Tag Archives: Coronavirus

Reopening society may require us to follow Israel’s example

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It’s important that I start this piece by making it very clear that I am an American who loves his country.  The opinion I am about to share should be seen more as a call to arms and encouragement than a criticism or indictment.  Who knows? If properly heeded it might just save some lives.

The other day a friend of mine from my grammar school days in London posted statistics showing how, to date, of all developed countries none had done better in keeping down the Coronavirus death toll than Israel.  The friend I speak of, Alison Fisch-Katz, is a brilliant writer, not swayed by political bias, and honest in her assessments. In her post Alison said the following:

Corona deaths per 100,000 in developed countries from highest: Belgium (7,924 deaths), Spain (25,428 deaths), Italy (29,079 deaths), UK (28,734 deaths), France (25,201 deaths), Holland (5,102 deaths), Sweden (2,321 deaths), US (69,121 deaths – NY 18,000)…. Israel is No. 24 out of 30 on the graph with 230 fatalities out of a population of 9 million (similar populations to New York and Sweden). Israel’s stringent measures have saved thousands of lives.
The economy is now being re-opened with caution. If the curve doesn’t spike, the expectation is that by month’s end we will be allowed to congregate freely with no restrictions. Red lights that will return the country to isolation are: 1. If the rate of infection rises again to 100 cases per day. 2. If rate multiplies by 30 every 10 days. 3. If hard cases rise to 250.
KEEP WEARING YOUR MASK!!😷

The numbers she presented are quite real. When I read her post, coupled with a previous article I had read in Times of Israel by founding editor and part of that same group of friends,  David Horovitz,  it seemed to consolidate some feelings I had felt for some time.  The ultimate management of the current situation ultimately lies more in the hands of the people than their respective governments.

The Times of Israel article entitled “It’s not over, and uncertainty abounds, but Israel’s COVID-19 stats are stunning”  is striking because in its description of everything Israel has done, from mitigation strategies to the timeline, it doesn’t differ much from actions taken here in America.  The population of Israel is approximately 8.6 million.  The population of New York City is approximately 8.4 million.  While at the time that I write this the death toll in Israel is less than 300, by startling contrast the death toll in New York City is over 18,000. I have maintained from the start that public transportation, particularly the New York City subway system has played a significant role in the spread.  I also have witnessed a New York City mayor performing less than adequately.  Yet as easy and popular as it is to point the finger at our elected leaders and politicians, sometimes accurately, often partisan based, I believe that the greatest responsibility of slowing the spread and minimizing the loss of life lies in the hands of us, the people.

For 3 1/2 years between 1980 and 1985 I lived in Jerusalem, Israel.  When I read Alison’s post I shared a thought with her and followed it with a question. My thought was as follows. During my time in Israel, when riding the bus I was often confronted by rude people who had no qualms in pushing and shoving me or anyone else out of their way.  Israeli’s riding a bus back then were not the most patient or polite of people. In fairness, packed buses have never been known to bring out the best in anyone.  But when I looked at the people pushing me I also realized that more than likely, every single one of them would have given their life to protect mine and would have done so without a moment’s hesitation.  In western culture, today’s definition of civilized is far too often based on packaging and presentation, while lacking in action and sacrifice. Of course the healthcare workers are a huge exception as their actions and sacrifices are unmatched and a blessing to us all.  I continued by telling Alison that it was that mentality of caring for another person’s life as though it was their very own that has always been my fondest memory of Israel. I went on to ask her if I would be correct to think the mentality I remember so well has impacted the slow spread of COVID-19 cases and most importantly the significantly lower death toll in the country?  She answered me as follows.

Unlike other countries that have pursued herd immunization (example, Sweden & UK – at the beginning) followed a policy of survival of the fittest and essentially sacrificed the older generation. Israel, on the other hand, cares about its parents and everyone complied with love.

