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The Wave of Rising Gun Violence in N.Y.C.

For decades, New York City had embraced the title of the “safest big city in the country.” But now, as it cautiously emerges from months of a coronavirus lockdown, it is battling a surge in gun violence.

The latest numbers are stark: 53 people were shot — four fatally — from Friday through Monday, the police said. Over the Fourth of July weekend, the police reported 64 shootings.

For the year, as of Sunday, there had been 634 shootings in 2020, compared with 394 in same period in 2019.

Here’s what we know about the violence.

The 53 people shot in New York City between Friday and Monday included a 1-year-old boy who was killed on Sunday when two gunmen opened fire at a cookout in Bedford-Stuyvesant, and a 17-year-old boy who was shot in the head on Monday night outside a housing project in East Harlem.

Also on Monday, in the Canarsie section of Brooklyn, five people were shot in three drive-by shootings. The victims were expected to survive, a police official said.

On Tuesday afternoon, there were two more fatalities: a 15-year-old boy and a 34-year-old man. They had gotten into an argument and shot each other, the police said.

City and police officials have suggested various reasons for the increase in gun violence, and it’s difficult to pinpoint one root cause.

The start of summer is traditionally a high-crime period, as people spend more time outdoors. The crisis this season may be compounded by virus restrictions that limit indoor gatherings.

Mayor Bill de Blasio has discussed economic hardship, coupled with the stress of enduring the outbreak, as possible drivers for gun violence.

The police commissioner, Dermot F. Shea, has pointed to the release of inmates from city jails during the pandemic and new regulations on the police — including a ban on chokeholds — as possible factors.

So far this year, the police have been able to make an arrest in about one in four shootings, instead of the usual one in three, according to my colleague Ashley Southall, The Times’s police bureau chief.

Police officials have said that recent changes to the criminal justice system, notably a law curtailing cash bail for some defendants, have driven up crime. They also have said the commissioner’s decision to disband some plainclothes units that targeted illegal guns and violent crime may have contributed to the rise in shootings.

Some critics of the department have accused the police of easing up on enforcement. Chief of Department Terence A. Monahan has denied a purposeful slowdown, though he said on Tuesday that many officers were fearful they might be arrested if they took “proactive” steps to stop crime.

“All the rhetoric of Defund the Police, get rid of the police, abolish the police, that’s got to end, that has to stop,” he told 1010 WINS radio. “We need to find a middle ground of cops and communities, working together to handle a lot of these issues here.”

Crime in New York has declined drastically since 1990, when there were 2,245 killings and more than 5,000 people shot. Last year, there were about 320 murders.

Still, Christopher Herrmann, a professor at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice who once analyzed crime statistics for the Police Department, said the recent jump in shootings was worrisome.

“I have been studying this for a long time,” Mr. Herrmann told my colleagues. “I have never seen that much of an increase ever.”

Ashley Southall contributed reporting.


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The Mini Crossword: Here is today’s puzzle.


New York City has introduced a 15-minute diagnostic test for the coronavirus as part of a test-and-trace pilot program. [Gothamist]

An S.U.V. crashed into an outdoor dining area in Queens, injuring five people. [New York Post]

Mosquitoes carrying the West Nile virus were found in the Bronx and on Staten Island. [Staten Island Advance]


  • Updated July 15, 2020

    • What are the symptoms of coronavirus?

      Common symptoms include fever, a dry cough, fatigue and difficulty breathing or shortness of breath. Some of these symptoms overlap with those of the flu, making detection difficult, but runny noses and stuffy sinuses are less common. The C.D.C. has also added chills, muscle pain, sore throat, headache and a new loss of the sense of taste or smell as symptoms to look out for. Most people fall ill five to seven days after exposure, but symptoms may appear in as few as two days or as many as 14 days.

    • Is it harder to exercise while wearing a mask?

      A commentary published this month on the website of the British Journal of Sports Medicine points out that covering your face during exercise “comes with issues of potential breathing restriction and discomfort” and requires “balancing benefits versus possible adverse events.” Masks do alter exercise, says Cedric X. Bryant, the president and chief science officer of the American Council on Exercise, a nonprofit organization that funds exercise research and certifies fitness professionals. “In my personal experience,” he says, “heart rates are higher at the same relative intensity when you wear a mask.” Some people also could experience lightheadedness during familiar workouts while masked, says Len Kravitz, a professor of exercise science at the University of New Mexico.

    • I’ve heard about a treatment called dexamethasone. Does it work?

      The steroid, dexamethasone, is the first treatment shown to reduce mortality in severely ill patients, according to scientists in Britain. The drug appears to reduce inflammation caused by the immune system, protecting the tissues. In the study, dexamethasone reduced deaths of patients on ventilators by one-third, and deaths of patients on oxygen by one-fifth.

    • What is pandemic paid leave?

