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COVID Newsletters

Weekly COVID newsletter (12/21)


The winter solstice occurred at 5:02 am today (12/21). Daylight hours will begin to lengthen, minute by minute, until the summer solstice in June.

But the statistics on the pandemic are only getting darker.

Great Britain has fallen to a particularly contagious strain of the virus, and their Prime Minister has imposed a strict lockdown; other EU countries have restricted flights from Great Britain. (Gov. Cuomo announced that British Airways and Delta Airlines will now require passengers test negative for COVID before boarding a flight from the UK to New York.)

Manhattan has had 56,159 cumulative confirmed cases and 3,268 deaths (that’s 2,287 more cases and 13 more deaths since last Thursday). The city as a whole has had 380,473 total cases and 24,697 total deaths (which is 14,715 more cases and 119 more deaths since last Thursday), 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 2.7%, down from the 2.8% reported in our last edition.

  • The seven-day citywide positivity average as reported by the NYC Dept. of Health is 6.05%, up from the 6% reported in our last edition.

The University of Washington Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation’s weekly “reference scenario” represents what they think is most likely to happen based on their current analysis of all the testing, hospitalization, death, vaccination, and other data trends (we shared the last version of the reference scenario in last Thursday’s edition). This week’s reference scenario estimates 262,000 additional deaths nationwide from December 14, 2020 to April 1, 2021, for a cumulative total of 562,000 deaths since the beginning of the pandemic. (The reference scenario assumes that 46 states will re-impose mandates by April 1, 2021.) They estimate that if 95% universal mask compliance were attained in the next week, 55,000 fewer cumulative deaths would occur by April 1, 2021; if mandates were eased, their model projects approximately 150,000 more deaths by then.

Gov. Cuomo has reopened COVID Rent Relief applications through Monday, 2/1/2021 to provide a one-time subsidy paid directly to landlords. Because most of the program’s $100 million in funding wasn’t disbursed in the fall, eligibility has been broadened to help more New Yorkers. Those who previously applied and were denied will be automatically reconsidered for this next round– they won’t have to reapply. Newly eligible renters or those who never applied can apply here. To qualify, tenants must have:

  • Had reduced income in the four months of April, May, June, or July 2020 (compared to March);

  • Had a household income at or below 80% of the Area Median Income before 3/7/2020; and

  • Paid more than 30% of their gross income in rent from April through July.

Those criteria applied to New York County (i.e. Manhattan) translates to a maximum income of $63,700 for a single-person’s household paying over $1,592 in monthly rent; or $90,950 max for a four-person household paying $2,273 a month; view other household sizes’ income caps here.

My staff can help with your application– gather your income and rent documentation since March and leave a voicemail at 212-531-1609.

The City’s Dept. of Education made significant changes to middle and high school admissions last week, but TODAY (12/21) they also have finally opened Specialized High School Admissions Test registration (open through 1/15):

  • The test will be administered at students’ home schools the week of 1/27.

  • The Discovery program, for students scoring just below cut-off scores, will reserve 20% of seats at each specialized high school for Discovery program participants (learn more here, under the Specialized High Schools tab).

  • The DREAM program (for 7th grade SHSAT prep) will be held virtually.

Non-specialized high school applications open on 1/18 (until 2/22). “Screens” for state tests and grades from the 2018-2019 school year and first marking period of the 2019-2020 school year will continue. High schools are no longer allowed to prioritize seats by district, and priority by borough will be eliminated beginning in the 2021-2022 school year.

Middle school applications open 1/11 (until 2/8):

  • Screens based on grades, attendance, and state test scores will be paused for this year.

  • Students will rank their top 12 choices and will be placed into a lottery for schools that receive more applicants than there are seats.

  • Middle schools can maintain geographic priority or priority for students of particular needs/demographics.

Meanwhile, planning ahead: I wrote to the Mayor today (12/21) calling on him to begin planning ahead for safe, outdoor graduation ceremonies this June; graduating high school seniors deserve to celebrate their achievement.

I’m pleased to announce two new COVID testing sites in Northern Manhattan, the result of a letter I organized with other uptown elected officials asking health care providers to expand testing options. Both are Ryan Health sites (I’ll be getting tested at one of the sites soon):

Congress is about to approve a $900 billion pandemic relief package:

  • A $600 one-time payment for individuals earning up to $75,000/year (couples earning up to $150,000/year would get $1,200; those with dependent children will receive $600 per child);

  • Enhanced federal unemployment benefits will be partially restored, offering an extra $300 for 11 weeks;

  • Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (for those not covered by traditional unemployment insurance) and Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (which provides aid after state benefits expire) will also be extended for 11 weeks;

  • The federal eviction moratorium was extended through 1/31/2021.

I testified in opposition to the MTA’s proposed fare hikes today (12/21). On Friday (12/18) I also testified in favor of community composting projects on city parkland.

In case you missed it, you can watch last week’s December Borough Board meeting here.

We successfully convinced the City to not transfer COVID patients to NYC Health+Hospital/Coler facility on Roosevelt Island. At Saturday’s (12/19) rally, fellow protesters and I called on the City to not further endanger Coler’s already vulnerable residents, as the City had during the spring’s first wave of cases. Read more here.





I was thrilled to join The Sled at P.S. 76 in Harlem to help distribute gifts to students today (12/21). After sharing information about this wonderful organization in our newsletter and thanks to the generosity of everyone who donated, The Sled was able to provide over 2,000 gifts to schools and shelters throughout the city.

Now, here’s our regular Monday roundup of events:

Tonight (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.

Tonight (12/21) at 6:30 pm, “Our New York Commitment: “That Every Kid Learn to Read – By Third Grade’” is a virtual discussion about childhood literacy with Community Board 8’s Youth, Education, and Libraries Committee. (CB 8 covers the Upper East Side and Roosevelt Island.) Register here.

Tomorrow Tuesday (12/22), hand out masks and COVID testing site information during NYC Test and Trace’s weekly “#GetTestedTuesday.” Volunteer from 10 am – 1 pm at the East Harlem Neighborhood Action Center (158 E. 115th St.) or from 11 am – 1 pm at Chinatown’s Confucius Plaza (Bowery St. and Bayard St.). Register here.

Tomorrow 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.

Tomorrow Tuesday (12/22) at 6 pm, “Homeless in New York Part IV: Evicted” highlights the process and impact of evictions in light of the impending crisis of mass evictions, hosted by Public Advocate Jumaane Williams. Watch on Facebook.

Tomorrow 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.

Tomorrow Tuesday (12/22) at 6:30 pm, Community Board 8 hosts “The Economic Impact of Changing Market Conditions in Housing.” Register for the Zoom 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.

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

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.

Friday (12/25), Goddard Riverside needs volunteers to deliver Christmas meals. Sign up to volunteer here.

Free holiday meals are available throughout the week. See the list of dates and locations compiled by Neighborhood Coalition for Shelter.