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COVID Newsletters

Weekly COVID Newsletter (12/17)


It’s Thursday, December 17, 2020. Welcome to my weekly COVID-19 newsletter.

Manhattan has had 53,872 cumulative confirmed cases and 3,255 deaths (that’s 3,965 more cases and 21 more deaths since last week). The city as a whole has had 365,758 total cases and 24,578 total deaths (which is 24,784 more cases and 167 more deaths since last week), according to nonprofit news site’s COVID-19 tracker.

Those raw numbers don’t really tell the full story; 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 2.8%, up from the 2.5% reported in our last edition.

  • The seven-day citywide positivity average as reported by the NYC Dept. of Health is 6%, up from the 5.32% reported in our last edition.

Columbia University’s National Center for Disaster Preparedness found that if “U.S. officials had undertaken appropriate public health policies, guidance, and leadership at the pace of other high-income nations such as South Korea, Japan, Australia, Germany, Canada, and France” between about 130,000 and 210,000 Americans would still be alive.

The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington aggregates all the predictive models about the future of the pandemic each week. Their most recent “reference scenario”– what they think is most likely to happen as of right now– predicts 221,000 additional deaths from December 7 to April 1, 2021, for a cumulative total of 502,000 total likely COVID deaths.

But IHME’s most compelling prediction is: “If universal mask coverage (95%) were attained in the next week… 56,000 fewer cumulative deaths [would occur] compared to the reference scenario.”

This Monday (12/21) at 6:30 pm, I’m moderating a virtual town hall, “Community Briefing: the COVID-19 Vaccine in NYC,” co-sponsored with Columbia University and Community Boards 7, 9, 10, 11, and 12.  We’ll hear from public health experts about the vaccine rollout and safely achieving herd immunity. Register here.

(Last weekend, I co-sponsored Roosevelt Island’s first-ever testing site, with NYC Test and Trace and the Roosevelt Island Operating Corporation. People were lined up at 8 am Saturday morning, and by the time the weekend was over, more than 300 Islanders had been tested.)


The Nor’easter has come and gone, dropping the largest snowfall since January 2016–remember 2016? ;). In-person public school classes will resume tomorrow (12/18). Alternate side parking is suspended until Saturday (12/19) (as of now). Property owners must shovel their property’s sidewalks.

We published a notice a few weeks ago about working as a snow laborer removing snow and ice for the city Dept. of Sanitation. If you had applied then, you might be working tomorrow. DSNY Acting Commissioner Edward Grayson said in this morning’s briefing that DSNY will start using contractors Friday and Saturday (12/18-19). If you apply now, you’ll be ready to work after the next storm. Pay is up to $22.50 an hour; you must be over age 18 and eligible to work in the U.S. (The Census Bureau is also hiring— looking for employees to take additional surveys. View a field representative job description and application link here.)

In Washington, there is finally progress toward another dose of financial stimulus. At press times today (12/17), House and Senate leaders are rumored to have agreed on roughly $300 per week in enhanced unemployment benefits (about half the benefits paid during the spring); an additional round of direct payments to individuals, probably about $600; extension of the moratorium on evictions (set to expire 12/31) and a new emergency rental assistance program; and additional funding for food assistance, payroll protection for small businesses, and vaccine distribution. According to Politico, “Democrats are also pressing for as much as $17 billion to entertainment venues [the Save Our Stages Act] and for more money for public transit.”

Monday (12/21) at 2 pm, learn about the Paycheck Protection Program application process at a webinar hosted by Congressmember Adriano Espaillat. Watch on Facebook, YouTube, or Zoom (meeting ID 161 242 7453, passcode 131313).

Last week, subscribers to this newsletter went to The Sled website and bought out all the gifts that over 1,300 students (at four public schools and six family shelters in Manhattan) requested for holiday gifts!

That means kindergartner Jared will be able to get a Matchbox garage set, 4th grader Emily will receive her Barbie doll, 2nd grader Aaron will enjoy his Lego Fortress, and middle schooler Irene will enjoy an art drawing set.

This week, we’re wrapping and delivering those gifts in time for Christmas. You can still donate to this 501(c)3 formed by local moms who collected toys for students at P.S. 188 on the Lower East Side and P.S. 76 in Harlem last year.

Watch a great video about this wonderful group and the happiness and joy they have spread in this time of anxiety and need.

Thanks for your support and your big New York generosity.

We can use your help on another front, too:

The fire that devastated the Lower East Side’s Middle Collegiate Church last week also displaced the women living next door in a Women’s Prison Association shelter. Everyone is safe, but the women lost most of their possessions, and WPA is asking for donations to help replace what was lost (I’ve already donated).

Apply now to join your Community Board, the most grassroots form of local government. The Boards are pivotal in shaping their communities and work to enhance and preserve the character of the city’s many unique neighborhoods. Applications close Monday, 2/1.

