Access to Free Coronavirus Testing: An Important Issue

The other day, I was searching for where I could get a free Coronavirus test. Namely, I was looking to hopefully get what is called a PCR test—the test that usually takes a couple of days to get the results from, but is also very accurate.[1] And so, I called around and looked around to see where I could get my test.

The first place I called said that their test would cost $290. When I first heard this, I asked whether he meant $2.90, stunned that it could possibly be $290. But it was $290. A place taking advantage of legitimate fear about the Coronavirus to charge nearly $300 for a test that you can get for free in certain places should be ashamed of itself.

The second place I called said that their test would cost $125. Okay, so it’s not as bad as $290, but it is still far from free.

Eventually I was able to get a free Coronavirus test from a public hospital that was about 15 minutes away from where I work. I was blessed. Yet, I left myself feeling extremely bothered by the fact that a place had the gall to charge $290 (or even $125) for a test that everyone should have easy access to in order to make sure that they are not spreading the virus (even asymptomatically, which can commonly happen even among vaccinated individuals) to other people. 

My experience here leaves me with a bothersome question: Are there other places where the only testing options nearby are places charging ludicrous fees? I hope the answer is no, but I fear that the answer is yes.

Even if the answer is no, an effort needs to be made to make sure that as many of the testing sites as possible are made as cheap as possible (ideally free). That way, instead of having a few free testing sites in each area where the lines are long, there are a lot of free testing sites in each area where the lines are short and the chances of coming across someone else with the virus are relatively low. After all, one should desire for it to be as easy and quick as possible to get tested, so that they can see whether they have the virus and need to act accordingly.

But if the answer is yes, then I personally think this is something where government needs to step up its game and provide free options for testing. In a case where we’re trying as best as we can to control the spread of the virus, it seems ridiculous that we would have areas devoid of free testing sites so that it is practically impossible to get a low-cost or no-cost test for the Coronavirus.

Ultimately, with the fact that even fully vaccinated people can transmit the virus and spread it, it is extremely important that we make sure that all people, regardless of vaccine status, have easy access to free Coronavirus testing. This is an important issue indeed, because nobody should have to pay $125, let alone $290, just to see whether they have the virus and could potentially spread it to others.


Coronavirus Update From New York City (Again): August 12, 2021

I had really hoped that I was done with these updates on the Coronavirus, but the Delta variant of this virus had other plans.

Just a couple of months ago, things had looked relatively hopeful, between the number of people vaccinated and the low rate of infection. However, infections have increased drastically over the past few weeks, to the point that the United States is averaging over 100,000 cases per day. It is no different in New York City, where we have gone from averaging just over 200 cases per day a few weeks ago to now averaging nearly per day.[1]

Even more disturbing is that there are increasing stories of so-called “breakthrough cases,” or cases where people who are fully vaccinated have tested positive for the virus. What this means is that vaccinated people, such as myself, can get Delta and spread it, potentially–an especially big concern as some kids are going back to class for school (and of particular concern among the under-12 population that is not eligible to get vaccinated yet).

With this combination of news, I concluded that unfortunately, it was time to relaunch my weekly updates. In this set of weekly updates on the Coronavirus in New York City, I hope to document both how I/my family is doing with the situation, how New York City and/or New York State is doing, and how the United States is doing as a whole. These updates are my way of conveying how things are like where I am, and it is also my way of making sure that certain messages that need to be conveyed about this virus are conveyed.[2]

Speaking of conveying information, I should convey that one of the best things people can do to protect themselves and others is to get vaccinated. Research is suggesting that vaccinated people who get Delta are infected for a shorter period of time than the unvaccinated, which means the potential for less spread.[3] Data also suggests that breakthrough cases account for only a tiny fraction of COVID hospitalizations and deaths–showing that even with the Delta variant, the vaccines are highly effective in preventing one from getting a severe cases of the virus.[4] So if you haven’t been vaccinated yet, I beg you to get vaccinated! It is for your own good, as well as the good of those around you.

However, we should be mindful of the fact that we should do more than make sure we are vaccinated. As much as some people may hate to read my saying this, I think we need to mask again–both indoors as well as times we encounter crowds outdoors.[5] I also think we should start to (again) limit the extent to which we are around large and tightly-packed crowds, both indoors and outdoors (so this so-called “Homecoming Concert” that’s being held in my city in a couple of weeks is a big mistake, in my personal opinion). We should (again) practice social distancing as much as we can, and we should (again) make sure to avoid poorly-ventilated indoor spaces as much as we can.

This is annoying, and I want this virus to be over as much as anyone else, but we need to do all we can to protect the vulnerable, whether it be immunocompromised people or children or people still with COVID symptoms who are therefore unable to get vaccinated.


