Dear Nate, I haven’t seen you for a while — not since you helped me print the Rockland Regional Resources guide. That might have been a few weeks — or a few months — ago. I’m not sure. During the pandemic, time feels more ephemeral, raw. Tonight is the first night of Passover. I’m home making face masks, or maybe I’m tired and playing a stupid word game on my phone. I wanted to write: May this be the last plague. What kind of country is this? Parents living so close to the bone, this crisis has them pleading for infant formula, diapers. In the richest country in the world, during the worst pandemic in a hundred years, they no longer have health care coverage because they lost their jobs.

This week I told my youngest brother we’re on the precipice of a Great Depression. Bernie Sanders left the race. I made a face mask for a friend who works at the Maine State Prison. I made another face mask to send to an immunocompromised friend who lives in NYC, currently the heart of the planet’s COVID-19 ravaging: people dying alone with ventilators shoved down their throats; their bodies, wrapped in white sheets, stacked on shelves in refrigerated trucks. Discussions of excavating a city park for temporary mass graves. My dear friend’s mask has gone missing in the mail.

Maybe it’s not the time to point fingers, and yet, Trump, that lovable bumbling charismatic billionaire (current U.S. approval rating: 43 percent), keeps refusing any responsibility for his, and his administration’s, actions (and inactions). In late March, Trump claimed, “Nobody could have predicted something like this . . .” In fact, on January 29, Trump’s own economic advisor, Peter Navarro, sent out a warning laying out a possible worst-case scenario of COVID-19 killing more than half a million Americans. At that time, we knew what was happening in China. And Italy. Yet Trump continued to publicly and privately downplay the seriousness of the virus. He failed to rapidly take the necessary steps to slow the spread. He failed on testing, failed on PPE, failed on shelter-in-place, failed on food (tried to cut food stamps during the pandemic), failed on shelter and on workers’ rights. Yet we love him so.

The United States is now, by far, the world’s ground zero for COVID-19, with 560,532 confirmed cases on April 13, and rapidly rising (ncov2019.live). And when you consider that millions still can’t get tested, the actual number of infections is drastically higher.

Are we to believe it is a totally random accident, or inevitable, that COVID-19 has taken worse hold of this country than any other?

Anyway, how are you doing? I know you’ve been extremely busy. What are you working on? <3, Becca

Nate: Oh, I don’t know what to write. I’ve never been under such a load of work and stress in my life, and I’m exhausted. My work as a software developer hasn’t eased up (if anything it’s gotten more intense), and it seems like I’m constantly getting calls and emails about matters related to COVID-19. Just making sure that people have food and shelter seems to have gotten significantly more challenging, and even though I’m not on the front lines of those efforts, I’m doing what I can to connect people to resources and help coordinate various groups. I’ll also make a pitch here for opportunityknox.me, a platform that I helped to build that allows people to donate to nonprofits and buy gift credit at local businesses, which might hopefully help some orgs, businesses, and people get through these rough times. This isolated-yet-busy feeling is seemingly paradoxical, yet I know at least a few other people who are experiencing it. But I’m not feeling very interesting now. None of what I have to write here is unique or particularly engaging. Zillions of people are suffering similar stresses, or much worse. I guess that’s comforting, somehow.

Becca: I guess I would say it’s okay not to be unique. There is so much focus on uniqueness as an asset in our dominant culture, and while there’s value in that, it’s also a deeply isolating concept. As you say, there is something to this being a shared experience. I’ve heard it called a kind of collective grief, shock, fear — though it’s also different for each person, often having to do with socioeconomic factors. I’m really glad that you are finding ways to be of help to people, and yes, I cry daily for the failures of this system and I suppose my own failures — that I am not out on the street screaming for housing, testing, health care and food for all of us, and for the right of workers who may not want to be potential sacrificial lambs to be able to stay safely and comfortably at home.