Three thousand Americans are dying each day from the coronavirus, and two hundred thousand more are infected. The numbers numb. Sometimes I worry I’ll forget what they mean, that they’ll blur into an abstract metric like the stock market. Maybe it’s because these tallies are burned into our screens, a dark scoreboard with the logic of a record to be broken.

Looking through the early days of this year’s journal, I’m startled by how I dutifully jotted down the numbers each morning as if this might provide some insight or control. The first hundred infections. The first dozen dead. There was a week in early March that I remember as the Days of the Westchester Lawyer, a time when we knew the profession, daily commute, and family situation of a specific person who was infected. We understood the virus was in the city, yet we still crammed into trains and classrooms. We washed our hands more often but did not wear masks. We waited for instructions that came too late.

This week, the coronavirus is the number one cause of death in America. I am lucky and grateful that my understanding of the pandemic has been largely buffered by screens. But these tallies, statistics, and curves cannot become familiar or abstract; each number represents a life that radiated out to so many others. When I dart through the supermarket, I’m likely passing someone in the frozen food section who lost someone. Perhaps we would be better off if we all treated each other as if this might be the case.

Each night in 2020 I wrote a short post for a series called Notes From the End of a World because I wanted to etch these times into my memory. Before the world changed completely.
346 / 366.
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