[2] People should, first and foremost, listen to public health experts. However, I recognize that people also listen to other people they trust, whether it be politicians they trust, friends they trust, and writers they trust. As such, while I am not a scientist, I feel a big responsibility to make sure that accurate information regarding the science of the virus is conveyed to my readers.


[4] Hopefully people won’t be treated to a paywall, but if so, you are warned, because The New York Times sometimes has a paywall:


Simone Biles, Sexual Abuse, and Mental Health

Simone Biles. Agência Brasil Fotografias, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Content warnings: Sexual abuse, suicide

One of the major stories of the recently concluded Summer Olympics was how decorated American gymnast Simone Biles was ultimately not involved in several of the events that she qualified for as a result of her struggles with mental health. Reaction to this seemed a bit split: many praised her for prioritizing her mental health, while some critics thought of her as a quitter.

Just to clarify, I fall into the former category, not the latter. I think Simone Biles did the right thing in prioritizing her mental health, even if it meant missing some major events this Olympics. To do otherwise would’ve been a danger to her mental and her physical health, which is more important than any Olympic medal.

Yet, at the same time, it seems like there’s often been something missing from the conversations about Simone Biles and her mental health. That “something” is how sexual abuse is statistically shown to have a major negative impact on one’s mental health. Biles is a very famous example of this fact, and as such is someone whose story should highlight that fact.

As many know by now, Biles was one of many women from the United States Gymnastics Team abused by former Olympic doctor Larry Nassar.[1] And when I say many women, I mean many—she was among the 156 women who, in some form, confronted Nassar in court about his abuse.[2] However, she is the last woman knowingly abused by Nassar who is still on the United States Gymnastics Team. And, you can tell that Biles is still working through the abuse she experienced just by listening to her—after struggling on one of the nights of Olympic trials, she said that she was more emotional this year than in 2016 “because of everything I’ve been through.”[3] While yes, there have been other factors that have impacted her mental health, such as a sudden family death during the Olympics,[4] it seems impossible to deny that the mental health struggles related to the abuse she experienced have also affected her.

Yet, it’s not just Biles who is affected mentally as a result of abuse. It’s many other people, too. About 70% of rape or sexual assault victims experience moderate to severe distress. 33% of women who are raped contemplate taking their lives. 13% of women who are raped actually attempt to take their lives.[5] Numbers like these show that Biles’ mental health struggles in the wake of what Larry Nassar did to her do not exist in a bubble; instead, she is a very public example of how such struggles in the light of abuse manifest themselves.

As such, while the story of Simone Biles should be a call to all of us as individuals and our society as a whole to have a greater focus on mental health, her story should arguably, even more importantly, be a call to have a greater focus on the mental health of sexual abuse survivors than what we currently do. While Biles is fortunate to be able to have a therapist,[6] not everyone is so fortunate for one reason or another, whether it be financial costs of going to therapy or still struggling through their own stigmas surrounding it. Our society needs to do a better job of addressing those barriers, because the well-being and lives of those sexually abused count on it.

If you’re in the United States, experienced sexual abuse and need help, know that you can call the National Sexual Assault Telephone line, which is (800) 656-4673. If you don’t live in the United States, please check to see if there’s a helpline for sexual abuse survivors in your country.

The Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network (RAINN) also has an online hotline as well as an app that could be of use to people who need help but are afraid to speak out loud for fear that their abuser will hear them.

The National Suicide Prevention lifeline is 800-273-8255. As for readers outside the United States, you can find an extensive list of international suicide hotlines here.


[2] Ibid.





Access to Clean, Safe Drinking Water: A Racial Justice Issue

An image of water. Photo by Pixabay on

When some of us (particularly those of us of means) in the United States think of places that lack access to clean drinking water, we think of certain countries on the African continent. And, it is true that parts of Africa struggle to access even the most basic of water services—nine of the ten worst countries in the world in terms of access to clean water are located on that continent.[1]

However, I am concerned that many of us may be blind to issues of water access at home, in the United States of America. Furthermore, I am concerned that many of us may be blind about how this access to water is a racial justice issue.

Sure, a major report on the water crisis in Flint, Michigan, a few years ago cited systemic racism as being at the core of the problems with the crisis (Flint is a majority-Black city),[2] but the situation in Flint is only a microcosm of widespread problems when it comes to water issues and racial justice. Consider these facts:

  • 2 million Americans lack access to running water and basic indoor plumbing as of November 2019. Native Americans are 19 times more likely than their white counterparts to be without indoor plumbing, while African American and Latinx people have no indoor plumbing at almost twice the rate of white people.[3]
  • Tap water that violates legal water safety standards in the United States is 40% more likely to serve people of color.[4]
  • Rising water bills, which in turn makes it difficult for households to afford their own water, has disproportionately affected Black communities.[5]

Without meaning to belittle the importance of making sure that people in different countries all around the world have access to clean and safe drinking water, maybe we should also look at the issues with water access and safety in our own backyard, too. And we should look at these issues through a racial justice lens because it is clear that there is a connection between race and water access/safety. To that end, water access is not just a human rights issue (because every human on this planet should have the right to clean, safe, affordable drinking water), but also a racial justice issue.

