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COVID Newsletters

Weekly COVID newsletter (1/21)


It’s Thursday, January 21, 2021 (1/21/21 is a palindrome!). Welcome to my weekly COVID-19 newsletter.

Manhattan has had 78,163 cumulative confirmed cases and 3,456 deaths (5,810 more cases and 47 more deaths since last week). The city as a whole has had 537,601 total cases and 26,249 total deaths (42,328 more cases and 508 more deaths since last week), according to nonprofit news site’s COVID-19 tracker. Seven-day averages are a more reliable indicator of the course of the pandemic:

  • Manhattan’s seven-day positivity average as reported by the New York State COVID testing dashboard is 3.6%, down from the 3.7% reported in our last edition.

  • New York City’s seven-day positivity average as reported by the NYC Dept. of Health is 8.83%, up from the 8.53% reported in our last edition.

The University of Washington Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation’s (IHME) weekly “reference scenario” estimates 161,241 additional deaths nationwide from 1/15 – 5/1, for a projected total of 566,720 deaths since the beginning of the pandemic.

Wondering about the importance of effective masking? The IHME estimates that if 95% universal mask compliance were attained in the next week, 31,439 fewer cumulative deaths would occur by 5/1; if mask mandates were eased, their model projects approximately 54,425 more deaths by then.

Because supply is low, first-dose vaccinations originally scheduled for today through Sunday (1/21 – 1/24) at City COVID-19 Vaccine Hubs have been rescheduled for exactly one week from the appointment date. Manhattan’s Vaccine Hub locations are Wadleigh Campus/I.S. 88 and Marta Valle Secondary School. (As far as we understand, this only applies to the Vaccine Hubs.) The Dept. of Health says they’ve emailed and phoned anyone affected. All second-dose appointments remain the same, so far.

Mainstream media outlets are finally getting around to what we wrote in last week’s newsletter about how to get vaccinated (link to our all-in-one vaccination page)! New York Magazine posted How to Sign Up for a COVID Vaccine in New York on 1/19, and the NY Times published How to Get the Coronavirus Vaccine in New York City on 1/17.

If you’ve been lucky enough to have been vaccinated– or once you are– register for the CDC’s V-safe online tool, which texts a weekly symptoms survey to your smartphone to track any post-vaccine side effects and helps public health experts track the vaccine’s effectiveness.


Yesterday was the one-year anniversary of the first confirmed COVID case in the U.S.– a 35-year-old man who had recently returned from Wuhan, China, was admitted to a hospital in Everett, Wash. And what was presented as a short-term lockdown last March has morphed into a cascade of failures and incompetence at the globalnational, state, and local level.

Which is why we should all take a measure of hope from the inauguration of the 46th President of the United States and the bare-majority Democratic Party control of the U.S. Senate. With new management in charge in Washington, we have a chance at finally– finally!– bringing this virus under control.

President Biden– I love saying that!– has released a 200-page document (summarized here) outlining a multi-track strategy to increase production of PPE (so we can prevent more infections), increase the volume of testing (so we can track the outbreak), and vastly increase vaccinations (pledging to inoculate 100 million Americans in the first 100 days). He’s put one person in charge– Jeffrey Zients– so there is now accountability within the federal government and a unified commitment to get this done.

And not a moment too soon. There’s a significant new variant of the COVID virus (identified in Britain and known as B.1.1.7) that is substantially more contagious– although seemingly not more lethal– than the version that’s spread in the U.S. since last March. And the CDC reported last week there were 76 cases in 12 states, including New York– and the CDC estimates that this variant could become the majority of cases in the U.S. by March 2021. (If you wonder how it can spread that fast, read these 500 words about how viruses work.) The good news about this version is that the two vaccines currently approved seem to be just as effective against the B.1.1.7. variant.

So the best advice is still to wash hands, social distance, and wear a mask– the best quality mask possible— until vaccines reach a critical mass (or “herd immunity”) in our population.

