Life in the Time of the Coronavirus is a GEN series where we are interviewing people across the country who have had their lives upended or are experiencing the stress of the unknown.
Mark D. Levine, chair of New York City Council’s health committee, was a vocal and early advocate for implementing social distancing measures in the city. His Twitter feed has become a must-read for anyone interested in staying abreast of developments in the city. He and his wife were sickened by presumed Covid-19 during the height of the pandemic and have since recovered.
We can say with the certainty of hindsight that, yes, we should have shut New York City down quicker. I think all of us were slow in reacting to this threat in one way or another. I may have been a little earlier than others to call for a shutdown, but now I’m mostly focused on the ongoing crisis and the ways we’re not ready for the next step. I’m not spending as much time looking backward.
At the moment, we are probably at the apex of the pandemic in New York City, though the data’s somewhat mixed. It took us a long time to get up to the apex, and it’s going to take us a long time to get down. But it’s not too soon to start building for the next phase. When we can get the number of cases down to a point at which we can start to identify every single one, trace contacts, offer to quarantine when helpful, and contain this — then we can begin to reopen the broader economy.
This is going to require an unprecedented new public health system that will expand testing all over the city, with a focus on low-income communities of color, which have not had equal access to testing until now. It will require thousands of people to work on contact tracing. It’ll require offering hotels to people who can’t remain safely at home and a new system to transport people with symptoms because they can’t ride mass transit safely. It will require a new system of telemedicine due to people quarantining at home. This is an enormous and expensive undertaking, and we’re going to need…