Opinion Photo

Early on in your relationship, she confessed a semi-startling fact. While she had visited China as a little girl and walked along the Great Wall, never once had she been to New York City.

To her, the metropolis back east seemed like a gleaming trophy to life made large. Broadway, Times Square, the Statue of Liberty. Skyscrapers and a chance to stride up Fifth Avenue in spike heels, like Carrie in “Sex and the City.”

To you, the city was home once, the backdrop for a million childhood memories: a piping hot slice of pizza dripping with cheese, a walk around the Central Park reservoir, the concrete stoop fronting the old red brick apartment in Queens, the Garden for a Knicks game, a knish purchased from a street vendor and painted in brown mustard.

She dreamed aloud. You egged it on, and thus a trip was born. New York at Christmastime and for New Year’s Eve. Plane tickets were purchased; hotel, theater and dinner reservations were made. 

And then Omicron showed up, which is exactly America’s luck in 2021. 

The spiking pandemic gives rise to a question, one that feels a little bit like some bad “Hamlet,” given that vacation issues are a decidedly first-world problem to have in the midst of global affliction.

To go or not to go? To get on that jetliner, which departs tonight, or to cancel our plans and instead spend Christmas watching “Miracle on 34th Street” instead of living it?

Some background: We have both been vaccinated three times, and thus have been maximally protected against the dread virus. We are both in good health. We both understand that New York City will still be there next month, next year, next vacation or the one after that.

And yet making the trip still feels tempting, especially when you run the numbers in your head. Last week in New York City, the infection rate among all 8 million residents was 193 infections for every 100,000 people. That’s a tenth of a percentage point chance of getting sick — and the infection rate for the vaccinated is half as much. 

This year in New York, COVID-19 has claimed one life for every 200,000 vaccinated residents. Put another way, I’d have a better chance of getting a hole in one (12,500 to 1) or being killed by lightning (1 in 138,849, according to the National Safety Council).

Then again, to quote Jim Carrey as Lloyd Christmas from “Dumb and Dumber,” “so you’re saying there’s a chance?”

Life is a series of calculated risks. Some of us have decided not to get vaccinated. Other people continue to avoid indoor gatherings and to wear masks while they’re outside walking their dogs. 

There are those of us who smoke despite the threat of lung cancer, others who would never think of wearing a motorcycle helmet because they like to feel like a badass. One of my buddies went skydiving last year. I turned down the invitation, saying I avoid optional danger in all forms, including jumping out of perfectly functional airplanes.

But now here I am, contemplating risking my life for a hot dog with sauerkraut from Gray’s Papaya and the opportunity to show a pretty girl with a huge heart the Tyrannosaurus Rex exhibit at the Museum of Natural History.

What would you do: Throw caution to the wind and live your life? Or give Omicron a wide berth and avoid New York literally like the plague?

One thing’s for sure. If I go and end up in intensive care or dead, everyone who read this column and thought “tsk, tsk” sure will have one last chance to say “I told you so.”

 

PT