Coronavirus Watch

News and Updates: NYC limits delivery service fees; Blood drive; Lincoln Center at Home; City could open some beaches in June; Cracking down on crowding; More open streets; Comptroller lays out plan to open beaches; Pop-up testing; MTA to use UV rays to kill virus in trains; NY to allow religious gatherings up to 10 people; Town hall with electeds; Nine NYC hospitals to allow visits; Line-of-duty death benefits

09 Apr 2020 | 02:49

Updated Tuesday, May 26, 5:07 p.m.

Quote of the Day: “There is a social responsibility, I believe, for people to wear masks. I believe it should be part of our culture,” - Governor Andrew Cuomo

The Numbers

Confirmed cases as of Tuesday, May 26, 2020:

NYC - 199,301

NY State - 363,836

NYC Limits Delivery Service Fees

On Tuesday, Mayor Bill de Blasio signed a bill that places a limit on the fees third-party delivery services such as Grubhub, Postmates, Uber Eats and DoorDosh can charge restaurants. These services have been taking up to 30 percent of the proceeds for each order they fulfill and deliver, which has put already suffering restaurants in a particularly tough spot as they rely on takeout orders to stay in business. The bill now puts a five percent cap on how much these services can charge for taking customer orders, and a 15 percent cap on delivery fees.

“The fees from the delivery apps are causing such a burden,” de Blasio said on Tuesday. “And that’s what the City Council sought to address.”

Blood Drive

The New York Blood Center is putting out an urgent call for donations, saying its blood supply is dangerously low. The center said that although the demand for blood has fallen back down to pre-coronavirus levels, there is still a great need for donations. The center is hosting a blood drive at MetLife Stadium on Thursday, May 28 from 12 to 8 p.m. To make an appointment to donate, visit nybc.org or call 1.800.933.2566. Appointments are strongly recommended.

Lincoln Center At Home

Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts is devoting one week of its online streaming content to dance, airing ballet performances and streaming live classes. From Saturday, May 30 to Thursday, June 4, Lincoln Center will be streaming a performance from a renowned dance company each night at LincolnCenter.org and on the center’s Facebook. Some broadcasts have not been seen in decades. For more information about the classes, visit LincolnCenter.org/PopUpClassroom.

Here’s a schedule of broadcasts and classes:

Sat 5/30 at 2 pm: Ballet Hispánico

Sat 5/30 at 8 pm: A Midsummer Night's Dream, New York City Ballet

Sun 5/31 at 8 pm: American Ballet Theatre at the Metropolitan Opera House

Mon 6/1 at 7 pm: The School of American Ballet Virtual Workshop Performance Celebration

Tue 6/2 at 8 pm: Coppélia, New York City Ballet

Wed 6/3 at 8 pm: Tribute to Balanchine, New York City Ballet

Thu 6/4 at 8 pm: Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater

Mon 6/1 at 2 pm: Breaking the Rules with Balanchine Workshop with Deborah Lohse

Learn about New York City Ballet founder George Balanchine and choreograph a Balanchine-inspired dance.

Wed 6/3 at 2 pm: Juilliard K-12 Dance Workshop

Learn how to create your own solo passion project, guest hosted by Juilliard alumna Laura Careless.

Thurs 6/4 at 2 pm: Dancing Across Genres Workshop with Yvonne Winborne

Explore the fusion of genres and styles within dance choreographies, with a close look at a piece by Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater choreographer Ronald K. Brown.

City Could Open Some Beaches in June

At his press briefing Friday, Mayor Bill de Blasio said the city has called its staff of lifeguards in to prepare them for the summer season. The mayor did not provide a date for reopening, but the New York Times reported that a spokeswoman for the mayor expected the date to be sometime in June. Which of the beaches, and under what restrictions, were not specified.

For the holiday weekend, beach gatherings and dips in the ocean are strictly off limits to New Yorkers. The mayor said hundreds of officers would be dispatched to the city’s beaches to ensure crowds do not form. He also warned city residents not to take mass transit out to public beaches elsewhere in the state, including Long Island where beaches will be open for Memorial Day. He said only local residents of those beaches will be permitted.

