It is safe to say that these are no longer the early stages of the global 2020 Covid-19 pandemic. I have been asked a number of times ‘what’s is it like in and around New York City?’ Until recently, aside from one day in July, I could only offer the perspective from my suburban NYC home in Connecticut. However since late August I have been traveling by commuter train each Tuesday to my Manhattan office, which is pretty much devoid of tenants and activity. Not quite a ghost town, but every day from a traffic perspective it kind of feels like a Sunday.
With many companies settling on having their employees work from home (or remotely as it were) for the foreseeable future there does not appear that there will be any dramatic change until the beginning of 2021 – at the earliest. Many companies are not thinking about bringing back their employees until next summer.
Broadway has been dark since March and there has been a promise from the theater industry that January 2021 is the target date for shows reopening. However, in New York City, Governor Cuomo has only just allowed restaurants to open at 25% capacity beginning September 30. It’s a start but in order for restaurants to be viable that percentage will have to increase to 50% or more before the cold winter months set in. A vaccine will arrive but most likely not soon enough for theaters, museums and restaurants in New York City.
What I am finding is that restaurants and lunch take-out places that I would visit periodically are currently not open. Not necessarily closed for good, (yet), but just not open during the pandemic. Already many restaurants have closed, for good, and I fear a spate of them will succumb in the coming months even with the news that they can open to serve inside.
JP Morgan in New York last week told its employees that they will come back to the office this month of September. This is probably not going to be trendsetting. Commuters can take some solace in the data that shows 90% or more of New York City people riding public transportation wear masks and as of now can be fined for not wearing a mask.
Have I mentioned that I detest wearing a mask? It’s hot and sweaty, I can’t breathe as I am accustomed to, and I hate not being able to see other people’s faces (why did this never bother me before?). When I am inside the office building in New York City I wear my mask all the time except for when I am in my own office and have the door closed. I spend more time in my office with the door closed than I might normally for that reason. And let me add that there are seemingly less than 10 people on my floor at any one time and probably fewer than that.
I want to stay safe myself and at the same time help keep the people I encounter daily safe as well. My sense is that this will be the case until the summer of 2021 when whatever vaccines are made widely available to the public AND have a longer history of being safe, and successful. 9 months from now is a long time when you consider it’s only been 6 months since the real outbreak of the pandemic in the U.S. But I can, and people can and should adapt, gird themselves and as the slogan goes, just do it.