Coronavirus Update From New York City: August 26, 2021

Wow, what a week it has been, both Coronavirus-wise and otherwise!

The biggest news coming out of my state (New York) is that we have a new governor. Andrew Cuomo, who at the beginning of this pandemic was hailed as a hero, left his governorship disgraced and under a cloud of scandal. I know my third ever Coronavirus update begged my readers to not treat Cuomo like a hero, but good gosh–not even I could have predicted things happening in the way that they did! In any event, with Cuomo having left, in comes Kathy Hochul, who served as Lieutenant Governor for just over 1 1/2 terms before ascending to the position of governor as a result of Cuomo’s resignation.

Just hours after coming into office, Hochul did something that Cuomo should’ve done: have a school mask mandate.[1] Mask mandates in schools have been controversial, seemingly because kids and their parents feel they should have the freedom themselves to choose whether to wear a mask or not. However, my take is that, to put it bluntly, people need to care about more than themselves. People need to care about others, and namely, care about preventing others from getting sick–something that masks can help with. Mask mandates are the right thing to do.

Of course, Hochul will have more to do on the Coronavirus than just have the school mask mandate. She will, in my personal opinion, need to recognize the basic reality that certain things that were possibly safe before the Delta variant are not safe anymore. Things like indoor dining, big crowds that aren’t socially distanced (even outdoors), and large indoor social gatherings do not seem safe right now, even for those of us who are vaccinated (since there’s a significant body of scientific evidence showing that even vaccinated people can get and spread the virus). My hopes aren’t high for this, as the only place that I hear has started reinstating some restrictions on such things is the State of Hawaii, though perhaps Hawaii will end up becoming a trendsetter if the Delta variant grows worse.

Speaking of big crowds outdoors that aren’t socially distanced, I should provide an update on what happened to the so-called “Homecoming Concert” that I talked about on my blog a couple of weeks ago. This concert was billed as a return back to normalcy, of sorts, for New York City, a concert where people can come and enjoy some major musicians. Such a concert may’ve seem reasonable a couple of months ago when the virus appeared to be subsiding, but with the spreading of Delta, we aren’t exactly heading back to normal and it didn’t seem like a wise time to have a massive outdoor gathering with tens of thousands of people like that. Well, the concert got ruined, not because of the Delta variant, but because some dangerous weather courtesy of Hurricane Henri (a storm that delivered heavy rain to New York City, though thankfully I didn’t experience any of the flooding that certain other parts of the northeast United States had). I wished the concert wasn’t even a thing in the first place, though, because then we could’ve avoided the non-socially distanced scrambles for safety as a result of the weather issues.

While I thought this concert was a mistake, I am hoping that this (as well as schools, which are supposed to return in the next few weeks) don’t end up being super spreader situations. We shall see…


[1] https://www.ny1.com/nyc/all-boroughs/politics/2021/08/24/hochul-address

Coronavirus Update From New York City: August 19, 2021

I hope everyone is healthy and safe, regardless of where you are.

My family, who is entirely vaccinated, remains healthy. We, of course, continue to practice precautions such as wearing masks indoors, not eating indoors, and avoiding large gatherings as much as possible. This is sometimes labeled as living in fear, but in reality, we are doing what we can to prevent the virus from spreading to others, and particularly to unvaccinated kids and the immunocompromised.

However, COVID cases continue to be on the rise where I am, and rise at a startling rate, at that. Just to put into perspective how quickly things are increasing, in my county, we were at 10 cases per 100,000 just a few weeks ago, and now we are at nearly 22 cases per 100,000. Just as concerning (if not even more so) is the fact that hospitalization and ICU rates are quickly increasing again, and increasing to a point that if we’re not careful, many ICUs in our area will be under great duress in the next few weeks.[1] This would be a repeat of situations that I hear are playing out in other parts of the country, where ICUs are getting filled up already.

And this is all happening before school year even starts. The school year starts relatively late where I live (soon after Labor Day), so if we’re going through all of these problems now in New York, I am scared to think of what may happen after school returns post-Labor Day. If nothing else, at least I can take solace in the fact that mask mandates in schools seem to be the trend where I live, unlike with certain leaders (though I am still concerned that masks by themselves won’t be enough). I don’t think that mask mandates are enough (you need social distancing, good ventilation indoors, and vaccines, to name a few), but it’s better than nothing.

