It’s now day 47 since the city was formally closed to non-essential business – and for me – day 59 since I started feeling acutely worried about where the crisis was headed.

Important health metrics including hospital admission totals and critical care capacity in New York City are now solidly trending positive as the city is about to eclipse 20-thousand dead from the virus.

There seems to be a general feeling that some form of reopening is coming but that it will be cautiously incremental and without any kind of crowding or space-sharing. Given the unique human density here – and the first-hand understanding of the human toll when the virus is allowed to spread – it’s impossible to envision much normalcy until a vaccine arrives.

My anxiety has started to level as time passes. The sirens are less frequent. The process of getting food and drink has become more manageable. I’m working much less.

Before tackling any of the other myriad catastrophic impacts on the US economy, Congress and the White House moved swiftly to inject $25 billion into the airline industry. My employer got about $5 billion of that. $3.5 of it was free money with the attached condition it would preserve the existing workforce, some 95-thousand strong through September 30. The other $1.5 billion came in the form of a low-interest loan.

The immediate question from those watching other US businesses shut down and layoff workers was why the quick help for airlines?

Why socialize a specific industry’s losses after a decade in which airlines privatized a ton of gains?

I don’t know much about corporate governance, corporate strategy but how ’bout socking away a chunk of the billion dollar profits that went in the books most quarters for a rainy day? Or for a pandemic?

To be fair, revenue dried to an absolute crisp in just a few weeks.

Once airlines lobbied for and quickly got the bailout money, they were on the hook to maintain pay and benefits of their rank and file through September 30. The government’s return on the bailout was two-fold in theory. One, they keep hundreds of thousands of workers off already-ballooning unemployment rolls. And two, critical transportation infrastructure will remain viable and spring back into action after the health crisis is over.

For me, the concept of a quick taxpayer-funded bailout in the wake of massive privatized profit-taking over many years doesn’t mesh. But as I sit here now, the bailout has kept my paycheck steady even though I’m working 40 hours only every 10 to 13 days. The bailout assured I’d stay in one piece at least through the end of September.

But then last week, my employer made a bold, unexpected move. It announced it was downgrading the full-time status of its 15-thousand or so airport workers to part-time. Base weekly hours would go from 40 to 30. It was effectively a 25-percent cut in pay and it seemed to violate at least the spirit of the bailout terms, if not the actual wording.

Mnuchin’s “Payroll Support Program” agreement posted on Treasury’s website is there for all to see. It says: “The Recipient shall not, between the date of this Agreement and September 30, 2020, reduce without the Employee’s consent the pay rate of any Employee earning Wages.”

The company didn’t explain where it saw wiggle room but perhaps believed that by cutting hours it was not reducing rate of pay.

Even more difficult to understand was how this unilateral move was allowable under the existing agreement collectively bargained by the company and union. The contract spells out plainly that a full time worker is a 40-hour a week worker. It’s a historically important, hard-gained labor value equating a real job with a 40-hour a week guarantee. Erosion of that concept is worth fighting against (even in a pandemic) and so the union representing my work group went ballistic.

It enlisted lawmakers who drafted and supported the bailout legislation to assist in a PR offensive. Union lawyers filed a lawsuit in federal court on Tuesday, May 5.

The company almost immediately pulled back on its plan.

It all comes at a time when our very popular CEO Oscar Munoz is following through on a plan to semi-retire and pass the baton to a widely-respected but more hard-nosed successor named Scott Kirby.

On a live video conference call timed to explain the effort to torpedo the full-time status of his front-line workforce, Kirby made a compelling argument for reducing daily cash burn so the airline is still standing when people start flying again. With tens of thousands of workers tuned in via the employee web site, Kirby said he hadn’t slept in the run-up to the decision. Without using the word bankruptcy, he said he feared what would happen to the airline if demand stayed low and the cash pile shrunk faster than the competition’s. Kirby seems especially worried about Southwest Airlines and their improved relative position to weather the storm and eventually scoop up remnants of airlines that may fail. On the merits of his concern, Kirby is right to seek concessions. As boss, he sees the daily financial numbers and wants to cut payroll so the airline doesn’t run out of money.

He’s constrained by both the bailout terms and the contracts of union-represented workers.

Perhaps had he gone to the entire workforce and asked for an across-the-board concession applied evenly to all, a mutual agreement could have been worked out.

Instead, he tried to jam something through and poked the proverbial bear. Full time job status is not to be messed with in a union environment.

Given the bleakness of air travel demand, Kirby could have sought to invoke the act of God clause and had the contract torn up entirely but only if he didn’t accept the bailout money and the terms that came with it.

As it is, the union won the short term battle but definitely soured the well with lots of hostile rhetoric aimed at management. A firm response in defense of the contract and the aims of the bailout did not need to include a series of immature and inflammatory potshots penned by our union boss and distributed to the membership.

Come September 30th, Kirby will shrink the carrier without the shackles he has now. There will be a process for how that plays out, typically based on a worker’s seniority. Company survival is his top priority and the fierceness with which he advocates for that goal gives me hope he’ll succeed, despite the bitterness that’s been created in the last week on both sides.

More to say soon – on the overnight subway shutdown, bicycles, masks, e-learning, temperature checks and oh yeah – a new Woods record is on the way.

Stay well.

