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family glamorous NYC

Going viral

Finishing Week 4 with Coronavirus, heading into Week 5. I’m home—haven’t needed to go to the hospital, thank God—and my fever petered out last week. So all that’s left are cold and cough symptoms and a totally debilitating complete lack of energy. Oh, and lower back pain: a bad cough threw one side of my back out, and lying in bed 18 hours a day somehow hasn’t unkinked it. Go figure.

I’m lucky.

I’m recovering. Slowly and unmeasurably but pretty definitely. Sitting at a desk to type these thoughts is something I can do today. Last week, not so much.

So lucky. My daughter is with me and, for the first time in over ten years, I have family in the building. We have enough food. Sure, it’s mostly lentils and pasta, but I know at least two delicious ways of serving those staples. And despite low energy, I still cook. It’s what I do now: sleep and cook.

The doctor who diagnosed me couldn’t test me.

There aren’t enough tests, but you read the papers, you know that. But my symptoms told the tale. I don’t know if he reported me as a case. So much data that could save lives isn’t being recorded because, well, you know why.

I reported myself to my company and our team (who are incredibly, brilliantly supportive), and to the MFA program where I teach one day a week, and, of course, to my wonderfully stalwart conference team. So many cases will not be diagnosed or reported. So many will spread the disease without knowing. So many will die and we (as a people) won’t be sure what took them.

I live in a hospital zone in Manhattan.

There have been morgue trucks on my block for weeks. I don’t look out that window much.

I’m lucky. I’m insured. I live in a safe neighborhood. And…

I’m white.

Not everybody thinks so, and it’s not a club I’m particularly proud to belong to anyway, but it’s still conferred massive privileges on me all my life. Some of which I recognized as a child. Some of which I’m still blind to. The point is, the people the virus is hurting the most are not white. Which is one reason the white people in charge have been slow to take it seriously.

But I get to stay home. I’ll get to work remotely, when I’m well enough to start working again. Privilege and dumb luck. Life and death.

I’m undeservedly fortunate and I’m thankful. To my colleagues, doing my work while I rest. To the medical professionals who live in this building and work in the hospitals around the corner. To the workers who toil in this building and haven’t the luxury to shelter in place. And to you who’ve been texting and emailing and DMing well wishes. Thank you. It helps.

Stay safe, stay strong, and be kind.

By Jeffrey Zeldman

“King of Web Standards”—Bloomberg Businessweek.

Principal designer/creative director, Automattic, Inc. Publisher, A List Apart and A Book Apart “for people who make websites.” Co-founder, An Event Apart design conference. Faculty, MFA, Interaction Design program, School of Visual Arts, New York. Have written two books, notably Designing With Web Standards 3rd Edition.