Speaking of leaders, by the time I write my next COVID update post, my state will have a new governor. As Governor Cuomo is resigning as a result of the sexual harassment scandal he’s implicated in, we will have a new governor in the current Lieutenant Governor, Kathy Hochul. We will find out in due time how good Hochul is in dealing with the dual crisis of the virus and the economic fallout resulting from it. My hope is that she won’t be distracted by scandals, and therefore able to focus on the crises she will confront.


[1] https://covidactnow.org/us/new_york-ny/county/queens_county/?s=21821108

Coronavirus Update From New York City: February 18, 2021

I hope that my readers are healthy and safe, regardless of where you are. I also hope that people who are in parts of the United States affected by the winter storms are remaining warm and safe.

Everyone in my family continues to be free of COVID. We’ve been in a hotspot for this virus over the past few months, but in spite of that, we have managed to steer clear of COVID in my family’s household.

That being said, the test positivity rate where I live has dropped somewhat–down to a little under 11%. While this number is going in the right direction, it is still too high for comfort, and still high enough that it is important to exercise extreme caution. I should also note that the test positivity rate citywide in New York is going in the right direction, thankfully.

One number that remains stubbornly concerning is the number of hospital and ICU beds filled in my area by COVID patients. Every single hospital in my county (Queens County, NY), including the hospital nearest to where I live, is considered to be numerically under some level of concern or stress based on the number of beds occupied by COVID patients (with the hospital closest to where I live using an astonishing 79% of its ICU beds on COVID patients).[1] It’s worth keeping in mind that hospitalization numbers are a lagging indicator when it comes to COVID (since it can take some time between being diagnosed for COVID and going to the hospital for it), but it’s still worth being aware of these numbers because it further highlights the need for people in my part of New York City to continue practicing COVID precautions so as to keep ourselves from getting the virus, and keep ourselves from putting further strain on already strained hospitals.

On the vaccination front, my parents are now theoretically eligible for the vaccines, but they’ve been unable to find a place nearby to get them. This seems to echo what many people in my area are saying, which is that the available vaccine supply is nowhere near the demand, and that the vaccine supplies are not in the right places. Per my parents, there are apparently vaccinations available in Potsdam in Upstate New York, which is located in a county with a test positivity rate under 3%,[2] but not in New York City, where the test positivity rate is over 8%. I am not an infectious disease expert, but from a layperson’s perspective, it seems like we should be looking to prioritize the vaccination of vulnerable people in places where COVID spread is the greatest (which isn’t the case with Potsdam).

Before ending this post, I should also talk about the big news coming out of New York: a scandal regarding how Governor Cuomo’s administration has handled nursing homes. Long story made short, what happened was that the State Attorney General’s office found that deaths in nursing homes may’ve been undercounted by New York State by as much as 50%.[4] On top of that, the FBI is investigating the Cuomo administration’s handling of nursing homes during the pandemic.[5] To make matters worse for Cuomo, a state assembly member in New York is accusing Governor Cuomo of threatening to destroy his career as a result of speaking out about the nursing home scandal.[6] I know I’ve been a frequent Cuomo critic in my update posts, but good gosh. All I will say about this for now, other than that it was tasteless for Cuomo to go after an assembly member who lost his uncle to COVID in a nursing home,[7] is that I hope that the ongoing FBI investigation is thorough.

But I should get off my soapbox. How are others doing?


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

[2] Utica is in Oneida County, NY, so what I have here is the Oneida County COVID-19 Dashboard: https://hoccpp.maps.arcgis.com/apps/opsdashboard/index.html#/d88f4e10d59d4553b24c3add5abcbb0b

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

[4] https://ag.ny.gov/press-release/2021/attorney-general-james-releases-report-nursing-homes-response-covid-19

[5] https://www.cbsnews.com/news/governor-andrew-cuomo-nursing-home-deaths-investigation-new-york-fbi-federal-prosecutors/

[6] To make matters even worse, the assembly member Cuomo attacked lost an uncle to COVID-19 in a nursing home: https://www.politico.com/news/2021/02/18/new-york-assemblymember-cuomo-coverup-469741

[7] Even if the accusation is not true, Cuomo has publicly made serious accusations of corruption against this assembly member for, of all things, corruption related to a bill several years ago over nail salon regulations. As to why he’s making that accusation now, the cynical part of my mind is thinking that it is an attempt (albeit, a poor attempt) at trying to deflect from his own problems: https://spectrumlocalnews.com/nys/central-ny/ny-state-of-politics/2021/02/17/assemblyman-ron-kim-says-cuomo-threatened-him-in-phone-call

Coronavirus Update From New York City: December 3, 2020

I was really hoping that I wouldn’t have to resume my weekly updates on the coronavirus ever again. But alas, here I am, resuming my weekly updates on this virus.