Cracking Down on Crowding

As the weather has gotten warmer in recent weeks, the city has reported instances of outdoor parties forming outside of the city’s restaurants and bars, which is strictly prohibited under the state’s shelter-in-place orders. The city is pushing a “take out, don’t hang out” message to customers wanting to support local businesses. It’s also asking restaurants to remind patrons to practice social distancing, wear face covers and drink responsibly by not opening containers in public spaces. The mayor said enforcing these rules would be a top priority of the NYPD going forward.

More Open Streets

On Saturday, the city plans to open 13 more miles of its streets for pedestrian and cyclist usage. Vehicle traffic will be blocked off.

* Avenue B: East 6th Street to East 14th Street

* Broadway: West 47th to West 53rd Street

* Broadway: West 42nd to West 41st Street

* Doyers Street: Pell Street to Bowery

* Front Street: Beekman Street to Peck Slip

* Greenwich Street: Canal Street to Spring Street

* Irving Place: East 16th to East 20 Street

* Jones Street: Bleecker Street to West 4th Street

* MacDougal Street: West 4th to West 8th Street

* Pearl Street: State Street to Cedar Street

* Second Avenue Service Road: East 33rd to East 30th Street

* University Place: West 13th to West 4th Street

* West 117th Street: Morningside Ave. to Fifth Ave.

* West 138th Street: Lenox Ave. to Adam Clayton Powell Blvd.

* West 21st Street: Ninth Ave. to Tenth Ave.

* West 22nd Street: Eighth Ave. to Seventh Ave.

* West 51st Street: Ninth Ave. to Tenth Ave.

Comptroller Lays Out Plan to Open Beaches

To ensure New York City residents don’t engage in high-risk activities, low-risk activities need be available, city Comptroller Scott Stringer wrote in an op-ed advocating for opening NYC beaches and pools this summer. In the piece, which was published on Medium, Stringer said the city could use a reservation system that the parks department uses for concerts to similarly limit crowds at pools and beaches. He offered a list of ways to regulate these spaces, including:

*• Set a capacity limit at each beach based on the total geographic area where beach-goers will be admitted, allowing for proper social distancing. Pools already have strict capacity limits that likewise should be reduced to give swimmers more space.

•* Distribute reservations equally via a blind lottery in each Community District, to make sure that every neighborhood has the same level of access.

•* Stagger reservations across the day to reduce the risk of overcrowding both at beaches and pools but also on our transit system, which is critical at a time when many frontline workers need subways and buses to get to work.

* •Require visitors to enter through one access point and leave through another, to keep the flow of people moving in one direction and minimize potential contact.

* •Reduce access or close changing rooms and other congregate, indoor facilities, which pose the greatest risk, and set up more outdoor showers.

Stringer said these were just ideas, but that opening beaches and pools to relieve New Yorkers would be a way to make the “new normal” of social distancing sustainable.

“By tackling social distancing with creativity and ingenuity, we can work towards a sustainable, safe and socially-distanced summer in the city that all New Yorkers can responsibly enjoy,” said Stringer.

Pop-up Testing

A pop-up coronavirus testing site opened today on the Upper West Side and will remain open through Tuesday May 26. The site — located at 145 West 96th Street — is being operated by SOMOS Community Care. Both coronavirus tests and the test for antibodies will be offered at the site. Those interested must first make an appointment by calling 1-833-SOMOS-NY.

MTA to Use UV Rays to Kill Virus in Trains

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority has come up with a new way to disinfect the city’s transit system that they hope will be more efficient than scrubbing subway cars with bleach, the agency announced. The MTA will start using ultraviolet light, which has been proven to kill the virus, to disinfect the trains. The MTA plans to spend $1 million on 230 lamps to use in the city’s subway, buses and fixed locations during a period of three weeks to test the tools. The treatments will be conducted while trains are not in service. If it’s successful, the use of UV light will be expanded to the Long Island Railroad and Metro North.

