Coronavirus Update From New York City: September 30, 2021

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

On a personal level, the news about Moderna booster shots is big, as I have some family members who took the Moderna vaccine who would be eligible to get a booster shot. Though alas, I am on Team Pfizer so the time has not come (yet) for me to get a booster. As soon as I am eligible for one (assuming the science says that people who got the Pfizer two-dose should get a third dose), I hope to get one, though.

The biggest news out of my area this week has been over vaccine mandates, for both New York City’s Department of Education (DOE) employees and for health care workers in New York State.

The vaccine mandates for DOE employees has been subject to legal challenges, but as of the time of my writing, it looks like the mandates will go into effect at 5 PM this Friday. I hear that there’s a last-ditch effort for the vaccine mandate to be appealed to the United States Supreme Court, though I would be somewhat surprised if the Supreme Court blocked it–Justice Amy Coney Barrett turned away a challenge to a vaccine mandate at Indiana University (not to be confused with University of Indiana), so if that’s any indication, it seems like even the conservative Supreme Court justices have little appetite to take up anti-vaccine mandate cases. I support this mandate, because ultimately DOE needs to look out for the best interests of those most vulnerable in their system: unvaccinated kids under the age of 12 who cannot get vaccinated at this point. A public school system of teachers and other faculty who are fully vaccinated (with exemptions for extremely limited religious and medical reasons, of course) is a system that is looking out for those unvaccinated little kids. There is some concern as to what schools will do when confronted with teachers who remain unvaccinated, in spite of the mandates. While that is an understandable concern, I still remain hopeful that the majority of currently unvaccinated teachers will get vaccinated when push comes to shove, and that in the cases where there are teachers who continue to remain unvaccinated, there will be enough vaccinated substitute teachers to step in. We’ll know by this time next week, unless I am wrong in my prediction about what the Supreme Court will do, about whether I was correct to be hopeful.

The vaccine mandate for health care workers in New York State is already in effect, and there are reports of some hospitals taking a hard line on unvaccinated health care workers, even firing some of the unvaccinated.[1] In cases where there are staffing shortages at hospitals, people from the National Guard are stepping in. I support this mandate as well. Given the tragic consequences of not being diligent enough with how we care for COVID, I personally am led to be on the side of being more rather than less diligent, including with vaccinations for our health care workers. The side of being more diligent means health care workers getting vaccinated, with some rare exceptions.

Mandates aside, the virus seems to be spreading at more or less a steady rate in my area.[2] This gives me hope that we have weathered the potential storm of schools getting started, though honestly, even if it were a storm, at least the New York City area would’ve started with a decent amount of capacity in our ICUs in order to manage it. The fact that we have weathered this also gives me hope that maybe, just maybe, the spread of the virus will slow down some more.

Speaking of ICUs, I must continue to say that thankfully, the horror stories of ICUs at capacity still do not exist in the New York City area. As of last Tuesday, only 60% of ICU beds are filled.[3] This stands in stark contrast with the parts of the country that have lower vaccination rates than New York City and higher occupancy of ICU beds (still to the point of medical care being rationed in the most extreme of cases). I genuinely hope and pray for those of my readers in those parts of the country and world where there aren’t many, if any, available ICU beds for other COVID patients.

So, that is it for me for now. Feel free to leave comments below about the situation I describe in New York, the situation with COVID in the United States, and/or the situation where you are!


[1] https://www.cbsnews.com/news/covid-vaccine-mandate-new-york-hospital-workers-2021-09-28/

[2] https://covidactnow.org/us/metro/new-york-city-newark-jersey-city_ny-nj-pa/?s=23561273

[3] Ibid.

Hurricane Ida Deaths in New York City: A Microcosm of Who Climate Change Affects the Most

Flooding from the remnants of Hurricane Ida on the Major Deegan Expressway in New York City (The Bronx, to be exact)

A few weeks ago, the remnants of Hurricane Ida ravaged New York City with historic flooding. As I’ve told my friends about Ida, 2-4 inches of snow an hour paralyzes New York City, let alone 2-4 inches of rain an hour, which was what we received. The result was numerous deaths in New York City—deaths in communities that represent a microcosm of who climate change affects the most.