While Alison’s response might be perceived by some as indictment on these nation’s citizens and their love for their elderly friends and relatives, it actually speaks more to Israel’s inherent value system.  While everyone’s intentions were the same, have as few deaths as possible, why are the results so different? As a nation threatened by neighboring enemies since it declared independence some 72 years ago, the mentality has always been one critical to its survival.  That mentality, a value for human life that takes precedent over everything else and a sense of responsibility for the safety and well-being of others, is a basic instinct of the populous, one that makes up the very core of what has helped the country survive. To put it simply, since Israel is far more used to having the lives of its citizens threatened than other developed countries, the people were more prepared.  While the majority of Israel’s adults either still are in, or have spent time in the military training to defend their country, the majority of adults in New York City have never dealt with that level of collective responsibility.  So although the leadership in Israel needed to initially enforce the policy as other nations and localities did, once the people understood the critical nature of that responsibility, the people, as Alison put it, complied with love.

While that same love exists in the places suffering significantly higher death tolls, we need to consider the possibility that the preparation and sense of responsibility does not exist on an equal level. While our essential workers keep our lives moving and our healthcare professionals give their hearts and souls to saving lives, the rest of us need to step up to the plate and meet our responsibilities.  The current schism developing within American society of staying at home or reopening, one like so many others becoming a political one, does actually have a middle of the road.  Like so many things it’s a simple concept with a more difficult practical implementation.  Reopen while simultaneously going out of your way to keep those at high risk as safe as possible.  The hard part is to make people understand their individual responsibility.  As much as some people prefer to bloviate on social media rather than saying or doing something constructive, government can’t really make this work by itself. The people need to do their part for it to be even partially successful.

In essence this means finding those people who are high risk, the elderly or those with preexisting medical conditions and doing what we can to help them. Run errands that make it possible for them to stay at home.  Call them to see how they’re doing? Show them that they are not alone.  Sometimes all they need is a friend.  Let them know that if they need anything you will take extra time and get it for them. And most importantly,  do everything in your personal power to not put them at risk.  Keep a safe distance and wear a mask whenever you are in their vicinity. By looking after their best interests as though they were your own, which is indeed the reality, we can make a big difference.  Want your life to get back as much as possible to what you remember as being normal?  It comes with a cost, and that cost is caring about someone other than yourself.  It worked in Israel, theoretically there is no reason it can work everywhere else.  Ultimately the cost of not doing it is a far greater one.

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Positive Stories to Brighten your day

raysofhope

Want some good news?  Sure you do.  Well there happens to be plenty of it out there if you actually want to find it badly enough.  Any time we speak about the positive and hopeful, it is appropriate to recognize the tragedy that has befallen too many people since COVID-19 took off all over the world.  We need to offer our compassion and support to those who need it whenever possible. But one of the ways to help them and everyone else it to keep a clear perspective of what is happening around us, and that means to take the time to acknowledge the happier stories and the people that make the world a better place. Here are a few stories that will hopefully brighten your day.

1-Surviving Seniors

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Leonidas Romero, 92, with his daughter, Carolina Romero.

Sometimes the devil is in the details, but other times only the headlines matter.  While tragically the elderly population has suffered due to COVID-19, it’s important to note that unlike what many reports might lead you to believe, it is not a death sentence.  We need to continue to take all actions possible to keep our elderly safe as it is very dangerous for them to get COVID-19, but let’s also recognize some notable stories of seniors that fell victim to it and survived.

A 92 year old man in Massachusetts returned home after weeks in the hospital.

A 97-year-old woman in Brazil survived the virus.

A 104 year old man in Oregon survived COVID-19.

And a 106 year old woman in the UK survived after 3 weeks of hospitalization.

Four random cases of which there are definitely more, and while we need to do everything we can to risk the exposure of the elderly, enough to make us feel a whole lot better.

2- A Happy Milestone

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Bianca Jimenez, 600th patient released from Mount Sinai South Nassau in Oceanside, NY

A little closer to home, on April 25th, Mount Sinai South Nassau Hospital in Oceanside, NY celebrated as it released its 600th patient recovering from the Coronavirus. 19 year old Bianca Jimenez was released less than a week after being admitted with a fever of 104 and symptoms that included, cough, dizziness and shortness of breath.  We all thank our Drs. and nurses any chance we get, but if you talk with them you know nothing makes them feel better than sending people home who are recovering.  Let’s hope that number continues to grow exponentially faster.

