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.

Scapegoating Groups During a Crisis is Nothing New

I live in New York City, where in recent weeks there have been some absolutely horrid hate crimes against people of Asian descent. This is happening in a year when hate crimes against people of Asian descent are on the rise, as well.[1] These hate crimes are disgusting and uncalled for, and such hate crimes cannot be condemned strongly enough.

However, it is not enough to condemn the hate crimes. Instead, we should look at the root cause of them: anti-Asian sentiment related to COVID-19. More specifically, anti-Asian sentiment tied to the gravely mistaken idea that since the virus originated in Asia, people who look Asian are the cause of everything wrong with the situation in the United States (and around the world, for that matter) for the past year. Given that gravely mistaken, yet widespread, idea, it is no wonder that so many Asians have been victims of hate crimes in the United States.

Looking at the big picture, though, hate crimes against Asians during COVID-19 is actually the latest manifestation of a problem we seem to run into in the United States time and time again: if certain people of a particular ethnicity or religion are viewed as causing a crisis, then all too often everyone of that ethnicity or religion is scapegoated to the point of hate and violence.

Here are a few examples of this happening in the past century:

  • In World War I, there was an outbreak of anti-German sentiment that targeted German immigrants, German-Americans, and even the German language. There was a great deal of suspicion about the loyalties of anyone German-related during this time period.[2] All of this was the result of Germany being a foe of the United States in that war.
  • In World War II, people of Japanese descent were moved to internment camps by the United States, once again because of questions and doubts over the loyalties of people of Japanese descent.[3] All of this was a result of Japan being a foe of the United States in that war.
  • After the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, Muslims and Sikhs were frequent targets of hate crimes—Muslims for being perceived as being like the terrorists who attacked the United States on 9/11, and Sikhs for being perceived as being Muslim (because of the turbans Sikh men wear). Some of these crimes happened in my neighborhood in Queens. All of this was the result of a group of Muslims attacking the United States on September 11, 2001.

And now, yet again, people of a particular group are being scapegoated, in the form of people of Asian descent being scapegoated to the point of hate crimes as a result of COVID-19.

Sometimes, history does repeat itself in bad ways.

But what are the implications of the fact that this history does repeat itself in bad ways?

At a personal level, I think it reminds us that this is not a new phenomenon—that of scapegoating groups perceived as being the cause of our problems. It is an issue that has existed for many years, even before many of us were born, and what we see now is the latest manifestation of that old phenomenon.

For policymakers, a start would be to not have rhetoric and/or actions that further fan flames that result in the scapegoating of certain groups. Former President Donald Trump’s calling COVID-19 the “China Virus” could be cited as an example of this problem, but Trump is far from being the only major leader to have made this mistake. For example, the way President Woodrow Wilson spoke unapprovingly of “hyphenated Americans” did not help the cause of German-Americans during World War I,[4] and Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s Japanese internment camps did not help the cause of Japanese-Americans during World War II. This is not to say that the current situation for people of Asian descent would be perfect if Former President Trump had no “China Virus” rhetoric, but words and/or actions like those certainly do not help. More needs to be done than simply our leadership avoiding the scapegoating themselves, but it’s a start.

Unfortunately, history has repeated itself. However, what we can do is learn from our dealing with hate crimes against people of Asian descent and strive to be better in the future.


[1] https://www.npr.org/2021/02/27/972056885/anti-asian-hate-crimes-rise-dramatically-amid-pandemic

[2] https://www.npr.org/2017/04/07/523044253/during-world-war-i-u-s-government-propaganda-erased-german-culture#:~:text=Some%20Germans%20and%20German%2DAmericans%20were%20attacked%20during%20World%20War%20I.,-Courtesy%20of%20Jeffrey&text=The%201910%20census%20counted%20more,longer%2C%20many%20since%20Colonial%20times.

