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The Re-opening

            I’m very nervous about the reopening of the country. In New York, we’ve had a pretty severe shutdown, and we are moving through the stages of re-opening, tied to the lower numbers of hospitalizations and deaths from Covid-19, but I’m still scared. I remember, not so long ago, when many governors were worrying out loud about the fact that there are no walls between states, and a high infection rate nearby, due to low-usage of masks, or a lack of social distancing, or just bad luck, could put us all under water again.

Cricket, Ellie, and Oliver, attempting social distancing.

People are people, and they will get into a car, or get on a plane, and go to a business meeting, or visit family, or go on vacation. And, maybe someone will take their temperature somewhere along the way, but sick people can have normal temperatures, and maybe they will take the precaution to get tested, but a negative Covid test one day can become a positive test the next.

            We know that wearing masks and social distancing can mitigate the spread, but in many parts of the country the wearing of masks has become a political issue, and in many places the fear of this disease has largely dissolved, and people are crowding into bars and restaurants without masks, or wearing masks as a fashion accessory rather than as protection, and removing them to drink and eat and talk with friends.

My friend Oliver does not like to wear a mask

            At the same time, the CDC keeps raising the estimates for how many people are going to die. The last I heard it was 140,000 people dead by July 4th, but that announcement came only a week after the previous estimate of 130,000 people dead by July 4th. It’s getting worse, not better.

            My synagogue is planning to have High Holiday services online this fall, and we’re planning “just in case” for synagogue school to be online as well. But no one really knows what will be possible as the numbers of cases keep rising across the country. I’ve heard estimates that 200,000 people will have died in the United States, from Covid-19, by the end of the summer, or sooner. And the chances that those numbers are an undercount is very high.

            The problem is, no one quite knows what the right balance should be, between being so careful and isolated that we lose our minds, and being so lax that the number of cases grow precipitously. A lot of people are desperate to get outside and to go back to feeling normal, no matter what the numbers may be.

“Did you say ‘go outside’?”

            I think I’m more frightened now than I was back in March, because in the beginning this seemed like it might go away in a few months. At the time, we were watching China re-open and South Korea re-open and assumed we could get there too. But now China is seeing new cases, and New Zealand, where the coronavirus had seemingly been eradicated, new cases appeared when they opened up to travel from other countries. I don’t think we will be able to shut down again, even if that’s the only tactic that would really work to contain the virus. But I don’t feel confident that I would survive Covid-19 if I got sick. More importantly, I don’t trust that my mother would survive this disease, and I know I wouldn’t survive without her.

My own risk benefit analysis has made it clear to me that I need to continue to shelter in place, despite the re-opening around me. I will continue to go to the supermarket and the drug store as infrequently as possible, wearing a mask and gloves, and I will continue to go to appointments by phone or Zoom, and cancel the ones that would have to be done in person. I will continue to walk the dogs in the backyard, keeping at least six feet of distance between me and my neighbors.

“I hate neighbors.”

            But I respect the people who are making risk benefit assessments that are different than mine. Other people have different situations, and different health issues, and may not live with older relatives. Other people may have no choice about whether or not to go out to work, or may need to get out for the sake of their mental health. I understand the risk benefit analysis that has led people to go out and march in protest, making sure to wear their masks and wash their hands, decreasing risk as much as possible while expressing outrage that can’t be expressed effectively any other way. I understand that people feel isolated and need to meet with friends, trying to keep some distance, in order to feel less alone. And I understand that mistakes will happen, and people can get tired and forget to wear their masks or lose track of how far away they are from a stranger on the sidewalk.

            But, I don’t understand crowds of unmasked people filling the beaches on Memorial Day, or packing into bars like sardines. And I don’t understand having a rally indoors, where people will be standing close together and screaming for hours, in a city where rates of coronavirus are rising.

I don’t understand who can see estimates of 200,000 people dead by September and decide that that’s an acceptable loss. It’s not acceptable to me. It’s monstrous, and devastating. And I’m afraid.

“I love my Mommy, so everything will be okay.”

If you haven’t had a chance yet, please check out my Young Adult novel, Yeshiva Girl, on Amazon. And if you feel called to write a review of the book, on Amazon, or anywhere else, I’d be honored.

            Yeshiva Girl is about a Jewish teenager on Long Island, named Isabel, though her father calls her Jezebel. Her father has been accused of inappropriate sexual behavior with one of his students, which he denies, but Izzy implicitly believes it’s true. As a result of his problems, her father sends her to a co-ed Orthodox yeshiva for tenth grade, out of the blue, and Izzy and her mother can’t figure out how to prevent it. At Yeshiva, though, Izzy finds that religious people are much more complicated than she had expected. Some, like her father, may use religion as a place to hide, but others search for and find comfort, and community, and even enlightenment. The question is, what will Izzy find?

About rachelmankowitz

I am a fiction writer, a writing coach, and an obsessive chronicler of my dogs' lives.

131 responses »

  1. “so careful and isolated that we lose our minds” — haha! So right, so true. Sorry I’m late catching up on your blogs, end of the school year was too much!

