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COVID Newsletters

Weekly COVID newsletter (10/29)


It’s Thursday, October 29, 2020.

Welcome to the weekly edition of my COVID newsletter. At press time, nonprofit news site’s COVID-19 tracker showed the following:

  • Manhattan has 36,076 confirmed cases and 3,195 deaths (827 more cases and 3 more deaths since last week).

  • The city as a whole has 260,547 cases and 23,980 deaths (4,501 more cases and 31 more deaths since last week).

Experts say seven-day averages are a more reliable indicator:

In some relatively good news, New York State reports the second-lowest positivity rate nationwide, 1.39%, according to Johns Hopkins University, but it’s clear that the “third wave” has begun.

Cases, hospitalizations and subsequent deaths in the U.S. are again growing at about the same rate as when infections were exploding in New York City in late March. But now the hotspots are broadly dispersed across the southern, midwestern and western parts of the country.

Dr. Anthony Fauci yesterday called for a nationwide mask mandate (video; about 4 minutes in), because, well, “look at the consequences of what happens when we don’t.” (He also advises carefully considering the risks of small gatherings during the upcoming holidays, about 11 minutes in.)

For those who still believe younger people cannot catch COVID, this pre-publication report, which compares fatalities between March 1, 2020 and July 31, 2020 with the same period in 2018, shows there have been approximately 2,800 excess deaths in young adults aged 25-44 during the five-month 2020 period.  In areas with high COVID transmission, that makes it the leading cause of death in this age group– surpassing lives lost in the 2018 opioid epidemic. Here is the pre-print.


No student should still be without a functioning remote learning device, yet eight months into the pandemic, all too many students don’t have them. So today (10/29), I introduced a bill with Council Members Ben Kallos, Farah Louis, Mark Treyger, Stephen Levin, Public Advocate Jumaane Williams and Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams that would require the Dept. of Education to be more transparent about the total number, cost and distribution of remote learning devices (Int 2138-2020). My office is working to redirect capital funding we had already granted to help schools purchase needed devices.

This past Monday (10/26), I testified before the NYC Council’s Committee on Environmental Protection in support of a bill (Int 1966-2020) that would codify the pilot program the Dept. of Environmental Protection is running, which tests the city’s wastewater treatment plants for COVID RNA (the cellular basis that carries COVID). Read my testimony here. Boston, which began testing for RNA in the spring, has recorded spiking levels of the virus in the area’s sewage. See a striking chart from the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority here.

In response to the Governor’s request for plans on police reform, the City of New York, NYPD, Urban League, Federation of Protestant Welfare Agencies and Robin Hood Foundation have begun a Reform and Reinvention Collaborative listening tour. The last session in Manhattan is tonight (10/29) at 7 pm, and I’ll be co-moderating. (click the date to register). The NYPD is also conducting a feedback survey. These are opportunities to let your opinions about the NYPD be known.


Early voting hours have been extended this weekend:

  • Friday, 10/30: 7 am – 5 pm
  • Saturday, 10/31: 7 am – 5 pm
  • Sunday, 11/1: 7 am – 4 pm

For those seniors or physically-challenged voters going to early voting sites, the Board of Elections is offering assistance. Look for signage about a separate line, or go to the head of the line and speak to a poll worker.

If you’re just dropping off your ballot, don’t wait in line. Go to the front of the line and drop your ballot in the drop box.

Ride-hailing companies and some community groups are offering free or discounted rides to the polls for early voting or Election Day:

  • Dominicanos USA is offering free rides to poll sites in Harlem, Washington Heights and Inwood. Call 718-665-0400 for more information.

  • Lyft is offering 50% off one ride to an early voting poll site. Use the code NYCVOTES when requesting a ride.

  • Uber will offer 50% off rides to the polls on Election Day– up to $7 per trip.

Find your assigned in-person early voting site and/or Election Day polling place here.

The MTA denied my request to open the subways early on Election Day (since poll workers need to be on site by 5 am, the time the subway opens). Instead, the BOE shared the names, home addresses and polling place assignment with the MTA, which will decide those poll workers who qualify for a free ride from a for-hire vehicle company because they live too far from their Election Day assignment. The MTA is contacting selected poll workers.

Long line at your polling place? Order free pizza for everyone through Pizza to the Polls, an initiative to incentivize voters to stay in line and cast their votes. Delivered outside early voting and Election Day polling places, pies come from New York favorites like Two Boots and Adoro’s.

The City’s new Open Storefronts program will now allow storefront businesses to operate directly outside their store from Friday, 10/30 through Wednesday, 12/31. Read the FAQ for eligibility and operating guidelines, and apply here.

