These last few weeks have been difficult for all of us, but I can only speak for what it's been like here in New York City. The weather the last couple of days has been incredible, definitively marking the start of Spring, but this isn't the NYC I know. A city that is normally hustling and bustling has been eerily quiet. It is a strange time indeed.
It is sobering to hear today the total number of new confirmed deaths from COVID-19 was the highest it's ever been in NY state. These figures not only count the number of people who died in a hospital, but also include those with known COVID-19 who died at home.
But what is particularly troubling is learning that the number of deaths from COVID-19 are probably being significantly UNDER-reported, at least in NYC.
Prior to the pandemic, there were about 20-25 deaths per day that occurred in the city at home. That number is now closer to 200 deaths per day. But these deaths, even if there were clear signs that the person died with symptoms consistent with COVID-19, are not included in the death count because they are not testing the bodies post-mortem for the virus. The medical examiner is told these are "probable" deaths related to COVID-19, but because they are probables, and not confirmed, they are not included in the daily death toll.
Given the dramatic increase in the number of deaths at home per day since the outbreak, it is likely that many of these people died of COVID-19 or perhaps due to under-treatment of other chronic diseases related to the more limited access to healthcare during the pandemic. NYC may begin including "probable" COVID-19 deaths in their statistics moving forward, though I feel these bodies should be tested to give us a more accurate picture of what is happening. Regardless, don't be surprised if the numbers being put out in the future look much worse than what is currently being reported.
In addition, the total number of calls EMS has received on a day-to-day basis has dramatically increased since the pandemic started. Even more specifically, the number of calls EMS has received for cardiac arrests has dramatically risen to well over a 100-150 calls per day when it used to be only about 20. Last week, to alleviate pressure on the hospitals, the body that oversees first responders told them that if they are unable to resuscitate the person in the field, that they should not bring them to the hospital for further last-ditch care. Yes, these people likely would not have survived regardless, but good CPR on the way to a hospital may have given these people a chance they no longer will have.
It is hard during these times to look at anything in positive terms. But even given this sobering reality, my mantra is to always look for the silver lining in every situation, including trying to find something positive to take out of this entire ordeal.
And one of those silver linings has been reconnecting with people in both my past and present.
People who I have not spoken to in years, and at times decades, have reached out via text or calls or even video chats to send their well wishes and to ensure that I am okay and to simply reconnect with someone they care about - me.
The disease may be physically distancing me from many of my loved ones, but it is also bringing my heart closer to friends and family, from both my past and my present.
I'm not sure how the rest of you feel, but this has been my experience. I am also connecting intimately with people on a daily basis now, whereas that connection was much more sporadic in terms of my day-to-day. And this daily connection has reenergized me and given me strength daily, and I am so immensely appreciative of it.
One example is my buddy Danny. He has always been one of my closest friends in NYC, but over the last year or two, we had drifted apart for no good reason to be completely honest. I had not spoken to him in months, and it had been much longer since the last time I saw him.
But I received a call from him a few weeks ago, and he sounded absolutely awful. He began describing his symptoms of persistent fevers, severe fatigue, muscle aches, dry cough, and stomach upset - and eventually smell and taste (which I had mentioned in an earlier post). He told me he had celebrated Purim with a large amount of people prior to the shutdown, and many people from that night subsequently became sick. He said he personally knew of 8 people at the party who tested positive for COVID-19 afterwards, so it didn't take a genius to figure out what he had.
But he felt so awful and asked me if he should go to the emergency department. My immediate thought was no, of course he shouldn't. The suspicion was high, he did not suffer from any shortness of breath, and he could expose others in the emergency department waiting area. He should just continue to self-isolate, take tylenol, sleep, drink lots of fluids, and wait it out.
But when it's someone you care about, sometimes the right advice still can make you feel uneasy. I was worried about him. I had doubt that creeped into my mind. Was this the right advice to give him? What if he gets worse? Will he be able to get himself to the hospital should that occur? I was struggling with it, but I went with what I knew in my mind was right. Even though my heart struggled with the logic.
And fortunately, my man is all better now. And through his illness, because of this shit virus, we have become close once again. He has been checking in with me regularly to make sure that I am well, and to say how much he appreciates what it is that I do. And those texts and calls mean a lot to me.
I went out to get some fresh air today because it is rare for me to do so, given that I mainly have either been home or at the hospital. I had the chance to see him, and so I did, though we maintained social distancing the entire time. It gave me a lot of joy to see him fully recovered, and I appreciated him taking time out of his day to see me while still managing his business from home.
It is never easy when someone you care about is struggling with illness. But we spoke about how this disease has brought people closer, and specifically how this entire situation brought our friendship back to where it always should have been in the first place.
My hope is these connections, this level of intimacy, continues once things go back to "normal", or whatever the new normal looks like once the pandemic ends.
I hope we continue to appreciate one another, to not take one another for granted.
And I have hope in my heart that our world can definitively change for the better, where we finally learn to appreciate all the blessings we have in this life.
We just have to want to make that choice.