The Seattle metro area is the United States’s ground zero for Coronavirus disease 2019. As I write this, 10 people of my area’s approximately 3.8 million have died from COVID-19 and 29 people have been diagnosed with the disease. NBC News published a report yesterday stating that Seattle feels like a “ghost town” according to business owners at Pike Place Market. With no disrespect to the dead and no disrespect to the many businesses downtown and in Chinatown that are hurting financially, Seattle is continuing to go about its business with a heavy heart and a desire to be strong in the face of danger.
I live in Ballard and work in Wallingford, two northern neighborhoods in which life is largely unchanged from the time before COVID-19 was first detected in January. (The first reported case, by the way, was a man in the northern suburb of Everett who has since been released from the hospital.) My company has a branch office in Kirkland, site of the facility where most of Washington’s COVID-19 victims had lived, and I can understand why a person living further out in the suburbs wouldn’t want to commute to an office about a 10-minute drive from the now-infamous Life Care Center. In our Seattle office, though, most of my coworkers have been coming to work, cleaning has been intensified, our leadership has been providing us with regular updates, and many precautions are being taken. I now bring my laptop home with me every night, expecting that at any moment the office could be declared closed for a period of time. Common-sense procedures like handwashing are being emphasized. My teammates who want to work from home are free to do so.
It feels like an act of defiance to go about my normal life, so I’ve been doing my best to keep to a normal schedule. The weather has been good enough for me to bike to work every day, so I can’t comment on whether COVID-19 has affected the crowding or conditions aboard buses. I fear Seattle’s drivers, some of whom don’t even have two working headlights, more than COVID-19. I live within walking distance of six supermarkets and the ones I’ve visited recently have had reasonable crowds and a good supply of essential items. There are even Girl Scout troops outside selling cookies. I even capitalized on the recent flight to safety among investors by refinancing my mortgage to a record-low interest rate.
A novel virus is scary. More people will contract it — perhaps I will — and it’s unclear whether I’ll even be able to know whether I have it. To be honest, I have no desire to get tested unless I start to show symptoms, and some coronavirus carriers don’t show any. I have no idea how it’ll affect my upcoming travel and recreational plans. Will the Mariners let people into the stadium to see baseball games? Will I be subject to quarantine when I arrive in Copenhagen for a vacation later this year? There’s a substantial amount of uncertainty, yet I don’t feel especially worried, as the situation affects so few people and I feel it falls outside of my control. I rely on shared resources: I work in an open office, I use public transit and ridesharing, and I like going out to restaurants and stores in my neighborhood. My hope is that I’ll still be able to benefit from the walkability and community that define a healthy neighborhood.
COVID-19 is going to have some big consequences for businesses in Seattle and beyond, but I remain optimistic that the vast majority of my neighbors and I will get through it. If this crisis persists or escalates, I’ll post a follow-up soon. Stay safe out there.