Coronavirus Update From New York City: September 23, 2021

I hope all of my readers are safe, regardless of where you are.

The virus in my part of the world is, more or less, spreading at a constant rate, as cases are showing a stable trend, as opposed to one where cases are significantly increasing or decreasing.[1] I really would like my city and region to get better control of the virus, but honestly, I’m not sure how much of that is a priority at the moment compared to getting things back “to normal” (whatever normal is).

Part of that “normal” (or at least a modified one) is a major event that is pretty much on my doorstep: the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA). I am a five-minute walk from the United Nations, so I see a lot of people related to UNGA around me when I am heading to and from work, whether it be press, protestors, police, or dignitaries. Worse yet, some world leaders have largely been ignoring safety protocols related to the Coronavirus, raising concerns about whether UNGA may itself be a super spreader event.[2] I hope that UNGA is not a super spreader event, even more so because it is right in the neighborhood where I work, but I have concerns it may be one.

Another part of that “normal” has been the reopening of schools. Schools have been open for nearly two weeks now, more or less. I say “more or less” because public schools in New York, which have schools closed on Jewish holidays, were closed for one day because of Yom Kippur. Thus far, one school in the city has had to go fully remote for a period of time (10 days) due to the virus.[4] When this school went remote, it made the national news because it was the first school in the nation’s largest school district to have to go remote due to the virus. However, less covered is the fact that there are many hundreds of places in New York where there are partial or complete classroom closures due to the Coronavirus–over 1,300 of them, as of the time of my writing this.[5] To put this into context, there are 1,876 schools in the DOE system, which means that COVID is so widespread in DOE schools that we have nearly .7 classroom closures (full or partial) for every school in the system. I definitely continue to be concerned about COVID spread in schools.

At the same time schools are reopened and in-person again, restaurants are now required to have those interested in dining indoors show their proof of vaccination. And it has already resulted in a hostess on the Upper West Side in New York City getting beat up by three tourists from Texas over having to show proof of vaccination status.[6] I hope that these incidents don’t happen with frequency now that there restaurants whose staffs in certain parts of the country are now required to ask for vaccine proof. But regardless of whether attacks like what happened on the Upper West Side become more common, I certainly hope that the attack I talked about can serve as a reminder, to all of us, to be kind to our service workers during a really difficult time.

As far as ICUs are concerned, 40% of ICU beds are still available in my region (the New York City Metro).[3] This continues to thankfully buck the trend in certain parts of the United States when it comes to running out of ICU beds and even ration medical care (which I am hearing more and more about in certain parts of the country). I mention this so that people are aware that if they hear stories about parts of the country where ICU beds are in a desperate shape, the part of the country that I am in is, thankfully, not one of them. That being said, we were one of those areas at the very beginning of the pandemic, back in Spring of 2020, so perhaps I have an inkling of what people in places like Florida and Idaho are going through right now (except for the whole vaccine part–there was no vaccine available to keep one from getting ill back in Spring of 2020 when New York was slammed; now there are vaccines and many who end up on the hospital were ones who refused to get vaccinated).

So, that is a summary of where things are where I am. As always, I am happy to hear how others are doing!


[1] https://covidactnow.org/us/metro/new-york-city-newark-jersey-city_ny-nj-pa/?s=23371255

[2] https://foreignpolicy.com/2021/09/20/unga-coronavirus-threat-new-york-un-brief/

[3] https://covidactnow.org/us/metro/new-york-city-newark-jersey-city_ny-nj-pa/?s=23261246

[4] https://www.schools.nyc.gov/school-life/health-and-wellness/covid-information/daily-covid-case-map

[5] https://www.schools.nyc.gov/school-life/health-and-wellness/covid-information/daily-covid-case-map

[6] https://abc7ny.com/hostess-assaulted-carmines-uws/11027118/

Hurricane Ida Deaths in New York City: A Microcosm of Who Climate Change Affects the Most

Flooding from the remnants of Hurricane Ida on the Major Deegan Expressway in New York City (The Bronx, to be exact)

A few weeks ago, the remnants of Hurricane Ida ravaged New York City with historic flooding. As I’ve told my friends about Ida, 2-4 inches of snow an hour paralyzes New York City, let alone 2-4 inches of rain an hour, which was what we received. The result was numerous deaths in New York City—deaths in communities that represent a microcosm of who climate change affects the most.

