Coronavirus Update From New York City (With Another Hurricane Ida Update): September 9, 2021

With this post, much like with the last one, I felt that it was important to dedicate some space to another update on how things are faring with the aftermath of Hurricane Ida in my area.

The subways in New York City are back to normal. I think that amid all the bad news from the storm, the workers who helped get the subways back into functional shape should be applauded for their herculean efforts. In spite of all the water and issues caused by it, subway workers were able to somehow get the subways back into functional shape in time for people to return to work after the Labor Day weekend. We have seen the tremendous efforts of subway workers time and time again over the past two decades–from the work to restore service after the attacks of September 11, 2001 (which happened twenty years ago as of Saturday…yikes) to the work to restore service after Hurricane Sandy in 2012–but it is worth mentioning again.

There are some people for whom life may never return to normal as it was before Ida hit. Between all who lost so much from the flooding and the tornadoes, and those who died from Ida (many of them in basement apartments), there will need to either be no normal or else a “new normal” that looks vastly different from the old one. I am lucky to have not lost anything or anyone I know personally from Ida, but I know that some are not so lucky.

As for the pandemic situation in my part of the world, the metrics are looking like they are trending in the right direction. In terms of percent of those tested who test positive, number of confirmed cases, and number of confirmed hospitalizations, the numbers have actually improved.[1] They aren’t improving quickly, though, so it is no time for residents in my part of the world to get complacent. Especially with in-person schooling starting up again with a bunch of unvaccinated children, and with people returning from Labor Day holidays that in some cases were perhaps not well-advised considering the dire situations with the virus in parts of the country, we cannot get complacent, even where I am. In terms of the children and school, one hope I hold on to is that severe illness from the pandemic among children is rare, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.[2] For everyone’s sakes, hopefully it stays that way.

Speaking of Labor Day holidays, I found it shocking that so many of us acted like it was a normal-ish holiday, in spite of the bad shape parts of the country are in with this virus. It’s shocking because parts of the country are in the worst shape they have been in for months, yet some of us are proceeding as if there is no virus. I think doing that is a big mistake, and now we may have to buckle in for a post-Labor Day surge from the pandemic. This is one case where I desperately hope that I am wrong, though. While I sometimes take pride from correct predictions, a correct prediction here would mean that lives we could have saved were instead lost.

Even if we do go into a post-Labor Day surge, at least there are a decent number of ICU beds available where I am. Fewer than 6 in 10 ICU beds are being used in the New York City metropolitan area.[3] This stands in contrast with the horror stories I’m hearing from other parts of the country, mostly places with lower vaccination rates, where ICU beds are getting filled up. I’m hearing horror stories of how some places are getting to the point, yet again, of having to make painful choices of who to let live and who to let die. And let’s be clear here–this is because of people deciding not to get vaccinated. From Alabama, where 84% of those hospitalized with COVID-19 as of a few days ago were unvaccinated;[4] to Banner Health hospitals in the Western United States,[5] where more than 90% of its COVID-19 patients are unvaccinated;[6] to the CentraCare hospital system in Central Minnesota, where more than 90% of COVID-19 patients are unvaccinated;[7] the cold, hard reality is that this is a pandemic primarily of the unvaccinated. This is not to say that someone who is vaccinated cannot get the virus or get very sick with it, but the risk of that happening is clearly much lower for those who are vaccinated than those who are not. So, if any of my readers are unvaccinated, I hope that these statistics serve as a call for you to get vaccinated. And if these numbers don’t convince those who are unvaccinated, I can’t help but genuinely wonder what will result in you doing the right thing. As one can tell from my tone, my patience is wearing thin.

So that is pretty much it from my corner of the world–a corner where the situation is a mixed bag, at best, with the pandemic and the recovery from Ida. I look forward to hearing how others are doing, though!


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

[2] https://www.aap.org/en/pages/2019-novel-coronavirus-covid-19-infections/children-and-covid-19-state-level-data-report/

[3] https://covidactnow.org/us/metro/new-york-city-newark-jersey-city_ny-nj-pa/?s=22681191

[4] https://www.rocketcitynow.com/article/news/local/alabama-icu-shortage-covid-19-coronavirus-vaccine-unvaccinated/525-355418aa-113b-4cc9-80a9-751498831243

[5] For those who don’t live in the Western U.S., Banner Health is a massive hospital system in that part of the country, with 30 hospitals and tens of thousands of employees. https://www.bannerhealth.com/about/glance

[6] https://kvoa.com/coronavirus-coverage/coronavirus-top-stories/2021/09/01/banner-health-more-than-90-percent-of-covid-19-patients-are-unvaccinated/

[7] https://www.mprnews.org/story/2021/09/04/latest-covid-surge-strains-central-mn-hospitals

