This continues to be a quickly evolving situation. I will continue to provide updates, however, I also encourage New York City residents to sign up to receive text alerts in real time from the Mayor’s office. Sign-up by texting “COVID” to 692-692. To receive updates in Spanish, text “COVIDESP” to 692-692.
Over the last week, New York has significantly increased its testing capacity. As of today, more than 10,000 New Yorkers have been tested for COVID-19. Today, New York City announced that NYC Health + Hospitals will be partnering with Bioreference to significantly expand testing capacity in city public hospitals to as many as 5,000 tests a day. This expanded capacity will allow doctors to provide the most appropriate treatment to patients who are hospitalized.
However, guidance for most New Yorkers is not changing. All New Yorkers are advised to stay home as much as possible. If you feel sick, stay home and wait 3-4 days before calling your medical provider. Only seek medical care in person if you are very ill. Following this guidance will be critical for ensuring that those most in need can get medical attention, and will help keep all New Yorkers safe. You do not need to be tested if you have mild symptoms. While I understand the desire to be tested, in the vast majority of cases the best thing to do is to remain home and recover.
Today New York Attorney General Letitia James announced that her office will be suspending the collection of any medical or student debt referred to them for at least the next 30 days. Small businesses or New Yorkers who owe other types of debt to the State of New York and have been referred to the Attorney General for collection and litigation may apply for a suspension here.
Nightlife Workers, Freelancers, and Small Business Update: The New York City Office of Nightlife is gathering information about how COVID-19 closures and event cancellations are impacting your businesses and livelihood. The data will guide New York City policy-makers and help the Office best address your challenges in the weeks and months to come. You can fill out the survey and find more information here.
Price Gouging Update: Yesterday, Mayor de Blasio announced new restrictions and enforcement measures against price gouging. Stores are not allowed to charge more than 10% higher than the normal price of essential consumer medical goods like thermometers, sanitizing wipes, paper towels, cough suppressants, toilet paper, etc. If you see price gouging in a New York City business, call 311 or file a complaint online and provide as much information as possible. You can also report price gouging through the New York State price gouging hotline, at 1-800-697-1220.
Healthcare Update: The New York State of Health and the New York State Department of Financial Services have announced a special open enrollment period for uninsured New Yorkers. New Yorkers can enroll through the New York State of Health marketplace or directly through insurers between March 16th and April 15th, 2020, and receive insurance coverage beginning April 1st, 2020. More information is available here.
As a reminder, Medicaid now covers a 90-day supply for most prescription medications and will allow early refills due to quarantine or outbreak. Read more about their guidance here. Additionally, Governor Cuomo announced that the Department of Financial Services will require insurance companies to waive copayments for tele-health visits.
Social Security Services Update: Beginning today, March 17th, all Social Security offices will be closed for in-person services. New Yorkers can still receive services by calling 1-800-772-1213 or visiting www.socialsecurity.gov.
Alternate Side Parking: Beginning Wednesday, March 18th, alternate side parking will be suspended through at least Tuesday, March 24th. New York City will assess and determine whether to continue the policy in the coming days.
Metro North Update: As of right now, Metro North continues to operate its regularly scheduled service. However, they recommend that anyone who does not have to travel, refrain from doing so.
For-hire Vehicles Update: Today Mayor de Blasio signed an executive order banning “pool” or “shared” functions in for-hire vehicles.
Public Charge Rule Regulation Update: The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has clarified that seeking or using medical services or preventative healthcare related to COVID-19 will not be considered under the public charge rule, even if those services are funded by Medicaid. You can learn more here.
School and Education Reminder: New York City Public Schools remain closed until at least April 20th. As a reminder, families can pick up grab-and-go meals from any New York City public school between 7:30am-1:30pm this week. Today, 53,000 meals were served to New York City students.
District 34 Community Resources:
- The following cafes and restaurants in District 34 are giving out free grab and go food to children:
- Mamajuana Cafe, 3233 E Tremont Avenue, will be giving out free lunch to kids impacted by school closings between 11am-1pm and 4pm-8pm.
- Jimmy’s Bx Cafe, 1315 Commerce Ave, will be giving breakfast and lunch to kids who are in need of it during school closings starting today. For more details call 212-924-2424.
- SOFRA Restaurant, 2011A Williamsbridge Road, will be giving away free lunch to children everyday between the hours of 12pm-2pm.
- Beginning Thursday, March 19th, all Stop & Shop locations will open early between 6:00am-7:30am only to customers 60 and older.
- DeCiccos & Sons in Pelham is currently reserving 8:00am-8:30am for seniors and customers who are immunocompromised. They are also taking extra precautions to ensure social distancing and extra sanitary procedures.
- The New York Public Library has added new digital resources to their website to help New Yorkers, including new e-books and resources for young learners. Access the full range of digital resources here.
- The Riverdale Y will be offering online programming at www.riverdaley.org/online. By the end of this week, members will be able to access interactive classes, as well as pre-recorded sessions in fitness, aquatics, meditation, wellness, and arts for children and adults.
- Riverdale Senior Services is giving out grab-and-go meals for seniors to pick up at the Center. If you are interested, please call first since distribution will happen on specific days of the week. You can contact firstname.lastname@example.org or call 718-884-5900.
As of this evening, March 17th, 2020, there are one thousand three hundred and seventy-four (1,374) confirmed cases of the Novel Coronavirus in New York State. Of the confirmed cases, six hundred and forty-four (644) are located in New York City, three hundred and eighty (380) are located in Westchester County, one hundred and thirty-one (131) are located in Nassau County, eighty-four (84) are located in Suffolk County, twenty-two (22) are located in Rockland County, twenty-three (23) are located in Albany, fifteen (15) are located in Orange County, sixteen (16) are located in Dutchess County, ten (10) are located in Monroe County, nine (9) are located in Saratoga County, eight (8) are located in Ulster, seven (7) are located in Erie County, five (5) is located in Schenectady County, two (2) are located in Greene County, two (2) are located in Putnam County, two (2) are located in Allegany County, two (2) are located in Onondaga County, two (2) are located in Tompkins County, one (1) is located in Broome County, one (1) is located in Clinton County, one (1) is located in Delaware County, one (1) is located in Herkimer County, one (1) is located in Tioga County, one (1) is in Montgomery County, one (1) is in Ontario County, one (1) is located in Rensselaer County, one (1) is located in Sullivan County and one (1) is located in Wyoming County.
This is an evolving situation. For updated information on the Coronavirus (in multiple languages) from trusted sources for your designated area, please visit:
- Center for Disease Control and Prevention
- New York State Department of Health
- Westchester County Department of Health
- New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene
You can also always call the New York State Novel Coronavirus Hotline at 1-888-364-3065 with any questions.
While you are at home, don’t forget to fill out the Census! It is critical that all New York residents are counted in the Census in order to get the funding we deserve for our schools, public transportation, affordable housing, roads, and more! For more information, and to complete the census, you can click here.
I know this is a difficult time and each day seems to present new challenges. I urge each of you to take time for yourself – be sure to eat healthy foods, drink lots of water, go outside for a few minutes, and stay connected to your friends and family. We will get through this together.
State Senator Alessandra Biaggi