The coronavirus – creeping onto the world’s scene only a few short months ago and then exploding into our day-to-day lives. Every day we hear about the impact of corona and COVID-19 on – well, almost everyone. But how is it affecting disabled individuals? Today on Blind Abilities we explore just how blind and visually impaired individuals have experienced and adapted to corona and COVID-19.
In our previous episodes, we have circumnavigated the world, from Australia to Malaysia-
My name is Elise Lonsdale, and I’m from Northern Australia.
This is Chee Chau, from Malaysia.
Hi, my name’s Steve, and I’m from England.
-Trinidad and Tobago-
In this, the seventh episode in our series Around the World With COVID-19 From a Blindness Perspective, we come back to the United States of America-
Brooklyn Rodden Kelly:
Our guest on today’s show is Brian Fischler. Brian hails from the city of New York, which has been on a virtual roller coaster with the coronavirus. He shares his experiences with COVID-19 in the city that never sleeps from the initial onset of the virus-
Governor Andrew Cuomo:
-there are no confirmed cases of coronavirus in New York thus far-
-and through its evolution-
-this is just an impossible situation to manage if we don’t get the equipment, we can lose lives that we could have otherwise saved-
-and now please welcome our guest, Brian Fischler.
Governor Andrew Cuomo:
There are no confirmed cases of coronavirus in New York thus far. We would expect, as time goes on, that we will find a case of coronavirus-
-excuse our arrogance as New Yorkers, I speak for the mayor also on this one. We think we have the best healthcare system on the planet right here in New York. We don’t even think it’s going to be as bad as it was in other countries.
Mayor Bill de Blasio:
We will, in the next 48 hours, hopefully sooner, get results back from the testing of this individual. My message to New Yorkers – first of all, what is clear is the only way you get it is with substantial contact with someone who already has it. You don’t get it from a surface, you don’t get it from glancing or a very temporary contact based on what we know now. So traditional rules of public health apply here – the vast majority of New Yorkers, they will never have a reason to have to follow that guidance-
Greetings everyone! Brian Fischler from That Blind Tech Show, and Blind Abilities here, also someone who lives in New York City, coming to you during the coronavirus, COVID-19. As someone who lived through 9/11 in New York City and though that would be the most terrifying thing of my lifetime, corona has definitely passed that. We’ve all heard stories about 9/11, but being here during 9/11, at least we were able to go out and be amongst friends and family, and you know, there was a lot of fear being in New York City days after 9/11, where we’d go to bars or restaurants with friends and there was no music playing, nothing, but we were around friends. Now, somebody, you know, I’m not married, I’m a single guy – got a guide dog here who’s been getting me through this time, Wes, laying right here, which has been spectacular to have his companionship here.
Now this is something new, I never thought anything would be worse in my lifetime than that week of 9/11, and the days after, but corona has, you know, it’s been really scary here, you know, to be honest – every day is scary, and I think in the blindness community it’s so scary because you don’t know if people around you are being smart and staying six feet away and wearing masks, and unfortunately I seem to live on one of these blocks that’s one of the dumbest blocks in New York, and it’s not the young people, it’s older people that are hanging outside every day, just to hang out. It makes absolutely no sense to me, I’ve been really good keeping to myself. The only time I’ve gone out of the apartment is to really walk to dog or go to a convenience store real quickly, you know, here in New York we’re fortunate where we have a lot of things such as groceries and anything you could need, you know, in a block or two walk from you. I have five restaurants or bars where I know everybody that works there and the owner all within a few blocks of where I live. I’m just hoping that half of them reopen, as they’ve all been shut down, some of them are doing takeout and delivery orders that serve food, some of them don’t even serve food so I’m really concerned for them because these are my friends.
I don’t know what it’s going to be like. Some states here in the United States are reopening, New York City will probably be the last place to open, and even if it does, you know, they just pushed our stay-at-home, shelter-in-place to June 13th.
American Newscaster (male):
The city begins the first phase of reopening today-
American Newscaster (female):
This morning, New York City crossing a major milestone in the fight against the coronavirus-
Governor Andrew Cuomo:
Forget flatten the curve, I’m going to change the state signs. We bent the curve.
American Newscaster (female):
Exactly 100 days since the city’s first confirmed case of COVID-19, the former epicenter of the outbreak now officially entering phase one of reopening. As many as 400,000 people back on the job, stores now opening their doors for curbside pickup-
You know, before the pandemic I was a little bit of a germaphobe, now I’m full-blown germaphobe, because as we’ve said on That Blind Tech Show, people are disgusting, and you know, I’m not fat but I’m not thin, luckily I don’t have any underlying conditions, so it is a concern to me, you know, I’ve been thinning down during the pandemic, eating healthy, but, you know, as somebody that’s not in immaculate shape, you know, I just don’t want to catch this thing. I’ve never washed my hands as much as I have in the last 60 days and I was a clean person, but, you know, as soon as I come in, every time I’ve got a mask on, every time I’m going out, and you hear people coughing, I mean, that freaks me out, when I walk past people. It’s impossible in New York City not to walk past people and just hearing anybody – heck, it could even be a smoker’s cough, it freaks you out and everything. You know, I noticed that I hold my breath when I walk past people, as if that will do anything, but you know, it’s a very scary time and I don’t know when it’ll get back to normal. I mean, as we’ve gotten further into this I feel a little more at ease when I go outside, that I’m passing and everything, it’s probably the same people I’m passing every day. You know, I’ve run into a few friends on the street, they all have masks on, or homemade masks and, you know, you’ve just got to be smart. And hopefully I’m doing that, I’m doing everything they suggest to do.
