Editor’s Note: LZ Granderson is a journalist and political analyst. He was a fellow at the Institute of Politics at the University of Chicago and the Hechinger Institute at Columbia University. He is the sports and culture columnist for the Los Angeles Times and co-host of ESPN LA 710’s “Mornings With Keyshawn, LZ and Travis.” Follow him on Twitter and Instagram @lzgranderson. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author. View more opinion articles on CNN.
I live in downtown Los Angeles, a part of the city that is usually dominated with tourists and foot traffic. Restaurants are plentiful, office buildings on every other corner, Staples Center is home to the Lakers, Clippers, and Kings. For the past 36 hours, the sidewalks have been fairly empty. I recently glanced out of my window and saw one person crossing an empty street in the middle of the day. Normally there aren’t any empty streets in downtown Los Angeles in the middle of the day.
But this isn’t normal, is it?
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There’s already an awkward pause when greeting strangers and familiar faces alike. Extended hands are met with dilated pupils and hesitation, elbow tapping is the dance craze no one saw coming. For all intents and purposes “earth is closed today”– to quote Tony Stark – but the more harrowing issue is we have no idea when we’ll reopen for business.
When will we be back to normal, if such a thing even exists. The pages of history are filled with varying dates/events/moments in time in which our world came to an abrupt stop stemming from tragedy. But it lacks examples of society returning to what it once was. The AIDS epidemic forever changed us, as did September 11th. And no doubt the coronovirus pandemic will leave a “new normal” in its wake as well.
President Trump’s hour-long press conference Friday certainly didn’t provide much of anything in regards to a return to normal beyond vague temporal phrases such as “very soon.” In fact watching Trump shake hand after hand while deflecting questions about his possible exposure to the virus only served to amplify the voice in my head asking if the closing of schools and Broadway, postponing of concerts, suspensions of the NBA, MLS, MLB, golf, tennis, et. al. is just the extent of the social distancing necessary to prevent further spread of the deadly virus or just the beginning?
Millions of Americans could contract the coronavirus. Of those, a fraction may become ill and a smaller portion, hospitalized. And who knows how many will die.
There are questions about if the country has enough beds and ventilators to treat those who are admitted. Questions about whether or not there are enough gloves and masks for those treating the sick in their care. Questions about the availability of tests and normalcy. Not in terms of what we once were but rather what will be on the other side.
I’m old enough to remember when passengers didn’t need to remove their shoes before boarding a plane. Then the world stopped and this is how we came out on the other side.
Social distancing is the responsible thing to do but it sure feels eerie. At least for today. Perhaps when earth finally does reopen, avoiding handshakes and having hand sanitizer available on every floor of an office building won’t feel eerie at all. It will feel normal because when Broadway reopens and the games resume, it very well may be.