AMPHS CORONAVIRUS UPDATES AS OF 3/20/2020

Click on these links to see this in: English, Spanish (español), Chinese (中文)

We hope everyone is staying safe. AMPHS began to transition to remote services this week. Our phone lines will still be open Tuesday to Saturday, 10 AM – 6 PM at (212) 256-9036 and our counseling services will transition to a videoconference service. During these difficult times, it has been gratifying to see the community come together, especially mutual aid groups of concerned neighbors. We are happy to have been able to provide supplies to help support the volunteers at United Senior Citizens Center deliver meals to seniors and to collaborate with community activists to organize a fundraising campaign to support struggling small businesses.

There have been many changes over the past weeks regarding guidance for the coronavirus crisis. Please see the latest updates, based on changes from New York State Governor’s Office, NYC Mayor’s Office, and NYC Department of Health & Mental Hygiene as of March 20, 2020. At this time, there are 6,211 cases in NYC and 10,356 in NYS. Our staff are working hard to ensure that everyone has the up-to-date information in your language. If you are interested in volunteering to translate material, please email us at personnel.resources@amphsonline.org. All updates are also available online on our blog.

DAILY LIVING 

What is the current public health guidance?

There is widespread community transmission of COVID-19 happening in New York City. Community transmission means that COVID-19 is circulating in NYC and that we should act as if we are all exposed.  If you are sick, you must stay home. All New Yorkers must monitor their health carefully. Only seek health care if you are very sick. The city needs to make sure people with severe illness will be able to stay in a hospital or intensive care unit if they need to. Even if you are not sick, stay home as much as you can: work from home, study from home and avoid all unnecessary interactions and events.

What is the current requirement for businesses’ workforce?

As of 8PM on Sunday, March 22, 2020, 100% of New York’s workforce will have to stay home; only essential business will remain open. Essential businesses include: grocers and restaurants, health care providers, pharmacies, gas stations, convenience stores, banks, hardware stores, laundromats and cleaners, child-care providers, auto repair shops, utility companies, warehouses and distributors, delivery services, plumbers and other skilled contractors, animal-care providers, transportation providers, construction companies and many kinds of manufacturers. Starting on Saturday, March 21, 2020, all barber shops, hair and nail salons, tattoo or piercing parlors and other personal care businesses in New York State must close. There will be civil fines and mandatory closures for businesses not in compliance. 

What are the guidelines for smaller gatherings, such as if I have a gathering at home with friends or family?

Governor Cuomo’s policy bans all nonessential gatherings of any size for any reason and asks every New Yorker to stay home. 

What is a “shelter in place” and how likely is it that it will happen in NYC?

Mayor De Blasio has been advocating for a “shelter-in-place” order for New York City; however, this is not in effect right now until the Governor approves it. This is a directive to maximize people being at home and to reduce all non-essential activity. It does not involve shutting down the city and closing bridges or borders. A similar shelter-in-place is already happening in San Francisco.

Is mass transportation being affected by the coronavirus?

The MTA is no longer scheduling shared rides for Access-A-Ride services effective Thursday, March 19 in order to protect riders. Riders can travel with a personal care attendant or approved guest. Mass transit will continue to function regularly.Most buses in New York City will be free starting on Monday, March 23, as the M.T.A. tries to keep service going while protecting workers and riders. They will require rear bus entry.

Are there changes to important deadlines?

  • As of Friday, March 20th, 2020, Tax Day will be moved to July 15, giving Americans an additional three months to file their income tax returns.
  • The deadline to submit pre-K applications has been extended to March 29th. Families can apply both online, 24 hours a day, via MySchools or via phone at 718-935-2009 between the hours of 8:00 AM-6:00 PM Monday-Friday. Additional questions about applications should be directed to the above phone line or to ESEnrollment@schools.nyc.gov.
  • As of March 18, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has suspended routine in-person services until at least April 1st, but will continue its other daily operations. However, USCIS will provide emergency services for limited situations. To schedule an emergency appointment contact the USCIS Contact Center.
  • New York State will temporarily suspend collection of student, medical, and other state-referred debt for at least 30 days, through April 15. 
  • The Governor has ordered banks and financial institutions to waive mortgage payments for three months for homeowners facing virus-related financial hardship if they are not working or only working part-time.
  • There are no more in-person interviews for food stamps or public assistance. All of that has been converted to online and phone interviews and processing.
  • Enrollment for New York State of Health Affordable Care Act has opened again, through April 15th. You can sign up through the online insurance exchange or by contacting navigator programs, like the Community Service Society of New York.
  • There is a 90-day moratorium on residential and commercial evictions.

I do not have access to Wi-Fi at home, are there any providers offering free access to internet services?

