Changing Lives: We Are (Still) in This Together

Changing Lives: We Are (Still) in This Together

With parents clamoring to find somethinganything for their kids to do while quarantined, Chris Colin, a freelance journalist in San Francisco, gave his neighbors an assignment. The 44-year-old, who has two kids, put out a call for young reporters and artists to contribute to “Six Feet of Separation, a youth newspaper for Bernal Heights and beyond.”

Colin kicked off the project with an email to about a dozen families, asking for pieces from their children about going to school at home and sheltering in place. He expected to get half of them to play along. But, the original group forwarded his proposition, Colin kept remembering more people he could ask and used social media to get the word out. “I stopped counting at 40,” he said when discussing the number of submissions he’d received.

They are all in the finished product, which includes poems, drawings, reviews, recipes, trivia, horoscopes (!), nature writing and service journalism, with contributors ranging in age from 2 to 19. A piece by Elsie, 2, titled “What I Know About Coronavirus,” is more of an “as told to,” Colin admitted.

Maddy, 9, made MADdy Libs that start with “Many families are stuck at ______ (adj.) home. You may feel ___ (verb), ___ (verb), and ___ (verb).” Ava, 10, recounted a dream about milk sprinklers. Delilah, 14, recommended books for other kids of all ages.

“I really think kids are just as confused by this whole situation as grown-ups are, but they experience it totally differently. These stories sort of reflected that,” Colin said.

Critics reviewed books, including “Wings of Fire” by Tui T. Sutherland and “Big Game” by Stuart Gibbs; TV’s “The Good Place”; the movie “Spies in the Skies”; and food. Ender, 7, gave “tonight’s dinner,” linguini with meat sauce, three out of five stars. Griffin, 14, made a map of all the restaurants still serving food on Bernal’s usually busy Cortland Street.

The project took off, in Colin’s estimation, because “I made it clear that my editorial process is ‘yes’ so that helped people feel like they could do this,” he said. “The main point was to give them something to do, but I wanted to sneak in a little anti-perfectionism.” He also found out kids write much faster than grown-ups.

At 7 and 11 years old, Colin’s kids pitched in with a joint advice column called “Tips for Squabbling.” When people asked if they could send the project to families outside of Bernal, he stuck to his “yes” policy by adding a foreign correspondent section, which may expand in Issue 2, now in the works.

“We pay zero dollars and offer a generous benefits package featuring satisfaction, civic pride and probably some other stuff,” Colin wrote in his call for new submissions. “They’re already pouring in.”

Check out Issue 1 of “Six Feet of Separation” here.

Were it not for the spread of the coronavirus, there would have been a Tuesday morning gathering at the Workers United building on East Avenue in downtown Rochester, N.Y.

The event was organized by members of the Pay Equity Coalition, a local group that unites other organizations around the issue of pay inequity. And it was scheduled to fall on Equal Pay Day, a marker showing how long into 2020 American women would have to work to earn what their male counterparts had already earned by the end of last year.

Government officials and media outlets had been expected to attend. Elementary school students had been invited to share poems and works of art. Organizers had been hoping to promote discussions about how social inequities intersect and overlap, highlighting disparities in terms of gender, age and race.

But a couple weeks ago, it became clear that a gathering like that would not be safe. It had to be canceled.

“Though it is important and vital to have conversations about pay equity, now more than ever we have to be mindful of our current reality,” said Yversha Roman, a Monroe County legislator who is a co-founder of the Pay Equity Coalition.

According to U.S. census data analyzed by the American Association of University Women, median earnings for women were about 82 percent of median earnings for men in 2018. On average, black, Native American and Hispanic women are paid far less than their white counterparts.

In a time of social distancing and spiking unemployment, the issue is more pertinent than ever: Research has shown that the Covid-19 pandemic is likely to have a disproportionately negative effect on women.

But with physical gatherings out of the question for the time being, organizers — for all kinds of causes — will have to find other ways to make their voices heard. The Pay Equity Coalition, for example, is using the internet and social media to promote discussions about pay inequity.

