One of the disconcerting things about the modern world is that I can follow news about a hurricane devastating Florida but enjoy a wonderful sunny day up here in Massachusetts. I can even watch in real time as trees are whipped about and homes are flooded. It doesn't feel like it's really happening.
And that's how it felt when the COVID-19 outbreak started in China a month or so ago. I read reports of quarantine, of overcrowded hospitals, of panic and fear. But here in the US, everything was calm.
I think that people are used to seeing images of danger comfortably on the other side of the glass of their TV or phone screen. The danger is Elsewhere, a place that cannot be reached from Here. Elsewhere cannot reach out its bony finger and strike at the heart of Here. It's disconnected, a fantasy land.
But viruses travel, and with cities and airplanes, they travel fast. The glass shatters.
Now it is here, in Somerville, Massachusetts, USA. It is increasing exponentially, or so I can only imagine, due to the deficit of tests. (Likely because of the lack of tests.) And even just yesterday, people were walking and driving and biking as if everything were perfectly normal. The virus also travels invisibly. The hurricane is here, bearing down on us, but to most people, so far, it just feels like an unusually windy day.