Coronavirus Update From New York City: April 8, 2021

First of all, I hope people have had a good Easter, Passover, or whatever holiday you celebrate.

This evening’s post, unfortunately, is starting on a sorrowful note. The reason for that is because I learned this week that a couple of people in a family who live in a house near mine lost their lives to COVID-19. As if I don’t already have enough reminders of how serious this pandemic is, I received yet another reminder this week. I don’t know when the two individuals passed away, but regardless, I keep these two individuals in my own thoughts and prayers.

This news also is a reminder of how fickle the pandemic can be. Nobody in my family has gotten COVID to our knowledge, yet we have people nearby who got COVID, and people nearby who even died of the pandemic. It’s so fickle that at this point I don’t know if it’s the strict following of public health precautions, dumb luck, or some combination of the two that has kept my family COVID-free. Personally, I think that it’s a combination of the two.

The other downer in the past week, albeit a downer in a different way, was the nature of the Easter Sunday holiday for me. Now, I went to church, but it was not like going to church on a regular Easter. I say that because I didn’t sing any hymns last Sunday, while in contrast I would passionately sing hymns on a regular Easter Sunday. I realize that from a COVID transmission standpoint, it was for the best that I didn’t sing, because droplets from your mouth travel much further when you sing than when you speak in a normal tone of voice. Yet, it it was still painfully difficult for me to abstain from singing–so much that I was in tears from resisting that temptation to sing the songs played on my church’s organ. While it was not as difficult as having to do Easter from home last year, it was challenging nevertheless.

The irony is that according to the church calendar of in the Catholic tradition and some other Christian religious traditions, we have just passed through Lent–a season that involves some form of sacrifice for many believers. And yet, even though the church calendar says that this season is over, emotionally and spiritually it feels like I haven’t even exited Lent 2020, even though Lent 2021 has already passed. I say this because the COVID-related sacrifices started in Lent 2020 and for me, at least, they haven’t stopped since then. I guess I can hope that the COVID situation turns around so that it spiritually feels like Easter by late summer? Fingers crossed.

On a different (and better) note, the test positivity rate for COVID in my neighborhood is at 8.2%, which is down from where it was last week. This seems to be bucking the trend (in a good way) compared to many parts of the United States, where COVID is again on the rise to the point that there is debate about whether there is now a fourth wave of the pandemic. This is also bucking the trend compared to the rest of New York City (at least at the moment), where the test positivity rate is stable.

The other positive piece of news is that vaccine distribution seems to be accelerating, to the point that 38% of adults in New York City have received at least one vaccine dose. As vaccine supply continues to expand, and as vaccine eligibility has expanded massively in the past couple of weeks (to the point that all New Yorkers 16 and older are now eligible for a vaccine), I trust that this number will go up even further. It is concerning, though, that there continues to be racial disparities in who is getting vaccinated–Blacks and Latinos are getting vaccinated at much lower rates than whites.

I know my post was a bit of a downer in parts today, but in spite of that, I do retain hope for better days ahead.

Coronavirus Update From New York City: April 1, 2021

Me after I got my first vaccine shot. This is not the best photo of me in the world, but in my defense, it was misty and windy, plus my glasses were fogged up.

Like with last week’s COVID Diary blog post, I have some big news to share!

The big news this week is that I have received my first COVID vaccine shot.

Literally the morning after I published my previous COVID update post, I was able to secure an appointment to receive my first shot of the Moderna vaccine. That appointment happened last Sunday.

Side effects were overall relatively minimal. My arm felt rather sore last Sunday evening and Sunday night, and felt a little sore last Monday. All that being said, the side effects of the first Moderna shot don’t seem any worse than side effects from many flu shots I’ve had over the years. That being said, I’ve heard that side effects from the second Moderna shot can sometimes leave someone feeling sick for a couple of days. I’ll cross that bridge when I get to it though (a bridge I’ll get to on Sunday, April 25th, when I’m scheduled for my second vaccine shot).

Speaking of vaccines, vaccine eligibility is rapidly expanding in New York, to the point that everyone sixteen and older should be eligible for COVID vaccines by next week. Even if I weren’t obese, I’d be becoming eligible soon anyway. However, since I am obese, I was able to get the vaccine at least a couple of weeks before when I would have otherwise received it.

My younger brother is no longer in quarantine at college. He reported to me that the quarantine experience was not as bad as he had feared (I think he was expecting to be completely stuck in his room for a week). More importantly, though, he remains healthy.

The news in my neighborhood, on the other hand, is not quite as good. The test positivity rate is is up above 10% again, to 10.2%. Test positivity seem to have been see-sawing around 10% for the past few weeks–sometimes just above that mark, sometimes just below that mark.

In terms of my travel plans for Easter…I have none. I’m not fully vaccinated, and even if I were fully vaccinated, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in the United States is still recommending against domestic and international travel. I figure that the CDC has taken me this far without getting COVID (or at least COVID symptoms), so I’m not going to stop following their advice now.

That’s my update for this week. I hope others are well and safe, and I wish my readers a Happy Easter, or Passover, or whatever holiday you choose to celebrate!

Coronavirus Update From New York City: March 25, 2021

I hope everyone is well, regardless of where you are.

In this post, I feel like I have more personal news to share than I’ve had in many of my posts, so buckle up…

First of all, it turns out that I am also eligible for the vaccine now, which I didn’t realize at the time I published last week’s COVID update post. Since my Body Mass Index (BMI) puts me in the “obese” category (albeit not by a ton–if I were 10 or so pounds lighter, I would not be obese based on my BMI), my obesity makes me eligible for the vaccine. It’s somewhat unfortunate my own perception of myself–the perception that I am “a little overweight” as opposed to “obese” (a perception further driven by the fact that I have actually lost a lot of weight during the pandemic)–meant that I didn’t realize I was eligible through being obese until I’ve already been eligible for a month! What’s done is done though, and I am now on the lookout for a vaccine. In the meantime, my advice to others is that even if you don’t think you are obese, check your BMI on the Adult BMI Calculator that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has anyway–you also might be eligible for a vaccine without realizing it.

The second major piece of personal news is that my younger brother is back at college. He had to go home from college like many other students last spring, and since then, he’s had some form of online learning. He is back at his school, albeit with strict COVID precautions (masking, social distancing, being tested twice a week, etc.). While the second half of the second semester of his senior year looks a lot different from what that period of life should look like, I am glad that he can see his friends in a safe manner again. The college my younger brother goes to managed to control the spread of the virus during the first half of the semester (when a different group of students were on campus), so I am hopeful that he and his friends will have a healthy second half of the second semester.

A third, and final, major piece of personal news is that I might be going back to a physical office again in early May. A lot of details still need to be ironed out though, so we’ll need to see what happens. Personally, while my initial feeling was apprehension, I am also hopeful that whenever I come back to the physical office I work at, things will work out well.

In non-personal news, the test positivity rate in my part of New York City has decreased substantially, all the way down to just over 8.5%! For a number of days, I was nervous because we weren’t getting any data reported at all on the test positivity rates, but now those numbers are getting reported and the numbers themselves are promising currently. Of course, that can quickly change with one big ill-advised party in the area, but for now, I’ll be happy with the progress on the test positivity front.

That’s it for me, for now at least. I hope others are well!

Coronavirus Update From New York City: March 18, 2021

It is only appropriate that I start my post tonight by talking about the recent shootings that happened in three Atlanta-area spas.

While there are still investigations into the exact motive(s) of the shooter, the fact that six of the eight people killed were Asian women is striking. It is especially striking in light of the wave of anti-Asian hate crimes that has happened in this country in the past year. While the shooter himself blames the shooting on his sex addiction (an addiction he “wanted to eliminate”) and not on anti-Asian hate, I would not be surprised if the perpetrator had an unconscious anti-Asian bias. Regardless of whether anti-Asian bias was a factor in these shootings, we are overdue for a reckoning on how scapegoating people of Asian descent during COVID has led to a spike in anti-Asian hate crimes.

I do have some positive news to report this week, which is that my parents have received their second vaccine doses! They received their second doses yesterday, so they should now be fully vaccinated. They do have some side effects, but side effects that beat having COVID. There is obviously some question as to how long the vaccine doses last, but for now, at least they are fully vaccinated.

There is also some question as to when exactly I will be vaccinated or when exactly my brother will be vaccinated. Everyone should be eligible for the vaccines by May 1st, per President Biden, but just because everyone will be eligible for a vaccine doesn’t mean that everyone will be able to get a vaccine. We shall see. What I will say, though, is that as soon as I can get a vaccine, I will want to get one.

It’s rather ironic that their second vaccinations are coming nearly one year after my first COVID update post–a post that had a downbeat attitude at the time because my city was in danger of running out of medical supplies. It’s nice that this post can be at least somewhat more upbeat on the public health front

That’s not to say that everything is rosy, for the test positivity rate stubbornly remains just above 10%–a rate it’s been at for the past few weeks, it feels like. I’m hoping that it’s a number that will go down again as more people get vaccinated, but for now, the test positivity numbers are stubborn. It’s a number that reminds me that while I hope for some degree of normality to come back, there’s work to do in preventing the spread of this before we get back to normal, even if it is a modified normal.

Additionally, nearly 30% of hospital beds total and over half of ICU beds at the hospital closest to where I live are occupied with COVID patients–numbers that are still considered high to extreme stress from COVID, albeit not quite as much stress as the hospital felt a few weeks ago.

Before I close this post, I want to issue a call to action to all of my readers. The call to action is that, once you receive your vaccines, let others know that you have received them, with the intention of communicating to others that the vaccines are safe. There is still some vaccine hesitancy around, and I think it is important to address that hesitancy in the circles we’re in, to the best of our abilities.

Coronavirus Update From New York City: March 11, 2021

I just listened to President Biden’s address to the nation on the COVID relief legislation he signed, as well as on the pandemic as a whole. As such, now seems as good a time as any to publish my weekly COVID update.

Ironically, the day I am posting this is also the day last year that I had my last relatively “normal” day in terms of heading to a work office, working at that office, and heading home. The following day, which was Thursday, March 12th, things were changing a lot. And, just a few days later, the whole world around me was getting topsy-turvy.

Since then, a lot of us around the United States and around the world have been through so much pain and loss, through loved ones and friends and friends of friends getting gravely ill or dying of COVID-19. The change of lifestyle has been jarring, but what really gets to me is the number of people who’ve been so severely affected by this pandemic. What also gets to me is the fact that, if we followed the public health guidance as a society, many of those deaths could have been avoided.

Now that I’ve ended my mini-rant on the anniversary of things starting to change, you all might be happy to know that my parents are getting their second COVID vaccines before long! I haven’t gotten my first dose yet, but I’m also much younger than they are and don’t have any conditions or occupations that justify my getting the vaccine at this stage. I’m really happy that my parents will be fully vaccinated soon, though. Hopefully, as more of us get vaccinated, and as enough of us hopefully take the precautions needed, we can maybe get to a “modified normal” before long where we can see family members and close friends. One can only hope.

This is a hope that President Biden shares. He thinks that with enough vaccination and cooperation with public health guidance, we could be able to gather around and celebrate on Independence Day, which is July 4th for my readers from outside the United States. Given the rebellious nature of some individuals and states, I am skeptical as to whether we will actually get there. Perhaps America will prove my skepticism wrong.

The test positivity rate for the virus is at just under 10% in my part of New York City, which is more or less stable compared to where we were last week. That seems to be a microcosm of the larger nationwide trend, which is also indicating that the number of positive cases for the virus has also plateaued from what I have heard. While that plateau is at a much lower level than where we were during the awful holiday season (in terms of number of cases and deaths), we really do need to try and get the infection rate even lower.

With all that being said, what are the memories that you, my readers, have from the first days of COVID (if they aren’t too wounding to share)? Obviously I have a lot of memories (some of which I posted here and some of which I didn’t), but I think it’s important to give voice to the stories of others too.