Phillip Wong Photography

A City Waits:  COVID-19 Descends

          We are not passive spectators in this world. We are a part of it, it affects us, and it shapes our futures.

          When we first began knowing about a coronavirus that was spreading throughout the world, it was already out. I had been shooting the New York Fashion Weeks shows in early February 2020, and standing pressed against photographers from Europe, Asia, Latin America and around the United States.

          When the first case in New York was recorded, the patient was taken to New York Presbyterian Hospital for care, and for me, all work, jobs, projects came to a halt on March 10. Calls went out from New York’s governor for help in hospitals, and daily reports told us how rapidly the situation was developing.

          At the end of March, I was asked to help organize and deliver food into a series of hospitals to feed hospital workers who had been coming in from around the country, put up in hotels in New Jersey, bussed in every morning at 6a to work 12 hour shifts. It went on for weeks, and then months, before finally getting under control. These people had no life. They worked, and slept. They had no place to buy food, no way to get anything, and this was one of the only ways they could survive.

          Every meal time, someone was sent out of closed COVID units, with carts to pick up food and water for everyone inside each unit. They could only afford to send one or two people out, per meal – because they didn’t have enough Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).

          The loading docks were swamped and chaotic because workers were getting sick, they were undermanned and didn’t have enough workers for 24 hours, seven days a week shifts.

          Later, as the city and religious organizations, and restaurants, and private citizens began to create food banks to pack and distribute food for families, I was asked to help. This time, in the packing centers. 80 workers, working at minimum wage, packing 60-80,000 boxes a day, for distribution to churches, senior homes, nursing homes, neighborhood centers, pallet after pallet.

          I took a few days off between these projects, and before the city came online, to photograph the city in lockdown.

          This is the story, while some in a nation scoffed.