Day 42 4/22/20 Lilies lit up by the setting sun a reminder that my sense of smell is still working as their intense fragrance penetrated my mask. I stopped and remembered to acknowledge that in a little over a month 40,000+Americans have died with 10,000+ of those in New York

(Day 50) I hesitate to name it out loud, but after five weeks or so, I’m feeling my energy resume and the weird cycles of symptoms are now at the outer edges of diminishing impact, or so I hope. In mid-March, during the first official week of sheltering-at-home, I noted my initial symptoms – a low grade cough that remains somewhat with me today, if now only as a faint trace of a scratchy throat, but lingering still after all these days. That first real week at home, so different from the confusing one that preceded it – the week “before” – when I attended a school event at Carnegie Hall just two days before our campuses closed, a confusing threshold as New York City entered a transitional cycle that was already “too late” to be ahead of the virus, and it was half a week more until, finally, that weekend’s late announcement that the NYC public schools would not open on Monday. Later in the week that followed, amidst the disorienting first real stage of the shelter-at-home process, I started to keep track of my symptoms, mostly out of a silent fear.

In its first cycle, despite no fever nor trouble breathing, it felt like something was pressing down on my chest, and the sporadic cough established its mild but persistent pattern. Without two of the major symptoms then reported as coronavirus indicators, we mostly assumed I was just run down as the tough semester met “spring break” with our now postponed honeymoon trip letting the days open with a mix of disappointment and anxiousness. 

But I knew. Knew then that even though I wasn’t horribly sick, I was sick in way I’d never experienced before, and over the weeks that followed, even as it never crescendoed in the ways I feared, there was a bizarre series of cycles and shifting symptoms that, though fortunately not terrible, were also never really gone. 

All kinds of generational memories from my early NYC years during the peak HIV AIDS crisis surfaced: Do I have it? How to navigate the unclear guidelines and mixed messages and homespun preventions to survive this? Am I in danger of passing this on to others, and are we already “all infected?” I slept poorly for several weeks, unable to get to sleep, waking with nightmares to the sounds of sirens of the ambulances, trying to calm my frayed emotional state while tending to the deepening exhaustion and realities that my body was fighting something… different.


Day 34 NYTimes4/14: “The numbers brought into clearer focus the staggering toll the virus has already taken on the largest city in the United States, where deserted streets are haunted by the near-constant howl of ambulance sirens.” 

(Day 40) Virtual doctor’s appointment confirms what I’ve been experiencing as a low grade or “mild” version of the virus. 

The doctor and I discuss my symptoms: 3-5 days experiencing the initial chest pressure and the start of the cough followed by two weeks or so of really low energy and a rollercoaster of “I start to feel better” and then a set-back; next, my eyes were red and irritated, my lymph nodes swelled, and my throat ached for 3-5 days, and those symptoms eased and returned and then eventually reduced its hold, followed by weird aches that felt like random “light” pulses of pain beyond the midlife norms, and finally(?) a disorienting cycle of auditory symptoms, a fairly present ringing like someone had boxed my ears that made my all day-virtual zoom work meetings even more exhausting. The cough remained throughout the month + as an underlying layer to it all; but no fever, thank goodness. 

Doctor suggests no testing recommended at this point, given the high density of the NYC crisis and the risks of going to the test sites; Joseph’s not experiencing any symptoms, and we’ve been isolated at home for more than a month. When the antibodies test is approved by our medical care providers we’ll go get tested. In the meantime, rest and hydrate and sleep.


Day 35 Dogwood blossoms + Plague Doctor Mask: I’d made us masks, mine with the Plague Doctor print and anatomical hearts I’ve been working with since October, feeling a little Cassandra-like in my eerie pre-trend fabric choices

(Day 30) The presence of the sirens / tracking the rising deaths / the closeness of the virus to all of us / accumulated anxiety

Watching teachers pour their energy and hearts into online teaching in virtual classrooms, connecting to our students through these small box-like windows 

The presence of such unrelenting fear, not only of the coronavirus but the disastrous mishandling of our government’s lack of response, negligent lack of leadership, and dishonesty – the failure of our nation in this crisis

(Day 50) It has been more than five weeks since I’ve entered a store. My car sits exactly where I parked it the last time I drove home from work, never anticipating the prolonged absence of a commute. I have a neighborhood walk at the end of each work day of virtual school, always masked and with very intentional, protective social distancing. My husband carefully follows guidelines when he makes a skillful trip to the grocery store, masked and gloved. As the crisis unfolded with its unnecessary and tragic misinformation and mixed messages, we’ve done all that we could from the moment it was obviously descending upon the city. The more conversations I have with friends and colleagues the more I realize how prevalent this low-grade to “moderate” level experience is, the hidden realities of the not-yet actually tested but sure we’ve been sick, which just escalates the rising numbers we read in the papers each day. 

The staggering impact on us all and the free fall of how different our lives are from the start of March.