When I wake up in the late morning, I reach for my phone on my nightstand and scroll through the newest notifications from news outlets. The headlines announce another historic landmark each day: the DOW plunges in the third highest point drop in one day, the unemployment rate soars, and the number of infected individuals worldwide reaches one million.
It’s apocalyptic, surreal. Outside, the azaelas still run full riot in the backyard as they do every spring, and the sun still simmers pink behind the Santa Monica mountains during sunset. Yet three miles away, UCLA nurses and doctors in flimsy gowns care for infected patients, as medical professionals worldwide lose their lives.
A week ago, my parents, both physicians, told me that a coronavirus-positive patient had been detected at their hospital. When they leave for work in the mornings, I’m afraid that the virus might slip into their bodies, that like the 245,000 infected in the U.S., their alveoli will harden and thicken: suffocation in a room full of air.
My mom disinfects door knobs, constantly reminds my dad and me to wash our hands, and wraps Saran Wrap around her phone when she goes grocery shopping. Our T.V. is on constantly, bathing the living room in electric blue.
While we’re eating dinner, a man says on national television, “A nurse’s job is literally to take care of people. Why’s everyone saying they’re brave?”
My mom turns to me. “Nurses didn’t sign up to put their own lives and the lives of their families in danger. It’s like making a soldier go to battle without armor, and then making them drag their families onto the battleground too.”
“The best thing people can do to help out is to stay home,” my dad says.
So I sit at home, making playlists, baking banana bread, and Zooming my friends, lulled into a sense of complacancy. I’m technically less stressed, and the nights which used to be devoted to late-night studying are now open for binge-watching Netflix. I’m disgusted with my own compliance, and yet the best I can do is isolate myself.
I try to talk to my friends everyday. They post on their Snapchat stories daily; some are baking, some are dyeing their hair, and yet others are ordering pizzas and driving to Malibu with their friends, racing down empty highways.
While it’s understandable to reach out to friends during a time of stress, it feels selfish to violate social distancing because you’re not only endangering your family, but also undermining the work that first responders have lost their lives fulfilling. You’re adding to the numbers on the T.V. that creep up everyday.
Coronavirus seems like a prolonged test: How will the healthcare system withstand the pressure it faces? How will our leaders respond to this crisis? Who will younger generations choose—their grandparents and parents, or their friends?
For now, the notifications will continue to accumulate on my phone each morning, and I wait in fear, for my grandparents and parents.