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COVID Newsletters

Weekly COVID newsletter (3/4)

Friends,

It’s Thursday, March 4, 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:

  • 105,714  cumulative confirmed cases (+3,759 from last week)

  • 3,917 cumulative deaths (+65 since last week)

  • 2.6% seven-day positivity average (down from 2.8% last week)

  • 125,704 adults partially vaccinated (thanks to reader S.B. for suggesting we include these vaccination stats!)

  • 167,606 adults fully vaccinated

NYC:

  • 718,119 total cases (+23,681 from last week)

  • 29,473 total deaths (+448 since last week)

  • 6.3% seven-day positivity average (down from 7.12% last week)

  • 514,316 adults partially vaccinated

  • 546,350 adults fully vaccinated

The University of Washington Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation’s weekly “reference scenario” projection is down for the third week in a row– last week’s scenario estimated 589,197 cumulative deaths; this week’s is 574,062 dead by 6/1, a drop of 15,135 deaths nationwide.

President Biden invoked the Defense Production Act and thus induced Merck & Co. to help Johnson & Johnson manufacture J&J’s newly approved one-shot vaccine. As a result, the President now is promising enough vaccine supply will be produced to inoculate every American by the end of May– two months earlier than the administration had planned. That’s different from actually administering shots to every American by May 31, let’s be clear, but very good news nonetheless.

The Washington Post has published a very readable explainer of all the COVID vaccines, both approved and under development.

That’s where I learned about the J&J vaccine, and how it’s different from the Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna vaccines.

J&J uses a more typical vaccine model– a “viral vector”– to provoke an “immune response” in the body. It more closely resembles the flu vaccine that millions of us take every fall, using a virus that’s been neutered to ferry gene codes into human cells, which the immune system then learns to recognize.

The Post also published a useful Q&A about the J&J vaccine. A reader asked, “How long after receiving the one-time dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine can one expect to have adequate protection?” Here’s one part of their answer:

“It’s a hard one to answer with specificity because it depends on the person. Its also not a switch that one day will just flip to ‘on.’ It’s more like a ramp, starting at zero the moment before youre vaccinated and climbing to peak immunity by day X. Day X, of course, won’t be the same for everyone.

“Given those caveats, J&J recently reported that by day 15, a T-cell response was detected in 76-83 percent of its trial participants ages 18 to 55 and in 60-67 percent of participants over 65. T-cells, like antibodies, are a major component of our immune system. The company also reported that by day 29, 90 percent of the participants, regardless of age, had coronavirus-neutralizing antibodies in their blood. In general, J&J found that both of those components, T-cells and antibodies, increased over time.

“Fifteen and 29 days might seem like a long time, but just remember those are averages across all of the trial participants. Your immune system could ramp up faster after you get the J&J jab. 

“It’s also faster than peak immunity can be reached with the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines — which are five and six weeks, respectively, after the first dose.”

I suspect it’s that 60-67% number for over-65-year-olds that is sticking in people’s minds– but that’s only the 15-day result, in the clinical trials! It shouldn’t deter people from taking the J&J vaccine, given the increasing effectiveness over time.

And pay attention to that kicker: The J&J vaccine works faster than the first shots of the Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna!

It’s useful to understand two words that are tossed around when talking about vaccines: “efficacy” and “effectiveness.”

–Efficacy is about clinical trials: the degree to which a vaccine prevents disease under the ideal and controlled circumstances (comparing a vaccinated group with a placebo group).

–Effectiveness means how well it performs in the real world. Although a vaccine that has high efficacy would be expected to be highly effective in the real world, “it is unlikely to translate into the same effectiveness in practice.”

(Want to go down the rabbit hole? Visit the NIH’s National Center for Biotechnology Information: “Criteria for Distinguishing Effectiveness From Efficacy Trials in Systematic Reviews”)

Finally, in other vaccine news, Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna have begun studies of the efficacy of vaccine booster shots to see if a third shot better protects people against new variants such as B.1.351, first found in South Africa. Moderna created a variant-specific vaccine to target B.1.351, and Pfizer is testing a third shot of its vaccine. Our own State Senator Brad Hoylman is part of the Pfizer booster trial.

