I spent the last weekend in February visiting my son in the Boston area. We enjoyed museums, attended a boisterous Bernie Sanders rally on Boston Common and ate Thai food. On Sunday, March 1, we attended the PAX East video game conference at the convention center near Amtrak’s South Station, where I would get the train back home that afternoon
The scene outside the convention center bustled with attendees streaming in. My son and I checked in, I stowed my suitcase and we hit the swirling, crowded floor. The place seemed chaotic, with attendees in costumes of their favorite characters jostling with booth workers from companies with their splashy displays, where gamers could try out games and see demonstrations. We wandered around and he stopped to play a game. Not a gamer myself, I studied the crowd and the sorts of games getting major visibility.
My photos from the day are striking and ominous. They show the packed crowds, with signs posting asking attendees to not block the aisles for photos. I saw masks, both as parts of costumes and, in their plain forms, as a precaution against the virus forcing itself into our consciousness.
Only later did I learn that a superspreader event happened in Boston February 26-27, an international biotechnology conference that ultimately infected 300,000 people. I arrived on Feb. 26—how close did I pass by infected individuals in the days that followed?
By the next Saturday, March 7, the pandemic demanded notice at a Stamford country club, where the local Jewish Community Center honored a couple I know. There, people talked about the pandemic and even nervously joked about it, favoring fist bumps rather than hand shakes or hugs. Still, by today’s standards, the gala felt normal. Groups posed for photos with Connecticut Senator Richard Blumenthal, one of the night’s speakers, and sat together in tight groups. I bought a necklace for my partner Naomi at a silent auction. I was in a good mood.
I didn’t know that Covid-19 was already spreading fast all around Stamford, with New Rochelle, NY a hot spot. As CNN reported on March 24, “The first known case in New Rochelle was discovered March 2. By March 10, that number had shot up to 108 coronavirus cases, evidence of exponential growth. The containment zone was established two days later.”
Even closer to Stamford, a superspreader event took place on March 5 in Westport, Connecticut, being called “party zero.” A Fox News story on March 24 said the party took place when Connecticut had no cases, but “as of Tuesday, the state is now dealing with 415 cases, 270 of which are in Fairfield County, where Westport is located.”
The next day, Sunday March 8, I had a gig at an open mic event at the Tompkins Corners Cultural Center in Putnam Valley, NY. The mood had darkened even from the night before. Ripples of anxiety ricocheted across the center as people kept their distance. We were glad to leave once the event ended.