3- Bringing joy and support through music

BSM

http://newjersey.news12.com/clip/15054098/broadway-actor-brian-stokes-mitchell-takes-on-new-role-after-bout-with-covid-19

Broadway performer, Brian Stokes Mitchell, as a way to express his gratitude to front line workers has taken to singing from this Upper West Side window in Manhattan. Singing “The Impossible Dream”,  Mitchell says that what he is doing “is not a performance. It’s an act of gratitude.”  He also states that the song is not about doing something impossible, rather it is about trying.  To make what he is doing even more poignant, Mitchell himself has had the virus and was even sick enough to worry about whether it would have a permanent impact on his vocal chords.  I think it’s safe to say that there are many people very happy that it didn’t.

4- NFL’s Greatest Moment

Not only did the NFL Draft provide us with a fun distraction, it offered us some heartwarming stories that yes, get ready for it, had nothing to do with the Coronavirus. As serious and deadly as the illness is, it is refreshing to hear about something else, especially if it is something good.  No story struck me more than the story of Offensive Lineman Austin Jackson, picked 18th by the Miami Dolphins.  Austin’s little sister Autumn, was inflicted with Diamond Blackfan Anemia (DBA), a rare inherited disorder that prevents bone marrow from producing red blood cells.  Last year with her condition deteriorating, she required a bone marrow transplant just to help her survive, let alone improve.  Without  any hesitation, Austin, who matched as a donor did what was necessary to help his sister despite the risk to himself and his career.  Around 1 year after the successful transplant, Autumn is on her way to complete recovery and Austin is on his way to the NFL.  This is probably the first time a player has become one of my favorites in the NFL before even playing a snap. Thank you to them both for their inspiration.

And on a side note, kudos to NFL commissioner to Roger Goodell, for not only giving us a really well run and entertaining draft during challenging times, but for being able to laugh at himself enough to encourage virtual boos.  Something tells me those virtual boos might just turn into more cheers in the  future than he’s ever seen before.

 

So there you have it, some stories I hope will make you feel just a little uplifted in a time when despair sells. We can’t control a lot of what happens, but we can control what we put out there and what we allow in.  Let’s make an effort to acknowledge and be grateful for what is good out there, because not doing so will very possibly hurt us more than any virus ever could.

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United we stand. Divided we just get sicker

The title of this post is neither a medical nor scientific diagnosis.  I am not qualified to make one based on medicine or science.  However, I do know the basic truth that when fighting an enemy, distraction benefits our foe.  Nothing is a bigger distraction than infighting, be it within families, religious communities, in one country, and even the entire world.

Earlier today in a chat I had with someone, I referenced my father of blessed memory, who was a member of the  resistance in Nazi-occupied Holland.  One of the things I learned from him was that although history addressed the misguided hope of the  Jewish Council, often unwittingly allowed to exist to help the Nazis in their mission, it was the Nazis that were the enemy.  Although the active traitor would be dealt with, the primary focus was on the evil looking to wipe his people from the face of the earth.

Although the Coronavirus is an invisible enemy, a dangerous enemy it is nonetheless. Pointing fingers or getting into nasty arguments or fights with people with different approaches towards what to do and who to trust, distracts people from acquiring knowledge, applying the proper disciplines, and helping those they are in a the position to help.  The video I posted is from the show “Friends”, and although many will find it funny, it also offers up a message as to what happens when people focused on one purpose lose that focus and fight among themselves.  And when all is said and done, it also shows how a reasonable patient explanation has a far greater chance of success.

All of us need to stick together, regardless of what community we associate ourselves with, racial background, or political viewpoint. Why? Because it will help make everything a lot better a lot faster.  I may even get us to a better place than we were in before things went wrong.  I can’t predict that unity will solves all our problems, but I can say with almost complete certainty, it will only help.

