Coronavirus Update From New York City: January 14, 2021

I hope all my readers around the country and the world are staying healthy and safe. Here are some updates from how my family is doing, and how New York is doing, during this pandemic over the past week.

My family is continuing to stay physically healthy. We’re all missing the in-person interaction with people other than each other (as much as we love each other), but at the same time the caution we’ve exercised has, I think, helped us stay healthy. This is not to say that all people who catch COVID refuse to follow precautions, but I am saying that our precautions are helping.

That’s not to say that practicing precautions are fun and easy. Among the tougher precautions has been not going to church, even though theoretically I could go to church since Catholic churches in my area are remaining open. While I would love to go to church, it seems unwise for me to go to an enclosed church in a COVID hotspot (and I think it is unwise for churches to be open in COVID hotspots as bad as mine by the way). For those from church who are reading this, I look forward to going back to church, but only once COVID is more under control in the neighborhood.

How out of control is it? The positivity rate is over 15% in my neighborhood–high enough that it seems to be of utmost importance to act with caution right now about the virus. Even more concerning to me is the fact that Jamaica Hospital in Queens, the closest major hospital to where I live, reports using 1/3 of their adult impatient beds on COVID-19 patients and an astonishing 73% of their ICU beds on COVID-19 patients.[1] When everything is added up, as of January 11th, 92% of total adult impatient beds are filled at my neighborhood hospital, and 95% of total ICU beds are filled. I think it is important for me to be transparent about these statistics because I don’t think even a lot of people in my own neighborhood realize quite how serious things are–serious enough that we run the real risk of not being able to care for everyone.

So, I beg people in general, but particularly people in my area, to wear your masks, to practice social distancing, to be cautious if you have COVID symptoms, and to minimize the amount of time you spend interacting with people outside your COVID bubble. People’s lives and livelihoods depend on it.


[1] To put these numbers into context, based on what medical experts are saying, these percentages indicate that Jamaica Hospital is under “extreme stress” from COVID-19. Also, I’m getting my hospital capacity data from a National Public Radio article using data from the Department of Health and Human Services as well as the University of Minnesota COVID-19 Hospitalization Tracking Project. This was where I found the data from NPR: https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2020/12/09/944379919/new-data-reveal-which-hospitals-are-dangerously-full-is-yours#lookup. If you want to do a search for how your local hospital is doing, scroll down in the article I link to and do a search for your county.

Coronavirus Update From New York City: January 7, 2021

This is a COVID update post, but I think it’s important for me to start tonight’s post by addressing the big elephant in the room: yesterday’s violent happenings in Washington.

I live in New York City, so for all my international friends, I am okay and far away (as in a couple hundred miles away far) from what happened yesterday. However, that doesn’t make the violent uprising in Washington okay.

What happened yesterday was un-American. As I said already on my personal Facebook wall, as well as my blog’s Twitter page, part of life in living in this democratic republic is dealing with the fact that your candidate of choice sometimes loses, and dealing with that fact in a peaceful manner. Sometimes, dealing with the aftermath of that internally is tough, and acting with grace is tough when you are upset with the result. I know that from experience because there have been times when my candidate of choice lost. But the American thing to do is to move on from that loss with dignity and with accepting the will of the people, not by invading the United States Capitol Building and disrupting the proceedings of democratically-elected legislators. The individuals who did this were insurrectionists, not patriots.

On the topic of COVID, which is the main purpose of these weekly updates, the numbers are looking increasingly bad. In my part of New York City, the positivity rate has climbed to above 15%–high enough that certain things I felt safe going to when numbers were lower (such as church) are now places I don’t feel safe going to these days. More disturbingly, it feels like, as the numbers get worse, the compliance people are having with mask-wearing and social distancing has also become worse. Americans, and New Yorkers, need to do a whole lot better with their mask-wearing and social distancing.

One of the alarming things to me about COVID is that, as I learned when I listened to a CNN show discussing how the United States responded to the Spanish Flu in the late 1910s, many of the same mistakes we made then are mistakes we’re making now. Some of those mistakes include not following basic disease prevention precautions (such as…wearing a mask) and a president wanting to focus attention on other things (in the late 1910s, Woodrow Wilson wanted to focus on World War I, and in 2020, it was President Trump wanting to win re-election). In both cases, the consequences of our mistakes led to the loss of hundreds of thousands of Americans.

On a personal level, my family is still COVID-free, thankfully. Hopefully it stays that way. That being said, I did struggle with a head cold for some of the holidays so I was not 100%, but thankfully I am now feeling better physically. Emotionally though, I am definitely still a bit rattled from what happened in Washington yesterday.

Coronavirus Update From New York City: December 17, 2020

Currently, many of us here in the northeastern region of the United States are in the process of digging out from a major snowstorm. I hope that all of my readers who were hit by the storm are warm and safe.