Open Restaurants that use outdoor heating must follow newly released guidance from the Dept. of Buildings and the FDNY for electric, natural gas and propane heaters.

Center for an Urban Future released a report, “Surviving The Winter: Helping NYC’s Small Businesses In The Months Ahead,” with recommendations from city leaders and experts on how the City can help small businesses through the colder months.

There’s only one more chance to opt in to blended learning this school year, despite past assurances from the Dept. of Education and the Mayor. Complete the learning preference survey this Monday, 11/2 through Sunday, 11/15 to select a mix of in-person and remote learning.

In more DOE news, no students will receive failing grades this year, and attendance will not count. Read the DOE’s letter to families about 2020-21 grading and attendance policies.

The DOE’s new “School Re-opening 2020-2021 Family Guide” has information about teaching and learning during this school year.

The federal government extended P-EBT food stamp benefits through September 2021 to help families cover the cost of meals that are normally served at school. Families will receive the P-EBT card for this school year in January at the earliest.

Older adults needing help organizing and paying their bills can enroll in the NYC Dept. for the Aging’s Bill Payer Program, which sends a representative to help with budgeting and bill management. Contact DFTA’s Aging Connect or call 212-244-6469.

The Port Authority will begin issuing $50 fines to people not wearing a mask at airport terminals, PATH and AirTrain stations and trains, the Midtown bus terminal, the George Washington Bridge bus station and the Oculus.

Gov. Cuomo added California to the self-quarantine list if its residents visit New York State. He also discouraged non-essential travel to and from Massachusetts.

Yesterday’s Wall Street Journal had this chilling story: “U.S. States Face Biggest Cash Crisis Since the Great Depression” (paywall).

In the wake of White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows’ admission declaring the U.S. is “not going to control” the virus, former Planned Parenthood chief Dr. Leana Wen wrote this op-ed in the Washington Post: “We finally know the Trump administration’s pandemic strategy: Surrender.”

The NY Times explored “How Long Can N.Y.C. Museums Survive at 25 Percent Capacity?” earlier this week.

Grub Street covered how a “Court’s Food-Stamp Ruling Is a Loss for Trump, a Win for Human Decency,” after NYS Attorney General Letitia James successfully sued to keep 700,000 unemployed Americans on SNAP.

A year ago, the Washington Post published “None of these 195 countries — the U.S. included — is fully prepared for a pandemic, report says,” and it’s remarkably prescient.


Celebrate Halloween (Saturday, 10/31) throughout the borough:

Apply by this Saturday (10/31) to be featured in the virtual Gramercy Art Show, which will run November 15 through February 15, 2021.

To benefit Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, Madison Ave. shops can register by Tuesday, 11/10 to participate in the 34th Annual Miracle on Madison Avenue on Saturday, 12/5.

Concrete Safaris is hosting a canned food drive through 11/25. Drop off cans at 158 E. 115th St., suite 144, Mon – Fri, 10 am – 5 pm.

Organizations (non-profit and for-profit) in West Harlem with budgets less than $500,000 per year can apply by Friday, 11/13 for a $60,000 grant and ongoing technical assistance from the Osborne Association Capacity Building Incubator.

New York State Health Foundation has released a Request for Proposals for projects that seek to advance racial health equity by engaging patients as partners. Complete the online inquiry form by Tuesday, 12/8.

Businesses that need free legal or financial advice can apply to the NYC Small Business Resource Network, Start Small Think Big’s Rapid Response Program, the Small Business Legal Relief Alliance, the Neighborhood Entrepreneur Law Project COVID-19 Small Business Legal Clinic or the NYC Dept. of Small Business Services’ Commercial Lease Assistance Program.

Cultural philanthropy organization Creative Capital published a list of artist grants and residencies with November and December deadlines.

High schoolers interested in a job with High Line Teens should email to be alerted to the forthcoming application.

Congratulations to the Manhattan winners of the City’s 38th Annual Awards For Excellence In Design: Toward A Sustainable NYC. The Dept. of Parks won for its Inwood Monsignor Kett Playground reconstruction, which incorporated flood resilient materials, and the Dept. of Environmental Protection won for its rehabilitation of the Wards Island Wastewater Resource Recovery Facility.

Bike New York opened a new education center in Riverside Park (at 158th St.). Sign up for free adult and youth cycling classes throughout Manhattan.

Several New York theater companies have produced a virtual, multi-language reading of “It Can’t Happen Here,” based on the Sinclair Lewis novel about the rise of fascism in America. Watch it here through Sunday (11/1).

