Coronavirus Update From New York City: May 27, 2020

I hope that everybody had a good Memorial Day weekend!

Everyone in my immediate family remains healthy. That being said, I’m glad that I’m not spending tons of time in public, because at times I get allergies that can cause me to have coughing fits (and coughing fits that can result in people being concerned about me). Employment continues to not be an issue for me, though I am knowing more and more people who are having issues with being furloughed or unemployed.

The situation is continuing to move in the right direction in New York City and New York State.

At the state level, nine of the state’s ten regions are beginning the process of reopening their economies, though I must emphasize that it is a process. There are four phases involved in reopening a region in New York, and these regions are only beginning to enter the first phase. Nevertheless, it is a positive step that we’re seemingly having the pandemic enough under control that we can begin to reopen things. It is also a positive step that daily deaths from COVID-19 in New York State has dropped below 100 on a regular basis.

The only region that has not begun that process of reopening is…New York City. We don’t yet have the adequate contact tracing, and we don’t yet have a high enough availability of hospital beds to reopen safely; for those two reasons, we are not able to reopen yet. That being said, our numbers are trending in the right direction even in New York City, and I am hopeful that in the next couple of weeks, New York City will also begin the process of a measured and safe reopening.

With many places reopening (including most of New York State), I think it is worth discussing what the “endgame” is for these weekly COVID update posts. My plan is that I will continue doing these update posts until it is clear that New York City is opening up safely (which, to me, means that the situation in New York City looks okay for a month to six weeks after beginning to reopen). I think it is important to document for curious readers how the reopening process is going, and whether the situation continues to improve or not where I am. If, after four-six weeks, the reopening appears to be going safely, then I will wind down these weekly update posts. However, if the much-feared second wave of the virus comes, these weekly updates would return at a later point. And, of course, if the reopening doesn’t go well, then I will continue these updates, so that my readers know how things are going in New York.

I hope that others are doing well! I’m hearing mixed reviews of how reopening is going in various states and regions.

P.S. For those of you into numbers, I encourage you to visit New York’s Regional Monitoring Dashboard. This dashboard allows you to see how all the regions of New York State (New York City being one of them) is performing with several critical metrics that need to be met before reopening begins: decline in hospitalizations, decline in hospital deaths, new hospitalizations, hospital bed availability, ICU bed availability, testing capacity, and contact tracing capacity.

P.P.S. I actually intended to publish this tomorrow. I thought I had this scheduled for tomorrow at 6, but instead I published this today at 6. Oh well. Tomorrow evening is busy for me anyway, so perhaps it’s better that I have my update today. Future update posts will be on Thursdays, starting next Thursday.

Coronavirus Update From New York City: May 21, 2020

It is hard to believe that we are already approaching Memorial Day! When this whole stay-at-home thing started, it was still winter; now we’re approaching summer!

Everyone in my family continues to remain physically healthy, thankfully. I also continue to have employment, even as there are millions upon millions filing unemployment claims in the United States. Emotionally, while it’s not always easy, it definitely helps that NASCAR, which is one of my family’s favorite sports, is back on television–when the races come on, they are a 3-5 hour reprieve from all the COVID stuff going on in my city, state, country, and world. I just hope that the races can continue to be done safely, and that nobody gets sick! I’m optimistic, though, because it seems like the sport is taking a lot of precautions.

As for statewide indicators in New York, things for the most part continue to trend in the right direction. Governor Cuomo said at his press conference today that hospitalizations are down and that there were 105 new deaths reported in our state today. While that is still 105 too many, we definitely continue to trend in the right direction statewide. As for New York City specifically, though, while things are trending in the right direction, it still looks like it may be a bit before we start to reopen, as we’ve only met four of the seven indicators needed for beginning to reopen (contact tracing, as well as availability of total hospital beds and ICU beds, are the things we don’t adequately have yet in New York).

