Notes From the New NormalRoundup
tags: pandemic, yellow fever
Jamie Stiehm has worked as a journalist in the United States and United Kingdom for outlets including CBS News, the Baltimore Sun, and The Hill, as a policy scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Center, and for the New York Times's Civil War series Disunion. She also authored a biography of Lucretia Mott.
"The old custom of shaking hands fell into disuse."
The line comes from Philadelphia in the 1793 yellow fever epidemic. No hand sanitizer was available. The city was the nation's capital. Many, like Thomas Jefferson, fled. In all my history books, that simple snippet ran right up to the present tense.
And we are tense as ever. In the privacy of our homes. Which makes the waiting worse, in a way, for the worst to come.
Working from home is not all it's cracked up to be. Especially for extroverts, the shutdown of social contact is a psychic punishment. Our families are great, except when everybody's shuttered in 24/7.
"Social distancing" was, two weeks ago, a phrase known only to experts. How quickly life changed. "Nothing to do, nowhere to go," my schoolteacher sister said, missing coffee and meditation rituals. We seek to structure long days.
The nation is braced for calamity, awakened to the world's coronavirus contagion on our shores. America's usually the lucky child of history. We've always felt protected by our oceans.