restriction on moving about town.

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Before I left home on Thursday, I had confirmed my appointment with LaDuca to let them know that I was still coming to New York and planning to be there on Monday. But, Sunday at 6 pm I received an email from the designer I had been in contact with since February stating that LaDuca would be closed on Monday for required deep cleaning (they were already closed Sunday for the same reason). He couldn't apologize enough for the late notice.

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He and I coordinated all evening and rescheduled my appointment for the following morning, Tuesday, at 10 am and I changed my flight to 7 pm. Christina, who also made the decision to go home during this time, and I had multiple plans in place should the situation continue to change so dramatically.

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Unfortunately, to no one's surprise, after the Governor of New York urged non-essential businesses to close during this crisis, LaDuca decided to stay closed indefinitely until it was safe to reopen. Was I heartbroken? Of course. I had flown all the way to New York primarily for this appointment. That is not to mention that there had already been so many road-blocks in our wedding planning thus far. almost to the point that I'm starting to feel like I'm pushing past "signs" that our wedding isn't meant to be. Not “our marriage,” but the wedding itself. It’s been a real struggle to feel like a bride amongst so much drama and so many complications. The cancellation of the LaDuca appointment just seemed to amplify these feelings.

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Of course, LaDuca and Andrew there could not be more apologetic. I understood. I was only upset with the unusual situation that had prompted this and I fully appreciated that such steps were necessary precaution to save lives!

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This is not a time for easy decisions. Rather, it’s a time for important ones. I am still hopeful that I will wear custom LaDuca shoes on my wedding day, but with the state of the world, human lives are far more important than the emerald bow shoes that I imagine on my feet this October 10th.

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Traveling to New York sincerely opened up my eyes to the Coronavirus... In more ways and more intensely than I would have known staying in Green Bay. I have changed my tune on this matter, for sure. Although my home state of Wisconsin hasn't nearly been affected like NYC has, it doesn't mean it won't be. The human toll of this tragedy will be immense and long-lasting. People are unemployed and will not be able to pay rent, utilities and other bills regardless of whether they are or will be sick with the virus.

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No one knows anyone's current situation... especially if you have members in your family who are at high risk or who work in industries where they are likely to come in contact with the Coronavirus and COVID-19. We are all handling this situation the best we all can … mentally, emotionally, spiritually and physically. Many people already suffer from anxiety and other mental health issues and the fear of a pandemic can further trigger those feelings. Be there for one another and don't judge or attack.

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This is a time to come together and give love. See each other's point of views. No one knows who is right these days! We all have a part to play in keeping each other healthy and safe and if you could be doing more, DO IT! We don't even know when the end will be here or even in sight.

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Yes, I made the choice to go to New York on Friday, March 13th at 6 am. Lots of the worrisome developments came after that decision. Had those developments come sooner, my decision to travel to New York, the city I love so very much, probably would have been different.

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I am feeling totally healthy and fine at this time, except for being extremely exhausted from the amount of stress and anxiety that's been thrown at me the past few days. Despite feeling fine, I have discussed with my boss at Loft that I am going on a self quarantine of at least 5 days, if not more. I would never want to be the reason someone felt uncomfortable to come to work, or worse, be the reason an at-risk individual became infected with this dangerous virus.

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This isn't a decision I made lightly and, if you know me, self-quarantine is probably going to drive me INSANE... but saving lives is absolutely worth some personal sacrifice.

After having my eyes opened to this situation in this way, I am viewing this entire pandemic as extremely serious. Please respect this view. As I will respect your view. ❤️ Sending love right now.