“If anything, I think we will become more creative in our messaging and be able to reach individuals in different walks of life,” Ms. Roman said.

It’s nice to keep busy, if you’re healthy and isolating. Here’s one way! Some pretty serious but easy to follow instructions on how to sew a face mask. And information about how to donate them.

Tomorrow it’s April, and lots of teenagers are still at home with their parents.

Any brisk cruise through TikTok will show off the stresses of teenagers and young adults moving back into their parents’ houses and apartments. (You’ll also see a huge number of couples who now spend their days getting naked while their partners are on conference calls.) But yeah — were you enjoying the second semester at college? Surprise! Thought you’d have some quiet time and making a sewing room out of that messy bedroom? Surrrrprise.

Patrick Wu, a student in Beijing in his senior year, was back at home in January when travel stopped. He’s been home ever since — which is in Anhui province, which is directly inland from Shanghai. And it’s not going great, as we turn the corner into April:

Mr. Wu, in recent weeks, found himself debating politics over the dinner table with the only two people he was allowed to see in person, committing perhaps the prime faux pas of prolonged isolation.

“You can spend 12 hours online talking to your friends every day,” Mr. Wu said. “But you are angry 24 hours every day. So sometimes, your anger just can’t be held back anymore.”

He may be able to go back to Beijing soon, though many young people are deciding if they will return to schools that are remote-only.

For now, many countries in Asia have instituted travel restrictions and screenings that seem severe to American or European standards. There are tracking bracelets, phone location checking, and barring of foreigners, including forcing arrivals into quarantine in government facilities. Around the world, what political change may come from the suddenly evolving world is still very much unknown.

While the leaders of Grand Slam tournaments like Wimbledon and the French Open ponder what to do this year amid the coronavirus pandemic, the leaders of smaller professional tournaments worry whether their events have a future at all.

The disparity within the sport between the elite and hoi polloi is vast. The United States Open, another of the four Grand Slam tournaments, generates gross revenue approaching $400 million annually. Tournaments on the lowest rung of the men’s tour — ATP 250s — routinely generate less than $5 million and, according to Bill Oakes, a former tournament director at the Winston-Salem Open, they make an average profit of only about $125,000.

“The average 250 is one medium-sized sponsor from being in the red,” Oakes said.

Three months of the men’s and women’s season already has been canceled, and the French Open, originally scheduled for late May and early June, has made a unilateral move into other tournaments’ territory from Sept. 20 to Oct. 4.

“I think every tournament needs to be very concerned, about what is going to happen,” Oakes said. “And when the French Open goes and makes a land grab that could impact numerous 250s in the fall that concerns our membership greatly.”

The move has isolated the French Open and could lead to it paying compensation to other events, shifting its date again or being stripped or docked ranking points by the men’s and women’s tours.

If the virus continues to shut down major sports events, the French Open may of course not happen at all in 2020, which would leave French tennis with a major financial shortfall: the event finances the amateur game in the country.

Wimbledon, which has some insurance that would cover it in a pandemic, is debating this week whether to cancel the tournament for the first time since 1945. It is scheduled for June 29 to July 12.

For the last few years, many parents and schools have struggled with screen time for young people. How much time is appropriate for impressionable children to spend with a tablet, a phone or a TV? Answers have ranged from “zero hours” to “all the hours.”

But now … all the schools are screens. And all the homes became schools and day cares. Here’s how one parent of a toddler put it: “I beg her to watch whatever children’s programming PBS is peddling on Amazon Prime.”

But here’s what the parent of an 8- and a 9-year-old found: “My son taught himself iMovie, and now the kids make videos of themselves doing basic things — making Jell-O, shooting hoops — then cut it into pretty professional looking footage. Then they screen share it with their friends on Zoom.” School’s what you make it.

The buses are still running in Devon County in southwestern England. But the seats are mostly empty.

“If you go to Exeter right now, there are maybe six or seven vehicles going down the high street, pumping out diesel, and there is no one on them,” said one bus driver who asked to remain anonymous for fear of retaliation from the transit company. “What is the point of that?”