The Morris-Jumel Mansion’s new installation, “CoVIDA – Homage to Victims of the Pandemic,” is on view Monday, 11/2 through Thursday, 12/31. Submit a name to be included in the memorial here.

Lincoln Center’s new visual poetry tribute to civil rights legends John Lewis and C.T. Vivian, “Baptism (of The Sharecropper’s Son & The Boy From Boonville),” can be viewed for free here.



Tonight (10/29) at 6 pm, I’m on the panel for the Community School District 4 (covering East Harlem) “Community Forum on School Reopening.” Join by Microsoft Teams (ID 157 027 372#) or phone (347-966-4114).

Tonight (10/29) at 6 pm, the NYC Dept. of Education, ImmSchools and Access NYC host a virtual “Immigrant Family Forum” to explain resources for immigrant students and families. The forum will be translated into Mandarin and Haitian Creole. Click the title to register.

Tonight (10/29) at 6 pm, the Coordinated Children’s Services Initiative hosts “Know Your Rights!” to teach youth under 30 about their rights in police encounters and what to do in the event of police misconduct. Register here.

Tonight (10/29) at 6 pm, Assemblymember Al Taylor hosts a “Domestic Violence Forum and Panel Discussion with the Manhattan DA’s office.” Click the title to register.

Tonight (10/29) at 6:30 pm, the Dept. of Parks hosts a virtual community input meeting about installing a synthetic turf lawn in Washington Heights’ Bennett Park, which I am helping fund. Register here.

Tonight (10/29) at 7 pm, Cornell University’s Institute of Politics and Global Affairs hosts “Return to the Classroom: Democracy in America,” a webinar about voting issues past and present. Register here.

Tonight (10/29) at 7 pm, Mark DeGarmo Dance hosts “Virtual International Arts Festival for Social Change.” Click the title to register.

Now through Friday (10/3o) is Taste of Times Square Week.

Now through Saturday (10/31) is Harlem Restaurant Week.

Now through Saturday (10/31), the FDNY is distributing fire safety materials throughout Manhattan– see locations here. All the Borough Presidents are featured in this FDNY PSA reminding you to change your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors’ batteries this weekend when daylight saving time ends.

Tomorrow (10/30) at 11 am, Cornell University’s online platform, eCornell, hosts a webinar, “What the Election Might Mean for Business.” Click the title to register.

Monday (11/2) at 11 am, eCornell hosts “Leadership Through Storytelling: How to Leverage Authenticity and Amplify Your Impact.” Click the title to register.

Tomorrow (10/30) at noon, Community Board 8 (covering the Upper East Side and Roosevelt Island) hosts a voter education event at the Stanley Isaacs Neighborhood Center (415 E. 93rd St.).

Tomorrow (10/30) at 1 pm, the Supportive Housing Network NY hosts “Harm Reduction & COVID-19,” a panel about harm reduction in supportive housing during the pandemic. Click the title to register.

Sunday (11/1) from 11 am – 6:30 pm, the Mayor’s Action Plan for Neighborhood Safety hosts “Human Resources Administration One Shot Deal” to assist with applications for benefits like rental assistance and SNAP (NYCHA Polo Grounds Towers, Frederick Douglass Blvd./155th St., btwn buildings 2971 and 2937). Click the title for more information and to register.

Sunday (11/1) from noon – 3 pm, the US Tennis Association Eastern and the Tennis Family Group host free tennis lessons for all ages and skill levels at the Pleasant Ave. Open Street (btwn E. 118th and 120th Sts.). Rackets will be provided.

Sunday (11/1) from noon – 5 pm, Project NYC and the West 13th Street Alliance host “Community Clean-up/Tulip-Planting Day.” Meet at 200 W. 13th St.

Sunday (11/1) at 1 pm, the Sugar Hill Children’s Museum and Broadway Housing Communities host “Therese Tells…String Stories!,” featuring Cherokee and Ghanaian stories on Zoom. Click the title to register.

Monday (11/2) at 10 am, Judson Memorial Church’s Bricks and Mortals and the New York State Council of Churches host “Sharing your Sacred Spaces Now and Post-Covid,” a panel about how faith-based institutions can provide space for the arts and artists, support community action and make plans to reopen. Register here.

Next Thursday (11/5) at 1 pm, the NYC Dept. for the Aging hosts “Chat with the Expert: Financial Roadmap to Wellness” on Zoom. Click the title to register.

Next Thursday (11/5) at 6 pm, youth advocacy organization NYC Youth Civics Initiative hosts a kickoff event, featuring a panel of youth activists and opportunities for students and organizations to get involved with NYCYCI. Register here.

Stay Safe.