May 7, 2020

N.Y.C. May Limit Entry to Parks to Prevent Crowds: Live Updates

N.Y.C. may limit entry to parks to reduce crowds, mayor said.

New York City may limit entry to some parks to prevent them from becoming too crowded as the weather warms and adhering to social-distancing rules becomes more of challenge, Mayor Bill de Blasio said on Thursday.

At some parks, Mr. de Blasio said, “just the configuration of the park lends itself to overcrowding.”

“We can’t let that happen and we have to limit the number of people going in,” he said, adding that any such effort would require “experimentation.”

The mayor did not clarify which parks could be covered by the new rules, but said more details would be announced on Friday.

“There’s not that many places, honestly,” Mr. de Blasio said. “But wherever that is the case we’re going to work with a protocol to do that,”

With playgrounds closed and gyms shut down as nonessential businesses amid the coronavirus outbreak, New Yorkers have flooded parks in search of safe places to exercise and enjoy the outdoors while maintaining social distance.

To help create more open space, the city has been closing some streets to car traffic. On Thursday, two more miles of streets were closed, bringing the total to nine miles. (Here’s a full list of which streets have been closed so far.)

Officials have said a total of 40 miles of streets would opened to pedestrians and cyclists this month. There are plans to ultimately expand the program to 100 of the city’s 6,000 miles of streets.

National Guard arrives at troubled N.J. nursing home.

National Guard members arrived at a troubled nursing home in northern New Jersey on Thursday after weeks of pleading from patients’ families who feared for their relatives’ safety.

The day after Easter, 17 bodies were found in a small morgue at the center after the police received a tip that a body was being stored in an outdoor shed.

Family members and Sussex County officials have repeatedly asked Gov. Philip D. Murphy to send the National Guard in to help, as he has done at two state-run veterans homes.

Mr. Murphy said on Thursday that 120 National Guard members would be deployed at private nursing homes, including Andover.

An employee at the Andover home said they were told to expect 22 National Guard members whose duties would include cleaning and disinfecting.

Over the past week, residents have complained that clothing and bedsheets had not been washed.

In a statement, Chaim Scheinbaum, the home’s manager, welcomed “the assistance from the New Jersey National Guard, as the state makes more resources available to help deal with the pandemic.”

The guard’s arrival, he added, would “free up medical staff to spend more time on patient care.”

New Jersey unemployment claims top 1 million.

New Jersey officials have received more than one million claims for unemployment benefits since March 15, when the state began shutting down its economy to stop the spread of the coronavirus, Governor Philip D. Murphy said Thursday.

Since then, officials at the New Jersey Department of Labor have issued $1.9 billion in unemployment assistance.

“This is an unemployment crisis unlike that which we have ever seen,” Mr. Murphy said.

Robert Asaro-Angelo, commissioner of the Labor Department, said his employees have been fielding a stream of calls and emails from desperate residents seeking benefits and that 150,000 new claims have been filed each week since mid-March.

“To put this in perspective, the most new claims in a week after Super Storm Sandy were just 45,000,” he said.

Many people have complained of waiting for hours to reach someone at the department or reported delays in getting checks.

Mr. Asaro-Angelo said some residents filed the wrong information and advised them to consult the state’s guidelines on filing claims. “We’re doing everything in our power to get everyone the income they’re entitled to,” he said.

On Wednesday, Mr. Murphy had extended for another 30 days the public health emergency order that has essentially stopped the state’s economy, even as the rate of new cases slows down.

On Thursday, he said that the number of hospitalizations fell to below 5,000, down nearly 40 percent from its mid-April peak.

“Having fewer than 5,000 people in the hospitals for Covid-19 is a milestone,” Mr. Murphy said.

New Jersey reported another 254 deaths from the virus, bringing the total to 8,801. The state’s daily death counts fluctuate because the number reported on any given day can include older deaths newly linked to the virus.

On Thursday, Mr. Murphy mentioned the deaths of Satyender Dev Khanna and his daughter, Priya Khanna, both doctors who died of the coronavirus within days of each other at Clara Maass Medical Center in Belleville, where they worked.

“This is a family, by the way, dedicated to health and medicine,” Mr. Murphy said.

N.Y.C. offers 140,000 free antibody tests.

New York City will offer 140,000 free antibody tests to residents who want to know whether they have been exposed to the virus, Mr. de Blasio said on Thursday.

The initiative followed the city’s offer last week of 140,000 antibody tests to health care and other front-line workers.

The new round of tests will be offered at sites in some of the neighborhoods that the virus has hit hardest: Morrisania in the Bronx, East New York in Brooklyn, Upper Manhattan, Long Island City in Queens, and Concord in Staten Island.

A phone number for making appointments will be released on Friday, the mayor said. Preference will be given to people who live in the affected neighborhoods.

The Times is regularly profiling essential workers in the New York region during the pandemic.

Where do you live? Manhasset, Long Island, N.Y.

