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COVID Newsletters

Weekly COVID newsletter (2/25)

Friends,

It’s Thursday, February 25, 2021. Welcome to my weekly COVID-19 newsletter.

Here are the bullets for NYC according to nonprofit news site TheCity.nyc’s COVID-19 tracker, the New York State COVID testing dashboard, and the NYC Dept. of Health:

Manhattan:

  • 101,955 cumulative confirmed cases (+4,078 from last week)
  • 3,852 cumulative deaths (+68 since last week)
  • 2.8% seven-day positivity average (the same as reported here last week)

NYC:

  • 694,438 total cases (+26,097 from last week)
  • 29,025 total deaths (+532 since last week)
  • 7.12% seven-day positivity average (down from 7.17% last week)

The University of Washington Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation’s weekly “reference scenario” projection is once again down this week– last week’s scenario estimated 614,503 total cumulative deaths; this week’s is 589,197 dead by 6/1, a drop of 25,000 deaths. (If you’re a data geek like me, be sure to read “The 27-Year-Old Who Became a Data Superstar” in the clippings section below.)


COMMENT

On the week we reached 500,000 deaths nationwide due to COVID-19, we are in an odd sort of moment.

On the one hand, New York’s statewide daily positivity rate was 2.85% on Tuesday (2/23)– it hasn’t been that low since late November. Hospitalizations and deaths are dropping from January heights too. Vaccine distribution points are expanding locally.

Vaccine manufacturers are ramping up production and promise that shipments should reach nearly 20 million doses per week in March (up from the 10-to-15 million shipped each week so far). And vaccine advisers at the FDA will meet tomorrow (2/26) to consider approving a third vaccine for emergency use: the single-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine that can be refrigerated at normal temperatures. Data released by the company and the FDA that the advisers will examine shows that the new vaccine had an overall efficacy rate of 72% in the U.S., strongly protecting against severe illness and death from COVID.

On the other hand, caseloads are high and staying high in New York and New Jersey; nationwide, cases are no longer falling; the first and second cases of the more contagious COVID variant first discovered in South Africa were confirmed in Nassau County; and the count of New York State cases of the more contagious B117 variant (which was discovered in England) “soared” to 154. Finally, today’s (2/25) NY Times reports that two new studies– not yet peer-reviewed– show that yet another “new form of the coronavirus is spreading rapidly in New York City, and it carries a worrisome mutation that may weaken the effectiveness of vaccines…”

As NY Times writer David Leonhardt described these trends in his newsletter, “It’s a reminder that the pandemic is far from over. The variants have the potential to cause new outbreaks, especially if unvaccinated people become lax about mask wearing and social distancing.”

So there are reasons for both hope and fear. We have to hang in there for a while longer.  Today, at least, I’m choosing hope.

I was thrilled to hear that the Central Park ice skating rinks will remain open through late March, after the Mayor reversed his decision to close them at the end of February due to the City’s cancellation of the Trump Organization’s operating contracts. I’ve argued that the Central Park Conservancy should be the next operator of Wollman Rink, as they will be for Lasker Rink. It’s a business model that would support the public good over the profit motives of a commercial operator.

This week, my Manhattan Vaccine Task Force heard presentations about how the pandemic might progress in the coming months from Dr. Wafaa El-Sadr of Columbia’s Mailman School of Public Health and as well as immigrants’ experience accessing the vaccine from Max Hadler of the New York Immigration Coalition. We also discussed ways to get the City to start planning NOW to implement their plan to vaccinate homebound adults (and home health aides who serve them). This is a situation, like last fall, when we know vaccine doses are coming, and yet little has been planned, so far as we can tell.

Speaker Corey Johnson has proposed that the City institute a comprehensive zoning plan ​that would improve our current… more piecemeal, ad hoc process. It’s a decent idea that needs to be executed well. I testified this week before the City Council’s Governmental Operations and Land Use Committees about how to enhance the proposal, particularly how to increase public engagement in the process. City Limits magazine covered it here.

