This is the first installment in a series on Country Day alumni whose lives have been changed by the pandemic. 

Grant Miner, ’15, lives in the Crown Heights neighborhood of Brooklyn, New York. A freelance editor and copywriter, he plans to start as a Ph.D. candidate at Columbia University this fall.

Q: When did you realize the situation was getting serious?

A: As a journalist, I keep tabs on local and national news. After hearing rumblings about New York shutting down and the U.S.-Canada border closing, I became concerned, but I didn’t know it was that serious yet. I fully understood the seriousness of the situation after my roommate fled the city for Florida on March 27.

Q: What has New York’s reaction and response to this pandemic been like? 

A: I went to Manhattan for a dentist appointment with a friend, and it was pretty spooky. Downtown, near the (New York) Supreme Court Building, it was completely dead — no one was outside. 

You look down the once-crowded streets of Manhattan and don’t see a single soul, which is insane.

Q: How has COVID-19 changed the atmosphere of New York?

A: Living near a hospital, pretty much all I hear are sirens. The vibe is really apocalyptic, and it makes you realize what our new reality has become.

There are also fewer people on the streets, some of them not following the proper safety precautions, reflecting their lack of knowledge of the disease.

Q: How are New Yorkers affected the most?

A: Unemployment rates have skyrocketed. The state is completely inundated; you can call day in and day out and not reach a single human. The situation has gotten so bad that employees from other cities had to be brought in to help file the backlog of unemployment claims.

Q: What do you miss most about pre-quarantine life?

A: I miss traveling to places farther than walking distance. I’m also jealous of people who live near the beach or Brooklyn’s big parks.

The deserted Manhattan streets feel “pretty spooky,” Grant Miner, ’15, said. (Photo courtesy of Miner)

Q: How do you pass time during the day?

A: I read books, play video games, try cool, new recipes and go on long walks. I also lift with dumbbells and a pullup bar I found on the street.

Q: When do you leave your apartment?

A: I do groceries about once a week. I also go on walks while practicing social distancing about three or four times per week. I don’t go near anyone or touch my face, and I obviously wash my hands when I return home. When I’m out, I’ve seen more people wearing masks.

Q: Are you able to get everything you need, such as groceries and toilet paper

A: In a low-income neighborhood like Crown Heights, no one can afford to buy groceries for two months in advance. I’m able to get everything I need.

Q: Have you ever considered returning home?

A: No I haven’t. Fleeing from large cities has been one of the main vectors of the disease spreading to rural and outlying communities.

Q: How have people banded together for support in Crown Heights?

A: A lot of people either can’t afford to buy groceries, or they are physically unable to leave their house. (Our neighborhood) established a Mutual Aid Society to deliver food and supplies to people in need, and we all chip in to pay for the driver’s trip. Occasionally, I’ll deliver some groceries to folks in need, but because of my asthma, I try not to contact too many people.

Times are desperate, but people are surviving.

Q: Have you been tested for the coronavirus?

A: No, but my roommate’s boyfriend tested negative, which was a good sign. My cousin in Long Island has a roommate who has tested positive. Who knows, I may have already got it (and shown no symptoms).

Q: Do you know anyone who died from COVID-19?

A: No.

Q: What has surprised you about New York during the pandemic? 

A: I wouldn’t have expected so many people to immediately flee the city. There have been Twitter journalists that left — I thought people would stick it out more. When you’ve left the city, you’re basically a diseased rat fleeing a ship.

—By Rod Azghadi