Email This Post Email This Post Print This Post Print This Post

COVID Newsletters

Weekly COVID newsletter (3/11)

Friends,

It’s Thursday, March 11, 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:

  • 110,607  cumulative confirmed cases (+4,893 from last week)

  • 4,008 cumulative deaths (+91 since last week)

  • 2.6% seven-day positivity average, the same as reported here last week

  • 167,605 adults (12%) partially vaccinated

  • 195,539 adults (14%) fully vaccinated

NYC:

  • 749,011 total cases (+30,892 from last week)

  • 29,983 total deaths (+510 since last week)

  • 6.35% seven-day positivity average (slightly up from 6.3% last week)

  • 700,911 adults (10%) partially vaccinated

  • 657,119 adults (10%) fully vaccinated

The University of Washington Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation’s weekly “reference scenario” projection of deaths nationwide is up a tiny bit after dropping for three weeks– from 574,062 last week to 576,000 in the period from 3/1 to 7/1— likely due to an extension of the scenario’s endpoint, from June 1 to July 1.

Dr. Anthony Fauci continues to warn against premature reopenings; last Friday (3/5) he said that cases had plateaued at between 60,000 and 70,000 new cases per day, the lowest since October, but also close to last summer’s peak. “When you have that much of viral activity in a plateau, it almost invariably means that you are at risk for another spike.”

New Yorkers between 60-64 years old are now eligible to be vaccinated. And starting next Wednesday (3/17), eligibility will expand to:

  • Public-facing government employees

  • Nonprofit workers who provide public-facing services

  • Public-facing building service workers

Pharmacies expanded their vaccination appointments to include those 60+, P-12 school faculty and staff, and child care workers– pharmacies could previously vaccinate only those 65+.

Now that over 32 million Americans are completely vaccinated, the CDC this week issued new, interim guidelines. As described by the Washington Post, if you are fully vaccinated (defined as two weeks after the second dose of the Pfizer or Moderna, or one dose of the J&J vaccine) you may:

  • Hang out indoors with other fully vaccinated people without wearing a mask.

  • Gather indoors with UNvaccinated people from one other household without masks, unless someone in that household is at increased risk for severe COVID-19 illness.

  • If you are vaccinated and come into contact with someone who has COVID, you no longer need to quarantine or get tested unless you have symptoms.

The CDC urges that even the vaccinated continue to wear masks, practice physical distancing, and adhere to the other prevention measures we all know about when in public. It also recommends the vaccinated avoid medium- and large-sized in-person gatherings; and to get tested if experiencing COVID-19 symptoms (don’t forget that there’s still a chance you can catch COVID even if you’re vaccinated; it’s likely to be a less severe case, but still best to be careful). I’m wearing my mask forever!

New recommendations from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services and the CDC now allow guests the freedom to go inside nursing homes to visit residents regardless of whether the visitors or the residents have been vaccinated.

Tonight (3/11) at 8 pm, on the one-year anniversary of the first confirmed case of COVID in the U.S., President Biden will speak. It’s a somber moment, but one tempered with hope now that we have vaccines (all too slowly) rolling out and the American Rescue Plan has passed.


COMMENT

The $1.9 trillion “American Rescue Plan” is scheduled to be signed by President Biden tomorrow (3/12). It’s a big plan to get the country back on its feet; it encompasses many programs that will help New York City, and all Americans. As Sen. Chuck Schumer, who worked so hard to pass the Rescue Plan, wrote, the poorest 20% of Americans are estimated to see about a 20% boost in income from the bill, based on a Tax Policy Center analysis.

Here’s a chart that breaks down the package:

And here are the bullet points:

  • $1,400 stimulus checks will be sent to individuals– including dependents– making under $80,000 (and married couples making under $180,000). These checks will be distributed the same way as last year’s, and should start arriving in mailboxes or by direct deposit by the end of March.

  • The $300-per-week federal unemployment supplement, passed in the last stimulus plan in December and scheduled to expire this weekend (3/14), will be extended until September. What’s more, the first $10,200 in benefits won’t be taxable, retroactively to last year, for households earning under $150,000.

  • The Rescue Act would expand the child tax credit for the 2021 tax year, raising it from up to $2,000 to a maximum of $3,600 for children under age six and up to $3,000 for children ages six to 17. It would also expand the earned-income tax credit for workers without children. More than 93% of American children– 69 million– would receive benefits under the provision, and it’s estimated to lift 45% of children out of poverty. It would also make the full value of the credit available to low-income families who are currently ineligible or receive only a partial credit. Later this year, it will start sending monthly advance payments of the credit to Americans– so families don’t have to wait for tax day. Calculate how much a family would get from the expanded credit here.

  • The legislation would also expand the child care (and dependent care) tax credit for 2021, to $4,000 for one child or dependent or $8,000 for two or more qualifying individuals.

