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Showing posts with label New Yorkers. Show all posts
Showing posts with label New Yorkers. Show all posts

Sunday, April 26, 2020

COVID SIDE OF LIFE. Day 42: What Passing-bells for Those Who Die of Covid?

New York’s Hart Island; where unclaimed bodies are buried

NOTE: title is co-opted from one of my favourite poems “Anthem for Doomed Youth” by Wilfred Owen.

Pandemic Log: Sunday, 26th April 2020

Living can often be a lonely business in New York City; especially for older people who never married, have no kids or family members still alive. At the best of times this life can be cruel for these older warriors but now Covid has made it even crueler.

We live in one of five buildings and many of the apartments are rent stabilised, so quite a few are occupied by these older, single tenants who have lived here since the early 1970’s. They are retired teachers, healthcare workers and city employees. We share a building superintendent and handyman, so over the years we have gotten to know many of them; if not by name then by face, and through various neighborly interactions or shouting matches with the building super.

Those of us who skew younger tend to check-in on our older warriors that reside in our block. One of these warriors died yesterday. He lived two buildings over but I had been introduced to him a couple of years ago by another neighbour. His name was Richard.

I remember Richard vividly. I would see him walk up our street on summer evenings carrying two heavy bags filled with stuff. He always carried the same two bags. One a cloth tote and the other was one of those old supermarket plastic bags, before they switched to the cheap, flimsy plastic that rips by the time you get home. It was clear that both bags had seen better days.

The bags looked very heavy and he would pause numerous times, resting them on the ground, along the roughly two hundred yard distance from the corner of the street to his apartment building. I once offered to help him carry his bags but he declined, saying he could manage and thanked me. I always wondered to myself what he was carrying in them; where he had gone and where he was returning from every evening.

The neighbour who introduced us had a dog, and our dogs were friends. So on summer evenings we would sometimes sit on the steps into the building and talk about life and work, as our dogs entertained themselves or scared passing dogs by ganging up on them.

It was on one of these evening that this neighbour introduced me to Richard. That evening too he had made his slow and precise journey up the street with his two bags and multiple rest stops. Richard told me that he thought my dog was very cute and asked if he could pet her. As he enticed her to come over, I asked if he had a dog. He told me that he was a cat person but that he generally liked animals and found them to be kinder than most humans in this city.

After that I do not remember the specifics of our conversation but we probably talked about how unfriendly people could be in this city or the unusually hot spell we were having. But I do remember one other detail. He wore the same sneakers every day, but that day I noticed for the first time that his right shoe had big hole around the toe area. I remember that it made me feel sad, and my instinct was to offer to buy him another pair but I did not know how to make the offer; so I never did.

After that day, we would greet each other every time we met and he would put his hand out to beckon my dog over to pet her. But we never had another real conversation.

It turns out that Richard had been dead for over a week. The police and coroner had to remove his body wearing hazmat suits due the possibility that Covid had caused his demise.

Last night when I was out walking my dog, a police van suddenly zoomed up and parked in from of Richard’s building. I saw three cops proceed into the building with masks, protective gloves and long sticks. My neighbour informed me that they had come to round up Richard’s cats.

It turns out that prior to this pandemic about 20 to 25 people died every day in their homes, but since March that number has increased to more than 200 people per day. However, we know that Covid has been far more deadly for those over sixty-five years of age and is likely decimating our old, single warrior population that Richard was a member of.

It breaks my heart to think that at the best of times these warriors are lonely, but now Covid has snatched from them the one lifeline of human contact they had, at their local library, supermarket or from greeting their neighbours on the street.

I wonder what is crueler; dying during normal times and fading from existence because there is nobody alive that knows you, or to be remembered as a statistic of a global pandemic.

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

COVID SIDE OF LIFE. Day 9: Covid Takes Gotham

Pandemic Log: Tuesday, 24th March 2020

A Panamanian friend sent me this cartoon. It has been circulating among her friends as the virus has started to tighten its grip on Panama; impacting young and old, healthy and infirm with impunity.

This cartoon felt appropriate for New York City, also known as Gotham, as we were informed yesterday by the White House task force that the New York region has now become ground zero for Covid-19 infections in the country.

According to the CDC, the infection or “attack rate” for folks living in the greater New York metro region is at one in 1,000 people, which is eight to ten times higher than the rate of infection anywhere else in the US; making New York the new global epicenter for the virus. 

Right after we finished watching the White House briefing, Murphy followed through with inimitable timing to cement his Law and explain why its has been around for centuries.