This Sunday (12/20) at 7 pm and Wednesday (12/23) at 9 pm, the latest edition of my “Represent NYC” show on Manhattan Neighborhood Network airs with interviews with current members Daryl Cochrane, Betty Kubovy-Weiss, Jason Wu, and Betty Kay about their service on Community Boards. Watch on MNN1 (Spectrum 34 and 1995, RCN 82, FiOS 33), MNNHD (Spectrum 1993), or the MNN YouTube channel.

I have long fought for a comprehensive planning process for our city– most recently in testimony before the Charter Revision Commissions in 2018-19.

As I put it then, the Dept. of City Planning “has not prepared a comprehensive city-wide plan since the 1960s. Instead, DCP has adopted an ad hoc approach to neighborhood planning, and proceeded with rezonings where there is local political support. One result of these collaborations is that key decisions about whether or how to rezone a neighborhood for increased density, and who may benefit, are often made without a full, open public process….” (Read my complete testimony here, beginning on page 4.)

So I’m thrilled that Speaker Corey Johnson has taken up the issue and introduced a bill that would mandate creation of a citywide comprehensive plan. As Justin Davidson in New York Magazine’s Curbed put it:

Comprehensive planning might have a better shot than it has before because in a crisis, the human costs of inefficiency become impossible to ignore. The city’s government is a giant squid of bureaucracy whose right tentacles don’t know what the left tentacles are doing. In Downtown Brooklyn, an area theoretically rezoned as a business district produced only residential towers, which swamped (and effectively segregated) the local school. During the Bloomberg years, waterfront areas got residents but no transit, transit-rich areas won promises of no more growth, and developers were forced to build unnecessary and counterproductive parking. Later, de Blasio’s affordable housing push that was supposed to promote equity instead wound up being seen by many residents of low-income neighborhoods as a form of racist colonization. Every large-scale rezoning is treated as a singular event — an opportunity by some, a scam by others—totally disconnected from what’s happening in other parts of the city.

I served as an Electoral College elector in Albany this Monday (12/14) and proudly cast my votes for Joe Biden and Kamala Harris, who received New York State’s 29 electoral votes.




Congratulations to NY Sun Works’ Greenhouse Project, recipients of a Manhattan Community Award Program grant from my office allowing them to grow fresh vegetables for the community. Thanks to them for their generosity in donating 30 pounds of fresh food recently to clients of The West Side Commons, a youth and family organization serving the Upper West Side.


This week, Community Board 2 hosted a student panel on high school admissions and a meeting on Open Restaurants and rule compliance. Click the links to watch the meeting recordings. (CB2 covers Greenwich Village, Little Italy, SoHo, NoHo, Hudson Square, Chinatown, and the Gansevoort Market.)

The FDNY’s winter/holiday fire safety public service announcement shares tips for avoiding fires caused by furnaces, decorations, and cooking.

Useful news and articles from the last week or so:

What to know about getting tested for the coronavirus to travel
By Natalie B. Compton, Washington Post, Dec. 7, 2020

Fauci Explains How to End the COVID Pandemic
By Charles Schmidt, Scientific American, Dec. 14, 2020

Financial Times People of the Year: BioNTech’s Ugur Sahin and Ozlem Tureci
Their German company, BioNTech, partnered with Pfizer to develop the first vaccine approved by the FDA last week, using a fresh scientific approach that was unorthodox– and successful.
By Joe Miller and Clive Cookson, Financial Times, Dec. 16, 2020

Stealing to survive: More Americans are shoplifting food as aid runs out during the pandemic
By Abha Bhattarai and Hannah Denham, Washington Post, Dec. 10, 2020


TechCongress, a technology policy fellowship, is recruiting for its 2021 Congressional Innovation Scholars program, which places technologists to serve as tech policy advisors to Members of Congress. The program pays a stipend equivalent to an annual salary of $60,000 and other benefits. Scholars have been working 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. TechCongress will host an information session Wednesday, 1/27 at 2 pm. Applications close Friday, 2/5.

Applications are now open for the Cultural Arts Capital Loan Fund from the Fund for the City of New York. This loan initiative provides bridge financing to assist small and mid-sized nonprofit cultural arts organizations with their capital project expenses, with a priority to groups that have capital grants from the Borough President, City of New York and Dept. of Cultural Affairs. BIPOC-led organizations are strongly encouraged to apply. Fill out this inquiry form to start an application.

The P.S. 51 PTA has organized a holiday wish list for toys and necessities for its students. The wish list is open through this Monday (12/21).

Free tutoring is available through the Sugar Hill Homework Club of Broadway Housing Communities. Email to register.

