Cogito, Ergo Sumana
Sumana oscillates between focus and opportunity

: Health Insurance & Retirement Plans For Open Source Maintainers: This is huge.

The Open Collective Foundation has just announced: "OCF now offers employment options to initiative workers—with health insurance!" As that page says: "Initiatives fiscally hosted by OCF can have employees, with access to benefits like health insurance. Costs related to employment are paid from the initiative's budget, with OCF as the employer." (Employees must be based in the US.) And through the OCF's benefits provider, employees can also opt into 401(k) retirement savings plans.

This is such a huge step forward for open source sustainability, in particular for projects with key contributors in the United States. Let's talk about why!

Contents:

  1. Open source and fiscal hosts
  2. The United States, employment, retirement, and health care
  3. What you can now do via OpenCollective
  4. What this unlocks

Open source and fiscal hosts

A "fiscal host" is a nonprofit organization that helps out charitable endeavors by giving them certain kinds of legal and financial infrastructure and services. Here's why they exist:

If you start a mutual aid food pantry in your neighborhood, or a meditation meetup that turns into a real community, or an open source software project, eventually you'll likely need to find ways to take in and spend money without having everything go through one person's personal bank account/PayPal/Venmo. And sometimes you need a trademark to protect people against imitators, or you'd like for the domain name and the fridges and the storage unit to actually be held by the group and not just the founder.

In the United States, this means creating or getting help from a "legal entity" -- a corporation or some other organization that is registered with the government. And if you want to ask for donations or apply for grant funding, people often expect or require that your organization is a registered charity, often referred to as a "501(c)3", which means that donors can deduct their donations from the yearly taxes they pay.

It is hard and annoying to set up a 501(c)3 organization! You probably need to pay a lawyer and accountant to do bits of startup paperwork, appoint a board of trustees and have regular meetings, and so on. Sometimes this burden is way more than volunteers want to take on -- and if you mess up the recordkeeping and fall behind in tax filings, it's a real headache to catch up.

So some nonprofit organizations offer "fiscal host" (also known as "fiscal sponsor") services. Just like it's a big pain to set up your own datacenter and so a lot of people instead rent server time from Amazon Web Services or Heroku, a lot of small projects get a membership with a fiscal host to get access to legal and financial infrastructure. In this analogy it's like getting a dorm room instead of building a stately manor. The fiscal host covers its own costs by taking a percentage of donations given to member projects.

In the arts, a popular fiscal host is Fractured Atlas. In open source software, you'll see NumFOCUS, Software Freedom Conservancy, and others.

Open Collective is particularly interesting here because its fiscal host service is fairly turnkey -- the application process is pretty streamlined -- and because a fiscal host within it, Open Source Collective, serves as fiscal host to nearly three thousand open source software projects. I would be surprised if there's another fiscal host out there that supports more.

The United States, employment, retirement, and health care

Your open source software project, once you're set up as a member project at a fiscal host, can now receive and spend funds. Great! So you can register domains, buy AWS credits and laptops and plane tickets, pay contractors...

Right, yes, you can compensate people for their labor, but in the US, the way you compensate them gets complicated. Because it's fairly easy to hire someone as a contractor ("freelancer"), but hard to hire them as an employee. And to talk about the difference I need to talk about how weird the United States is. In short: being hired as a "full-time" employee (usually at least 30 hours of work per week) usually gets a knowledge worker (such as a programmer) a lot of concrete benefits that would be unavailable, inconvenient, or more expensive if they were hired as a contractor, in particular concerning health care and saving for retirement. If you've been in the US workforce for several years you can probably skip this.

The United States, compared to approximately all other countries that have its level of wealth and infrastructure and so on, is completely strange and deficient in how we deal with healthcare and retirement-type care for senior citizens. A lot of this stuff is tied to employment here.

First: retirement. (I'll cover it first because healthcare will take longer.) How are people in the US supposed to support themselves after they stop working? Through a patchwork combination of stuff.

