by Andrew Arnett

Brooklyn, NY – Grand Central Station. New York City. On a Saturday afternoon there would normally be thousands of people passing through Grand Central on an hourly basis. Not so much today. On this second day of spring, I can count off hand, about a dozen people inside the iconic building. And according to the experts, this will be the new normal for the 8.6 million people that live here.

It is high strangeness do be sure. Mayor Bill De Blasio announced today in a news conference that New York City is now the epicenter of the Corona Virus crisis in America. With 9654 confirmed cases of COVID-19, New York accounts for one third of all the cases in the U.S. 63 people have died here already from the virus. No wonder De Blasio is calling on Trump to bring in the military. The prognosis is that New York will be Ground Zero for the battle against Corona Virus.

Grand Central Station, New York (3/21/20). Photo by Andrew Arnett
Grand Central Station, New York (3/21/20). Photo by Andrew Arnett

De Blasio describes the situation as a “War Time Crisis” and the sentiment has been echoed by President Trump as well, who’s been using martial language in his press conferences, today saying, “I’m a wartime president. This is a war — a different kind of war than we’ve ever had.” Walking through New York, that is the same impression I got. The streets were, for the most part deserted, and the people I did see looked like they were in a daze, shell shocked, not knowing what to do. Minus the explosions, this was a war zone.

There was an eerie sparseness in Times Square as well. “The crossroads of the world,” as they call it, had few people passing through. No surprise since all international travel to Europe and China had been shut down in the past few weeks. Broadway closed down last week. When will the Great White Way open again? That’s the big question on everyone’s mind – when will this madness end? No one knows for sure.

Times Square, New York (3/21/20). Photo by Andrew Arnett
Times Square, New York (3/21/20). Photo by Andrew Arnett

The prognosis is that things will get a whole lot worse before they get any better. How much worse? There is talk of turning the Jacob Javits Center into a hospital. The President has dispatched the Navy’s hospital ship – the USNS Comfort, to the New York Harbor. The ship has a total patient capacity of 1000 hospital beds, 12 operating rooms, and is literally a floating hospital.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said he walked through New York City yesterday and was upset to see that people were still gathered in groups in Central Park and various other locals. As a result, he said he will begin to enforce the following restrictions in city parks – no team sports, no events, gatherings, barbecues and only limited exercising. People who live under the same roof can mingle but not those who don’t. “Go to the park for a limited time,” Cuomo admonished. He has advised the police to break up any public gatherings. At the same time, the city will be releasing up to 200 prison inmates from Riker’s Island to reduce the risk of Corona Virus infection in the prisons.

Chinatown, New York (3/21/20). Photo by Andrew Arnett
Houston Street & Allen Street, New York (3/21/20). Photo by Andrew Arnett

This is a f@cked up situation. I hate this Corona Virus. I hate what it has done to this mighty city, and the world. Down in Chinatown, it was no different. Shuddered doors and windows on most of the restaurants. Even the iconic Wo Hop, which stays open 24/7 and probably hasn’t been closed since 9-11 was closed. This is like a bad dream. A nightmare. Yes, sure, I want to click my heals three times like Dorothy and wake up in Kansas. But Kansas has 70 cases of COVID-19 confirmed.