Coronavirus Watch

News and Updates: Open restaurant program; NYC could have outdoor dining by end of June; City expanding COVID-19 testing to all New Yorkers; Safe on the subway; Pandemic tenants’ rights town hall; Officials say protests could lead to second surge; NYC on the path to reopen; Rent relief; Summer on the Hudson; Kosher meal hub on UWS; Parenting in Place

09 Apr 2020 | 02:49

Updated Thursday, June 4, 3:50 p.m.

Quote of the Day: “We will provide a massive expansion of curbside seating, a massive expansion of open space.” - Mayor Bill de Blasio

The Numbers

Confirmed cases as of Thursday, June 4, 2020:

NYC - 205,406

NY State - 375,133

Open Restaurant Program

The mayor put forward a plan to expand outdoor dining at restaurants when the city enters Phase 2 of reopening. The plan will not include an application and approval process, according a press release, unlike a bill that was recently introduced to the City Council that would also expand outdoor dining. Mayor de Blasio said the city is aiming for early July to enter Phase 2, which is later than officials had expected.

According to the plan, restaurants in commercial corridors will be able to serve patrons outdoors in alignment with State guidelines. Restaurants will be able to convert parking spaces in order to use the roadbed alongside the curb for dine-in service. Restaurants must register and self-certify with the city online. Some of the guidelines for outdoor dining include accessible seating, making sure bus stops and fire hydrants are not blocked, and placing seating away from intersections. Restaurants must provide their own vertical barricades, planters, tables, and chairs.

In conjunction with the city’s Open Streets programs, which has so far cut off 45 miles of streets across the city to vehicle traffic, restaurants will be able to create seating areas directly in front of their establishments on these open streets. The city plans to identify additional open streets on commercial strips with a large number of restaurants and bars.

Lastly, the city says it will work to create a streamlined process for restaurants to obtain sidewalk seating that would require establishments to maintain appropriate clear paths for pedestrians and people with disabilities.

The City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, Department of Consumer and Worker Protection, and the Department of Transportation will be overseeing the program.

NYC Could Have Outdoor Dining by End of June

Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced guidelines for outdoor dining for regions that are in Phase 2 of the state’s reopening plan, meaning New Yorkers living upstate can enjoy a sit-down meal at a restaurant starting Thursday. New York City, which is set to begin Phase 1 on Monday, could join the rest of the state by the end of the month if the city continues to meet the required criteria. With these new guidelines, restaurant tables are required to be placed six feet apart and all staff must wear face masks. Customers will be required to wear face masks when they’re not seated. There are 13 pages of safety rules restaurants will have to follow in order to serve outdoor guests.

City Expanding COVID-19 Testing to All New Yorkers

New York City is lifting all the criteria previously required to get tested for COVID-19 and is making tests available to all New Yorkers. The effort is a part of the city’s Test & Trace Corps initiative, which will allow the city to safely separate and care for those who test positive for the virus, and then track, assess and quarantine anyone who came in contact with the infected person.

“Widespread testing holds the key to re-opening our city safely,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio. “After months of fighting, we are finally able to say that every New Yorker who needs a test will get one.”

Any New Yorker can now get tested at one of the over 150 testing sites citywide. To find the site closest to you, visit nyc.gov/CovidTest or call 3-1-1.

Safe on the Subway

Today the mayor announced that he sent Governor Cuomo and MTA Chairman Pat Foye a 7-point plan to help the MTA make the city’s fleet of subways and buses a safe, reliable and socially distant option for New Yorkers as they return to the workplace in the coming months.

“These ideas will give New Yorkers the confidence that public transit is more than just the fastest way to get around — it’s a vital ally in our ongoing fight against COVID-19,” said de Blasio. “I urge the MTA to implement them right away.”

The recommendations include:

· Increase Frequency of Service: Increase frequency significantly during peak hours while limiting the increase in ridership to allow for maximum social distancing. Return to regular rush hour service for Phase 1. The MTA should prepare to accommodate at least another 100,000 – 200,000 more riders per day.

· Capacity Limits on Buses/Trains: Limit capacity on buses and trains to allow for social distancing. Skip stops if over capacity.

· Limit Station/Train Overcrowding: Monitor platform crowding and temporarily close stations when needed during peak hours.

