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COVID Newsletters

Weekly newsletter (2/4)

Friends,

It’s Thursday, February 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:

  • 88,999 cumulative confirmed cases (+5,065 from last week)

  • 3,612 cumulative deaths (+77 since last week)

  • 3.3% seven-day positivity average (down from 3.4% last week)

NYC:

  • 610,346 total cases (+33,897 from last week)

  • 27,354 total deaths (+591 more deaths since last week)

  • 8.48% seven-day positivity average (up from 8.09% last week).

The University of Washington Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation’s current weekly “reference scenario” estimates 166,719 more deaths will occur nationwide from 1/28 – 5/1 (a projected total of 594,623 deaths since the pandemic started).

As of Tuesday (2/2), the following groups have been added to the current eligibility to receive vaccine shots:

  • Restaurant workers (including app-based delivery workers);

  • Taxi and for-hire vehicle drivers; and

  • Developmental disability facility residents and staff.

See the full eligibility list and how to make an appointment.

Note that NYCVaccineList.com, which I mentioned here last week, doesn’t aggregate appointments from every vaccine site, but it does have appointment information from 60+ sites, so it’s a great tool in the all-too-unwieldy process of making an appointment.

The City is now publishing demographic breakdowns of who is getting vaccinated; click the “All Adults Vaccinated” tab at the link. (That’s the source of this NY Times piece, “Black and Latino New Yorkers Trail White Residents in Vaccine Rollout.”)


COMMENT

As usual, there’s good news and bad news on the vaccine front.

The bad news:

  • Supplies of the two FDA-approved vaccines (Pfizer and Moderna) continue to be limited.

  • The Biden Administration cannot figure out where 20 million doses shipped to states during the Trump Administration actually are.

  • The new variants from the U.K. (B117), Brazil (P1), and South Africa (B1351) are all present in the U.S., and public health leaders say we should assume they are present in all states (but because testing in the U.S. is almost as constrained as vaccine supply, it’s hard to know just how widespread those variants have become; the U.S. is not decoding the COVID types at nearly the same rate as the U.K.).

  • The combination of inadequate vaccine supply and faster-moving variants means we risk yet another surge of cases and hospitalizations from those new variants if we cannot vaccinate enough people, quickly enough.

The good news:

  • The hospitalization and death rates from COVID have seemingly stopped climbing. New CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said Wednesday, “the recent decline in hospitalizations gives us hope that the number of deaths should start to decrease in the coming weeks.”

  • There’s actually a full government response to the virus– and its economic effects– coming from Washington. (As a bonus, there are no bizarre disease theories being tweeted from the Oval Office!)

  • Experts at the CDC and NIH have been unmuzzled– they have briefed the public multiple times already this week– and the U.S. has rejoined the World Health Organization. White House Data Director Cyrus Shahpar— (more good news: there’s a White House Data Director!)– is sharing “previously hidden” weekly COVID-19 state profile reports with the public. (New York’s is here.)

  • The two FDA-approved vaccines are showing “spectacular results” at reducing COVID hospitalizations and deaths in the U.S., according to Dr. Fauci. (Read more along these lines in the Monday edition of David Leonhardt’s “The Morning” newsletter— I recommend signing up for it here.)

  • Preliminary results from clinical trials of a third vaccine from Johnson & Johnson, a single-shot product that can be refrigerated at normal temperatures, are excellent: 72% effective in the U.S. at preventing moderate to severe COVID-19, and 85% effective overall in preventing severe disease across geographies, ages, and multiple virus variants, including the South African variant. The J&J vaccine trial results are due to be submitted to the FDA as soon as this month in support of an emergency use authorization, after which they expect to be able to ship the vaccine immediately.

Finally, an underreported piece of vaccine news: Last Friday (1/29) the European Medicines Agency (the E.U. equivalent of our Food and Drug Administration) approved a new COVID-19 vaccinemanufactured by AstraZeneca and developed in partnership with the University of Oxford, for use in adults in the 27 countries of the European Union.

This is a new style of vaccine, based on an adenovirus that has been modified to contain the gene for making a protein from COVID– instead of the mRNA base that is used by the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines. (NONE of those three vaccines contain the COVID virus itself and so cannot actually cause COVID-19.) It is a two-shot regimen, dosed four to 12 weeks apart, and can be stored at normal freezer temperatures.

