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COVID Newsletters

COVID weekly newsletter (4/15)

Friends,

It’s Thursday, April 15, 2021. Welcome to my weekly COVID-19 newsletter.

Here are the bullets for NYC according to nonprofit news site TheCity.nyc’s COVID-19 tracker, the New York State COVID testing dashboard, and the NYC Dept. of Health:

Manhattan:

  • 130,384 cumulative confirmed cases (+3,171 since last week)

  • 4,306 cumulative deaths (+48 since last week)

  • 2.1% seven-day positivity average (down from 2.5% last week)

  • 265,375 adults (19%) partially vaccinated

  • 488,848 adults (35%) fully vaccinated

NYC:

  • 879,386 total cases (+22,120 since last week)

  • 31,957 total deaths (+359 since last week)

  • 5.26% seven-day positivity average (down from 6.32% last week)

  • 1,031,997  adults (15%) partially vaccinated

  • 1,893,265 adults (29%) fully vaccinated

The University of Washington Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation’s weekly “reference scenario” projection of cumulative deaths nationwide is up by about 9,000 to 618,523– likely due to an extension of the scenario’s endpoint, from July 1 to August 1.

As you’ve probably heard by now, New York suspended administering the Johnson & Johnson vaccine following the “pause” announced by the FDA and CDC, due to reported rare but serious blood clots in six women ages 18-48 who received the J&J shot. The blood clots occurred in less than one in a million J&J recipients and appeared within 13 days of getting the J&J vaccine. If you’ve gotten the J&J shot in the last three weeks and experience severe headache, abdominal pain, leg pain, or shortness of breath, contact a medical provider. If you got the J&J vaccine more than three weeks ago, you should be in the clear. (Part of the reason for the pause was to alert doctors to the phenomenon, because these clots must be treated differently than usual.)

While the blood clots have not been proven to be related to the vaccine, the FDA and CDC recommended the pause so that scientists can investigate if there’s a cause-and-effect link. Last night (4/14), vaccine experts at the CDC decided that they needed more information before recommending lifting the pause.

In the meantime, the two-shot Pfizer and Moderna vaccines based on mRNA cells (NOT the adenovirus method used in J&J’s) remain safe and effective. For NYC, this means that most J&J appointments have been switched to another vaccine:

  • The City is reaching out to everyone scheduled for a J&J appointment to ensure they get a Pfizer or Moderna appointment within the next week. This doesn’t include homebound vaccinations, which have been paused indefinitely. (Other municipalities like Yonkers are successfully doing in-home vaccinations with the Moderna vaccine, and I’ve urged the City to do the same.)

  • J&J appointments at State-run mass vaccination sites (like the Javits Center) will automatically be switched to Pfizer, so don’t cancel your appointment. (I’m told that Javits has tons of available appointments.)

  • City-run pop-up sites at NYCHA’s Johnson, St. Nicholas/Central Harlem Senior Center, Gompers, and Douglass locations– will honor existing appointments and give patients the Moderna vaccine and a follow-up appointment four weeks later for a second dose. These sites won’t schedule additional appointments for the time being.

  • All appointments for the City’s vaccine bus have been rescheduled to nearby Dept. of Health vaccine sites.

Even with the J&J pause, getting a vaccine is getting easier– but it’s far from streamlined. I’ve compiled this checklist (also accessible on my website) to help you know about every possible option.

  • Use the NYC COVID Vaccine Finder.

  • Check availability on NYC Vaccine List or TurboVax, which aggregate available appointments at many federal, State, City, pharmacy, and private sites.

  • Call the NYC vaccine hotline (877-VAX-4NYC or 877-829-4692), 8 am – 9 pm.

  • Contact providers listed in the NYS eligibility survey.

  • Call the NYS vaccine hotline (833-NYS-4VAX or 833-697-4829).

  • Although in-home vaccinations are paused for the moment because the program uses the J&J vaccine, fully homebound individuals (people who can’t leave their unit), can fill out this form or call 877-829-4692 to request a future in-home vaccination. (This doesn’t guarantee an appointment; FDNY personnel will call to confirm eligibility.) On that call, household members (family and home health aides) can also request to be vaccinated during the in-home appointment.

  • Check hospital networks: Northwell HealthNYU Langone (for current patients only and must create a MyChart account to be notified about an appointment); Hospital for Special SurgeryFort Washington Armory (216 Fort Washington Ave.), run by NewYork-Presbyterian and Weill Cornell Medicine (create a Connect account).

  • Check SOMOS vaccine sites.