NY to Allow Religious Gatherings Up to 10 People

Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Wednesday that the state would start allowing residents to gather for religious services so long as though the gatherings do not exceed 10 people, participants wear masks and keep social distance of six feet.

“I think that even at this time of stress and when people are so anxious and so confused, I think those religious ceremonies can be very comforting,” said Cuomo. “But we need to find out how to do it, and do it safely and do it smartly.”

Gatherings may start taking place on Thursday.

Town Hall with Electeds

Four of the city’s elected officials will be holding a town hall next Tuesday, May 26 to inform constituents about how their respective offices are handling the COVID-19 crisis, what resources are available, and to listen to how the virus has affected New Yorkers. The panel will include New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer, Rep. Jerry Nadler, State Senator Brian Benjamin and Assemblymember Linda Rosenthal. The town hall will take place at 7 p.m. over Zoom and Facebook Live.

To RSVP for the event, visit virtualtownhall.eventbrite.com or call 212-669-4466.

Call for a Shift in Approach

In a series of tweets Tuesday, Council Member Mark Levine, who chairs the council’s health committee, called for a change in the “all-or-nothing” messaging on the risk of contracting COVID-19. The council member said that as quarantine fatigue sets in, New Yorkers will become more reluctant to comply with the strict shelter-in-place mandate, which could lead to residents engaging in high risk activities.

“Given the long road ahead, it’s simply not realistic that we tell people to indefinitely avoid all in-person social contact outside their household,” Levine said. “If we don’t give people the information to choose low-risk activities, they will choose high-risk ones - like house parties, large gatherings in front of bars, or swimming at beaches without lifeguards. (All of which is already happening in NYC.)”

The growing consensus among scientists is that most transmission of the virus occurs in enclosed spaces during sustained contact with another person, Levine said; meaning that while any contact for any duration has some risk, there are some activities that prove to be less risky. He explained that being outdoors is less risky than indoor and small groups are less risky than large groups. He said instead of telling people not to meet friends at the park altogether, they should be given the guidance to minimize the risk if they choose to do so — such as keeping groups small, not sharing drinks or food, and not going out if you’re sick.

“Coronavirus is not going away any time soon,” he said. “And simply telling people to stay home is not enough. We need to give the public the tools to understand where their choices fall on a spectrum - so they choose the safer path. That’s our best shot for beating this virus.”

Nine NYC Hospitals to Allow Visits Under Pilot Program

As coronavirus deaths and hospitalizations continue to subside, a select number of hospitals will once again allow visitors through a new pilot program. In March, hospitals were forced to suspend all visitors to patients so as to not further the spread of the virus. Now, sixteen hospitals across the state, including nine in the city, will allow visitors as part of a pilot program. In Manhattan, this includes Northwell-Lenox Hill Hospital, New York Presbyterian-Lower Manhattan, NYU Langone Orthopedic Hospital and Mount Sinai. All visitors must wear personal protective equipment and will be subject to temperature checks. The program is expected to begin by next Tuesday.

Line-of-Duty Death Benefits

On Tuesday, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced his support for a bill that would grant line-of-duty death benefits to the survivors of municipal employees who die of COVI-19. The mayor said he would work with the state legislature to pass a bill that would establish a presumption that COVID-19 deaths occurred in the line-of-duty, which would grant death benefits and health insurance to surviving family members. Previously, de Blasio granted a 45-day extension of health insurance to surviving family members of city workers who die of COVID-19.

"Our public servants have gone above and beyond during this crisis, and the loved ones of those we've lost deserve our full support," said de Blasio. "That’s why I’m advancing State legislation to authorize line-of-duty death benefits for the families of City employees who die of COVID-19. We must honor their dedication to our city."

