Every year, countless Bushwick residents celebrate Christmas with their loved ones, unwrapping presents and devouring Christmas feasts. However, the holiday has a new outlook this year. As Covid-19 cases begin to skyrocket in Bushwick, many will now spend “the most wonderful time of the year” in quarantine.
The current transmission rate in Bushwick is “high,” according to New York City data, with a seven-day average of 1,387 new cases per 100,000 residents. While 74% of Bushwick residents are technically fully vaccinated, many have been unable to receive a booster because Christmas time is also their busy work season.
Iseult James lives off of the Kosciuszko J train stop. She has been vaccinated since March but has yet to receive her booster. James started to feel sick last Tuesday and took a rapid test last Thursday, which came back negative. However, on Friday, her PCR test came back positive. James said that she has no idea how she contracted the virus, but she thinks she might have gotten it from the East Village bar that she works at.
“We’re not required to wear a mask right now. It could have been anytime in the last month,” said James.
On December 11, New York’s annual SantaCon, a pub crawl where people dress as Santa Claus, took place. James believes that the event might have been a super spreader and is largely to blame for the uptick in positive tests. So now, instead of spending Christmas with her husband’s parents in Fort Greene, the couple must stay at home.
“We haven’t planned anything else for Christmas. We had loads of groceries delivered, so I guess we’ll just attempt cooking Christmas dinner for two on the day,” said James.
James said that she primarily feels bad for her husband, who has spent every Christmas with his family. The couple might now move their holiday onto Zoom to chat with their families virtually. Luckily, James and her husband’s symptoms are not as severe as they could be. James is happy she has her husband to quarantine with so she won’t be lonely.
“I think another huge concern this year should be focused on those who live alone and now have to isolate for the holidays. Not seeing friends and family at this time of year can be really hard. I think checking in on everyone is a huge must,” added James.
James is not the only one who believes that SantaCon aided in spreading Covid. Conor Cunningham is a former Bushwick resident who now lives in Bedford-Stuyvesant. He has been vaccinated since March but has not had time to get his booster shot. Cunningham tested positive last Friday, after two negative rapid tests on Wednesday. Cunningham believes he may have contracted the virus at the restaurant he works at in the Lower East Side.
Cunningham’s restaurant has been understanding and is paying him to take time off. However, because he is only four days into quarantine, Cunningham canceled his Christmas plans. Initially, he had planned on going upstate to visit his girlfriend’s parents for Christmas. Now, however, he has to stay home.
“I’m okay with it. I like December and the feeling Christmas has, but not the holiday itself,” said Cunningham.
Cunningham plans on using his time during quarantine to write, read and draw while the virus passes. “I was most concerned about losing my taste and smell. But, my round of Covid hasn’t seemed to do that to me, thankfully,” he added.
Patrick Bolger is a bartender in Lower Manhattan. Like James and Cunningham, Bolger believes he contracted Covid while working during SantaCon, serving over 100 people that day. Bolger said that he began to display symptoms of Covid last Friday and that he knew he was going to test positive.
“I couldn’t move for a day and a half before going and getting tested. I waited a total of seven hours, two of them in the rain,” said Bolger.
Since testing positive, Bolger has had body aches and feels “warm and fuzzy,” which he thinks has nothing to do with Christmas. Bolger had planned on spending Christmas with close friends in his apartment building. Now, he has to spend it in his room.
“I may ask my roommates if I can bring our fake Christmas tree into my room,” Bolger added.
While Covid cases spike in Bushwick, some residents are quarantining after possible exposure out of an abundance of precaution. For example, a Bushwick artist and nightlife worker named Julia is immunocompromised. Julia and their partner have been quarantining in separate spaces since their suspected Covid exposure last Friday.
Originally, Julia had planned to see the holiday lights at the Brooklyn Botanical Garden and go on restaurant dates. Julia had hoped to travel south soon, but they wanted to shelter in place after the past few days. Julia is also concerned about what the recent spike in cases means for their work.
“We are constantly exposed to [Covid] as nightlife workers,” said Julia.
“We have had our savings destroyed by the pandemic, and there has been no financial aid since the unemployment ended in September. So now we have a very sudden cancellation of holiday nightlife and arts, and people are left without the ability to make rent for Jan. 1,” said Julia.
Other residents are isolating themselves after a possible exposure because they have lost a loved one to Covid. Missy Ronan lives off of the Morgan Avenue L train stop. Ronan has been vaccinated since April and has not received a booster yet. Over the past two weekends, Ronan has had friends test positive from work or going out. Ronan believes that she might have been exposed to Covid at brunch last week.
Wednesday, Ronan displayed Covid symptoms, including a sore throat and runny nose. Friday, Ronan went to the closest testing center near her. She waited for an hour before the center announced it was closing for the afternoon. Ronan then rushed to another center and received a test a few hours later. While Ronan’s rapid results came back negative, she is still in quarantine with the hope that she can still see her family for the holidays.
“My partner’s mother passed from Covid in April 2020,” said Ronan.
“We take this virus very seriously. Sacrificing a work holiday party and one [white] elephant with my friends is something I’m glad to do if I can see my family and gather for the holidays,” she added.
Fortunately for Ronan, her work is remote and flexible in terms of when she can get tested again before she goes home for Christmas. However, she knows that is not the case for everyone.
“The infrastructure in Brooklyn is disappointing. Two years into the pandemic, hour line waits are unacceptable. Many people won’t have the luxury of time to get tested before making the choice to forgo their holiday,” said Ronan.
“Where is the public health infrastructure to give people access to quick, affordable testing?” she added.
As cases begin to spike in Bushwick, residents are advised to isolate themselves if they feel sick and stay at home. However, if you or someone you know needs a Covid test, you can find sites near you here.
Featured image: provided by Conor Cunningham.
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