While it is impossible to chalk up the impacts of any one storm entirely to climate change, there is no doubt that warmer air and water temperatures create a recipe ideal for bigger and stronger storms what we got with Ida.[1] And Ida was a storm stronger (in terms of rainfall) than what one is typically expected to get with the sort of climate that exists in New York City.

Due to Ida’s floods, there were numerous deaths. Not only that, but most of the people who died from Hurricane Ida in my hometown of New York City died in illegal basement apartments.[2] It may be easy to wag one’s finger at the existence of basement apartments or those who live in them because they are illegal, but the unfortunate reality is that these basement apartments exist because many people in a city as expensive as New York cannot afford to live anywhere else.[3] In other words, most of the people who died from Ida were likely too much in poverty to afford living anywhere else.

And the fact that this storm, which was likely made stronger by climate change, killed so many who were so poor they could only afford an illegal basement apartment, should serve as a cautionary example of who climate change affects the most.

The situations with people in basement apartments during Ida is one example of this. But there are so many other examples of the poor being particularly vulnerable to extreme weather events fueled by climate change. There was Hurricane Katrina, where those who were in the lowest-lying areas most prone to flooding from the storm were predominantly poor (and Black).[4] It wasn’t just Katrina, though—with storms in general, those in lower-income neighborhoods are most likely to be the most severely affected by these storms,[5] even though they are the least able to handle such storms.[6] With wildfires, as well, the poor are often the most vulnerable—the University of California at Irvine found in a study earlier this year that those impacted the most by wildfires in that state (which have become more frequent as a result of climate change) have disproportionately been poor.[7]

This is not to say that those who are wealthier cannot be impacted by these storms. After all, the Hamptons in New York suffered severe damage from Hurricane Sandy, while wildfires threatened Hollywood a couple of years ago. However, those who are wealthier have more financial resources than those who are poorer to recover from the extreme weather events made worse by climate change, if those who are wealthier even live in areas vulnerable to extreme weather to begin with (and in many cases, it’s the poor who live in the areas most vulnerable to extreme weather).[8] Furthermore, those who are wealthier are more likely to have a place to go in the event of a disaster threatening their residences. For those who think or hope that weather disasters made worse by climate change can be equalizers between the wealthy and everyone else, think again.

What this all means is that reducing poverty is more than an economic justice issue. It is a climate justice issue, too. And failing to address poverty and all its adjacent issues, such as housing affordability, other cost-of-living expenses, and job wages, contributes to more people being more vulnerable to extreme weather events made worse by climate change. As long as we fail to address this, I fear that we should prepare ourselves for higher death tolls caused by a combination of more extreme weather and a high number of people in poverty. That being said, this is a case where I hope I am wrong, and I would be extremely glad if I found that I were wrong.


[1] https://today.tamu.edu/2021/09/02/climate-change-helped-intensify-hurricane-ida-a-potential-preview-of-whats-to-come/

[2] https://abcnews.go.com/US/calls-change-11-people-nyc-basement-apartments-died/story?id=79818549

[3] Ibid.

[4] https://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=4829446

[5] https://www.brookings.edu/blog/social-mobility-memos/2017/09/18/hurricanes-hit-the-poor-the-hardest/

[6] Ibid.

