Dear Diary – Soroptimists share their stories

As the COVID-19 pandemic surges through our countries, our communities, and our lives, Barbara Rochman, and Wanda Price share their thoughts with us, and we are reminded that for today, although we are apart, we stand together, as we face a ‘new normal’.

Notes from New York City by SI UN Representative Barbara T. Rochman

“On Friday 13 March, 2020 my husband Irwin and I went out to dinner with a cousin and his wife at an attractive new restaurant.  The place was filled with lively young people, (we were lively but not young), and everyone was having a good time.

On 5 April there were 63,306 confirmed Novel Coronavirus cases, and 2,642 deaths in New York City.  The ‘City that Never Sleeps’ had gone to bed.  Schools are closed, most businesses are closed, restaurants are closed, stores are closed, except for groceries, drug stores and the like.

We’ve been asked to stay home and are doing just that.  At first, we went to the nearby grocery, but now we call them and order what we need for delivery.  It is left downstairs in the lobby for us to pick up.  The first two weeks there was no toilet paper to be had, and paper towels were very limited.  That has eased up.  There’s a large market where we have always called to order chicken, meat and fish to cook,  Now it is almost impossible to get through to them on the phone.

The view from our windows shows streets that are virtually empty with almost no parked cars, whereas before, all the parking spots were full, the streets were always busy with local residents and students from nearby New York University, and tourist buses showing Greenwich Village, where we live.

Irwin’s work is now spread out along the length of cabinets in our living room, and he works at the dining table.  Soroptimist work has been keeping me busy asking for different reports, and I work in another room with my desk, computer, printer and files.  My monthly committee meetings – the NGO Committee to Stop Trafficking in Persons and the NGO Committee on Migration – and the subcommittee I belong to, Mixed Migration and Implementation –will take place on one form of internet communication or another.

Some meetings were done by Zoom, and it worked quite well.  You just have to be prepared to comb your hair, put on a nice-looking top and use a simple backdrop behind you.

Most of our television viewing consists of news programmes describing what’s happening here in the United States.  I think people are really scandalised by the fact that our country has been so ill-prepared for the Coronavirus disease.  Our health care workers do not have enough masks, gowns and other protective gear.  The inadequate supply of ventilators used to keep patients alive is appalling. 

We are lucky to be able to respond to this situation in a way that is far less difficult and threatening compared to what many New Yorkers have to deal with.  The medical experts predict that the virus could be reduced at some time in the summer but return in the fall.  So we all face a very uncertain future.”


COVID-19 Creating New Universal Social Norms by Wanda Price, Philadelphia, PA. USA

“The desire to learn something new every day is an admirable goal. Consequently, the awareness of the Coronavirus (COVID19) pandemic has helped to facilitate that goal. Normal conversations now include a vocabulary comprised of such terminology as social distancing, self- quarantine, self-isolation, and sheltering in place. Additionally, it is not uncommon to find the increased use of clinical terms such as symptomatic, asymptomatic, and communal spread on a daily basis. This leads to ask the question: is this the new normal and what does this mean to ourselves, our loved ones, and anyone with whom we may come in contact?

Fear and Uncertainty
Misinformation overload was widespread during the initial communications regarding the coronavirus pandemic causing increased fear and uncertainty. In addition, the analytics on the increasing number of individuals affected by the virus plus the initial loss of employment due to the temporary closing of non-essential businesses, has also contributed to increased fear. However, we have since learned to rely on credentialed individuals such as medical professionals, scientists, and organisations such as the Center for Disease Control (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO) from where we accept our data. While doing so may not totally alleviate anxiety, we can at least feel certain that information being provided is true, accurate, and provides essential best practices for personal health and safety.

Staying Connected
Since the beginning of the year, the cancellation of all physical events involving more than 10 persons began to occur in record time. Because most areas are required to shelter in place, we were forced to become innovative in our efforts to stay connected. For individuals used to connecting virtually, this is not a problem. We question, however, what happens to individuals who may be devoid of such access?

Business “not” as usual
After the COVID-19 virus presented itself as a pandemic by crossing oceans, invading and affecting residents and visitors in numerous countries around the world, we began to hear advice about social distancing in an effort to curb the spread. What does this mean going forward? How will these efforts affect our lives after the end of the pandemic? When we greet others in the world of business, will the handshake be a thing of the past? Additionally, in the workplace, will workspaces need to be redesigned in an effort to account for social distancing?

What may be considered extreme actions regarding health and hygiene habits adopted during the duration of the active period of the virus should probably continue long after this epidemic ends. It is not unlikely that we will see some of our current customs change. We should continue to be cognizant of practices that have worked to our advantage during this pandemic and how we can effectively utilise some of these practices going forward.”

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