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The view from New York

Former Winnipegger in American COVID epicentre


Cat’s recent Skype interview with Marilee Caruso of CTV Winnipeg talking about “New York on pause”
The normally busy park outside Cat’s window is deserted due to New York’s PAUSE order.

Cat Navarro is a former Winnipegger who moved to New York upon graduating from Concordia University in Montreal to pursue her dream of working as a set designer in the film industry.  Her hard work has paid off as she now gets contracted to work as a creative director in various film productions. In the past 10 years, Cat has established herself in the Big Apple, coming home to Winnipeg once a year to spend Christmas with her parents, Mano and Winnie Navarro, and brother, Martin.

Pilipino Express asked Cat to describe what she is currently experiencing in New York, where COVID-19 is hitting the hardest in the United States. This is what she told us, in her own words.

Since the PAUSE order went into effect on Sunday March 22nd, there has been a visible difference in the amount of people outside. People seem to be taking the warnings more seriously and making sure to maintain social distance. Although we are encouraged to stay home as much as possible, we are still able to go out for walks, or to the grocery store and pharmacy – while taking the necessary precautions. I’ve noticed more people wearing masks and gloves while in public places, presumably to help prevent the spread of their own germs.

Many people have lost their jobs as a result of this situation – myself included – and some of these people will unfortunately have an extremely difficult time recovering financially. There is a lot of uncertainty, but from what I can see, some people have been showing a lot of support to their friends in need. Many people in New York have likened the situation now to what happened during 9/11. People came together to support each other, as everyone in the city had been affected in some way or another.

We are all adapting to a new way of life – one where you check in on friends and family often, and nod or say hello to people you pass on your way to the grocery store (while maintaining an acceptable six-foot distance). I’ve been invited to many Zoom or Google Hangouts “parties” where you have a drink in your own home in front of your computer webcam, while your friends all do the same. I’ve been reading the news more than ever and have been trying to understand how other cities have been handling the pandemic.

Valuable lessons for Winnipeggers

The best thing people can do to protect themselves is to protect their community and their healthcare system by social distancing and staying inside as much as possible. You may not be showing symptoms, but it doesn’t mean that you can’t carry the virus and spread it to people around you.

I’ve heard many accounts from healthcare workers in NYC about the desperate conditions at hospitals over the past two weeks. The surge has already begun and we haven’t even hit our expected peak for the virus yet. They’re running out of beds, ventilators, and basic equipment like masks, gowns, and gloves. Doctors and nurses are being asked to reuse the same N95 mask for multiple days – even though in normal circumstances, they would use several of these masks in one day. With the spread of the virus happening so quickly, hospitals are in a dire state. I cannot stress enough the importance of protecting the healthcare system to prevent this from happening.

The other thing you should do is stay informed – read the news from local, national, and global media, and make sure these are trusted and fact-based news sources. Be informed of what has happened and continues to happen in China, Italy, Iran, Europe, and now the U.S. Learn what you can from the situations happening all over the world to protect your own communities. Educate your friends and family on the importance of social distancing, and the crises that are happening in other countries.

New York is a tough city, and eventually we will make it through this. Even once the virus has been contained, it will still be a challenge to navigate how to move forward. Many people will be financially devastated, and uncertainty will loom for many families. Even though at this point in time the official COVID-19 case count is still low in Manitoba, Winnipeg will undoubtedly have to go through some version of this as well. Every citizen will have to come to the understanding that we all must follow the same precautions in order to flatten the curve. Although we do not know how bad the crisis will be in Winnipeg yet, the magnitude will depend on the choices you make today.