This Wednesday (1/27) at 6:30 pm, I’m co-sponsoring a “Manhattan COVID-19 Town Hall,” focused on dispelling misinformation about testing and vaccines with the National Black Leadership Commission on Health. We’ll feature a panel of public health experts: Eboné Carrington (chief executive officer, NYC H+H/Harlem Hospital), Dr. Julian Watkins (clinical assistant to the deputy incident commander, NYC DOHMH), and Dr. Jeanne Carey (chief medical officer, Ryan Health).

Watch on Facebook or MNN1 (Spectrum channels 34, 1993, or 1995; RCN channel 82; or FiOS channel 33).

The January Manhattan Borough Board meeting was this morning (1/21) and featured a discussion of the Mayor’s police reform plan. You can watch it here.

Wednesday (1/20), I hosted a public hearing on the future of Governors Island. The panel was packed with experts in the arts, architecture, urban design, community and economic development, and environmental resiliency. If you missed it, you can watch the hearing here.

Manhattan nonprofits, schools, and other organizations that serve New York City can now apply for capital funding from my office. Visit my website to learn more about the requirements.

  • Schools should apply via my Grants Portal Schools Application. Application deadline is Sunday, 2/21 at 5 pm.

  • Parks, gardens, libraries, NYCHA developments, H+H hospitals, etc., can apply via my Grants Portal City Application. This deadline is Sunday, 2/21 at 5 pm.

  • Nonprofits should apply via the NYC Office of Management and Budget Capital Grants portal. These applications are due Thursday, 2/25 at 5 pm.

My budget staff is available to meet with your group virtually if you have questions, want to share your project ideas, or missed the December capital funding workshops. Make an appointment here. You can also review the capital funding training videos and materials.

Last Thursday (1/14), I attended a beautiful vigil at the Museum of Jewish Heritage after a Confederate flag was found tied to the door. Thank you PS/IS 276 Battery Park City for organizing this moving rebuke to anti-Semitism.



On Tuesday (1/19), over 70 people took COVID self-tests at the site my staff operated in partnership with Word Up Bookshop in Washington Heights– so successful we’ll do it again this Tuesday (1/26) from noon – 4 pm (2113 Amsterdam Ave. at W. 165th St.). Test results will be emailed to you approximately 48 hours later.






There are several upcoming relief initiatives for the hard-hit cultural sector at the federal, state, and local level. Here’s what I know in chronological order:

The newly announced New York Arts Revival will host pop-up performances statewide, featuring more than 150 artists such as Amy Schumer, Chris Rock, and Renée Fleming. Kicking off Thursday, 2/4, this public-private partnership will culminate in the Tribeca Film Festival. The State will also give grants to artists and community arts organizations through the Creative Rebuild Initiative, in partnership with the Mellon Foundation.

The City’s Open Culture Program will allow cultural organizations and artists to perform, rehearse, and teach outdoors (and charge admission), 3/1 – 10/1. Permit applications should open next month. Open Culture permits are only allowed on Open Streets, but if you want to use a street that’s not currently a designated Open Street, I’ll work with the community to petition for it to be included on your behalf. Email my Cultural Affairs Specialist Natalie Espino about the block you want included.

Applications open Thursday, 4/1 for the Shuttered Venue Operators Grants aka Save our Stages. Arts venues and representatives can see eligibility criteria here and should note they must have been in operation as of 2/29/2020 and must not have received a Paycheck Protection Program loan on or after 12/27/2020. For additional info, contact

The Governor extended the Open Enrollment period for health insurance through Wednesday, 3/31. New Yorkers can enroll through the NY State of Health marketplace or directly through insurers.

The State has halted all eviction and foreclosure cases through February 28. To halt evictions/foreclosures until at least Saturday, 5/1, all tenants– and owners of buildings that contain fewer than 10 units– can submit a hardship declaration form, attesting they have lost income, have had increased costs during the pandemic, or would be at an increased risk for severe illness from COVID due to an underlying medical condition if forced to move.

Housing courts will send the form to defendants in pending cases, and the form can be returned to All tenants– and owners of buildings that contain fewer than 10 units– who are behind in rent or mortgage payments and are seeking to preemptively head off evictions/foreclosures in March and April can submit the hardship declaration form to their landlord/mortgage lender. Make a copy or take a photo of the completed form for your records.