Antibody Testing

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) will be expanding its antibody testing efforts in order to provide free testing for all MTA employees throughout the Metro area. The effort is in partnership with Northwell Health-GoHealth and BioReference Laboratories, which aims to provide health authorities with a better estimate of the overall infection rate, and in turn will help inform public health recommendations and the broader strategy for reopening New York.

Starting Monday, May 18, MTA employees will be able to get tested at 52 Northwell Health-GoHealth Urgent Care facilities in the New York metropolitan region. Northwell Health-GoHealth facilities are open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. on weekdays and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekends. Priority will be given to employees designated as essential and performing critical operational roles. Individuals currently exhibiting COVID-19 symptoms cannot receive antibody testing. The antibody test provides the most accurate results when done 21 to 28 days after exposure to COVID-19. All other asymptomatic employees who have not been diagnosed with COVID-19 are eligible for testing.

“Antibody testing is a critical tool for providing important health information to our employees and helping workers safely return to work in large numbers,” said MTA Chairman and CEO Patrick J. Foye. “We are moving quickly and strategically to make sure our employees are able to get tested, and are hopeful that, in time, this will help bolster the number of healthy workers who are able to move the essential workers in the fight against this pandemic.”

NYC Venues Form Emergency Relief Fund

A group of music venues have come together to launch NYC Nightlife United, an “emergency relief fund to save NYC nightlife cultural space.” The fund will provide immediate relief to shuttered cultural spaced affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Small business venue owners will be able to apply for aid starting June 5. Other members of the nightlife industry, including bar staff, talent buyers, sound techs, DJs, security, and others, are anticipated to be eligible to apply on July 5th.

“Businesses in live music need immediate aid and face challenges unique to our industry, but there were no relief programs made just for us,” Ric Leichtung of AdHoc told Rolling Stone. AdHoc, along with Brooklyn venue Friends and Lovers, arts nonprofit The Solo Foundation, and Grandstand Media, is leading this effort. “We’re fiercely independent people who tap into our community to make the changes we want to see happen. When there’s no road paved for us, we make the concrete.”

More information about who is eligible to apply, how applicants are selected for grants and what the funds can be used for can be found at nycnightlifeunited.com. Tax-deductible donations to fund the grants can also be made on the website.

Broadway at Home

As part of its Lincoln Center at Home initiative, the performing arts organization will be streaming Broadway shows each Friday for free starting June 5. The shows will feature past productions that were put on from Lincoln Center Theater and the New York Philharmonic. The first three productions slated to be streamed include: Rodgers & Hammerstein’s "Carousel" with the New York Philharmonic (June 5), Lincoln Center Theater's production of "The Nance" (June 12) and Lincoln Center Theater's production of "Act One" (June 19). Audiences can tune in to Lincoln Center’s YouTube and Facebook pages to catch the productions each Friday at 8 p.m.

City to Limit Access to Central Park

As the weather gets increasingly warmer, the city plans to limit New Yorkers access to Sheep Meadow in Central Park to ensure large crowds do not gather, the mayor said Friday. He added that the police would also be changing their approach to enforcing social distancing rules, as the NYPD has been criticized for targeting black and Latino residents at a disproportionate rate and with harsher methods. The mayor said officers would not be enforcing orders that people wear face coverings and would avoid issuing summonses. Instead, he said officers would focus on breaking up large groups.

Heat Wave Plan

The mayor announced a plan Friday to keep vulnerable New Yorkers cool and safe in their homes this summer as temperatures rise and social distancing continues.

“This summer will be unlike any that New York City has seen before,” said de Blasio. “As the temperature rises, we must protect our most vulnerable from the dangers of extreme heat. We're providing tens of thousands of free air conditioners to low-income seniors and creating brand new spaces, both indoor and out, for New Yorkers to keep cool and stay safe."

The city is creating a $55 million program to provide over 74,000 air conditioners to New Yorkers who are 60 years and older and have an income below 60 percent of the state median income and do not have air condition at home. Eligible New Yorkers will be identified by NYCHA, DFTA, HRA and HPD, and city case managers will reach out directly to income-eligible seniors. Approximately 22,000 of these air conditioners will go to NYCHA residents, and installations for these air conditioners will begin next week. The city is also petitioning the Public Service Commission (PSC) for $72 million to help pay the utility bills for 450,000 vulnerable New Yorkers so they can afford to run their ACs and keep cool energy bills.