  • Check pharmacies: CVS (800-SHOP-CVS), Walgreens (800-WALGREENS), RiteAid (800-RITE-AID), and the East Harlem Costco.

  • Contact your medical provider or local pharmacy.

  • If you need help making an appointment, contact Junior Martinez in my office at 212-531-1609 or juniormartinez@manhattanbp.nyc.gov.

As a reminder, all New Yorkers 16+ are eligible for the vaccine (but only the Pfizer vaccine is approved for those 16 and 17 years old, and they need a parent or guardian present during the vaccination).

Theater, film, and television workers will be prioritized at the new vaccine site at 20 Times Square (47th St. and 7th Ave.), listed as ATC Vaccination Times Square on Vaccine Finder. Though open to the public, the site is targeted to the entertainment industry, open daily 7:30 am – 7 pm. Call 877-829-4692 for an appointment; the Actors Fund is helping schedule appointments (call 917-281-5937 or email vaccines@actorsfund.org); and musicians’ Union 802 is helping their members make appointments. (I attended the show-stopping site opening on Monday, 4/12.)

I’m hearing that lots of new appointments are available at the Fort Washington Armory (216 Fort Washington Ave.). Appointments are prioritized for uptown residents and can be made online or by calling the NMIC hotline (646-838-0319).

This weekend (4/17-18), the vaccine site at the Columbia Forum (625 W. 125th St.) returns. The site is open Saturday and Sunday, 10 am – 4 pm. Call 212-864-6200 to make an appointment or just walk in (open to those 16+). I visited the Forum site last weekend— it’s a great operation.

Veterans, their spouses, and their caregivers can now get vaccinated through the Veterans Affairs New York Harbor Health System. Call 877-877-9267 to schedule an appointment.

Community-based organizations can get assistance scheduling vaccine appointments for their constituents through NYC Test and Trace. CBOs can fill out this form, and Test and Trace will call the listed constituents to schedule their vaccine appointment.

Much of this week’s meeting of my Manhattan Vaccine Task Force was dedicated to understanding the pause on the J&J vaccine. Dr. Ushma Neill of Memorial Sloan Kettering and Dr. Julian Watkins of the NYC Dept. of Health broke down the type of blood clots occurring. They reminded the task force that there’s no definitive evidence of the J&J vaccine causing the clots but agreed it was wise to not administer J&J until the cases have been fully reviewed. Representatives from the City’s Vaccine Command Center spoke about what the pause means for those originally scheduled to receive the J&J shot (covered in the bullets toward the top of this newsletter).

To help other community-based organizations learn about the experience of running a pop-up vaccine site, Pakhi Kane of the Stanley Isaacs Neighborhood Center spoke about what made the recent Isaacs Center site so successful (a week of multilingual outreach through various methods) as well as challenges the site faced coordinating with NYCHA.

A representative from the NYC Dept. of Education spoke about the new wave of students returning to in-person learning. I suggested that parent coordinators or Test and Trace staff should help parents sign up for vaccine appointments when they’re waiting outside schools for morning drop-off. We ended with a presentation from The Fight Is In Us, an organization promoting convalescent plasma donation, which is a lifesaving treatment for COVID patients. People who have recovered from COVID can check about donating their plasma here.

Next week, “Recovery Czar” Lorraine Grillo will join us to talk about reopening. If you’d like to join these weekly task force discussions about vaccines and reopening, email info@manhattanbp.nyc.gov.

New Yorkers suffering from prolonged effects of COVID can now contact AfterCare, a City program that connects “Long COVID” patients with physical health, mental health, community support, and financial support resources.

Public school parents looking for vaccine information can watch these videos released by the NYC Dept. of Health, available through the Dept. of Education’s Parent University portal.

Applications are now open for FEMA to reimburse funeral costs for those lost to COVID since 1/20/2020. Gather the necessary documents– receipts, death certificates, etc.— before calling FEMA to begin the application (844-684-6333, Monday-Friday, 9 am – 9 pm). This FAQ outlines the documents needed, eligibility criteria, and what costs are covered.

Stream the virtual vaccine panel “Around The Table: How Healthcare Professionals Can Address Vaccine Hesitancy Among Communities Of Color,” sponsored by the New York Academy of Medicine.

Also from NYAM is IMAGE:NYC, the interactive map of aging overlaid with vaccine sites, including links to make an appointment. (To make vaccine sites appear, click the “Services and Resources” tab and then “COVID-19 Vaccine Sites.”)

Bars and restaurants’ curfew will be extended from 11 pm to midnight starting Monday (4/19), according to the Governor.

