Celia Mendoza records a stand up on 34th street and 8th Ave after interviewing a street vendor about COVID and the economy.
Celia Mendoza records a stand up on 34th street and 8th Ave after interviewing a street vendor about COVID and the economy. (Photo: Celia Mendoza / VOA)

NEW YORK - As the state of New York prepares to reopen, life in the city that never sleeps is anything but normal. After more than 21,000 coronavirus deaths, which now includes children, there are still so many unknowns about the virus.

This unsettling uncertainty has kept me away from stores for five weeks now. I order everything I need from Amazon. Accustomed to being out and about in the city every day, now I leave my apartment only for work. Most of my interviews are done via FaceTime.  

My tiny Manhattan studio apartment has been adapted to be everything in my life. Over by the window, my new office includes a desk and laptop. My TV studio is also my bathroom, where the shower curtain doubles as a backdrop for live shots.

My bedside is also a gym – where my yoga mat lies on the floor so I can do cardio, yoga and strength exercises. Everywhere else doubles as my Zoom party spot.

I, like so many other New Yorkers, have adapted to a new lifestyle. Every night at 7 pm, we celebrate our essential heroes with applause. I tear up every time my neighbors play the trumpet to thank them for taking care of us.

I feel so proud of New York and the efforts we've made to reduce the spread of the coronavirus. I'm relieved that the ambulance sirens are no longer a constant on my street.

A man waits outside a Starbucks coffee shop at 34th street and 9th Ave. After weeks of not being open in this area, the coffee chain opened its doors with new social distancing measures. (Photo: Celia Mendoza / VOA)

I am tempted to relax because we’ve escaped the worst, but then I have to remind myself to keep social distancing, wash my hands 100 times a day and to tell those I love how much they mean to me before it’s too late.

Yvan Osorio, a photojournalist from Venezuela and a friend of Celia Mendoza, sent her this photo from his hospital bed, where he died after weeks of battling the coronavirus on May 1st.

Even when I think I was somehow spared from the virus, the reality of living at the epicenter of the contagion is driven home by the painful news of the passing of a friend and fellow journalist. Like so many people I have interviewed, I too now have my own story of loss, hardship, hope and perseverance.

Without knowing it, maybe doing these interviews prepared me to face my grief and the sense of frustration that comes from knowing that I will never see him again, or hear his voice, or tease him that he needs to learn English.

Throughout this tragedy, I have seen people come together, offering to help those in need. Donations and prayers have poured in for my friend’s family with kindness and love.

It seems we are all learning this hard lesson together. Not only are we surviving in the time of coronavirus but we are reimagining our day-to-day lives. We have to make things better in honor of those who will not live to see the end of this terrible, ruthless pandemic.

Our new world is chaotic yet beautiful, and we are the amazing humans with whom we get to share the precious gift of life every day.