Get free homework help from licensed teachers through the United Federation of Teachers by calling 212-777-3380 or visiting the Dial-A-Teacher website, Mondays through Thursdays, 4-7 pm Help is available in Armenian, Bengali, Chinese, English, French, Greek, Haitian-Creole, Hebrew, Korean, Russian, Spanish, and Tagalog.

Lemontree Food Helpline connects New Yorkers to free food resources. Call 888-489-7212 or text “FOOD” to 90847 to speak with a Lemontree agent.

Free financial counseling is available by phone through the NYC Dept. of Consumer and Worker Protection. Book an appointment online or by calling 311.

Applications close this Sunday (12/20) for JP Morgan Chase’s Advancing Black Pathways Fellowship Program, a paid, six-week summer internship for Black college sophomores.

Asian-American and Pacific Islander college students can apply to the AAPI Community Fellowship about mental health, sponsored by local wellness nonprofit Collected. Applications close Friday, 1/8.

Arts organizations can now apply for an ArtTable fellow for summer 2021. ArtTable provides $4,000 stipends for women arts students or emerging professionals to spend up to eight weeks with an arts organization. Host organizations can apply here by Sunday, 1/31.

New radio show “The Harlem Connection” features artists from different eras who helped turn Harlem into a cultural Mecca. New episodes air Fridays 10 pm – midnight on 99.5 FM and online. Past episodes are available here.

Third Street Music School Settlement students recorded a virtual rendition of “Greensleeves” for the holidays.

Acrobatic light installation “Tumbling Brights” is now on display on the 10 Broadway medians between Columbus Circle and 70th St., sponsored by the Lincoln Square Business Improvement District. The lights will be up through February.

Lincoln Center’s nightly winter light installation is on view through New Year’s Eve.

Now through Sunday, 1/3, “A Christmas Carol in Harlem” is available to stream for free through The Classical Theatre of Harlem.


Tonight (12/17) at 6 pm, compete in a virtual “Holiday Trivia Night” with Bloomingdale School of Music. Register here. (Tomorrow Friday (12/18) at 7 pm, BSM holds a virtual holiday concert. Register here.)

Tonight (12/17) at 6 pm, “The Coast of Utopia” playwright Tom Stoppard and director Jack O’Brien reunite with actors Billy Crudup, Jennifer Ehle, Ethan Hawke, and Martha Plimpton for a very special roundtable discussion to talk about their experiences working on LCT’s groundbreaking, landmark production of Stoppard’s trilogy. Visit this link to register.

Tonight (12/17) at 7 pm, “The Power of Women’s Stories” features virtual readings celebrating women who have been written into history in the WomensActivism.NYC archives, hosted by the NYC Dept. of Records and Information Services and Municipal Archives. Click the title to register.

Tomorrow Friday (12/18) at 11 am, the City Council Committees on Parks & Recreation and Sanitation host a joint hearing on community composting. Watch here.

Tomorrow Friday (12/18) at 1 pm, owners of small residential properties (5,000-25,000 sq feet) are invited to a virtual “Retrofit Ready” webinar about how to save on heating, electricity, and water bills, hosted by the Mayor’s Office of Sustainability. Click the title to register.

Tomorrow Friday (12/18) at 5 pm, the Frick Collection celebrates its 85th anniversary with a special edition of “Cocktails with a Curator,” covering the “Bust of Henry Clay Frick” accompanied by an old fashioned. Watch on YouTube.

Tomorrow Friday (12/18) at 7 pm, the Harlem Chamber Players premiere the musical documentary “In Song and Spirit.” Watch on YouTube or Facebook.

Saturday (12/19) from 9 am – 5 pm, I’m hosting the “2020 Harlem Holiday Toy Drive” to benefit children at local hospitals, co-sponsored by five Divine Nine Harlem fraternity chapters and the Uptown Democratic Club. Drop off toys at the Lt. Joseph P. Kennedy Community Center (34 W. 134th St.).

Saturday (12/19) from 3-6 pm is the final East Harlem “Walk Up or Drive By Pop-up Holiday Market” with holiday treats, trees, and wreaths under the tracks at 116th St., hosted by Uptown Grand Central and The Best of Harlem.

Saturday (12/19) at 9 pm, “Farm to Table in Guangdong” explores the Chinese region’s sustainable agriculture, part of the “A Taste of China” series hosted by the China Institute and WildChina. Register for the Zoom here.

Tuesday (12/22) at 11 am, the Center for Civic Design presents its findings from a ranked choice voting education campaign among communities of color and non-native English speakers. Register for the Zoom here.

Tuesday (12/22) at 6 pm, SAGEVets hosts a panel commemorating the 10th anniversary of the repeal of the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell military policy that excluded queer people from the military. Register here.

Wednesday (12/23) at 7:30 pm, Ballet Hispánico hosts a virtual watch party of signature performance “Club Havana.” Watch on YouTube or Facebook.

Stay Safe.