While there are still many places in much worse shape than my city and my state, we are trending in a very bad direction. Just a few weeks ago the COVID test positivity rate in my zip code was quite low, but now we are at a positivity rate of 6.5%. Given that we are trending in a direction that could lead to many more hospitalizations and deaths (deaths being a lagging indicator but an indicator that’s also starting to go in the wrong direction in New York State), it seems like a good time to restart my weekly updates.

Another reason I’m restarting my weekly updates is that, even though we’re not quite the center of the COVID universe in terms of cases and deaths right now (though if numbers keep on trending the way that they are, I fear we will be in bad shape before long), we still seem to be at the center of the American universe (or at least a center) when it comes to questions over COVID-related restrictions. Two instances where my city was at the center of questions about COVID restrictions were with the closure of schools citywide and the restrictions on the number of people attending religious gatherings in COVID hotspots.

With regards to the school closures, the public schools had a hybrid of in-person and online learning at the start of the school year, with schools in COVID hotspots (or schools with COVID issues) going fully online until those issues with COVID were resolved. However, with COVID rates spiking in New York City, a decision was made to go fully online for now. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio has received significant criticism for this move, which perhaps explains why there’s work towards schools reopening again for hybrid learning in the coming days.[1] We’ll see how that goes.

With regards to the restrictions on the number of people attending religious gatherings in COVID hotspots, what happened was that entities of various kinds, from religious gatherings to non-essential businesses, faced various restrictions if COVID were bad enough (based on the test positivity rate) to warrant placement in an “orange” or “red” zone. In the case of religious gatherings, they were limited to 25 people in orange zones and 10 people in red zones. These restrictions were controversially struck down by the Supreme Court.[2] My thoughts on this are…complicated. Personally, I think that it was rather bizarre to have such arbitrary numbers for the number of people allowed to attend religious gatherings, regardless of the size of the religious building (whether it be a large cathedral like St. Patrick’s or a smaller church like the one I go to every Sunday)–it would have been better in my humble opinion if the capacity limits were determined by percentages (33% of space capacity, 25% of space capacity, etc.) instead of arbitrary numbers that applied to religious spaces of all sizes. That being said, I don’t see eye-to-eye with the argument made by the religious institution I am a part of,[3] and by extension the Supreme Court’s argument, that this is an issue of religious freedom for Catholics[4]–the real infringement on this freedom is if we don’t take the proper precautions, get ourselves and each other sick, and then prevent ourselves and others from feeling up to a vibrant exercise of our religion. In other words, the attack on religious freedom, at least in my own humble opinion, is from the virus itself and those unwilling to take basic precautions against it. I would also add that with the existence of televised and online Masses where you can even receive the most important sacrament (the Eucharist) spiritually,[5] I have a hard time seeing how being forced to watch a Mass virtually for the sake of COVID precautions crosses the line from “not ideal” to an attack on religious liberty. Maybe someone can enlighten me though, as I know I have readers with substantial amount of knowledge on Catholic theology.

Between the news coming down from the Supreme Court (just in time for major religious celebrations) and the number of people travelling during the holidays, I fear that these numbers are about to get much worse. I hope my fears are inaccurate.

I do have hope though for New York City. This hope comes from the fact that we know so much more about this pandemic now than we did in the spring, and that as a result we hopefully will not have hospital and death rates anywhere near as high as what we did back then. I want my hope to turn into reality, but alas, global pandemics do their own thing and do not listen to any hopes I may have.


[1] https://www.theguardian.com/education/2020/nov/29/new-york-city-public-schools-to-reopen

[2] https://newyork.cbslocal.com/2020/11/26/scotus-rules-against-ny-religious-gathering-restrictions/

[3] I am a Catholic, and I live in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn. It’s the same diocese that was involved in legal challenges to Governor Cuomo’s restrictions for “red” and “orange” zones.

[4] However, I cannot speak for other denominations of Christianity, let alone other religions.

[5] Catholics have something called Spiritual Communion, where one who desires to physically receive the Eucharist but is unable to because of circumstances can receive the Eucharist spiritually.

