Coronavirus Update From New York City: September 23, 2021

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

The virus in my part of the world is, more or less, spreading at a constant rate, as cases are showing a stable trend, as opposed to one where cases are significantly increasing or decreasing.[1] I really would like my city and region to get better control of the virus, but honestly, I’m not sure how much of that is a priority at the moment compared to getting things back “to normal” (whatever normal is).

Part of that “normal” (or at least a modified one) is a major event that is pretty much on my doorstep: the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA). I am a five-minute walk from the United Nations, so I see a lot of people related to UNGA around me when I am heading to and from work, whether it be press, protestors, police, or dignitaries. Worse yet, some world leaders have largely been ignoring safety protocols related to the Coronavirus, raising concerns about whether UNGA may itself be a super spreader event.[2] I hope that UNGA is not a super spreader event, even more so because it is right in the neighborhood where I work, but I have concerns it may be one.

Another part of that “normal” has been the reopening of schools. Schools have been open for nearly two weeks now, more or less. I say “more or less” because public schools in New York, which have schools closed on Jewish holidays, were closed for one day because of Yom Kippur. Thus far, one school in the city has had to go fully remote for a period of time (10 days) due to the virus.[4] When this school went remote, it made the national news because it was the first school in the nation’s largest school district to have to go remote due to the virus. However, less covered is the fact that there are many hundreds of places in New York where there are partial or complete classroom closures due to the Coronavirus–over 1,300 of them, as of the time of my writing this.[5] To put this into context, there are 1,876 schools in the DOE system, which means that COVID is so widespread in DOE schools that we have nearly .7 classroom closures (full or partial) for every school in the system. I definitely continue to be concerned about COVID spread in schools.

At the same time schools are reopened and in-person again, restaurants are now required to have those interested in dining indoors show their proof of vaccination. And it has already resulted in a hostess on the Upper West Side in New York City getting beat up by three tourists from Texas over having to show proof of vaccination status.[6] I hope that these incidents don’t happen with frequency now that there restaurants whose staffs in certain parts of the country are now required to ask for vaccine proof. But regardless of whether attacks like what happened on the Upper West Side become more common, I certainly hope that the attack I talked about can serve as a reminder, to all of us, to be kind to our service workers during a really difficult time.

As far as ICUs are concerned, 40% of ICU beds are still available in my region (the New York City Metro).[3] This continues to thankfully buck the trend in certain parts of the United States when it comes to running out of ICU beds and even ration medical care (which I am hearing more and more about in certain parts of the country). I mention this so that people are aware that if they hear stories about parts of the country where ICU beds are in a desperate shape, the part of the country that I am in is, thankfully, not one of them. That being said, we were one of those areas at the very beginning of the pandemic, back in Spring of 2020, so perhaps I have an inkling of what people in places like Florida and Idaho are going through right now (except for the whole vaccine part–there was no vaccine available to keep one from getting ill back in Spring of 2020 when New York was slammed; now there are vaccines and many who end up on the hospital were ones who refused to get vaccinated).

So, that is a summary of where things are where I am. As always, I am happy to hear how others are doing!


[1] https://covidactnow.org/us/metro/new-york-city-newark-jersey-city_ny-nj-pa/?s=23371255

[2] https://foreignpolicy.com/2021/09/20/unga-coronavirus-threat-new-york-un-brief/

[3] https://covidactnow.org/us/metro/new-york-city-newark-jersey-city_ny-nj-pa/?s=23261246

[4] https://www.schools.nyc.gov/school-life/health-and-wellness/covid-information/daily-covid-case-map

[5] https://www.schools.nyc.gov/school-life/health-and-wellness/covid-information/daily-covid-case-map

[6] https://abc7ny.com/hostess-assaulted-carmines-uws/11027118/

Why We Should Avoid Revenge

There have been times in my life when I felt wronged by someone. In many, if not all, of these instances, I was tempted to seek revenge on the person who wronged me. Most of the time, I didn’t give in to this temptation. But on a couple of occasions, I did.

I know that I am far from the only person who considers revenge against the wrongdoer. In fact, a recent blog post had to do with the Trump administration seeking revenge against the United Nations, which voted against Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

However, I make a call for all of us, regardless of political affiliation, religious beliefs, or personal views on other matters, to avoid revenge.

