Me, Viruses and Living My Life

For almost 3 years now, I’ve been in the demographic for “high risk” for Covid and now, it appears, for the flu and RSV. I don’t have an underlying condition; I’m just over the age of 65. I know plenty of people in my high-risk age category who have simply chosen to ‘get on with life.’ They don’t want to avoid large public indoor settings and have gone to the theater, the opera and movies. However, in those places, they can continue to wear a mask. Where mask-wearing in an indoor public setting is difficult is, obviously, in restaurants. I’m not sure if anyone has invented the mask that permits the wearer to keep it on and still eat. Even a nasogastric tube requires access through your nose.

It was one thing to be able to meet people for meals outdoors when the weather here in New York City was warm. Today, December 13, 2022, the temperature is averaging the mid-to-high 30’s. The forecast has wind chills getting it down, at times, to the 20’s. Dining outdoors at restaurants, even with well-positioned heat lamps, requires fortitude.

So the existential dilemma is whether to throw caution to the wind and eat indoors. Obviously, that decision comes with hoping for the best.

I’m eating with my family indoors in a restaurant this evening. I’ll keep you posted.

Communicating with Grandchildren

It’s a new experience when they can text or write!

I have 5 grandchildren–ages 9 to 4. I wrote to them many times during the first year or so of the pandemic when everyone was locked down. I’d usually include a stamped, self-addressed envelope so they could send me back a letter or a drawing, if they weren’t writing yet. I’d see them on FaceTime calls and, if their parents let them use their phones, we’d exchange some easy-to-read texts. Subsequently, of course, after we were all vaccinated, we’d get together in person. Even then, though, those visits might be one or two times a month.

Now, it appears, the oldest 4 (ages 6, 7, 9 and 9) have their own iPads. I believe they can all thank the pandemic for these since the iPads were the link to online classes.

Although none of them have their own phones yet (I know both my son and daughter, and their spouses, are looking to postpone that inevitability as long as possible), my grandson is able to send me texts on his iPad. I’ve gotten them every morning now for the past few days. I think he squeezes them in, sometime between 6:30 and 6:45 am, after he wakes up and before he has breakfast. All 3 texts so far have been about the Yankees.

I’ve also received two letters in the past 2 weeks from two of my granddaughters (ages 7 and 9). Both were sent in their own envelopes (not SASE).

All I can say is that it’s pretty wonderful to hear from your grandchildren, when they spontaneously reach out, in whatever way they do.

Eating Outside at NYC Restaurants During Covid

Sidewalk cafes and faux sidewalk cafes

It appears there are many ways people are navigating the Covid world now. I’m not talking about the under 65 crowd, many of whom appear to be socializing and returning to work, largely unmasked. I’m focused more on the 65-and-older demographic, where I belong. Based on many conversations with friends and family, there is still a decent percentage of us who are fearful enough of long Covid that we’re trying to minimize our Covid risks.

Under the heading of ‘reducing risky behavior’ would be eating outside at restaurants.

In New York City, in which I and this blog are based, there appear to be some interesting ways restaurants have created outdoor eating space. Many have the traditional outdoor cafes, where you sit at tables situated on the restaurant’s adjacent sidewalk in the open air.

A number of others have taken those outdoor cafes and put panels around them. Some of the panels are left open at one or 2 ends. That same configuration of mostly-closed-but-a-few-open-panels has been applied to sheds, usually located in the street adjacent to the restaurant.

And then there are the cafes and sheds that are completely closed with panels to form, in effect, another room of the restaurant. I would argue that the ventilation in those closed spaces could be worse than in the restaurant itself, which might have a central HVAC system to help move around the air (and Covid germ particles). Many of the outdoor restaurant sheds I’ve seen in Manhattan, where I live, have no HVAC. So when you close them all up, your air quality might not be so good.

So, folks, if you’re interested in safely eating outdoors, choose wisely.

Getting the New Covid Booster!

Maybe this is the beginning of not wearing a mask!

Three days ago, on September 8, 2022, at 3:10 pm, I got my “New Covid-19 Booster.” That’s the new “bivalent” one that targets BOTH the original Covid-19 virus as well as the BA.4 and BA.5 Omicron sub-variants. So, possibly…maybe…perhaps, in approximately 11 days from now, I can stop wearing a mask indoors! That.will.be.big.

That might mean when I’ll feel comfortable eating indoors in a restaurant again! It might also mean when I’d feel OK going to see a play or a movie.

I know many people have moved on from the pandemic, but I haven’t. I know people who are still getting Omicron and who are currently dealing with quarantining, stubborn positive test results and lingering side effects. I really don’t want to get Covid and so I’ve been wearing a well-fitted mask every time I go indoors to shop, or visit a museum or take a city bus or subway. I don’t love wearing the mask for long intervals so I haven’t gone to see a play or a movie for 2-1/2 years. And since eating requires removing a mask, I won’t eat indoors.

But, perhaps…maybe…hopefully…on September 22, 2022, the pandemic ends for me–at least until the next Covid variant comes along.

Living in the Pandemic

My first visit to a museum in 2-1/2 years.

I’d like to emphasize the word “living” in my title for this post. Despite the fact that NYC’s Covid positivity rate this first week of August is showing up at 13.5%, I decided it was time for me to visit a museum again. I’m not sure why it took this long to make that decision. It just did. In one word, it was wonderful.

