Three weeks ago we were talking about the unbearable burden of tolls on the highways and whether parents who wanted to send their children to public schools absolutely had to vaccinate them. That was a different world.
In that world, Gov. Ned Lamont was a failure who couldn’t push a cynical, complacent population into spending small amounts of money per car trip to fix our dangerously outdated transportation system. He was a governor who did not seem up to the task, and surely destined for a single term.
But moments of crisis can make or break a leader. The coronavirus pandemic has broken Donald Trump, whose press conferences send the stock market tumbling and fail to inspire anything but panic in the country he governs. Trump waited until March 13 to declare a national emergency, far past the point when it was obvious that the virus had gained a foothold in the United States. The president so far has seemed much more interested in his re-election than in guiding a panicky nation through the crisis.
Lamont, on the other hand, has provided quiet, sober, and pragmatic leadership. He declared a state of emergency on March 10, and has steadily used his daily briefings to report on new cases, preparations, and actions the government was using to try to stop the spread of the disease. He’s done his best to stay ahead of the rapidly expanding number of cases, taking actions that would have been unthinkable just weeks ago like canceling large events, limiting gatherings and, as of Sunday, closing all schools. The closure of bars and restaurants may not be far behind.
As of Sunday evening, when I’m writing this, Connecticut has 26 confirmed coronavirus cases. The real total is much higher, of course, because we just don’t have enough test kits—a failure of the CDC and the federal government. There’s only so much a state government can do, after all, when national leadership is completely absent.
It could be a lot worse. The governor of Oklahoma tweeted gleefully about going out to a packed restaurant, counter to the warnings of health professionals. He’s since declared a state of emergency, but I have my doubts about how prepared Oklahoma really is.
I hope what the state government is doing here in Connecticut is the right thing. I hope it makes a difference, and that we really are flattening the curve of the pandemic. This is what I’m clinging to right now.
We’ve never faced anything like this, though. Nobody knows how bad it’s going to get, how it’s going to end, and what’s on the other side of it.
All I know is that everything is going to be different. Right now this feels like a 9/11 moment, or a Pearl Harbor, or the 1929 stock market crash that led to the Depression. It’s a bright line between one era and the next, a shock to the system that is impossible to ignore.
So I have to ask: how are you doing?
Because, honestly, I’m not doing great. I worry about my family, my friends, my workplace, my community, and everything and everyone else. There’s a small, small part of me that worries about what will happen if I catch the disease. But I’m a lot more worried about passing it on to someone else. I can’t afford to lose anyone in my life.
My hands, wrists, and forearms are dry and cracked from overwashing. I smell like hand sanitizer. When I go out, I keep my distance from everyone. Songs about plagues keep running through my head. I read about the Black Death, about the Spanish Flu, and other diseases that are absolutely not helping me sleep at night.
I spend too much time scrolling through Twitter and Facebook and finding out just how screwed we all are. I’m reading as much news as I can ingest from Italy, France, and China. I wipe the counters clean and scrub the door handles. And, most of all, I wait.
I’m learning to live with dread.
At least Connecticut hasn’t fared too badly yet. I can only hope that in the weeks and months ahead, everything we’ve done now will make a difference.
Hang in there, everyone. You’re not alone, even though it feels like it.
Susan Bigelow is an award-winning columnist and the founder of CTLocalPolitics. She lives in Enfield with her wife and their cats.
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