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The Blessings some people are missing

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For too many people this has been an awful time.  There are those who have lost their lives, left relatives behind who are restricted from mourning properly, and in some cases also stricken with the Coronavirus.  And for those who are sick or recovering, although your recovery is something to be thankful for, I recognize, to the best of my ability, your ordeal as a very serious one and one not to be taken lightly.

But then there are those who just don’t realize how lucky they really are.  Having your life turned upside down, economic uncertainty, and having to stay mostly at home, is not something to celebrate, but not realizing the blessings you have is a failing that needs to be addressed. Not merely for the impact on one’s own life, but for the impact on society as a whole.

A few weeks back I wrote a piece about the lessons we can learn from Holocaust survivors entitled, During the Coronavirus crisis, the lives of Holocaust survivors can offer us some much needed perspective.  In that piece I spoke about my late parents, who not only survived the Nazi occupation of Holland, they went on to live happy and productive lives.  As I listen to, or read about some people who are seeing being stuck at home as the worst thing that ever happened, I feel compelled to virtually grab them and shake them. I get it. You have cabin fever. You’re bored. Or your kids are driving you nuts. And yes, not knowing what the future holds for you financially is very disconcerting.  Believe me I know.  But what all those things should tell you is that if you are blessed with health, you feel well enough to feel boredom rather than illness.  If you have cabin fever you should acknowledge that you have a roof over your head.  If your kids are driving you nuts you have a family that gives you purpose and an opportunity to get closer to them.  And if you are worried about how you are going to manage financially in the future, although I recognize the seriousness of the issue and I say again that I really do understand, it implies that you have a future to work with, albeit one with challenges.

The teaching from the Jewish Oral Law, the Mishna, that I consider to be the foundation of my own personal philosophy towards life, is a teaching I encourage everyone to pay attention to at this time, regardless of your belief in God or any subsequent religion.  It is the teaching from Ethics of our Fathers that states, “Who is the wealthy one? The one who is happy with his portion.”  An easy concept to adapt when things are going your way, but to really internalize this idea means to see and appreciate what you have even when times are rough.  And although it’s been common to compare our current situation to times in the past when evil rulers or empires restricted our freedoms, what we are experiencing today is very different. Being encouraged or even mandated to take precautions for the safety and well-being of ourselves and those around us is by no means comparable to slavery and persecution.  A fact we really need to understand.

There certainly is a health issue to be cognizant of and an illness to fear.  But at the same time, if we have food in our home, a roof over our head, and the physical strength to go on, should we really be complaining? This does not mean we do not feel terrible sadness for the victims and closest people to those who have been lost.  But it does mean that all of us need to aspire to reach a strength of character in which we acknowledge life’s blessings.  And yes, not only will everyone around us be better off if we do, but so will we. If you wake up every day with the conviction to be happy with your portion, then most days you will wake up happy.  It is hard to imagine anyone having a problem with that recommendation.  Especially now.

Happy holidays to anyone celebrating and wishing strength and happiness to everyone in need.

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Acknowledging those who are helping during the crisis (videos included)

The notion that there are many famous celebrities and organizations helping during the Coronavirus pandemic is not just an inspirational one, it’s an accurate one.  There are many stories of people giving significant amounts of money and support during this critical time.  This is not a contest. Each and every one who gives whatever they feel they can is a winner for doing so, and we thank you.  In this post I picked out 2 celebrities and 2 organizations that struck me as particularly noteworthy.

Rihanna

The very talented singer and actress has donated $5 million dollars to The Clara Lionel Foundation which she founded in 2012 to help support Coronavirus relief efforts.  In addition she has donated Personal Protective Equioment (PPE) to medics in New York state. Thank you to her, and indeed, Take a Bow.

