By Louis De Lauro
How do I sit still?
I go to rock concerts with my daughter. I explore New York City and Philly. I sit in movie theaters.
I sit in bars and watch sports.
I take my wife to dinner for lobster and steak. Not too often, but I do.
I am out and about. Meeting a friend for coffee. Sitting in a pizza place eating a Jersey slice and drinking a sugary sweet coke alone staring at my phone. Relaxing.
My favorite thing in the world to do is to hit a tennis ball with my daughter. She hits better than me.
I can’t sit still.
I never sit still.
I juggle at Bryant Park. I dance at weddings. I hug everyone.
Since March 18 I have been attached to a chair in my living room. Staring at the news. Watching comedies on Netflix.
And missing my family and friends.
Then staring at more disheartening and depressing news. We live with constant uncertainty. We don’t know what’s next.
The schools may or may not be open in the fall. Our job may be gone next week or next month or next year. The people we love may not be here tomorrow.
There is so much discomfort in not knowing. More disorder than most of us can bear.
Open up or Sit Still? Open? or Sit?
I have been sitting. Is it time to open? I don’t want to sit.
Unless you let me sit on the beach.
Or a bleacher seat at Yankee stadium.
Or at a coffee house with a friend.
Or at dinner with my wife at the Seargeantsville Inn.
Here’s my thinking.
Don’t open the economy.
Italy won’t reopen restaurants for a month.
The pubs in Ireland won’t be open until August.
Most of the restaurant seats and bar stools in my neighborhood will remain empty even if we open the economy.
Instead, let’s open our minds to the idea that discomfort and disorder are acceptable in the short term. Or even the short, long term. Let’s plan on living to 70 or 80 or 102.
Some people survived the Holocaust.
Some soldiers lived through several tours in Vietnam.
Most of the people who worked in the Twin Towers survived.
I want to survive.
And I want my loved ones to survive.
I feel we should sit still. Economies recover. Get everyone fed. And sit still.
Give the doctors, nurses, and EMTs the opportunity to catch their breath.
Give the scientists time to develop medications and find the right vaccine.
And I know:
Some can’t sit still.
Some work in hospitals.
Some drive trucks.
Some deliver packages.
Some deliver the mail.
Some work in grocery stores.
Some work in pharmacies.
Some are essential.
And now I fully understand:
The person who stocks the grocery store shelves is more important than you or I ever imagined. I feel ashamed for not recognizing him or her before March. I suck.
And I am usually wrong.
But back in March I immediately told a few of my friends this pandemic would last 6-18 months.
A few friends laughed and said, “Nah, the kids will be back in school in a few weeks.”
My initial prediction was based in science and history. I didn’t know the science but I simply listened to the scientists talking on TV. I knew that they know more than me.
I did know the history. The history of the 2nd and 3rd waves of the 1918 pandemic were brutal.
The idea that the virus will pummel us for 18 months or longer seems like a more realistic prediction now.
So do we choose the economy or death?
In my mind, this question should not exist. The economy will NOT recover until we recover from the virus.
The CDC predicts 2,000-3,000 people a day will die in June because some states have opened up too soon. That is like a 9/11 event every day.
New predictions indicate we might lose 135,000 by August.
Then we might get hit with a second wave in the fall.
Opening states now will not fix the economy.
People are not going to flock to restaurants.
People are not going to buy a new car.
People are not going to fly to Disneyworld or New York City.
People are not going to send their kids to summer camps.
People are not going to spend a lot of money on frivolous things.
The economy will not recover right now.
The virus moves when we move.
We need less movement.
We need fewer trips to the grocery store.
We need masks when we do move.
And social distancing.
We need to sit still until we stop this virus.
But you argue I can’t sit still? And I say Anne Frank hid in the attic.
And you argue I can’t do it.
And I say both of my dad’s brothers served in Nam.
And you say insist your mental health is more important than your physical health or my physical health or the physical health of the elderly and the fragile.
And I scream at you, people were enslaved.
Born a slave. And died a slave!
You just need to sit still for 6-18 months.
Turn off the news.
Get your groceries.
While you sit still
Maybe amazing things will happen.
We will get more testing.
We will stop evictions and foreclosures.
We will provide food for the people who need it.
And therapy for people who need it.
Our doctors will find therapeutics.
Our scientists will mass-produce a vaccine.
And find out if antibodies provide protection.
And then we will recover.
I do know this.
Doctors, nurses, and EMTs can not endure relentless suffering for months and months. And most doctors and nurses agree with me that we must sit still.
I also know.
The economy will be wrecked beyond recognition.
And businesses will be lost.
And dreams will be shattered.
But if we sit still, you and I will be alive to rebuild.
And it may take 2 years or 5 years or 10.
But you and I will be here to hug each other again.
And I miss your hugs.
So I can hug you again.
Editor: Dana Gornall
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