· Social Distancing Signage/Markers: Clearly mark six feet of distance on platforms, trains and buses. Demarcate specific seats on trains and buses for riders, block off every other seat to maintain social distance.

· Hand Sanitizing Stations: Install hand sanitizer in all stations and buses, including next to MetroCard vending machines and any other high-touch locations.

· Face Coverings: Require face coverings for all individuals using subways, buses and trains. Provide face coverings throughout the system to ensure that all riders have them. The city will initially provide one million FREE face coverings, and the MTA and State should match that commitment.

· Personnel: City will work with MTA to identify personnel to help promote and enforce social distancing.

Pandemic Tenants’ Rights Town Hall

Council Member Ben Kallos is hosting a virtual town hall with a slew of elected officials and advocacy groups on Thursday, June 4 to inform residents about their rights as tenants during the coronavirus pandemic. The Legal Aid Society, Rent Justice Coalition, MET Council on Housing, Lenox Hill Neighborhood House, and others, will be giving presentations on eviction protection, tenants’ rights, rent freezes and fighting against rent increases at stabilized housing.

The elected officials at the town hall will include: Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney; Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer; State Senators Liz Krueger, Brad Hoylman and Brian Kavanaugh; Assembly Members Rebecca Seawright, Harvey Epstein, Dan Quart, Richard Gottfried and Robert Rodriguez; as well as Council Members Keith Powers, Carlina Rivera and Diana Ayala. Community Boards 6 and 8 are co-sponsoring the event.

The event will take place from 6 to 8 p.m. on Zoom and will be streamed at Facebook.com/BenKallos/Live. To join the Zoom, RSVP at BenKallos.com/Events or call 212-860-1950. Questions can be submitted with the RSVP or sent to Questions@BenKallos.com.

Officials: Protests Could Lead to Second Surge

The governor, mayor and public health professionals expressed fears of a second spike of coronavirus after four nights of mass protests against the killings of Black people at the hands of the police. The city’s and state’s number of cases and coronavirus deaths are hitting their lowest numbers since the outbreak began, but officials fear the large groups of protesters gathering together are putting the city’s June 8 reopening in jeopardy. Mayor Bill de Blasio, whose daughter was arrested during the protests Sunday night, called for protesters to stay home.

“For those who have made their presence felt, made their voices heard, the safest thing from this point is to stay home,” said de Blasio.

City health officials put out tips for protesters to reduce the risk of spreading the virus, including wearing masks, using hand sanitizer, keeping to small groups and using signs to express your message instead of yelling.

The governor said he didn’t want to endanger the city’s goal of reopening, but he said protests can continue as long as long as protesters are “smart about it.”

Cuomo and de Blasio later announced a citywide curfew for Monday night of 11 p.m. to maintain order, which will be lifted Tuesday at 5 a.m.

NYC on the Path to Reopen

At a joint press conference Friday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio marked June 8 as a likely date for New York City to begin the first phase of reopening. Of course, both officials emphasized that reopening does not mean business as usual. Precautions such as mask wearing and social distancing will be mandated for those returning to work in the manufacturing, construction, retail and wholesaler industries once reopening begins. The city still needs to meet three more requirements, including reaching the number of hospital beds and contact tracers required by the state guidelines.

Rent Relief

The State Legislature is sending an emergency rent relief bill to Gov. Andrew Cuomo to help struggling tenants who've lost their jobs during the pandemic. The bill would provide up to $100 million in rental assistance vouchers to landlords that would cover rent from April 1 to July 31. The program would be funded by the money the state received from the federal relief packed passed by congress. The program would take effect as soon as Cuomo signs the bill, if he signs it.

Summer on the Hudson

The Riverside Park Conservancy is taking its annual “Summer on the Hudson” programming virtual with online activities slated through June. Typically, the festival consists of more than 200 events consisting of concerts, performances, exercise classes and kids' shows, among other activities. This year, the conservancy is keeping some of the old favorites but putting it online. Starting June 1, New Yorkers can log on for group fitness classes and musical story hours for children. For information on these programs, the schedule, streaming details, and registration instructions, visit: nycgovparks.org/events/summer_on_the_hudson.