  • You can save and invest "normally" in bank accounts, real estate,* securities, and so on.
  • Some people get pensions (the employer keeps paying them after they retire) but far less than half the workforce can count on this, for various reasons.
  • Since 1935, we've had the Social Security program. Starting in one's 60s, almost every US worker is eligible for Social Security payments, and you get more if you earned more during your working lifetime. Some people can also get Supplemental Security Income. Many politicians scare voters by saying that Social Security is in crisis and that you will not be able to depend on it actually paying you any money by the time you retire.
  • Since the 1980s, under Internal Revenue Code Section 401(k), there's a special kind of account called a "401(k)" where a person can make contributions to be saved/invested towards retirement. An employer can sweeten the deal by "matching" your contributions up to some amount, such as $5,000 per year. A 401(k) must be employer-sponsored -- that is, you can't do it just by yourself -- and you usually only get access to 401(k) benefits if you are a full-time employee. But there are alternatives called Individual Retirement Accounts which a person can create independently. It's a bit complicated but, when changing jobs, one can often "roll over" a 401(k) from one employer to another so that you have one big growing account rather than a bunch of little ones. The money in a 401(k) or IRA account gets invested in a securities portfolio; the accountholder gets to make some choices about what to invest in. You and your employer contribute the money "pre-tax" (it's deducted from your taxable income, so you pay lower income taxes) and you can't withdraw money, till you retire, without paying tax on that withdrawal -- but there's often a one-time tax exemption where you can take money out to use when buying a home.

That last item, sponsorship for 401(k)-type account and possibly some employer matching for contributions, is basically what a knowledge worker in the US now expects as a part of an employment benefit package. (And I don't love it! I don't love being handed a bunch of poker chips and directed to the casino that is Wall Street and told: go invest your retirement savings! You're in charge!** But that's the current state of play.) If no organization is your employer, then you have to do a bunch of workarounds to get a similar means of saving for retirement, and you miss out on the possibility of employer-matched contributions.

And then there's healthcare. How are US residents supposed to pay for doctor visits, medicines, and so on?

This gets super complicated as you can tell by just skimming the table of contents for the English Wikipedia entry on "Health insurance in the United States". But to painfully summarize: instead of paying out-of-pocket for medical stuff, most people have a health insurance policy, and their health insurer decrees what is approved and what's not, what bills the individual has to pay, etc. And insurance companies negotiate down the rates for what they pay for stuff, compared to the "standard"/"out of pocket" rate, so uninsured people -- generally least able to afford healthcare! -- actually get the highest bills! The main ways people get health insurance in the US:

It's way too complicated! Even people eligible for government-subsidized insurance often don't know how to get it! "More Than 6 in 10 of the Remaining 27.4 Million Uninsured People in the U.S. are Eligible for Subsidized ACA Marketplace Coverage, Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program"! Costs have gone way up because for-profit insurers came into the industry and started raising premiums! We spend way more per person on health care than in other comparable countries and the quality and speed of care we get is less! And even insured people end up with huge medical bills -- medical bills are the number one cause of people in the US going bankrupt, which means selling or liquidating all your assets to pay your creditors!

And I haven't even gotten into the huge pain of choosing or changing health insurers and policies! Any given doctor, hospital, procedure, or medication may be covered by some health insurance policies but not others, and it can be tedious or even impossible to find out ahead of time whether a particular insurer will cover something! If you switch insurers, you'll sometimes have to find a new general practitioner or specialist! If your GP or a specialist stops taking your insurance then you have to scramble to find a new one! (Yes, this includes mental health practitioners!) This is particularly awful in rural areas with few doctors, or places where the only health facility around is affiliated with a religion that prohibits care that you need!

There's nearly a century of politics I haven't gotten into here -- the main thing to understand is that middle-class people in the United States are, reasonably, pretty scared of being really poor during our final years, or of being ill and really poor due to huge medical bills (which is way more likely if you don't have health insurance). And the main way we protect ourselves against those outcomes is by getting employed someplace that will give us employer-sponsored health insurance coverage and a 401(k) account.

If you make your wages as a contractor instead of as an employee, then it's harder and more tedious and more error-prone and more expensive to arrange for health insurance coverage and retirement savings. And you're less protected against changes in health insurance costs and thus against the headache of switching insurers. This basically is also true if you run a tiny business and are self-employed. And the precarity is particularly scary if you're disabled, or if your spouse or child has expensive health needs.

And so: if an organization wants to hire someone, to compensate them for labor, some people will only do it as an employee, not as a contractor.

But it's tedious and expensive to get set up to employ someone and give them those benefits, and to fund and administer those benefits on an ongoing basis! In contrast, there's very little paperwork needed to pay someone as a contractor. And that brings us back to open source projects....

What you can now do via OpenCollective

Thus: In the United States, the need for reliable health care and health insurance causes a tremendous number of open source contributors to have to take full-time jobs with employers. Sometimes these employers hired them to work on their open source projects, but more often, they're working either 0% or a very small percent of the time on open source, and they're working most of the time on proprietary software. So they squeeze in open source maintenance work during vacations, nights, and weekends.