The Javits Center will temporarily operate 24/7, offering overnight appointments from 9 pm – 6 am starting Friday (3/5), until they run out of vaccine supply. See appointment availability here.

VaccineFinder.nyc.gov’s homepage has been updated to list locations with available appointments– including many for New Yorkers 65+ as of this afternoon (3/4)– a more-user-friendly option for some people than navigating the interactive map. (You can still search for sites near you on the map by entering your ZIP code.)

As of press time, there are same-day and next-day appointments available at the Washington Heights Armory open to Manhattanites and parts of the Bronx.


COMMENT

At this week’s meeting of my Manhattan Vaccine Task Force, we discussed the variant first identified in New York City, B.1.526, which is spreading rapidly. Public health experts we heard from made clear that while the variant is concerning, the guidance hasn’t changed much: double mask for extra protection, get vaccinated when you’re eligible, and social distance regardless of vaccination status. We also heard from Ushma Neill of Memorial Sloan Kettering, who broke down how the coronavirus mutates and how the vaccines work, and Rona Shapiro of 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East spoke about how the union is educating home health care workers about the vaccine and helping them get vaccinated.

My Land Use department is hard at work– we have 18 projects in the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP) pipeline throughout Manhattan listed below. (I’ve already issued 171 opinions since I became Borough President in 2014, more than any other borough.) This graphic explains how a ULURP proposal moves through the city planning process.

  • 42 Walker (ULURP No. N200251ZSM) – Community Board 1

  • 629-639 West 142nd St. Rezoning (210261 ZMM, N 210262 ZRM) – CB9

  • 250 Water St. (ULURP No. TBD) – CB 1

  • SoHo NoHo (ULURP No. TBD) – CB2

  • 314 West 43rd St. (ULURP No. TBD) – CB4

  • 495 11th Avenue (“Slaughterhouse”) (ULURP No. TBD) – CB4

  • Windermere (ULURP No. TBD) – CB4

  • Starrett Lehigh (ULURP No. TBD) – CB4

  • 343 Madison Ave. (ULURP No. TBD) – CB5

  • Grand Hyatt (ULURP No. TBD) – CB5

  • 260 Madison Ave. (ULURP No. TBD) – CB5

  • New Providence Women’s Shelter (ULURP No. TBD) – CB6

  • Lenox Hill Hospital (ULURP No. TBD) – CB8

  • NY Blood Center (ULURP No. TBD) – CB8

  • FRESH Program Update (ULURP No. TBD) – Citywide, CBs 9, 10, 11, 12

  • Malcolm Shabazz Vendor’s Market (ULURP No. TBD) – CB10

  • Las Raices (ULURP No. TBD) – CB11

  • ​​Citywide Hotel Text Amendment (ULURP No. TBD) – Citywide

Last week, I attended NYS Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli’s release of his report on how COVID has impacted the arts and culture sector. I spoke about the urgent need to support the sector, which has lost 66% of its jobs during the pandemic. You can watch the recording here.

The Positive Community magazine published a wonderful tribute to the late Mayor David Dinkins, filled with commemorations by friends and colleagues (my remembrance is on page 39).

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.

Also, fiscal year 2022 Statements of Community District Needs are now available online (select a Community Board and then click the “Community Board” tab). These assessments document each CB’s priorities and become the basis for developing budget requests, monitoring service delivery, and strategic planning.


NEW FACTS/INFO

Many arts venues can reopen starting Friday, 4/2, according to the Governor. Event, arts, and entertainment venues with capacity of less than 10,000 people can reopen at 33%, up to a maximum of 100 people indoors and up to 200 outdoors. If all attendees present proof of a negative test, capacity can increase to 150 people indoors and to 500 people outdoors. (Great news for Manhattan stages!) And don’t forget movie theaters reopen tomorrow, Friday (3/5) at 25% capacity– or a maximum of 50 people.

