That was the sound across New York this past week as the coronavirus ran rampant throughout the state and life as we once knew it came to a halt, the likes of which no has ever experienced.
Here are my top 10 observations since Governor Andrew Cuomo took executive actions to slow the impact of the coronavirus during the past month.
1) The governor took a measured approach, closing down businesses and limiting actions by residents and government entities across the state. The governor likened it to slowly turning a spigot as the coronavirus worsened until the spigot couldn’t be turned any more.
2) The state budget, already at a near crisis level, was blown totally out of whack as the stock market crashed to a low point not seen in a decade and state taxes slowed to a trickle as businesses closed due to the executive orders put into place by the governor. The revenue coming into the state mirrored the drip, drip coming out of the proverbial spigot the governor turned when changing lifestyles for all New Yorkers.
3) Liquor stores remain open as the governor deemed that as an essential service for New Yorkers. Many lawmakers supported the move with a justification that in these tough times people need a little comfort and some courage juice in their life. Many Jews applauded the move because they can still purchase kosher wines for Shabbos and Pesach.
4) Meanwhile nail salons, hair stylists and barbershops closed leaving many women, who regularly get their hair primped and colored as well as their nails polished, angry at the governor. I suppose we’re all going to look a little more scraggly and grayer in the coming months. Many aestheticians might be resuming their businesses underground, bringing back memories of prohibition where you needed a secret word in order to enter a speakeasy. Something like: “Moishy sent me.”
5) There appears to be one bit of a silver lining in all this. Air pollution levels are improving in New York City and the surrounding area as cars, buses and trucks on the roads are virtually nonexistent. Score one for the environmentalists.
6) Another silver lining attributed to the coronavirus lockdown in New York City is that crime is down by 25% across the board but the numbers are still higher than anyone would ever want to tolerate. The New York City Police Department breaks out crime into seven major categories – murder, rape, robbery, felony assault, burglary, grand larceny and grand larceny auto. Bet you never knew that. Last week there was one murder, in Brooklyn. There were 15 rapes across the city. There were 210 robberies. There were 16 people shot last week. Burglaries totalled 173. Police officials predict crime statistics will continue to drop for the next several months but are fearful that domestic violence cases will rise due to families being confined to their homes for an extended period of time.
7) The Jewish Press reported last week about the use of the antimalarial drug Chloroquine being an effective drug to fight the coronavirus. The governor this past week received permission from the federal government to begin testing trials using the drug in conjunction with Zithromax, an antibiotic that fights bacteria, such as respiratory infections. I hope we had a small role to play in lighting a fire under the state officials to look into this further. Governor Cuomo said he noticed that many countries in Africa are not reporting known cases of coronavirus as these countries have a high use of Chloroquine to fight malaria. He thinks there might be a connection.
8) The governor ordered the purchase of thousands of specialized masks, known as an N95 respirator, from overseas companies for health care professionals, spending $40 per mask that ususally sell for 80 cents. While this purchase was with taxpayer dollars, state lawmakers I spoke with do not seem bothered by the price gouging. One lawmaker said he thought the state might be able to sue the company they purchased these masks from after the battle with this disease is over, but for now we have to do what we have to do to keep health care professionals safe.
9) The governor says we are “at war” with this disease. He also said “This is a matter of life and death.” A third memorable quote from Cuomo: “The facts here do not justify the amount of fear.”
10) A third member of the state Assembly has tested positive for the coronavirus. On Thursday, March 19, two days after celebrating her 36th birthday, Kimberly Jean-Pierre revealed that she tested positive for the disease. Ironically Jean-Pierre touts on her official Assembly website that she “recently helped pass a measure that allocates $40 million in emergency funding to help combat the spread of the novel coronavirus.”
A second piece of legislation was posted on the day she found out she had the disease. On her website she wrote, “It’s critical that we do everything we can to protect New Yorkers’ health and economic security. That’s why I helped pass legislation … that provides sick leave, expanded paid family leave benefits and temporary disability insurance (TDI) to New Yorkers who may be subject to a mandatory or precautionary quarantine or isolation.” Timing is everything.
Born in Brooklyn, Jean-Pierre, of Haitian ancestry, lives in the Suffolk County community of Wheatley Heights in the town of Babylon. She is a three-term member of the Assembly.
Other notable mentions regarding the impact this outbreak has had on the Jewish community include Mordy Getz, the owner of the venerable Eichler’s Judaica and Gifts, located in Boro Park and the Midwood sections of Brooklyn, reportedly has tested positive for the virus. In Albany, Congregation Shomray Torah, known as the Shteebl, has revealed three unnamed congregants tested positive for the coronavirus. Services were halted on Friday, March 13 when the cases were revealed. May they all have a refuah shlemah. Rabbi Pinchus Rappaport, the spiritual leader of a synagogue on Strickland Avenue in Mill Basin, Brooklyn, finally shut down his daily and Shabbat services on Thursday, March 19. There are no known positive cases of the virus at the synagogue.
The alleged cluster of reported coronavirus cases in Boro Park was due to increased testing and was nothing out of the ordinary, reports local Assemblyman Simcha Eichenstein.
If you are food shopping in Rockland County, county officials have imposed a two-item per person limit on all products and no one under 16 years old is allowed in stores, including supermarkets.
The annual visit to Albany by Rabbi Shmuel Butman, director of the Lubavitch Youth Organization, to honor and celebrate the birthday of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, z”l, has been postponed this year. Rabbi Butman was slated to be in Albany on Monday, March 23 with his pushka in hand asking lawmakers for one dollar and ready to give the opening prayer at the Senate and Assembly session. He also hands out boxes of shmura matzah, two boards to a box so as not to exceed the monetary limit for gifts given to state lawmakers. Resolutions have already been prepared for the occasion, which would call for 118 days of learning to honor the Rebbe’s memory.
Stay safe out there, be healthy, go jogging, enjoy the outdoors and have a kosher, zeesan Pesach.