Have yourself a Merry Little Christmas, Make the Yuletide gay, Next year all our troubles will be miles away.
Those words have never rung more true for the more than 8 million people who live in New York City. Beginning in March 2020, NYC seems to have been the epicenter for COVID-19. Those first few months of lockdown were ROUGH; ambulance sirens nonstop, refrigerated trucks outside hospitals to store bodies of those we lost, and a feeling that other places in the country were oblivious to what was heading their way.
New Yorkers are resilient and are fighters. New Yorkers are also prepared to fight as the vaccination rates are impressive. According to NYC.gov, 80.6% of residents have received at least one dose of a vaccine, leaving only 19.4% of the city not vaccinated. And frankly, my opinion, that 19% are holding us hostage and preventing us from getting out of this pandemic. In the last two or three weeks, the Omicron variant has exploded in NYC, seemingly coming out of nowhere. Good Morning America reported on Tuesday, December 28th that 1 in 60 New York City residents tested positive for COVID LAST WEEK.
The above statement perfectly sums up what life has been like in NYC since mid-December. The image below is of the line outside of City MD in the West Village on Wednesday, December 22nd at 8:30 am. You cannot see from this photo but the line continued down the street and snaked around the next block. Most, if not all, were there for COVID tests as part of their prepping for the travel home to see their families for the holidays. Testing centers routinely ran out of tests by noon.
*Half the city has COVID right now
One of those fully vaccinated NYC residents who tested positive is Preston, 50, an actor and musician who lives in Chelsea. Here is his story,
“I was at the Longacre Theater Thursday night. I remember clearing my throat, we all know when something’s a little off. I shrugged it off and thought it was an allergy type situation. The throat got to be a thing next couple of days with a cough added. By Saturday night at 3 am I was headed to Lenox Hill ER with 102 fever, strep throat, tonsillitis and COVID. They sent me home and told me to take Tylenol. The next night I was even sicker. I was admitted this time with a hospital bracelet. This time they gave me IVs of 5 different drugs, including morphine, chest x-ray and ultrasound. Ten days later I am feeling much better. The fever went down on day four. Currently today I have an infected eye, mild cough and limited taste and smell. Ketchup smells like Clorox. I’ve lost over 10 pounds and have no appetite.”
*Many businesses are closed because their employees all have COVID
To some, NYC felt like a ghost town these final weeks of 2021. Everywhere you turned, bars and restaurants had been closed for a week, some longer, many closed for Christmas weekend and planned to reopen on Monday, December 27th. Broadway took the hardest hit. The list of shows that canceled performances was long, very long. Other beloved shows folded entirely. Jagged Little Pill was the first casualty, Waitress and Thoughts of a Colored Man soon followed blindsiding their devastated casts and crews. Waitress composer and lyricist Sara Bareilles shared her feelings on Twitter:
This is a gut punch of the highest degree. Thank you for everything. This cast. This company. This community. May we all be so lucky. Forever I love you. ❤️ https://t.co/eCzOUSxgjC
— Sara Bareilles (@SaraBareilles) December 24, 2021
The closing and cancelations extended to other areas of nightlife as well with the popular monthly party Battle Hymn postponing their December 19th. However, not every bar, not every party was canceled as Guy Social NYC held their onesie bar crawl on Christmas Eve night.
Holiday parties also were a casualty of COVID, well, let’s face it, it’s the new Omicron variant that is causing all of these issues to happen again. Personally, I was looking forward to my friends Denis and Donald’s huge soiree, but received a text message a few days before with the sad news,
“We had a big party planned for 12/18. As the week went on, things seemed to be going from bad to worse. By the time we got to Thursday, the only responsible thing was to cancel.”
The New York Post reported yesterday that “Apple bans shoppers from all NYC stores as COVID cases soar.” However, today it reported, “Apple reopens NYC stores to ‘limited’ in-person shoppers after closure backlash.”
Hospitals are once again at their breaking point. Hospital employees have been on the front lines of this pandemic for 18 months! How much more can we ask of them? ABC 7 reported that “pediatric hospitalizations are up 395% in New York City amid coronavirus surge.” A rapid respond nurse, who was formerly a heart transplant coordinator in a major hospital (who asked not to be named) spoke to me about what they were being put through.
“We have outbreaks amongst nurses on floors. We don’t have staff to replace them. It’s worse than the first time around in terms of staffing due to how contagious Omicron is. Morale is at an all-time low. It’s really so demoralizing to be working right now. Feels like we keep getting crushed by tidal waves. This feels like a punch to the gut to those of us in hospitals.”
But there is a faint light at the end of this tunnel. Shows like To Kill A Mockingbird went on with their performances last night after canceling many performances last week. Remember the photo of the long lines at that West Village City MD? Today at that same time there were less than 10 people waiting.
New Yorkers (and gay men) are survivors! We will get through this. Good does prevail. We need good to convince that anti-vax MAGA crowd to get the shot in their arm. ENOUGH IS ENOUGH. Frank C., who lives in Hell’s Kitchen wanted me to end this article on a positive and a hopeful tone:
“NYC has been through it all from being broke to the AIDS crisis to the current pandemic and we keep moving forward. To anyone who thinks that it is a hoax or just like the flu, please talk to someone who lost a loved one. COVID keeps coming back for more. But NYC and the Broadway community will keep moving forward.”
We here at Instinct hope that wherever you are, you are healthy and safe. And most of all – vaccinated. And here’s something to maybe make you smile in the midst of Omicron. Sound off in the comments below, as always keep it clean and safe and positive. We are all humans and we need to get through this together.
**This post is solely the opinion of this contributing writer and may not reflect the opinion of other writers, staff, or owners of Instinct Magazine.