Coronavirus Update From New York City: February 25, 2021

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

So, in last week’s COVID update post, I lamented about the lack of vaccine availability for my parents, even though they live in a place where COVID is a major issue. That situation has changed significantly, and evidence of that is the fact that they got their first dose of the vaccine yesterday! I am grateful for the efforts of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) for their work in significantly increasing vaccine appointment availability in communities in my area hit hard by COVID yet also underserved by vaccinations. I am also grateful for how smoothly the vaccine site was run, according to my parents. If you live in Queens or Brooklyn and you’re among the populations eligible for COVID-19 vaccines now, please visit https://am-i-eligible.covid19vaccine.health.ny.gov/ to see if you are eligible. For readers who live in Queens and Brooklyn, please spread this information far and wide! Now that there is somewhat greater supply, we want to make sure that people in at-risk populations take advantage of that supply.

This good news does not take away from the fact that COVID is still existent in high numbers in my area–nearly 12% in my zip code, to be exact. The test positivity rate is actually a little higher this week than it was last week. The high COVID rates show that now is absolutely not a time to get complacent with the mask-wearing, the social distancing, or other precautions. Especially since hospital beds in my area are still slammed from the virus, it is important for people to act with caution. I will also add that even if you have been vaccinated, you should continue to wear your mask and practice social distancing.

The other piece of bad news out of New York is that a new variant of the virus has been discovered spreading in New York City. There is concern that this variant may be more resistant to the vaccines being administered than COVID in its other forms, but local health officials are reminding residents that based on the science currently out there, it is premature to reach such a conclusion about the New York variant.[1] Based on the guidance I’ve heard from public health officials, it sounds like we shouldn’t panic yet, but it is completely possible that the New York variant will turn out to be a cause for concern. For now, let’s just keep our fingers crossed that the New York variant turns out to not be that bad.

In different New York-related news, sporting arenas are now reopening for fans, albeit at an extremely limited capacity.[2] It looks like you are required to get a test before you come to one of these games (and not just any test, but apparently the so-called PCR tests, so it’s a specific type of test), so unless there’s something I’m missing, the combination of the required testing and the limited capacity make it seem like this is a low-risk move from a COVID transmission standpoint. If any COVID experts happen to stumble upon this post and my assessment is incorrect, though, please let me know–I’m more than happy to be corrected by public health experts if anything needs correcting.

That is the most recent update on how I am. I’m happy to hear how others are doing, though!


[1] https://www.reuters.com/article/us-health-coronavirus-usa/new-york-officials-others-downplay-concern-over-new-coronavirus-variant-idUSKBN2AP2UY

[2] https://abc7ny.com/covid-vaccine-barclays-center-reopening-brooklyn-nets-nyc-covid-19-finder/10363564/

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 10, 2020 (COVID Test Edition)

I hope all of my readers are healthy and safe during a time when the pandemic is getting truly scary in parts of the United States, and the world. It is particularly sobering that we had more deaths from the virus yesterday than the entire country did from terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001.

New York City is starting to see its hospitalizations and ICU beds used due to COVID rise. Data seems to indicate that we have a few hundred ICU beds still available and a few thousand hospital beds, but with COVID rates on the rise, as well as hospital and ICU beds used due to COVID on the rise, we should not get complacent here in New York City. If you want to track data in New York on a day-to-day basis, I highly recommend your visiting the coronavirus tracker webpage for an online newspaper called The City.

With statistics trending in the wrong direction, there are noises about more things shutting down in New York City before long. Things such as indoor dining, which have been open at a reduced capacity for the past few months, may be in danger of shutting down completely in order to try and not let this virus go too out of control again. I fear though that we may be too late–since many ignored the warnings of our public health experts with regards to behaviors during the recent Thanksgiving holiday, I expect the virus to continue to get worse in New York, and nationwide. I hope I am wrong.

