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.

Addressing the Pittsburgh Synagogue Shooting

Tree of Life Synagogue Image
The Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. This was the site of a mass shooting on October 27, 2018. By CTO HENRY [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)%5D, from Wikimedia Commons.
This past week has been filled with hate, so much so that I have changed blog topics three or four times in the past six days just to reflect all the bad news (President Trump’s rhetoric on “caravans” coming to the United States, the packages sent to prominent Democrats, and now the synagogue shooting in Pittsburgh). Honestly, all of the horrid news of recent days left me wanting to write everything and write nothing, all at the same time.

But here I am, the night before I usually publish my Tuesday blog posts, writing on the most recent piece of bad news: the shooting at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

I honestly can’t put into words how awful this tragedy was. A group of people worshiping peacefully (just as I worship peacefully in my own religion on a weekly basis) were put into a state of fear, injury, or death (depending on the individual) from an anti-Semitic individual.

Speaking of anti-Semitism, I think that we need to use this time after the shooting to reflect on anti-Semitism.

Namely, it is high time that those of us who have our heads in the sand about the presence of anti-Semitism in the United States take our heads out of the sand.[1]

Anti-Semitism is quite visible and has been given way too much legitimacy. Those who doubt me can look at the record number of white nationalist candidates running for office this year, including candidates who deny the Holocaust (and at least one candidate who, horrifyingly, was at least at one point a member of the American Nazi Party).[2] Those who doubt me can look at the fact that anti-Semitism was rising sharply in the United States, even before the Pittsburgh shooting.[3] And finally, those who doubt me can look at the violence involving neo-Nazis in Charlottesville, Virginia last year and see how the President of the United States said that there were “good people” on the side of neo-Nazis.[4] Anti-Semitism was around before 2017 and 2018, but it has certainly not gone away, and indications are that it has grown. We cannot ignore this anti-Semitism in the United States, and if we ignore it, then it will be to the peril of Jews across this country.

This does not mean that I have a solution that ends all anti-Semitism, and this does not mean that I expect my readers to have a solution to end anti-Semitism (though if anyone does have a roadmap for totally ending anti-Semitism nation-wide and worldwide, God Bless and Godspeed). However, we cannot even begin to think about solving a problem if we are blind to the problem in the first place. And right now, I fear that too many of us are blind to the fact that the anti-Semitism shown in the recent Synagogue shooting is not an isolated incident. It is part of a pattern of widespread anti-Semitism that is only growing in the United States.

Note: This post was written the night before it was published, so I apologize in advance for any mistakes that I made.


[1] I am not mincing words this week.

[2] https://www.businessinsider.com/white-nationalists-running-for-office-in-2018-2018-5

[3] https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/2018/10/28/pittsburgh-synagogue-shooting-anti-semitism-rise-america/1799933002/

[4] https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2017/08/trump-defends-white-nationalist-protesters-some-very-fine-people-on-both-sides/537012/