My family tends to not be big into travelling on Memorial Day weekend, so I guess I’m not as affected by some of the restrictions as others may be. The lack of an Indianapolis 500 (watching that race is a yearly thing in my household) is going to feel weird though. Yeah, my auto racing fandoms are showing in this post.

I hope my readers are doing well!

Poor Women, Wealthy Men, and the New School Sexual Assault Regulations

Because of the media’s focus on the coronavirus, one story that has gone somewhat (but not completely) under the radar is the changes that United States Education Secretary Betsy DeVos put into place for regulations that replaced Obama-era guidelines on how sexual assault accusations are dealt with at schools.

According to National Public Radio, which did a rather thorough piece on these changes, “Among the most significant changes are new regulations aimed at beefing up protections for accused college students, by mandating live hearings by adjudicators who are neither the Title IX coordinator nor the investigator, and real-time cross examination of each student by the other student’s lawyer or representative.”[1] I want to zero in on the change I quoted here, because this is a regulation that will likely end up harming poor women the most and helping wealthy men the most.

In making this argument, it’s worth saying that the real-time cross examination is something that advocates worry will open up wounds for survivors of the assaults under investigation. While yes, there are absolutely male survivors of sexual assault, as well as survivors who do not fall within the male-female gender binary,[2] this is a change that disproportionately hurts women in general, as women of school age are much more likely to be survivors of sexual violence than men of school age.[3] Therefore, when we’re talking about cross examination opening up wounds for survivors, we are most of the time talking about opening up wounds for female survivors of sexual assault. This change will harm women in general.

However, this change will harm poor women the most. This real-time cross examination by the other student’s lawyer or representative, in effect, results in a double whammy for poor people who are survivors: emotional wounds opened up by cross examination by the defendant, and then an inability to spend the money to hire a good lawyer or representative to answer in any effective way to the cross examination. As most survivors are women, this double whammy for poor people who are survivors will predominantly affect poor women. I just hope that there are lawyers/representatives out there willing to potentially do some pro bono work here because otherwise, I don’t see how poor women who are survivors stand much of a shot at getting justice in sexual assault cases under the DeVos guidelines.

On the other hand, these new regulations will likely end up helping wealthy men because: a) most perpetrators are men and b) the male perpetrators who come from wealthy families will be able to spend on the best lawyer/representative money can buy in order to fend off any accusations. Unless the survivor comes from a situation of economic wealth and can have the ability to hire good lawyers, the side of the wealthy male perpetrator is well positioned to win the legal case.

As to the results of these DeVos changes, I do tend to agree with advocates that this will likely have a chilling effect on reporting in general. However, I fear it will have a particularly chilling effect on reporting from poor women survivors of sexual assault. While some people may take pride in being right on something, this is a case where I really hope I am wrong.

Please note that because of Memorial Day, I will not publish a post next Monday.


[1] https://www.npr.org/2020/05/06/851733630/federal-rules-give-more-protection-to-students-accused-of-sexual-assault

[2] And if you’re a male survivor of assault or a survivor who doesn’t fit within the male-female gender binary, your story is no less valid because you are not a woman.

[3] https://www.rainn.org/statistics/victims-sexual-violence

Coronavirus Update From New York City: May 14, 2020

I have now been updating readers on how I’m doing, and how my city is doing, with this coronavirus for about two months now! That time has flown by.

Everyone in my immediate family continues to remain both physically and financially healthy. As for mental health, let’s just say that there is a reason that I often try to limit my news intake, even though I value the importance of knowing what’s going on in my city, state, country, and world.

As for how New York is doing, it’s…complicated.

Deaths continue to go down. It’s still horrifyingly high, but when you consider that the number of deaths per day was in the 700-800 range a few weeks ago, it’s a massive improvement that we now have some days when we have fewer than 200 COVID-19 deaths. Many of the other major indicators, such as hospitalizations and intensive care unit admissions, continue to trend in the right direction. That being said, we are by no means out of the woods in New York City, and in fact we have more recently learned of the disturbing development that there’s an increasing number of cases of children experiencing symptoms similar to those of Kawasaki disease that is likely related to the coronavirus.[1] The children who receive this sickness seem to fall extremely ill, and several of them have died. This story just feels like a new twist in what has been an ordeal (with the coronavirus) that has gone through many twists.