Interestingly enough, you know, here in New York City, because our buildings are so old, we have window air condition units, and I just had a good friend of mine and I was terrified, I kept flip-flopping on which good friend of mine was going to come in that knew how to put an air conditioning unit in the window, but I kept thinking “Okay, who do I think is taking this most seriously from my close friends that could do this for me.
I was as CSUN, I got back- I was supposed to fly back March 18th. That plane ride back was not fun, the plane was mostly empty, but still, you just didn’t know what was going on, and I flew back three days early, March 15th, I was supposed to be doing some comedy shows at the Improv, those all got cancelled, all the comedy clubs are shut down, I spoke with a lot of comics during the pandemic, and they don’t know when comedy clubs will come back. I’ve got a lot of friends where that’s their sole income, fortunately for me I do work in web accessibility and teaching so I’ve got some other things coming in, but this is unprecedented, honestly, being 60 days into this, I don’t know what New York City is going to be like once we start going back out there.
You know, the grocery store that I would go into all the time, I’m not even comfortable going in there. It’s just not a comforting feeling being around people, and it’s mainly not because of my situation, you just don’t know how smart these other people are being, so a lot of unsettledness. Talking with friends – I honestly don’t see me sitting in a bar or a restaurant as much as I like to do that.
I finally braved it and decided last week I was going to get some food from my favorite bar/restaurant, and instead of ordering in I walked over there, it’s, you know, only two blocks away, and they have like the front window open and they said “Hey, you want to come in for a drink?” I’m like “Is that allowed?” So I went in, and there was one other guy in there, and the barstools weren’t there, you just stood there, but it felt so great, I was talking with him, you know, we were social distancing. Even though I was only there for, you know, about a half hour, had a couple drinks and then picked up my food and went home and ate it, it just felt so great to be back out amongst the living and everything. You know, when you live alone, you really get cabin fever, so to speak, and everything, and I discovered today that my zip code is the third worst in New York City for the amount of social distancing complaints, and it- yesterday it sounded like, my street sounded like Mardi Gras, so people are not social distancing, and it’s just very frustrating.
I guess we’ll be podcasting a lot, because I can sit in the comfort of my home office and do that. Fortunately for me, outside of the comedy a lot of work that I do I’m able to do from home, so I’ll be okay and I’ll make it through this as long as I don’t catch it and, you know, bad things happen.
Here in New York City, also, another thing I didn’t think about, you know, we’re all affected by it, one of my best friends here in the city, lives right around the corner from me, his father passed away, both his father and mother were sent to the hospital. Fortunately his mom is home, they just buried his father last Friday, they were only able to have about three, four people, and they couldn’t even go up to the burial ground where they were burying him, I mean, everything was done at a distance. And a good friend of mine that I grew up with in Florida, his father passed away, not from corona disease, but from some other health conditions, and even their funeral – you know, it’s just a crazy time, I don’t think anybody could have ever imagined anything like this.
Hopefully we’ll all get past it, and- you know, after 9/11, a few months after it, people were so kind, and so much nicer in New York City, and I have to think when we do get past this, because we will get past it, hopefully at least for the first few months people will be a lot nicer to each other. Anyway, that’s what’s going on in New York City, it’s pretty frightening, it’s unsettling, but we’re getting through it. And, you know, us New Yorkers are tough – well, at least most other New Yorkers are tough, I’m a little on the soft side, and just wanted to let you know what’s been going through my head and what I’ve been doing and hope everybody else is well. Take care. We are out.
Governor Andrew Cuomo:
We do more testing than any state in the United States, more testing per capita than any country on the globe. The testing is the key – you do the isolation, you have enough PPE, enough ICU beds, now my fear is we had today five deaths. Five deaths is the lowest number we have had since this started. We have less than 800 people in hospitals. Lowest number, basically, since we started. How does that number go up? Lack of compliance, and second, I’m now afraid of the spread coming from other states, because we are one country, and people travel, and I’m afraid the infection rate in the other states will come back to New York and raise that rate again.
It was great hearing from Brian, and his experiences with COVID-19 in New York City. Be sure to tune in for more episodes in our series Around the World With COVID-19 From a Blindness Perspective. And from all of us here at Blind Abilities, through these challenging times, to you, your family, and friends, stay well, stay informed, and stay strong. Thank you so much for listening, and have a great day.
[Music] [Transition noise] –
When we share
-What we see
-Through each other’s eyes…
[Multiple voices overlapping, in unison, to form a single sentence]
…We can then begin to bridge the gap between the limited expectations, and the realities of Blind Abilities.
For more podcasts with the blindness perspective, check us out on the web at www.blindabilities.com, on Twitter @BlindAbilities. Download our app from the app store Blind Abilities, that’s two words, or send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks for listening.
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