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COVID Newsletters

Weekly COVID newsletter (11/12)


It’s Thursday, November 12, 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 39,006 confirmed cases and 3,200 deaths (2,026 more cases and no deaths since last week). The city as a whole has 276,976 cases and 24,099 deaths (11,378 more cases and 78 more deaths since last week).

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

  • Manhattan’s seven-day positivity average as reported by the New York State COVID testing dashboard is 1.5%, up from the .9% reported in our last edition.

  • The seven-day citywide positivity average as reported by the NYC Dept. of Health is 2.4%, up by half from the 1.6% reported in our last edition.

  • The seven-day moving average-per-thousand for cases in the city as reported by the NYC Dept. of Health is 833, more than double the 367 reported in our last edition.

This data reflects a nationwide surge. The Washington Post put it this way, “The number of new daily coronavirus cases in the United States jumped from 104,000 a week earlier to more than 145,000 on Wednesday, an all-time high. Nearly every metric is trending in the wrong direction, prompting states to add new restrictions and hospitals to prepare for a potentially dark future.”

More Americans are now in the hospital with COVID-19 than at any point during the pandemic. This week saw the worst day of the pandemic since May.

Gov. Cuomo has announced new COVID restrictions starting tomorrow (11/13) to help meet the spike of infections (again, a positivity rate of 2.9% statewide and 1.9% for Manhattan on Tuesday, 11/10). There are 1,548 people hospitalized statewide, the highest since June 15. The new restrictions include:

  • Bars and restaurants with liquor licenses must close by 10 pm

  • Indoor residential gatherings/house parties will be limited to 10 people

  • Gyms will close at 10 pm

  • Staten Island will become a Yellow Zone, with public gatherings limited to 25 people and houses of worship to 50% capacity. Schools and businesses will remain open, however.

With cases surging and holidays approaching, New Yorkers are strongly encouraged to follow the precautions outlined in the Dept. of Health’s holiday guide, including hosting virtual gatherings, celebrating outdoors, and not traveling– or quarantining and getting tested if travel is unavoidable. These echo the CDC’s holiday guidelines, updated yesterday (11/11). (This week the CDC also published updated evidence that masks can protect the wearer as well others from the spread of the coronavirus, and endorsed “universal masking policies.”)

Kansas counties that enforced a mask mandate had a 50% reduction in the spread of COVID cases compared to those counties that opted out of mask requirements, according to a study by the University of Kansas Institute for Policy and Social Research. An unintentional A/B test has been running since July, when Kansas Governor Laura Kelly issued a mask mandate. Under Kansas law, counties are allowed to opt out of such regulations, and about 80 counties did; while about two dozen actually enforced mask mandates. Researchers thus were able to compare similar populations with different mask practices. The graph at about the 2:15 mark of this six-minute video or page 4 of this pdf from Kansas University researchers strikingly tells the story. While this isn’t a randomized trial, it may be the best evidence yet of the efficacy of masks.


Manhattan’s worst ZIP code is 10040 in Upper Manhattan, with a positivity rate of 4.38%, so my interns and I visited the neighborhood’s playgrounds and farmers market to hand out masks and sanitizer last weekend.

I joined a call today (11/12), convened by Assemblymember Al Taylor and State Senator Brian Benjamin, with elected officials and community board representatives to discuss adding more testing sites and distributing more PPE in Upper Manhattan.

But there are free rapid COVID tests available at Advantage Care Physician locations in Harlem and in Washington Heights. Make an appointment by calling 866-749-2660 (walk-ins aren’t accepted). Click the above links for location addresses and hours.

Did you know you can quarantine for free at a hotel if you can’t self-isolate at home after testing positive or becoming sick? Call 212-COVID-19 (212-268-4319), and select option 4 to find out more.

The Monday before Thanksgiving, 11/23, at 6 pm, my office is cosponsoring a virtual Tenants Resource Fair with the Dept. of Housing Preservation and Development, tenant organizations and local elected officials. Learn about tenant protections during the COVID-19 pandemic, including ongoing protections for seniors, veterans, people with disabilities and those in rent-regulated apartments. Also learn more about the City’s affordable housing lotteries using the “Housing Connect” portal. Use this link to register for the Zoom meeting (download the Zoom application for Windows, MacOS, Android or iOS here).

Congratulations to Publicolor, its students and abstract artist Carmen Herrera on the newly unveiled “Uno, Dos, Tres” mural, painted by 10 students on an FDR Drive-facing wall of East Harlem’s JHS 99. 

Herrera, who turned 105 last May, emigrated from Cuba to New York in the mid 1950s. She was not widely recognized until the early 2000s; she had a solo exhibition at the Whitney in 2016. 

Publicolor’s Community Museum re-engages low-performing students through public art projects with world-renowned artists.