One problem with revenge is that revenge is so focused on “getting even” with someone that we fail to consider how our “getting even” might hurt the supposed wrongdoer, or hurt others who have nothing to do with the situation in which we were wronged. The Trump administration’s decision to cut American funding to the UN is an example of this—the administration’s desire to get even with the UN after the vote on the Jerusalem issue will end up lessening the UN’s ability to deliver humanitarian services, and as a result will hurt people who have absolutely nothing to do with Trump’s decision or the UN vote. While I hope that our struggles with revenge will not have consequences as potentially catastrophic as the example from the Trump administration, revenge nevertheless has the potential to hurt others.

If we seek revenge, we could also hurt ourselves. For example, former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie sought revenge on the Mayor of Fort Lee, New Jersey because he didn’t support Christie’s campaign for a second term as governor, and the result of that revenge (closing lanes on the George Washington Bridge) was a scandal that ended any hopes of Governor Christie becoming President Christie in 2016. Examples like Christie’s demonstrate that it really is in our own best interests to avoid revenge.

Critics of my anti-revenge message might say the following: “What about seeking revenge for unjust actions? Wouldn’t that be okay?” Actually, that is not okay. The most effective movements for human rights in recent decades, and the most effective human rights activists, urged people to avoid revenge. Mahatma Gandhi once said that, “An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind.” Malala Yousafzai didn’t “want revenge on the Taliban, I want education for sons and daughters of the Taliban.” Martin Luther King Jr. said that, “Man must evolve for all human conflict a method which rejects revenge, rejection, and retaliation.”

I will, however, go one step further than simply urging us to avoid revenge. We should “bless those who persecute us” and “love our enemies,” as Jesus Christ (another proponent of peace) said. We should do what Gandhi, Malala, and Dr. King did, and respond to hatred and hurt with love and compassion instead of revenge.

The Catastrophic Consequences of the United States Cutting Funding from the United Nations

When I took my two-week hiatus from blogging, I thought that I’d come back to problems solved everywhere, leaving me nothing to write about.

Only in my dreams.

Earlier in December, the Trump administration made the decision to move the American embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. In the process, America recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

The United Nations overwhelmingly rejected this move by the Trump administration. It was so overwhelming that many of America’s allies, both in the Middle East (Jordan and Saudi Arabia) and around the world (the United Kingdom and Germany), rejected this move. Egypt, another of America’s allies in the Middle East, sponsored the resolution that rejected these moves.

In the wake of that decision, the Trump administration did what many of us as humans would do after being deeply offended: seek revenge on those who offended us. In the case of the Trump team, they sought revenge by threatening to cut some of the U.S.’s funding from the UN, and then following through on that threat.

Detractors of the UN, as well as the American role in the UN and in global affairs in general, are probably happy about this. However, once people, both supporters and detractors of the move alike, find out about the catastrophic consequences of cutting funding from the UN, they might not be in a celebratory mood about the decision.

What makes American funding cuts to the UN so problematic, potentially, is that these cuts would likely result in funding cuts to UN-sponsored programs that save lives. In order to fully understand the humanitarian consequences of deep American funding cuts to the UN, consider the Brookings Institute’s breakdown of how the U.S. allocation to the UN was used. Indeed, an overwhelming majority of America’s funding to the UN was used for life-saving humanitarian efforts. 23% of the money America gives to the UN goes to the World Food Programme, which is arguably the most influential food-assistance program in the world. 22% goes to peacekeeping operations, which, given this program’s role to help “countries navigate the difficult path from conflict to peace,” is an organization that can also save lives. 13% goes to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, a program meant to protect refugees around the world. Last, but not least, 9% goes to UNICEF, which protects the needs and rights of women and children around the world. These four wings of the UN, which all look to save and improve the lives of people in their own ways, make up 67% of the money that the U.S. gives to the UN.

The bottom line is that American cuts to the UN would result in cuts to the aforementioned programs, all of which save and enrich lives. It means less support for children, women, refugees, people in war-torn areas, and people in danger of starving to death. Some of us might not be fans of the UN’s resolution on Jerusalem, or of the UN in general, but neither issue takes away from the fact that deep cuts in American funding to the UN would be catastrophic from a humanitarian perspective for large groups of people (especially because of how much America contributes to the UN).

To make matters worse, I’ve heard little coverage from the mainstream media on just how much humanitarian efforts would hurt if/when the U.S. makes deep cuts in its funding to the UN. As a result, I fear that the Trump administration will undermine UN humanitarian efforts, and do so with little attention. I hope that my fears are wrong.