[3] https://www.archives.gov/education/lessons/japanese-relocation

[4] https://www.loc.gov/classroom-materials/immigration/german/shadows-of-war/

Coronavirus Update From New York City: March 4, 2021

It is hard to believe that it has nearly been a full year since I published my first post related to COVID on my blog. On March 9, 2020, I published a post explaining why the idea of not going to work when you’re sick is also not doable for many people. It’s hard to believe that one year later, we’re still talking about this pandemic.

The good news is that it does appear that in my neighborhood, COVID numbers are once again going in the right direction. The test positivity rate is at 9.9%, which means that it is below 10% in my neighborhood in over a couple of months. Hopefully the test positivity rate will continue to go down, even as there is concern about the various variants circling around, including this New York variant. Personally, considering that my neighborhood in Queens is a major port of entry for people and diseases alike, I wouldn’t be surprised if some of the variants people are expressing concern about have already come through my area.

Deaths also seem to be going down statewide from COVID. During New York State’s secondary peak in late January, the state was averaging close to 200 deaths from the pandemic per day. We are now averaging a little under 120 deaths per day from the pandemic, which is better than we were at, but still a significantly higher rate than where we were at during the summer and fall.

Needless to say, regardless of what certain governors may be (wrongly) doing in lifting certain COVID restrictions, particularly in places where COVID remains a major issue, now is not the time to relax public health measures but instead redouble them. With vaccinations coming at a faster clip now, we are in a position to put a real and hopefully long-lasting dent in this thing. A better future is potentially in sight if we continue doing our parts by masking, practicing social distancing, and limiting gatherings with people outside of our COVID bubbles. Let us not lose sight of that better future.

Policing and Schools with Majority-Minority Populations

Ever since the storming of the United States Capitol Building on January 6th, there have been ongoing debates about how much security to have at the building, and how much to force members of the United States Congress to be subject to certain security regulations. Some of these debates and disagreements have even resulted in some members of Congress defying security regulations put into place…or at least attempting to do so.[1]

My initial thought when reading about the actions of some of the aforementioned defiant individuals: “This shows how privileged they are—openly defying some of the very same security measures that many kids in schools across the United States have to experience and have no choice in experiencing.” But lately, as drastic as this sounds, my thoughts this issue have turned to other questions.

Why do we have things like police officers, metal detectors, and locked gates at our schools? And why do we need bodyguards in the same space where students learn math, social studies, and science?

I used to assume that it was because school shootings are unfortunately a risk in the United States, and that these measures were an attempt to keep such heinous tragedies from happening.

My assumption was wrong.

As it turns out, the biggest predictor of which schools receive such stringent security measures is not crime in the neighborhood or anything crime-related, but skin color.[2] Evidence of this fact is how majority-minority schools are two to eighteen times as likely as schools with small nonwhite populations (under 20% nonwhite) to have metal detectors, school police and security guards, locked gates, and random sweeps.[3] A blunt way to summarize the current scholarship on security measures at schools is that it’s disproportionately used to treat students of color like suspected criminals.

But if school security measures are used in such problematic and even racist ways, what are the implications? Where do we go from here?

On a practical level, it means that there needs to be an honest answering of two questions:

  1. Should we even have security measures, such as bodyguards and metal detectors, at schools? Interestingly, it is not even a given that said measures even work at accomplishing the supposedly intended goal of keeping schools safe.[4] If the measures don’t even accomplish the goals they are supposed to, they are a huge waste of time for the people involved in keeping things “safe,” as well as a waste of money.
  2. If the answer to the previous question is yes, how can such security measures be better targeted so that we don’t continue to disproportionately treat students of color like suspected criminals?

On a political level, especially in relation to the increased security for members of the United States Congress in the wake of the attempted January 6, 2021 insurrection, I wish that the same energy dedicated to figuring out what level of security is appropriate for members of Congress were also dedicated to figuring out what level of security is appropriate for schools, and particularly schools that serve large populations of students of color. Security at the United States Capitol is important and should be deliberated, but so should the security of students going to school every day, and making sure that the way we implement security measures at schools is not based on the racial makeup of them. In the wake of mass school shooting tragedies in the last few decades ranging from Columbine to Sandy Hook, we know that the solution is not to completely ignore the issue of school security, but at the same time serious questions should be asked about the way school security is currently approached.