While water may not get the sort of attention issues-wise that certain other elements of racial justice advocacy may be getting right now, it is no less important. After all, if we are given water that leaves us unwell in some way, then we end up unable to advocate for the other racial justice issues at hand. As such, water access and cleanliness, while not getting the attention it often deserves, should get attention in the push for racial justice, and particularly racial justice for Black and Indigenous communities.






Accessibility Options I Hope to See Remain After COVID-19

One of the common refrains I’ve heard from many in the disability advocacy community is that COVID-19 has resulted in everyone from employers to religious communities creating accommodations that would’ve been helpful for people with certain kinds of disabilities to have to begin with. Some in the disability community have even noted the irony that many of the accessibility options that were previously deemed too inconvenient or difficult to implement have only been implemented during COVID-19 now that the ability of able-bodied people to function was being compromised. And that is true—it is ironic indeed.

One of the concerns is that once we get past COVID-19, many of the things that made the world more accessible in certain ways for people with certain kinds of disabilities will disappear. I hope this concern does not turn into reality. As such, on this day, the 31st anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act being signed into law, I want to highlight the following things that I hope to not see disappear from an accessibility standpoint after COVID-19[1]:

More Ability to Work from Home

Unfortunately, the streets, sidewalks, and subways (for those who have subways), to name a few, were not necessarily designed for people with accessibility issues in mind. As such, everything from snow mounds at street crossings during the winter to unreliable subway elevators at all times of year make it exceptionally difficult for people with mobility limitations to navigate around in ways that they get to work in good time.

As such, having greater ability to work from home and not have to worry as frequently about navigating the outdoor obstacle course to get to work seems wise. Working from home came into place at many companies due to COVID-19; hopefully this option can stay, for people in industries where working from home is possible and for people who could use the ability to work from home to begin with. All that being said, I should make it clear that this should be done in addition to, not instead of, making sure that countries, states, cities, and towns are made wheelchair-accessible.

More Livestreamed Religious Services

This is not the first time I have talked about accessibility of religious spaces on my blog—I expressed dismay about the opposition to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) within American Christianity in the past. I wish religious institutions were not exempt from ADA, but until that day comes, there are going to be religious spaces without some basic accessibility features, such as ramps and wheelchair-friendly bathrooms.

In the interim, a good step would be to have more livestreamed religious services, so that people have more of an opportunity to watch their services from home. Livestreamed services have also become a much more common theme than before because of COVID-19, in order to keep people from coming to religious spaces and potentially contributing to the spread of the virus. Hopefully, these livestreamed services will continue and not go away just because able-bodied people feel safe going to church again.

More Doors that Could be Opened Automatically

Before the pandemic, such a device was viewed by some as an item just too expensive to implement. But as many of us turned into germaphobes as a result of the pandemic, having doors that could be opened without our touching them suddenly became a necessity, regardless of what the expense might be. For people with certain kinds of physical disabilities, automatically opening doors were a necessity long before any global pandemic.

Given the necessity of automatically opening doors, regardless of any pandemic, I am hoping that this is something that we continue to have even post-pandemic. While a germaphobe might not want to touch a door due to COVID, a person with certain kinds of physical limitations may be completely unable to open a door in the first place, regardless of whether they want to or not.

There are clearly certain ways that the world has been made more accessible for people with certain kinds of disabilities (and particularly, physical disabilities) as a result of COVID-19. However, it is important to be realistic and realize that this pandemic has not cured the world of all its ableistic tendencies. For example, the pandemic has not resulted in religious buildings becoming more accessible, in subways receiving more elevators, and in sidewalks that need ramps for wheelchairs receiving such ramps. If anything, the fiscal peril that many, ranging from religious institutions to local governments, are facing due to COVID-19 will give a lot of places the excuse that they cannot afford to make certain places and spaces more accessible for people with disabilities (as to whether such places truly cannot afford such improvements, I guess one can only judge on a case-by-case basis). Still, there are certain ways our world has become more accessible due to COVID-19 that will hopefully remain after the pandemic.

Are there other forms of accommodation that you hope remain after COVID for the sake of people with disabilities? If so, please comment below.

[1] Note that this is by no means an exhaustive list. There may be other forms of accessibility that have only come into place that I’m forgetting right now—if there are any such things you want to highlight, please feel free to respond in the comments section below.