Coronavirus Update From New York City: October 28, 2021

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

The rate at which the virus is spreading is continuing to slow down. This mirrors what we’ve been seeing across the United States, where the spread of the Delta variant has slowed down. What this also means is that we continue to have a good percentage of ICU beds available in the New York City area (steadily at or near 40% of beds available).

Even though the spread of Delta has slowed down, there continues to be parts of the United States where the pandemic situation is quite serious. I think of those in Idaho, where fewer than half of the people in that state are vaccinated and nearly 9 in 10 ICU beds filled.[1] I think of places like the Metropolitan Houston Area in Texas, where over 9 in 10 ICU beds are filled.[2] The worst of the Delta variant may be behind many of us in many ways, but we are still facing the consequences of the variant (and low vaccination rates in many areas that allowed it to thrive).

What continues to grab headlines in New York City, when it comes to the virus, is the battle over vaccine mandates. I talked in my post last week about the debate over said mandates among all New York City employees. As of the time of my writing this post, we appear on course for the mandate to start in the coming days. There are protests over the mandates, yet I continue to remain hopeful that when all is set and done, people will choose their paychecks over all else. That is certainly what Mayor Bill de Blasio is betting on. And if the bet goes wrong, we could be in for a turbulent time with staffing shortages in New York City agencies that serve some of the most vulnerable populations, such as the homeless, those having fires, and those in jail.

That’s pretty much it for me, for now. I’m very much interested in hearing how others are going along!



Why Parents Should Involve their Kids in the Political Process

A “vote” sticker

With Election Day happening next week in the United States, I hope that my readers in the States are making plans to vote, have made plans to vote, or have already voted. While there is no presidential election on the ballot this year, unlike last year, many of us have races at the local and state level—races involving representatives who, if elected, will in many ways have a greater impact on our day-to-day lives than who is elected as President of the United States every four years.

However, with Election Day coming up, I think we should talk about more than just the importance of voting. We should talk about the importance of parents having not just themselves, but also their kids, involved in the political process.

But why? Hasn’t it been said that the two topics to avoid at the dinner table are religion and politics?

While I understand why people want to avoid talking about politics at the dinner table (politics can be so stressful, frustrating, and at times infuriating), it is important to talk about politics at dinner (and other times), including and especially around your children, so that they can get exposure to:

  • Who their representatives are, at all levels of government
  • What some of the major issues are, at least from the perspectives of the parents or guardians
  • Who is running for office, and therefore who they may find themselves being represented by, in the future
  • What the process of voting and deciding on which candidates to vote for may look like

In addition to talking, there are other things that parents can do to expose their kids to the political process, such as:

  • Listening on television to news stories about candidates in various races (with the caveat that some news sources offer more balanced coverage of the races than other sources)
  • Watching a televised debate for a political office with kids
  • Taking children with you to the polls
  • Taking children to see legislative activity going on, whether it be at the local, state, or federal level

Some kids may end up largely agreeing with their parents’ political stances while others may end up largely disagreeing. And some may end up somewhere in between. That is to be expected, but what should not be expected is to not talk about politics with a kid one is raising, so that they end up being ill-informed on politics and the people running for various political offices when they are all grown up.

After all, the goal is for the children to grow up as kind, caring, and well-informed citizens of the areas, country, and world they reside in. Not doing all we can to ensure this would be an injustice to the kids and to the world.

Coronavirus Update From New York City: October 21, 2021

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

The good news is that the rate of infection is continuing to slow down where I live. This continues to create hope that we are beyond the worst of the Delta variant of the virus, at least here in New York City. I do think we’ll have some further hurdles to clear in the holiday gatherings we’ll have over the next couple of months, and I still do not like the horrifyingly high rates of death and ICU bed occupancy that exist in parts of the country as we head into a time of year with these family gatherings.

At the same time, there is another vaccine mandate battle in my city, and this time, it’s over New York City mandating the rest of its public sector workers to get vaccinated, including agencies where vaccination rates are lower. There are some key New York City agencies with low vaccination rates, in some cases in the 60%-70% range. The police department and the fire department are among the agencies with low vaccination rates, at least as of a couple of weeks ago (when I see the most recent data from).[1] I am guessing that most workers, when faced with the choice between a paycheck and no paycheck (because these workers who don’t get vaccinated will end up on unpaid leave), will decide to get vaccinated, if grudgingly (and in some cases, perhaps even angrily) so. We’ll see if I’m right when this mandate is scheduled to go into effect one week from tomorrow.

Speaking of the low vaccination rates among some New York City agencies, I think one thing I’m definitely reflecting on is the fact that some of the agencies with the lowest vaccination rates are also some of the agencies serving the most vulnerable and disadvantaged populations. Among the ten agencies in my city with the lowest vaccination rates are the child welfare agency (the Administration for Children’s Services), the agency that deals with individuals experiencing homelessness (the Department of Homeless Services), the fire department, the agency responsible for overseeing public housing (the New York City Housing Authority), and the agency responsible for New York City’s prison population (the Department of Correction).[2] I wish that people in the media pick up on that fact, because it is definitely something interesting that I’ve noticed. I can’t help but wonder whether other cities are also seeing that agencies serving the most vulnerable also have the lowest vaccination rates. And if so, I can’t help but wonder why that is the case. Perhaps these musings can be the inspiration for a study from someone, some day.