Everyone in my family is continuing to avoid the coronavirus, but it is getting more and more nervy as zip codes around us are seeing concerning rises in positivity rates. To add insult to injury (in terms of being on edge with COVID) is the fact that my parents in particular have seen a few places in our neighborhood where people are not wearing their masks and practicing social distancing as they should. I know I’m a broken record in saying this, but please wear your mask and practice social distancing! Also, when you wear your mask, wear it over your mouth and your nose, like the person in the photo below.

The person in the photo is me, by the way.

It’s not just my family who’s getting nervous about COVID, either. New York City is also getting nervous, as evidenced by a shutdown of outdoor dining that started last Monday, as well as noises of a more complete shutdown after the holidays (as to why we’re waiting for the holidays to do this if the situation is that serious, I’m not quite sure). The nervousness is understandable–with stories across the country of hospitals being overwhelmed, the fact that hospitalization and ICU rates are on the increase at a time when we don’t have a ton of hospital and ICU beds available to begin with in New York City is a cause for nervousness.[1]

At this time that many hospitals are being stretched thin due to this pandemic, I offer a simple plea: please listen to guidance from your public health officials about holiday gatherings, even if it means staying home. I know, understand, and appreciate that it is tough to not visit family you desperately want to visit–I know that because I desperately want to visit my mom’s parents too. However, a visit to them, even if it were allowed by their senior living community (which it is not), could potentially put them at severe risk because of their age and the condition they are in. Many of us here in the states could put our relatives in similar potential peril if we visited them. As much as we may love our relatives, the best way to love them may be to stay home and minimize the chances of relatives getting the virus.

My warning aside, I do wish everyone a good, healthy, and safe holiday season. Let’s care for each other and love each other at this time by doing all we can to keep each other healthy.

My last post for this calendar year will be on December 28th. That post will function as a combination of a COVID update post and an end-of-year wrap-up post for this blog.


[1] https://projects.thecity.nyc/2020_03_covid-19-tracker/?_ga=2.239467267.1478419328.1608083101-1077310081.1606063751

Coronavirus Update From New York City: December 10, 2020 (COVID Test Edition)

I hope all of my readers are healthy and safe during a time when the pandemic is getting truly scary in parts of the United States, and the world. It is particularly sobering that we had more deaths from the virus yesterday than the entire country did from terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001.

New York City is starting to see its hospitalizations and ICU beds used due to COVID rise. Data seems to indicate that we have a few hundred ICU beds still available and a few thousand hospital beds, but with COVID rates on the rise, as well as hospital and ICU beds used due to COVID on the rise, we should not get complacent here in New York City. If you want to track data in New York on a day-to-day basis, I highly recommend your visiting the coronavirus tracker webpage for an online newspaper called The City.

With statistics trending in the wrong direction, there are noises about more things shutting down in New York City before long. Things such as indoor dining, which have been open at a reduced capacity for the past few months, may be in danger of shutting down completely in order to try and not let this virus go too out of control again. I fear though that we may be too late–since many ignored the warnings of our public health experts with regards to behaviors during the recent Thanksgiving holiday, I expect the virus to continue to get worse in New York, and nationwide. I hope I am wrong.

I want to spend most of my post though talking about my experience with getting a COVID-19 test. I got a COVID-19 test for the first time on Sunday so I thought it was worth sharing what the experience was like…

So, to give some backstory, a couple of family members had some symptoms of COVID-19 due to something that was acting like a head cold. Even though it was acting as something no more serious than a head cold for them, I decided to get a COVID test anyway since there is some overlap between COVID symptoms and head cold symptoms.

The test itself was not too bad. Having swabs go into your nose is not the most pleasant feeling in the world, but that didn’t last for long. All in all, for a virus so serious and so deadly, it was not a particularly painful experience. Having blood drawn is to me a much more unpleasant experience than the COVID test that was administered to me.

The experience beyond the test was a lot more mixed. Positives of the experience include receiving free masks, getting free hand sanitizer (not sanitizer I personally needed, but some people do want and/or need that), and a relatively simple process to ensure that I learned the results of my test (which came back negative, by the way, so I don’t have COVID). Negatives of the experience include standing in a long line in cold weather (it was a walk-in site and not a drive-in site) and the fact that the seating area where some people were waiting for test results had some individuals who were unmasked. Overall, if I felt COVID symptoms or knowingly came into contact with someone who tested positive for COVID, I would still get a test and strongly advise people in a similar sort of situation to also get a test. That being said, I think that in order to successfully test and perform contact tracing, we need to make the COVID testing process as pleasant as possible–something that New York City is I think trying to do through the free masks and hand sanitizer, but needs to improve on through more testing sites (something which admittedly may be difficult to achieve if we do not have adequate tests available to begin with).