The Governor also announced that domestic travelers to New York State no longer have to quarantine if they have proof of being fully vaccinated within 90 days.

The rise in hate crimes and violence against Asian New Yorkers is extremely disturbing, and I joined the Asian American Federation at last weekend’s Rally to Rise Up Against Asian Hate. 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.” On Saturday (3/6) at 2 pm, OPHC and other partners are sponsoring “Asian Voices: Advocating for our Rights in NYC.” Click the title to join the Zoom.

Applications close tonight (3/4) at 11:59 pm for a seat on a Community or Citywide Education Council.

Pre-K applications are due Thursday, 4/7. Use MySchools.nyc  to learn about pre-K programs, apply, get your offer, and learn about waitlists. The searchable pre-K directory is a great way to explore options. Sign up for the pre-K admissions email list.

The NYC Parks Dept. is hiring camp counselors, wildlife monitors, playground associates, security guards, and more this summer. See openings here.

COVID News Clippings

Stanford researchers identify four causes for ‘Zoom fatigue’ and their simple fixes
By Vignesh Ramachandran, Stanford News, Feb. 23, 2021

The scientist who’s been right about Covid-19 vaccines predicts what’s next
By Julia Belluz, vox.com, Feb. 24, 2021

F.C.C. Approves a $50 Monthly High-Speed Internet Subsidy
By Cecilia Kang, NY Times, Feb. 25, 2021

Pandemic grief could become its own health crisis
By Hope Edelman, Washington Post, Feb. 26, 2021

Is this the Covid-19 endgame?
By Dylan Scott, vox.com, Feb. 26, 2021

One simple way to understand how effective the Covid-19 vaccines are: All of the Covid-19 vaccines are more effective than your annual flu shot.
By Dylan Scott, vox.com, March 1, 2021

Senators urge White House to use second vaccine doses as first doses instead
By Dan Diamond, Washington Post, March 1, 2021

How does the Johnson & Johnson vaccine work? When is it available? What to know about the new shot.
By Reis Thebault, Washington Post, March 2, 2021

How to Protect Yourself Against Coronavirus Variants
By Abraar Karan, NY Times, March 3, 2021


ANNOUNCEMENTS

IMAGE:NYC, the interactive map of aging, now features vaccine sites operated by the City, State, private health care providers, and pharmacies, including links to make an appointment. IMAGE:NYC is a project of the New York Academy of Medicine and CUNY.

East Side and Roosevelt Island low-income tenants can get free housing legal advice from the Tenant Advice Helpline through Lenox Hill Neighborhood House. Leave a message at 212-218-0330, and the legal team will return your call within a week.

The Manhattan District Attorney’s office offers virtual presentations on the criminal justice process in domestic violence and teen relationship abuse cases and the resources available to survivors. Manhattan-based organizations, schools, companies, & community centers may request a presentation here.

The next OSHA 30 construction training class from the SUNY Manhattan Educational Opportunity Center begins Monday (3/8). Apply to the five-day course here and then submit the required documents to Kberry@bmcc.cuny.edu.

Monday (3/8) is the new deadline for arts and culture organizations, businesses, collectives, and government agencies to take “The Ongoing Impacts of COVID-19: A Survey of Arts and Cultural Organizations and Creative Businesses” from Americans for the Arts.

Paid dance instruction and performance opportunities are available for the 15th annual Dance Parade on Saturday, 5/22. Dance Parade is also collecting movement videos that reflect this year’s theme, “Dance Brings us Together.” Submit a video by Friday, 5/7.

Applications close Tuesday (3/30) for the YouthBridge-NY fellowship, open to current high school sophomores. Fellows meet with NYC leaders, develop professional skills, and take action on issues they’re passionate about. Apply here.

Inwood, Washington Heights, and West Harlem artists can enter the poster contest for the virtual Uptown Arts Stroll— happening in June– hosted by the Northern Manhattan Arts Alliance. The winning poster creator will receive $1,250. Submit a poster design by Tuesday, 3/30.