I’m pleased to announce my most recent appointee to East Harlem’s Community Education Council 4, Elizabeth Soto-Cardona. A longtime public school parent, two of her kids attend P.S. 171 Patrick Henry Prep in East Harlem and another child attended NYC public schools. Ms. Soto-Cardona is a public health professional and scholar, and her experience provides CEC 4 with a unique perspective as the Dept. of Education and the city recover from the impact of COVID-19.

Remember to check out my newest report, “Steps to a more Age-friendly Manhattan,” which proposes dynamic solutions for addressing the needs of our older adults, researched and written in partnership with The New York Academy of Medicine. The report is part of my office’s Age-friendly Manhattan initiative, covering everything from transportation to housing to community support and health services.

I’m seeking public input on my annual Borough Board Budget Priorities Report– a statutory requirement of the City Charter. By Tuesday, 3/16, please fill out this short survey about what budget issues are important to you– and you can submit additional comments to mbpobudget@gmail.com. Responses to the questionnaire will remain confidential and will be added to my final report to the Mayor, City Council, and Office of Management and Budget.

My good friend Ross Graham passed away from COVID last month, and the NY Times ran a wonderful obituary as part of their “Those We’ve Lost” series. Ross led the successful fight to decriminalize abortion in New York in 1970, and as an active Chelsea resident, she was a pioneer of Hudson River Park. I will dearly miss her.


NEW FACTS/INFO

Businesses and nonprofits with fewer than 20 employees: Apply for a Paycheck Protection Program loan ASAP. These small organizations have an exclusive application window until Wednesday, 3/10, an attempt by the U.S. Small Business Administration to ensure large corporations don’t monopolize PPP funds. Small businesses that received an earlier round of PPP funding are still eligible to apply. Find a Community Development Financial Institution to apply through here, compiled by the NYC Dept. of Small Business Services.

Governor Cuomo’s made three announcements:

“Open Culture” street permit applications open Monday (3/1) at noon for outdoor events. See guidelines and eligible locations— including 10 uptown streets added thanks to my staff and arts groups’ advocacy after the initial list featured no streets above 116th St. (It’s great that artists will have space to work, but they should also be paid for their performances.)

In other arts news, NY PopsUp has begun with pop-up performances throughout the State, part of the Governor’s effort to safely reopen the arts. Find out about upcoming performances on FacebookTwitter, or Instagram.

The storefront vacancy database that I helped create was supposed to go live this week. Due to COVID, the NYC Dept. of Finance extended the deadline for property owners to submit information about vacancies, so the dataset may now reflect the impact of the pandemic on storefronts.

New Yorkers ages 9-24, vote by Friday (2/26) in the first-ever youth-led participatory budget process. Vote on how the City should spend $100,000 across 50 projects, sponsored by the NYC Civic Engagement Commission.

The public comment period closes Wednesday, 3/10 for the proposed Highbridge Park Dyckman Rest reconstruction. Submit input here.

The NYC Dept. of Buildings has launched a seven-week facade and scaffold safety blitz. The DOB says the campaign includes inspections at 1,100 façade work sites across the city, along with direct outreach to construction workers and industry professionals on scaffold safety.

Submit comments about the environmental issues in your neighborhood that are chronically ignored for the City’s new environmental justice community engagement process, sponsored by the NYC Environmental Justice Advisory Board and the Mayor’s Office of Climate Policy and Programs. The survey will serve as the basis for developing a citywide environmental justice plan. Tonight (2/25) at 6 pm is the initiative’s first virtual “Environmental Justice for All Town Hall.” Click the title to register.

This interactive map tracks city election campaign donations by ZIP code and can be filtered by amount, office, candidate, and filing period, sponsored by the NYC Campaign Finance Board and developed by the CUNY Center for Urban Research.