Based on my conversations with friends, many of whom are over 65, we seem to be crawling out from under our pandemic rocks at our own speeds. As we all know too well, the pandemic and the variants are constantly changing. So what might have seemed safe a few months ago, may not now. For me, personally, I just don’t like wearing a mask indoors for the time it would take to watch a play or a movie. So that has eliminated those options from my return to any semblance of pre-pandemic normalcy. As with most of us who have been double-vaccinated and boosted, we’re reassured that even while our vaccinations have likely worn down in efficacy, they’re still useful enough to keep us out of ER’s and off ventilators. Frankly, that’s pretty reassuring.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art was crowded when I got there Monday afternoon. The Met no longer requires proof of vaccination or even a face mask. Many people weren’t wearing one. However, I had my KN95 one on and, if I got to a place in the museum that wasn’t too crowded, I pulled mine down.

Walking around some of the featured exhibitions and seeing some of the magnificent art was simply wonderful and reminded me why New York is such an incredible place to live. It was one of the best afternoons I’ve had in a long time.

Volunteering! So Many Choices!

How do I pick some good volunteer options?

There are, unquestionably, many benefits to volunteering. Some of the ones that are most often mentioned are: it provides you with a sense of purpose; it provides a sense of community; it teaches you valuable skills (including social skills). As a senior citizen, it helps you meet new friends and provides a bulwark against loneliness. That’s especially important during this pandemic, as many of us who are senior citizens are spending more time, isolated, at home.

I live in NYC and I’ve had various volunteer jobs over the years. Some lasted longer than others because some I enjoyed more than others.

I decided at the end of last year that I wanted to add a new volunteer commitment to my schedule so I Googled “volunteer opportunities”. I could search in countless ways for volunteer work (in NYC, in my neighborhood, by type of work, etc.). It was somewhat overwhelming.

After much noodling around online, I found a site for AmeriCorps Seniors RSVP, https://www.rsvpnyc.org. Given my concerns about being in a higher risk category for Covid, I was only looking for virtual assignments. AmeriCorps Seniors RSVP partners with over 200 organizations in all 5 boroughs so I could easily narrow my focus to only virtual assignments and readily see descriptions of the job. I chose one such assignment and have been pleased with the choice. Just as an example, here’s one page of their NYC virtual assignments: https://www.rsvpnyc.org/need/index?q=&age=&agency_id=&county=&min_available_slots=&dateOn=&distance=&zip=&need_impact_area=&need_init_id=&qualification_id=&meta%5B%5D=&meta%5B%5D=&meta%5B%5D=virtual_need&meta%5B%5D=&allowTeams=&ug_id=&s=1

Good luck finding your volunteer job! I hope you find a keeper.

Trying to Live with Covid Variants

I think I’m living in an alternate reality.

I’ve been on several Zoom calls recently during which some of my Zoom-mates (isn’t that what we are?) shared their travel plans. Many people seem to be planning trips, and to some faraway places.

Clearly, I haven’t been bitten by the travel bug, especially as the BA.2 variant seems to be spreading.

To my knowledge, I haven’t had Covid. I’ve just completed my 3rd week after my 4th shot, when I think my immunity is as good as it’s going to be. However, the thought of possibly getting Covid, and, in particular, long Covid, is keeping me from contemplating potentially maskless experiences and any kind of travel.

The concern I have, however, is what it will take to give me courage to do that again, since all indicators point to this being a disease we’ll be living with forever.

Everyday is a Pandemic Groundhog Day!

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Winter and the pandemic just keep going on and on.

Unquestionably, winter, and especially several days in a row of gray skies and precipitation, seem to make the pandemic worse –at least for me. I’ve felt like Bill Murray in the movie, “Groundhog Day”, more times than I can count. One friend on a Zoom call this afternoon remarked, “I just can’t tell what day of the week it is anymore.” Many others on the screen nodded in agreement.

I’m triple-vaxxed since late October but still haven’t seen a theatrical performance or even been to a museum since before March 2020 (although that may soon change now that Omicron cases in New York City have significantly dropped). I haven’t eaten inside a restaurant.

I’m not sure how one ventures back out into the world. But until I do resume many missing activities of my life, the dreariness of the pandemic, and the winter, make the days all seem the same.

Connecting with Family on Zoom

Connecting with family on Zoom was a pandemic plus.

One of the great discoveries for many of us these past 18 months of the pandemic has to be the marvels of Zoom. For those of us who are retired and not needing to be part of a virtual office, it has allowed us to safely take classes, participate in all sorts of cultural and religious events and, most importantly, stay connected to friends and family.

For me, it has allowed for a get-together with cousins (one of whom I’ve never met and several whom I haven’t seen in years) living all over the country. We live in blue states and red states and pretty much cover all the possible time zones in the country.

Conversing with first cousins who remember some of your most embedded childhood memories, of people and places, is remarkable. Meeting first cousins for the first time is also amazing.

It’s a silver lining of the pandemic and I’m looking forward to it ending, once and for all, to be able to meet or get together again, in person. Finally.

Covid Information Overload?

There’s so much information to figure out.

If, like me, you read a newspaper –or 2, watch or listen to the news, get emails and push notifications from reliable news organizations, listen to news podcasts (also reliable), or get emails or texts from family members or friends, you’re probably getting Covid updates many times in a day. Some may contain new and important information for you personally. Some of it you’ve heard a zillion times before. And some of it, frankly, seems to contradict other disseminated information.

“ENOUGH!”, I mutter, as I yank my ear buds out if I’m listening to a news podcast or slam down the lid of my laptop, if I’m reading a newspaper online. I’m Covided-out!

My news blackout period holds until I receive the next push notification on my phone on, you guessed it, Covid.