International travelers to New York– even unvaccinated ones– no longer have to quarantine upon arrival, according to the State, though they are recommended to get COVID tested 3-5 days after landing.

There’s just under a month left to sign up for Obamacare/ACA health insurance. The deadline was extended to Saturday, 5/15. Apply through the New York State marketplace or directly through insurers. If you have questions, make an appointment with a local marketplace navigator, who can help individuals, families, and small businesses choose an affordable plan. There are new subsidies included in the American Rescue Plan that make Obamacare more affordable than ever.

Both indoor and outdoor graduation ceremonies will be allowed this spring, according to the Governor. Unless attendees present proof of vaccination or a recent negative COVID test, the rules allow 100 people indoors or 200 people outdoors. Guidance for larger events can be found here.

Schools can request outdoor graduation space though the Parks Dept. here or can email my education policy analyst, Shawn Jean-Louis, to discuss what they’re looking for in a space or to receive a copy of the approved Parks locations.

The City and State are both hiring for vaccine-related positions. The City’s Vaccine for All Corps is looking to hire people particularly from hard-hit communities and industries. No health care experience is necessary for roles in vaccine site management, operations, and client services; the corps is also hiring for clinical roles. Click the link above to apply through the Dept. of Small Business Services.

The State is hiring for clinical and non-clinical roles at vaccine sites. See openings here.

Every day through Sunday, 4/25, free walk-in COVID self-testing is available at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine (1047 Amsterdam Ave. at 112th St.). The site operates weekdays from 9:30 am – 3 pm and weekends from 9:30 am – 5 pm, in partnership with NYC Test and Trace. Results are shared via email within 72 hours.

Mondays at 3 pm through 5/17, Spanish-language COVID vaccine “train the trainer” sessions from the NYC Dept. of Health are aimed at helping community organizations, faith-based groups, and city agencies best address vaccine inquiries and concerns with their constituents. Register here.

COVID News Clippings

Covid-19 has killed the parents of thousands of children. We must support them.
by Rachel Kidman, Rachel Margolis, Emily Smith-Greenaway, and Ashton M. Verdery, Washington Post Opinion, April 5, 2021

Vaccine conversations can be messy. Here’s how to talk about the shots.
Don’t launch into a conversation about vaccines with the mindset you’ll win an argument, said one psychology professor. Instead, set expectations low, and figure out why the other person might have concerns.
By Allyson Chiu, Washington Post, April 8, 2021

Online Scammers Have a New Offer for You: Vaccine Cards
By Sheera Frankel, NY Times, April 8, 2021

3 possible futures for Covid-19 in the US — with hope for a return to normal
The next month could determine who lives to see normalcy come back.
By German Lopez, vox.com  April 8, 2021

So You’ve Been Vaccinated. When Are You Safe?
By Jeff Wise, New York Magazine, April 9, 2021

CDC ramps up scrutiny of rare post-vaccination ‘breakthrough infections’
Experts say the number of people testing positive for the virus after being inoculated is to be expected
By Lena H. Sun and Joel Achenbach, Washington Post, April 9, 2021

U.S. cases involving Brazil variant on the rise, according to CDC data
By Erin Cunningham, Kim Bellware and Meryl Kornfield, Washington Post, April 9, 2021

Map: Here’s Where The COVID Variants Are Spreading Most In NYC
By Sydney Pereira, Gothamist.com, April 12, 2021

The Grief Crisis Is Coming
For each person who dies of Covid-19, experts say there are at least nine newly bereaved. We must begin to address the toll.
By Allison Gilbert, NY Times Opinion, April 12, 2021

Taming the 4th COVID surge: Delay second shots and get first vaccine doses into arms ASAP.
Being flexible in the face of new evidence has saved thousands of lives. We can save thousands more by giving first shots only, starting right now.
By Govind Persad, William F. Parker and Ezekiel J. Emanuel, USA Today Opinion, April 13, 2021

With Covid cases rising, more experts think the U.S. should start delaying second vaccine shots.
By David Leonhardt, NY Times The Morning newsletter, April 13, 2021

How the Coronavirus Variants Are Spreading in New York City
New, searchable ZIP code-level data provides a close look at how contagious variants have kept New York’s case levels alarmingly high.
By Joseph Goldstein, Sharon Otterman, and Matthew Bloch, NY Times, April 13, 2021

Covid cases are rising in more than half of U.S. states, despite ramp-up in vaccinations
Nate Rattner, cnbc.com, April 13, 2021