COVID News Clippings

France considers only one vaccine dose for people who had covid
By Rick Noack, Washington Post, Feb. 18, 2021

Opinion: Our students fell way behind this year. It’s time to start talking summer school.
By Catherine Rampell, Washington Post Opinion, Feb. 18, 2021

Why grandparents can’t find vaccines: Scarcity of niche biotech ingredients
Lipid nanoparticles for RNA vaccines were used in small quantities a year ago. Now Pfizer and Moderna can’t get enough.
By Christopher Rowland, Washington Post, Feb. 18, 2021

Some Covid-19 Vaccines Are Effective After One Dose, Can Be Stored in Normal Freezers, Data Show
In a win for global vaccination goals, BioNTech-Pfizer vaccine is shown to generate strong response with one dose and to maintain potency in standard freezers for two weeks
By Jared S. Hopkins and Bojan Pancevski, Wall St. Journal, Feb. 19, 2021

The 27-Year-Old Who Became a Covid-19 Data Superstar
In the contest over who could make the most accurate coronavirus forecast, it was global institutions vs. a guy living with his parents in Santa Clara.
By Ashlee Vance, Bloomberg.com, Feb. 19, 2021

Vaccines Sharply Cut Coronavirus Hospitalization, U.K. Studies Show
The Pfizer-BioNTech and AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccines are both effective, and work against the more contagious virus variant in Britain, researchers found.
By Benjamin Mueller, NY Times, Feb. 22, 2021

Novavax Nears Covid-19 Vaccine Game Changer—After Years of Failure
“Some early data suggest the Novavax shot may be one of the first shown to stem asymptomatic spread of the coronavirus and also potentially provide longer-lasting protection.”
By Gregory Zuckerman and Peter Loftus, Wall Street Journal, Feb. 23, 2021

FDA review confirms safety, efficacy of single-shot Johnson & Johnson coronavirus vaccine, especially against severe cases
By Carolyn Y. Johnson and Laurie McGinley, Washington Post, Feb. 24, 2021


ANNOUNCEMENTS

Upper Manhattan residents 65+ can call 646-838-0319 to get help scheduling a COVID-19 vaccine at the Washington Heights Armory. The English/Spanish hotline is open Monday – Friday, 9 am – 4:45 pm, sponsored by the Northern Manhattan Improvement Corporation.

Homeless individuals and those at risk of homelessness can connect with a social worker who can answer questions, locate resources, and provide service referrals through CHIRP (Community Human Services Information and Referral Program) from the Neighborhood Coalition for Shelter. Call 888-645-8570 Tuesday, 5-7 pm; Wednesday, 3-5 pm; or leave a message.

Virtual K-8 tutoring is available for free through Educove, founded by Stuyvesant High School students. Book a tutor here or apply to become a tutor hereEduMate NYC also offers free, virtual tutoring for K-12 students, delivered by college and graduate students. Book a tutor here or apply to become a tutor here.

Community Board 4 is sponsoring a five-minute survey on sidewalk conditions in Chelsea and Hell’s Kitchen.

Organizations serving high-needs populations can apply for up to 40 free tickets to the New York Aquarium or Bronx Zoo through the Wildlife Conservation Society’s Community Access Program.

Arts and culture organizations, businesses, collectives, and government agencies, take “The Ongoing Impacts of COVID-19: A Survey of Arts and Cultural Organizations and Creative Businesses” from Americans for the Arts. Individual and teaching artists can take this survey, “The Impact of COVID-19 on Artists and Creative Workers.”

Applications close Sunday (2/28) for Northern Manhattan Arts Alliance’s new online exhibition. Women artists living or working in El Barrio, Harlem, Washington Heights, or Inwood are eligible to submit for “In/Out – Light/Dark: Women in the Heights and Art in Our Time.” Apply here.

Applications close Sunday (2/28) for the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council’s Arts Center Residency. Apply here.