On a different note, I must point out that where these ICU issues are happening seems to be in parts of the country where vaccination rates are lower. It is not as much of an issue in places like the New York City area, where 40% of ICU beds are still available.[3]

I should also follow up on something I talked about in last week’s blog post: holiday gatherings. My post last week noted that there were still real questions about what the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidance will be when it comes to holiday gatherings. This week, I can say that the CDC emphasizes the importance of good ventilation and vaccinations as the most important considerations in making sure you have a safe holiday season.[4] So, I guess the moral of all of this is for people who haven’t been vaccinated to get vaccinated.

That’s pretty much it from my part of the world. I’d be interested to hear how others are doing, though!





On Plastic Bag Bans, From an Environmental Perspective

A couple years ago, a ban on single-use plastic bags came into effect in my home state of New York to much fanfare. Now that this ban has been theoretically[1] in effect in my home state for a couple of years now, and now that several other states and municipalities have enacted similar bans over the past several years,[2] I think it is time to honestly evaluate plastic bag bans from an environmental perspective.

I should start by saying that single-use plastics are not what I, or anyone else who cares about the environment, should advocate for. Environmental advocates point out that single-use plastic bags are bad for the environment in a multitude of ways, ranging from impacts on the climate to harming our wildlife.[3] A status quo of single-use, non-recyclable plastic bags (or single-use bags of any kind, for that matter) is simply not sustainable for ourselves, our fellow animals, or our planet in the long-term.

However, when one looks at the environmental impacts of reusable bags, the reality is more complicated than one may realize. Columbia University’s Climate School noted that bags designed to last longer “are made of heavier materials, so they use more resources in production and therefore have greater environmental impacts.”[4] Therefore, bags designed to be reusable need to be reused many times over in order to have a climate footprint equivalent to our traditional single-use plastic bag brethren—50 to 150 times for a cotton bag, 10-20 times for a durable polypropylene (PP) bag, and 5-10 times for a somewhat less durable but still reusable polyethylene (PE) bag.[5]

But, there is a catch—as the United Nations Environment Programme noted, in order to have cotton bags, PP bags, and PE bags with an equivalent environmental footprint to single-use plastic bags, people need to keep on reusing the bags, and the bags themselves need to be durable. Unfortunately, a problem that my family, as well as people around me, have run into is that some bags are not very durable and have a tendency to fall apart before using the bag the number of times we need to in order to make them even environmentally equivalent to single-use plastic bags. I know some people who have used certain reusable plastic bags at least once a week (if not more than that) for years now, in which case the bags they’ve used have ended up being better for the environment than single-use plastic bags. However, I also know some people who’ve seen reusable bags fall apart after being used only on a few occasions.

While I would still not advocate for single-use plastic bags, unfortunately the reality of reusable bags is that it is questionable whether they are better for the environment than the single-use ones. Before drawing conclusions about the overall environmental footprint of various reusable bags in relation to single-use ones, I would personally first like to see how long the average cotton bag, PP bag, and PE bag lasts. If they don’t last the requisite number of times to have an environmental footprint equivalent to single-use plastic bags, then perhaps our traditional plastic bags that we get (or used to get) at grocery stores, as bad as they are, may yet be better for the environment than the reusable bags we’ve resorted to in some municipalities and states.

I will leave my readers with one last thought, a thought that might actually be the inspiration of a future blog post: just because something is reusable doesn’t automatically mean that the thing is good for the environment.

[1] I say “theoretically” because enforcement on the ban has been shaky at best. Here’s a news story about these issues with enforcement:

[2] The National Conference of State Legislatures notes the states and notable municipalities with various plastic bag bans and fees:




Coronavirus Update From New York City: October 14, 2021

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

In personal news, just to pick up where I left off last week with my parents receiving a booster shot of the Pfizer vaccine, I should note that they experienced some side effects that were reminiscent of having a mild case of the virus for a short period of time. However, after about a day or so passed, they felt much better. For those worried about side effects from the vaccines, whether it be with the first two doses or with a booster shot, I hope that this story encourages people to get vaccinated, because having mild COVID symptoms for a day certainly beats getting the real thing and struggling with the impacts of it for months, if not more.

The other good news in my part of the world is that the rate at which the virus is spreading is continuing to slow down. The rate is not slowing at quite the drastic rate that it is in certain other parts of the country, but once again, the the percent of people testing positive for the virus where I lived was paling in comparison to parts of the country with lower vaccination rates. Still, I’m glad that the rate of infection is decreasing, and am genuinely hoping that we have passed through the worst of the Delta variant. If we have passed the worst of the variant in New York, we have gone through it without having our hospitals completely overwhelmed–something that can’t be said for certain parts of the country.

The news is not all good, though: there are still real questions as to how we should all gather with our families for American Thanksgiving, which happens on the fourth Thursday of November. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) does not have final word yet on holiday gatherings yet, but early indications seem to be showing that outdoor gatherings are best (which would be quite cold in New York by late November, by the way), and that if you must do an indoor gathering, there are a variety of considerations that people will need to be mindful of, ranging from mask-wearing to social distancing to ventilation.[1]

Honestly, I’m not going to lie here–I really look forward to the day that we can gather with friends and extended family without all these different considerations with regards to the virus. But we’re not there yet. Hopefully, we will be there soon.