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: February 11, 2021

I hope that my readers are healthy and safe, regardless of where you are. I also hope that my readers exercised caution, if they did anything for Super Bowl Sunday last weekend. Here are the latest updates I have on how COVID-19 is going in my hometown.

Everyone in my family remains COVID-free. Some of us in the family are definitely experiencing burnout from all the time spent online and on Zoom, as well as the relative lack of time outdoors lately due to the snow, ice, and cold hitting my area the last couple of weeks. Spring is right around the corner (or already here, if you’re a believer in listening to a groundhog in New York City), so I believe that this weather too shall pass.

The test positivity rate in my zip code is at 13.1%, which is still among the highest test positivity rates of all the zip codes in New York City. The COVID rate remains high enough that I think it is of the utmost importance to continue acting with caution. It is out of this cautiousness that I’m not going for indoor dining, not gathering with other people right now, and not going in-person to my church–it just seems too risky with the positivity rate as high as it is in my neighborhood.

If anyone is interested in reading about the issues that have plagued my neighborhood in terms of both testing and vaccinations (namely, not being a priority for either until recently)–in spite of having one of the highest test positivity rates in New York City for a couple of months now–I encourage you to read a recent Washington Post article about said issues (assuming you can get through their paywall or haven’t exhausted your quota of free Washington Post articles for the month). I must admit that I’m somewhat amazed that the paper noticed issues in my neighborhood, but kudos to the writers of the article for noticing us in the first place, let alone writing a detailed article about the area by where I live.

Of concern is the fact that we are starting to record more cases of the COVID variant from the United Kingdom here in New York City.[1] In the past week, we have recorded 18 cases of the variant here in New York City, though I wouldn’t be surprised if that total were much higher, given how easily the UK variant of this spreads.

One person continuing to not act with caution is my governor, Andrew Cuomo. I reported in last week’s post that indoor dining is returning, albeit at reduced capacity, for Valentine’s Day. The start of indoor dining has been pushed up two days now, to February 12th, with the intention of giving restaurants the opportunity to profit off of a whole Valentine’s Day weekend worth of business.[2] Let me be clear–while there may be some areas where it is safe to return to outdoor dining, it is absolutely not safe to return to this in places like mine, places where the test positivity rate is well into the double digits. I know my governor has sometimes wanted to say that he “follows the science,” but I’m not aware of any science suggesting that indoor dining in a COVID hotspot is a good idea.

With regards to the vaccines, the fact of the matter is that the demand for the vaccines, even among the populations of those eligible for them, seems to far outpace the existing supply. While it sounds like supply is on the increase, demand is also quite high.[3] I expect this issue to continue for the next few weeks, at least.

That’s enough in terms of updates from me this week. How are all of you, my readers, doing?


[1] https://www.democratandchronicle.com/story/news/2021/02/08/covid-cases-deaths-vaccines-new-york/43378507/

[2] https://ny.eater.com/2021/2/8/22272476/indoor-dining-nyc-friday-february-12-restart-cuomo

[3] https://www.nbcnewyork.com/news/coronavirus/its-going-to-be-frustrating-ny-warns-of-tough-stretch-as-major-vaccine-eligibility-expansion-looms/2875454/

Coronavirus Update From New York City: February 4, 2021

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

The good news is that the COVID rates are down a little bit in my neighborhood and surrounding neighborhoods. Now, the rate is still high, at just over 12%, so hopefully numbers will go in the right direction in future weeks as well.

Now, it is still important for people where I live to remain cautious. In large part because of the number of COVID patients in the hospital, 85% of total beds and 94% of ICU beds are filled in the hospital closest to where I live. Hopefully, as the test positivity rates go down where I live, so will these numbers at the hospital closest to where I live.

Given the need to continue practicing vigilance, I was deeply disturbed when Governor Cuomo announced that indoor dining will return to New York City, albeit at reduced capacity, on Valentine’s Day.[1] Study after study[2] shows that indoor dining is extremely risky, even if the dining tables are theoretically socially distanced. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicates that indoor dining is extremely risky from a COVID standpoint.[3] The science just doesn’t seem to support indoor dining right now, especially in neighborhoods where the infection rate is high (such as mine). I said this in last week’s COVID update post and I will say it again–while I am deeply sympathetic to the financial situation many restaurants find themselves in, I think it is more sensible to help make ends meet for restaurants through substantial financial assistance, not through the risky business of having indoor dining open.

On the vaccine distribution front, there is some promising news in New York: there is an expected increase in supply on our way.[4] Now, I am realistic, insofar as I expect it to take some time for people to get vaccinated. However, I am hoping that as the Biden administration gets a better handle of what needs to be done, we can move forward and work towards making sure we get the most at-risk New Yorkers in particular vaccinated.

The biggest immediate concern for me is next Sunday. That day is Super Bowl Sunday, which in the United States of America is not only the day a big football game is played, but also the day that friends and extended families tend to meet up to watch the big game. However, now is not the time for such large gatherings, because said gatherings could result in further spread of this virus. I hope people are sensible and only stay within their COVID bubbles, so that we can minimize the spread of the virus. Enjoy the Super Bowl if you are a football fan, but enjoy it in a way that limits the spread of COVID, especially in a time that potentially more contagious than other forms of the virus are coming to the United States.