 

 

Drew Brees

New Orleans Saints Quarterback Drew Brees and his wife have donated $5 million dollars to the state of Louisiana to help in relief efforts to fight the Coronavirus.  In a statement Brees said the  following:

After “considerable research and conversations with local organizers,” this money will “be mobilizing our partnerships with Second Harvest Food Bank, Ochsner Health Systems, Walk-Ons, Jimmy Johns, Smalls Sliders and Waitr to prepare and deliver over 10,000 meals per day throughout Louisiana.”

Thanking them for their generosity. And if that wasn’t enough for you, enjoy this video and watch this incredible quarterback in action. Especially noteworthy are highlights 13,17, 18 & 19.

 

Anheuser-Busch

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I’m usually a Scotch or wine  guy, but after I saw the commercial telling me they were doing this, I almost wanted to go out and buy a beer. But since I am STAYING HOME. something we all need to do, I let the moment pass and decided to write about it instead.  Anheuser-Busch is redirecting all the money it uses on advertising for sports and entertainment to its non-profit partners for the Coronavirus relief effort.  In a statement, CEO Michael Doukeris said the following:

“COVID-19 has changed how we all live our lives, but it hasn’t changed Anheuser-Busch’s priorities and our commitments as an employer, a business partner and a corporate citizen. “While we can’t solve this crisis on our own, we are proud to do what we can to serve and support our communities in need and the heroes on the front lines, using our capabilities, our relationships, and our reach to do our part. We invite other companies to use their unique capabilities to join us in this effort, however they can, so that together we can make a difference.”

Thank guys. The next Bud’s for you.

 

The New York Giants

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Disclaimer: I’m a Philadelphia Eagles fan.  That being said, I just love what the New York Giants are doing.  They are funding a program at the Meadowlands YMCA to provide free childcare for emergency response personnel for the next 10 weeks.  Thank you New York Giants. Here’s hoping you come in a strong second in your division next year.

 

Again I reiterate that there are many out there who are helping and that every bit of help should be appreciated.  If you have any stories you wish me to share please email me at hollandsheroes80@gmail.com.

Stay strong and stay home.

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While People struggle, get sick or die, many still spend their time pointing fingers and fighting

Argue

Like every other normal person on the planet, I am saddened and concerned by the current state of affairs.  Also, like many others out there, I search for that silver lining.  It has been my hope that one of the things people would learn from this crisis is to look more at themselves and how they can become better, and less to how they can criticize others for what’s wrong in the world.  While I am sure there are many out there who are trying to do that, it is clear from what I see in the press and in social media that this is not happening on a large enough scale.

I will do my best to make my point without being overly political.  However, since most of the bickering and finger pointing is indeed rooted in political affiliation, it will be very difficult to make this point without going back to the source.  Sadly, it is clear that even in the most serious crisis that America has faced since WWII, a significant amount of people still put partisanship over country.  In tense times like these, politicians who need to work together but have different styles and philosophies are inevitably going to bang heads to some degree, but if you look to the back and forth between President Donald Trump and New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, you will see that it is possible to do so without either looking liking a petulant child.  Yet some are so hell bent on turning this into a juvenile pissing match that they even try to coax the 2 of them on, trying to lead them towards personal insults.  To their credit, it has not worked.

Other than taking the critical action of staying home, not everyone is in a position to help during this crisis. But almost anyone can make it worse.  If you get on social media and your contribution is to hurl insults in the direction of people that think differently than you do, then not only are you not helping, you are hurting.  Why?  Because if even one person is polluted by your focus on anger and bitterness over hope and personal development, you’ve contributed towards a societal deterioration we just can’t afford ever, least of all now.  It is human nature to lash out when you are frustrated or scared. I get it. I do it too. But times like these require a little extra self-control, a little extra focus on the all so important final outcome.  This should not be a time to yell because you need someone to blame, this should be about racking your brain to try to find a way to make at least one person’s life better.  If you can’t do that, then at least work on making yourself a better person.

Next time you decide to spend your time insulting other people, whether it be politicians or the average citizen, take a moment to think about whether or not you are helping anyone by doing so. Ask yourself if you want this to be your contribution to society during a time when society faces one of its greatest challenges ever.