Where do you work: New London Pharmacy, Chelsea, Manhattan.

How has your job changed during the outbreak?

I’ve been working seven days, because there’s just not enough staff. Just now, I was putting items away, which is not what I do as a pharmacist. But when you’re an owner, you do whatever you have to do to keep the business going.

How has your staff been?

Five or six haven’t come back to work since the beginning of this. And a few weeks ago, it was even harder because three of my main people — two pharmacists and my lead technician were out sick with Covid.

How did that change things?

We started closing at 6 rather than 8:30. Because there was just not enough time at night to sanitize and to get the store ready for the next day. And to, you know, do all the bits and ends that you have to do as a pharmacy.

In your job, you’re talking to patients about what the illness is like, and you’re interacting with people so much. Does that give you any anxiety or stress?

Not anymore. Because, like, in the beginning, we didn’t know enough. But I’m still a pharmacist. I still have to help you. I still have to show you where and what a thing is, and I have to listen to how you feel. When you take an oath in pharmacy, it’s like, you owe the public a certain thing. And I felt, that’s what I’m doing. And that has humbled me.

Cuomo extends moratorium on evictions.

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said on Thursday that he would extend the moratorium on evictions another 60 days, until August 20, and that the state would bar landlords from charging late fees on rent that was not paid during the virus crisis.

Mr. Cuomo also said that tenants would be allowed to use security deposits in lieu of a month’s rent.

“I hope it gives families a deep breath,” he said of the measures.

Mr. de Blasio, who had pushing for the security-deposit measure, praised the move.

In March, Mr. Cuomo barred landlords from evicting tenants through June 20 for any reason.

N.Y. health care workers have fewer virus antibodies than average people, study finds.

Health care workers in downstate New York who were tested for antibodies to the virus were less likely to test positive than the general population, Mr. Cuomo said on Thursday.

Antibody tests of 27,000 workers at 25 hospitals and other facilities found that 12 percent of the health care workers based in New York City had the antibodies, Mr. Cuomo said. Tests of customers at New York City supermarkets found rates of nearly 20 percent, the governor said.

In Westchester County, just north of the city, the results were similar: 14 percent of supermarket customers tested positive, compared with 7 percent of health care workers.

Mr. Cuomo attributed the findings to health care workers following protocols for using masks, gloves and sanitizer more closely than regular citizens.

“Those masks work,” Mr. Cuomo said. “If they’re working for front line workers, they’re going to work for people in their day-to day lives.”

On Long Island, health care workers and supermarket customers tested positive for antibodies at about the same rate, Mr. Cuomo said.

The governor said on Thursday that the virus had killed 231 more New Yorkers. The number has been fairly steady for four straight days.

On the first two nights of the city’s effort to steer homeless people off subway trains and into shelters or hospitals, more than half of those who were approached by outreach workers accepted the offer, Mr. de Blasio said on Thursday.

On Thursday, 218 of the 361 people who were approached went to shelters or hospitals, and on Wednesday, 139 of 252 did, he said. The subway now closes each night from 1 a.m. to 5 a.m. so that trains can be emptied of passengers and cleaned and disinfected.

It had appeared recently that more homeless people were camping on mostly empty trains as the coronavirus swept through the city’s densely packed, dormitory-style shelters for single homeless adults.

As of Wednesday, 50 of the 71 homeless people who died of the virus had been staying in such shelters, the city social services agency said. Officials have said they were reducing the number of people in the shelters by moving them into otherwise empty hotels.

But advocates for homeless people remained concerned that the city’s shelters were unsafe, and they said that some homeless people who were kicked off the subway simply slept on buses, which continue to run all night.

Craig Hughes, a supervising social worker at the Urban Justice Center, said city workers should be offering masks and gloves to everyone they approach and giving blankets to people who do not go to shelters and were now deprived a subway car’s warmth. Nighttime temperatures in the 30s are expected this weekend.

Tanel Saar and Olga Malmon, a couple who said they had been homeless for about two years, said they refused help at the Union Street station in Brooklyn on the subway shutdown’s first night because they would have been placed in different shelters since they are not married.

They said that they had tried to go to a park after they left the train, but that the parks department had sealed it off.

Tell us about the moments that have brought you hope, strength, humor and relief.

The coronavirus outbreak has brought much of life in New York to a halt and there is no clear end in sight. But there are also moments that offer a sliver of strength, hope, humor or some other type of relief: a joke from a stranger on line at the supermarket; a favor from a friend down the block; a great meal ordered from a restaurant we want to survive; trivia night via Zoom with the bar down the street.

We’d like to hear about your moments, the ones that are helping you through these dark times. A reporter or editor may contact you. Your information will not be published without your consent.

Reporting was contributed by Jonah Engel Bromwich, Maria Cramer, Michael Gold, Joseph Goldstein, Julia Jacobs, Jeffery C. Mays, Andy Newman, Azi Paybarah, Sarah Maslin Nir and Nikita Stewart.

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