COVID-19 update: Walks of life: City to make way for pedestrians this summer
On the front lines of the war on COVID-19, there are many civilian heroes going out of their way, as volunteers and contributors. Also, many who are elected to serve are going the extra mile. In this column the Eagle hopes to give our readers an ongoing update on those fighting in the front lines.
As the weather gets warmer and New York City’s fight against COVID-19 stretches into the summer, Speaker Corey Johnson and Mayor Bill de Blasio today announced plans to implement at least 40 miles of street closures, sidewalk widening, and additional bike lanes over the next month – with a goal of implementing 100 miles, focusing on communities hardest hit by the pandemic. “This summer is going to look different from any other in our city’s history – and we’re ready to give New Yorkers more ways to leave home while staying safe from COVID-19,” said Mayor de Blasio.
State University of New York Chancellor Kristina M. Johnson today announced that 227 medical school students are graduating early as a result of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s executive order this month to provide relief to doctors fighting the coronavirus. To date, 72 graduates are set to work in New York City and Long Island hospitals with 118 more students graduating in the coming weeks. “SUNY continues to play a critical role in our nation’s fight against the COVID-19 pandemic, and the deployment of these new doctors is one more example of how we are supporting the Governor’s call to action,” said Johnson. “We are proud of SUNY’s newly trained doctors who are skilled and eager to care for the victims of this disease and ready to provide needed relief to the healthcare staff in some of the nation’s most heavily impacted hospitals.”
Citing an explosion of unproven, untested and unregulated do-it-yourself, at-home coronavirus test kits now for sale across the internet, Sen. Charles Schumer demanded on Monday that the FDA begin a crackdown focused on more oversight of the marketplace, ramped-up inspections and cease and desist actions against bad actors. “While the coronavirus itself continues to risk infecting people, varying at-home test kits for the virus’s antibodies, and even the disease itself, are now infecting the internet and the consumer marketplace. However, the vast, vast majority of these ‘kits’ are unproven, untested and totally unregulated by the FDA, and that’s dangerous,” said Schumer. “The [FDA] must raise the bar, move heaven and earth and stand up for consumers who are vulnerable, uncertain and anxious with all that is going on.”
On Sunday, Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams stood outside the New York City Office of the Chief Medical Examiner in Manhattan to demand wide-reaching reforms to the way the bodies of those who pass from COVID-19 are handled and buried. Numerous reports from funeral home directors across the city indicate that bodies are being stored with little regard for the dignity of the deceased. Adams urged the city and state to mandate more appropriate policies for morgues and cemeteries to handle the dramatic rise in fatalities as COVID-19 continues to ravage New York, so that families can lay their loved ones to rest in a timely and respectful manner. “We must institute common-sense reforms to make our handling of bodies more respectful, and giving families the comfort of a proper, quick burial,” said Adams. “The unimaginable pain of losing a loved one should not be compounded by inappropriate handling and burial procedures.”
The MTA has significantly expanded the locations where employee temperatures are being checked to over 70 from seven at the program inception in March. More than 3,500 employee temperatures are being checked per day. This dramatically expanded program is helping to reduce the spread of the virus as the organization battles the COVID-19 pandemic, with quarantines down almost 50 percent from their peak, at 3,226, and the number of MTA employees who have returned to work up more than 50 percent in one week, at 6,457. “Our goal is to provide the optimal level of protection for our heroic employees, as well as extend that assurance to essential workers riding our trains and buses,” said MTA Chief Safety Officer Patrick Warren. “We are heading toward having our Temperature Brigade Program test our entire workforce periodically prior to their reporting to work, an important measure to prevent the spread of COVID-19.”
On Saturday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced that the state is expanding diagnostic testing criteria to include more frontline New York workers — a direct result of rapidly increasing diagnostic testing capacity. The expanded criteria will now allow all first responders, health care workers and essential employees to be tested for COVID-19, even if they aren’t symptomatic. The state will continue to expand testing criteria as testing capacity increases. Cuomo also announced he will issue an Executive Order allowing pharmacists to conduct diagnostic testing for COVID-19.
New York Attorney General Letitia James on Friday announced that she had secured commitments from the parent company of New York Sports Clubs and Lucille Roberts to institute a number of policy changes that would provide economic relief to members who were charged dues over the last six weeks, despite a state order that shut down all health clubs and gyms on March 16 to stop the spread of the coronavirus. “This is putting money back in the pockets of New Yorkers who were being illegally charged for unusable gym memberships,” said James. “The commitments we secured from New York Sports Clubs and Lucille Roberts will ensure that members will not be left paying the bill and lifting the weight for NYSC’s financial straits as long as the gyms remain closed.”
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