Funding for Colleges that Promote Economic Mobility: An Economic Justice Issue

An image of Baruch College-City University of New York. It’s one of the best colleges for economic mobility in the United States. It’s also underfunded. Eden, Janine and Jim from New York City / CC BY (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)

As a son of a professor in the City University of New York (CUNY) system, I have heard tales of all ends of the economic spectrum. It’s a system that has an extraordinarily high percentage of its students in some form of economic struggle—it was reported earlier last year that 49% of students went hungry at some point within that month, while 55% of students lacked a safe place to live during the previous year.[1] Yet, in spite of these extraordinary obstacles that so many students in the CUNY system face, CUNY schools dominate economic mobility lists for colleges.[2]

Systems like CUNY in New York or the University of California (UC) system in California, systems that are engines of economic mobility towards the middle class and even the top 20%, should be supported generously because they lift people out of poverty…and yet they’re not.

I’ve heard this happen in New York. The State of New York, which is supposed to provide the bulk of the money for CUNY funding, has been chronically underfunding CUNY for decades. Under New York’s current governor, Andrew Cuomo (a Democrat), CUNY underfunding has become so bad that colleges like my dad’s have had to make sacrifices such as going without a registrar, cutting class offerings even as the student population grows, raising tuition, and endangering students’ abilities to graduate within four years.[3]

I’ve also read about budget cuts in the University of California (UC) and California State University (Cal State) systems out west. Funding per student in the UC and Cal State systems (systems that are also proven engines of upward economic mobility) have dropped significantly in the past forty years, under both Republican and Democratic governors.[4] And, like in New York, I haven’t heard anything to indicate that the situation is getting any better for public higher education in California.

If anything, the situation is getting worse due to funding cuts during the coronavirus. California Governor Gavin Newsom proposed 10% cuts to the UC and Cal State systems last month,[5] while CUNY is anticipating having to cut thousands of classes and thousands of adjunct and part-time professors.[6]

CUNY, the UC system, and the Cal State system are not the only public university systems being deprived of funding, but these are three notable examples of universities being underfunded in spite of being engines of upward economic mobility.[7] New York and California are not the only places whose leadership has underfunded higher education that promotes economic mobility, but those two states are particularly notable because they have the ability to fully fund or underfund education systems that drive upward economic mobility, which is needed at all times, but even more so during a post-COVID economic recovery.

Underfunding of the CUNYs, UCs, and Cal States of the higher education world must become a prominent economic justice issue. Undermining systems that give students the opportunity to climb out of food and housing stress, and towards a life of economic stability, is economically unjust, not to mention an action that prevents people from seeing the “American Dream” (whatever is left of it) become a reality. It needs to be considered so unjust that it becomes politically dangerous for a politician, Republican or Democrat, to underfund institutions like the ones I’ve mentioned in this piece.

Look at the extent to which the CUNYs, UCs, and Cal States of the world already help people move from food and housing stress and towards the middle and upper class, even with chronic underfunding. It’s truly amazing to think what these institutions, and the students within these institutions, are capable of if they were all funded properly.

If you live in a state that has proposed cuts to higher education, and you’re unsure of whether your legislator is advocating against such cuts, it’s worth giving your state representatives a call.


[1] https://abc7ny.com/education/report-half-of-cuny-students-experienced-hunger-housing-issues/5220690/

[2] What this means is that CUNY lifts a lot of people from the lower class to the middle class: https://www1.cuny.edu/mu/forum/2018/08/20/cuny-again-dominates-chronicles-public-college-social-mobility-rankings/

[3] When it takes more than four years for someone to graduate, that can endanger the state of a student’s financial aid (and drastically increase how much it costs to complete college). For example, the Tuition Assistance Program (TAP) in New York only goes for four years; if you need a fifth year, then you have no TAP, and the cost of a college education becomes more expensive: https://www.hesc.ny.gov/partner-access/financial-aid-professionals/tap-and-scholarship-resources/tap-coach/95-second-degree.html#:~:text=According%20to%20New%20York%20State,an%20approved%20five%2Dyear%20program.

[4] https://www.ppic.org/publication/higher-education-funding-in-california/ (Note: I don’t know if these measures account for inflation or not; if they don’t, then the decline in funding is even steeper than this piece advertises.)

[5] https://www.sacbee.com/news/politics-government/capitol-alert/article242741996.html

[6] https://www.psc-cuny.org/SaveLivesJobsCUNY

[7] Or, if you’re really cynical, you might even be led to believe that these institutions are being punished because of how they produce so much economic mobility.