NYC CORONAVIRUS UPDATE: Feet On The Ground Edition

5th Avenue and 51st Street during the morning rush hour

Photo (above) taken on Fifth Avenue during Monday morning’s rush hour. Not many people heading off to work it seems and definitely not much rushing going on.

The NY governor has declared a state of emergency and our mayor has been giving daily briefings on everything from how to do the elbow greeting to how to best wash your hands.

I’ve been out and about a fair amount over the last week. Here are my firsthand observations of changes happening in NYC as a result of coronavirus.

Public transportation

I’ve been on the subway a few times during rush hour over the past week.

  • Far less jam-packed. Plus, riders are standing versus squeezing themselves into every last seat. At least one third of the seats during Monday morning’s rush hour trip from downtown to midtown were empty (although people were standing by those empty seats).
  • Fewer people are wearing masks on the subway. Probably because wearing a mask makes you a target for harassment. Sad but true.
  • Most people, but not all, have got the “cough in your sleeve” maneuver down pat.
  • Hand-coughing, however, is still happening. I noticed one woman as I got off the subway doing a robust hand cough and caught myself thinking unkind thoughts about how thoughtless she was being – and hoped she would not, shortly, be shaking any hands.

Going out to eat is a breeze these days

Had dinner at a fabulous new spot on Saturday night and was shocked to find it half empty. We had an amazing dinner but I couldn’t help but wonder for how long people were going to lock themselves up at home out of “an abundance of caution.” Earlier in the week I had been at another buzzy new spot on the Upper West Side that was also sparsely populated.

However, not all restaurants are being hit by Coronavirus panic. I walked by Thai Diner, the hot new spot from Uncle Boon’s, and it was jampacked. There were also huge crowds gathered outside waiting to be seated. I’m checking it out today and will report back.

Buffets may be history: a victim of the virus

I have been a huge fan of the Soho House Sunday Buffet Brunch. I was there with a big group on March 1st and it was great. Self-serve deliciousness. This past Sunday, on the other hand, was a total disaster. You can no longer help yourself – everything was laid out as usual but when you went to pick up the tongs for a nice helping of shrimp you were told NO, NO, NO. We have to do it for you. This resulted in inordinately long lines and a lot of grumpy people, most of whom thought this was a “portion control” scheme by Soho House. When I explained it was for coronavirus they were a little more calm about it. But it’s a buzz kill. Depending on how long this lasts, buffets may not survive. 😢

Bottom Line.

Strange times. I’m NOT in panic mode, and I’m not hoarding TP (or anything else). But I am clearly in the minority when it comes to being freaked out about coronavirus. One of my friends has even gone full-on HazMat (buying several protective suits from Amazon).

We will have to wait and see how this plays out over the next couple of weeks. In the meantime, wash your hands people! And please support your local restaurants!

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