A big focus in open source sustainability right now is finding ways to pay the maintainers. Instead of maintainers scrambling for nights-and-weekends spare time to maintain software, we should get them wages that would enable them to spend their core labor hours on open source maintenance. And though some companies and academic institutions are interested in employing particular maintainers full-time, it's probably more resilient if projects can take in relatively smaller donation streams from many sources, and combine them to hire maintainers.

But all the fiscal hosts and similar services I'm aware of that serve open source projects -- until now -- only let you pay contractors, not employees. They did not, until now, help member projects get employee-level benefits for individual laborers.

Until now.

Now, an open source project fiscally hosted by OpenCollective "can have employees, with access to benefits like health insurance. Costs related to employment are paid from the initiative's budget, with OCF as the employer." Employees must be based in the US. They're using Justworks, a company that helps small businesses provide employment benefits. In particular: 401(k) retirement plans and health insurance coverage.

So your open source project can gather donations via the OpenCollective platform, then use them to hire a US-based employee -- who reports to the project as a whole, not just one company, yet gets the benefits and at least some of the stability of a traditional employee.

Open source maintainers in the US now have substantially greater freedom to leave their jobs, go independent, and still protect their health and their future.

What this unlocks

Look at what's already happening with people who don't have to worry as much about health insurance. Check out Freexian, which is an effort where Debian developers club together and get sponsorship money, so they can each spend a certain number of hours each month consulting on really important parts of Debian software and infrastructure. A lot of those people who can take advantage of that are in Europe, or are in other places where health care isn't in question. So they can choose contracting work (or switch back and forth between full time employment and consulting, or combine flexible contracting with a stable part-time job) a lot more easily.

So now this possibility opens up more to US-based open source maintainers. We can better crowdfund and recruit US-based programmers and other workers to work on under-produced under-supported infrastructure, like Debian, or autoconf, or various glue libraries.

All the stuff we've been trying to do with grants, Tidelift, GitHub Sponsors, and similar initiatives: they're more likely to succeed, because more people -- both existing maintainers and apprentices willing to learn -- will be available to hire. If you run a program like Django Fellows, where you pay contractors to support the project through community management and code review, you can now expand your candidate pool and recruit US workers who want to work as employees.

And! we can better crowdfund and support innovative research, possibly in directions that big companies don't love. Indeed, we can better invest in FLOSS software that has no commercial competitor, or whose commercial competitors are much worse, because for-profit companies would be far warier of liability or other legal issues surrounding the project, such as youtube-dl.

More generally: any given open source software project that has a substantial user base now has a better chance at being able to hire one of its US contributors to provide ongoing maintenance and support. And so more projects will be able to sustain themselves with user support, instead of burning out unpaid volunteers and stagnating to a crawl and then a halt.

Some of this I'm basically copying and pasting from the "what if we had universal healthcare" section of my talk "What Would Open Source Look Like If It Were Healthy?" Because this is, potentially, a huge step for the health of open source.

I do consulting to help open source software projects get unstuck. Sometimes I advise them on which fiscal host or funding platform might suit their needs. The advice to get set up on OpenCollective has just gotten more attractive, and I hope other startups and nonprofits in the space pay attention. Adding this benefit to more fiscal hosting or funding services would be a tangible and significant way to improve open source contributors' freedom.


* There are a bunch of strange financial and tax advantages to buying a home, so one way people save for retirement is by buying a home, so they'll own it free and clear after retiring and won't need to pay housing expenses. When we say "buy" we usually mean "pay an initial payment called a 'down payment' to the seller, take out a loan called a 'mortgage,' move into the home, and gradually pay off the mortgage over 30 years." Yes, 30 specifically. Employers who want their benefits packages to help with this aspect of retirement planning might offer -- as Electronic Frontier Foundation does -- interest-free second mortgage loans for up to a portion or percentage of a home's price.

** Daniel Davies talks about pension "reform" in case you want some more thoughts.


: The Narrow Trash Talk Window: Sometimes I am playing a game in a competitive manner with friends. Our shared cultures sometimes include "trash talk," playful insults offered among players that are meant to express comfort and camaraderie and creativity while firing up the competitive spirit. I think.