Nominations are now open for the Sloan Awards for Excellence in Teaching Science and Mathematics in New York City Public High Schools from the Fund for the City of New York. Seven math and science teachers will each receive $5,000, and their department will receive $2,500. Nominate an outstanding teacher here.

Grant applications close Wednesday, 4/7 for the KKR Small Business Builders fund, which provides COVID-recovery grants of up to $10,000. Click the link to apply.

Free one-on-one counseling for entrepreneurs is available through the Pace University Small Business Development Center. Make an appointment here.

Housing organizations that may need help from law students this summer can email Emma Stahl of the National Lawyers Guild to request interns.

Rauschenbusch Metro Ministries is seeking snack and toiletry donations to distribute to individuals in need. See RMM’s wishlist here.

Fill out the NYC Food Scrap Survey about what you do with food scraps and what you think the City should do with them, sponsored by the Manhattan Solid Waste Advisory Board.

The Children’s Storefront in East Harlem offers free play sessions for infants and toddlers, including sessions in Spanish. See the schedule here.

The Pillars, a substance abuse recovery program, offers free in-person and virtual classes, like yoga, computer skills, and a bereavement group. See the calendar for more.

Roosevelt Island seniors can register for free digital literacy sessions, taught by Cornell Tech students. Attend the virtual info session on Monday (3/8) at 1:30 pm. The courses will cover computer hardware and software, privacy protection, and using Google.

Register now for “Race and Health,” a free, virtual five-seminar series on health disparities in the time of COVID, led by Dr. Bob Fullilove of the Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health. The course is Mondays at 6 pm, 3/15 – 4/12. Register here.

Seniors and retirees, register now for a spot in the free, online environmental training course “Mission to Clean the Environment,” led by NYC Community Green Makers. Wednesdays at 1 pm through 4/7, learn about the science of global warming, marine biology, how to create a culture of zero waste in your building, and dealing with your food scraps. To join, email greenmakers.nyc@outlook.com with your name, phone number, and address.

Murals painted on boarded-up storefronts are now on display at the Museum of the City of New York’s “New York Responds: The First Six Months” exhibition. Three works in the collection are from Art 2 Heart and SoHo Social Impact, retrieved by the SoHo Broadway Initiative as stores opened up.

The Lenox Hill Neighborhood House virtual art gallery is now available to view.


EVENTS

@NewYorkNico (Nicolas Heller), described by the Times as “the unofficial talent scout of New York City,” discusses the new subway and bus public service announcements he recorded of famous New Yorkers (Jerry Seinfeld, Whoopi Goldberg, Awkwafina) tonight (3/4) at 6:30 pm, “Transit After-Hours: New York City Transit x New York Nico” hosted by the New York Transit Museum. Register for the Zoom here.

Tonight (3/4) at 7:30 pm, artist Siyan Wong discusses “What is Social Justice Art?” in partnership with Womankind. Click the title to register for the virtual event.

Friday (3/5) at noon, eCornell’s virtual “Reimagining Citizenship” series continues with “Pursuing Citizenship in the Enforcement Era: A Discussion With Author Ming Hsu Chen.” Click the title to register.

Friday (3/5) at 2 pm, “Telehealth Basics: What It Is, and How to Access the Service” is State Senator Liz Krueger’s next virtual town hall. After a presentation about using telehealth services, hospital representatives will host breakout rooms for a workshop on how to make a virtual visit with your specific health network doctor. Click the title to register. State Senator Krueger hosts another virtual town hall, “Conspiracy Theories: How They Take Hold & How We Can Stop Them,” on Thursday (3/11) at 7 pm. Click the title to register.

Friday (3/5) at 2 pm, webinar “The Path to Immunity: What Employers Need to Know About COVID-19 Vaccinations” is hosted by the Manhattan Chamber of Commerce. Click the link to register.

Friday (3/5) from 2:30-7:30 pm, MAP (Mayor’s Action Plan for Neighborhood Safety) NYCHA development residents can get virtual assistance on food, rent, and living expenses from the Human Resources Administration. The Manhattan NYCHA developments affiliated with MAP are Polo Grounds, St. Nicholas, and Wagner. Register here or by calling 929-221-0050. For partners who serve MAP-affiliated NYCHA developments, get trained on how to connect residents to HRA benefits through ACCESS HRA during a virtual training on Thursdays in March at 11 am. Register here.

