America’s shutdown: Civic life goes dark
America’s “coronavirus ground zero” has become “a ghost town,” said Ruairí Arrieta-Kenna in Politico.com. Seattle and the surrounding King County, where the first American died of coronavirus on Feb. 29, has reported nearly 500 cases and at least 43 deaths, and has all but “shut down.” Grocery store shelves are barren, tech industry employees are working at home, and downtown areas are “eerily silent.” That’s now true nationwide, said Annie Gowen in WashingtonPost.com. “America has changed virtually overnight.” Tens of millions of workers, hundreds of thousands of college students, and millions of schoolkids are stuck at home. Even churches are shut. “Fear and anxiety” compete with boredom, and “there is a sudden vacuum” of activities—live entertainment, movies, dating, dining out—that would provide much-needed diversion from this “unnerving” new reality.
Even sports isn’t offering its usual escape, said Jason Gay in The Wall Street Journal. March is usually one of the best months on the sports calendar, with NBA and NHL playoffs nearing, college basketball entering March Madness, golfers preparing for the Masters, and baseball gearing up for opening day. Instead, “it’s the Great Sports Shutdown of 2020,” with every major sport postponing or canceling its events until further notice. That’s unprecedented, said Will Leitch in NYMag.com. Sports endured “in the aftermath of every national tragedy” from World War II to 9/11, offering escape, solace, and tribal togetherness. But amid a deadly pandemic, games in which groups of sweaty athletes bang into one another in front of large, closely packed crowds are “a luxury we cannot afford.”
Given the stakes, that’s a small sacrifice to make, said Sarah Jones in NYMag.com. I have a medical condition that makes it more dangerous for me to contract coronavirus, so I was chagrined that government officials were too slow to order bars and businesses to close and people to stay home. Every time a healthy young person goes out, he or she risks accelerating the spread of coronavirus to the elderly and the immunocompromised. We’ve been “conditioned to think of ourselves as individual consumers first and as interconnected members of society second.” But this pandemic marks “an inflection point,” and we’ll emerge from this ordeal either even more “atomized and callous” or realizing we’re all “small parts of a bigger organism.”
Grant Hindsley/The New York Time/Redux, Francine Orr/Los Angeles Times ■