I came very late to the level of security necessary to really understand and enjoy teasing directed at me. I remember a specific moment in 2007 when a friend jokingly called me the b-word, and I understood: Oh! He doesn't really mean it! And him calling me that is an expression of and deepening of our friendship, because he counts on me to trust and understand him enough to know he doesn't mean it! And I generally don't insult people (at least, not on purpose!) so that skill isn't one I have well-honed.

So, when I do try to imagine trash talk, my insults either go way too florid and comedic ("Are you waiting for the pyramids to crumble? Did someone dip your fingers in concrete before this game?") or too cutting and possibly hurtful ("Hey, it's really unlikely you would win this anyway, because you're starting from a poor socioeconomic foundation and you went to a bad school!"). Or it just ends up being genuine feedback ("You're slow because you keep looking for the perfect move instead of a good-enough one!").

This is not a particularly dire problem nor one I really need to solve.

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: New York City General Election 2021: A few resources that helped me decide how to vote in the New York City general election this year:

Candidate ratings by the Judiciary Committee of the Queens County Bar Association and the New York City Bar Association for judicial candidates

Questions around whether judicial candidate Soma Syed supports LGBTQ rights

What the five ballot proposal questions mean and who's endorsing what side of each

Who's on the ballot for mayor besides Adams and Sliwa

And a shout-out to The City for their mayor match quiz which helped me decide my vote in the primary (especially given the ranked-choice option)!


: Some Recent Reading: I've recommended several short scifi/fantasy stories I've enjoyed by posting about them on MetaFilter.

In addition, here are a few notes on some books I've recently read.

I read the harrowing memoir Year of the Nurse by Cassie Alexander. She's a registered nurse in an ICU in Northern California, and her contemporaneous writings from early 2020 through mid-2021 show us the risks and the costs and the waste of the COVID-19 pandemic. It's piercing, edifying, darkly funny, sad, and a clear, loud warning about the damage done to our health care workers. Recommended but of course watch your own mental health while reading -- content notes for discussion of death, of course, and also suicide. A few quotes:

where's the drama in an endless cycle of competent people doing competent jobs?

(from early in the crisis): This feels a lot like being drafted for a war that some people still don't even believe we're in.....It's not going anywhere. It's endless. Like knowing that you're being chased by a steamroller and someone's gone and nailed down both your feet.

Do you realize if they get more than 50 cases in South Korea, they shut everything back down? They treat every life there like a treasure.

I can usually bounce back with a day off and gardening. But my bounce is getting stiffer and the boxes I compartmentalize all my shit into are getting very full.

Me, this morning, watching my traveler that I'm training pull out an old N95 to use from their backpack, because she thought we wouldn't have enough PPE: "Darling, put that away and WELCOME TO CALIFORNIA."

I think you shouldn't be able to opt out of a covid vaccine until you've seen five people die of covid at a hospital. Like up close and personal. Their last 72 hrs. times five.

[what she aims to give families around a deathbed]: enough time to say good-bye and hopefully circle around to the story-telling part of things, laughing about memories and sharing photos. Where it's not about the dying person in there anymore -- it becomes about knitting together those who will be left behind.

How are we, the sane ones, to take this? Knowing that people around us would gladly chum the waters with our countrymen for sport?

[her first time seeing her friends in person since February 2020]: starting to sob, "You all lived. You all lived!"

... since 2016, the average hospital turned over 83% of their RN workforce, due to a combination of churn and burn at the lower end of the experience scale, and older RNs retiring out.....We kept coming to work because we trusted in, believed in, and wanted to help our coworkers....until I and other nurses stop picking up extra shifts, at my hospital and so many others, upper management will never learn....

There's just going to be a gap of a few years in there, post-covid-times, where you shouldn't trust any nurse that's too excited to be working.

I'm still mad that last year happened the way it did, when it didn't have to. I'm mad that serving a mad king "broke" me. But mostly I'm mad that so many people died who didn't have to. 

An amazing read that I wish didn't exist [if you read this, Cassie Alexander, I think you understand].

In fiction:

I'm friends with Benjamin Rosenbaum so I was looking forward to his new novel The Unraveling. I had a good time but I wanted the constant idea-flourishing that I get from Rosenbaum's nonfiction speaking and writing (e.g., on college and on hacking games you play with your kids), and I got that in the first third or half of the book. Then, in the second half or last third of the book, I knew where things were going and it felt like a kind of familiar story. But it's an interesting read with some ideas and one character who will stick with me, and feels like it's going to be a 2021 must-read for people who want book-length speculative fiction that plays with gender. I think it might feel brain-breaking to readers who haven't read any of Ada Palmer's Terra Ignota series, or the 2nd and 3rd books in Ann Leckie's Imperial Radch trilogy.

