Erinn Swan, the daughter of former deputy PM Wayne Swan, is living in New York City, America's coronavirus epicentre.
Erinn Swan, the daughter of former deputy PM Wayne Swan, is living in New York City, America's coronavirus epicentre.

An Aussie mum's bleak, uncertain life in virus-ravaged NY

ERINN Swann's life in New York has been thrown into turmoil as the city becomes ravaged by coronavirus, with more confirmed cases than the whole of Italy.

The daughter of former treasurer Wayne Swan, who moved to the United States in 2018 with her husband John Naughton, has been in lockdown for a week and expects to be so for months.

She has written about her experience, the uncertainty of living in America's coronavirus epicentre and the lessons Australia must learn. This is her story.

 

We're one of hundreds of thousands of apartments in New York with kids bouncing off walls. Parents with what little is left of their patience waning, attempting to "work from home" from the epicentre of the US pandemic. We've only been at this for a week - it will likely be months. We remain on lock down along with 100 per cent of the city, but for exempted essential industries.

 

Erinn Swan, the daughter of former deputy PM Wayne Swan, is living in New York City, America's coronavirus epicentre.
Erinn Swan, the daughter of former deputy PM Wayne Swan, is living in New York City, America's coronavirus epicentre.


 

Toddlers are running wild in the background of zoom conferences, tipping liquids and paint and toys on furniture and managing to find whatever dangerous object they can get their hands on in the five minutes you take a call.

This of course is a blessing amidst the pandemic. Being forced to stay home and spend time with your children, while everyone in the house is still healthy, is a dream compared to what is happening in the hospitals of New York City.

We are scared. We fear Italy in our future, normalcy in our past.

To say we are in the North American epicentre of the outbreak is EXACTLY correct - today New York City has a third of all US confirmed cases of coronavirus (nearing 10,000), and of those the highest count is in the borough of Brooklyn - our home.

 

An electronic sign board urging citizens to stay home and stop the spread of the coronavirus is seen displayed above a road in the foreground of One World Trade Center in New York. Picture: AP Photo/Wong Maye-E
An electronic sign board urging citizens to stay home and stop the spread of the coronavirus is seen displayed above a road in the foreground of One World Trade Center in New York. Picture: AP Photo/Wong Maye-E

 

The hospitals are already being overwhelmed. Equipment is so short in the country the television industry has been asked to donate props - such as masks - to assist. Companies like General Motors have offered to manufacture respirators to help make up the shortage.

New York City Mayor Bill De Blasio said today "April is going to be worse than March. And I fear May will be worse than April."

The fear for what lies ahead, and the sense that there is no co-ordinated plan in place is unnerving.

 

Source - World Health Organization, Johns Hopkins, other media

 

 

Trump's leadership deficit has led to a patchwork response across the country. Authorities are bickering, with New Yorkers caught in the middle.

Just today the Mayor said "If the President does not act, people will die who could have lived otherwise."

From our perspective - isolated in our apartment in Brooklyn - we are focused on staying out of the hospitals; avoiding at all cost getting COVID-19 and trying to make sure our kids don't fall over and split a lip.

But in the most populous city in the United States, it is difficult to avoid people.

Erinn Swan proud father, former treasurer Wayne Swan.
Erinn Swan proud father, former treasurer Wayne Swan.

Yesterday we met a man trying to hold our apartment complex door open for us and I had to stop for a second to assess if it was better to risk brushing past him or holding the metallic door handle myself. I read the virus can live on metallic surfaces for up to 3 days.

These are the bizarre calculations - a sort of cost-benefit germ analysis - that I'm making each day.

Most days we get out for a walk; we need a quick sanity injection to turn us into better parents again. We dodge the other escapees from thousands of Williamsburg apartments, collectively attempting to stay 6 feet apart on the getting-crowded walkway.

Two weeks ago we crammed into packed subway cars, now we are having polite exchanges with strangers over space on the sidewalk.

Yesterday we had to take the widest berth around an Uber driver who was beating the back seat of his parked car with a towel, ferociously soaking it at intervals with some kind of homemade disinfectant spray. He was wearing a mask over his face which he had fixed there in a panic, the remaining strings hanging either side of his collar.

 

 

 

You can assume most people wearing masks have symptoms. The authorities are encouraging us to preserve masks for health care workers unless you think you are infected. We are noticing more people wearing scarves over their faces.

I'm sure this sounds pedantic to Australians. In my home state of Queensland the schools aren't even shut. This is a mistake.

Here, we are just following orders from local authorities to all residents who are telling us the worst is yet to come.

Australia needs to follow suit. And hope it's not too late.

Originally published as Erinn's bleak, uncertain life in virus-ravaged New York



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