The Coronavirus and Ageism

The Coronavirus has severely affected the United States, and the world in general. However, one population that has been particularly affected by this horrid pandemic is the 65+ population, for about 8 in 10 Americans killed by COVID-19 thus far have been 65 and older.[1]

One would hope for a compassionate response to this fact, a response that tries to make sure that the populations that seem most vulnerable (older persons as well as the immunocompromised) are taken care of. Unfortunately, that has not always been the case; instead, some have responded with something along the lines of “oh, it’s just old people.” There are several issues with this “it’s just old people” response:

  • Such comments come across as if older persons are not of as much value as the rest of us and are therefore not worth saving as much as everyone else is.
  • Such comments are also, in a way, attacking our future selves—many of us may end up being older persons at some point, so devaluing older persons is in a way devaluing some of our future selves.
  • Such comments are also attacking of some of our family members. You know what? If you’re saying “it’s just old people” and you have family or friends who are over the age of 65, you are, de facto, attacking those family members or friends.
  • While the virus has disproportionately affected older persons, it’s not just old people dying of the virus. Younger persons, including and especially those who are immunocompromised, have also been seriously affected by the virus, and in some cases, killed. I wrote about one such person—a family friend—in my most recent COVID update post.

If we are to rid ourselves of this “it’s just old people” sort of attitude, we will need to completely change our mindset in terms of how much the lives of older persons matter. In my observations, at least, this issue with how much many people in our society value the lives of older persons dates back to long before COVID. The pandemic may have heightened our awareness of this issue, but the issue did not start with the pandemic.

As to how we go about changing those perceptions, I’m not completely sure, but addressing a couple of problems may help address the “it’s just old people” attitude:

  1. There can be this attitude of “such-and-such old person will die soon anyway, so there’s no need to worry” (an attitude that I know my mom’s mother, who is in her nineties, has experienced herself since before the pandemic). With many people living to their eighties, nineties, and even sometimes over 100 years old, the assumption that a person will die soon is in some cases a mistaken assumption. Even if it’s not a mistaken assumption, it is vital to make someone’s quality of life as good as it can possibly be while they are on this earth.
  2. Who matters most, at least in the United States, feels like it is often tied to who is making the most money. As the overwhelming majority of those 65 and older in the United States are not employed or looking for work,[2] the non-working older population is less likely to be viewed as being of value as the rest of the population. A key here might be to realize that someone need not make lots of money to be of value of society.

Regardless of the source of the “it’s just old people” mentality, it is a mentality that needs to be gotten rid of, for the sake of older persons and the pandemic as a whole. People’s lives may very well count on a shift of attitude towards older persons.


[1] https://www.aarp.org/health/conditions-treatments/info-2020/coronavirus-deaths-older-adults.html

[2] https://www.aarp.org/work/employers/info-2019/americans-working-past-65.html

Coronavirus Update From New York City: April 15, 2021

Unfortunately, I have to start tonight’s post yet again in a downbeat manner.

Last weekend, my family lost a family friend to COVID.

It was devastating to learn this news. While it was my dad who knew this person far better than anyone else, it is news that affects all of us in one way or another.

The news also provided me with a somber reminder that nobody is truly invincible when it comes to this virus. This person was barely in her forties and had already received her first vaccine dose–two things that some people may mistakenly think are things going for this person. But nope. While some of us may like to or want to believe that this is a virus that mostly older persons get (not that it makes the disease any less serious because younger persons can carry the disease to older persons), or that this is a disease that makes you invincible even upon the first dose of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, such things are not the case.

Last, but not least, this death is yet another reminder that this pandemic is far from over. We may like to think that because vaccines are coming to us, the pandemic is coming to an end. While I hold some hope for the vaccines, we need more than vaccines–people need to stop the partying, the masklessness, and the lack of social distancing. People who continue to willfully ignore the public health guidance on COVID need to start caring for individuals other than themselves.

As for what numbers are like in my part of New York City this week, the test positivity rate is at 8.3%. That is actually relatively level compared to where the numbers were last week. Still, these numbers indicate that my part of New York City is far from being out of the woods with the virus, even if more people are getting vaccinated.

I guess the ultimate takeaway, between the news I have this week and the test positivity numbers I just said, is that even if some of us may want to be done with the virus, the virus is far from being done with us. Let’s continue to wear our masks, socially distance, and keep non-essential travel to a minimum.

Coronavirus Update From New York City: April 8, 2021

First of all, I hope people have had a good Easter, Passover, or whatever holiday you celebrate.

This evening’s post, unfortunately, is starting on a sorrowful note. The reason for that is because I learned this week that a couple of people in a family who live in a house near mine lost their lives to COVID-19. As if I don’t already have enough reminders of how serious this pandemic is, I received yet another reminder this week. I don’t know when the two individuals passed away, but regardless, I keep these two individuals in my own thoughts and prayers.