I want to spend most of my post though talking about my experience with getting a COVID-19 test. I got a COVID-19 test for the first time on Sunday so I thought it was worth sharing what the experience was like…

So, to give some backstory, a couple of family members had some symptoms of COVID-19 due to something that was acting like a head cold. Even though it was acting as something no more serious than a head cold for them, I decided to get a COVID test anyway since there is some overlap between COVID symptoms and head cold symptoms.

The test itself was not too bad. Having swabs go into your nose is not the most pleasant feeling in the world, but that didn’t last for long. All in all, for a virus so serious and so deadly, it was not a particularly painful experience. Having blood drawn is to me a much more unpleasant experience than the COVID test that was administered to me.

The experience beyond the test was a lot more mixed. Positives of the experience include receiving free masks, getting free hand sanitizer (not sanitizer I personally needed, but some people do want and/or need that), and a relatively simple process to ensure that I learned the results of my test (which came back negative, by the way, so I don’t have COVID). Negatives of the experience include standing in a long line in cold weather (it was a walk-in site and not a drive-in site) and the fact that the seating area where some people were waiting for test results had some individuals who were unmasked. Overall, if I felt COVID symptoms or knowingly came into contact with someone who tested positive for COVID, I would still get a test and strongly advise people in a similar sort of situation to also get a test. That being said, I think that in order to successfully test and perform contact tracing, we need to make the COVID testing process as pleasant as possible–something that New York City is I think trying to do through the free masks and hand sanitizer, but needs to improve on through more testing sites (something which admittedly may be difficult to achieve if we do not have adequate tests available to begin with).

Hopefully, my mixed review does not scare anyone away from getting a COVID test! In spite of my mixed review of the testing experience, I am glad to have the peace-of-mind of having that negative COVID test. And, if it was found out that I tested positive, appropriate actions could be taken so that others could quarantine accordingly, and protect others yet from the virus. While the testing experience itself was not ideal, testing is important and needs to exist more widely. What’s also important is social distancing and wearing your mask over your mouth and your nose.

Coronavirus Update From New York City: April 30, 2020

As I started thinking about what to write for today’s coronavirus update piece, it dawned on me that I’ve been providing updates for nearly a month and a half. Indeed, I provided my first update on March 19th, and here I am, providing my seventh weekly update at the end of April!

There have been no changes in terms of my own health and my family’s health. No change is good news, as it means none of us have still received coronavirus symptoms. All of us in the household are definitely looking forward to the day that we can see whether we have already contracted the coronavirus and were possibly asymptomatic. That being said, I would like the antibody testing for the coronavirus to get more accurate first before getting a test myself, because apparently, the current antibody tests (tests that look for antibodies to determine whether someone has already gotten the virus) are quite inaccurate and have the potential to mislead people into thinking they were already infected.[1]

While the death rate has lowered overall (more on that in the next paragraph), one thing that has set in, at least in my family, is the magnitude of the losses we have suffered from the coronavirus. My mom calculated recently that we have sixteen friends, family members of friends, or friends of friends who have died from the coronavirus. I think that number has gone up since my mom did her count a couple of days ago. That’s a lot of loss.

Speaking of the overall death rate, while the numbers are still way too high, they are also trending downwards. The number of coronavirus patients in hospitals and in the intensive care units at hospitals are also down. While I don’t feel that New York City is ready to reopen yet, I do find it encouraging that social distancing seems to be working (though I wish we started it sooner…some experts assert that starting this sooner could’ve saved many thousands of lives in New York). If we get a resurgence of this in the fall, as some experts are predicting, I definitely hope that an early and aggressive effort at social distancing can minimize loss of life.

If you are curious to see up-to-date information on what the coronavirus numbers are like in New York City, I definitely encourage you (in addition to reading my posts on Thursday) to consult this coronavirus tracker provided by a publication called The City. This tracker provides you with information on the number of new tests and cases per day, both city-wide and by borough (I’m in Queens). Their tracker also provides you with information on hospital and ICU admissions, among other things. So, if you’re eager to see what the situation is in New York City but you just can’t wait for my next Thursday update post, feel free to consult the tracker.

