NPR - New York state had it deadliest day yet stemming from the coronavirus, with more than 500 fatalities, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Friday. The death toll has gone up from 2,373 to 2,935 in the last 24 hours, Cuomo told reporters during a late morning press conference. He described it as the "highest single increase in the number of deaths since we started." The governor also warned that more people were going to die if additional ventilators don't become more available. He said he is signing an executive order allowing the state to commandeer ventilators and distribute to hospitals as needed. He also reiterated his frustration that badly needed personal protective equipment — or PPE — is not being produced more quickly. New York is currently the epicenter of COVID-19 cases in the U.S., with 14,810 people currently hospitalized throughout the state, an increase of 1,427 since Thursday. Cuomo thanked first responders for their work on the front lines of the crisis. In a bit of "good news," Cuomo said 8,886 coronavirus patients have been discharged from hospitals. Nearly 1,500 were discharged in the past day.
562 people dead in a day is a scary, scary number. Which is the same thing I said a week ago when the total from Friday to Saturday was 222 people. The growth is pretty terrifying. The total number of cases is growing, as are the number of people recovering and being discharged. But the rate of victims is the most glaring and disheartening number - and no amount of survivors can soften the blow of losing thousands of people in your hometown city.
As New York City has unfortunately emerged as the epicenter of the Corona Virus for the United States, and as that death toll has continued to rise and crept up towards that memorable number right around 3,000, I've been thinking a lot about the loss of life on a day that will live in infamy - September 11th, 2001. And with the latest surge in COVID-19 related death eclipsing that tragic number of 3,000, the total number of deaths has surpassed the number of people we lost on that fateful day in downtown Manhattan. I've been thinking a lot about what the city was like then versus what the city is like now. The same thing with what the country was like then versus what its like now. Obviously a targeted act of violence... a hateful, premeditated attack with senseless motivations from an enemy that we know and can see..,is very different than an invisible virus and an act of nature taking lives. A terrifying, makeshift ambush that wiped out almost 3,000 people in one morning feels very different than this slow, steady build of death occurring, so far, over the better part of a month. And yet, in a lot of ways it all feels the same. That same feeling of hopelessness. That same feeling of fear. That same feeling of not knowing whats coming next. Not knowing what to expect and not knowing what you can and cant do. Is it ok to travel? Should I get on a plane? Are the subways safe? That same fear of large gatherings like sporting events or travel hubs. Its all back for me, and for a lot of the people who are suffering through the worst of Corona Virus. Just a dark cloud over the city that paralyzes its inhabitants and leaves you looking for answers, that unfortunately nobody has.
A lot of people were stuck on the idea that Corona Virus is just like the flu (or not even as deadly), or when you bring up the total number of deaths, they ask you to also mention the death toll for other diseases, or things automobile accidents and other leading causes in death. I'm assuming, in an effort to argue against the severity of this outbreak. I can't speak to all the various types of death that we can experience in this world. But what I can speak to is the recent history of New York City and the tragedy I've lived through in this city the last couple decades. And not since that day nearly 20 years ago have I experienced anything close to the fear and sadness that we went through. I think the difference here, this time around, is that the level of fear and sadness varies quite a bit from person to person. On September 12, 2001, there wasnt a single New Yorker who wasnt terrified. There wasnt a single New Yorker who wasnt sad and angry. There wasnt a single person from this area that wasnt united behind our city and our country. Because we all saw it. We watched an enemy attack us. We all saw hellfire and brimstone physically collapse two buildings and it was very easy to say "Fuck them" and very easy to say "I got your back." None of that is the case today. I think its a combination of a very different enemy - one that is hard for the average person to wrap their mind around - plus a very different atmosphere in this country - where the rise of the digital world has connected all of us (in a bad way) and allowed us to argue our politicized little hearts out to the point that we all hate the fuck out of each other. And maybe a host of other reasons - ones that I dont know about or under stand - but the point is that there is nothing comparable to that vibe back then of "Lets protect each other and love each other."
Like I said, the feelings in this city vary quite a bit from person to person. Depending on your experience over the last month with this virus, your outlook on how this is being handled and how we should be conducting ourselves is drastically different from one New Yorker to the next. Depending on how old you are, what your family is like, what your life is like, and how close the corona virus has hit, you're going to get crazy different opinions on the matter. If you're a 20 something year old person with no kids and healthy parents and you havent been directly affected by this - you're probably wondering when we can get back to work and hoping that Major League Baseball can start soon so that we can maybe get some semblance of a full season in. If you dont know any healthcare workers or if you dont know anybody who works in an "essential industry" that feels panicked every day going to work, you probably feel like this is all overblown and exaggerated. If you havent seen the effects of corona virus first hand, you dont have that sense of camaraderie. Its a lot easier to think of this as the flu, and you're certainly not even close to equating it to something as frightening as hijacked planes and exploding buildings.
But I havent felt the way I did this week since that week in 2001. Three straight days with heartbreaking news about loss of life:
A 31 year old dude, friend of the family who was supposed to be in the wedding party for what was supposed to be a big celebration for the Clancy clan, on a ventilator with a 50/50 shot to live. No guests are allowed for any patients with the disease, so he'll just lay there, sedated and intubated, potentially going to die alone.
