Thursday, May 21, 2020

March 4, 2020 - 8:55 AM

March 4, 2020 - 8:55 AM

We thought the Social Security office opened at 9 AM but we were mistaken. As my wife, son and I entered the room it was already filled. There were likely 75 people in here. Within a few minutes, they would start lining up in the hallway. It was on that day that the first case of Covid 19 was reported in my home state of New Jersey.

My wife and I could have applied for our benefits by phone but it might have taken a month or more to get that appointment, we were ready to proceed and our day was open.

As we would soon learn, we were both in the cohort that was the most vulnerable to the ravages of this illness. And our son should never have been accompanying us, especially in his role of merely providing moral support.

I remember being slightly concerned in that room, listening for a cough or sneeze. But no one was social distancing, it was not even a concept yet, and I can recall only one couple who were wearing masks. There were a few children, a pregnant woman or two and many older than my wife and myself. All crowded in, all possible carriers. None of us with but the vaguest notion of what we were facing.

We sat there for four and a half hours before our number was called and our request addressed. I can only estimate that there were conservatively well over a hundred people that I was in far too close proximity with during that time.

I think about that often, but particularly in light of today's story in the New York Times which reported that an estimated 85% of all Coronavirus deaths in this country could have been avoided if preventive measures had been put in effect on March 1 instead of March 15. And that, on the first day of that month, while there had been one reported case in NYC, there were probably actually more than 10,000 people infected.

I will never know if anyone sitting in that room had already contracted the illness.  If it passed through that place, if someone in the chair next to me fell ill in the days that followed.

It was just serendipity that on March 4, 2020 three of us were able to spend the hours between 9 AM and 1:30 PM in the office of Social Security without repercussion.

And it is chilling to contemplate that if our government had reacted more quickly and forcefully the above scene would never have occurred. And maybe, just maybe, someone in that room would not have gotten sick. Or died.


Anonymous said...

I can so relate as ironically, just this morning I was thinking about the fact that on March 11th I flew back to Florida from NJ on a totally packed flight. I did not wear a mask, ate my snack and drank my beverage and used the rest room three times (nothing new for me)!
I too, was spared and continue to wonder how many on that plane may have suffered or been impacted directly and/or indirectly by the pandemic.

...I think about what we have learned over 2+ months and am focused on what our responsibility is, individually and collectively, to make the world a better place through our own actions and deeds and by respectfully, proactively and legally holding others accountable - in any and every way we can - for inaction and for harmful actions and deeds.


Anonymous said...



Anonymous said...

Well said. Helen and I were on a plane on March 6th – we were just using hand sanitizer at that time – no thought of masks.


Anonymous said...

We are indeed blessed. On March 4th I was on Amtrack with college students returning home. I believe I heard every sneeze and cough.