Before ending this post, I should note that I will have a new page on my blog called “2020 Coronavirus Diary.” While these posts definitely are valuable in the here-and-now for providing updates on how I’m doing and how New York City is doing, I think these posts could also be valuable years and even decades from now when people are wondering what it was like to be in the epicenter of that pandemic in 2020. It’s not something I have up right now, but I hope to get the page up over the weekend.

That’s pretty much it from me. How are all of you doing?


[1] https://www.politico.com/news/2020/04/27/reliable-antibody-tests-coronavirus-207589

Coronavirus Update From New York City: April 2, 2020

As is the case with my previous two coronavirus updates, I am writing this impromptu because the situation with the coronavirus around New York City is just so fluid. It remains fluid, even though the virus has only had the attention of New Yorkers for a few weeks now.

At this point, I’m continuing to do fine, and so is the rest of my family. None of us have come down sick with the coronavirus; given that we’re all still healthy, we’re left wondering whether we already had it and didn’t realize it, or whether we had coronavirus and were asymptomatic, or what. Regardless, I just count my blessings that we are all still healthy, and I hope it remains that way. Especially since everyone in my household knows people who have coronavirus symptoms, and all of us at the very least know friends of friends who either fell critically ill or passed away from the coronavirus.

It has become spooky just how quiet things are around my neighborhood. It is literally quieter than it often is on a Sunday morning, with one exception: the number of sirens we hear. As for the sirens, we hear them all…the…time.

As a whole, the situation in New York City is not good. However, if readers really want to see exactly where in New York City the situation is worst, I would encourage you to take a look at a map published by the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene that details the number of cases in each zip code as of March 31st. It is not a perfect map, as not all zip codes contain the same number of people; however, it gives people a picture of some of the places where the highest number of people have tested positive for the coronavirus. I won’t analyze the numbers in every zip code, but there are a few observations that people should be aware of, in order to better understand the situation in New York City:

  • I live in one of the zip codes shaded in light purple on the map. What this means is that some areas have been hit harder than mine, but that my area has its fair share of positive tests for the coronavirus.
  • A number of the zip codes shaded in dark purple include neighborhoods such as Elmhurst and Corona in Queens, East New York in Brooklyn, and Morrisania in The Bronx. Many of these hard-hit neighborhoods are socioeconomically not exactly what you call well-to-do. That’s concerning, because it means that the coronavirus is ravaging neighborhoods where many of their residents may not have access to high-quality health care even in the best of circumstances (let alone under the circumstances of a pandemic).
  • Since the aforementioned areas are socioeconomically not exactly what you call well-to-do, residents in those areas who aren’t experiencing hospital-level coronavirus symptoms may not have the sort of access to testing that many wealthier people have. Therefore, I’m guessing that the number of coronavirus cases in the aforementioned neighborhoods may actually be underreported, even though the numbers are already high as-is.

Speaking of access to care, I’ve been telling people not to to treat Governor Andrew Cuomo (my governor), who has suddenly become a darling of many on the left, as a hero. Why? Because in the middle of a freaking pandemic, Governor Cuomo’s Medicaid Redesign Team is recommending cuts in funding to hospitals and Medicaid.[1] I understand my state is facing a significant budget deficit, but a hero would not propose to cut health care funding in a pandemic. I know that’s somewhat off topic (but maybe somewhat on topic, as cuts might hurt New York’s response to another round of coronavirus or some other pandemic), but I just had to get that off my chest.

That’s pretty much it on my end. I hope my readers are hanging in there!


[1] https://www.nbcnewyork.com/news/politics/ny-looking-at-hospital-budget-cuts-even-as-coronavirus-crisis-deepens/2347157/