  • $128 billion in grants to state educational agencies, with 90% allocated to local K-12 schools, $15 billion to help support child care facilities, and an additional $39 billion to higher education. Of note, some $7.6 billion is targeted for schools and libraries’ purchase of Wi-Fi hotspots, modems, and routers– and the internet service that those devices use– through the FCC’s E-rate program.

  • A very small provision in the bill, inserted by the Senate, makes any student loan forgiveness passed between Dec. 31, 2020, and Jan. 1, 2026  tax-free– rather than having the forgiven debt be treated as taxable income.

  • COVID diagnosis, tracking, and vaccination programs would receive $46 billion, the CDC is set to receive $7.5 billion, and another $2 billion would go toward buying and distributing testing supplies and PPE.

  • $350 billion to help states, counties, cities, and tribal governments cover increased expenditures and replenish lost revenue. $195.3 billion to states and the District of Columbia; $130.2 billion to local governments; $20 billion to tribal governments; and $4.5 billion to U.S. territories. Funds will be distributed in two tranches, half delivered no later than 60 days from the date of enactment and the remainder delivered one year later. Recipients can use the funds to cover costs incurred by Dec. 31, 2024.

  • Transit systems would receive $30 billion to cover payroll and PPE; $8 billion for airports; $1.5 billion to recall and pay Amtrak employees who were furloughed; and another $18 billion to support workers in the airline industry and aerospace manufacturing.

  • The bill dramatically lowers premiums for those who buy their health insurance on a government exchange under the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare). According to the NY Times, “…For anyone earning around $19,000, subsidies will now be generous enough to sign up for a typical plan with no monthly payment. For someone earning over $51,000, new subsidies could lower premiums by as much as $1,000 a month in the country’s most expensive markets.” Premiums will be capped at 8.5% of modified adjusted gross income, and it eliminates premiums entirely for anyone below 150% of the poverty rate– changes that are automatic (people do not have to re-enroll) and remain in effect through the end of 2022. The Rescue Plan also adds incentives for states to expand Medicaid and provides extra subsidies for COBRA (the insurance program for those who have lost their jobs to continue their employer’s health coverage).

  • The Small Business Administration would get more than $25 billion to establish a “Restaurant Revitalization Fund” for grants of up to $10 million per entity and $5 million per physical location, restricted to those restaurateurs with a maximum of 20 locations. Unlike PPP loans, which could only go toward payroll, owners have more latitude in how they spend revitalization funds.

The task now, with so many new programs and so much funding, is getting the word out to those constituencies who will benefit from the American Rescue Plan. You can be sure my office will be doing its part!


NEW FACTS/INFO

High schools reopen Monday, 3/22 for those who had opted in to in-person learning in the fall. The Mayor is considering opening up the opt-in process to allow more students to go back to in-school learning to the approximately 227,000 high school students who are all-remote now.

High school sports will resume practices in April and competition in May, with the season extending through the summer. Athletes will be required to wear masks, no spectators will be allowed, and participants will undergo weekly COVID testing. Students who opted for fully remote learning will be allowed to participate in athletics. I joined last month’s Rally to Restart High School Sports for many reasons, including that students would lose out on college athletic scholarships; NYC suburbs have already restarted school sports.

Indoor dining will expand to 50% capacity next Friday (3/19) in both NYC and New Jersey, Governors Andrew Cuomo and Phil Murphy announced; restaurants outside New York City will be allowed to expand to 75% capacity.

Beth Shapiro of Citymeals on Wheels and I published an op-ed in the Gotham Gazette about how the City can vaccinate the 136,000 homebound seniors quickly, starting with leveraging the 23 community-based organizations that have the infrastructure to help and already work with seniors.

At this week’s meeting of my Manhattan Vaccine Task Force, we discussed challenges seniors are facing arranging free transportation to vaccine appointments, including “no-show” ambulettes and Access-a-Ride vehicles. Task Force members and I also asked NYC Dept. of Health representatives for clarification on what “fully homebound” means for in-home vaccination appointments. We heard from Deborah Levine and Dr. Scott Ratzan from the CUNY Graduate School of Public Health about a vaccine hesitancy survey they conducted in Harlem, and from Ushma Neill of Memorial Sloan Kettering about the nitty-gritty of the virus and the vaccines. A Northwell Health representative shared that the Lenox Hill and Greenwich Village locations have available vaccine appointments, and I’m working to get Northwell sites on VaccineFinder.nyc.gov.

Northern Manhattan and Harlem residents can book a vaccine appointment at the Washington Heights Armory through an English/Spanish hotline, 646-838-0319, sponsored by NewYork-Presbyterian and NMIC. Callers must be 60+ or have an underlying medical condition. Appointments are also available at vaccinetogetherny.org.