Additionally, the city is identifying existing facilities that can be used as cooling centers in high-risk communities, where social distancing measures will be put in place and personal protective equipment will be provided. Other non-traditional spaces such as sports venues and auditoriums will be scouted as possible cooling center locations. The parks department is working to identify sites for spray showers for kids and active New Yorkers and will use misting equipment to create “oases” during extreme heat events.

Reopening Guidelines

In preparation for some regions of New York State starting the reopening process Friday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo laid out some guidelines for businesses that will be a part of the first phase of reopening. Some of the measures the governor listed are mandatory, while others are recommended best practices.

Phase one businesses — which include industries such construction, agriculture, forestry, fishing, hunting, retail trade, manufacturing and wholesalers — must make sure employees maintain six feet of social distancing, limit tightly confined spaces such as elevators to one person at a time and avoid gathering as much as possible.

The governor recommended that businesses also adjust work spaces to create distance for workers, adjust operating hours, and stagger arrival and departure times of employees. Cuomo said regional control boards would be monitoring these businesses to make sure they’re complying with these mandates. The regions that will begin opening Friday include Central New York, Finger Lakes, Mohawk Valley, North Country and Southern Tier.

More Streets Opening for Pedestrians

The city opening up 12 more miles of streets to provide more space for New Yorkers to exercise as the weathers grows nicer and social distancing measures remain in place. Mayor Bill de Blasio said the city will ban vehicle traffic from 7.6 miles of streets in the Bronx, Brooklyn, Manhattan and Queens, as well as 2.8 miles of streets near parks in all boroughs except for the Bronx. Another 1.3 miles will be open in Queens, Manhattan and Brooklyn through partnerships with community groups. The mayor said 9.2 miles of additional protected bike lanes will be created throughout the month in Brooklyn, Manhattan and Queens. In Manhattan, the first lane to open will be on lower Broadway from Barclay Street to Morris Street this Thursday. Two other bike lanes, taking up 3.9 miles, will be built in the next two weeks on 38th and 39th streets from First Avenue to Eleventh Avenue.

Part time street openings in Manhattan:

115th Street from Park Ave. to Third Ave. from 2 p.m. to 5:30 on weekdays

13th Street from Ninth Ave. to Washington Street from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.

17th Street from 10th Ave. to Eighth Ave from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Little West 12th from Ninth Ave. to Washington Street from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Hudson Blvd. East from 35th Street to 36th Street from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Hudson Blvd. West from 35th Street to 36th Street from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Full time openings:

West End Ave. from 87th Street to 96th Street

75th Street from Broadway to Riverside Drive

114th Street from Manhattan Avenue to Frederick Douglass Blvd.

Compensation Fund for Essential Workers

New York Reps. Carolyn Maloney, Jerry Nadler and Peter King plan to meet with union leaders Thursday morning to introduce the Pandemic Heroes Compensation Act. The program would be modeled after the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund and would provide compensation for injuries to any individual, or their families, who are deemed an essential worker, across all industries, and required to leave their home to perform services and who have become ill or died as a result of COVID-19.

Mayor Putting Hospitals in Charge of Contact Tracing

At the city is ramping up its disease and contact tracing resources, the mayor announced that the city’s health department would no longer be heading up the initiative. In the past, the health department has handled contact tracing for diseases such as tuberculosis, H.I.V. and Ebola. It was doing that work at the start of the outbreak in New York, and continued as the city and state prepares to expand its operation by hiring 1,000 more contact tracers. From now on, the city’s public hospitals will be leading the effort, de Blasio said. Several elected officials voiced skepticism at the decision, including Council Speaker Corey Johnson who called the change a distraction and said the council would be holding a hearing on the issue.

