The hardest thing about coronavirus in New York is the paradox we live with in every moment. We are trying to find sources of comfort, to stay productive and helpful, and to remain calm. And, all around us, we see so many of our neighbors struggling. In yoga, we often contemplate how to be present with suffering and not succumb to it. I never imagined I would have to test my practice in this way.
First, the facts:
- Elmhurst Hospital in Queens is facing the greatest crisis in a sea of darkness. Dr. Colleen Smith, an ER doctor there, grabbed her cell phone and filmed the scene there so that the world would know what it’s like for her and her colleagues. This is war reporting by a warrior. It’s devastating and necessary to see what’s happening there.
- The figures are staggering: we have over 37,000 cases in the state with 23,000 of those in New York City alone. 365 NYC residents have people died from the virus. Overnight we had a 40% increase in hospitalizations in the state.
- Anyone who says New York is “hysterical”, “over-reacting”, or “managing just fine”, or that this is a “hoax” should come sit with the families and friends of those 365 people we lost, or walk in the shoes of any one of these heroic healthcare workers.
- We have over 5,000 people hospitalized and nearly 1,300 in the ICU, which is a 45% increase over night. Many of the ICU patients admitted before today have been on ventilators for 20-30 days, and their hope of recovery grows less likely every day.
- For the first time since 9/11 we now have refrigerated trucks set up as make-shift morgues outside our hospitals.
- When someone is put on a respirator, they must take painkillers, muscle relaxers, and sedatives so that their body doesn’t fight the intubation. We are running out of those drugs.
- We are still in dire need of ventilators. Even if the splitting technology helps some respirators to service more than one patient, we still don’t have anywhere near what we need.
- We are also in dire need of more hospital beds and Governor Cuomo is scouting more sites tomorrow to set up tens of thousands more needed beds in the greater New York City-area.
- PPE supplies are dangerously low. You’ve probably seen the pictures of healthcare workers wearing trash bags to protect themselves. That’s what it’s come to.
- As a result of the low PPE, we lost our first healthcare worker: Kious Kelly, an assistant nurse manager at Mount Sinai West hospital in Manhattan. This is my closest emergency room to my apartment and is where I was treated almost two years ago when I had a very serious double-eye infection. He was diagnosed just a little over a week ago and was immediately admitted to the ICU. He was perfectly healthy prior to COVID. His death could have been prevented with proper PPE. He died trying to save others.
- A lab I collaborate with on research efforts is having a massive call to action to bring together scientists to help fight COVID. It’s our hope that in this terrible time, we will find new innovations that can help heal our city, our country, and our world, and better equip us for future pandemics (because they will happen).
- NYU has stepped forward to allow all of their medical, nursing, and healthcare students to graduate now so they can immediately begin helping COVID-19 patients.
- Many companies have offered help: personal care, hotels, airlines, universities, home goods, retail, clothing, media outlets, a small handful of celebrities (though many more should be helping), food, restaurants, banks, and energy. Here’s the full list. It all helps. We’re very grateful.
- The number of volunteers is growing as well. We now have 52,000 volunteer healthcare workers from all over the country helping us. Nearly 9,000 mental health counselors have volunteered their services to help us deal with the mental and emotional challenges being felt all over the city and state.
- To help with social distancing, New York is running a four-day trial of some street closures so people can get outside with some additional space while maintain proper social distancing. I’m hoping this trial goes well and that we will open more streets to be pedestrian-only.
- We’re grateful for all the companies who have stepped forward to help NYC, and we need more help. If your company wants to help, please contact Governor Cuomo’s office at: Albany: (518) 474 – 8418 , New York City: (212) 681 – 4640.
- I met with the lead scientist who’s advising me on my biomimicry capstone project. I took my moonshot and pitched an idea to him about how my research can be helpful with COVID. He was completely convinced it was the right thing to do. This weekend I’ll be formally drafting the idea for him to review, and we’re hoping to submit it for funding.
- My work with Carnegie Hall continues. We just got back two videos that I co-directed and produced with an exceptional director of photography and crew. They came out beautifully. We’re absolutely thrilled with them and I can’t wait to share them with you soon.
- I doubled down on my breathing (pranayama) practice. Because COVID-19 is a respiratory illness, I figured one of the best things I can do is continue to keep my lungs strong in the event that I do contract it. Essentially, I practice a long inhale, a hold, and then a long exhale. Much like toning muscles, this helps to tone my lungs. It also calms the mind.
- I talked to a friend of mine for a couple of hours as she navigates an end to one chapter of her career this week and begins to see what comes next. She’s fierce and fearless, and it was really uplifting to talk to her. Also, her daughter read my book in a single sitting and is already asking for the sequel and the movie. That made my day.
- Thank you to everyone who’s been texting, calling, and emailing to check on me. Rest assured I’m fine. I’m mentally, physically, emotionally, and financially preparing myself for this to last many months. I take things one day at a time—the good and the bad—and am finding ways to be helpful and useful in this time of great need in our city. All we ever have is this present moment. That truth has come into sharp relief in this pandemic.
- #WhenThisIsOver I’m looking forward to giving my friends hugs. I expect to see a global hugging party ensue at some point, and that is a happy thought.
The Phineas update:
- On our afternoon walk we saw one of our elder neighbors who’s been isolating. It was warm and sunny today so she got out for a short walk wearing a mask and keep a safe distance from others. Phineas ran right over to say hello. Dogs don’t carry nor catch this virus so it’s safe for people to interact with them. She was so grateful for his wagging tail and smile. I stayed 6+ feet from her and we chatted. She said I was the first person she’s talked to in 7 days. Check in on your senior neighbors. If you see them in the hallway or outside, say hello and ask how they are. It can make all the difference, COVID or no COVID.
- Spring is gearing up and we’re seeing lots of lovely flowers bloom. We’re grateful for both Central Park and Riverside Park in our neighborhood, and to all the park workers who take care of these beautiful spaces for all of us to enjoy.
Inspiring quote of the day:
“Nothing in nature lives for itself. Rivers don’t drink their own water. Tress don’t eat their own fruit. The sun doesn’t shine for itself. A flower’s fragrance is not for itself. Living for each other is the rule of nature.” ~Unknown