  2. Your winters are very harsh, so don’t you need to get out, at least some of the time in the summer?

  3. Yes, here in California we thought we had the virus under control, even calling it “the California Miracle.” Then we hid the perfect storm of “just this once!” : Memorial Day, Father’s Day, and Graduations from K-6, Middle School, High School, and College. A few family gatherings here, a picnic at the beach there, a photo shoot in cap and gown, and Whooosh! Our numbers sky-rocketed. Stay safe and careful and wear your mask! Protect your grandmother! OLM! (Old Lives Matter!)

    • Ha! My nephew had his high school graduation in a parking lot, with every family in their own cars. People can be very creative when they’re motivated.

    • I’m glad to hear you’re staying safe. Keep doing what you’ve been doing to protect yourself, your mum and your dogs. It’s such a difficult situation and, because it’s life-threatening to us and those around us, one we have to think about so seriously all the time. Here in the UK we’ve been appalled that our Government didn’t act swiftly when they knew what was happening around the world. They then kept giving weak and confusing advice instead of keeping to a clear, unambiguous lockdown. Currently, they are giving millions of pounds of contracts to their inept business friends in disgraceful cronyism instead of passing
      vital work like manufacturing needed PPE or a working Track and Trace system to genuine firms, which leads to immense anger here. And to see people cramming onto beaches, crowding into the pubs without any social distancing when they reopened and within the next few days places having to close down after spikes of infection were reported. It’s so sad, as each death is a tragedy but these numbers are being wandered around as meaningless. I’m normally from London but just before our lockdown started I’d been assimilating and a friend from Wales who’d been doing the same drove over with emergency supplies for my mum and brother (who’d been shielding for her but he’d got ill at work so had to keep to upstairs in the house) and brought me here, so at least I have company. As things are I don’t know when I’ll see my family again, as we want it to be safe. Thankfully we have Zoom and other technology but it’s not the same. Take care and stay safe. Jeanette

      • The intentional mishandling of this pandemic is infuriating. The most recent plan in the US seems to be to hide the data so it looks like we’re not as sick as we are. Very frustrating.

  4. We are living in a very difficult and challenging time sad to see America is doing it tougher than a lot of other countries, except Brazil. I thought NY is handling the Covid-19 better than other states. I guess we can’t be too complacent. Look at what’s happening now in Melbourne, Australia (where I am living now). We thought we have the virus under control and started relaxing the rules 3 weeks ago, and now we are the worse state in the whole of Australia! For the past 2 weeks, we have been getting new cases and now we are almost certain to overtake NSW. Now it is spreading in the community and many cases are unknown. We are back to stage 3 lockdown as of 2 midnights ago for another 6 weeks! 😦

    But on the positive side, I do like things going back to basic and living a simple life..we spent less since we are not allowed to eat out, we shop less because almost all retail shops are shut. I guess each person’s situation is different but for now, I am quite happy to stay in our tiny 1-bedroom city apartment and go for a nice walk with not many people around. Peaceful and quiet in the city.

    Take care in NY..and stay safe. I enjoy reading this post of yours 🙂


  5. It does sound horrendous in the US, here in Perth WA we have been very lucky because of our Premier Mark McGowan closing all borders nationally and internationally plus for a time within the state. We can’t travel anywhere even if we wanted to. But we have one of the lowest rates in the world and now are able to go about freely. It must be very lonely for you thank goodness for social media. It’s hard to stay positive but sounds like you’re doing a good job

  6. My country is faring better then yours, but i still see the same behaviours, that are already showing a rise in cases. I’m fortunate to be a hermit who lives on a farm.
    My best wishes for you and your loved ones safety and health.

    • Being a hermit is always the best choice!

      • Agreed. Especially w/doggos! Just saw i put “then” instead of “than”. OMG, typing too fast again. My grammar is atrocious, but i don’t usually make spelling mistakes. Ugh, heh, and whoops!

      • Yes, we’ve had that with the figures too, especially where many elderly were discharged into Care Homes without any testing, so it spread amongst the most vulnerable in closed communities without any proper logging of causes of death added to the official figures. And our Govt have stopped daily briefings to hide that things are still not under control. The lack of care and too speedy relaxation of lockdown is directly affecting those who are shielding, as it’s still hugely unsafe for them to go out – but assistance for them is often being stopped.. And others like me, who are remaining careful as we don’t was to transmit to our shielding friends and relatives are also stuck with not knowing when we’ll be able to see them. If you’re like me and don’t drive, I’m avoiding public transport so won’t be visiting folk for a couple of months yet at a guess.

  7. Rachel: Nothing is making any sense right now, for sure. This virus is a horrendous burden on everyone and being afraid is, unfortunately, what many folks are dealing with. Dr. Fauci says we’ve never seen anything like this virus. I’m 77 years old and I can tell you, HE’S RIGHT! You’re doing the right things it seems to me. No one can tell another person how to feel. Be vigilant!

  8. Pingback: The Re-opening –

  9. This really resonated with me. There are a lot of people who seem to think that there isn’t any risk anymore, who are socialising, travelling and trying to get back to normal, but like you, I’m being a bit more cautious as much for my loved ones (both my parents are over 60 with health conditions) as myself because I’d hate to put them at risk. Take care. X


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