Living in a world after the coronavirus

The emergency might be over, but the aftermath is still quite uncertain for all


The country officially returned to normal on May 11 with the end of the federal public health emergency surrounding Covid-19 — but for many, it’s been pretty close to normalcy for months.

Virtually no one asks for proof of vaccination. Masks, while occasionally seen, have found themselves primarily back on the faces of medical professionals. And the floor markings intended to help people put six feet of distance from their neighbors have almost faded into time.

Yet, the federal end to the emergency is far from ceremonial. Washington has stopped buying vaccines and treatment, although plenty of supplies already purchased remain on-hand. It once again became more difficult to qualify for Medicaid — something that was loosened significantly at the height of the pandemic. However, states like New York isn’t expected to address eligibility at the more local level until later this summer.

And, of course, many of the financial assistance programs that had almost become commonplace are long gone, but free vaccines for children remain thanks to efforts by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Pfizer and Moderna — the two major pharmaceutical companies that supplied most of the country’s vaccine doses — vow they’ll continue providing free vaccines to those who can’t afford it, or don’t have the insurance to cover it.

Covid vaccinations were a hot topic for debate in greater Riverdale as well as most of the country as the pandemic wound down.

Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz had joined state Sen. Brad Hoylman in introducing legislation in 2021 that would have mandated vaccines for all children who attend schools in New York. If it had passed, coronavirus shots would have been added to the list of already required vaccinations needed before a student can walk into the classroom.

The Assemblyman revived the bill in 2022. If that had become law, the measure would apply to students across the board — whether they attend public or private schools, nurseries and day cares.

Vaccines are already required for students and faculty involved in high-contact sports like football, volleyball, basketball, wrestling, lacrosse and rugby.

“Now I understand that this legislation is going to be difficult for a lot of people,” Dinowitz said at the time. “And I understand how difficult it’s going to be to pass this because even people who are generally pro-vaccination are nervous about the idea of their kids getting vaccinated.”

And more local programs, like the Household Assistance Program that offered a $375 per household grant from federal funds, as well as the Emergency Rental Assistance Program — ended last fall, with a lot of the money unclaimed.

Gov. Kathy Hochul — continuing the tradition of providing regular updates on Covid-19 statistics across the state started by her predecessor, Andrew Cuomo — ended those reports the day after the federal emergency ended. At the same time, however, she warned that while her daily updates were gone, the virus itself is not.

“Even though the federal public health emergency has ended, I encourage every New Yorker to remain vigilant against Covid-19, and use all available tools to keep themselves, their loved ones, and their communities safe and healthy,” Hochul said, in a release. “Stay up to date on vaccine doses, and be sure to test before gatherings or travel. If you test positive, talk to your doctor about potential treatment options.”

In the end, nearly 6.7 million positive cases were reported statewide, with New York City accounting for nearly half of that with 3.1 million cases.

Nearly 88 percent of vaccinations were given to people in Queens and Manhattan. Allegany County in Western New York, on the other hand, clocks in as the state’s worse, with less than half of its population receiving at least one shot.


Additional reporting by Gary Larkin

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