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COVID Newsletters

Weekly COVID newsletter (1/7)

Friends,

It’s Thursday, January 7, 2021. Welcome to my weekly COVID-19 newsletter.

Manhattan has had 66,370 cumulative confirmed cases and 3,367 deaths (5,165 more cases and 44 more deaths since last week). The city as a whole has had 454,133 total cases and 25,362 total deaths (38,776 more cases and 307 more deaths since last week), according to nonprofit news site TheCity.nyc’s COVID-19 tracker. Experts say 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 4%, up from the 2.8% reported in our last edition.

  • New York City’s seven-day positivity average as reported by the NYC Dept. of Health is 9.21%, up more than half from the 6% reported in our last edition.

 

COMMENT

We’ve started to include a clippings section in this newsletter, but this week I want to highlight this headline:

CDC Unveils List Of Twitter Accounts You Can Follow
To Piece Together Vaccine Information

Yes, it’s a joke– from the satirical website The Onion– but like all good humor, it has the germ of truth. So here’s the best information I have as of today (1/7) on how to get vaccinated in NYC:

1. Figure out if you’re here (NYC Dept. of Health site) or here (NYS app).

  • All health care workers and public health professionals who see patients in person
  • Home health aides
  • All nursing home residents and staff
  • Staff and residents in facilities run by various NYS health agencies (Offices for People With Developmental Disabilities, Mental Health, and Addiction Services)
  • Medical examiners, coroners, and many funeral home workers
  • Lab staff working with COVID-19 specimens or those administering vaccines

This list of eligibility will be updated regularly.

2. If you are eligible, make an appointment here. If you’re affiliated with a hospital network, your employer may have already made a vaccine plan, so check with your employer first.

3. Complete this online form. (Once you complete the form, you’re then supposed to receive a submission ID number by email.)

4. Bring to your appointment:

  • Your submission ID and
  • Proof of employment (employee ID card, pay stub, or letter from your employer certifying you work there)

I’m working on finding a number where you can make an appointment by phone for those without computer access.

There’s a limited supply of vaccines, I get that. But so far, I think everyone can agree that the vaccine rollout has been… nuts.

We’ve known since last summer that vaccines were going to be available; the Pfizer/BioNTech two-shot vaccine was approved by the FDA a month ago, and vaccines were shipped three weeks ago. We should be further ahead on this process.

Sure, there are freezer issues, there are setup issues, and there are people who are already sick to tend to.

But it sure seems as though the health bureaucracy is overdetermining its priority list and hampering vaccine rollout locally.

For example, I fought to get home health aides– who are out in the world and serving high-risk clients, those who are older, have preexisting conditions, and are homebound– included on the priority list. Why weren’t they included originally? Who knows?

At first, home health aides could get shots as of January 11. But then late Monday (1/4) it was announced they could get vaccinated immediately. These changing signals are hard to communicate to those affected, and do not inspire confidence.

This is the classic problem of new decisions in response to changing circumstance– not unlike being a general in a war. But still, we should be doing better. (There’s still no definitive timeline for vaccinating cops and correction officers, or essential public-facing workers like grocery or postal or sanitation workers, or immunocompromised people, let alone the general public.)

I’m told it’s likely that those 75+, and essential workers who can’t socially distance (like teachers) will be qualified to be vaccinated in February.

Are you hesitant? Many who are currently eligible are hesitant to take the vaccine right now (including health care workers!).

Some seem to think that the vaccine was rushed to approval too quickly compared to other vaccines. It’s perhaps helpful to know that research on “messenger RNA” (mRNA)– a template cells use to carry genetic instructions for producing proteins– has been ongoing for decades (the MIT professor who developed it won the 1993 Nobel Prize in Medicine) after mRNA was discovered in 1961. That’s one reason why these vaccines were able to be tested so quickly.

Another is that recently developed biological technology, used by a small, nimble German pharma company, BioNtech (led by husband and wife MDs Ugur Sahin and Ozlem Tureci, who should get the next Nobel Prize), helped test and perfect the synthetic mRNA, which forms the basis for the vaccines. As one observer put it“It is absolutely extraordinary that this new approach to vaccination — injecting chemical RNA into the muscle — has come through so quickly and proven to be so effective. It opens up a whole new field of vaccinology…”

The Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, the first to be approved by the FDA, was tested on 18,198 people; the Moderna vaccine was tested on 15,200 people. Around half of the recipients reported fatigue or chills, and one in seven reported a 24-hour fever. No serious side effects were identified in any recipient, and recipients who felt ill nonetheless said they were glad to have gotten the vaccine. (More here).

Finally, the mRNA vaccines do not contain the virus itself– the way, say, measles vaccines do– and do not alter DNA in the human body’s cells.

I’ll be getting a vaccine as soon as I’m eligible; so should you.