Reopening Looms

On Thursday, Mayor Bill de Blasio said the city is expected to begin the first phase of reopening during the first half of June. This means that anywhere between 200,000 to 400,000 New Yorkers in manufacturing, construction, wholesalers and nonessential retail (for curbside or in-store pickup only) businesses could be going back to work. Still, the mayor warned that going back to work does not mean going back to normal. Businesses would need to ensure employees and customers keep six feet of distance, keep occupancy at less than 50 percent, clean surfaces often and implement health screenings for employees.

“This is uncharted territory for our businesses and this city is here to help,” de Blasio wrote on Twitter.

He said city agencies will lend support to businesses through industry guides, a business restart hotline and advisory groups to find out which policies work and which do not. Businesses should also expect the city to conduct random inspection to ensure the rules are being followed. No fines are planned for first-time offenders, but if there is continued noncompliance, more aggressive action may be taken.

The mayor said the city is also looking forward and planning for the subsequent phases of the state’s reopening plan, including schools. There is a plan to reopen school this fall, he said, with contingencies mapped out depending on the situation come August. He said it is crucial to get the school equation right in order to restart the economy.

“We take nothing for granted,” said de Blasio. “We have to earn our way to each bit of normalcy, and show we can open back up and continue to keep the virus in check.”

City Council Mulls More Outdoor Seating for Restaurants

Speaker Corey Johnson introduced a bill to the rest of the City Council Thursday to open street space for restaurants so that they can serve diners outdoors when restaurants reopen.

“This will be huge in getting our restaurants and their employees back on their feet,” Johnson wrote on Twitter.

In a series of tweets he laid out the legislation, explaining how the plan would simplify the existing process for restaurants to set up sidewalk seating. First, he said, the Department of Transportation would need to identify open spaces throughout the city where outdoor dining would be appropriate and diners would be properly protected. The Department o Health and Mental Hygiene would need to create safety guidelines pertaining to social distancing and cleaning protocols. Then, restaurants and bars that serve food could submit an application to the Department of Consumer and Worker Protection to operate on a DOT-identified open space, or if they're currently zoned for a sidewalk cafe, for a spot on the sidewalk; DCA would process the application within five days and notify council members & community boards. Additionally, DOT would identify new, open spaces for food vendors. The program would expire at the end of October or whenever social distancing requirements are lifted.

“Our restaurants need this,” said Johnson. “I'm confident that we can creatively use our street space to get them back up and running.”

Kosher Meal Hub on UWS

A kosher meal distribution site has been added to the city’s “Grab & Go” meal program on the Upper West Side, according to a report from Patch. On Tuesday, P.S. 75 on West End Avenue and 95th Street opened to provide residents with free, kosher meals during the pandemic. It’s the first kosher meal site on the Upper West Side and was secured through a lobbying effort by elected officials, including Assembly Member Linda Rosenthal. Rosenthal wrote a letter to the mayor in April advocating for such a site, saying she was “disturbed” that kosher options were not already available in the neighborhood. The location will be open on weekdays from 7:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.

Parenting in Place

The Children’s Museum of Manhattan (CMOM) is launching a new online resource for parents and caregivers of young children during the pandemic, which will provide research, expert tips and insights to help parents navigate how to support their children’s education during the COVID-19 crisis. The program, called CMOM Parenting in Place, will feature a series of videos and will deliver advice and tips from CMOM partner experts in child development, psychology, health and more. Some topics include: how to balance working from home and keeping children engaged; managing screen time; how to discuss the pandemic with children, among many others.

“Parenting in Place grew from CMOM at Home, which focuses on activities for children that families can do together at home,” said Leslie Bushara, deputy director for education and exhibitions at the Children’s Museum of Manhattan. Parents of young children need support, too, and this program will help provide them with guidance and reassurances that they are doing their best for their children.”

The first expert will be CMOM advisor Dr. Kathy Hirsh-Pasek, Professor of Psychology at Temple University and Senior Fellow at Brookings Institute. Upcoming CMOM partner experts will include Ellen Galinsky, Chief Science Officer, Bezos Family Foundation; and Dr. Tovah Klein, Director, Barnard Toddler Center for Child Development and Associate Professor of Psychology.

NYC Limits Delivery Service Fees

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.”

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.

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.

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.

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.”

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.

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.”

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.

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