March Madness is canceled, Tom Hanks is sick, and President Donald Trump has uttered the ominous words, “national emergency.”
These are just some of the symptoms of a new status quo under the deadly coronavirus, known as COVID-19. As Americans rush to protect themselves from a brand new pandemic, the national government is racing to respond to a situation that seems to be evolving faster than authorities can catch it.
American life changing under coronavirus
With over 1,600 cases and 41 deaths, an eerie feeling has set in that life in America is changing in dramatic ways that few Americans had anticipated only weeks ago. Many can’t remember anything like it in their lifetimes.
A gloomy phrase — “social distancing” — has entered the everyday lexicon as Americans get used to living in isolation. As Americans check for updates from their TV screens or smartphones, there is a sense that almost nothing else is happening in the world. Government leaders give press conferences almost every day, but they offer little comfort.
Almost every aspect of American life is feeling the impact of COVID-19, as Politico catalogs in a dreary piece. For everyday Americans, it means widespread school and college closures, working from home, and disruptions to plans big and small, from vacations to weddings.
Cascade of closures
A cascade of closures has impacted travel, tourism, entertainment, and culture. Tours are canceled at the National Mall in Washington, D.C., and even Disneyland and Disneyworld, where “dreams come true” for countless middle-class families every year, are not taking any chances.
As cases crop up in state after state, public officials are taking dramatic measures to control the spread. Mass gatherings have been banned in a number of states, and in New York State the cap is at 500 people — a far-reaching stricture for New York City, a metropolis of millions. Broadway has skipped town. Raucous St. Patrick’s Day Parades suddenly look more like hotbeds of infection, and many localities are taking the initiative of canceling them too.
Sports and entertainment are feeling the impact as well: the National Basketball Association is delaying its regular season indefinitely and NCAA March Madness has been canceled. Hollywood movies, including the ironically titled James Bond movie No Time To Die, are on hold. Meanwhile, actor Tom Hanks and his wife announced that they had caught the virus.
Travel and tourism are tanking, and airlines are pleading with the government for financial assistance after the president of the United States enacted a travel ban to and from Europe starting Friday. Domestic restrictions could come into play, he intimated Thursday.
Trump declares national emergency
As Americans look to their leaders for reassurance, a fog of confusion lingers. A day after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) said she was “close” to an agreement with the White House, President Donald Trump said Democrats are not “giving enough” in their emergency stimulus plan. Then, all of a sudden, Pelosi announced that a deal has been struck — after days of agonized negotiations.
President Trump, after taking steady criticism for his government’s response — from rhetoric to testing — declared a national emergency on Friday. And the president said that he will “likely” get tested as well, after coming into contact with Brazil’s president, who tested positive for the virus, though reports have been disputed. Meanwhile, numerous lawmakers are in self-imposed quarantine.
How long will this go on? Nobody, not even the president, knows the answer to that question.