Applications for $500 emergency relief microgrants for 200 individual artists and cultural workers will be open Friday (2/26) at 9 am through next Friday (3/5) at 9 pm, sponsored by the Cultural Solidarity Fund. BIPOC, immigrant, undocumented, disabled, and deaf applicants will be prioritized. Apply here.

STRIVE is offering a free, job training– a virtual 12-week IT support specialist program, beginning next Friday (3/5). Participants must be 18-24 and have a high school diploma/GED. To register, join the Zoom info session on Wednesday (3/2) at 2 pm, or contact info@strive.org or 212-360-1100.

People who have already passed three GED subjects can get their GED diploma without taking the TASC (Test Assessing Secondary Completion) exam if they enroll in Living Redemption Youth Opportunity Hub’s online course. Register by emailing info@livingredemption.org.

Nominations close Tuesday (3/2) for the Clara Lemlich Awards, which honor women in their 80s, 90s, and 100s whose activism has made real and lasting change in the world, sponsored by Labor Arts. Submit nominations to info@laborarts.org.

Applications close Friday, 3/15 at 5 pm for virtual summer high school internships with the Manhattan district attorney’s office. Apply here.

Nominations close Friday, 4/2 for the annual Village Awards, which honor the people, places, and organizations that contribute significantly to the quality of life in Greenwich Village, the East Village, and NoHo, sponsored by Village Preservation. Submit a nomination here.

Applications close Friday, 4/23 for the National Academy of Design’s Abbey Mural Prize. Click the link for eligibility and application guidelines.

Nominations close Friday, 4/23 for ArtTable’s board of directors, open to women. Submit a nomination here.

Mark DeGarmo Dance is seeking nominations for its board of directors. Submit a nomination to search@markdegarmodance.org.

Musicians can register to participate in the Associated Chamber Music Players’ virtual “Worldwide Play-in” from 3/20-21. Register here.

Free webinars and virtual classes are available through Presbyterian Senior Services Life University, geared toward family caregivers, those 50+, and pre-retirees.


EVENTS

Tonight (2/25) at 6 pm, I’m co-sponsoring “Stand Up Against Street Harassment,” a virtual forum on how to safely handle harassment in public spaces, with dozens of community groups and elected officials. Click the title to register.

Tonight (2/25) at 6 pm, virtual town hall “To Vaccinate, or not to Vaccinate” discusses COVID vaccine safety and efficacy, featuring health experts from communities of color and members of Community Board 9’s Same Gender Loving/LGBTQ+ Task Force (CB9 covers West Harlem). Click the title to register.

Tonight (2/25) at 6 pm, NYU Langone experts answer questions about the COVID vaccines, in partnership with Madison Square Boys & Girls Club. Register here, or watch on YouTube or Facebook.

Tonight (2/25) at 6:30 pm, I’m co-hosting a virtual SoHo/NoHo Neighborhood Plan “Mixed-Use and the Public Realm Update” with Council Member Margaret Chin and the NYC Dept. of City Planning. DCP and the NYC Depts. of Transportation and Sanitation will discuss land use and zoning, quality-of-life concerns, and the City toolkit for public realm improvements. Click the title to register.

Tonight (2/25) at 6:30 pm, Hunter@Home discusses “The Scaffold Effect: Raising Resilient, Self-Reliant, and Secure Kids in an Age of Anxiety” with author and child psychiatrist Harold S. Koplewicz. Register for the virtual talk here. The next Hunter@Home talk is Tuesday (3/2) at 6 pm, discussing “Opening the Doors of Opportunity: Bridging the Gap Between the Deaf and the Hearing” with actors Nyle DiMarco and Lauren Ridloff. Register here.

Watch the feature film “We are the Endless Roar” about African American cultural practices and traditional African culture in danger of becoming extinct, and then watch a Q&A with the cast. The film is free to screen anytime today through Saturday (2/25-27); the virtual panel is Saturday (2/27) at 4 pm, sponsored by the New York African Chorus Ensemble. Register for film and Q&A access here.