(Speaking of which, the last of those Terra Ignota books, Perhaps the Stars, comes out in a few weeks, so maybe I'll go reread the first one and read the second and third so I can catch up. I also saw there's a new Neal Stephenson book coming out pretty soon, and once that would have led me to literally take time off from work to read it the day of release, and instead I'm looking at this blurb and saying like "oh no are you a climate change denier now? please say no.")

I enjoyed the anthology It Gets Even Better: Stories of Queer Possibility. Lots of sweet sci-fi and fantasy stories, some more moving and some more funny, starring queer people. For a taste, read Aimee Ogden's reprint "Venti Mochaccino, No Whip, Double Shot of Magic": "his coffee comes with a nice cantrip that'll help him send all his emails for the next week with zero typos and exactly the right number of exclamation marks." I always enjoy rereading Zen Cho's "The Perseverance of Angela's Past Life" and I had a took note of "I'll Have You Know" by Charlie Jane Anders, "unchartered territories" by Swetha S., "Frequently Asked Questions About the Portals at Frank's Late-Night Starlite Drive-In" by Kristen Koopman, and "The Cafe Under the Hill" by Ziggy Schutz. The most memorable pieces: "Sea Glass at Dawn" by Leora Spitzer and "What Pucks Love" by Sonni de Soto. "Sea Glass at Dawn" tells the warm and loving story of dragons helping a human figure out how to control a new talent for fire. "What Pucks Love" illustrates the worries and joys of a relationship between an asexual person and a person with a strong sex drive, using a telescoping story structure to lovely effect.

Speaking of happy stories, yay for romance novels -- engaging, sweet, attentive to interiority, valorizing courage and care! I read some Alyssa Cole (An Extraordinary Union: An Epic Love Story of the Civil War, Loyal League #1, plus Let It Shine which was more memorable and visceral for me) and enjoyed that. I've now started Celia Lake's gentle magical romance Mysterious Charm series with the first book, Outcrossing, and enjoyed it and will probably read more.

Division Bells, a romance by Iona Datt Sharma, stands out because it stars bureaucrats trying to draft and pass a bill concerning renewable energy, and goes into lovely detail about the workings of the British Parliament, and brings that signature Datt Sharma emotional texture -- deft glimpses of indirectly expressed grief and melancholy and attentive care and hope -- to a Happy-For-Now romantic triumph.

And I've just read a really awesome romance, For The Love of April French by Penny Aimes. Aimes is a trans woman, and one of the protagonists, April, is a trans woman navigating romance after having been burned before. This novel reminds me of Courtney Milan's Trade Me in its realistic treatment of work in the tech industry, and it reminds me of Becky Chambers's work in its lively cast of supporting characters. And it goes places I haven't seen before in romance -- I haven't read that much romance that incorporates kink communities and negotiation, and Aimes's work felt very accessible to me -- and I'm eager to read more of the author's work.

I am unfortunately not super interested in reading further work by Andrew Hickey after reading his The Basilisk Murders (The Sarah Turner Mysteries, #1). The premise -- people start dying during a singularity/cyberlibertarian/longevity conference on a private island and a skeptical journalist tries to solve the murders -- sounded great! But Sarah Turner's characterization is wobbly and the narrator's choices of what to tell us leave me consistently unsatisfied, and the dialogue rang hollow. I started to wish I were rereading one of Nicola Griffith's Aud books instead.

Ah, that reminds me: sometime in the past year I read Nicola Griffith's gripping, propulsive, addictive detective series starring Aud Torvingen (The Blue Place, Stay, and Always). As page-turning as candy and as deep as a meal -- stories of love, grief, work, sex, achievement, vengeance, cities, disability, and slow true friendships. Here's Griffith talking about what Aud represents to her. If you read the first two books then have a hard time finding the third, you can borrow Always via the Open Library (do not look unless you've read the first book, as the description for Always includes spoilers for The Blue Place).

More soonish.

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: Well, It's October: Leonard and I today came up with the idea of an X-Files parody where monstrous agents investigate the human world, starring Molder (a Frankenstein's monster/zombie character) and Skully (a skeleton). Leonard's dialogue:

Molder: They robbed a bank and crossed state lines! It's a federal crime! We gotta investigate!
Skully: Molder, humans aren't real.
Molder: Then what'd you used to be?

The "I Want To Believe" poster has a happy human family photo like the ones that come free with a picture frame.

