Coronavirus Update From New York City: April 7, 2022

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

I had a close brush with COVID-19 last week when I learned that I came into contact with someone who tested positive. Things were therefore a bit nervy for a few days because of worries that I would test positive, and in the process inconvenience both my own life and that of my immediate family. Thankfully, my tests have come back negative, so somehow, some way, I remain COVID-free. While I know I have taken a more cautious approach to the pandemic than many, it still remains somewhat of a mystery to me how I have been able to remain COVID-free to this point. Regardless, I am grateful that at least for now, I have dodged this virus.

Where I live, which is New York City, is seeing the BA.2 subvariant of the Omicron variant spreading. This is happening after we experienced some rapid declines in case counts between mid-January and mid-February, as the Omicron surge was subsiding. I don’t know if it’s time to panic quite yet, especially as it seems like there is a lot yet to learn about this subvariant. However, with medical experts continuing to urge vaccinations as the best way to protect yourself against BA.2,[1] it is rather unfortunate that my city exempted certain groups of people (local performers and athletes) from workplace vaccine requirements. After all, all this policy seems to have done as far as I can tell is muddle messaging around how important vaccinations are and empower the anti-vaccine crowd–the last things we need at a time when we need more people getting vaccine shots and boosters.

Speaking of certain requirements being loosened, a part of me wonders how much this increase is due to how transmissible BA.2 is and how much the increase has been due to the loosening of certain restrictions in recent weeks. As I reported in my COVID update post at the beginning of last month, some pandemic restrictions were being loosened here in New York City, so I can’t help but wonder if we’re now seeing the results of letting go of the pandemic before the pandemic is letting go of us.[2]

Those are the updates from my little corner of the world. As always, I welcome updates from others!


[1] https://www.yalemedicine.org/news/5-things-to-know-omicron

[2] Here’s my COVID update post from last month: https://blindinjusticeblog.com/2022/03/03/coronavirus-update-from-new-york-city-march-3-2022/

Dear Congress, You Needed to Pass Funding for Pandemic Relief…Last Week

Note to readers: This post is going to be unlike any other blog post I’ve ever done, in that this is going to be written like a letter, namely, an open letter to Congress. I hope this open letter will inspire others who care about the issue I am writing about to think about this further, and perhaps write letters to their own congressional representatives about the issue I write on here.

Additionally, I will add that there are reports that Congress has agreed to a deal on this. To my knowledge, the deal hasn’t passed yet so I decided to still publish tonight’s post.

Dear Congress,

Over two years into the COVID-19 pandemic, it may be tempting to throw in the towel and say that the pandemic is over, endemic, or not a big deal. But not one of those three things is a reality yet. As of the time I’m writing this, the pandemic is still taking the lives of over 600 Americans a day, meaning that we are losing thousands a week to this virus. I remember when America grieved over 1,000 troops and then 2,000 troops lost in the Iraq War. We are losing that number of Americans to the pandemic every 2-3 days.

Worse yet, there are parts of the United States, including where I live in New York City, where the BA.2 subvariant of the Omicron variant is spreading.

During a time like this, a time when we may need to prepare for another wave of this pandemic (regrettably, as I’m tired of the pandemic too), we should be doubling down on three basic public health measures we’ve been pushing for many months: testing, tracing, and vaccinating.

And yet, because of your inability to do your jobs as public servants—serving the public, first and foremost—you have put this into doubt for uninsured Americans.

Also, just on a semi-random tangent: the fact that the phrase “uninsured Americans” exists is an indictment on Congress’s ability to give even the most basic of safety nets to people who might not otherwise have a safety net. That’s before we even start talking about all the Americans who are underinsured, as well as Americans with insurance companies that lack any sort of generosity or compassion with the benefits they give out.

Because you failed to do your jobs, COVID tests for uninsured patients are no longer free, even if they have COVID symptoms. How can people test or trace when they struggle to pay out of pocket for health care? Millions of Americans don’t have the money to make such a choice, and as a result have to resort to rapid tests that aren’t quite as accurate but still require a certain amount of money to buy them. Because of your inability to do your jobs, the public health strategy of testing and tracing has been put in danger in at least some parts of the United States.

Then there is the free funding for vaccines for those who are uninsured. Funding is supposed to run out for that this week. By not ensuring funding for this, especially at a time when we are urging people to get boosted and others fifty and older to get their second boosters, Congress is essentially taking an anti-vaxxer posture, or at least an anti-vaxxer posture for the uninsured. Let us be clear—not ensuring funding for COVID vaccines for the uninsured is an anti-vax policy, period.

