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This week, the Department of Health provided data demonstrating social distancing precautions and New York on PAUSE are effective in slowing down the rise in coronavirus cases. However, this trend can only be maintained by us continuing to follow social distancing guidelines, staying at home as much as possible, and wearing face coverings while outside.

AMPHS continues to do its part in this effort; our offices remain closed while our phone lines remain open Tuesday to Saturday, 10AM-6PM, to answer any questions and concerns that our community members may have. We also encourage you to visit our Virtual Community Health Center and to join us in our weekly Facebook Live sessions, where we continue to share important updates in English (Mondays 5PM), Spanish (Mondays 6PM), Chinese (Tuesdays 5PM) and Arabic (Tuesdays 9PM). 

Although data is showing some hope that the crisis may be stabilizing, it also highlights the undeniable disparities that exist within our populations — many that were already present before this pandemic. Latinx and Black populations are dying at higher rates from COVID-19 than other racial groups. In NYC, our Latinx communities make up 29% of the population, yet make up 34% of the fatalities due to COVID-19. Similarly our Black communities make up 22% of the NYC population, yet make up 28% of the COVID-19 fatalities in NYC. Here at AMPHS, we are continuously working to address these injustices through education in the languages that our communities understand, as we continue to share our weekly in-language updates and bridge the resource gap.

As of today, there are 122,148 positive cases, 32,843 hospitalizations, and 8,893 deaths in NYC.

In NYS, there are 222,284 positive cases and 12,192 deaths. 

Last week, AMPHS participated in Senator Zellnor Myrie’s Immigrant Resources Virtual Town Hall with City Council Member Carlos Menchaca. Many valuable resources were shared and you can access the full town hall video here, or a summary of the town hall is also available here with key points and listings of important resources.

COVID-19 POLICY UPDATES

Earlier this month there was a lot of talk about the coronavirus reaching its peak in April; is the worst over? Are there plans to reopen businesses and transition back to normalcy?

Social distancing is flattening the curve. Hospitalizations are down based on a 3-day average and if those decreases continue, the hospital system will stabilize. 2400 new BiPap machines also arrived in New York to address the previous shortage. Governor Cuomo said that “the worst is over” in the coronavirus pandemic, and he announced an alliance with six other Northeastern governors to come up with a regional plan for addressing the crisis and how to safely manage the eventual transition back to normalcy. 

While the task force is at work preparing plans for a coordinated recovery, everyone must keep in mind that this is a long-term project. Mayor de Blasio said he does not believe we will fully ease off social distancing until at least June, July, or August. In the meantime, NY on PAUSE has been extended until May 15th.

Additionally, COVID-19 isn’t the flu and there is reason to doubt that it will go away as temperatures warm and summer approaches, so we must continue to act as though we are in for a long, long haul even as the first glimmers of hope emerge.

What is the city doing to address the disproportionality of COVID-19 effects on minority populations?

There is a four-part plan, which will involve:

  1. A paid media campaign involving $8.5M in TV, radio, and digital ads in 15 languages; subway ads in English, Spanish, Chinese; print ads in 15 languages sent to 88 high-impact zip codes; and $1.5M of ads in Community & Ethnic Media. 
  2. Outreach conducted on WhatsApp, WeChat, and KaKao Talk. Community members in target areas may receive robocalls, live calls, and texts.
  3. An Advisory Committee with 80 community-based organizations. 
  4. Outreach flyers made accessible at essential businesses, community-based health clinics, and with Grab-And-Go meals.

What are the New York State and City updates regarding face coverings?

On April 15, both the Mayor and Governor issued announcements related to face coverings:

  • Amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced he will issue an Executive Order requiring all people in New York to wear a mask or a face covering when out in public and in situations where social distancing cannot be maintained, such as on public transportation. The Executive Order will go into effect on Friday, April 17, 2020 and will be locally enforced. Individuals that do not abide by the order will face civil penalties. However, wearing a face covering does not mean other precautions can be ignored–New Yorkers should still stay at home for all but essential errands.
  • Mayor de Blasio has directed grocery stores to require customers to wear a face covering while inside.
  • A face covering can be any well-secured paper or cloth (like a bandana or scarf) that covers your mouth and nose. 
  • The NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene has further information and answers to frequently asked questions regarding face coverings here

Will Supplemental Security Income recipients receive Economic Impact Payments (stimulus checks)?