While it is impossible to chalk up the impacts of any one storm entirely to climate change, there is no doubt that warmer air and water temperatures create a recipe ideal for bigger and stronger storms what we got with Ida.[1] And Ida was a storm stronger (in terms of rainfall) than what one is typically expected to get with the sort of climate that exists in New York City.

Due to Ida’s floods, there were numerous deaths. Not only that, but most of the people who died from Hurricane Ida in my hometown of New York City died in illegal basement apartments.[2] It may be easy to wag one’s finger at the existence of basement apartments or those who live in them because they are illegal, but the unfortunate reality is that these basement apartments exist because many people in a city as expensive as New York cannot afford to live anywhere else.[3] In other words, most of the people who died from Ida were likely too much in poverty to afford living anywhere else.

And the fact that this storm, which was likely made stronger by climate change, killed so many who were so poor they could only afford an illegal basement apartment, should serve as a cautionary example of who climate change affects the most.

The situations with people in basement apartments during Ida is one example of this. But there are so many other examples of the poor being particularly vulnerable to extreme weather events fueled by climate change. There was Hurricane Katrina, where those who were in the lowest-lying areas most prone to flooding from the storm were predominantly poor (and Black).[4] It wasn’t just Katrina, though—with storms in general, those in lower-income neighborhoods are most likely to be the most severely affected by these storms,[5] even though they are the least able to handle such storms.[6] With wildfires, as well, the poor are often the most vulnerable—the University of California at Irvine found in a study earlier this year that those impacted the most by wildfires in that state (which have become more frequent as a result of climate change) have disproportionately been poor.[7]

This is not to say that those who are wealthier cannot be impacted by these storms. After all, the Hamptons in New York suffered severe damage from Hurricane Sandy, while wildfires threatened Hollywood a couple of years ago. However, those who are wealthier have more financial resources than those who are poorer to recover from the extreme weather events made worse by climate change, if those who are wealthier even live in areas vulnerable to extreme weather to begin with (and in many cases, it’s the poor who live in the areas most vulnerable to extreme weather).[8] Furthermore, those who are wealthier are more likely to have a place to go in the event of a disaster threatening their residences. For those who think or hope that weather disasters made worse by climate change can be equalizers between the wealthy and everyone else, think again.

What this all means is that reducing poverty is more than an economic justice issue. It is a climate justice issue, too. And failing to address poverty and all its adjacent issues, such as housing affordability, other cost-of-living expenses, and job wages, contributes to more people being more vulnerable to extreme weather events made worse by climate change. As long as we fail to address this, I fear that we should prepare ourselves for higher death tolls caused by a combination of more extreme weather and a high number of people in poverty. That being said, this is a case where I hope I am wrong, and I would be extremely glad if I found that I were wrong.


[1] https://today.tamu.edu/2021/09/02/climate-change-helped-intensify-hurricane-ida-a-potential-preview-of-whats-to-come/

[2] https://abcnews.go.com/US/calls-change-11-people-nyc-basement-apartments-died/story?id=79818549

[3] Ibid.

[4] https://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=4829446

[5] https://www.brookings.edu/blog/social-mobility-memos/2017/09/18/hurricanes-hit-the-poor-the-hardest/

[6] Ibid.

[7] https://news.uci.edu/2021/05/30/california-wildfires-disproportionately-affect-elderly-and-poor-residents-uci-study-finds/

[8] https://www.brookings.edu/blog/social-mobility-memos/2017/09/18/hurricanes-hit-the-poor-the-hardest/

Coronavirus Update From New York City: January 7, 2021

This is a COVID update post, but I think it’s important for me to start tonight’s post by addressing the big elephant in the room: yesterday’s violent happenings in Washington.