President-elect Biden’s COVID Task Force has rightfully gotten a lot of coverage, but he has also appointed “Agency Review Teams” to help manage his transition process; view the list of appointees here (including NYC Dept. of Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg and Dept. of City Planning Chair Marisa Lago).


See how your neighbors voted in the general election with Gothamist’s new maps showing presidential tallies by assembly district.

Here’s an update on P-EBT from last week: Keep your child’s P-EBT 2020 card because the P-EBT benefits that were extended through September 2021 will be added to that card. P-EBT helps families cover the cost of meals that are normally served at school. Younger children who might have received meals at daycare centers that are closed or operating on reduced hours will receive P-EBT cards, too, so look for an envelope with a card in it in the coming months (it’s not junk mail from a credit card company!).

Free Grab & Go meals are available at 259 schools– see this map of sites. Students and their families can pick up meals during the school day, and the general public is welcome from 3 – 5 pm.

The GetFoodNYC Emergency Food Delivery program provides meals to homebound New Yorkers and will continue to be managed by the NYC Dept. of Sanitation. To enroll, call 311 and mention “Get Food,” or visit, and click on “NYC Food Delivery Assistance.” Seniors who haven’t received meal deliveries or experienced other issues with the Emergency Food Delivery program should email

The Regents exams scheduled for January have been canceled, though students still must pass the related course. The NYS Education Dept. has not made a decision about the June 2021 Regents yet.

New Yorkers can now more easily cancel their gym memberships and other subscription services after Gov. Cuomo signed into law a consumer protection bill sponsored by State Senator Brad Hoylman. It bans convoluted automatic renewals and ensures remote cancellation options.


Nominations are open through Monday (11/16) for the 2020 Harlem Housing Development Fund Corporation Co-op Awards, celebrating those making a difference in Community Boards 9, 10, 11 and 12 (covering Upper Manhattan). This year’s awards are for President, Treasurer, Secretary, Board Member of the Year, Building of the Year and the Paved the Way Award (previous board member). Nominate candidates here or by emailing with the subject line HDFC Awards. Save the date for the Wednesday, 12/9 awards ceremony.

Reminder: Public school parents have until this Sunday (11/15) to opt their child into blended learning this year. Complete the learning preference survey to select a mix of in-person and remote learning.

Open enrollment for health insurance through the Affordable Care Act Marketplace ends Tuesday, 12/15. Sign up through (or for Spanish)– having health insurance is more important than ever. Coverage begins Friday, 1/1/2021.

The Landmarks Preservation Commission will now hear the application for 250 Water St. on Tuesday, 1/5, allowing further review by Community Board 1 (covering Battery Park City, Financial District, Seaport/Civic Center, Tribeca, and Ellis, Governor’s and Liberty Islands).

NYC & Company’s “All In NYC: Neighborhood Getaways” offer more than 250 ways for locals to save when they visit New York cultural institutions, restaurants, hotels, museums and tours across the city. Included in the initiative is an offer from MasterCard that offers $10 back on every $20 spent on the experiences for up to $100 in statement credits per cardholder (while supplies last).

Seniors can get free remote counseling on selecting a Medicare Advantage or Part D plan from Lenox Hill Neighborhood House’s Legal Advocacy Department. Monday, 12/7 is the last day to change Medicare Advantage or Part D plans.

A new book, written by longtime friend of the office Betsy Bober Polivy, profiles businesses from 1st – 155th Sts. (Manhattan’s original street grid),“Walking Manhattan Sideways – Side Street Businesses That Have Stood the Test of Time.”

If you or someone you know needs groceries for the holidays, sign up for the New York Academy of Medicine’s East Harlem holiday food distribution.

Through next Wednesday (11/18) from noon – 4 pm, donate shelf-stable food to benefit Midtown women’s shelter Crossroads Community Services, sponsored by the Second Stage Theater. Drop off food at the Tony Kiser Theater, 305 W. 43rd St.

Volunteer on Thanksgiving Eve (11/25), 4:30 – 6:30 pm to rescue excess food from the Union Square Greenmarket, which will benefit food-insecure New Yorkers, cosponsored by City Harvest and Gramercy Neighborhood Associates. Email by Wednesday (11/18) to sign up.

The West Side Campaign Against Hunger has begun its annual Turkey Challenge, seeking donations to buy turkeys for families in need this Thanksgiving.

The Section 8 waiting list is now open for Lakeview Apartments at 4 E. 107th St. Download an application, due Wednesday, 12/16.

Nominate your favorite teacher or counselor for the NYC Dept. of Education Big Apple Award, which recognizes inspirational educators. Nominations close 1/10/2021.

Certified minority, women and local business enterprises can apply to work on construction of the 100 Claremont Avenue project in Morningside Heights. Submit the pre-bid questionnaire by Monday, 11/30.