On the big-picture level, in terms of racial issues, the implication is that the issue of security measures in schools is yet another manifestation of racism in the way majority-minority populations are policed (something I’ve talked about in a previous blog post, by the way). While a fair bit of attention on racism and minority populations is focused on the shootings of unarmed people of color, some attention should also be dedicated to the policing of schools where most of their students are people of color.


[1] https://www.denverpost.com/2021/01/12/lauren-boebert-guns-congress-security-stop/

[2] https://stateofopportunity.michiganradio.org/post/metal-detectors-and-strict-policing-schools-criminalize-minority-students-study-says

[3] The paper that has these findings can be found here: https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2830885. If you want a summary of the findings, you can read them here: https://stateofopportunity.michiganradio.org/post/metal-detectors-and-strict-policing-schools-criminalize-minority-students-study-says

[4] Ibid.

Coronavirus Update From New York City: February 25, 2021

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

So, in last week’s COVID update post, I lamented about the lack of vaccine availability for my parents, even though they live in a place where COVID is a major issue. That situation has changed significantly, and evidence of that is the fact that they got their first dose of the vaccine yesterday! I am grateful for the efforts of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) for their work in significantly increasing vaccine appointment availability in communities in my area hit hard by COVID yet also underserved by vaccinations. I am also grateful for how smoothly the vaccine site was run, according to my parents. If you live in Queens or Brooklyn and you’re among the populations eligible for COVID-19 vaccines now, please visit https://am-i-eligible.covid19vaccine.health.ny.gov/ to see if you are eligible. For readers who live in Queens and Brooklyn, please spread this information far and wide! Now that there is somewhat greater supply, we want to make sure that people in at-risk populations take advantage of that supply.

This good news does not take away from the fact that COVID is still existent in high numbers in my area–nearly 12% in my zip code, to be exact. The test positivity rate is actually a little higher this week than it was last week. The high COVID rates show that now is absolutely not a time to get complacent with the mask-wearing, the social distancing, or other precautions. Especially since hospital beds in my area are still slammed from the virus, it is important for people to act with caution. I will also add that even if you have been vaccinated, you should continue to wear your mask and practice social distancing.

The other piece of bad news out of New York is that a new variant of the virus has been discovered spreading in New York City. There is concern that this variant may be more resistant to the vaccines being administered than COVID in its other forms, but local health officials are reminding residents that based on the science currently out there, it is premature to reach such a conclusion about the New York variant.[1] Based on the guidance I’ve heard from public health officials, it sounds like we shouldn’t panic yet, but it is completely possible that the New York variant will turn out to be a cause for concern. For now, let’s just keep our fingers crossed that the New York variant turns out to not be that bad.

In different New York-related news, sporting arenas are now reopening for fans, albeit at an extremely limited capacity.[2] It looks like you are required to get a test before you come to one of these games (and not just any test, but apparently the so-called PCR tests, so it’s a specific type of test), so unless there’s something I’m missing, the combination of the required testing and the limited capacity make it seem like this is a low-risk move from a COVID transmission standpoint. If any COVID experts happen to stumble upon this post and my assessment is incorrect, though, please let me know–I’m more than happy to be corrected by public health experts if anything needs correcting.

That is the most recent update on how I am. I’m happy to hear how others are doing, though!


[1] https://www.reuters.com/article/us-health-coronavirus-usa/new-york-officials-others-downplay-concern-over-new-coronavirus-variant-idUSKBN2AP2UY

[2] https://abc7ny.com/covid-vaccine-barclays-center-reopening-brooklyn-nets-nyc-covid-19-finder/10363564/