[7] https://news.uci.edu/2021/05/30/california-wildfires-disproportionately-affect-elderly-and-poor-residents-uci-study-finds/

[8] https://www.brookings.edu/blog/social-mobility-memos/2017/09/18/hurricanes-hit-the-poor-the-hardest/

Coronavirus Update From New York City: September 16, 2021

I hope that all of my readers are healthy and safe, regardless of where you live.

Public schools in New York City started back last Monday. With the start of public schools again came the start of mass transit that in some places is as crowded, if not more so, as it was before the pandemic. Between schools starting back and the crew shortages on some bus and train lines in New York (I’m suspecting that it’s because a lot of mass transit workers are getting hit with COVID, though I could be wrong), I’ve experienced some very crowded buses in particular (and busy trains, albeit not quite as crowded as some buses I’ve been on). I’m hoping that this doesn’t result in our having another wave of this pandemic, but we will see. Over the past several weeks, I haven’t been particularly optimistic because all school kids under 12 cannot get vaccinated and therefore are potentially extremely vulnerable. In the next couple of weeks, we may see whether I was right to be pessimistic.

Even if my pessimism is correct, at least we continue to have a decent number of ICU beds available in the New York City area–over 4 in 10 of them.[1] Some other parts of the country are not so lucky, as Idaho is now rationing health care,[2] and so is Alaska’s largest hospital.[3] I say this because while we are not in an ideal situation in New York City, at least in my humble opinion, we are in a situation nowhere near as bad as some other parts of the country. Actually, I’m sensing that some other parts of the country may be experiencing now what people in New York City went through in March 2020.

There have been significant debates over vaccine mandates in my city, and nationwide. In fact, as some American readers know, the subject of vaccine mandates (along with COVID restrictions in general) was at the center of a recall election in California where Republicans were hoping to oust Democratic Governor Gavin Newsom. As such, I will give my two cents on such mandates…

There are numerous vaccines that are mandated for the simplest things, such as attending school. Take Nebraska for example, a state where its own governor was grilled on by Chris Wallace on Fox News for not mandating COVID vaccines even while other vaccines are mandated. That state requires vaccinations for things like hepatitis B, chickenpox, and polio.[4] Such mandates have been constitutional before, and in fact there is Supreme Court precedence for said mandates,[5] so arguments that mandates are infringing upon the liberties of people just doesn’t hold constitutional muster from what I have read.

All that being said, if one believes that the COVID vaccines are effective, just as vaccines against those other aforementioned diseases are effective, I honestly then struggle to understand why some leaders are not doing everything they can to make sure that every single person who can get vaccinated does get vaccinated. Especially with lives at stake here, I am a believer that we should do everything in our power to save as many lives as possible. People’s lives depend on it. And frankly, with how the pandemic has affected the economy, both in the United States and globally, people’s livelihoods depend on it too.

Enough of my lecturing, though. I’m curious to hear how others are doing!


[1] https://covidactnow.org/us/metro/new-york-city-newark-jersey-city_ny-nj-pa/?s=22991219

[2] https://apnews.com/article/business-health-public-health-coronavirus-pandemic-idaho-db21f9a14254996144e78aafb1518259

[3] https://www.usnews.com/news/health-news/articles/2021-09-14/latest-second-chinese-city-sees-outbreak-of-delta-variant

[4] https://dhhs.ne.gov/Pages/School-Immunization.aspx

[5] https://www.politico.com/news/magazine/2021/09/08/vaccine-mandate-strong-supreme-court-precedent-510280

September 11, 2001, Twenty Years Later: A Reflection From a New Yorker

The Tribute in Light in Lower Manhattan

Last weekend, we passed the 20th anniversary of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. As a native New Yorker who was in New York on that day, I find it hard to believe that twenty years have already passed since then.

I talk about that day from a variety of different perspectives. I talk about that day from the perspective of someone who suddenly lost two friends, as two of the firefighters I used to talk with as a little child died on 9/11. I talk about that day from the perspective of a New Yorker, since I was a resident of Queens when the attacks happened (and even saw some of the smoke on my street). I talk about that day from the perspective of a seven-year-old, as there are certain things I remember vividly and certain things I don’t remember at all because I was so young when it all happened.

