September 14, 2021 | By Graeme Kemlo

We are very similar but at the same time very different. Two western democracies with both federal and state perspectives. One very much open for business and tourism, one closed.

Australian expat Philip Jones has lived and worked in New York City for almost 15 years as a senior executive in the IT industry. He wears a mask, needs to show his ID plus vaccination certificate to enter an office in Manhattan, to go to a restaurant or bar and to get on an aircraft. He lives in a multi-storey apartment building in Manhattan with his wife and family, “twin girls conceived in Australia but born in the US…American citizens with Australian passports,” he laughs.

New Yorkers he said had largely shaken off the fears surrounding terrorism and COVID, however Saturday September 11 dawned amid massive security.

“You definitely knew the city was on high alert – it was a strange feeling.”

On a walk downtown he saw “armed forces at Penn Station, the police presence was incredible…and overhead, a fleet of about nine helicopters circling lower Manhattan”. In addition he says there was reportedly a team tasked with shooting down any drones flying over that part of the city.

New York is back at work and full of tourists and Jones is back working from the office. An experienced conference-goer, next week, with some trepidation, he flies to Florida for his first conference this year, then in October he does it again, this time in Las Vegas – the home of the mega-conference.

“I will definitely be masked up as I am a little concerned,” he says.

But he is more concerned about his girls who finally return to high school this week. The girls are not yet vaccinated and Phil says he is deeply concerned about his daughters returning to school because “over the past two weeks one of the distressing things is that since schools have been back in other states over 280,000 kids have been diagnosed with COVID since they went back…about 40 have died”.

As an expat well aware of Australia’s vaccination plan he says New York seems back to normal with 60-70 per cent fully vaccinated. About one third of people on the street are wearing masks, “however school children who are not vaccinated are not being invited to parties and sleepovers”.