We were flabbergasted by an article last week in the New York Post written by its veteran columnist Steve Cuozzo which ran under the title, “Why are Manhattan’s COVID rates so low compared with the rest of NYC?” He delivered the rankest of insults to our community and he and the Post owe us an apology.
His issue is this:
Manhattan has a much lower COVID-19 infection rate than the four other boroughs. It also has many fewer hospitalizations and deaths. Yet the “experts” are astonishingly incurious as to why.
They tend to mention it only in passing, if at all. Why such a scant attention to so tantalizing a phenomenon?
…Surely we ought to care why one borough is safer than the others, even as millions of people pass from one to another ever day.
A curiously narrow underwhelming focus, to be sure, but then he warms to his real target:
Common sense reasons for our relative safety might include higher income levels and better overall health than in the outer boroughs; fewer virus-spreading nursing homes than in Brooklyn, The Bronx and Queens; and Manhattan’s scarcity of Orthodox Jewish community “hot zones.” (Italics ours)
Cuozzo, the scientist that he is, then raises and debunks as causes population density and indoor dining for Manhattan’s statistical distinction. He pointedly ignores the fact that the Bronx, which adjoins Manhattan and which has areas with scant Orthodox populations, has a 10% positivity rate. He also ignores the fact that while the lower half of Manhattan may have better Covid numbers, the top half does not.
In any event, Cuozzo then returns to his initial question of why there has been scant governmental interest in finding out why Manhattan is different:
A focus on borough-by borough COVID cases would also shine a light on a political hot potato that Mayor Bill de Blasio and Cuomo prefer to mostly ignore: large, often mask-less ultra-Orthodox gatherings including weddings, holiday celebrations and funerals….
Yet, as this paper reported in December, “publicly-available data [shows] no obvious correlation between the Covid-19 death rate and mass adherence to Covid-19 rules and recommendations.” We reported:
In Crown Heights, hardly anyone wears a mask. In Washington Heights, almost everyone wears a mask. Yet, in one of Washington Heights’s two zip codes (10040), the number of Covid-19 deaths per 100,000 is greater (289) than the number of Covid-19 deaths per 100,000 in the 11213 zip code of Crown Heights (234).
Meanwhile, in heavily chassidic Williamsburg – in zip codes 11205, 11206, and 11211 – the number of Covid-19 deaths per 100,000 is even lower: 110, 186, and 142, respectively. Williamsburg actually seems to have the lowest death rate of any frum neighborhood. The area with the highest Covid-19 death rate in the city (714 – or five times higher than the rate in Williamsburg) is East New York (zip code 11239), where few Jews live.
A comparison between Boro Park and Flatbush is illustrative as well. In Boro Park, compliance with Covid-19 guidelines is relatively low. In Flatbush, it’s relatively high. But the number of Covid-19 deaths per 100,000 is actually lower in Boro Park than in Flatbush. In the Boro Park zip codes of 11204 and 11219, the numbers are 188 and 219, respectively. In the Flatbush zip codes of 11230, 11210, and 11234, the numbers are is 289, 254, and 199, respectively.
Let’s update some of these numbers. The number of Covid deaths per 100,000 in Washington Heights’ 10040 neighborhood (Manhattan) is now 337. In the 11213 area code of Crown Heights (Brooklyn, chassidic), it’s now 280.
The numbers in Williamburg’s zip codes are 152, 257, and 172, respectively. In East New York – not exactly a chassidic area – it’s 883. And in the zip codes of East Harlem (Manhattan) – 10029 and 10035 – the numbers are 364 and 460, respectively.
And the numbers in Boro Park – where hardly anyone wears a mask – are still better than those in Flatbush. In the Boro Park zip codes of 11204 and 11219, the numbers are 265 and 262, and in the Flatbush zip codes of 11230, 11210, and 11234, the numbers are 411, 300, and 277, respectively.
In other words, Cuozzo doesn’t know what he’s talking about. But he concludes nonetheless:
Manhattan has none of the Hasidic congregations found in Brooklyn and Queens. A proper study of the extent to which they contribute to virus spread might well show an even greater impact on neighboring communities than government officials who fear losing votes are willing to acknowledge.
“A proper study…might well show.” Indeed. For shame. But don’t worry, we’ll name the next hate crimes after you.