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: January 14, 2021

I hope all my readers around the country and the world are staying healthy and safe. Here are some updates from how my family is doing, and how New York is doing, during this pandemic over the past week.

My family is continuing to stay physically healthy. We’re all missing the in-person interaction with people other than each other (as much as we love each other), but at the same time the caution we’ve exercised has, I think, helped us stay healthy. This is not to say that all people who catch COVID refuse to follow precautions, but I am saying that our precautions are helping.

That’s not to say that practicing precautions are fun and easy. Among the tougher precautions has been not going to church, even though theoretically I could go to church since Catholic churches in my area are remaining open. While I would love to go to church, it seems unwise for me to go to an enclosed church in a COVID hotspot (and I think it is unwise for churches to be open in COVID hotspots as bad as mine by the way). For those from church who are reading this, I look forward to going back to church, but only once COVID is more under control in the neighborhood.

How out of control is it? The positivity rate is over 15% in my neighborhood–high enough that it seems to be of utmost importance to act with caution right now about the virus. Even more concerning to me is the fact that Jamaica Hospital in Queens, the closest major hospital to where I live, reports using 1/3 of their adult impatient beds on COVID-19 patients and an astonishing 73% of their ICU beds on COVID-19 patients.[1] When everything is added up, as of January 11th, 92% of total adult impatient beds are filled at my neighborhood hospital, and 95% of total ICU beds are filled. I think it is important for me to be transparent about these statistics because I don’t think even a lot of people in my own neighborhood realize quite how serious things are–serious enough that we run the real risk of not being able to care for everyone.

So, I beg people in general, but particularly people in my area, to wear your masks, to practice social distancing, to be cautious if you have COVID symptoms, and to minimize the amount of time you spend interacting with people outside your COVID bubble. People’s lives and livelihoods depend on it.


[1] To put these numbers into context, based on what medical experts are saying, these percentages indicate that Jamaica Hospital is under “extreme stress” from COVID-19. Also, I’m getting my hospital capacity data from a National Public Radio article using data from the Department of Health and Human Services as well as the University of Minnesota COVID-19 Hospitalization Tracking Project. This was where I found the data from NPR: https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2020/12/09/944379919/new-data-reveal-which-hospitals-are-dangerously-full-is-yours#lookup. If you want to do a search for how your local hospital is doing, scroll down in the article I link to and do a search for your county.

Rural Hospitals and COVID-19

Anyone who knows my background would know that I’ve spent most of my life living in a big city. So, you might be asking why I’d take an interest in rural hospitals during COVID-19, and why others should take an interest in this topic as well. There are really three answers to that “why” question:

(1) many rural hospitals were in danger before the pandemic,

(2) many rural hospitals may be in even more danger of closing as a result of the pandemic, and (3) such closures would reduce access to care for many during this pandemic.

Even before COVID-19, many rural hospitals had been closing at an alarming rate. The problem has been particularly bad in poor rural areas here in the United States. The reason for this is often attributed, at least in part, to the fact that some states have decided not to opt for Medicaid expansion, a move that affects the finances of hospitals severely.[1]

With COVID-19, this situation is expected to get even worse, unfortunately, especially in the states that have not expanded Medicaid. That’s not to say that the pandemic isn’t taking a toll on other places, but that toll is expected to be particularly bad in places that have not seen this expansion.[2]

What this will mean is potentially more rural hospital closures, especially in poor rural areas.

It means that many in these places who need urgent care for anything, whether it be for COVID-19 or something else, will need to wait longer to get urgent care that they need, ranging from heart attacks to severe strokes. Furthermore, it will mean that people in the areas affected by these closures will need to travel further to get the care they need, in the process putting more of a burden on the hospitals that do survive (both hospitals that exist in rural areas and ones that do not exist in rural areas).

All of this, in turn, would affect places’ abilities to adequately address COVID-19. I am presenting a rather doomsday scenario because it does sound like a doomsday situation, unless rural hospitals get the help they need.

There are two ways forward from this crisis, as far as I can tell. First, states that have resisted Medicaid expansion should end that resistance immediately. Second, federal assistance to rural hospitals, which from what I have read has been inadequate, should be much more substantial.[3] This is not to say that the situation will be universally great even with these measures because the entire American healthcare system is feeling the strain from COVID-19. However, the measures I suggest above would hopefully slow down some of the financial bleeding many rural hospitals are experiencing.

For any of my readers who live in rural parts of the United States and may be affected by the closures of rural hospitals, you may want to do the following:

  1. See if your state has implemented Medicaid expansion. If not, put pressure on your state officials to expand Medicaid in their states.
  2. Contact your members of Congress (particularly if your member covers some rural areas) to ask them to make sure that rural hospitals are adequately addressing any future COVID-19 relief or stimulus plan.

Yes, I may be a city kid in many ways, but I also know that we need urban, suburban, and rural hospitals alike to be in adequate shape financially as they confront this pandemic. Anything less than that is irresponsible and may result in unnecessarily losses of life.