And then there are all the other things in danger as a result of your irresponsibility: the curtailing of a relief fund that has allowed hospitals to treat uninsured COVID patients,[1] the potential running out of monoclonal antibodies by June,[2] and more.

I read that Republicans in Congress want “a more detailed accounting of where previous COVID-19 funding has gone.”[3] One can debate over whether there is a need for this detailed accounting, but regardless, said accounting should not keep those who are uninsured from access to things like vaccines and tests. However, one detailed accounting we really need is how we are going to prevent people from dying when we are pursuing a strategy of cutting off funding for things that help people live.

We need funding for COVID treatment, and we needed it last week. Congress needs to act.

Sincerely,

Grumpy from New York City


[1] https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2022/03/29/1089355997/free-covid-tests-and-treatments-no-longer-free-for-uninsured-as-funding-runs-out

[2] https://www.newsweek.com/monoclonal-antibodies-could-run-out-june-without-more-funds-psaki-warns-1688318

[3] https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2022/03/29/1089355997/free-covid-tests-and-treatments-no-longer-free-for-uninsured-as-funding-runs-out

An Alternative to the “Bootstraps” Narrative of Economic Mobility

Many sunsets ago, I wrote a blog post talking about why I thought that the “bootstraps” narrative of economic mobility is problematic. I saw the narrative as problematic for a number of reasons, but one of them was due to this notion that we can succeed by ourselves without any help from others (because, in reality, all of us who succeed need the help of other people in one form or another).

This fact, the fact that we all need the help of others in order to succeed, brings me to an alternative to the bootstraps narrative. What I propose is something that I will call here the “community narrative,” named after the fact that all of us need a community of people helping us along the way in order to succeed, whatever success looks like to us.

To highlight this fact, let’s think about one of the classic cliché stories we often hear from the bootstraps narrative: the person who comes from no money at all within their family but becomes wealthy through “hard work.” In this situation, it is possible, even probable, that there was hard work, but various people along the way from poverty to success needed to recognize the hard work in a way that helped advance the formerly poor person’s education/career. This could be anything from a school able to give a full scholarship to the person when they were a student, to a group of influential people recognizing the person’s talents, to a helpful mentor (or set of mentors), to some complete strangers who were willing to take a chance on the product produced by the formerly poor person. In the story I told highlighting the bootstraps narrative, there could theoretically be anywhere between one or two and several thousand people who help the formerly poor person become wealthy along the way—hardly befitting of the notion of one pulling themselves up by the bootstraps. But it is befitting of the idea that we all need a community of people in order to succeed.

Getting ourselves away from the classic cliché stories we often hear with regard to the bootstraps narrative, one must consider and confront the fact that all of us need some help from others in order to succeed. Everyone with a strong education needed a strong institution (or institutions) to accept them into the place(s) with the strong education; every person in a high-level position (unless they run their own company) was hired by someone and likely came with letters of recommendation from a variety of other people; every entrepreneur needed a group of people who believed in the product(s) or service(s) provided; and every politician needed votes from their constituents in order to take elected office. In all these cases, a person who has succeeded needed a community of people in order to succeed—bootstraps simply wouldn’t have been enough. In fact, I’m hard-pressed to think of a single industry where you’re able to succeed without a community of people helping you in ways small and large along the way.

While it is possible that someone at some point may come up with a better explanation than my community narrative to explain how some people succeed, I hope that what I propose at the very least helps move a few people from the previous bootstraps narrative—an ill-advised narrative, for a multitude of reasons.

A Return to Blog Advice: On Blogging About Topics Different from Your Blog’s Original Focus

When I started writing blog posts about blogging advice, I didn’t necessarily anticipate it getting interrupted on multiple occasions due to choosing to write more about how I am faring and how my part of the world is faring with a global pandemic. But alas, it happened.

And the fact that things have happened in the way they have over the past couple of years (as well as the fact that this blog wasn’t designed originally with the intention of writing any sort of blog advice) made me think of how many bloggers often end up blogging on topics different from their blog’s original focus.

Let me start by saying that if you have a personal blog as opposed to a business blog, you theoretically can blog on just about any topic you want to. I can theoretically blog about gardening[1] and a blogger who has a blog focused on gardening can theoretically write a post about basketball.

However, some of us, myself included, have blogs that were at least originally designed with a particular focus in mind. Therefore, for people like me, there is a valid question that comes to mind: If our blog was designed to focus on a particular topic, should we even allow ourselves to blog on topics different from the original focus?