[1] https://ny.eater.com/2021/1/29/22255018/indoor-dining-nyc-restart-cuomo-de-blasio

[2] Here is one such study: https://ny.eater.com/2021/1/29/22255018/indoor-dining-nyc-restart-cuomo-de-blasio

[3] https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/organizations/business-employers/bars-restaurants.html

[4] https://abc7ny.com/nyc-covid-vaccine-coronavirus-updates-update/10271279/

Addressing Racial Inequity in COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution

People who have been following the news in the United States would have heard about the challenges this country is experiencing in distributing the COVID-19 vaccines. However, early data seems to be indicating that racial inequity has also affected who gets the vaccines (as if it doesn’t already affect enough things).

The Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonprofit dedicated to the study of health issues in the United States, has been able to collect data on the percentage of vaccines distributed to different races/ethnicities in a number of states. The results are not very promising: in states where this data has been collected, it appears that the percentage of vaccines distributed to Hispanics and Blacks does not compare to the percentage of COVID deaths or the total populations of those two races/ethnicities.[1] It does not whether we’re talking about a Democratic-run state like Pennsylvania or a Republican-run one like Texas—this is an issue across the board at this stage.

So what might some of the issues be? Some of the news stories I’ve read and other issues that have been mentioned in other sources might give us some hints:

For centuries, there has been abuse of people of color in the medical field.

The instances of the abuse of people of color in the medical field are numerous. From the infamous “Tuskegee Study of Untreated Syphilis in the Negro Male”[2] in the mid-20th century to the exploitation of Blacks for medical experiment purposes during the era of American slavery,[3] the history of people of color being medically exploited is about as long as, well, the history of people of color existing in what is now the United States of America.[4]

Because of the centuries-long abuse of people of color in the medical field in the United States, the concern is that this has led to deep mistrust in the advice of public health officials by some people of color. This may result in a deep mistrust when it comes to getting the vaccines—a concern that is held by America’s top infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci.[5]

In some cases, it is clear that minority communities are not being prioritized as locations for vaccination sites or as locations for vaccine shipments.

I don’t have any hard studies to back this up but instead stories from across the country. The stories are equally compelling and disturbing, though.

In Austin, Texas, there is a severe lack of vaccination sites in the city’s poorest and most ethnically diverse areas.[6]

As of January 27th, 2021, some Black communities in Florida reported having zero vaccine access.[7]

In Dallas, Texas, Southern Dallas clearly did not get priority from the state government in receiving COVID vaccines, even though that part of Dallas got hit by COVID extremely hard.[8]

Stories such as these show that perhaps one of the issues we’re dealing with is that communities of color, and particularly communities of color that have experienced the hardest impacts from COVID, are not getting the priority they should receive.

Language barriers exist, and those responsible for distributing information on vaccines at times put embarrassingly little effort into addressing them.

In Florida, information for Spanish-speaking people who want to take the vaccine is nowhere near what it should be.[9]

In Arizona, there are concerns that there are not adequate Spanish-language interpreters at vaccination sites.[10]

In the Washington Heights neighborhood in New York City, a neighborhood with a large Spanish-speaking population, there were no Spanish language interpreters at the vaccine site.[11]


How can we possibly expect people to know the information they need to get the vaccines they need when people have to confront a language barrier? This is a rhetorical question, of course. The concern is that if we don’t make the effort to deal with the language barrier, many people will be left too frustrated to continue in their attempts to receive the vaccinations they need.

The three issues mentioned above are three of the issues that are making it a challenge for people of color to get the vaccinations needed, even though many of the communities hit hardest by this have been communities of color.


[1] https://www.kff.org/policy-watch/early-state-vaccination-data-raise-warning-flags-racial-equity/. I should note here, by the way, that this study includes data on Blacks and Hispanics, but data on Native Americans is still apparently quite limited. Because of the limited data on Native Americans and vaccine usage and distribution, this post will not focus on Native Americans. A second post on the topic of racial inequity and COVID vaccine distribution may be required, if such inequities also exist with Native Americans.  

[2] The short version was that this was a highly unethical study looking to record the natural history of syphilis in Blacks. As for a longer version, it’s on the website of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website: https://www.cdc.gov/tuskegee/timeline.htm

[3] https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(20)32032-8/fulltext

[4] The Lancet, a highly respected medical journal, has a longer piece on the issue of medical racism in the United States: https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(20)32032-8/fulltext

[5] https://www.baltimoresun.com/coronavirus/bs-md-vaccine-rollout-disparity-20210125-d2mwyfe7evfthgeoswe54tsb54-story.html

[6] https://www.statesman.com/story/news/2020/12/30/covid-19-vaccination-sites-lacing-east-austin/4091913001/

[7] https://www.usnews.com/news/best-states/florida/articles/2021-01-27/some-black-communities-in-florida-have-no-vaccine-access

[8] https://www.nbcdfw.com/investigations/texas-has-sent-no-covid-19-vaccine-to-southern-dallas-neighborhoods-where-many-have-died/2522753/

[9] https://www.orlandosentinel.com/espanol/el-sentinel-in-english/os-prem-ex-english-covid-vaccine-information-spanish-20210122-hcmmd24hbrfhbcptho4f3tnqkm-story.html

[10] https://www.abc15.com/news/region-west-valley/glendale/do-arizona-covid-19-vaccination-sites-have-enough-bilingual-assistance

[11] https://www.thecity.nyc/coronavirus/2021/1/26/22251524/vaccines-washington-heights-armory