New York must stand with Texas and Florida
We have been where you are and we know what is coming; we would not wish it on anyone.
By the time New York began its “PAUSE” order, we now know that COVID-19 had been spreading in the city for at least a month. By the time we had the testing infrastructure and surveillance in place to know that we had a problem, it was way too late for us to avoid the disaster that occurred.
And disaster is the right word. Even though it feels triumphant to have made it to a safer place, we lost 32,000 citizens of our state to the virus and there is no guarantee that it won’t come back. I check our new case counts daily, and immediately get nervous anytime things to up. The 500–1000 cases per day that we’ve had lately don’t put me much at ease.
But it’s nothing compared to what is happening in Florida and Texas right now. These are huge states, so it is hard to compare to what happened with a specific, local focus in NYC vs what is happening across those states, but there is only one part of the US that has seen numbers like FL and TX, and it’s NY.
We know what is coming in those states. And frankly, we need to open our hearts to the people who live there. The Internet media narrative about these states right now focuses on the callous and ignorant decisions of leaders who have not taken the virus seriously enough — and that narrative is justified, because these leaders do need to be held accountable.
But let’s not forget that in New York, as late as the first week of March, our own leaders were telling us to go out to bars and do things that without a doubt made the outbreak worse. Mayor DeBlasio set a terrible example by dragging his staff and a whole bunch of reporters with him to the gym. He also refused to close schools for quite some time, even after a large list of New York City virologists, among the best in the world, signed a letter begging him to do so. What happened here was a disaster and it was contributed to by the unwise decisions of New York leaders.
This lack of wisdom cuts across the political spectrum, so I’d like to step away from the partisan debate, forget the BS of red vs blue, and reach out to the people in Texas and Florida who I know are suffering right now: We have been where you are going, and we feel for you. We wish you the best.
This is going to be a difficult time. Your lives as you know them are going to be very, very different. Even if your states do not lock down again, fear will lock them down because people will, I’m afraid, die. Those of you in “essential” jobs will find yourselves forced to choose between your livelihood and risk to your lives. Do you collect a paycheck so you don’t starve, or do you go to work and risk death from the virus? This is a choice that I do not want you to face and my heart truly goes out to you.
Your supply chains are going to be disrupted as people go back to staying at home, government orders or not. People getting sick will also disrupt work. You can expect that large facilities will be at risk of total shutdown if a small group of employees get sick or test positive. That is going to affect what shows up on your store shelves, and of course a lot of those things are important. My advice? Try to predict what you’re going to need in two weeks, or what you’re going to need in a month. Get an order scheduled now. Don’t plan to go out for it later.
You’re going to start to feel paranoid going out to the store. Most of your stores don’t have the cramped spaces that our NYC businesses have, but it’s still going to be frightening to wonder if you are save. Wear a mask. You will need to start assuming that you have already been infected and you don’t know it yet. That means every time that you go into a store, you are the danger to the others there. If you wear a mask, you reduce the danger that you pose.
Likewise, if you want to have friends over? You’re putting them at risk. If you want to see your family? You’re putting them at risk. I understand how difficult this is going to be to avoid doing, because I had to do it for three months. I really feel for you. But I also know that I didn’t kill my parents, and that was worth three months of not seeing them. It’s going to be hard but I believe that you can do it. You are Americans, and we are a pretty resilient people on the whole.
I also call out to my fellow New Yorkers to show our compassion for those of you in Texas and Florida. Everyone everywhere is just a person trying to live through this. We know what it was like. No one deserves to experience what we have been through, and we should emphasize that in our interactions with people who are going into the disaster from which we have emerged to relative safety (at least for now).
I may sound very “doom and gloom,” but there is a reason for that. The media tends to talk about the level of new infections as a “developing” story, but this is a mistake. When it comes to testing, people generally do not go in for testing unless they have a reason to suspect they are positive. What’s more, a positive test takes some time to appear after exposure. If there were 10,000 new infections in Florida yesterday, that’s a sign of new infections that were created 1–2 weeks ago. In the outbreak in New York, the new infection rate doubled rapidly. When you hear that there were 10,000 new infections in one day without new measures being put in place, you should assume that in the time it took to detect those infections, 14 days at that level or even higher have already passed. 10,000 infections in one day could mean there are 140,000–280,000 more people in your state who have already been infected and just don’t know it. And they will expose others.
Every day that goes by without strict action to control the outbreak sends out the point where the spread will peak by several more days, or even weeks.
That is how it happened here, and it was horrible. You deserve all the compassion for what is coming. I don’t care what your politics are, even if I strongly disagree with them; I don’t want anyone to die. That defines my politics. Everyone deserves a shot at living, and I extend you every thought, prayer, and piece of advice I can offer in making sure that you come out of this as safe and healthy as possible. I have been where you are going, and I have nothing but compassion for you.