[1] This Forbes article explains how a lack of Medicaid expansion causes significant financial harm to many rural hospitals: https://www.forbes.com/sites/claryestes/2020/02/24/1-4-rural-hospitals-are-at-risk-of-closure-and-the-problem-is-getting-worse/

[2] https://www.npr.org/2020/04/09/829753752/small-town-hospitals-are-closing-just-as-coronavirus-arrives-in-rural-america

[3] https://www.thegazette.com/subject/news/health/iowa-rural-critical-access-hospitals-money-problems-coronavirus-relief-20201019. This source, which is the paper of record for much of Eastern Iowa, has been consistently covering the issue of federal assistance to rural hospitals.

Want to “Support Our Health Workers”? Here are Some Tangible Ways to Do So.

“I support our health workers.”

The above is a common refrain I’ve heard while the United States has grappled with the coronavirus.

I agree with the sentiment—I think our health workers should be supported. However, I also recognize that all too often, this refrain does not turn into action. Often, we say “support our health workers” but then act in ways that show anything but support for our health workers.

But how can we support our health workers? I propose a few suggestions:

  1. If you aren’t doing so already, wear a mask or some other protective face covering[1] and practice social distancing. These two actions are widely proven to contain the spread of the coronavirus. If people performed these two actions, we would keep our health workers from becoming overwhelmed with coronavirus patients.
  2. Assess the needs of the health workers where you live, and act accordingly. Speaking as someone who witnessed how difficult things were with the coronavirus in New York City, the needs of health workers were varied—at one point it included everything from equipment to food to funds for childcare. I can’t speak for what the needs are of health workers in places like Miami or Houston, but I strongly urge you to assess the needs of health workers where you live and act accordingly.
  3. If there are murmurs of a hospital closing down near where you live, do all you can (within reason) to protest the closure. There is a great deal of concern about the financial strain that many hospitals are experiencing as a result of the pandemic.[2] As such, there is also concern about the potential of hospitals closing. The closure of hospitals would put more strain on the hospitals that remain, and therefore the health workers who remain. As such, I urge readers to protest any proposed hospital closures in your area.
  4. Support legislative efforts to reduce the financial burdens that our health workers have. From current childcare costs to past student loan costs, there are a multitude of financial burdens that many of our health workers have to deal with. Given the stresses involved with trying to deal with the pandemic, we should try to minimize other sources of stress, such as financial burdens. This is where I would recommend actions such as urging your member of Congress to support legislation to forgive student loan debts for frontline health workers during COVID-19.[3]
  5. If you have a friend who is a health worker, listen to what they have to say. Don’t blow off your friend. Don’t minimize the experiences your friend had. Just listen to them.

These are just a handful of ways that you can support our health workers during COVID-19. Are there other ways we should consider supporting health workers? If so, please leave a comment below!


[1] I understand that some people have a difficult time with masks for health reasons. However, for many, there are other types of face covering, such as face shields, that may work better for you than a face mask.

[2] https://www.aha.org/guidesreports/2020-05-05-hospitals-and-health-systems-face-unprecedented-financial-pressures-due#:~:text=Hospitals%20face%20catastrophic%20financial%20challenges,of%20%2450.7%20billion%20per%20month.

[3] https://www.govtrack.us/congress/bills/116/hr6720

Addressing the Rise in Coronavirus Cases in Some States

Coronavirus cases are increasing at drastic rates in some states. Some people are alarmed with this rise in coronavirus cases, while other people (including some elected officials) downplay the increase in cases by saying out that there’s more coronavirus testing than before, and that because of more testing, there are more cases.

I’m here to say that there is reason for alarm in some places. But the reason for alarm is not because of the increase in coronavirus cases in many places, but because many places are struggling to adequately handle coronavirus cases so severe that urgent intervention is needed.

In places hard-hit by the coronavirus, the local health care systems get completely overwhelmed by coronavirus patients. In parts of Italy, the health care system got so overwhelmed that doctors had to make heart-wrenching decisions about who to try saving and who to let die.[1] In my hometown of New York, response times for emergency calls surged significantly at the height of the coronavirus, which in turn further endangered individuals already at risk.[2] In Alabama, fellow blogger Kim reported a few weeks ago that hospitals in Montgomery were so overwhelmed that they were needing to start sending patients to Birmingham, which is 90 miles away from Montgomery; this additional wait for treatment also further endangered individuals already at risk.[3] In places like these, the health care systems get so overwhelmed that lives are put at risk or worse—lives are lost. That is reason for alarm.

But, how is one to respond to the alarm? I have five words to say: wear masks and socially distance. People should do those two things, as much as possible. I know people want to give their friends a hug, and I know that the masks can feel hot during the summer, but this is not about you. It’s about others. Namely, it’s about saving others’ lives. It’s about making sure that our emergency responders, nurses, and doctors don’t get overwhelmed. It’s about making sure that the immunocompromised don’t catch the virus and end up seriously ill (or dead) because of irresponsible actions from others. If you don’t want to wear masks and socially distance for yourself, do it for others, because wearing a mask and practicing social distancing are the two best ways to do your part to limit the spread of this pandemic.

Note that I will not have a post next Monday because of the July 4th holiday the previous Saturday.


[1] https://www.bbc.com/future/article/20200428-coronavirus-how-doctors-choose-who-lives-and-dies?ocid=global_future_rss

[2] https://www.nbcnewyork.com/news/local/tracking-nycs-coronavirus-fight-from-911-call-to-er-door/2369206/

[3] https://cadburypom.wordpress.com/2020/05/22/family-fridays-9/