But in this blog post, I want to write from the perspective of someone who lives in a neighborhood and a city that became a ground zero for anti-Muslim and anti-Sikh violence ever since the attacks, even if I didn’t realize it for years.

I want to write from that perspective because I want people, including people who don’t think of Islam favorably, to realize just how destructive these anti-Islamic sentiments (and by extension anti-Sikh sentiments, as Sikhs are often mistaken for people practicing Islam) could be.

It is the sort of sentiment which led to someone trying to throw a Molotov cocktail into a mosque not long after 9/11.[1] It is the sort of sentiment which led to Muslims in my area being spat upon and harassed by passers-by, only to get unsympathetic responses from the very people supposed to protect their public safety (as well as others’ safety): the police.[2] It is the sort of sentiment that led my own mom to receiving dirty looks and muttered comments once when she wore her winter scarf in a way that some mistook as her being Muslim. And it is the sort of sentiment that became so pervasive in America that President George W. Bush felt the need to denounce anti-Muslim harassment happening in the days after 9/11.[3]

Sikhs have become victims of this anti-Islam sentiment, often because many Sikhs (and particularly Sikh men) wear turbans, and because of the wearing of turbans Sikhs are often mistaken for Muslims. As a result, Sikhs have also been victims of anti-Islamic sentiment even though they don’t practice Islam. As a result, Sikhs in my neighborhood were beaten up over and over again in the months and years after 9/11. One noted story of a Sikh beating in my neighborhood happened while he was heading back from a Sikh temple where he prayed for 9/11 victims.[4]

The hatred directed at Muslims and Sikhs was so bad that people from those two religious groups honestly feared going out after 9/11, and at times still have to be cautious when they are out. It got so bad that some of the Sikhs in my neighborhood, after 9/11, felt they needed to wear buttons saying “I am a Sikh American” in order to try and “prove” to a skeptical audience that they were every bit as deserving of being out and about as anyone else. It was so bad that a kid who took karate with me—a kid from a Muslim family—had to drop out of karate classes and minimize the amount of time they spent out in public for months after 9/11 because the family of the kid was that scared of going out in public.

Do I mourn for all those lost on 9/11? Absolutely. I mourn for all who lost their lives on that day, including the two firefighter friends of seven-year-old me. But I also mourn because of the anti-Sikh and anti-Muslim sentiment that has been directed at so many innocent people since then, and still carries on to this day. And I believe others should mourn for that, too.


[1] https://www.nbcnews.com/id/wbna3067562

[2] https://www.mbda.gov/sites/default/files/migrated/files-attachments/September_11_Backlash.pdf

[3] http://www.cnn.com/2001/US/09/17/gen.hate.crimes/

[4] https://qns.com/2001/09/ignorant-teens-beat-sikh-in-richmond-hill/

Coronavirus Update From New York City (With Another Hurricane Ida Update): September 9, 2021

With this post, much like with the last one, I felt that it was important to dedicate some space to another update on how things are faring with the aftermath of Hurricane Ida in my area.

The subways in New York City are back to normal. I think that amid all the bad news from the storm, the workers who helped get the subways back into functional shape should be applauded for their herculean efforts. In spite of all the water and issues caused by it, subway workers were able to somehow get the subways back into functional shape in time for people to return to work after the Labor Day weekend. We have seen the tremendous efforts of subway workers time and time again over the past two decades–from the work to restore service after the attacks of September 11, 2001 (which happened twenty years ago as of Saturday…yikes) to the work to restore service after Hurricane Sandy in 2012–but it is worth mentioning again.

There are some people for whom life may never return to normal as it was before Ida hit. Between all who lost so much from the flooding and the tornadoes, and those who died from Ida (many of them in basement apartments), there will need to either be no normal or else a “new normal” that looks vastly different from the old one. I am lucky to have not lost anything or anyone I know personally from Ida, but I know that some are not so lucky.

