New York City is in Phase 4 of reopening now, which includes zoos, botanical gardens, museums, and gyms. Citing rising hospitalization rates, Governor Andrew Cuomo suspended indoor dining in NYC starting December 14th. After being shut down for several weeks, NYC public schools partially reopened on December 7th for 3K-5th grade students, with students with special needs returning on December 10th. Certain parts of Staten Island remain under a zoned shutdown.
Get answers to questions you may have with our "Ask An Epidemiologist" series, or learn more about NYC COVID-19 testing options with our explainer. Here are some local and state hotlines for more information: NYC: 311; NY State Hotline: 888-364-3065; NJ State Hotline: 800-222-1222.
Here's the latest:
With CUNY planning for a return to mostly in-person learning this fall, the school’s professional staff union is calling on New York state to prioritize not just teachers, but all staff working in-person for the COVID-19 vaccine.
The Professional Staff Congress wants its hundreds of members who work in-person at the CUNY system’s laboratories, offices, dorms, libraries and other sites to be added to the state’s Phase 1b classification for the vaccine. During the past semester, nearly 600 staff and employees worked on CUNY’s campuses though there were few in-person classes, according to the PSC.
As it has done for K-12 teaching staff, the state should be clear about the eligibility for people working in higher education, said PSC spokesperson Fran Clark.
The categories the union is looking to add include higher education officers, lab technicians and assistants, and other staff, to the already eligible category of in-person instructor such as professors and lecturers. PSC President Barbara Bowen said in a statement, "Many of these dedicated employees have been working in person, without any option to work remotely, since the pandemic began. They have made it possible for CUNY to stay open and continue to serve the half-million New Yorkers for whom the University is a lifeline in this economic crisis. They include the professional staff who have been keeping food pantries open for students, those classified as ‘essential workers,’ and those who work on campus, with students, to ensure that students have access to laptops and needed services."
An email sent to a representative for Governor Andrew Cuomo was not immediately answered Friday.
CUNY Chancellor Félix Matos Rodríguez announced on January 5th that the school is planning for “a safe and gradual return to mostly in-person instruction and support services in time for the start of classes in Fall 2021.” Clark said this timeline underscores the urgency in vaccinating CUNY staffers.
“The union's advocating to make sure that all of our members are given access to the vaccine in time for that return,” Clark said.
The PSC represents about 30,000 members, including 5,800 professional staffers.
Biden Proposes $1.9 Trillion Coronavirus Rescue Package
President-elect Joe Biden on Thursday announced a $1.9 trillion stimulus plan (PDF), a massive influx of relief that includes additional direct payments for Americans and funding for vaccine rollout and reopening schools. The plan also aims to alleviate the gaping budgetary holes faced by states and local governments.
In an evening speech in Wilmington, Delaware, Biden said the proposal, which will require Republican support to pass, was an immediate step to curb the outbreak and staunch the economic losses of millions of Americans. Earlier in the day, the Department of Labor reported that initial unemployment claims rose sharply, surpassing one million for the first time since July. And on Tuesday, the U.S. recorded more than 4,300 deaths from coronavirus, the highest single-day death toll.
“The very health of our nation is at stake,” Biden said.
In one widely-discussed proposal, Biden is seeking to send $1,400 checks for most Americans, supplementing the $600 checks approved last month. He would also extend unemployment insurance programs, which are set to expire in March, by six months. Those who have been hardest hit by the economic crisis would receive an additional $400 a week.
A total of $400 billion would go toward fighting the pandemic. The money includes $20 billion to establish a national vaccination program, in hopes of providing a fix to the scattershot approach by states, which have resulted in widespread delays and confusions.
The plan also earmarks $130 billion to help schools reopen safely and $15 billion in grants for small businesses. Meanwhile, renters can expect more in rental assistance programs. Eviction and foreclosure moratoriums would be extended until the end of September.
Biden will also ask Congress to raise the federal minimum wage to $15 per hour. (The minimum wage in New York City is currently $15 per hour.)
For New York, one of the chief windfalls of the president-elect's package would be $350 billion in emergency funding for state and local governments. New York, which was the epicenter of the crisis last spring, is facing a more than $60 billion deficit over the next four years.
On Thursday, Mayor Bill de Blasio delivered an austere $92 billion preliminary budget plan, amid news that city property tax revenues are projected to drop by a staggering $2.5 billion.
"New Yorkers are just tired of subsidizing other states with our tax dollars," Cuomo said Thursday. "Why should we subsidize other states to keep their taxes artificially low so they can then appeal to our citizens and businesses to relocate?"
But reflecting New York's new political influence in Washington, incoming Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer announced that the state would be receiving $2 billion in additional coronavirus relief funding. Half of that money will be directed to New York City.