And lastly, the time to litigate the performance of your leaders is not while they are working on saving lives.  I live in a hotspot for the Coronavirus. I live in a county in New York State that currently has more cases than every other state, not county, every other state in the country other than New Jersey. I make this point because my Governor is Andrew Cuomo, and my President is Donald Trump.  Two very different people and certainly two very different politicians.  But as an American and as a New Yorker, living through times that are life and death situations, my responsibility is to listen to and support my leaders.  Anything else is divisive, and divisiveness is a disease in itself that will not only not help save lives, it will take them.

So next time you look for people to yell at or blame, take a deep breath and try to make a different choice.  Choose to contribute positively. Call a friend or family member and ask them how they’re doing.  Make someone laugh or give someone encouragement.  Instead of publicly berating someone for what you feel they do wrong, try and find a way do at least one more thing right. Rather than be like everyone else and showing how much you dislike someone for how they think, be a difference maker. Come up with thoughts or ideas that help make people feel better and be better.  If you do that, ultimately you will not only do much more for the people you come in contact with, you will do more for yourself.

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Stories of Hope & Recovery in the age of COVID-19

Grondona

Italica Grondona

With the global spread of the Coronavirus it is very easy for all of us to follow all the bad things happening all over the world. In this post I want to share a few of the happy stories.  Although I totally understand and agree with the respect we need to give to those who have lost their lives as a result of this Pandemic, I think there are enough positive outcomes that those need to be shared as well. With the majority of the people actually recovering from COVID-19, I dedicate this post to the focus on 3 specific cases. Well 3 ½ actually.  The ½ being a little more personal.

Eli Beer-46

EBEER

Eli Beer

Miami resident Eli Beer is the Director of United Hatzalah, volunteer emergency medical organization.  He was hospitalized with COVID-19 on March 18th.  On Friday, March 20th he was put on a ventilator.  Here is part of the statement issued by his family as of yesterday.

“As you may be aware, Eli was diagnosed with COVID-19 at the end of last week. He was put on a ventilator last Friday evening. Eli is showing signs of improvement. His vital signs continue to get stronger and the level of fluid in his lungs is decreasing. If Eli continues to improve they will start the process of waking him slowly in the coming days.”

Here’s hoping and praying his health continue to progress in the right direction.

 

Lawrence Garbuz-50

LGARBUZ

Lawrence Garbuz

Having the unfortunate distinction as being the first American to contract the COVID-19 virus, Lawrence Garbuz of New Rochelle went into the hospital on March 9th.  On March 11th he was put into a medically-induced coma. On March 18th,  his wife Adina posted that Lawrence was “awake and alert and seems to be on the road to full recovery.”

We wish him a full recovery as well and are happy to hear of his good news.

 

Italica Grondona

 

Leaving out Naples resident Italica Grondona was not an oversight.  Her amazing story has to do with her age.  Grondona is 102 years old. That is not a typo.  Italica Grondona, born in 1917 was alive during the time the Spanish flu as well. In the beginning of March she was admitted to the hospital with mild heart failure.  She subsequently tested positive for the Coronvirus.  Although the average age of those who were diagnosed and later died of COVID-19 in Italy is 78, Grondona has recovered from the virus, and on March 26th this remarkable woman was released from the hospital.

Hoping she keeps going on for quite some time and inspires us all.

 

Susie

About 10 minutes before I started writing this, I found out in a text from my friend Jeremy, that his wife Susie, who was in the hospital with pneumonia caused by the Coronavirus has been released and his resting comfortably at home.  She is doing well and all indications are that she is on the road to a full recovery.  May she continue on a good path and have a complete and speedy recovery.

 

It is so important, if we are going to spend our time following everything that is happening regarding the Coronavirus that we take the time to talk about the good news as well.  Although there is more bad news than any of us wants to hear, there is plenty of good news as well, and I will try my best to share it with all of you over the course of time.  If there are stories you wish me to share, please email me at hollandsheroes80@gmail.com.

Stay healthy and safe.

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