This news also is a reminder of how fickle the pandemic can be. Nobody in my family has gotten COVID to our knowledge, yet we have people nearby who got COVID, and people nearby who even died of the pandemic. It’s so fickle that at this point I don’t know if it’s the strict following of public health precautions, dumb luck, or some combination of the two that has kept my family COVID-free. Personally, I think that it’s a combination of the two.

The other downer in the past week, albeit a downer in a different way, was the nature of the Easter Sunday holiday for me. Now, I went to church, but it was not like going to church on a regular Easter. I say that because I didn’t sing any hymns last Sunday, while in contrast I would passionately sing hymns on a regular Easter Sunday. I realize that from a COVID transmission standpoint, it was for the best that I didn’t sing, because droplets from your mouth travel much further when you sing than when you speak in a normal tone of voice. Yet, it it was still painfully difficult for me to abstain from singing–so much that I was in tears from resisting that temptation to sing the songs played on my church’s organ. While it was not as difficult as having to do Easter from home last year, it was challenging nevertheless.

The irony is that according to the church calendar of in the Catholic tradition and some other Christian religious traditions, we have just passed through Lent–a season that involves some form of sacrifice for many believers. And yet, even though the church calendar says that this season is over, emotionally and spiritually it feels like I haven’t even exited Lent 2020, even though Lent 2021 has already passed. I say this because the COVID-related sacrifices started in Lent 2020 and for me, at least, they haven’t stopped since then. I guess I can hope that the COVID situation turns around so that it spiritually feels like Easter by late summer? Fingers crossed.

On a different (and better) note, the test positivity rate for COVID in my neighborhood is at 8.2%, which is down from where it was last week. This seems to be bucking the trend (in a good way) compared to many parts of the United States, where COVID is again on the rise to the point that there is debate about whether there is now a fourth wave of the pandemic. This is also bucking the trend compared to the rest of New York City (at least at the moment), where the test positivity rate is stable.

The other positive piece of news is that vaccine distribution seems to be accelerating, to the point that 38% of adults in New York City have received at least one vaccine dose. As vaccine supply continues to expand, and as vaccine eligibility has expanded massively in the past couple of weeks (to the point that all New Yorkers 16 and older are now eligible for a vaccine), I trust that this number will go up even further. It is concerning, though, that there continues to be racial disparities in who is getting vaccinated–Blacks and Latinos are getting vaccinated at much lower rates than whites.

I know my post was a bit of a downer in parts today, but in spite of that, I do retain hope for better days ahead.

Coronavirus Update From New York City: March 11, 2021

I just listened to President Biden’s address to the nation on the COVID relief legislation he signed, as well as on the pandemic as a whole. As such, now seems as good a time as any to publish my weekly COVID update.

Ironically, the day I am posting this is also the day last year that I had my last relatively “normal” day in terms of heading to a work office, working at that office, and heading home. The following day, which was Thursday, March 12th, things were changing a lot. And, just a few days later, the whole world around me was getting topsy-turvy.

Since then, a lot of us around the United States and around the world have been through so much pain and loss, through loved ones and friends and friends of friends getting gravely ill or dying of COVID-19. The change of lifestyle has been jarring, but what really gets to me is the number of people who’ve been so severely affected by this pandemic. What also gets to me is the fact that, if we followed the public health guidance as a society, many of those deaths could have been avoided.

Now that I’ve ended my mini-rant on the anniversary of things starting to change, you all might be happy to know that my parents are getting their second COVID vaccines before long! I haven’t gotten my first dose yet, but I’m also much younger than they are and don’t have any conditions or occupations that justify my getting the vaccine at this stage. I’m really happy that my parents will be fully vaccinated soon, though. Hopefully, as more of us get vaccinated, and as enough of us hopefully take the precautions needed, we can maybe get to a “modified normal” before long where we can see family members and close friends. One can only hope.

This is a hope that President Biden shares. He thinks that with enough vaccination and cooperation with public health guidance, we could be able to gather around and celebrate on Independence Day, which is July 4th for my readers from outside the United States. Given the rebellious nature of some individuals and states, I am skeptical as to whether we will actually get there. Perhaps America will prove my skepticism wrong.

The test positivity rate for the virus is at just under 10% in my part of New York City, which is more or less stable compared to where we were last week. That seems to be a microcosm of the larger nationwide trend, which is also indicating that the number of positive cases for the virus has also plateaued from what I have heard. While that plateau is at a much lower level than where we were during the awful holiday season (in terms of number of cases and deaths), we really do need to try and get the infection rate even lower.

With all that being said, what are the memories that you, my readers, have from the first days of COVID (if they aren’t too wounding to share)? Obviously I have a lot of memories (some of which I posted here and some of which I didn’t), but I think it’s important to give voice to the stories of others too.