The 181st St. Station’s elevators will be closed and undergoing replacement from Saturday, 12/5 through December 2021. Affected customers can take the M3 bus, though northbound M3 buses won’t stop at 181st St., so riders should use the 179th or 184th St. stops.

Immigrants Mean Business: An Enduring History of Entrepreneurship” is the Tenement Museum’s new virtual exhibit, in partnership with the NYC Dept. of Small Business Services.

Religious facilities can share their space with dancers looking for rehearsal space, a project of Partners for Sacred Places. NYC Dance in Sacred Places can be a mutually beneficial opportunity for artists struggling to find affordable studios and sacred places seeking to share space with the community.

Lighthouse Guild’s virtual book club for individuals with vision loss is accepting new members. The next meeting is Wednesday, 12/2. Register here.



Saturday (11/14) at 10 am, the Broadway Mall Association hosts its final community clean-up, focusing on 73rd – 90th Sts. Meet at Verdi Square (73rd St. and Broadway). Email to register.

Saturday (11/14) from 10 am – 2 pm, shred up to three boxes of documents on W. 43rd St. between 9th and 10th Aves. at Council Speaker Corey Johnson’s “Shred Day,” which I’m cosponsoring.

Sunday (11/15) at 5 pm, a free monthly community takeaway meal is available at Amsterdam and 105th St., courtesy of Mandala Cafe and Kehilat Romemu. Save the date for next month’s meal, Sunday, 12/13.

Sunday (11/15) at 7:30 pm, watch “Underscored” by Ephrat Asherie Dance, a new dance work celebrating club life as part of the Guggenheim’s Works and Process series. Watch on Facebook, Instagram and YouTube.

Monday (11/16) at 1 pm, Harlem residents can pick up a bag of food from the Pillars and NYPD 28th Precinct fall food drive (28th Precinct, 2271-89 Frederick Douglass Blvd.).

Monday (11/16) at 4 pm, Weill Cornell Medicine and Cornell Tech host “What Does it Mean to Age Successfully: Myths & Realities.” Click the title to register for the Zoom.

Monday (11/16) at 5 pm, I’m hosting a virtual VIP lounge to kick-off Harlem Holiday Lights 2020— bring your cocktails and jingle bells. Throughout the week, join virtual activities for the whole family, including karaoke and the Caravan of Lights. The Harlem Holiday Lights will be up through New Year’s Eve, thanks to the 125th St. Business Improvement District and Community Boards 9 and 10.

Monday (11/16) at 5 pm, middle school English language learners are invited to the career and technical education virtual high school fair session “Multilingual Monday: A Collaboration with the Division of Multilingual Learners.” Register here.

Monday (11/16) thorough Wednesday (11/18) at 6 pm, the Meyer Cancer Center hosts virtual lung health panels in English, Spanish and Chinese, in honor of Lung Cancer Awareness Month. Register here.

Tuesday (11/17) at 9:30 am, “The Impact of COVID-19 on Restaurants” explores how restaurants are faring and their future, hosted by the Hunter College NYC Food Policy Center & Food Tank. Click the title to register.

Wednesday (11/18) at 11 am, veterans can learn “How to Respond to Summonses from NYC Enforcement Agencies,” a virtual symposium that I’m cosponsoring with the other Borough Presidents and the Office of Administrative Trials and Hearings. Register here.

Next Thursday (11/19) at 8:30 am, join the Manhattan Borough Board’s monthly charter-mandated convening of the Borough President and all of Manhattan’s Council Members and Community Board Chairs. Register here.

Next Thursday (11/19) from 10 am – noon, Council Member Bill Perkins will set up a hand sanitizer refill station (bring your own bottle) and distribute PPE at the Harlem State Office Building (163 W. 125th St.).

Next Thursday (11/19) at 5 pm, the National Association of Women Artists hosts a virtual opening reception for its new members exhibition.

Next Thursday (11/19) at 6 pm, parents and students in Community School District 5 (covering Central Harlem) are invited to a virtual hearing about the St. HOPE Leadership Academy Charter School’s requested charter term extension, hosted by the NYC Dept. of Education. Click here to register to watch and comment.

Next Thursday (11/19) at 6 pm, “Embodying Sanctuary: Faith, Activism, and Creativity at Judson Memorial Church” discusses the meaning and call of sanctuary, presented by Village Preservation. Register for the Zoom here.

Next Thursday (11/19) at 6pm, SAGEVets explores the military’s history of purging queer service members and the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy. Register for the virtual event here.

Next Thursday (11/19) at 7 pm, eCornell hosts “Racism in America: Education and Housing,” a discussion moderated by Atlantic writer Adam Harris. Click the title to register.