I’ve seen her, wheeling her child in the caverns of my home town, going shopping, going to the doctor, who knows.
She was Latina, or maybe Asian, or dark-skinned from the States or Haiti or Africa, or white, but I have seen her, trying to navigate the stairways of hell-on-earth, our subway system.
Every so often, I stop and hold out my arm and gesture: I’ll take the front end.
I mean, what else are we men for, but to lug and lift and load?
They see a grandfather type, offering to help, and they make the decision that I mean no mischief, and they nod in assent, and we improvise a step-by-step ballet on the murderous stairs.
(Update: my friend James Barron in the NYT has reported that the medical examiner can find no major trauma from a fall, so the cause of death may be medical reasons. But as Barron points out, the dialogue continues about the brutal conditions in the subways, under Albany and City Hall. All I can say is, lend a hand once in a while.)
(Recently, at my old stop, 179th St. in Queens, I carried two shopping bags up the stairs, to a bus stop, which gave me the opportunity to drop a few words of Spanish on the lady – “muy pesadas,” very heavy – which got me a smile that lit up my afternoon. No medals; I only do it once in a while, when I have time, and am of a mood.)
They are up against it, these mothers with their infants, these abuelas with their groceries, and most of the time they have no alternative. The subways are primitive, and falling apart, despite the elected public officials who posture and prance but put critical offices in a building in the terrorists’ playbook, who ignore climate warnings and put fancy new stations to collect the coming floods, but ignore the infrastructure and the lack of elevators for those who need them.
The Times says: “Only about a quarter of the subway system’s 472 stations have elevators, and the ones that exist are often out of order.”
Malaysia Goodson, 22, was living in Stamford, Conn., but had come back to the city of her childhood on some errand. Somehow, she tumbled down a flight of stairs while maneuvering a stroller holding her 1-year-old. The daughter is reported to be all right but her mother died.
I’ll try to remember her next time I am in the subway.
For Malaysia Goodson: Ravel’s “Pavane for a Dead Princess:”
Measuring Covid Deaths, by David Leonhardt. July 17, 2023. NYT online.
The United States has reached a milestone in the long struggle against Covid: The total number of Americans dying each day — from any cause — is no longer historically abnormal….
After three horrific years, in which Covid has killed more than one million Americans and transformed parts of daily life, the virus has turned into an ordinary illness.
The progress stems mostly from three factors:
First, about three-quarters of U.S. adults have received at least one vaccine shot.
Second, more than three-quarters of Americans have been infected with Covid, providing natural immunity from future symptoms. (About 97 percent of adults fall into at least one of those first two categories.)
Third, post-infection treatments like Paxlovid, which can reduce the severity of symptoms, became widely available last year.
“Nearly every death is preventable,” Dr. Ashish Jha, who was until recently President Biden’s top Covid adviser, told me. “We are at a point where almost everybody who’s up to date on their vaccines and gets treated if they have Covid, they rarely end up in the hospital, they almost never die.”
That is also true for most high-risk people, Jha pointed out, including older adults — like his parents, who are in their 80s — and people whose immune systems are compromised. “Even for most — not all but most —immuno-compromised people, vaccines are actually still quite effective at preventing against serious illness,” he said. “There has been a lot of bad information out there that somehow if you’re immuno-compromised that vaccines don’t work.”
That excess deaths have fallen close to zero helps make this point: If Covid were still a dire threat to large numbers of people, that would show up in the data.
One point of confusion, I think, has been the way that many Americans — including we in the media — have talked about the immuno-compromised. They are a more diverse group than casual discussion often imagines.
Most immuno-compromised people are at little additional risk from Covid — even people with serious conditions, such as multiple sclerosis or a history of many cancers. A much smaller group, such as people who have received kidney transplants or are undergoing active chemotherapy, face higher risks.
Covid’s toll, to be clear, has not fallen to zero. The C.D.C.’s main Covid webpage estimates that about 80 people per day have been dying from the virus in recent weeks, which is equal to about 1 percent of overall daily deaths.
The official number is probably an exaggeration because it includes some people who had virus when they died even though it was not the underlying cause of death. Other C.D.C. data suggests that almost one-third of official recent Covid deaths have fallen into this category. A study published in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases came to similar conclusions.
Dr. Shira Doron, the chief infection control officer at Tufts Medicine in Massachusetts, told me that “age is clearly the most substantial risk factor.” Covid’s victims are both older and disproportionately unvaccinated. Given the politics of vaccination, the recent victims are also disproportionately
Republican and white.
Each of these deaths is a tragedy. The deaths that were preventable — because somebody had not received available vaccines and treatments — seem particularly tragic. (Here’s a Times guide to help you think about when to get your next booster shot.)
From the great Maureen Dowd:
As I write this, I’m in a deserted newsroom in The Times’s D.C. office. After working at home for two years during Covid, I was elated to get back, so I could wander around and pick up the latest scoop.
But in the last year, there has been only a smattering of people whenever I’m here, with row upon row of empty desks. Sometimes a larger group gets lured in for a meeting with a platter of bagels."
--- Dowd writes about the lost world of journalists clustered in newsrooms at all hours, smoking, drinking, gossipping, making phone calls, typing, editing.
"Putting out the paper," we called it.
Much more than nostalgia.