If you’re looking for a definitive answer from me, you won’t get one in this post. Instead, what you’ll get is a few questions to keep in mind before deciding:

  1. Are you passionate about the topic you want to blog on? If the answer is yes, even if the topic is on something different from your blog’s focus, then you are off to a good start.
  2. What is the purpose of writing on the topic you plan to discuss in the blog post? Note here that the purpose can be to help others or yourself in some way. However, if you have no purpose for writing a blog post that veers from the main focus of the blog, then you should ask yourself why you’re even going off-topic from your typical focus.
  3. Are you worried about whether your readers will be interested in what you have to write about? If your blog has/had a particular focus, some of the readers subscribed to your blog likely subscribed because they were interested in the topics you blog about. If you start blogging about topics different from what readers came to your blog for, there is a chance you might lose subscribers. If you are not at peace with that possibility, then you should think long and hard about whether you want to blog on a topic different from the blog’s original focus.
  4. If you happen to have any sponsors for your blog, do those sponsors want you to blog a certain amount on certain topics? This is not something that I, or most other bloggers, have to worry about because most of us don’t have sponsors. But if you have a sponsor, you will want to really make sure that you don’t have a sponsor that requires you to blog a certain amount on the blog’s focus (and if you do, then make sure that you fulfill your sponsor obligations if you don’t want to lose your sponsorship).

Ultimately, all the questions I raise here come back to one fundamental question: If you blog on a topic from your blog’s main focus, will you be a happy blogger? If so, you can be a social justice blogger who talks about gardening, a gardening blogger who talks about basketball, or a basketball blogger who talks about history—letting your imagination run wild, in the best of ways, in the process.


[1] I actually know very little about gardening, so the chances of this happening are unlikely, at least at the moment.

The Importance of Recognizing Pioneering Figures on Injustice-Related Topics

An image of bell hooks from 2014. Alex Lozupone (Tduk), CC BY-SA 4.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Some time ago, my family was at a bookstore that was clearly leftist politically. I could tell that because there were lots of books on LGBTQ+ themes, racial justice, and feminism, to name a few.

And yet, the bookstore felt lacking. Namely, it was lacking in works from pioneering figures on LGBTQ+ issues, on feminism, on racial justice, etc. There was no Audre Lorde, no bell hooks (bell hooks on the shelves would’ve been timely as I visited this bookstore just a couple of weeks after her death), no Angela Davis, and so on. (By the way, if these names are unfamiliar to you, I definitely encourage you to learn more about all three of them.)

This was, of course, unfortunate to me. But, at the same time, this bookstore made me think about whether I, too, don’t give the pioneering figures on injustice-related topics the credit or attention they warrant. And the bookstore made me think about other instances when said figures don’t get the recognition or attention they deserve. It made me think of the #MeToo movement, when people often didn’t (and, in some cases, still don’t) give due credit to how foundational Tarana Burke, who started using “metoo” over a decade before it trended on Twitter for many of the same reasons that people used the hashtag on social media,[1] really was. It made me think of all the talk about Critical Race Theory, little of which ever acknowledges the work of those who were pioneering on the issue (regardless of whether one agrees with Critical Race Theory). And it makes me think of all the things I’ve read about intersectionality—a big topic in many social justice circles (read more about intersectionality in this blog post I wrote on the topic)—that do not even mention pioneering figures on the subject, such as Kimberlé Crenshaw.

Keeping my mind at least somewhat on the disappointing bookstore I was at, what I am saying here is that, as underwhelming as the bookstore may’ve been, it’s far from existing in a bubble. Many of us, myself included, also struggle with giving pioneering figures on various issues of injustice the attention they deserve. If anything, the bookstore is only a microcosm of this larger issue.

But why should I, and we, care about giving such figures the recognition that they deserve?

Simply put, we should care because, in many cases, what some of us may find ourselves reading, writing, and researching on today is the result of what those before us wrote and spoke about. Even if we happen to come up with new ideas, the inspiration for them comes from somewhere, and it seems only appropriate that we recognize where they come from and give credit to the origins of said ideas.

So, in order to try and avoid being like that bookstore, I, and we, should really try to redouble our efforts to acknowledge and give credit to the foreparents behind many of the injustices some of us may find ourselves talking about. In some cases, if not many of them, I don’t think it’s a deliberate ignoring of people (though I could be wrong). But that is why the effort needs to be made to deliberately recognize, acknowledge, and appreciate those like Audre Lorde, bell hooks, Angela Davis, and many others.


[1] https://time.com/6097392/tarana-burke-me-too-unbound-excerpt/