Community,  Travel

Boston Struggles with Pandemic, a most unusual Spring

Boston Massachusetts USA

By: Charles Silverman

Published on April 28,2020

Boston is usually a very special place in Spring. After a dark, cold winter the   snow and ice gradually disappear and this city of nearly 700,000 comes alive.  More than 150,000 college students come out of their dorm rooms and apartments and cluster in large groups to play frisbee,  basketball, smoke marijuana (legal now here) or just hang out with friends in every park, street corner or bar. Tourists from all over the globe visit by the hundreds of thousands.  The ground turns from a muddy brown to a dazzling bright green and leaves once again fill out the recently bare branches.  Pink magnolia and cherry blossoms on Commonwealth Avenue  draw thousands of locals and visitors alike to admire their all-too-brief display. The architecture blends 200 year old brownstone apartment buildings with 21st century office towers .   It’s true, Boston is usually a very special place in spring.    

        But this is not a ‘usual’ spring! . The corona virus known as covid-19  has a firm grip on Boston, as it does on most of the rest of the country,  and much of the world for that matter.   So far, about 7,000 Bostonians have caught the virus and more than 250 have already died from it.   Almost everyone knows someone who has been sickened or perished; a friend, a brother, an aunt or uncle, a mom or dad, a favorite school teacher….’someone’.

    Colleges and public school systems cut short the school year in late March and early April.  Colleges typically would finish in May and public schools in June. Stores, except for supermarkets,  pharmacies and liquor stores are closed. Most parks are off limits, as are beaches and other areas that are popular this time of year. Everyone is asked to stay at home and venture out only if necessary. A curfew makes the night eerily quiet. No honking horns. No loud chatter  of friends on their way to a party or club. Just the occasional siren of ambulances and police cars responding to requests for emergency medical assistance..

   All professional sports in this city have postponed their games indefinitely; possibly the entire 163 game  Boston Red Sox baseball season will be scrapped.  Nobody knows for sure, but it’s entirely possible that no games of any pro sport  will be played at all this year.. That means, at least for now, no baseball, hockey,  basketball. soccer, golf and more.  In a city that loves its sports teams…..this is a very distressing situation. , we feel a little bit lost if we don’t have our favorite teams to talk about

  Movies, plays, restaurants, bowling alleys, libraries, city hall….all closed.   ‘Social distancing’ is the key word, with citizens told that if they must go out at all, they are to remain at least six feet (about two meters) from others.  No groups of ten or more people are permitted to gather. No parties, no weddings, no birthday celebrations.   Worse yet,  even funerals are not  taking place in their traditional form. There are a lot of cremations and those who wished to be buried are done so in small private services.  A lot of those who have died are victims of covid-19 and  because the virus is so contagious family members are not even allowed to enter hospital rooms to  say goodbye to dying husbands, wives or parents. 

   Only the most essential services are being provided. Mail is delivered, police respond to robberies and medical calls  and trash is picked up. Doctors and nurses continue their brave battle each day, often working double shifts. Usually with less-than-ideal protective PPE (personal protective equipment).  Each medical  professional knows that nobody is known to have immunity to this virus. Even those who have recovered from it ‘may or may not’ have some degree of immunity. The researchers are not yet sure whether immunity is conferred at all to such people, or if it is, nobody knows how long it lasts.. are they safe for 6 months? A year? but perhaps not at all.

  Streets are nearly empty in Boston, Residents generally remain in their homes or apartments and go out for food shopping  or a brief breath of air.   They don their masks and sometimes rubber gloves and feel a lump in their throat each time they have to pass another person, wondering if that stranger is a carrier of the virus who will sneeze or cough and thereby change their life forever. Those who can afford it have food delivered to them through Instacart or Amazon.. Others put on their masks and gloves and walk the aisles of supermarkets hoping that a sick shopper did not touch ‘their’ can of beans on the shelf ..or perhaps cough or sneeze leaving a virus cloud hanging in the air which they might walk right into. Every spouse and every parent fears becoming infected and bringing the virus home with them and infecting their loved ones. 

About one out of every four people. who gets the disease has few if any symptoms. While this may sound like good news it isn’t. It means there are many, many thousands of people who are carrying the virus and do not know it. Even if their own symptoms are lacking they can still infect those they come in contact with and  give them a deadly dose.  There is no predicting who will be asymptomatic (having no symptoms) and who will end up on a  ventilator machine and have only a 13% chance of coming off of it alive.

   Yes, Boston is a very different place this year. Nobody knows for sure when this pandemic  will end.  If it does seem to end when the hot weather hits, nobody knows if the autumn will revive it and we will face   this again in September, October  and November along with our  usual but very deadly ‘seasonal flu’  outbreak.   It is scary, it is ‘dark’ and unlike other catastrophes, such  as terrorism or war,  the corona virus  cannot be pushed into submission by strong armies or threats of political sanctions.  it doesn’t know if you are a good person  or a bad person  Rich or poor.. It doesn’t care .

  We are depending on unknown medical researchers to develop a vaccine or at least a treatment of some type.We are months or years away.  Until then, the virus remains the main topic of conversation each day and the theme of  nightmares each night.

Visit Boston someday. It is a wonderful City. You’ll like the people. will love them.  You will  like the Museum’s, the parks the stores. Just about everything. Visit in the spring when the city is green and alive. But not THIS spring. (now-pinay/Charles Siverman)

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