Mike Zielinski

Mike Zielinski

I’m in a New York state of mind these days, watching the carnage and medical chaos inflicted by the novel coronavirus COVID-19 and wondering if Berks and surrounding counties will soon experience comparable infection levels to New York.

While working from home takes my mind off COVID-19 periodically, I’m primarily preoccupied with the pandemic. It doesn’t help that my wife is addicted to the cable news channels during the day. Thank God for Netflix at night.

Thus I’ve had a narrowing of focus, like sighting down a gun barrel. In my myopic vision, I see the harrowing specter of the coronavirus staring back at me. Everything else in the world seems so inconsequential now.

Our heroic medical people on the frontlines risking their own lives while trying to save lives with inadequate equipment are beyond courageous and richly deserve our admiration.

A prime factor in my coronavirus state of mind, which I assume many of you share, is the uncertainty of tomorrow. Will we get the virus? Will anybody in our family, circle of friends or group of colleagues get it?

And if one of them gets it, will he or she wind up in a hospital where ventilators are as scarce as toilet paper on grocery shelves?

I’m a playwright whose plays are produced in New York City by the Manhattan Repertory Theatre. My latest full-length play “Workaholic Romance” as well as my latest one-act comedy “The Pickup” were scheduled to start their performance runs March 27.

But when Broadway went dark, Manhattan Rep artistic director Ken Wolf and I decided to postpone my plays indefinitely. Ken, who has become a good friend over the years, lives in Manhattan not too far from the Javits Center, which has been converted into a field hospital.

Fortunately Ken and his partner Jen are healthy despite living at the epicenter. The sanitizing and disinfecting routine they practice for safety reminds me of what my brother had to do when he was one of the Met-Ed employees cleaning the TMI unit 2 nuclear reactor after the partial meltdown.

Speaking of meltdowns, you don’t have to be General George C. Patton to realize we are fighting a war on two fronts: medical and economic. We’ve had to essentially shut down our economy so COVID-19 doesn’t overrun us all like an invisible grain thresher. In so doing, will we smother our economy like the virus smothers its victims?

While sequestered at home, I’m staying structured as much as possible. Experts say it’s the framework that honeycombs use for survival. That and washing our hands, of course. I’ve washed my hands more often and more thoroughly the last two weeks than I previously did my whole life.

While in my coronavirus state of mind, I hardly find comfort in our president. He seems like such a small man for such a big crisis. In a nation filled with valiant first responders, he seems the worst responder.

Then again, that’s me. Donald Trump’s approval ratings are up since the pandemic first punched us in the mouth. Which totally baffles me.

Any chance we get back FDR or Lincoln? I guess about as much chance that we wake up tomorrow and find out this was all just a bad nightmare.

The nightmare of our lives.

Mike Zielinski, a resident of Berks County, is a columnist, novelist, playwright and screenwriter.

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