The AstraZeneca vaccine was tested in four clinical trials encompassing 20,000 people in the U.K., Brazil, and South Africa and has already been approved for use in 20 other countries, including India and the U.K.

What’s more, additional preliminary data on the AstraZeneca vaccine suggest it may also be effective at preventing transmission of the virus– a factor that has not been the goal of vaccines approved so far.

But the FDA is waiting for results of a full-scale Phase 3 human trial now underway among 60,000 people before it will consider authorizing the AstraZeneca vaccine for emergency use in the U.S.; those results are not due to be completed until April.

With about 1 million new cases weekly in the U.S. and nearly 100,000 deaths per month, I wish the regulators would consider moving more quickly to approve available vaccines– especially now with the E.U.’s approval and with the new more contagious, and potentially more deadly, COVID variants that are visible on the horizon.

(To be fair, AstraZeneca has experienced shortfalls in its manufacturing and cut its scheduled deliveries by 60% in February and March, and the E.U. has now instituted export restrictions for vaccine doses manufactured within its region until their domestic contracts are fulfilled.)

My Manhattan Vaccine Task Force reconvened this week, discussing how to address barriers to accessing the vaccine. We also heard excellent presentations from C. Virginia Fields, of the National Black Leadership Commission on Health, and the New York Academy of Medicine about their IMAGENYC interactive aging map. 

It’s a busy time in my Land Use department– we’re currently working on the 15 projects listed below in the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP) pipeline throughout Manhattan listed below. (I’ve already issued 171 opinions since I became Borough President, more than any other borough.) This graphic explains how a ULURP moves through the city planning process.

  • 633-639 West 142​ St. (210261ZMM & N210262ZRM) – Community Bd. 9

  • 42 Walker (N200251ZSM) – CB1

The following projects are not yet “certified” for ULURP by the Dept. of City Planning, so their ULURP clock has not yet started ticking, and they haven’t been assigned a number:

  • Lenox Hill Hospital (ULURP No. TBD) – Community Bd. 8

  • 250 Water St. – CB1

  • SoHo NoHo – CB2

  • NY Blood Center – CB8

  • Las Raices – CB11

  • 343 Madison Ave. – CB5

  • Starrett Lehigh – CB4

  • ​​Citywide Hotel Text Amendment – Citywide

  • Grand Hyatt – CB5

  • 260 Madison Ave. – CB5

  • 312 West 43rd St. – CB4

  • New Providence Women’s Shelter – CB6

  • Malcolm Shabazz Vendor’s Market – CB10

I’m deeply saddened that legendary Asian American photographer and activist Corky Lee passed away from COVID last week. He made visible what often went unseen and ensured that Asian American advocacy, cultures, and accomplishments across the country were not erased. I frequently saw him in Chinatown throughout the pandemic, and I will miss him dearly.

Manhattan nonprofits, schools, and other organizations that serve New York City can now apply for capital funding from my office. Visit my website to learn more about the requirements.

  • Schools should apply via my Grants Portal Schools Application. The application deadline is Sunday, 2/21 at 5 pm.

  • Parks, gardens, libraries, NYCHA developments, H+H hospitals, etc., can apply via my Grants Portal City Application. This deadline is Sunday, 2/21 at 5 pm.

  • Nonprofits should apply via the NYC Office of Management and Budget Capital Grants portal. These applications are due Thursday, 2/25 at 5 pm.

My budget staff is available to meet with your group virtually if you have questions, want to share your project ideas, or missed the December capital funding workshops. Make an appointment here. You can also review the capital funding training videos and materials.


NEW FACTS/INFO

It’s unacceptable that the NYC Dept. of Transportation selected 24 Manhattan streets for the Open Culture program, and not one is above 116th St. Culture doesn’t end at 116th St.– and when arts advocacy groups and I raised this concern with DOT today (2/4), they agreed to accept suggestions for additional streets through tomorrow (2/5). Interested artists and cultural groups can suggest an Uptown block to info@manhattanbp.nyc.gov by 5 pm tomorrow. The Open Culture program will allow arts and cultural organizations to use outdoor space for performances and events from March through October 2021, and applications will open in March. Program ideas don’t need to be finalized to request that a street be included.

Veterans 65+ currently enrolled in Veterans Affair health care can receive their COVID vaccine through the VA New York Harbor Healthcare System. Schedule an appointment at 877-877-9267.

