We are reminded, again of our vulnerability, and of the rare power of the coronavirus to turn a blind eye on its victims, unaware of status, unmoved by fame or accomplishment. Late in the afternoon of a Memorial Day Friday comes the word that an old New York hero named Patrick Ewing is in the hospital.
And we are reminded, again: this is still with us.
We are inching toward our new normal, whatever that may be, but we are not there yet, probably not close to there yet. The weather warms, the beaches invite, the calls for reopening grow louder, and while most of us fight daily inner wars between what we want and what we know we need to do, we can forget why this has all been necessary.
And then we find out Patrick Ewing tested positive.
And we are reminded: if he can get it, so can we. The fight is not yet over. The sacrifices are not yet complete. This is still with us. It is a stubborn SOB.
“I want to share that I have tested positive for COVID-19,” Ewing, who spent most of his Hall of Fame career as a Knick, said Friday in a statement released by Georgetown University, his alma mater, where he is the basketball coach. “This virus is serious and should not be taken lightly. I want to encourage everyone to stay safe and take care of yourselves and your loved ones.”
We are reminded that just because you are famous, you are not granted a hall pass. Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson tested positive. Mitchell Donovan tested positive. Kevin Durant tested positive. James Dolan tested positive.
There are still over 1.5 million cases in this country, over 20,000 new cases reported Friday. There are still over 94,000 deaths, more than 1,000 Friday — this after two months of lockdowns and quarantines. We have grown somewhat numb to the numbers, because it’s impossible not to. We have searched for positive trends, for flattened curves, for hopeful news. And more people keep going to the hospital.
Now Patrick Ewing goes to the hospital.
“Now, more than ever, I want to thank the healthcare workers and everyone on the front lines,” Ewing said in the statement. “I’ll be fine and get through this.”
His case is no more or less sad or compelling than anyone else’s, we just know his name, as we know Hanks’, as we know Durant’s. By now, this virus has surely cast its dark hand on all of us — someone we know, someone we love, family, friend, neighbor. It doesn’t discriminate. It knows no prejudice.
And as bad as we want our old lives back, as much as we want our old world back, we are reminded, still again: it is still with us. It may be in retreat. It may not be as puzzling a foe as it seemed to be two months ago. But it is not defeated. It has not vanished.
Ewing, it seems, will recover. The numbers tell us most do. But there is little comfort in those figures because this is also true: some don’t. It is still with us. It is a terrible truth, a lousy element of every day. We need our old lives. We need our old world. We need to craft our new normal, whatever that will be.
But every now and again, we need to remind ourselves that we haven’t won yet. This is still with us. Damn it.