A knot in my stomach developed three and a half weeks ago (March 9 and 10) after reading and watching accounts from doctors and nurses in Bergamo, Italy.

After about ten days worth of dawdling, New York City finally got its cue to stay home at close of business on March 22.

The reluctance by those in charge here and everywhere to issue confinement orders is driven by the crushing economic impact of restrictions on movement, albeit un-enforced. Weighing heavily on the governor of New York as he dragged his feet on a shutdown was consideration of panic.

It was a balancing act that delayed prudent and firm guidance. I kinda get it. Cuomo knows the delicate axis the city is spinning on and chose his words carefully. He took to task those using the misguided “shelter in place” phrase. Stay at home, he said instead. Go out for a walk if there’s space. Grocery shopping and booze runs are ok.

Cuomo is getting plaudits for his daily TV performances. A crisis like this creates excellent opportunities for leaders to lead. Cuomo has seized it. But it doesn’t erase the uninterrupted, bush-league disrespect he gives our mayor. It also doesn’t make all the dirty cash in Cuomo’s campaign account turn clean.

But it’s who we got right now. Cuomo at noon every day with the fact-based power point slides and family sketches and “we’re gonna kick Corona Virus ass” declaration. Then the mayor comes on at 5 PM with heroic Dr. Katz representing our uniquely open-armed public hospital system. When deBlasio and Katz finish, the tabloid kids lob degradation-of-humanity queries at him about portable morgues and who-gets-saved when we run out of ventilators.

On the latter concern, we’re learning from Cuomo and deBlaz that only 15-20 percent of Covid patients who go on a ventilator come off alive.

Even with those odds, both are scrambling to understand what the next few weeks look like as NYC health care capacity splits at the seams. Katz estimates ventilators run out Sunday upcoming.

I quit watching the President. When he took visible and verbal delight at news that Romney had self-isolated out of concern he’d been exposed, that was enough for me.

The double-byline piece by Peter Baker and Maggie Haberman on the front page of the March 22 Times perfectly summed up Trump’s management of this crisis. It said in part: “Mr. Trump’s performance on the national stage in recent weeks has put on display the traits that Democrats and some Republicans consider so jarring – the profound need for personal praise, the propensity to blame others, the lack of human empathy, the penchant for rewriting history, the disregard for expertise, the distortion of facts, the impatience with scrutiny or criticism. For years, skeptics expressed concern about how he would handle a genuine crisis, and now they know.”

The double edged sword for me personally is the job is still going. I’m going in every day on an increasingly unreliable subway train at 215 in the morning. Almost all the workers who used that train up until the virus took over are at home now. They were my safety buffer. Remaining only are the people who don’t have a home and the troublemakers who suddenly have a blank canvas to paint their next picture. It’s scary at times. Ridership in the middle of the night now comprises vulnerable, unhealthy people who want out of an ill-equipped shelter system, crooks and just a scant few “essential” workers trying to navigate a way into work. When I saw a guy dressed in medical scrubs on the platform at Grand Central a few mornings ago, I followed him into the same car. But a lot of nights when I get on at Delancey, I’m on the edge of my seat for the first time in my life using public transit.

Once I get to work, I don’t feel in any way essential watching/coordinating near-empty flights as they come and go. It actually feels reckless to put people on a plane from LaGuardia bound for less-infected cities at this point.

Why are we continuing to operate flights to and from the current epicenter of the pandemic? The lone public person I’ve seen discuss this question is Chuck Todd on Meet the Press last Sunday. He asked Dr. Birx how commercial flight activity in and out of New York meshes with stop-the-spread guidance. Birx said the flights are needed for movement of health care professionals.

The only other explanation that makes an ounce of sense came from a co-worker who said the airlines want to show the country that “they’re not giving up.”

My hope has been and continues to be that LaGuardia gets shut down temporarily – allowing either or both of the two international airports on either side of the river to act as outlets for coordinated emergency flight activity.

Most depressing aside from the images, interviews and reporting on the human toll at the hospitals are all the shuttered businesses across the city. Behind all the handmade signs announcing closure in the store windows are people at home without an income source.

There’s zero pulse on the Lower East Side, the East Village and Jackson Heights where I walked a few days ago. Stores selling food that are still open have long lines outside the entrance. People look scared. It feels like people are sizing each other up as healthy or not.

Stating the obvious, the virus isn’t at all compatible with how this city works and all that makes it great in good times, even previous bad times.

The knot in my stomach is the result of the anxiety I feel about what the city has become, what it will look like when we come out of this and how much worse it’ll get before we get to the other side.

My immediate family members are all sound and well accounted for at the moment in suburban Chicago. That gives me comfort. My middle brother has enabled the video function on our phone conversations so I can see his clan virtually.

For the gap in live music, I’ve warmed to the rock and rollers doing virtual gigs via Instagram including a wonderful set from several Exploding in Sound artists last week. Dan Francia did a fantastic cover of Blink’s “Time” and Becca Ryskalczyk (wearing a Buffalo Bills sweatshirt) belted beautifully on her Bethlehem Steel song “Deep Back.” The volume of her howls were such that at song’s end she looked up at the ceiling of her apartment. “My neighbors are gonna kill me,” she grinned.

Carl from the band Kal Marks played the first tune of his set in the key of F. Why?, he said with a smile, “Because we’re all F’d.”