Restaurant Week has been extended through Sunday, 2/28 with takeout and delivery meals available for $20.21 each. Also, indoor dining will resume at 25% capacity on Sunday, 2/14.

In his State of the City, the Mayor announced plans to convert a vehicle lane on two East River bridges into bike lanes, which I’ve argued for as New York saw a biking boom even before COVID. This will also have the benefit of allowing only pedestrians on the pathway above the Brooklyn Bridge and on the South pathway of the Queensboro/Ed Koch Bridge.

The City will also install 10,000 bike racks by the end of 2022; suggest locations for a bike rack here.

The Mayor allocated $284 million to repair the East River Esplanade and Pier 107 in East Harlem, to which my office contributed $250,000.

Tenant leaders, community organizers, and anyone who works with voters can take the NYC Campaign Finance Board’s Ranked Choice Voting “train the trainer” sessions to prepare to educate community members about the new ranked choice ballot for the June 22 election.

Wednesday and Thursday (2/10-11), the 207th St. University Heights Bridge’s rightmost lanes in each direction will be periodically closed for work by the NYC Dept. of Transportation.

COVID News Clippings

Biden’s new vaccine goal is more ambitious. It still isn’t enough.
By Peter Hotez, Washington Post Opinion, Jan. 26, 2021

U.S. is in a ‘race against time’ with new coronavirus variants, scientists warn
Without a stable pipeline between manufacturing and distribution, the country remains vulnerable to emerging new strains, said one health professor.
By Denise Chow, NBCNews.com, Jan. 28, 2021

Coronavirus variant sweeps South Africa, exhibiting ‘terrifying’ dominance
By Lesley Wroughton and Max Bearak, Washington Post, Jan. 28, 2021

Brazil’s New COVID Strain Raises Big — and Scary — Questions
By David Wallace-Wells, New York Magazine, Jan. 29, 2021

525,600 Minutes and the Prolonged Grief of COVID-19
Discussing the extreme loss toll from COVID-19 and the effect it has on our collective mental state.
By H. Steven Moffic, MD, Psychiatric Times, Feb. 3, 2021


ANNOUNCEMENTS

“Grief is a massive burden that I believe will deeply harm our country if we do not help people to heal from it,” said Kristina Libby, an artist based in Greenwich Village. Now, she’s created the Floral Heart Project, in partnership with 1-800-Flowers.com, to spread the effort nationwide. Their mission is described as:

“Following trauma incidents, large portions of any population will experience PTSD in the form of heightened anxiety, depression, physical violence and substance abuse. Psychologists predict that 15% of the population or 50 million Americans could suffer from PTSD following COVID-19. The severity level can be even deeper when people are forced to delay their grief and abstain from funerals, shivas and other mourning traditions. To combat the potential deluge of PTSD, we must show support for those suffering and those lost.” 

In addition, Ms. Libby has created “Heartbleed,” a digital installation on view at SpreadLightNYC, a public art exhibit in TriBeCa at 100 Franklin St., until Sunday, 2/28. In it, a 10-minute video displayed in a window illustrates an accumulation of rose petals, each one representing a life lost to COVID-19 in the U.S. Learn more in this NY Times story.

Tomorrow (2/5) is the last day to fill out the Fall 2020 School Experience Survey from the NYC Dept. of Education. Students, families, and teachers can access the survey here.

Tuesday (2/9) is the deadline to apply to middle schools, and Tuesday, 2/23 is the deadline to apply to high schools.

Small business owners can get free face masks for their employees from the Manhattan Chamber of Commerce. Schedule a pick-up time here.

Free legal services are available in all languages for low-income people through the City Bar Justice Center’s Legal Hotline, via their online application or 212-626-7383 (open Mon-Thu, 9 am – 5 pm, Fri 9 am – 1 pm).

Those seeking a referral for a lawyer can contact the New York City Bar’s Legal Referral Service, which has waived its initial consultation fee for all legal issues until further notice. Request a referral online or by calling 212-626-7373 (212-626-7374 in Spanish) Mon-Fri, 8:30 am – 5:30 pm.

NYCHA youth 16-24 who are unemployed and not in school can apply for a paid, 14-week internship with El Barrio’s Operation Fightback. For more information or to apply, contact tyrell.greene@ebof.org or (917) 547-8899.