To learn more about vaccines, watch a special edition this Sunday (1/10) at 7 pm of my “Represent NYC” public access show on MNN with Dr. Mary Bassett (former city Health Commissioner and current Harvard School of Public Health Professor) and Dr. Jennifer Rosen (Director of Epidemiology and Surveillance at the Dept. of Health). Our taping was informative and lively– please watch:

  • MNN1 (Spectrum 34 and 1995, RCN 82, FiOS 33),
  • MNNHD (Spectrum 1993), or the
  • MNN’s YouTube channel.

In case you missed it, you can watch the Columbia University Neighbors vaccine Zoom town hall I hosted last month with Community Boards 7, 9, 10, 11, and 12.

Health professionals and students in health career programs may be able to help vaccinate New Yorkers by joining the NYC Medical Reserve Corps. Apply 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 process and requirements.

  • Nonprofits should apply via the NYC Office of Management and Budget Capital Grants portal. Applications are due Thursday, 2/25 at 5 pm.
  • Schools should apply via my Grants Portal Schools Application. The 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. The deadline is Sunday, 2/21 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.

Congratulations to Suzy Darling, owner of Pocket Bar and Back Pocket Bar in Hell’s Kitchen, which won the Hell’s Kitchen Takeout Challenge. With every purchase at a neighborhood small business in December, shoppers could nominate their favorite local business for a grant from the Hell’s Kitchen Neighborhood Action Committee. I’ll be visiting Pocket Bar when it reopens in the spring.

Over 1,000 culinary students in city high schools have been left high and dry due to the pandemic– stuck at home and unable to learn the hands-on skills needed to join the restaurant industry. What’s more, many face food insecurity issues in their own homes.

That’s why I’ve joined with the other Borough Presidents to ask schools Chancellor Richard Carranza to support an innovative way to address both problems at once: the Food Education Fund and HelloFresh will pay for eight meals’ worth of food to be delivered to students’ homes, so that instructors can teach them online how to assemble and prepare those ingredients– which their families can then enjoy.

This is the kind of thinking that we need during this compound health, education, and economic crisis, and I congratulate those who came up with it– and urge Chancellor Carranza to clear the way and approve the program.

It’s a busy time in my Land Use department– we’re currently working on the 19 projects in the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP) pipeline throughout Manhattan listed below. (I’ve already issued 165 opinions since I became Borough President.) This graphic explains how a ULURP moves through the city planning process.

  • 23-25 Cleveland Place (​N140439ZRM)​ – Community Board 2
  • Harlem (NCP) Western Site (C200279HAM) – CB10
  • Central Harlem Infill (C200278HAM) – CB10
  • Harlem Open Door Cluster (C200276HAM) – CB10
  • Harlem NCP CB11 Site (C200277HAM) – CB11
  • Governor’s Island (210126ZRM, 210127ZMM) – CB1
  • Restore the George City Map Change (I180024MMM) – CB12

The following projects are not yet certified by the Dept. of City Planning, so their ULURP clock has not yet started ticking and they haven’t yet been assigned a number:

  • Lenox Hill Hospital – Community Board 8
  • 250 Water Street – CB1
  • SoHo NoHo – CB2
  • NY Blood Center – CB8
  • 633-639 West 142​ Street – CB9
  • Las Raices – CB11
  • 343 Madison Avenue – CB5
  • Starrett Lehigh – CB4
  • ​​Citywide Hotel Text Amendment –​ Citywide
  • Grand Hyatt – CB5
  • 260 Madison Avenue – CB5

 

NEW FACTS/INFO

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!).

Gov. Cuomo has eased state rules on school openings. Previously, schools were required to close if the community infection rate exceeded 9%; now, schools may remain open as long as testing rates of students and staff show that their positivity rate lags behind the overall community rate. The United Federation of Teachers disagrees and believes schools should close when community spread exceeds 9%.

Applications open Monday (1/11) for the new Raising the Bar Restaurant Recovery Fund. Empire State Development and partners will award grants of up to $5,000 to eligible restaurants. Learn about how to apply here.

Enrollment closes Sunday, 1/31 for New York State’s health insurance marketplace. Visit nystateofhealth.ny.gov for a comprehensive list of affordable options. Visit the same link to enroll in Medicaid, which is open all year long.

Don’t get blindsided by Ranked Choice Voting this year– check out this guide about the new ballot from the NYC Campaign Finance Board. NYCCFB is also offering “train the trainer sessions” to prepare organizations to educate community members about Ranked Choice Voting. Sign up for one of 14 training sessions in January and February here.

A New York State appellate decision ruled this week that the homeless men temporarily housed at the Upper West Side’s Lucerne Hotel may stay at the hotel at least until the case is heard on appeal in May or if the City and the men’s lawyers reach a settlement before then.

How Big Cardboard is handling the 2020 box boom
By Hannah Denham, Washington Post, Dec. 30, 2020

Webcam Feeds of New York City Draw Viewers Trapped in Lockdown
By Anne Kadet, Wall Street Journal,  Dec. 29, 2020

How it started: A Q&A with Helen Branswell, one year after Covid-19 became a full-time job
By Jason Ukman, statnews.com, Jan. 4, 2021

ANNOUNCEMENTS

Registration closes next Friday (1/15) for the Specialized High Schools Admissions Test. Register here. Testing begins Wednesday, 1/27.