You may be hearing stories about how parts of New York State will be starting to reopen (albeit, reopen carefully). New York City, which is where I am, is not one of those parts. In order for a region in New York to reopen again, that region must be in a satisfactory state with all seven of the following metrics: decline in total hospitalizations, decline in deaths, new hospitalizations, hospital bed capacity, ICU bed capacity, diagnostic testing capacity, and contact tracing capacity. New York City has only met four of these seven metrics, which means that no region of New York State has met fewer metrics than New York City (new hospitalizations are still too high, plus we don’t have enough hospital beds or ICU beds available).[2] Needless to say, it would not be surprising if New York City ends up being the last part of New York State to start reopening.

How are your areas doing? While today’s post definitely offers a mixed bag of news, I feel like I’m in a different world here as compared to other areas, in that the situation is slowly improving in New York City while it is regressing in parts of the United States, and some parts of the world.


[1] https://www.nbcnewyork.com/investigations/kawasaki-disease-up-to-5-ny-children-dead-85-sickened-by-rare-covid-related-illness/2411571/

[2] At the bottom of this piece from NBC New York, you get an explanation of the various metrics required to be met for reopening: https://www.nbcnewyork.com/news/local/new-york-nears-reopening-on-brink-of-another-grim-milestone-as-pandemics-tragic-scope-may-never-be-fully-understood/2414771/

What is…Toxic Positivity?

Today’s post is the next installment in the “What is _____?” series, where I go over terms used commonly in social justice circles that may sound like jargon to some.

Today’s “What is_____?” post will focus on a term that I’ve started to hear more about in the mental health and chronic illness communities: toxic positivity. It’s a term that I think is particularly relevant right now during this coronavirus pandemic, hence the reason for publishing this post today, rather than waiting until later during this series.

Toxic positivity is when there is a focus on positive things and positive thinking while, at the same time, rejecting or minimizing emotions that aren’t happy or positive. Examples of toxic positivity can include phrases and sentiments such as “don’t worry so much,” “it’ll be fine” (especially if it’s something chronic or serious that won’t 100% heal), “just think positive,” and “don’t worry, be happy.” Phrases like these, while not ill-intended, can come across as trying to minimize, invalidate, or suppress negative emotions, which is why the positivity is toxic.

It is especially problematic to suppress the negative when you’re living in a time like the coronavirus pandemic. There are times when suppressing the negative is equivalent to suppressing reality. And now is one of those times when to me, at least, suppressing the negative is equivalent to suppressing reality, because reality is that we have suffered great losses in New York City and not even attempts to suppress the negative would take away that reality.

You might be wondering, though, how to avoid this well-intended, yet toxic, positivity. I’ve heard different takes on this, but here’s mine, for the time being: instead of trying to suppress negative thoughts, show empathy. Instead of suppressing the sadness of a friend who just found out about a close relative passing away, try to be sympathetic to what the friend or family member is going through. Instead of trying to tell others not to worry, be a listening ear when they do worry. Instead of telling others to “just think positive,” be willing to talk through the negative emotions if your friend wants to talk through such feelings with you.

In many if not most cases (at least in my experience), people who struggle with toxic positivity genuinely want to help their friend, their family member, or their neighbor. However, there are times when positivity at the expense of minimizing negative emotions is not the best way to go about things, and that empathy is the best course of action, in my assessment. That being said, if any of my readers have alternates to toxic positivity that I didn’t mention here (because there are different takes on toxic positivity and the alternatives to it), or any thoughts on the topic of toxic positivity, I welcome the suggestions and feedback!