Council Member Mark Levine, who chairs the council’s health committee, signed on to a statement, saying, “It is startling that months into the worst public health crisis our City has ever faced, the de Blasio administration is undertaking a bureaucratic reshuffling that creates new and unnecessary obstacles for the critical, complicated and sensitive work of contact tracing.”

Antibody Survey

In partnership with BioReference labs, the city will expand antibody testing for New Yorkers by conducting its own antibody survey at community testing sights in all five boroughs. The survey, which will help officials better understand the spread of COVID-19, will test approximately 70,000 New Yorkers over a two-week period, administering up to 5,000 tests per day.

“So many New Yorkers are wondering whether they've had the virus, or if they've exposed their own families," said de Blasio. "While antibody tests are not a fix-all solution, they will give our communities the knowledge they need to help us defeat this virus together.”

Next week, New Yorkers will be able to get an antibody test by appointment in Morrisania, East New York, Upper Manhattan, Concord, and Long Island City. Scheduling will open this Friday by hotline, and individual test results will be available in 24-48 hours. Additionally, through a partnership with the federal Department of Health and Human Services and CDC, the city will administer 140,000 antibody tests for health care workers and first responders.

Rent Freeze

The Rent Guidelines Board cast a preliminary vote Thursday in favor of a proposal that would freeze rents on rent-stabilized apartments for one year. The freeze would apply to one-year leases signed on or after Oct. 1 2020, and the first year of two-year leases. For the two-year leases, the proposal allows for a one percent increase in the rent during the second year of the lease. The final vote will be held on June 17.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo also signed an executive order Thursday extending the state’s eviction moratorium beyond June to August 20. The moratorium includes both commercial and residential spaces. The new order now allows for tenants to put their security deposits toward rent payments and has banned fees for late payments.

Maloney Introduces Bill to Relieve Frontline Workers’ Student Debt

On Thursday, Rep. Carolyn Maloney introduced legislation to alleviate student loan debt for frontline health care workers to attract medical professionals in various specialties to help in the fight against COVID-19.

"Frontline health workers are delivering care to the sickest patients and putting their own safety at great risk in order to keep doing their jobs," said Maloney. "And in return, I believe that we have an obligation to ensure that they are relieved of the debt they incurred to train for this critical work.”

The Student Loan Forgiveness for Frontline Health Workers Act would establish a federal and private loan forgiveness program for loans acquired to receive medical and professional training held by health care workers who have made significant contributions to COVID-19 patient care, medical research, testing and enhancing the capacity of the health care system to respond to this urgent crisis. Eligibility would extend to nurses, doctors, medical researchers, lab workers and other health care professionals who are responding to the COVID-19 crisis in a variety of ways, and those who have shifted from their normal specialties to support the effort.

Virtual BookExpo and BookCon to Offer Free Programming

BookExpo and BookCon will be going online this year with a week’s worth of free programming between May 26-31. Attendees of the virtual expo can expect author dinners, book panels, spotlights on graphic novels and more curated content for librarians. For one panel of note, Poet Laureate Joy Harjo, Carmen Maria Machado, Rep. Ilhan Omar, and Rebecca Roanhorse will take the virtual stage for a discussion of their forthcoming works and initiatives, with MSNBC political analyst and SiriusXM radio personality Zerlina Maxwell as host.

On May 30 and May 31, nearly 100 bestselling and debuting authors — including Cassandra Clare, Zoraida Cordova, Jenny Han, Judy Blume, Jodi Picoult, Nic Stone and Mike Curato — will join in Q&A’s and panel discussion on topics such as the new age of super heroes, LGBTQ+ characters in young adult and middle grade literature, social justice, and much more. The full schedule of events will be announced in the coming days.

Visit BookExpoAmerica.com and BookCon.com for more information.

Where to check for the latest updates on this story:

NYC Health:

https://www1.nyc.gov/site/doh/health/health-topics/coronavirus.page

U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC):

https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html

World Health Organization (WHO):

https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019