Complete the NYC Food Scraps Survey about your food scraps disposal habits, from the Manhattan Solid Waste Advisory Board. The survey results will help improve the availability of organics collection.

Free online ESL classes for all levels are available through Inwood Community Services. Classes begin the week of Monday, 1/25. Email aliciag@inwoodcs.org or call 212-942-0043, ext. 128 to enroll.

Apply by February for the MAP Youth Leadership Council. A paid, nine-month program for 16-21-year-olds living in MAP NYCHA developments, the Council empowers youth to achieve their social justice and community goals. Manhattan NYCHA developments affiliated with MAP (Mayor’s Action Plan for Neighborhood Safety) are Polo Grounds, Saint Nicholas, and Wagner. Apply here.

New Yorkers who tested positive for and recovered from COVID can donate convalescent plasma— used for lifesaving treatment– at Mount Sinai. Fill out this eligibility questionnaire.

The Museum of the City of New York’s new exhibit, “New York Responds: The First Six Months,” crowdsourced objects and artwork documenting the city’s response to the dual crises of the pandemic and structural racism from March-September 2020. Timed-entry tickets are available here.

EVENTS

Tomorrow (1/8) at 9 am, the Greenwich Village Chelsea Chamber of Commerce is hosting a webinar about the Paycheck Protection Program, “More PPP: 2nd Round Applications and 1st Round Forgiveness Updates.” Register here.

Tomorrow (1/8) at 12:30 pm, “19th-Century Petkeeping” is the topic for the virtual Lunchtime Lecture with the Mount Vernon Hotel Museum & Garden. Click the title to access the Zoom.

Tomorrow (1/8) at 1 pm, owners of properties that are 5,000-25,000 sq feet are invited to a “Retrofit Ready” webinar about how to access up to $40,000 in loans for eligible pre-construction expenses, like asbestos mitigation and architectural drawings, hosted by the Mayor’s Office of Sustainability. Click the title to register.

Next Thursday (1/14) at noon, the “Retrofit Ready” series features a webinar for owners and staff of HDFC coops smaller than 25,000 sq feet about free legal help on matters like tax exemption applications and loan closings. Click the title to register.

Tomorrow (1/8) from 2-6 pm, free winter coats are available at Exodus Transitional Community (2268 3rd Ave., btwn 123rd and 124th Sts.).

Tomorrow (1/8) at 7 pm, PA’LANTE Harlem hosts a webinar about housing protections during the pandemic, “AGAIN: The Eviction Moratorium Has Been Extended & the Rent Relief Grant Application Too.” Click the title to register.

Say “fir-well” to your Christmas tree and get free mulch during NYC Parks’ annual “Mulchfest.” Click the title to find tree drop-off sites, open through Saturday (1/9). The Dept. of Sanitation will also take Christmas trees during regular curbside pick-up through next Friday (1/15).

Tuesdays from 10 am – 4 pm, free COVID testing is available in the community room of Dr. Muriel Petioni Plaza (203 W. 146th St.), sponsored by Harlem Congregation for Community Improvements.

Tuesday (1/12) at noon, Upper West Side MS 258 Community Action School hosts a virtual open house for the upcoming school year. Join via Google Meet or by phone (475-999-4606, PIN: 412 421 913#).

Tuesday (1/12) at 2 pm, “Set Your Business Up for Success in 2021” is a free small business webinar hosted by the Manhattan Chamber of Commerce. It features advice on taking advantage of the new federal stimulus package, the latest consumer behaviors, and free resources for online marketing. Click the title to register.

Tuesday (1/12) at 6 pm, I’m co-sponsoring a town hall on the Open Restaurants and Open Streets programs with Community Boards 3 and 6. Click here to access the Zoom. (CB3 covers the Lower East Side and Chinatown, CB6 covers East Midtown.)

Wednesday (1/13) at noon, virtual workshop “Community-Based Participatory Research: How it can help our community” explores a powerful framework to improve community health, hosted by the CUNY Graduate School of Public Health’s Harlem Health Initiative. Click the title to register.

Wednesday (1/13) at 6 pm, “The NYS Emergency Eviction Prevention Act & Breaking Down the Basics of Holdovers” is the topic of Council Member Helen Rosenthal’s monthly housing clinic. Click the title to register for the Zoom.

Next Thursday (1/14) at 4 pm, participate in a COVID-19 vaccine town hall, hosted by State Senator Liz Krueger and NYC Dept. of Health and Mental Hygiene Commissioner Dr. Dave Chokshi. Register here.

Moving for Life offers daily online dance and movement classes for older adults and people affected by cancer. See the schedule here.

Save the date for Thursday, 1/21 at 8:30 am for the Manhattan Borough Board. In response to the Governor’s order for police reform proposals by April, the Mayor’s office will present its preliminary plan and solicit recommendations. I recently published a “Police Reform Toolkit” to aid in these efforts (click the link to read the toolkit). Register to watch the meeting here.

Stay Safe.