It was once my grim duty to clean out an apartment in which a person had died unnoticed. I’ll never forget what Jim – who, I know, reads these dispatches – did in flying, as I had, a great distance to help me in the accomplishment of that horrible task. No burning sage could cover the haunting smell of death, and it was with alarm yesterday that – in catching the, in New York, not uncommon smell of sewage – I hesitated for a moment to wonder: Is there a body rotting behind one of these windows?
This is the what the situation has come to in our beloved, beleaguered City. Yesterday, I quoted AOC regarding the number of New Yorkers daily dying in their homes, and today Democracy Now! and Gothamist both have coverage of this sad phenomenon. According to Gothamist, “[A]nother 200 city residents are now dying at home each day [beyond those dying in the hospital], compared to 20 to 25 such deaths before the pandemic”; I have no reason to believe that this accounts for the discrepancy between State and City figures on the COVID-19 death toll in NYC (which I believe is a result of delays in reporting because the City is only counting deaths of those with confirmed positive tests for COVID-19, even though we know we’re dealing with a critical limitation of testing capacity).
The Gothamist piece goes on to explain:
The FDNY says it responded to 2,192 cases of deaths at home between March 20th and April 5th, or about 130 a day, an almost 400 percent increase from the same time period last year. […] That number has been steadily increasing since March 30th, with 241 New Yorkers dying at home Sunday — more than the number of confirmed COVID-19 deaths that occurred citywide that day. On Monday night, the city reported 266 new deaths, suggesting the possibility of a 40% undercount of coronavirus-related deaths.
To simplify, it’s likely that on top of the 4,000+ COVID-19 deaths which State figures already showed for New York City as of two days ago (April 6th), there may be as many as 2,000 additional deaths which haven’t been included in that count. Is it any surprise, then, that I’m now – I hope only – imagining the smell of death on the wind?
The President continues to bungle and politicize the pandemic response (from The Intercept, “If Your State Needs Help With Coronavirus From Trump, Don’t Be a Strong Woman Governor”), attack science (from InsideClimate News, “Trump EPA’s ‘Secret Science’ Rule Would Dismiss Studies That Could Hold Clues to Covid-19”), and engage in unabashed corruption and self-dealing (from Democracy Now!, “The New York Times reports Trump could personally profit if drug sales increase, because he owns a small financial interest in a French company that makes hydroxychloroquine.”).
In Florida, the “Unemployed […] Crowd Public Spaces Seeking Benefits”; in Wisconsin, “In-Person Voting [was held] in [the] Midst of [this] Deadly Pandemic”; in New York, a glimmer of actual good news – not the manufactured good news of plateauing daily death counts that hadn’t yet actually plateaued – in the form of reports that we may not need as many ventilators as was once projected.
The New York Times has a long-ish piece out – How Delay’s and Unheeded Warnings Hindered New York’s Virus Fight – detailing the various fuck-ups of our elected executives in February and March that landed us in this colossal mess. Of course, the Times is slightly more well-resourced than am I (and enjoys a different and unparalleled sort of access; just imagine, if my partner and I could easily reach Melissa De Rosa, “the governor’s top aide” – and we’ve tried – perhaps New York City would have Alternative Birthing Sites up and running; instead, pregnant people in the City are still being asked to deliver in our overwhelmed hospitals, often without adequate PPE, in many instances, without any access to testing, etc., etc.), but writing for the paper, J. David Goodman reached much the same conclusion that I – and others – had already reached in the first half of March: Namely, that the State and the City massively mishandled pandemic preparedness and response efforts, and that – although outsized blame sits with the Federal Government for what has befallen us here – the Governor and the Mayor acted with arrogance and incompetence; failed to ensure that anything approaching adequate supplies were on hand; missed clear signals that a full-blown crisis was already upon us in early March; acted far too slowly once they did acknowledge the reality of the crisis and, even then, took only inadequate half-measures; and, of course, engaged in their longstanding Abbott-and-Costello routine, which didn’t help matters either.
Now, at least 41 transit workers have died in NYC, and a reported 25 Department of Education employees. (Transit Center has a good, straightforward piece up about what it looks like to actually protect transit workers during a pandemic; much of this guidance, I imagine, has now been implemented by the MTA, though too late for those who have died or been made, unnecessarily, gravely ill, but – just as an aside – we should beware of the dishonest attempts that will be made to attack public transportation as a public good in the midst and aftermath of all this suffering.)
A friend writes: “I’m now in Milwaukee, which was insane yesterday. Voting lines definitely triggered the weeping reflex.”
I write back: “So sorry. What colossal idiocy. Hard not to have that reflex triggered at least daily at this point, but I think it’s part of what keeps us going.”
Bernie Sanders – the only presidential candidate, and one of the very few national political figures advancing a sane, just, humane response to the intersecting crises of the moment – has suspended his presidential campaign. It’s hard not to see the cynical push of the Democratic Party to continue having in-person primaries during the pandemic as an attempt to force Sanders’ hand. After all, he’s the only person in the picture who actually cares about people getting sick. Remember Tom Perez and the DNC’s stance on in-person voting during the pandemic? Now Wisconsin has had “the most undemocratic” election in its history.
Meanwhile, Joe Biden – who lies about just about everything (and whom, if he survives the coming months, it looks like I’ll be obliged to support in November) – waited until immediately following the Wisconsin primary, to which he’d previously given his de facto support, to announce, “Well, my gut is that we shouldn’t have had the election in the first place, the in-person election.”
Oh, that’s your gut, Joe? Where the fuck were you yesterday with that important news?!
Let me head off any criticism that may flow my way for, say, showing “a lack of unity” or “undermining the presumptive Democratic nominee,” by pointing out that anyones who think that our current President – a vicious and skillful bully with an obscenely well-funded smear machine behind him – won’t easily identify and exploit the many, obvious weaknesses (including credible claims of sexual assault, harassment, and misconduct) of this doddering candidate who’s been forced down our throats by a Thanatic Party establishment and the self-serving people around Biden (the people running a kind of Weekend at Bernie’s-style campaign with the sunsetting old man; a description that, save for a bizarre coincidence of names, I imagine would already have gained much more social media traction) are kidding themselves. We can only hope that the pandemic itself, or the President’s disastrous response to it, renders the incumbent a far less viable candidate in the fall.
Still, Wuhan has reopened. The sun also rises. Wuhan was shut down on January 23rd. Today is April 8th. That’s roughly 75 days. New York’s lax “Stay-at-Home” order went into effect on March 22nd. That would put us at about June 5th, optimistically.
I may write a little more this evening, but for now, (Zoom) yoga is calling.
Postscript: Relative to the Wisconsin primary, I’d intended to link to this piece (“Media Silent as Poll Workers Contract Covid-19 at Primaries That DNC, Biden Campaign Claimed Were Safe”) following the Florida primary. Safe, if tragic, to expect similar consequences in Wisconsin. Florida primary was held on March 17th, so one signal that the primary contributed significantly to the spread of the disease would be a marked uptick in hospitalizations in the past week, and/or an uptick in the number of deaths starting around now. I’ll see if I can find that data.
Relative to the eventual reopening of New York, Governor Cuomo is rightly emphasizing the need for mass serological/antibody testing. Until we have clarity about whether reinfection is possible/likely, how long antibodies last, what consequences will follow from the rapid mutation of SARS-CoV-2, etc., we won’t know for certain the value of having antibodies, but the ability to test for them at scale will certainly be a major step, and can potentially differentiate our situation here from the one that was faced by the people of Wuhan.