Roosevelt Island now has a regular COVID testing site, 524 Main St., Wednesdays – Saturdays, 9 am – 5 pm, sponsored by Roosevelt Island Operating Corporation. Free rapid testing is available both by appointment and walk-in.

College and graduate students can now apply for a paid summer internship with NYC Comptroller Scott Stringer. Apply by Friday, 3/5.

The NYC Civic Corps is seeking nonprofit organizations to host 2021-2022 AmeriCorps members, who help develop host organizations’ volunteer programs. Learn more and apply here.

Free masks are available at staffed MTA subway booths.

The NYC Administration for Child Services is launching the Collaborative Assessment, Response, Engagement & Support in cases where children aren’t in imminent danger. CARES is an alternative, non-investigatory child protection response to partner with families to assess child safety and family needs, encourage families to develop their own solutions to their challenges, and identify supportive resources. ACS will hold two virtual information sessions for community stakeholders this week: Wednesday (1/27) at 2 pm (for Central Harlem and Morningside Heights) and Thursday (1/28) at 2 pm (for Lower Manhattan). RSVP to

Submit comments by Friday, 2/12 about the Brownfield Cleanup Program application for 1700 Park Ave (at E. 119th St.). View the application here. Email comments to

Monday, 2/1 is the deadline to apply for COVID Rent Relief. The State will subsidize eligible tenants’ rent for April, May, June, and July 2020. Apply here. (Those who previously applied for this relief over the summer and were denied will be automatically reconsidered for this next round.) To qualify, tenants may now meet these criteria:

  • Earned reduced income in April, May, June, or July 2020, compared to March 2020 and paid more than 30% of that income in rent.

  • Had a household income at or below 80% of the Area Median Income before 3/7/20. (See the 80% AMI for your household size here.)

If you need help with your application, gather your income and rent documentation for the March-July period and call 212-531-1609 ASAP (leave a voicemail if necessary, and we’ll call you back!).

News clippings 

Covid-19 immunity likely lasts for years
By Neel V. Patel, MIT News, Jan. 6, 2021

Vaccine roll out: Israel’s circumstances aren’t special
Israel has become a world leader in vaccine roll out. 
By Zvi Schreiber, LinkedIn, Jan. 9, 2021

‘The truth is, nobody told us what to be ready for’
Roger Desjarlais, manager in Lee County, Fla., on the unanticipated challenges of rolling out the vaccine
As told to Eli Zaslow, Washington Post, Jan. 9, 2021

The Arts Are in Crisis. Here’s How Biden Can Help.
By Jason Farago, NY Times, Jan. 13, 2021

The Covid-19 Death Toll Is Even Worse Than It Looks
World-wide deaths are running far beyond what would have been expected without the pandemic
By Paul Overberg, Jon Kamp and Daniel Michaels | Graphics by Lindsay Huth, Wall St. Journal, Jan. 14, 2021

Still going to the grocery store? With new virus variants spreading, it’s probably time to stop.
Health experts say you should avoid optional trips whenever you can. You probably need a better mask, too.
By Julia Belluz,, Jan. 15, 2021

How to (Literally) Drive the Coronavirus Away
What’s the transmission risk inside a car? An airflow study offers some insight for passengers and drivers alike.
By Emily Anthes, NY Times, Jan. 16, 2021

How British Scientists Found the More Infectious Coronavirus Variant
By Benjamin Mueller, NY Times, Jan. 16, 2021

Underselling the Vaccine
By David Leonhardt, NY Times “The Morning” Newsletter, Jan. 18, 2021

After months of trauma, vaccinated health-care workers welcome a surprising emotion: Hope
By Karin Brulliard, Washington Post, Jan. 18, 2021

What You Need to Know Now About the 2021 Elections in New York City
By Rachel Holliday Smith,, Jan. 18, 2021

How Are The Children Doing During The Pandemic? A Brewing Mental Health Crisis
By, Jan. 19, 2021

It Looks Like the Rich Aren’t Abandoning New York After All
By Jeff Andrews,, Jan. 19, 2021

How to Distribute 100 Million Vaccine Doses in 100 Days
By Thomas J. Bollyky, Jennifer B. Nuzzo and Prasith Baccam, NY Times, Jan. 20, 2021

Your state’s Covid-19 epidemic, explained in 4 maps
By German Lopez,, Jan. 20, 2021

Europe’s growing mask ask: Ditch the cloth ones for medical-grade coverings
By Loveday Morris and Rick Noack, Washington Post, Jan. 20, 2021


Commercial tenants and landlords can receive pro bono legal help for lease negotiations through the New York Forward Small Business Lease Assistance Program, a partnership among Empire State Development, nonprofit Start Small Think Big, and the New York Bar Association. Complete this form to request help.