The driver said the county and bus companies could do more, like making medical tests available to drivers, improving sanitation or adjusting the routes to suit passengers’ needs better.

Over three days last week, the driver said she had only seven passengers. She wiped the seats and railings to protect them, worried that the nightly cleanings at the depots were not nearly enough. One passenger traveling for medical treatment seemed especially nervous, so the driver shared her own hand sanitizer.

“I was just worried about her being on the bus and touching everything, although I’ve cleaned it down,” she said.

But for the most part, the driver was completely alone. She made all the normal stops, driving through the city, past the countryside, down by the coast. She paused at empty stations just to stay on schedule. She stepped out to take photographs of empty streets.

“It’s a zombie bus,” she said.

“It gives you a chance to think about a lot of things,” she added. “There’s nothing open. You can’t get any food anywhere, so you’ve got to pack lunch the night before. You’ve got to have a flask of tea, because there’s nowhere to get tea or anything else.”

During an unrelenting news cycle, CNN is probably the last place you’d turn for a laugh. But when the coronavirus crisis hit New York, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo began regularly appearing on his younger brother Chris’s show, “Cuomo Prime Time,” and a comedy act was born.

First Chris said their father, Mario, the 52nd governor of New York, said that Andrew had “hands like bananas and can’t play ball.” Then, on Monday night, Chris said their mother, Matilda, only trusted him with her sauce recipe. That’s probably true, since Gov. Cuomo acknowledged during a news conference Sunday that he would try to pass off store-bought meatballs as homemade to his children while trying to carry on the family’s Sunday dinner tradition after his divorce.

On Tuesday, however, things turned serious, when Chris announced on Twitter that he had tested positive for the coronavirus and would be isolating himself in his basement, where he will continue to host his show. “He will be fine,” Andrew Cuomo said in Tuesday’s news conference, just minutes after the announcement, adding that Chris’s news was an important reminder for everyone to stay home and keep elderly relatives, like their mother, at a safe distance.

“Sometimes love needs to be a little be smarter,” he said.

It was a stark contrast to just a night earlier, when the brothers traded barbs about Andrew’s “ill-fitting jacket” and Chris’s broadcasting from his basement. “Momma didn’t raise an armchair general in me, anyway, I’m not going to sit in my basement,” Gov. Cuomo said before signing off. “Thanks … Meatball.”

Social distancing protects us physically, but it can also worsen feelings of isolation and fear. It’s a problem that compounds itself: Many people who need therapy during an especially stressful time can no longer access it in person.

So mental health care professionals have been forced to find new ways to reach their clients. For many, virtual appointments have been a lifeline.

“It’s really important for us as mental health providers to get creative and think outside the box,” said Amanda Fialk, the chief of clinical services for The Dorm, a mental health treatment community for young adults. “Doing that face-to-face individual session, or face-to-face group session, isn’t responsible or safe right now.”

The Dorm serves clients in New York City and Washington D.C., many of whom used to visit the facilities at least five days a week for intensive treatment. Two weeks ago, those services had to be moved online.

“You can get Zoom fatigue sitting in virtual therapy sessions hour after hour,” Dr. Fialk said. “We added in a lot of creative and fun programming for home, because we’re trying to let them know that social distancing doesn’t have to mean social isolation.”

Robyn Suchy, the chapter manager for Active Minds, a nonprofit organization dedicated to metal health awareness for college students, said that talking to his own therapist online in recent weeks has been a little jarring because he was accustomed to having more separation between those sessions and his personal life. Now, everything happens on the same screen.

“It’s been weird to be on this computer that I use for work and then just click into another video meeting for therapy,” he said.

Across the United States, therapists and patients are suddenly grappling with a whole new set of questions: Is telemedicine covered by insurance? Can I still talk to my therapist in California after I move back home to Iowa? Which online chat forums are compliant with patient privacy laws?

“There’s a lot of really interesting and complex conversations happening, but it all kind of comes down to that service delivery, and making sure that people have access to these support networks,” Mr. Suchy said.

He added that it was good to see providers and their patients experimenting with different, more accessible forms of communication that might prove useful even after the threat of coronavirus fades.




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