The Social Security Administration announced that Supplemental Security Income (SSI) recipients will receive automatic Economic Impact Payments directly from the Treasury Department. The payments are expected to go out by early May. SSI recipients who have qualifying children under age 17, however, should not wait for their automatic $1,200 individual payment and instead go here to provide their information.

How has voting been affected by COVID-19?

The presidential primary election was moved from April 28 to June 23rd, aligning it with the congressional and legislative primaries in New York. All New Yorkers, regardless of whether you are sick, will be allowed to vote by absentee ballot until June 23rd. Applications for absentee ballots are available at vote.nyc or by calling 1-866-VOTE-NYC. 

Is there a rent freeze, and if not, what will happen after the eviction moratorium ends?

At the moment there is no rent freeze in place. Mayor de Blasio called on the State to allow tenants to use their security deposits to pay rent in addition to rent deferral and repayment plans for the next 12 months if they provide documentation that they are no longer employed. He is also pushing to extend the eviction moratorium for 60 days after the crisis to ensure a grace period and prevent a wave of evictions. He also asked the Rent Guidelines Board to issue a rent freeze for rent-regulated tenants. However, we are still waiting for a decision.

Have there been changes to Census deadlines?

  • The Census Bureau is anticipated to begin door-knocking on June 1, with a collection deadline of October 31, 2020. Meanwhile, Congressional approval is pending for the Bureau’s deadline to deliver the data to the president on April 30, 2021 which would also mean state legislatures won’t have population data to draw new maps until July 31, 2021 if Congress approves.
  • Census will begin hiring enumerators in June 2020 and will begin training sessions for them in June and July.
  • Be on the lookout for Census documentation that will be shared door-to-door by workers from the Census Bureau beginning in June, all while following social distancing precautions.

What is the new deadline for filing taxes and how do I file now?

The deadline for filing taxes has been extended from April 15 to July 15, 2020. If you have not filed your taxes yet, you can do so for free using Free File Now. If you were not required and did not file a 2018 or 2019 federal income tax return because you had no income or your gross income was under $12,200 ($24,400 for married couples), you can now use the IRS Non-Filers: Enter Your Info Here tool to report your income for the Economic Impact Payment stimulus check. 

Have there been changes to alternate side parking?

Alternate Side Parking has been suspended for an additional two weeks. The suspension is in effect through April 28.

What is the deadline to apply for health insurance through the NYS Marketplace?

The health insurance application deadline for New York State of Health has been extended till May 15th.

COVID-19 TESTING AND RESEARCH

What is antibody testing?

Antibody tests — also known as serology tests — aren’t meant to diagnose active coronavirus infections. Rather, they check for proteins in the immune system, known as antibodies, through a blood sample. Their presence means a person was exposed to the virus and developed antibodies against it, which may mean that person has at least some immunity — although experts are not sure how strong the immunity may be or even how long it will last.

How is it different from the coronavirus test?

The coronavirus test is a diagnostic test. These tests can diagnose active infections through a sample — usually from a nose swab — that is then tested for viral genetic material.

Are there any orders regarding antibody testing?

The governor signed an executive order over the weekend that will expand antibody testing, prioritizing frontline health care workers, first responders and other essential workers. This type of testing is conducted on people who have already had the novel coronavirus and have recovered and could help allow people to return to work sooner and treat those who are suffering from the virus.

New testing centers:

New York State opened five new testing facilities downstate, primarily in communities disproportionately impacted by COVID-19

  • A drive-through mobile testing facility opened at the Sears Parking Lot at 2307 Beverly Road in Brooklyn on April 10th.
  • A drive-through mobile testing facility opened at the Club House at Aqueduct Race Track Parking Lot, 110-00 Rockaway Blvd., in Queens, on Monday, April 6th.
  • The state is opening three walk-in facilities at health care centers in the South Bronx; Jamaica, Queens; and in Brownsville, Brooklyn. The walk-in facilities will open next week and will be by appointment only. Residents who would like to be tested at these facilities must make an appointment by calling 888-364-3065.

Additionally, the NYC Health + Hospitals’ temporary acute-care hospital on Roosevelt Island will expand the system’s bed capacity by 350 additional beds. The new facility, referred to as NYC Health + Hospitals/Roosevelt Island Medical Center, opened the first 100 beds last week to accommodate patients with and without COVID-19 who are stable and do not need ICU care. USNS Comfort, the federal hospital navy ship originally meant for non-COVID patients, will now also be dedicating 500 of its 1000 beds for COVID patients.  

What is being done for patients that test positive for COVID-19 and don’t have a place to quarantine at home?