My wife’s friend who lives across the street, texted to tell us that her husband has symptoms and four people in their building tested positive. This simply put the exclamation mark on the fact that Covid was not only wandering freely through our neighborhoods but now actively knocking on doors on our street.

New York now accounts for 5% of all cases, worldwide. The total number of confirmed cases as of today stands at 23,000. The Governor believes that we have not yet seen the peak of this infection and that is likely to occur sometime between 15th April and 1st May. 

The good news is that these facts have made New York the cynosure of all eyes and aid nationally, and our state will get higher priority for everything from Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for healthcare workers, to much needed ventilators for high-risk patients. 

The army corps of engineers is hard at work turning The Javits Convention Center and other local venues into 1000 bed hospitals, which will be operational later this week. 

What can you do to help? STAY HOME. 

Especially, if you are older, or of any age with underlying health conditions, you must not leave your home under any conditions. For the rest of us, the more time we spend indoors, the less chance the virus has of spreading and infecting our friends and neighbours.

Sunday, March 22, 2020

COVID SIDE OF LIFE. Day 7: Sunday Bloody Sunday

Pandemic Log: Sunday, 22nd March 2020

Our first Sunday with New York on lock down did not feel slow or lazy but more like a surreal dream that for the moment feels never ending one.

At 9am our laundry lady was on the phone asking us to bring our clothes in because her boss decided to close the laundromat; starting that evening. They had remained open in the first days after the September 11th attacks, during the great Manhattan blackout and through the 2008 financial crisis but were defeated by an invisible an insidious virus. 

When I asked if someone had gotten sick, she said that was not the case and that all the employees had lobbied to remain open, but the owner was adamant that he did not want to risk anyone getting ill. 

Just last night millions of Manhattanites had breathed a collective sigh of relief, when the Governor issued an executive order stating that all non-essential businesses would be required to close, but classified laundromats as an essential service; allowing them to remain open along with hospitals, pharmacies, delis and grocery stores.

This is probably a hard thing for most people to get their head around but many people in this city, especially those who live in walk-ups and pre 1970’s buildings do not have a washing machine in their apartment or laundry services in their basement. 

Granted that running out of clean underwear might not be at the top of anyone’s concerns, but it does become an additional inconvenience for many of us who will now have to add hand washing clothes to our list of things to do.

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

COVID SIDE OF LIFE. Day 3: Social Distancing in a Time of Crisis.

Pandemic Log: Wednesday, 18th March 2020

Today, we took our dog into the vet to get her glands released (I will spare you the details) because if we did not, they are likely to get infected. Veterinarians, like most hospitals and Emergency Rooms, have also cancelled all routine visits and procedures and are only treating emergency needs.

As we walked into what is normally a warm and inviting atmosphere, we were greeted with a sign on the front counter. It was a very strange feeling to come face to face these words, even though I have been hearing and getting acquainted with the term ‘social distancing’ for a few days now.

What makes this notion hard to enact and come to grips with, is that fact that it is asks us to do the exact opposite of what we, as humans, do to deal with any crisis.

The day after 9/11, a good friend and I made our way down to within a couple of blocks from Ground Zero, and we spent the entire day doing water runs for fire, police and other emergency service women and men, who were working to find survivors and remove bodies.

We ran up and down those streets all day long, collecting and passing out bottles of water donated by big companies, small businesses, delis and ordinary people. There were many others like us who volunteered because they needed and wanted to do something to help their city in this dark hour.

The streets were lined with people of all stripes; standing arm in arm and shoulder to shoulder - cheering every service woman and man coming out of Ground Zero. I cannot count the number of hands I shook or strangers who hugged me that day, or the number of pats we gave and received as a show of solidarity.

I remember thinking - I have no doubt our city will not only survive this reprehensible attack but we will come back stronger than before. We will show the world that a cowardly group of men can never break our will, our spirit, our unity and our sense of shared humanity.

In times of hardship, grief, panic and fear we find respite and calm through comforting each other physically. Couples hold hands, friends hug, grandparent’s stroke heads and we all squeeze our little one tightly to our bosoms’ to reassure them that everything is going to be okay.

We are being told that we must not submit to our most innate human instinct, to reach out our hand to someone in need, because doing so would be nothing short of catastrophic. Succumbing to touch will only serve to prolong this pandemic and worse yet, spread the virus and kill many more people.

More than words, it is these acts of physical assurance that let people know that we are there for them, and that we will stand by and support them us no matter how bad things get.

During this crisis we cannot. We will need to find new ways to comfort each other and navigate it.