Friday (3/5) at 7 pm, PA’LANTE Harlem hosts the webinar “Guardianship 101: How It All Works and How You Can Make Sure to Protect Your Family Member Before the Journey When a Complete Stranger Makes Decisions on Your Family Member’s Behalf.” Register here.

Saturday (3/6) through Sunday, 3/14 is Open Data Week 2021. I sponsored the Open Data Law of 2012 as a City Council member, and every year this event celebrates Open Data and civic tech in New York City. 100+ events are now virtual, so Open Data Week is more accessible than ever.

Saturday (3/6) from 10 am – 2 pm, I’m co-sponsoring free shredding on E. 24th St. between 1st and 2nd Aves., in partnership with Council Member Carlina Rivera.

Sunday (3/7) at 1 pm, virtual kids storytelling event “Once Upon a SHEro” features tales of wise women doing big things to save the day, sponsored by Sugar Hill Children’s Museum. Click the title to register.

Sunday (3/7) at 2 pm, the South Street Seaport Museum hosts a virtual “Sea Chanteys and Maritime Music Live Sing-Along.” Click the title to register.

Monday (3/8) from 11 am – 2 pm, food, masks, and sanitizer will be distributed at the United Palace Theatre (4140 Broadway) in Washington Heights, sponsored by the NYPD Community Affairs Manhattan Outreach Unit.

Monday (3/8) at 6:30 pm, Community Board 4 hosts a virtual forum on the NYC Dept. of Education’s admissions policy changes, including a Q&A. Register here.

Tuesday (3/9) at 10 am, businesses within the Madison Avenue Business Improvement District are invited to a virtual info session about a new BID customer loyalty programming launching in May, “Madison Avenue Now.” Register here.

Tuesday (3/9) at 10 am, “Public Housing Revolution: Social Housing in Vienna” discusses what lesson New York City could learn from Vienna’s famously well-managed and -maintained public housing, hosted by the Citizens Housing & Planning Council. Click the title to register for the Zoom.

Tuesday (3/9) at 10 am, virtual discussion “Who Else is Not at Your Table? Let’s Talk About the Mentorship and Leadership of Black Women” is sponsored by the NYC Commission on Human Rights. Click the title to register.

Tuesday (3/9) and Thursday (3/11) at 1 pm, the rink at Bryant Park features a free performance by the Ice Theatre of New York. Learn more here.

Tuesday (3/9) 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.

Tuesday (3/9) at 6 pm, Hunter@Home discusses “Walking with Ghosts,” actor Gabriel Byrne’s new memoir. Byrne will speak with author Column McCann and do a virtual Q&A. Register here.

Tuesdays through 3/30 at 7 pm, play digital trivia, hosted by Brookfield Place.

Wednesday (3/10) 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.

Wednesday (3/10) at 4 pm, Battery Dance hosts a virtual kids introductory improvisational dance class. Register here.

Wednesdays at 4 pm this month, the New York Committee for Occupational Safety and Health hosts virtual “COVID-19: Emerging Issues Forums,” featuring updates on evolving government guidelines and enforcement, the labor developments, and scientific advancements. Click the title to access the forums.

Next Thursday (3/11) at 9 am, Citizens Union hosts virtual briefing “Visions & Vacancies: What’s Next for NYC’s Streetscapes, Businesses, and Neighborhoods.” Register here.

Next Thursday (3/11) at noon, Urdu translation will be available at a ranked choice voting round table, hosted by the NYC Civic Engagement Commission. Register here, or stream on Facebook.

Save the date, Thursday, 3/18 at 8:30 am, for this month’s Manhattan Borough Board meeting. Mitchell-Lama United, a coalition of organizations advocating for the protection and preservation of Mitchell-Lama housing developments, will present on this affordable housing model and share legislative recommendations for retaining the program. Register here.

Stay safe.