      The coronavirus emergency relief package gives many American workers paid leave if they need to take time off because of the virus. It gives qualified workers two weeks of paid sick leave if they are ill, quarantined or seeking diagnosis or preventive care for coronavirus, or if they are caring for sick family members. It gives 12 weeks of paid leave to people caring for children whose schools are closed or whose child care provider is unavailable because of the coronavirus. It is the first time the United States has had widespread federally mandated paid leave, and includes people who don’t typically get such benefits, like part-time and gig economy workers. But the measure excludes at least half of private-sector workers, including those at the country’s largest employers, and gives small employers significant leeway to deny leave.

    • Does asymptomatic transmission of Covid-19 happen?

      So far, the evidence seems to show it does. A widely cited paper published in April suggests that people are most infectious about two days before the onset of coronavirus symptoms and estimated that 44 percent of new infections were a result of transmission from people who were not yet showing symptoms. Recently, a top expert at the World Health Organization stated that transmission of the coronavirus by people who did not have symptoms was “very rare,” but she later walked back that statement.

    • What’s the risk of catching coronavirus from a surface?

      Touching contaminated objects and then infecting ourselves with the germs is not typically how the virus spreads. But it can happen. A number of studies of flu, rhinovirus, coronavirus and other microbes have shown that respiratory illnesses, including the new coronavirus, can spread by touching contaminated surfaces, particularly in places like day care centers, offices and hospitals. But a long chain of events has to happen for the disease to spread that way. The best way to protect yourself from coronavirus — whether it’s surface transmission or close human contact — is still social distancing, washing your hands, not touching your face and wearing masks.

    • How does blood type influence coronavirus?

      A study by European scientists is the first to document a strong statistical link between genetic variations and Covid-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus. Having Type A blood was linked to a 50 percent increase in the likelihood that a patient would need to get oxygen or to go on a ventilator, according to the new study.

    • How can I protect myself while flying?

      If air travel is unavoidable, there are some steps you can take to protect yourself. Most important: Wash your hands often, and stop touching your face. If possible, choose a window seat. A study from Emory University found that during flu season, the safest place to sit on a plane is by a window, as people sitting in window seats had less contact with potentially sick people. Disinfect hard surfaces. When you get to your seat and your hands are clean, use disinfecting wipes to clean the hard surfaces at your seat like the head and arm rest, the seatbelt buckle, the remote, screen, seat back pocket and the tray table. If the seat is hard and nonporous or leather or pleather, you can wipe that down, too. (Using wipes on upholstered seats could lead to a wet seat and spreading of germs rather than killing them.)

    • What should I do if I feel sick?

      If you’ve been exposed to the coronavirus or think you have, and have a fever or symptoms like a cough or difficulty breathing, call a doctor. They should give you advice on whether you should be tested, how to get tested, and how to seek medical treatment without potentially infecting or exposing others.


Lesley M. M. Blume writes:

A few weeks ago, a nerdy joke went viral on Twitter: Future historians will be asked which quarter of 2020 they specialize in.

As museum curators and archivists stare down one of the most daunting challenges of their careers — telling the story of the pandemic, the severe economic collapse that came with it and the nationwide social justice movement — they are imploring people to preserve personal materials for posterity and for possible inclusion in museum archives. It’s an all-hands-on-deck effort, they say.

Many museums have put out calls on social media for submissions and are directing donors to submission forms on their websites.

The New-York Historical Society, for instance, is seeking Black Lives Matter protest materials.

“A lot of our critical collecting and gathering of diverse stories we’ve been able to do because of directed outreach,” said Margaret K. Hofer, the museum’s vice president and director. “We’re trying to capture the experience of all aspects of all populations in the city, including people experiencing homelessness and the incarcerated.”

The Museum of Chinese in America has begun collecting materials about pandemic-related racist attacks on Asians and Asian-Americans, and personal testimonies about experiences during the pandemic and protests. Because museums may not necessarily be obvious repositories for many immigrant communities, said Nancy Yao Maasbach, the museum’s president, her institution is making translators available to those who want to tell their stories.

“We want to make the barrier to entry on this very low,” she said.

While some curators are loath to suggest a list of items that we should be saving — they say that they don’t want to manipulate the documentation of history but take their cues from the communities — many are imploring us to see historical value in everyday objects.

And there is perhaps no everyday article more representative of this year than the mask, which has “become a really powerful visual symbol,” Ms. Hofer said.

The New-York Historical Society has identified about 25 masks that the museum will collect, including an N95 mask worn by a nurse in the emergency field hospital set up in Central Park in the spring. (The museum also collected a set of field hospital scrubs and a cowbell that the medical team rang whenever it discharged a patient.)

Also, don’t be so quick to edit and delete your cellphone photos. “Snapshots are valuable,” said Kevin Young, the director of the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture. “We might look back at one and say, ‘This picture tells more than we thought at the time.’”

It’s Wednesday — share your story.


Dear Diary:

It was spring 1974, and I was riding my bike home from Central Park early one morning. I stopped for a red light at 57th Street and Sixth Avenue.

As I waited for the light to change, a delivery truck from H&H Bagels pulled up alongside me.

I looked up at the driver and said hello. He said hello. Then he reached into a bag by his side and handed me a fresh bialy.

— Ari Rabinowitz


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