The City is now hiring for its new Vaccine for All Corps, particularly from hard-hit communities and industries. No health care experience is necessary for roles in vaccine site management, operations, and client services; the Corps is also hiring for clinical roles. Click the link above to apply through the Dept. of Small Business Services. Friday (3/12) at 10 am, community-based organizations that want to learn about the Corps and how to refer qualified candidates can attend a virtual info session.

Today (3/11), I joined the Stanley Isaacs Center to kick off its three-day vaccine hub for the 1,600 NYCHA residents the center serves.

I wrote in a letter to the NYC Dept. of Environmental Protection that the City should post COVID sewage testing data on an online portal, which could give residents a heads-up and help communities respond more quickly to local outbreaks. I pushed the City to pilot sewage testing last spring, and this data should now be public.

I wrote to new NYC Dept. of Education Chancellor Meisha Ross Porter today (3/11) about the importance of hiring more school-based social workers and mental health practitioners, especially under the DOE’s new Mental Health and Wellbeing Plan. As of 2020, 130 schools in Manhattan didn’t have even a part-time social worker.

Last week, Manhattan officials and I wrote to the NYC Dept. of City Planning to urge an immediate amendment to the Zoning Resolution to close the loophole that allows zoning lots to include partial tax lots, following the Appellate Division court decision to allow the 200 Amsterdam Ave. project on a 39-sided irregular zoning lot to continue.

I shared my testimony before the City Council on Tuesday, 2/23 about the Council’s bill to require the City to create a comprehensive. The hearing was…lively, and if you’d like to watch the link is here.

I’m pleased to announce that I was able to activate $1.5 million in State funding for a monument commemorating the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire of 1911, which killed 146 New Yorkers, mostly women and girls, and in response helped catalyze the union movement during the Progressive era. Save the date for a virtual commemoration of the 110th anniversary on Thursday, 3/25 at 6 pm. Register here.

Congratulations to one of my interns, Sara Anderson, who has been named to the Civilian Complaint Review Board’s Youth Action Council. A 15-year-old Hunter College High School student, Sara was inspired to apply after CCRB Chair Rev. Fred Davie joined my interns at one of our biweekly meetings.

I’m seeking public input on the annual Borough Board Budget Priorities Report– a statutory requirement of the City Charter. Before 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.

Last week we mentioned that the NYC Office for the Prevention of Hate Crimes (OPHC) has created “Stop COVID Hate: A Toolkit for Addressing Anti-Asian Bias, Discrimination, and Hate.” The link to an animated video about reporting discrimination (available in 17 languages) had expired, but it’s now available here (or on page 5 of the toolkit).

The Mayor released the NYC Police Reform and Reinvention Collaborative Draft Plan” last week in response to the Governor’s order for police reform proposals by April. I recently published a “Police Reform Toolkit” to aid in these efforts (click the link to read the toolkit).

COVID News Clippings

The short-term, middle-term, and long-term future of the coronavirus
By Andrew Joseph and Helen Branswell, statnews.com,  March 4, 2021

Covid tongue? Why new Covid-19 symptoms keep popping up.
By Umair Irfan, vox.com,  March 4, 2021

More Contagious Variant Is Spreading Fast in U.S., Even as Overall Cases Level Off
By Lauren Leatherby and Scott Reinhard, NY Times, March 6, 2021

F.A.Q. on Stimulus, Unemployment and Tax Rebates
By Ron Lieber and Tara Siegel Bernard, NY Times, March 6, 2021

 Calculate how much you would get from the expanded child tax credit
By Alyssa Fowers, Washington Post, March 6, 2021

 What’s in the Stimulus Bill? A Guide to Where the $1.9 Trillion Is Going
By Thomas Kaplan, NY Times, March 7, 2021

What the Coronavirus Variants Mean for the End of the Pandemic
By Dhruv Khullar, The New Yorker, March 7, 2021

Russian Disinformation Campaign Aims to Undermine Confidence in Pfizer, Other Covid-19 Vaccines, U.S. Officials Say
By Michael R. Gordon and Dustin Volz, Wall St. Journal, March 7, 2021

 Diplomats Warned of a Coronavirus Danger in Wuhan—2 Years Before the Outbreak
By Josh Rogin, Politico Magazine, March 8, 2021

 The Lost Year: What the Pandemic Cost Teenagers
by Alec MacGillis, propublica.com, March 8, 2021

 What Will Parents Get From the COVID-19 Relief Bill?
By Ed Kilgore, New York Magazine, March 10, 2021


ANNOUNCEMENTS

Beginning next Thursday (3/18), the Frick Collection will move into the former home of The Whitney, on Madison at 75th St., while the Frick Mansion is renovated and expanded. Many paintings that have been in the same place for upwards of 100 years will be re-mounted in galleries arranged by region of origin and then in chronological order within each region (Northern European works will be on the second floor, Italian and Spanish on three, British and French on four). Admission is by timed ticket ranging from $22 for adults, $17 for seniors and those with disabilities, and $10 for college students and those 10 – 17 years; capacity will be limited to 25%, making for pleasantly uncrowded galleries.

Free English/Spanish crisis counseling is available to youth and families who need help managing and coping with the changes and challenges of the pandemic, courtesy of Project Hope at the Association to Benefit Children. Contact ABCProjectHope@a-b-c.org or 212-845-3827 to make an appointment.

Mental health help for young adults 14-25 is available through ProSPECT, from the Institute for Family Health. To make an appointment, call Andrea Cole at 212-633-0800 x 1472.

Free English conversation classes are available over Zoom through the Harlem Empowerment Project. Intermediate-level classes meet Mondays from 2:30 – 4:00 pm and Thursdays from 1 – 2:30 pm. Contact info@hep.nyc or 646-450-9218 to register.

Free construction career training is available through workforce development nonprofit STRIVE. Learn more at a Zoom info session Mondays or Wednesdays at 10 am (meeting ID 951 5238 1566). Classes start Friday, 4/16.

Complete the SoHo Broadway Initiative’s survey about challenges and opportunities for the SoHo Broadway corridor’s streets and sidewalks, open to anyone who lives in, works in, or visits the corridor.

Community groups that care for green space can apply for a grant of up to $3,000 to strengthen their outreach, membership, and program-planning capacity, sponsored by Partnerships for ParksApply by Monday, 3/22.

Columbia and Barnard alumni can apply to the Columbia Startup Lab through Wednesday, 3/31. The CSL offers entrepreneurs a place to house and nurture their fledgling ventures through tailored programming, subsidized space, and a vibrant entrepreneurship community. Apply here.

Applications close Saturday, 5/1 for Women’s Film Preservation Fund grants up to $10,000 from New York Women in Film & Television. Apply here.

The podcast “Rediscovering New York” recently covered the COVID NYC Documentary Project (featuring Manhattan Borough Historian Rob Snyder) and the great work the YM & YWHA in Washington Heights and Inwood is doing to help the Upper Manhattan community through the pandemic. Listen here.

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 56 pounds of fresh produce recently to Goddard Riverside’s Phelps House, a home for older adults, last week.


EVENTS

My annual leadership development classes for Community Board members– and the civically engaged public– will be held online this year, naturally. The trainings are designed to hone expertise on important local government functions and constituencies. Click the titles to register, or click here for a detailed description of each training:

Tonight (3/11) at 7 pm, “Conspiracy Theories: How They Take Hold & How We Can Stop Them” is State Senator Liz Krueger’s next virtual town hall. Click the title to register.

Friday (3/12) at 1 pm, webinar “Organizing & Decluttering PT 2 – How to Tackle Paper Clutter with Felice Cohen” is open to those 60+, sponsored by Search & Care. Click the title to register.

Friday (3/12) at 6 pm, El Museo del Barrio presents a virtual tour of “Estamos Bien – La Trienal 20/21,” the museum’s first national large-scale survey of Latinx contemporary art featuring more than 40 artists from across the U.S. and Puerto Rico. Click the title to register.

Saturday (3/13) at 6 pm, Open Doors hosts a vigil to mourn those lost to COVID at Coler Nursing Home and other congregate facilities as well as residents’ prolonged isolation throughout the pandemic. Join in person (900 Main St., Roosevelt Island) or online.

Sunday (3/14) at 3 pm, “Swing Into Spring Dance Jam” celebrates the creative, improvisational experience between diverse musical and dance traditions of the African diaspora, sponsored by the National Jazz Museum in Harlem and Jazz Power Initiative, which I’m proud to fund. Click the title to watch.

Tuesday (3/16) at 7 pm, comptroller candidates participate in the 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 (3/17) at 6 pm, local doctors will speak with the East Harlem community about the COVID vaccine, sponsored by the East Harlem Community Partnership. Join the Zoom: meeting ID 865 2538 5697, passcode 669182.

Next Thursday (3/18) at 8:30 am is this month’s Manhattan Borough Board meeting. Register here.

Next Thursday (3/18) at 12:30 pm, digital series “Food for Thought: A Matter of Time” kicks off with a discussion of time management and setting attainable goals, hosted by Brookfield Place. Click the title to register.

Next Thursday (3/18) at 5 pm, parents and caregivers of multilingual students 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.

Next Thursday (3/18) at 6 pm, learn about how the Central Park Women’s Rights Pioneers Monument came to fruition with sculptor Meredith Bergmann and Monumental Women board member Brenda Berkman, sponsored by the Art Students League. Register for the virtual talk here.

Next Thursday (3/18) at 6 pm, celebrate the Year of the Ox during the Chinese-American Planning Council’s virtual Lunar New Year benefit. Register here.

Stay safe.