In an effort designed to relieve our overwhelmed health care system, New York City has signed a $250 million contract to provide hotel rooms for COVID-19 patients who are not sick enough to be hospitalized. This will help preserve hospital beds in medical facilities for the daily influx of coronavirus patients, while not sending them out to infect others.

Can I get COVID-19 from my pet?Despite the news of a tiger testing positive, there is no evidence that companion animals, including pets, are contributing to the COVID-19 outbreak. Some animals can get infected, such as dogs and cats, but there are no reports of them spreading the virus. Here’s a link with more information COVID-19 and Animals FAQ from our city’s newly-formed Office of Animal Welfare.

EDUCATION UPDATES

How long will schools remain closed?

Mayor de Blasio announced that the city plans to keep schools closed for the remainder of the school year, though the Governor quickly challenged the decision. The two leaders disagree on who has the final say, but for now, it is recommended that parents prepare for the shutdown to continue through the school year.

What role does attendance play in students’ grades?

Schools have a system for monitoring student attendance. If your student’s school includes attendance in grade calculations, they will not include absences due to COVID-19 in their grade calculations. Schools will not include attendance in any grade calculations for the rest of the year.  Schools must base students’ grades primarily on their academic performance. Students cannot fail their courses because of absence.

Can I still apply for an electronic device for remote learning?

Yes, the NYC Department of Education is lending 300,000 internet-ready Apple iPads to students in need of electronic devices to access remote learning.  Families that want to request a device should fill out the Remote Learning Device Request form at coronavirus.schools.nyc/RemoteLearningDevices. iPads are being delivered to students starting with those living in shelters, temporary housing, emergency shelters, youth shelters, and foster care; and followed by high school students with a focus on multilingual learner students, students with disabilities, and students who live in public housing. iPads will be distributed on a rolling basis as new shipments arrive each week. Students who have requested an iPad, but are not in the above groups, may be eligible to receive iPads after deliveries have been made to the groups listed above.

Is tutoring available for students?

Through the New York Public Library, students can receive one-on-one free online homework help from one-on-one tutors, daily from 2 to 11PM. Tutors are available in English and Spanish, from early elementary through high school grades, in core subject areas. Video content and other resources are also available 24 hours a day. Families will need a New York Library card to access this service, and can apply for a card on the New York Public Library website.

Have there been changes to Statewide tests?

Per the State Department of Education, the Regents exams in June have been cancelled.

UNEMPLOYMENT

Are there any changes to unemployment benefits?

Under the Stimulus Bill, New York will add an additional $600 payment to all those who file for unemployment and expect to be reimbursed by the federal government. Additionally, the state is extending the period of unemployment an additional 13 weeks, making up a total of 39 weeks. 

What is the new system for filing unemployment claims?

The Department of Labor urges New Yorkers to use the new online system (labor.ny.gov), which can handle most applications from start to finish, and reduce the number of New Yorkers who must speak to a claims specialist on the phone. 

Here is some guidance on using the system:

  •  IF YOU HAVE BEGUN BUT NOT YET COMPLETED FILING a claim, DOL claims specialists will call applicants to complete their claims; applicants should stay close to their phones, expect a call from any number/ blocked number, and be ready to answer calls.
  • IF YOU HAVE NOT YET FILED a claim, labor.ny.gov will direct you to the new, streamlined system. These instructions apply to all workers who may be eligible for unemployment benefits, including those not traditionally covered by these benefits. When workers’ claims are approved they will receive benefits backdated to their first day of unemployment.

What if I already submitted my application and haven’t been able to reach a DOL specialist?

People who have already applied online and were told to call to finish their application also will receive a call back in 72 hours. You may get an automated call from DOL informing you that a representative will call you within 72 hours (if you miss the call from DOL reps, they will call you back).

Will I still receive my unemployment benefits even if I apply past the first day that I became unemployed?

Yes, your benefits will be backdated to the day you were first unemployed. 

I keep getting bumped from the UI call center. Will my claim be processed?

You will receive all benefits to which you are entitled. Your claim will start on the day you were separated from your employer. There is unprecedented call volume and web traffic. Please be patient and keep trying. It is best to apply online. Also, DOL will backdate any claims that are not timely processed due to any issues with the DOL website or UI call center.

What are the hours to contact the DOL?

DOL had already expanded their call center hours and days of operation. Their call hours are now from Monday through Friday: 8am to 7:30pm; Saturday and Sunday: 7:30am to 8:00pm.

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES: