Coronavirus Update From New York City: May 20, 2021

This week, there is some big news within my family. My younger brother graduated from college! I am so incredibly proud of him and all the other students who overcame the challenges of education during COVID in order to graduate from college.

A major part of that graduation weekend involved doing some things that I had not done since before COVID, and as such was a little terrifying at first.

For example, the festivities surrounding the graduation itself made me a little nervous at first, I must admit. In particular, the large gathering of people out and about (with the graduates and their families) after the ceremony. I acknowledge that said nerves were not the most rational, for there were a combination of factors that made my catching COVID remote–not a single student present at the graduation festivities has tested positive for COVID symptoms (my brother’s college did COVID testing twice a week), not a single person present would be present if they had tested positive for COVID, the activities were all outdoors, I was wearing my mask, and I am fully vaccinated. However, sometimes nerves are not rational.

Walking through a rather busy diner after my brother’s ceremony in order to use a restroom also made me a little nervous. Between the number of people in the diner and the fact that I’m not sure the diner had good ventilation, my fears related to being in that diner (if even for a brief time) might be somewhat more rational than being at the graduation festivities. Still, between my mask-wearing, my being fully vaccinated, and the fact that I was only in the diner for a short time (only for a couple of minutes), I’m still one to think that my chances of catching COVID in that diner were extremely low.

I guess the moral of these two stories from last weekend is that it is not abnormal for us to struggle with fears, even fears that might not make the most sense, due to what we’ve been through with COVID-19 in the past year. It may feel freakish to struggle with some of those basic activities, especially if we have friends or family members who aren’t freaking out about similar activities. However, we are anything but freakish.

In other good news, COVID in my part of New York City continues to be on the decline–now down to under 3% in my zip code.[1] Most of all, a much smaller percentage of both hospital beds and ICU beds are being taken up by COVID patients in the hospital near where I live–15% of adult hospital beds and 31% of ICU beds.[2] Hopefully COVID will continue to go in the right direction where I am.

I hope others are well and safe!


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

[2] https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2020/12/09/944379919/new-data-reveal-which-hospitals-are-dangerously-full-is-yours

Mental Health and the Coronavirus

As some readers might happen to know, May is Mental Health Awareness Month. Given that fact, I think it is time for me to talk about something that I probably should’ve covered on my blog long ago: the topic of mental health and the Coronavirus.

That being said, given the trauma that some of us have experienced and may be continuing to experience from the sicknesses and losses of family members, coworkers, neighbors, and or/friends, the topic of mental health and the coronavirus is still very relevant, I think.

I am not a mental health expert. However, my own experiences, the experiences of family and friends over the past year, and the stories I have heard about other similarly traumatic events have taught me a few things that I think a lot of us should keep in mind going forward:

  1. Different people deal with the same challenging, even traumatic, events in different ways. Each person’s body is different, and each person’s mental health state is different. As such, each of us is going to deal with events like what happened in the past year in a different way.
  2. It is not abnormal for some of us to deal with phobias related to a traumatic event long after that event is over. On a personal level, due to terrorist attacks involving airplanes on September 11, 2001, I’ve had a fear of low-flying airplanes ever since that day. Even though we are nearly twenty years removed from that dreadful day, it is a fear that has never gone away, and it’s a fear that may very well stay with me for the rest of my life. I’m not sharing this story to freak people out, but to instead remind us that we should not be freaked out if some of us may likewise grapple with phobias after other traumatic events, including what we’ve been through with COVID during the past fourteen months or so.
  3. Because of the difficulties (even traumas) some of us went through, it may require a little bit of patience with ourselves when we struggle emotionally do certain things for the first time since before things shut down as a result of COVID-19. I remember the hesitation I had when I took public transit for the first time since things shut down as a result of COVID, for example—there was definitely a bit of a mental barrier that I had to get through. Such will be the case for others of us, I’m sure. To make it more challenging emotionally as we sort out what things we can do (in spite of any fears we have) and what things we should avoid is the fact that COVID is still very much around and deadly—as a result, unvaccinated individuals, in particular, will need to continue acting with some level of caution.
  4. Dealing with the emotional strain of difficult events from the past year is not a linear process. For me, one of the biggest emotional strains was hearing the endless noise of hospital sirens as COVID was getting bad. There are still times that I come back to that moment and feel a little (or a lot) emotional. There is sometimes this expectation that after a certain point, we should be “over” such difficult events. That expectation is, to use a favorite President Biden expression, malarkey.
  5. There is immense emotional and mental value to in-person connection with other people, even for many of us who are introverts. I’m an introvert myself, and I readily admit that the past year has shown me that, while things like Zoom and Google Hangouts are better than nothing, there is sometimes no substitute mentally and emotionally for in-person connection. Now, I am not against the precautions that needed to be done in order to protect ourselves and others from the coronavirus (if anything, I was for those precautions). But nevertheless, the past year has also shown many of us introverts that in-person connection is so important both emotionally and mentally.

These were a few of the major things that COVID-19 have taught me in terms of caring for mental health. That being said, if there are other lessons that we should learn from a mental health standpoint as a result of COVID-19, feel free to comment below!

additional advice on how to navigate through the pandemic mentally, and for learning about resources in the event that you are struggling to navigate through the challenges of COVID-19, consult the page that the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has on mental health and COVID-19. If you don’t live in the United States, please consult the mental health resources for where you live.

Coronavirus Update From New York City: May 13, 2021

I start today’s post with another dose of good news: my younger brother is now fully vaccinated!

He got vaccinated last Friday. His side effects were in many ways similar to mine: chills, a headache, fatigue, a sore arm, and nausea (which was something I didn’t have much of, though I had little appetite). And, like me, he started getting those side effects about 12 hours or so after his second dose, and the side effects lasted for 24 hours or less (with him, it was under 24 hours, with the exception of the arm soreness that lasted longer). I share my brother’s side effects (with his permission by the way) to yet again highlight that for all the vaccine hesitancy over side effects, the side effects are very short-term (the very rare blood clots from the Johnson & Johnson notwithstanding) and are child’s play compared to getting the virus (some of whom still suffer certain symptoms for months or over a year after catching the virus).

What this means is that everyone in the household I am in is now fully vaccinated, even if one member of the household (my younger brother) is still off at college. It also means that the risk of any of us catching COVID-19, which we were already all trying to limit through wearing masks and practicing social distancing, is even lower now. It’s a relief to know that all four of us are now vaccinated.

Also a relief is the fact that the test positivity rate for COVID has plummeted both in New York City and in my part of New York City. The test positivity rate citywide is now under 2% and it is just over 3% in my zip code.[2] The days of test positivity well over 10% in my area seem so long ago and yet so short ago at the same time. I am hoping that we continue trending in that direction, and that we can get to a point with this awful pandemic that we can at least have this thing well under control.

The one piece of not-so-good news is that New York City, like many other parts of the United States, are starting to experience slowdowns in the number of people getting vaccinated. In early April, there were over 100,000 people per day getting vaccinated–that number has slowed down significantly since then.[3] My guess as to what is happening here is that many of the people who were enthusiastic about getting vaccines have now been vaccinated (me being among them, as I got my first dose around the time that daily vaccine doses distributed in New York City was about to hit its peak). Now, in many cases, I think we are to the populations that were waiting for the right time to get vaccinated (in terms of work obligations) as well as the vaccine-hesitant.

I will be interested to hear how readers are doing!


[1] https://www1.nyc.gov/site/doh/covid/covid-19-goals.page#viz1607355501127

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

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

Nursing Homes and the Coronavirus

As my readers know by now, the death toll from the Coronavirus in the United States has been astronomical—heading towards 600,000. Also astronomical is the fact that 182,000 of those deaths, as of April 15th, have happened in nursing homes, whether it be residents or staff.[1] What this means is that over 30% of total deaths reported from COVID-19 in the United States have been related to nursing homes, in spite of the fact that nursing home residents and staff combine for about one half of one percent of the total population in the United States.[2]

But how did we get here, and where do we go from here?

Yes, a high percentage of the population who died from this virus were over the age of 65, and yes, nursing homes have high concentrations of older persons. However, simply attributing what happened during COVID-19 in nursing homes to their having lots of older persons is a copout to me. It is a copout because people involved with nursing homes are dying at a much higher rate than seniors as a whole.[3]

Instead, what we’re dealing with is that too many nursing homes and too many policy decisions related to nursing homes during COVID were/are broken on so many levels. Here are some of the ways in which many nursing homes, as well as many policy decisions around nursing homes, are broken:

  • Understaffed nursing homes
  • Poor quality of care at many nursing homes
  • Nursing home neglect, which stems from the aforementioned two issues
  • Deprioritizing of nursing homes by many government officials
  • Outdated laws
  • Inadequate government oversight (and oversight in general) with nursing homes[4]

The fact that so many deaths happened, and that so many of the deaths could have been avoided with better care from nursing homes and better government oversight of them, is a point of grief, I think. These deaths needn’t have happened. If it is a point of grief for you as it is for me, you might be interested in attending an event on May 20th that will be focusing on honoring nursing home lives.[5]

However, beyond grief there will be a need for significant reforms of our nursing homes—from the way we do (or don’t prioritize) them to the oversight they are given, there is significant need for wholesale changes. They are needed before the next pandemic, because yes, I believe there will be another one at some point. And they are needed so that we can extend and improve the lives of people in our nursing homes.

It’s time to value the lives of people in our nursing homes.


[1] https://www.aarp.org/ppi/issues/caregiving/info-2020/nursing-home-covid-dashboard.html

[2] The total population in the country is just over 330 million people: https://www.census.gov/popclock/. When adding the 1.25 million or so who live in nursing homes (https://www.kff.org/other/state-indicator/number-of-nursing-facility-residents/?currentTimeframe=0&sortModel=%7B%22colId%22:%22Location%22,%22sort%22:%22asc%22%7D) and the over 600,000 people who work in a nursing home (https://phinational.org/wp-content/uploads/legacy/phi-nursing-assistants-key-facts.pdf), what we’re left with is a group of less than 2 million people that only takes up approximately half a percent of the total United States population.

[3] As of May 4, out of a total senior population of 52.4 million in the United States (https://acl.gov/sites/default/files/Aging%20and%20Disability%20in%20America/2019ProfileOlderAmericans508.pdf), about 447,000 people over 65 have died (https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/nvss/vsrr/covid_weekly/index.htm#SexAndAge); this amounts to .8% of the total senior population. On the other hand, there are 180,000 deaths out of 1.85 million (or so) people involved in nursing homes, which means that nearly 10% the total population related to nursing homes have died from COVID. Truly shocking.

[4] Many of these points come from an AARP report on the number of deaths in long-term care due to COVID. Note that the number back in early December, when this piece was written, was “only” just over 100,000: https://www.aarp.org/caregiving/health/info-2020/covid-19-nursing-homes-who-is-to-blame.html 

[5] Disclaimer: I volunteer for the organization that is facilitating the event. Still, since we’re talking about nursing home lives, I think it is worthwhile to note this event. By the way, the event is the inspiration for this post.

Coronavirus Update From New York City: May 6, 2021

Today’s COVID update post is somewhat less exciting than last week’s update post, for I do not have a vaccine (or its side effects) to report on. That being said, I am a few days away from having the maximum immunity built up (I took my second dose a week and a half ago), so having full immunity will be exciting.

There has been much talk about what someone can do if they are fully vaccinated. Given all the discussion on what a fully vaccinated person can do (or should do), and what a fully vaccinated person should still be cautious with, I’m going to get involved in that discussion by talking about how I plan to conduct myself once I am at maximum immunity starting in a few days. The goal of talking about how I plan to conduct myself once I have that immunity built up is to hopefully get others thinking about how they want to move forward when they are fully vaccinated.