I live in New York City, so for all my international friends, I am okay and far away (as in a couple hundred miles away far) from what happened yesterday. However, that doesn’t make the violent uprising in Washington okay.

What happened yesterday was un-American. As I said already on my personal Facebook wall, as well as my blog’s Twitter page, part of life in living in this democratic republic is dealing with the fact that your candidate of choice sometimes loses, and dealing with that fact in a peaceful manner. Sometimes, dealing with the aftermath of that internally is tough, and acting with grace is tough when you are upset with the result. I know that from experience because there have been times when my candidate of choice lost. But the American thing to do is to move on from that loss with dignity and with accepting the will of the people, not by invading the United States Capitol Building and disrupting the proceedings of democratically-elected legislators. The individuals who did this were insurrectionists, not patriots.

On the topic of COVID, which is the main purpose of these weekly updates, the numbers are looking increasingly bad. In my part of New York City, the positivity rate has climbed to above 15%–high enough that certain things I felt safe going to when numbers were lower (such as church) are now places I don’t feel safe going to these days. More disturbingly, it feels like, as the numbers get worse, the compliance people are having with mask-wearing and social distancing has also become worse. Americans, and New Yorkers, need to do a whole lot better with their mask-wearing and social distancing.

One of the alarming things to me about COVID is that, as I learned when I listened to a CNN show discussing how the United States responded to the Spanish Flu in the late 1910s, many of the same mistakes we made then are mistakes we’re making now. Some of those mistakes include not following basic disease prevention precautions (such as…wearing a mask) and a president wanting to focus attention on other things (in the late 1910s, Woodrow Wilson wanted to focus on World War I, and in 2020, it was President Trump wanting to win re-election). In both cases, the consequences of our mistakes led to the loss of hundreds of thousands of Americans.

On a personal level, my family is still COVID-free, thankfully. Hopefully it stays that way. That being said, I did struggle with a head cold for some of the holidays so I was not 100%, but thankfully I am now feeling better physically. Emotionally though, I am definitely still a bit rattled from what happened in Washington yesterday.

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.

My Final Coronavirus Update From New York City (For Now, and Hopefully Forever): June 25, 2020

First of all, I want to apologize to my readers for a late post this evening. I was working a meeting related to where I work, and that meeting ended literally right before I started typing this. Hence, the delay in writing and publishing this post.

I should address the elephant in the room: the title of tonight’s post. I was thinking that I would continue these weekly update posts until we got to about mid-July, which would be a month or so into the reopening process in New York City. I wanted to wait to wind down this series until mid-July because I wanted to see whether the reopening process went safely in the city first. I said all of this in a post about a month ago.

However, a lot has changed in the past month.

Namely, there are now major hotspots emerging in states like Alabama, California, Washington, Florida, and Texas. In contrast, my home state, once the epicenter of the virus, is now one of only four states on track to contain the virus.[1]

This weekly update was created so that readers could get insight into what it was like to be living in a hotspot of this horrid pandemic. However, we are most certainly not a hotspot in New York–in fact, we’re likely one of the safest places to be in right now, from a COVID-19 standpoint. Given how much the situation is under control here, I’ve concluded that these weekly updates have run their course.

This is not to say that the pandemic is over, by any means. Far from it. The end of this series just means that the pandemic is under control enough in my area, at least for the time being, that I didn’t feel it was right to continue these weekly updates. Of course, if the dreaded second wave comes to New York, I would resume my weekly updates. I sincerely hope we don’t have a second wave, though.

Nor should anyone interpret the end of this series as a sign to stop practicing the mask-wearing and the social distancing, even if you live in New York. In fact, this series would be continuing for many weeks to come if not for the fact that so many New Yorkers were on board with wearing their masks and social distancing.

I want to thank all of you, my readers, for being a part of this journey by liking, commenting, and sharing these posts. It has been a wild and at times trying journey, but a journey that I am thankful to have survived in good health, and a journey that I’m glad I documented.


[1] https://covidactnow.org/state/NY?s=56971