As for the pandemic situation in my part of the world, the metrics are looking like they are trending in the right direction. In terms of percent of those tested who test positive, number of confirmed cases, and number of confirmed hospitalizations, the numbers have actually improved.[1] They aren’t improving quickly, though, so it is no time for residents in my part of the world to get complacent. Especially with in-person schooling starting up again with a bunch of unvaccinated children, and with people returning from Labor Day holidays that in some cases were perhaps not well-advised considering the dire situations with the virus in parts of the country, we cannot get complacent, even where I am. In terms of the children and school, one hope I hold on to is that severe illness from the pandemic among children is rare, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.[2] For everyone’s sakes, hopefully it stays that way.

Speaking of Labor Day holidays, I found it shocking that so many of us acted like it was a normal-ish holiday, in spite of the bad shape parts of the country are in with this virus. It’s shocking because parts of the country are in the worst shape they have been in for months, yet some of us are proceeding as if there is no virus. I think doing that is a big mistake, and now we may have to buckle in for a post-Labor Day surge from the pandemic. This is one case where I desperately hope that I am wrong, though. While I sometimes take pride from correct predictions, a correct prediction here would mean that lives we could have saved were instead lost.

Even if we do go into a post-Labor Day surge, at least there are a decent number of ICU beds available where I am. Fewer than 6 in 10 ICU beds are being used in the New York City metropolitan area.[3] This stands in contrast with the horror stories I’m hearing from other parts of the country, mostly places with lower vaccination rates, where ICU beds are getting filled up. I’m hearing horror stories of how some places are getting to the point, yet again, of having to make painful choices of who to let live and who to let die. And let’s be clear here–this is because of people deciding not to get vaccinated. From Alabama, where 84% of those hospitalized with COVID-19 as of a few days ago were unvaccinated;[4] to Banner Health hospitals in the Western United States,[5] where more than 90% of its COVID-19 patients are unvaccinated;[6] to the CentraCare hospital system in Central Minnesota, where more than 90% of COVID-19 patients are unvaccinated;[7] the cold, hard reality is that this is a pandemic primarily of the unvaccinated. This is not to say that someone who is vaccinated cannot get the virus or get very sick with it, but the risk of that happening is clearly much lower for those who are vaccinated than those who are not. So, if any of my readers are unvaccinated, I hope that these statistics serve as a call for you to get vaccinated. And if these numbers don’t convince those who are unvaccinated, I can’t help but genuinely wonder what will result in you doing the right thing. As one can tell from my tone, my patience is wearing thin.

So that is pretty much it from my corner of the world–a corner where the situation is a mixed bag, at best, with the pandemic and the recovery from Ida. I look forward to hearing how others are doing, though!


[1] https://www1.nyc.gov/site/doh/covid/covid-19-data.page

[2] https://www.aap.org/en/pages/2019-novel-coronavirus-covid-19-infections/children-and-covid-19-state-level-data-report/

[3] https://covidactnow.org/us/metro/new-york-city-newark-jersey-city_ny-nj-pa/?s=22681191

[4] https://www.rocketcitynow.com/article/news/local/alabama-icu-shortage-covid-19-coronavirus-vaccine-unvaccinated/525-355418aa-113b-4cc9-80a9-751498831243

[5] For those who don’t live in the Western U.S., Banner Health is a massive hospital system in that part of the country, with 30 hospitals and tens of thousands of employees. https://www.bannerhealth.com/about/glance

[6] https://kvoa.com/coronavirus-coverage/coronavirus-top-stories/2021/09/01/banner-health-more-than-90-percent-of-covid-19-patients-are-unvaccinated/

[7] https://www.mprnews.org/story/2021/09/04/latest-covid-surge-strains-central-mn-hospitals