How I plan to conduct myself, in terms of the activities I am willing to do, will depend on answers to several questions:

  1. What COVID-19 variants are around? Furthermore, are said variants deadly? And if said variants are deadly, how well do my Moderna shots protect me from getting those variants? If there are deadly variants around, I want to be sure that my Moderna shots protect me from getting said deadly variants. If I’m not sure whether the Moderna keeps me from contracting a deadly variant going around, then I would still act with some level of caution. To use a relevant example, unless there is information I have missed, there’s still more to learn about how well the vaccine responds to the deadly Indian variant, so I will want to act with a bit of caution (especially when it comes to the riskiest activities from a COVID standpoint, such as dining indoors and being in crowds indoors). According to Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director of the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, the Covaxin vaccine that’s being used in India is preliminarily showing promise against this variant,[1] but alas, the vaccine shot I got was not Covaxin but Moderna. One note I should add is that if we’re in a place where none of the variants are deadly and/or the Moderna vaccine is known to be effective against the most serious variants that are around, then I would be willing to engage in even the riskier activities (though I imagine there will be a mental barrier to get through on the first occasion that I, say, dine indoors for the first time since pre-COVID).
  2. How much community spread is there of the virus where I live, and how much community spread is there where I want to go? Even if I’m unsure how well my Moderna shot works against certain variants, if community spread of COVID-19 is pretty low, then I would feel safe with a wider variety of activities than if community spread were pretty high. In my case, I live in a county (Queens County) where the rate of infection is below 1.0,[2] which in layperson’s terms means that at the rate we’re going, we’re going at a rate to slow and hopefully eventually stop the spread of the disease.[3] As such, I might be willing to do somewhat more in terms of activities (especially given that I’m fully vaccinated) than I would even if I were vaccinated and community spread (particularly spread of variants with unknown effectiveness with the Moderna) were widespread.
  3. If we don’t know whether my Moderna shots react to a deadly variant going around, is the activity I’m thinking of an activity that’s relatively safe even if I were unvaccinated? We have a fair bit of data of which activities are safe or unsafe for even unvaccinated people, and the results may be surprising. For all that public transport has a reputation for being a germ factory, for example, there is no correlation found between riding subways and COVID-19 spread.[4] On the other hand, if you are indoors in a place with poor ventilation, having six feet of distance between yourself and someone else may not be enough.[5]

Before wrapping up my post, I should also note that the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has its own chart on which activities are and are not safe for both fully vaccinated people and unvaccinated people.[6] My approach to COVID as a fully vaccinated person seems to be a little more cautious than what the CDC’s guidance lays out currently, but at the same time, the CDC’s guidance is worth noting because as I have said to my parents on multiple occasions, following their guidance has helped me get this far without catching COVID.

While I don’t know how much (if at all) my readers will agree with my guiding principles for what activities I do, post-vaccination, I hope that at least this post will get other people thinking about what they do after getting vaccinated. Overall, getting the vaccine is worth it to me because it protects us against so many troublesome variants, but I plan on acting with caution with certain activities until we learn more about how the Moderna vaccine responds against other troublesome variants; notably, the Indian variant.


[1] https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/press-briefings/2021/04/27/press-briefing-by-white-house-covid-19-response-team-and-public-health-officials-32/

[2] https://covidestim.org/us/NY/36081

[3] You may’ve heard that in certain places, the rate of infection is “below 1.0” or “above 1.0.” Here, you can find an explanation of what these numbers mean: https://www.yalemedicine.org/news/12-best-covid-19-prevention-strategies

[4] https://gothamist.com/news/new-study-finds-no-direct-link-between-subway-covid-19-spread

[5] https://www.nbcnews.com/health/health-news/6-feet-may-not-always-be-enough-distance-protect-covid-n1238083

[6] https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/daily-life-coping/participate-in-activities.html