Friday (2/26) at 9 am, webinar “How Not To Go Viral: Preparing New York for the Next Pandemic” is hosted by Empire Center.

Friday (2/26) at 11 am and Wednesday (3/3) at 1 pm, the New York Housing Conference continues its mayoral candidate conversation series. Attendees must be Housing Conference members, so email brendan.cheney@thenyhc.org to join for free and register for the events.

Friday (2/26) at 11 am, Animal Care Centers of NYC hosts a virtual chat with the author and illustrator of young adult graphic novel “Katie the Catsitter.” Register here.

Friday (2/26) at noon, caregivers are invited to discuss “Time Management as a Form of Self-Care” during Lenox Hill Neighborhood House’s next virtual support group session. Email caregiver@lenoxhill.org to register.

Friday (2/26) at 1 pm, “For the Love of Food: Rights and Resources for Older Adults” shares resources about New Yorkers’ right to food access needs, nutritional assistance, and dietary services, hosted by Search and Care. Click the title to register for the Zoom.

Friday (2/26) at 3 pm, “Fridays@3 with Gretchen Sorin” discusses the documentary “Driving While Black: Race, Space, and Mobility in America,” which can be streamed for free here. Click the title to register.

Saturday (2/27) at 11 am, “NYC Mayoral Candidates Forum On Tenants’ Rights” discusses the Rent Guidelines Board, NYCHA, affordable housing production, hosted by Met ActionTenants & Neighbors, and Tenants PAC. Click the title (the first link) to register for the Zoom.

Saturday (2/27) at 1 pm, I’m co-hosting the final virtual conversation about the cemetery for enslaved Africans and Indigenous ceremonial pits located in Inwood at 10th Ave. and 212th St. With Bowery Residents’ Committee and the Dyckman Farmhouse Museum, we’ll consider the future of this historical, cultural heritage site. Register here.

Saturday (2/27) at 4 pm, “A Tribute to Composer Samuel Coleridge-Taylor,” hosted by Harlem Opera Theater, closes the 5th annual Harlem Classical Music Celebration. Click the title to watch.

Saturday (2/27) at 8 pm, a virtual reading of “The Valiant,” a play about a murderer with a secret, screens for free through Metropolitan Playhouse. Click the title to watch.

Monday (3/1) at 1 pm, virtual forum “Ranked Choice Voting: How It Works And What It Means” is presented by Hunter College’s Roosevelt House. Click the title to register.

Tuesday (3/2) at 1 pm, I’m co-hosting “COVID-19 Vaccine Hesitancy in Harlem,” a virtual presentation of the CUNY Graduate School of Public Health and Health Policy’s vaccine hesitancy in Harlem survey. Click the title to register.

Tuesday (3/2) at 7 pm, public advocate candidates participate in a virtual “Greater Harlem Unite: Next Gen Candidates Forum Series,” hosted by the National Council of Negro Women Manhattan Section, the New York Branch of the NAACP, the National Action Network Youth HuddleStrategy for Black Lives, and Educated Voter. Click the title (the first link) to register.

Wednesday (3/3) from 9:30 am – 4 pm, free COVID self-testing is available at Inwood’s Compton Eye Associates (4738 Broadway at Thayer St.), in partnership with NYC Test and Trace.

Next Thursday and Friday (3/4-5) from 2:30-7:30 pm, MAP-partner NYCHA residents can get virtual assistance on food, rent, and living expenses from the Human Resources Administration. The Manhattan NYCHA developments affiliated with MAP (Mayor’s Action Plan for Neighborhood Safety) are Polo Grounds, St. Nicholas, and Wagner. Register here or by calling (929) 221-0050.

Next Thursday (3/4) at 5 pm, parents and caregivers of students with disabilities can get remote learning support during the weekly virtual “Parent Guide to Remote Learning” series from Rep. Adriano Espaillat and the NYC Dept. of Education. Register here.

Stay safe.