“Gay Paree” is an anglicized version of “le gai Paris,” and essentially refers to a Paris that is happy, cheerful, and/or joyous. With iconic landmarks like the Eiffel Tower, the City of Light perennially makes the list of top romantic destinations in the world. Due to a recent resurgence of covid-19 infections, however, the French capital is currently missing much of its sparkle.
But first, some background. In terms of the timeline regarding the arrival and initial impact of the pandemic, there are eerie similarities between France and the United States.
- The first covid-19 infection in the United States, which involved a 35-year-old Washington state man who had just returned from a family visit in China, was confirmed on Jan. 21. Just three days later, the first infection case in all of Europe, which involved a French citizen who had recently returned from China, was confirmed in Bordeaux.
- The first infection-related fatality in France occurred on Feb. 14 when a Chinese tourist died in a Paris hospital. Twelve days later, the deaths of two residents at a nursing home near Seattle were recorded as the first covid-19 deaths in the United States.
- On March 12, French President Emmanuel Macron announced the closure of all schools and universities; this was followed two days later by an order closing all non-essential public places, including restaurants, cafes, cinemas and nightclubs, while a nationwide stay-at-home order was issued on March 17. Meanwhile, it was on March 13 that President Trump declared a national emergency to deal with the coronavirus crisis, which was soon followed by a warning from the White House that people not gather in groups of more than 10. Within days, individual states began issuing their own stay-at-home orders.
So let’s return to Gay Paree. Responding to a rising rate of infection that started growing exponentially in late August, the French government – in lieu of another national lockdown – opted to enforce tougher measures in cities where the virus is concentrated. Given its high infection rates, French authorities just last Monday put the entire Paris region on maximum virus alert, ordering, among other things, that all bars be closed for at least two weeks. Although restaurants and bistros serving food as well as alcohol can stay open (since their patrons are supposedly more inclined to follow social distancing rules), they must comply with strict conditions (e.g., obtain contact details from customers) and shut their doors at 10 p.m. If these (and other) restrictions don’t work, there’s a good chance Paris may soon be facing another lockdown.
These days, the words “We are all in this together” are frequently used. They can also be found in the April 23 statement of Antonio Guterres, the ninth Secretary-General of the United Nations. The worsening conditions in Paris are yet one more disconcerting reminder that in times of a pandemic, this “we” is global and applies to us all.
If you live near Seattle, please feel free to visit us at our gallery in Bainbridge Island, where we always have a wide selection of travel, nature, landscape, and urban images in a variety of mediums, including metal/canvas/fine art acrylic prints; matted prints; and custom-framed black and white prints. Most importantly, however, partner Carol and I hope everyone is staying healthy, safe, and strong in these trying and stressful times.
Ciao for now,
Andrew (Andy) Bergh