Hopefully, my mixed review does not scare anyone away from getting a COVID test! In spite of my mixed review of the testing experience, I am glad to have the peace-of-mind of having that negative COVID test. And, if it was found out that I tested positive, appropriate actions could be taken so that others could quarantine accordingly, and protect others yet from the virus. While the testing experience itself was not ideal, testing is important and needs to exist more widely. What’s also important is social distancing and wearing your mask over your mouth and your nose.

Coronavirus Update From New York City: December 3, 2020

I was really hoping that I wouldn’t have to resume my weekly updates on the coronavirus ever again. But alas, here I am, resuming my weekly updates on this virus.

While there are still many places in much worse shape than my city and my state, we are trending in a very bad direction. Just a few weeks ago the COVID test positivity rate in my zip code was quite low, but now we are at a positivity rate of 6.5%. Given that we are trending in a direction that could lead to many more hospitalizations and deaths (deaths being a lagging indicator but an indicator that’s also starting to go in the wrong direction in New York State), it seems like a good time to restart my weekly updates.

Another reason I’m restarting my weekly updates is that, even though we’re not quite the center of the COVID universe in terms of cases and deaths right now (though if numbers keep on trending the way that they are, I fear we will be in bad shape before long), we still seem to be at the center of the American universe (or at least a center) when it comes to questions over COVID-related restrictions. Two instances where my city was at the center of questions about COVID restrictions were with the closure of schools citywide and the restrictions on the number of people attending religious gatherings in COVID hotspots.

With regards to the school closures, the public schools had a hybrid of in-person and online learning at the start of the school year, with schools in COVID hotspots (or schools with COVID issues) going fully online until those issues with COVID were resolved. However, with COVID rates spiking in New York City, a decision was made to go fully online for now. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio has received significant criticism for this move, which perhaps explains why there’s work towards schools reopening again for hybrid learning in the coming days.[1] We’ll see how that goes.

With regards to the restrictions on the number of people attending religious gatherings in COVID hotspots, what happened was that entities of various kinds, from religious gatherings to non-essential businesses, faced various restrictions if COVID were bad enough (based on the test positivity rate) to warrant placement in an “orange” or “red” zone. In the case of religious gatherings, they were limited to 25 people in orange zones and 10 people in red zones. These restrictions were controversially struck down by the Supreme Court.[2] My thoughts on this are…complicated. Personally, I think that it was rather bizarre to have such arbitrary numbers for the number of people allowed to attend religious gatherings, regardless of the size of the religious building (whether it be a large cathedral like St. Patrick’s or a smaller church like the one I go to every Sunday)–it would have been better in my humble opinion if the capacity limits were determined by percentages (33% of space capacity, 25% of space capacity, etc.) instead of arbitrary numbers that applied to religious spaces of all sizes. That being said, I don’t see eye-to-eye with the argument made by the religious institution I am a part of,[3] and by extension the Supreme Court’s argument, that this is an issue of religious freedom for Catholics[4]–the real infringement on this freedom is if we don’t take the proper precautions, get ourselves and each other sick, and then prevent ourselves and others from feeling up to a vibrant exercise of our religion. In other words, the attack on religious freedom, at least in my own humble opinion, is from the virus itself and those unwilling to take basic precautions against it. I would also add that with the existence of televised and online Masses where you can even receive the most important sacrament (the Eucharist) spiritually,[5] I have a hard time seeing how being forced to watch a Mass virtually for the sake of COVID precautions crosses the line from “not ideal” to an attack on religious liberty. Maybe someone can enlighten me though, as I know I have readers with substantial amount of knowledge on Catholic theology.

Between the news coming down from the Supreme Court (just in time for major religious celebrations) and the number of people travelling during the holidays, I fear that these numbers are about to get much worse. I hope my fears are inaccurate.

I do have hope though for New York City. This hope comes from the fact that we know so much more about this pandemic now than we did in the spring, and that as a result we hopefully will not have hospital and death rates anywhere near as high as what we did back then. I want my hope to turn into reality, but alas, global pandemics do their own thing and do not listen to any hopes I may have.


[1] https://www.theguardian.com/education/2020/nov/29/new-york-city-public-schools-to-reopen

[2] https://newyork.cbslocal.com/2020/11/26/scotus-rules-against-ny-religious-gathering-restrictions/

[3] I am a Catholic, and I live in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn. It’s the same diocese that was involved in legal challenges to Governor Cuomo’s restrictions for “red” and “orange” zones.

[4] However, I cannot speak for other denominations of Christianity, let alone other religions.

[5] Catholics have something called Spiritual Communion, where one who desires to physically receive the Eucharist but is unable to because of circumstances can receive the Eucharist spiritually.