Living with covid-19: Here’s the story of one New York couple still with it, perhaps ‘visitors from the future’

What’s it like to have a bad case of covid-19, or to care for someone with it? Pretty horrible, Jessica Lustig writes for The New York Times Magazine, where she is a deputy editor. It introduces her story this way: “Our world became one of isolation, round-the-clock care, panic and uncertainty — even as society carried on around us with all too few changes.”

Lustig’s 56-year-old husband, “T,” who was in excellent health except for asthma, had his first symptoms — chills, followed by aches and fever — 12 days before her story was published. “Now we live in a world in which I have planned with his doctor which emergency room we should head to if T suddenly gets worse, a world in which I am suddenly afraid we won’t have enough of the few things tempering the raging fever and soaking sweats and severe aches wracking him — the Advil and Tylenol that the doctors advise us to layer, one after the other, and that I scroll through websites searching for, seeing ‘out of stock’ again and again.”

Lustig has become a health-care worker: “I am consumed with trying to keep us safe. I wipe down the doorknobs, the light switches, the faucets, the handles, the counters with disinfectant. I swab my phone with alcohol. I throw the day’s hoodie into the laundry at night as if it were my scrubs. I wash all our towels, again and again. . . . Anything my husband touches has to stay in his room or be carefully taken from his room to the kitchen, where I stand holding dishes while our 16-year-old daughter, CK, opens the dishwasher and pulls out the racks so I don’t have to touch anything before she closes it again. She turns on the faucet for me, and I hit the soap dispenser with my elbow to wash my hands.”

The story ends with T being found to have pneumonia. “At the door of the clinic, we stand looking out at two older women chatting outside the doorway, oblivious. Do I wave them away? Call out that they should get far away, go home, wash their hands, stay inside? Instead we just stand there, awkwardly, until they move on. Only then do we step outside to begin the long three-block walk home. I point out the early magnolia, the forsythia. T says he is cold. The untrimmed hairs on his neck, under his beard, are white. The few people walking past us on the sidewalk don’t know that we are visitors from the future. A vision, a premonition, a walking visitation. This will be them: Either T, in the mask, or — if they’re lucky — me, tending to him.”
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