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: Prep For Shortages And Delays -- Meds, ID Cards, Books, Etc.: The global supply chain is dealing with a lot of shortages and delays, and there's no sign it's going to get better anytime soon. (Some explanations: thread, thread, NYT piece.)

People are figuring out how to deal with this, and I'll offer some ideas for making your household more resilient.

Inventory the medicines you take; see whether you can get an extra month's worth of any prescription meds you take, as a buffer in case of disruption. This may cost extra but would give peace of mind.

I wouldn't be surprised if something slows down the manufacture and delivery of fresh identity, credit, insurance, etc. cards. Check the expiration dates on the cards in your wallet and see if anything needs renewing.

Supplies of things you depend on that are made out of paper or wood may be disrupted. This includes books. So now's a good time to figure out how to get comfortable reading ebooks. If you buy ebooks from DRM-free suppliers like Weightless then you can read ebooks on your computer, phone, or tablet with free applications like Calibre. A lot of Kobo ebooks are DRM-free. And check if your local library lends ebooks (New York does).

If there's anything you regularly buy that comes from overseas or has unusual packaging, start looking for substitutes.

Other (non-food) household supplies to consider: batteries (especially unusual batteries for medical devices), light bulbs, soap, matches, dish sponges. These are things you'd use up anyway over time, and where it's really annoying to do without if your area runs out.

And if there is an appliance, machine or piece of furniture in your life that is beginning to fail, now would be a good time to proactively seek out any spare parts you will need to repair it when it does fail. Spare parts to fix cars and other machines are getting harder and harder to find.

You may find siderea's guides on preparing for the pandemic useful, especially the sections on food and household supplies. Much of what she says is freshly applicable.

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: NYCH&H COVID testing -- great, so let's increase access:

[Below - slightly edited - is a letter I just wrote my city councilmember.]

I'm a constituent in your district and I'm writing to thank the City for its free COVID-19 testing program, and to ask for some improvements (more hours and more locations, especially for the COVID Express service).

I had a great experience with NYC Health & Hospitals COVID testing recently. Last week, I learned that I'd been exposed to a COVID-positive person at an event I'd recently attended. I needed to get a test to find out whether I'd been infected. As a western Queens resident, I was able to quickly get a same-day appointment at the COVID Express location on Junction Boulevard. I went there, got a PCR test, and was in and out within 5-10 minutes -- and I got a negative result within 3 hours, which was fantastic for my peace of mind. A few days later, at the end of the likely incubation window for this exposure, I went to Elmhurst Hospital's walk-in COVID test clinic, got a PCR test, and was, again, in and out within 10 minutes. I got my negative test within less than a day.

I am deeply grateful for how the city's health systems made it easy for me to deal with this exposure. The fast, free, convenient testing made it easy for me to keep the rest of my community safe, and then -- once I knew I was not infected -- to feel safe eating brunch outdoors with friends and joining an outdoor religious service. This year I've gotten several free COVID tests through New York City Health & Hospitals testing locations, and I've always had good experiences -- short lines, locations walking distance from my home, friendly workers, and fast results via MyChart and prompt email notifications. Kudos!

But my friends in other neighborhoods have a hard time accessing these testing services. COVID Express appointments are scarce and get grabbed quickly. They're only available on weekdays, not weekends, which is hard for working people. And a friend in [Brooklyn neighborhood] is not within walking distance of any NYC Health & Hospitals testing location, regular or express. She had to take transit to go get tested, which risked transmission to the other people in that vehicle.

Why not get tested at a private pharmacy or urgent care instead? Waiting times for private COVID testing can be slow. I've always gotten my NYC H&H results within about 36 hours. But my friend in [Brooklyn neighborhood] told me that the CityMD near her takes 3-5 days to return PCR test results. And the queues at private COVID test sites can be discouraging, too. Another friend of mine in the Upper West Side had to delay getting tested because of lines at his local urgent care center.

A delayed test, or delayed results, can make the difference between being able to attend an event in person or not, which affects revenue for restaurants, tourism, theater, etc. .... and of course just general quality of life for New Yorkers.

So I'm writing to thank the New York City government for the excellent experience I've had getting tested for COVID through New York City Health & Hospitals, and to ask for more of my fellow New Yorkers to be able to access that experience. In particular, more COVID Express appointments (especially on weekends) and more COVID Express locations around the city would make it easier for working people to get PCR tests, get peace of mind, and keep each other safe.

Thanks and best wishes,
Sumana Harihareswara

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