The NYC Small Business Resource Network, a public-private partnership, helps small business owners access free personalized financial, technological, real estate, legal, and marketing assistance. Learn more and sign up to be matched with a Small Business Support Specialist here.

Public high schoolers have until Sunday (1/24) to apply for a free, virtual after-school program, Arts-Making TraC, sponsored by ArtsConnection. Apply here.

Pleasant Village Community Garden in East Harlem is looking for volunteers for composting, outreach, and chicken care projects. Email to volunteer.

Applications are open for the Loisaida Center Emerging Artist Residency program. Individual artists and collectives are eligible to apply here.

Applications close Sunday, 2/28 for Northern Manhattan Arts Alliance’s new online exhibition. Women artists living or working in El Barrio, Harlem, Washington Heights, or Inwood are eligible to submit for “In/Out – Light/Dark: Women in the Heights and Art in Our Time.” Apply here.

Search and Care offers free, one-on-one, English/Spanish telephone and Zoom counseling for adults 60+, “Talkin’ It Out.” Contact 212-289-5300, ext. 205 to make an appointment.


Friday (1/22) at 10 am, Community Action School hosts a virtual open house for families of 5th graders. Join via Google Meet.

Friday (1/22) at 10:30 am, small business owners are invited to a webinar about applying for the Paycheck Protection Program and other financial assistance, hosted by the NYC Dept. of Small Business Services. SBS will host the same webinar tailored to Lower Manhattan businesses on Monday (1/25) at 10:30 am.

Friday (1/22) from noon – 6 pm, donate blood at 186 Allen St., sponsored by University Settlement. I don’t agree with the FDA policy excluding gay men from donating blood unless they have been celibate for three months, but those who are eligible to donate should, in order to help save lives. Our region’s blood supply is at an all-time low.

Friday (1/22) at 7 pm and Monday (1/25) at 5 pm, middle school Lafayette Academy hosts virtual open houses. Register here.

Fridays through 2/12 at 8 pm, dancers and musicians perform during “Off Broadway in the Boros: Pop-Ups,” a series created to provide support for artists and call attention to the important contribution small theaters make to New York, sponsored by the Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment. Watch on NYC Life (channel 25 for most providers, channel 1025 for Comcast, and channel 22 for Altice).

NYC Test and Trace and community partners are hosting outreach events throughout the week. Stop by for free masks and information about COVID testing:

  • Saturday (1/23), 10-11 pm: Herald Square

  • Monday (1/25), 10 am – 2 pm: Grand Street Settlement (80 Pitt St.)

  • Monday (1/25), 11 am – 1 pm: Harlem Salvation Army (540 Lenox Ave.)

  • Tuesday (1/26), noon – 2 pm and Wednesday (1/27), 3-5 pm: Melba’s (300 W. 114th St.)

  • Wednesday (1/27), 11 am – 1 pm: Catholic Charities/Alianza (515 W. 182nd St.)

  • Wednesday (1/27), noon – 2 pm: Sappora (2262 1st Ave.)

Saturday (1/23) from 10 am – 3 pm, MAP NYCHA residents are invited to the virtual NeighborhoodStat summit “Re-imagining Public Safety,” a platform for residents to share their priorities and achievements and for policymakers to share how policy is created. The Manhattan NYCHA developments affiliated with MAP (Mayor’s Action Plan for Neighborhood Safety) are Polo Grounds, St. Nicholas, and Wagner. Register here (or here if you don’t have an email address).

Saturdays and Tuesdays from 11 am – 4 pm, free, walk-in COVID testing is available outside Lakeview Apartments (1590 Madison Ave. btwn 106th and 107th Sts.), sponsored by Rep. Adriano Espaillat and Dr. Karen Thornton.