Youth ages 12-21 can apply to free digital animation workshops, accompanied by a $500 stipend, sponsored by the Made in NY Animation Project. Session 1 is 2/22 – 4/30, and session 2 is 5/3 – 6/30.

Applications close Sunday, 2/28 for Lower Manhattan Cultural Center’s Arts Center Residency on Governors Island. Artists whose projects are concerned with broader themes of equity and sustainability are eligible. Apply here.

Inwood, Washington Heights, and West Harlem artists can enter the poster contest for the virtual Uptown Arts Stroll, hosted by the Northern Manhattan Arts Alliance. Submit a poster design by Tuesday, 3/30.

Animal Care Centers of NYC is seeking donations of large crates, no-pull harnesses, toys, and pet food.

Goddard Riverside’s Manhattan Outreach Consortium has several open positions: an administrative assistant, an outreach worker, an evening outreach worker, an overnight outreach worker, and a housing outreach specialist.

Last Friday’s (1/29) radio broadcast of WBAI’s The Harlem Connection, including an interview with Harlem creatives Stanley Nelson and Tamara Tunie, can be heard here.

Quilt: The Black History Month Quilt Exhibition” at Gallery RIVAA (Roosevelt Island Visual Art Association) is open through Sunday, 2/21. See gallery hours.


EVENTS

Tonight (2/4) at 6:30 pm, I’m co-sponsoring a “COVID-19 Vaccine Q&A” with local health providers and other elected officials. Register and submit your questions here.

Friday (2/5) at 11 am, intermediate and advanced dancers are invited to a free virtual master class with Greta Campo, part of Nai-Ni Chen Dance Company’s The Bridge series. Register here.

Friday (2/4) at noon, public school parents interested in running for a Community or Citywide Education Council seat are invited to an info session in Spanish. Register here. Learn more about CECs and running for a seat here.

Friday (2/4) at 4:30 pm, documentary “Truth to Power: Barbara Lee Speaks For Me” will be screened over Zoom, hosted by the House Democratic Caucus. Register here.

Register here for virtual high school information sessions, hosted by the NYC Dept. of Education:

  • Friday (2/5) at 5 pm (English)

  • Monday (2/8) at noon (English)

  • Wednesday (2/10) at noon (Spanish)

  • Thursday (2/11) at 6 pm (Spanish)

Saturday (2/6) from 10 am – 3 pm, 14-26-year-olds are invited to a virtual job and volunteering expo for positions at city zoos and the aquarium, hosted by the Wildlife Conservation Society. Register here.

Sundays at 2:45 pm, Kat Wildish teaches a free ballet class, both outside the Dairy in Central Park and over Zoom (ID: 939 5945 1953, passcode: thepark). Wildish and other ballet dancers braving the outdoors were featured in this NY Times article.

Monday (2/8) at 6 pm, Hunter@Home virtual chat “On Beginning a Biography of Philip Roth” discusses chronicling the novelist’s life. Register here.

Tuesday (2/9) at 11 am, artists discuss creativity and studio life during the pandemic, political turmoil, and protests, hosted by the Madison Square Park Conservancy. Register for the Zoom here.

Tuesday (2/9) from noon – 4 pm, I’m hosting a free COVID self-testing site at Word Up Bookshop (2113 Amsterdam Ave. at W. 165th St.) in Washington Heights. Results will be emailed to you approximately 48 hours later. Children age four and older can be tested with a parent or guardian present.

Tuesday (2/9) at noon, nonprofits are invited to a virtual training about preventing financial fraud, hosted by Amalgamated Bank. RSVP to darakagan@amalgamatedbank.com.

Tuesday (2/9) at 5 pm, NYCHA hosts a virtual town hall about the Blueprint for Change, with a presentation by Chair Greg Russ and a Q&A. Translation is available in Spanish, Russian, and Chinese. Register here.

Tuesday (2/9) and Thursday (2/11) at 6 pm, Park East High School hosts a virtual open house. Register for Tuesday or Thursday’s session.

Tuesday (2/2) at 6:30 pm, “Our Cultures, Our Communities, Our Arts” is a virtual presentation of multicultural music and dance, sponsored by the New York African Chorus Ensemble. Watch on Facebook.

Save the date, Thursday, 2/18 at 8:30 am, for this month’s Manhattan Borough Board meeting. Register here.

Stay safe.