  • Charter Communications is giving households with K-12 and college students free Spectrum Wi-Fi for 60 days, along with free installation of the service for low-income families. Those who qualify as low-income will still be eligible for high-speed broadband. Charter will also expand Wi-Fi hotspots to the public in areas covered in Charter’s available regions. To enroll your household in this Spectrum offer, call 1-844-488-8395. Customers who sign up for the free service will automatically be billed for using internet access after the first 60 days unless they call Spectrum to cancel the service. Availability of services also depends on your address.
  • Low-income families who live in a Comcast (Xifinity) service area can sign up for 60 days of free Internet Essentials service as a new customer. The company is also increasing internet speeds for the Internet Essentials service from 15/2 Mbps to 25/3 Mbps for all new and existing customers indefinitely. To enroll your household in this offer, you can do so online by visiting  www.internetessentials.com, or you may call 1-855-846-8376 for English and 1-855-765-6995 for Spanish.
  • AT&T will be offering free service at their public wifi hotspots for 60 days.
  • Verizon, AT&T, Spectrum, and Comcast will not charge late fees or disconnect accounts for an indefinite amount of time.
  • T-Mobile, Sprint, AT&T, and Comcast are all lifting their unlimited data caps for cell phone subscribers for at least 60 days.

What steps are being taken to ensure New Yorkers who use section 8 rental assistance vouchers have undisrupted access to housing?

  • The City will automatically extend any Section 8 voucher set to expire. Voucher holders do not need to reach out to the City for an extension. 
  • All subsidy terminations that are in process are suspended until further notice.
  • Any HPD Section 8 voucher holders facing rent hardships due to decreases in income should contact HPD.  
  •  NYCHA encourages households experiencing a loss of income to visit the NYCHA Self-Service Portal. 

DISEASE TREATMENT AND PREVENTION

Where can I get tested for COVID-19?

There is now expanded testing capacity across 10 acute care hospitals, 7 Gotham Health community-based health centers and 4 drive-thru sites. Priority will be given to people over 50 years old who are experiencing symptoms and have underlying health issues (chronic lung disease, heart disease, diabetes, cancer or a weakened immune system). If you do not fall into this category, you should continue to practice social distancing and call a healthcare provider if symptoms do not subside in 3-4 days; they can make an appointment to get you tested if needed. Here is the current list of testing facilities:

  • Health+Hospitals: Bellevue, Elmhurst, Harlem, Metropolitan, Kings County, Lincoln, Woodhull, Queens, Coney Island (drive-thru), and Jacobi (drive-thru) – Assessment & Testing Centers, BY APPOINTMENT ONLY: (844) 692-4692. 
  • Brooklyn Hospital (121 DeKalb Avenue) – Outdoor Tent at Emergency Room Entrance for Pre-Screening (no appointment needed)
  • South Beach Behavioral Health Center Parking Lot (Seaview Avenue) – Drive Thru, BY APPOINTMENT ONLY: (888) 364-3065. 

What does a test involve?

Testing is 15 minutes and requires a nasal or throat swab. Results are ready in 2-3 days.

Can COVID-19 be transmitted through food?

According to the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), transmission through food is unlikely and there is no evidence of this occurring with COVID-19 to date; however, investigations into how the virus spreads are continuing.  It is still important that everyone continues to practice good hygiene when preparing and handling food, which helps avoid cross contamination between raw or undercooked foods and cooked or ready to eat foods. As an added precaution, if you have suspected symptoms of respiratory illness you should avoid preparing food for other people.

Should I be wearing a facemask and use gloves to prevent COVID-19?

Face masks are worn for a variety of reasons, such as occupation or allergies. For preventing COVID-19, wearing a face mask is not enough to protect you from the virus. Many times face masks are worn incorrectly, or for too long and people usually end up touching their face more often than those who do not wear face masks. A face mask is as effective as covering your mouth with your elbow bend. Similarly, gloves are not effective in preventing COVID-19 because you don’t contract the virus through your hands; the disease is contracted when you touch your eyes, nose or mouth after touching a contaminated surface. Therefore, if you touch your face while wearing gloves, there is still a chance that you will become infected.

If it is not an airborne disease, why is the coronavirus so contagious?

According to the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, the transmission and containment of the coronavirus is modulated by our behavior. The disease is not airborne. It is spread by droplets that are released when coughing or sneezing. Exposure to COVID-19 also occurs when droplets land on a surface and another person touches that contaminated surface and touches their eyes, nose or mouth. Prevention of COVID-19 relies heavily on frequent hand washing with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or using hand sanitizer, and also avoiding touching one’s face. Further, people should stay home as much as possible even if they are healthy. If individuals do go outside, they should maintain a physical distance of at least 6 feet from others. Transmission of COVID-19 will be lower if we follow the guidelines provided by the Department of Health. 

Resources

1. List of employment resources, food assistance, medical assistance, financial  assistance 

2. Supports for Victim Services

3. COVID-19 Resource Guide

4. FoodBank NYC Map of Food Pantries

5. Hungerfree America Neighborhood Guide to Food Assistance

6. NYC DOHMH Coronavirus Updates

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