Saturday (1/23) at 2 pm, Theater for the New City presents “Open ’Tho Shut,” its afternoon of “walk-by theater” staged in its set shop and visible from East 10th St. between 1st and 2nd Aves.

Sunday (1/24) at 11 am, join Hell’s Kitchen Litter Legion for a neighborhood clean up. Meet at the northeast corner of W. 57th St. and 10th Ave.

Monday (1/25) from 10 am – 4 pm, free, walk-in COVID testing is available at Abyssinian Baptist Church (132 W. 138th St.), in partnership with United Way of NYC and the Choose Healthy Life campaign. Make an appointment here.

Monday (1/25) at 1:30 pm, caregivers and family members of those with Alzheimer’s are invited to “Understanding Alzheimer’s and Dementia,” hosted by Lenox Hill Neighborhood House and the Alzheimer’s Association. There will be a Spanish session Wednesday (1/27) at 1:30 pm. Email to register for either session.

Monday (1/25) at 6:30 pm, Hunter@Home hosts the virtual chat “The Psychology of Motivation: Understanding and Inspiring Your Child to Learn.” Register here.

Tuesday (1/26) at 4 pm, the NYS Dept. of Public Service (the Public Service Commission) hosts a virtual public forum about Con Edison power outages in July 2019. To comment, register here or email comments to Watch the hearing live on YouTube.

Tuesday (1/26) at 5:30 pm, PS/IS 180 Hugo Newman College Preparatory School hosts a virtual open house. Join on Zoom.

Tuesday (1/26) at 6 pm, MS 250 West Side Collaborative Middle School hosts a virtual open house for parents. Register here.

Tuesday (1/26) at 6:30 pm, middle school Mott Hall II hosts a virtual open house on Zoom (meeting ID: 846 8321 0482, passcode: 085178).

Wednesday (1/27) at 2 pm, Tech Congress hosts an information session for its 2021 Congressional Innovation Scholars program, which places technologists to serve as tech policy advisors to members of Congress. For example, scholars have worked on the House Judiciary Committee’s Antitrust Subcommittee report on Big Tech, helped pass the OPEN Government Data Act into law, and worked to change defense procurement policy to allow start-ups to better compete with larger contractors. The program pays a stipend equivalent to an annual salary of $60,000 and other benefits. Applications close Friday, 2/5.

Wednesday (1/27) at 3 pm, webinar “Commercial Corridor Challenge: Building small business resilience during the COVID-19 crisis” shares results from a qualitative analysis of LISC NYC’s Commercial Corridor Challenge. Click the title to register.

Wednesday (1/27) at 4 pm, Reclaimed Organics celebrates collecting 10 tons of compost with socially distanced activities, including a compost give-back, a food scrap-themed photo booth, and a “Compost Is …” thought board. Join the pop-up at the southeast corner of W. 107th St. and Columbus Ave.

Wednesday (1/27) at 6 pm, parents, teachers, advocates, and experts on special education are invited to an open newsroom to discuss finding solutions to help vulnerable public school students facing a lack of legally mandated services amid the pandemic, hosted by THE CITY and Chalkbeat New York. Register here.

Wednesdays through 2/17 at 8 pm, docuseries “Isolation to Creation” premieres, documenting the artist residencies sponsored last year by the Guggenheim’s Works and Process program. Watch free on All Arts.

Next Thursday (1/28) from 10 am – 3 pm, I’m co-sponsoring free, walk-in COVID testing at Penn South (327 8th Ave.), with State Senator Brad Hoylman.

Next Thursday (1/28) at 5:30 pm, NYCHA hosts a virtual town hall about the Blueprint for Change, with a presentation by Chair Greg Russ and a Q&A. Translation is available in Spanish, Russian, and Chinese. Register here.

Next Thursday (1/28) at 6 pm, make a vision board for 2021 with Bloomingdale School of Music. Register for the virtual event here.

Next Thursday (1/28) at 6 pm, Community Boards 1, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, and 11 host a virtual panel, “The Economic Impact of Changing Market Conditions in Housing,” about what neighbors can expect when higher-income residents move to their communities. Register here.

Stay Safe.