New York remains that place

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A patriot on Fifth Avenue. Photo: JH.

Friday, May 29, 2020. Overcast with rain in the forecast yesterday in New York with rain in the forecast through Saturday. Temps in the high 70s and into the mid-60s in the wee hours.

On my brief errand to pick up some grub in the mid-afternoon, there was a lot more traffic on the streets and avenues. At Citarella on 75th and Third, I noticed that the Sur La Table shop across the avenue — which had been boarded up for the past eight weeks — was unboarded and open for business. It was like looking at sunshine! Many of the restaurants along the way also have open doors (to get take-out right now). I hear there are a few places, unpublicized, who are taking guests. My two habits — Michael’s and Sette Mezzo — are not open yet for lunching and dining, and I hear it’s maybe another couple of weeks off. Maybe; either way.

Our social behavior certainly has also changed dramatically at this point in the “pandemic.” It’s gone from utter silence and isolation to be anxious, to get out and walk. The outburst of “socializing” in the past week and a half explains it. It seems as if it is increasing with each new day. When visitors talk about New York, the one thing that most are drawn to is “the energy” of the city. That is the essence of New York, or what nowadays you could say is “essential” New York. Pandemics come and pandemics go, believe it or not; history reports. But New York remains that place.

Photographer Christophe von Hohenberg, whose work we featured several weeks ago when he caught the locked-up facades of several of our most popular restaurants shut down, is back this week with some good news — a new series: restaurants that are opening up.

The subject of the day is when and what. This has mainly replaced the “fear” syndrome that many of us have been experiencing, in their lockdowns. Much has been written about how many will continue to stay home even after everything is open. This goes along with the not unpopular fear that we will now always be wearing masks, socially distancing and self-isolating. Maybe. If so, it will be the first time in the history of  the human race, a history of pandemics and epidemics. But, on the other hand, maybe not.  

One of the first places where you will see our recovery is in the restaurants and bars. They are the center of “social” life; we humans like being around each other (it’s our nature). Michael’s Restaurant here in New York has been closed due to the virus but they’re keeping their patrons in mind. Last week there were many who “attended” a “virtual” lunch hosted by Jack Myers and Discovery’s Howard Lee.  And then yesterday, Michael’s Santa Monica was featured on Bravo’s Top Chef. These guys are ready when we are.

Michael McCarty and Michael’s Santa Monica featured on Bravo’s Top Chef!

Curbside Pickup at Restaurant Daniel. Yes, you heard that right! This past Sunday, Restaurant Daniel kicked off a very successful Sunday at @danielbouludkitchen featuring their Sunday in Provence menu. And on Wednesday, they began offering seasonal à la carte selections. Next week they’ll offer up their casual French bistro fare including the famous Bar Boulud Frenchie Burger as well as a great wine selection and batch cocktail. The menu will keep growing and changing as summer makes its way, and Daniel also plans to bring delicious soulful weekend home party packages to the Hamptons and  Westchester.

Sunday Supper at Daniel with Chef Daniel himself on hand!
“Sunday en Provence” salade Niçoise.
Sunday’s Provençal-inspired rosemary roasted heritage chicken with garlic aioli, ratatouille, Moroccan spiced chickpeas.

Besides catering to their loyal clientele and friends, Daniel Boulud and his team continue to support our community in need. Six weeks ago they launched the Food 1st Foundation with CEO Marc Holliday (Daniel’s partner at One Vanderbilt) to produce meals for first responders and those experiencing food insecurity in NYC. Since the initial launch they’ve made 30,000 warm and nutritious meals in their  kitchens donated mostly to World Central Kitchen and Citymeals.

Feeding emergency service workers …

Thanks to the support of many, Food 1st Foundation will soon reach 100,000 meals generously gifted to New Yorkers.  100% of all donations will be going towards providing good, healthy meals!

Tempting, no? Seriously think about bringing Daniel Boulud home and treating yourself and a loved one to a special dinner. And why not donate to the Food 1st Foundation so a fellow New Yorker in need can share in the feast.

Help feed emergency service workers and our neighbors who have limited access to food by partnering with restaurants throughout New York City in a way that will also revitalize the City’s food and beverage industry.

Now that restaurants are finally set to re-open soon and many are offering takeout service, we asked our resident viral expert Dr. Jay Levy if one can get infected by eating food contaminated by COVID-19. According to Jay, it is highly unlikely that someone can be infected by eating food that has been contaminated with COVID-19 as the digestive fluids in the stomach would readily inactivate the virus.

Interesting, no? I’ll bet you’ve wondered that yourself. I certainly have. JH also had a few follow-up questions which we did not cover in our 2-part interview we ran two weeks ago on the NYSD — questions still on the minds of many of us. He was kind enough to answer for our edification:

Can you explain the differences in the 2 COVID-19 tests that are being offered, The RT-PCR and the antibody test? And what is the reason for the relatively large % of inaccurate results?

The RT-PCR test detects the virus by finding, in a sample, a COVID-19 genetic sequence that is very specific for this coronavirus. It only detects the specific genes of the virus and cannot indicate if the virus is infectious. The Antibody test detects COVID-19 specific antibodies made by the immure system against the virus. These are produced 2-6 weeks after the infection. Since the number of infected people in the US is around 2%, the sensitivity of many tests, at around 95-97%, has not yet been high enough. We really need a test that is nearly 100% sensitive with that low a prevalence currently in the population.  Fortunately, recently there are some tests that are 99.5% sensitive so the Antibody test is becoming more available.

How do Plasma Donations from Recovered COVID-19 patients help other Coronavirus patients?

Plasma donations are used from COVID-19-infected people who have not had symptoms or have recovered very well from the infection. The antibodies in the plasma hopefully will be able to attach to the virus and inactivate or neutralize it.  We do not know yet how to readily detect these type of antibodies in the plasma. This blood product is given in hopes that the antibodies detected will be the neutralizing antiviral type.

Can you contract the virus by walking into an elevator that was previously occupied by a Covid-19 positive person?

I would not expect an infection to take place unless someone has been in the elevator and is still coughing when you enter.  In any case, wearing a mask should be protective.  Moreover, if you are concerned, do not touch the buttons with your fingers, use a paper or cloth tissue or wipe. Again, importantly, wash your hands after you exit the elevator.

And the question on everyone’s minds … Can you get reinfected with Covid-19?

We do not yet know definitively if a re-infection can take place. We should have this information as we open up the public for more social interactions. In monkeys infected in the laboratory with  COVID-19, attempts at re-infection have failed. That is encouraging but for how long that resistance lasts is not yet known. Importantly, with reports of finding virus in a previously infected person who has recovered, that virus could be the initial one that has been killed by that person’s immune system.

In this regard,  it is also possible that a re-infection by another COVID-19 virus can take place but it is short-lived.  That is a rule for many viruses.  For example, many of us are vaccinated or have long-lived immunity against the measles and chickenpox viruses. However, we are still exposed to these viruses often but never get an established infection. The virus will infect and replicate in a few cells and then the immune system, elicited by a past infection or by a vaccine, will eliminate it.

We can expect this type of response if the COVID-19 virus re-infects a previously infected person.  That incoming virus will replicate for a short while, but then that person’s immune system will recognize it and kill it.  No symptoms of disease will occur. Therefore, it is also understandable that the COVID-19 virus can be detected long  after the infected person has recovered. The virus re-infects but is killed by the immune system. The genetic evidence of that dead virus, which is reported, does not indicate the presence of an infectious virus.

Have a great weekend!

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