The mother of a kid I grew up playing ball with, dead at the age of 63. 2 weeks ago we got news she was diagnosed with Corona Virus, one week later we got an update she was on a ventilator, and then next update they received from the hospital was she was gone.
And then just today, the father of one of my brother's best friends, gone in a matter of days. Went into the hospital Wednesday, gone by Friday.
So people keep talking to me about the flu, or bringing up other diseases and their effects, and I dunno man - I never received new word every day that someone I know is dying from the flu. I've never experienced any sort of other disease or danger where people of all ages and backgrounds are potentially going to turn up dead at any moment. I've never heard stories from doctors and nurses saying they are terrified to go to work because of heart disease or car crashes. It just...doesnt sound the same. At all. The way people keep implying. Like, AT ALL. Not even a little bit.
Back in September of 2001 I remember friends losing loved ones. I was lucky enough to have not had anybody directly die that day - but a few people from our town did. Firefighters and people who worked in the World Financial Center. And I can remember that same feeling. That same, dreadful pit in my stomach as they suffered through that initial wave of uncertainty, followed by their worst fears being confirmed. People were waiting to hear news on whether or any missing people would turn up...and then quickly learning that there was no missing people, simply bodily remains that hadnt been found yet. I remember thinking about all those people waiting for the phone to ring with the awful news that they already knew deep down but just didnt want to admit...and then I remember that extra gut punch when you realized that these people couldnt even have a proper burial or a service back then, because there were no bodies to even bury. That all feels reminiscent to now. Family members waiting for an update because they cant even be there while their child or their parent dies. Not being able to have a wake or a funeral or any sort of service because of the new rules. Not even being able to have people gather in your house to comfort one another. All very dramatic and hopeless and happening once again.
Now like I said, if you havent experienced the worst Corona Virus has to offer yet, I wouldnt expect you to ever equate these two New York tragedies. It probably seems completely absurd to you to do so. One is a evil terrorist attack, the other is simply and unfortunately, a natural part of life. But if you're from New York and you have seen what COVID-19 is truly capable of, you're probably experiencing feelings that you havent felt (on this scale at least) since that Tuesday morning in 2001 and the days in the wake of the attack. They are on opposite ends of the spectrum, two completely different tragedies, but both with equal feelings of despair. One was tangible, the other is invisible. One was instantaneous, the other is a slow bleed. But both have left us with a feeling of complete and utter shock...both have left us feeling mass confusion, and desperately seeking answers...both even left us with superficial concerns - like "when can I take that vacation I planned?" and "when am I gonna get to see baseball again!"
The most disappointing and disheartening difference between the two NYC catastrophes, though? The difference in their inspiration to unite. Corona virus has left us bickering and arguing more than ever. Disagreeing and fighting more than ever. Politicizing more than ever. New York City in the wake of 9/11 was something so cool and so hopeful. New York City in the midst of Corona Virus just sucks. Its hopeless and angry. Feels like if the virus doesnt kill you, your neighbor probably will.
So thats where I'm at with this thing. I havent felt this much hopelessness and fear with my city since back then. But I understand thats not the case, at all, for many people out there. I would hope, the majority of you? I hope it stays that way. I wouldnt expect you to feel what I'm feeling, when you havent experienced what I've experienced. I mean how silly would that be? If you havent seen death and strife first hand then why would be feeling all the emotions associated with death and strife? But thats what honestly makes it so weird. When one person can be absolutely TERRIFIED, but the person standing right next to them, 6 feet apart, doesnt understand all the fuss. I have this vivid memory back during 9/11. It was probably like, I dunno, September 13 or 14. We were at a vigil at church for my buddy's family who's father was a firefighter and was "missing." He was one of the first firefighters on the scene, he was one of the guys running UP the stairs while everyone else was running out. The story we all heard was that he made it like 50 stories up before the towers came down...true hero shit. Anyway at that point we were still holding out hope and praying for a miracle and I was in that church sitting with my friends and I started SOBBING. And I remember at the time I had some petty bullshit going on with a classmate of mine and in that moment she consoled me and we forgot about all our trash, garbage differences and realized what really mattered. Because we were all on the same page. It was comforting to know that every single person was feeling exactly what you're feeling. But right now as we fight through this tragedy, its not even close to that vibe. I feel completely alone in my feelings on Corona Virus. I feel silly every time I even express fear or despair. I feel like everyone else thinks I'm being dramatic, I'm being emotional, I'm "fear mongering," or I'm just trying to make content or stir the pot.
I'm just fucking sad, man. I'm scared, dude. I got kids, I got parents who dont have great health. I got people close to me who work in the healthcare industry. And every. goddam. day. I get more news that someone is fucking dying. I understand that a lot of you dont have any of that. So I would never ask anybody to feel those same things when I know a lot of you arent experiencing anything that I am. But I think all I can ask of people is to exhibit a little bit of empathy for those who have. It might only be an inconvenience to you. Or maybe as far as your experience so far is concerned, its an economic tragedy but nothing more. But for some people like the families I know, it is very much a life and death tragedy thats leaving them in a state of shock and fear with nowhere to turn. Just like it was back then, it is now. So just keep that in mind if you're one of the lucky ones that hasnt been hit yet.