This is our daily update of breaking COVID-19 news for Thursday, May 8th, 2020. Previous daily updates can be found here, and up-to-date statistics are here.

Read our guide to understanding New York on PAUSE, NY's stay-at-home order; a look at preparing for the spread of coronavirus is here, and if you have lingering questions about the virus, here is our regularly updated coronavirus FAQ. Here are some local and state hotlines for more information: NYC: 311; NY State Hotline: 888-364-3065; NJ State Hotline: 800-222-1222.

Facing growing calls to provide rent relief to struggling tenants, Governor Andrew Cuomo has agreed to extend the state's moratorium on evictions through August 20th, while banning late fees and allowing security deposits to be put toward rent.

During his daily briefing on Thursday, Cuomo acknowledged that rent was "the number one issue people talk to me about." In response, he said he would expand the ban on residential and commercial evictions for an additional 60 days beyond its previous expiration date of June 20th.

Tenants may also now use their security deposits to pay monthly rent — a concession that New Jersey and Connecticut already allow, and that many New York officials, including Mayor Bill de Blasio, have demanded for weeks.

Cuomo said the new measures should effectively assuage the concerns of New York renters. "No one can be evicted for non-payment of rent, so let’s take that issue off the table," he told reporters.

But housing attorneys and tenant activists have said the eviction moratorium on its own is insufficient, warning it will result in a tidal wave of evictions once the stay is lifted. Some landlords have warned delinquent renters that they will "sue and ruin tenants' credit for non payment."

Earlier this month, thousands of New York tenants vowed to go on strike, in an effort to push both Cuomo and the federal government to suspend rent payments for those facing financial hardship due to the virus.

Cuomo said on Thursday that he was also working with landlords to ensure they were protected from bank foreclosures during the public health crisis. Asked what would happen to struggling renters once the eviction moratorium is lifted, the governor said he would "see what happens."

"I can’t tell you what's going to happen two to three months down the road," Cuomo added. "I can tell you that whatever happens we will handle it at that time. That’s what we’ve been doing with this situation all along."

Photos of people crowded at Carl Schurz Park on Tuesday

This photo was taken on March 24th, 2020 at Carl Schurz Park

This photo was taken on March 24th, 2020 at Carl Schurz Park
Scott Lynch/Gothamist

State Antibody Survey Shows Surprisingly Low Infection Rates Among Healthcare Workers

Governor Cuomo on Thursday revealed the results of yet another state antibody survey, this time focussing on hospital workers. In a surprise, healthcare employees surveyed statewide recorded positive antibodies at lower or similar rates to the general population. Although the reliability of the results have come into question, antibody or serological tests are meant to indicate whether a person has been infected with coronavirus.

"That is amazing, good news," Cuomo said, during his press conference.

He said he was especially concerned throughout the crisis about the well-being of healthcare workers as hospitals became overwhelmed with virus patients.

Governor's office

In New York City, 12.2 percent of hospital workers in the study tested positive for antibodies compared to nearly 20 percent of the city's general population.

Cuomo argued that the data proved that masks are effective. He urged New Yorkers to comply with the state order requiring masks or face coverings in public spaces where people cannot socially distance at least six feet from one another.

However, many hospital workers on the frontlines of battling the virus have been wearing N95 masks, which are more tight-fitting than non-medical masks and include a specialized filter that captures at least 95 percent of the airborne particles that pass through it. The city has been distributing three-ply non-medical masks to New Yorkers free of charge in parks and low-income communities. Hospital personnel are also well-versed in practicing a high standard of hygiene.

In another piece of news, the state reported 231 more coronavirus deaths. Following a drop on May 3rd, the number of daily deaths has remained relatively flat for four days, a leveling off that suggests the virus is not tapering off as rapidly as some experts may have hoped. The tally the governor gave also did not include nursing home deaths, which the state released for the first time on Wednesday.

NYC Expands Antibody Testing As Mayor Mulls Limiting Entry To City Parks

New York City will soon roll out an expanded antibody testing initiative, with plans to get 140,000 residents tested by next month. The free tests will be available at neighborhood sites in all five boroughs beginning next week, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced during his daily briefing on Thursday.

"We are going to proceed energetically with antibody testing in this city," the mayor said. "Every time someone gets a test it's helping them to have information, and it's helping all of us to get information."

Some medical providers have begun offering various antibody tests — both FDA-approved and not — across the city in recent weeks. But the reliability of those tests, and whether confirmed exposure to the virus actually guarantees future immunity, continues to be uncertain. Last month, the city's health department cautioned medical providers against using the tests to diagnose prior COVID-19 infections.

The mayor could not immediately say on Thursday which specific tests will be offered, telling reporters that the effort will be handled by BioReference Labs. He acknowledged that the tests are "not a perfect measure," but said they still give recipients "some confidence, some knowledge."

The initiative comes on top of the 140,000 antibody tests that the city, in partnership with the federal government, began offering to medical workers and first responders last week.

A random state sample of antibody tests conducted on non-essential workers last month found that 21.2 percent of those tested in New York City had antibodies.

The new tests will be initially available in five locations: East New York, Brooklyn; Morrisania, the Bronx; Upper Manhattan; Concord, Staten Island; and Long Island City, Queens. Residents of those neighborhoods will get priority, the mayor said, though more testing sites will soon follow.

Appointments can be made via a city hotline that will open on Friday, the mayor said, and results will come back within 48 hours.

De Blasio also said on Thursday that he is considering limiting entry to some city parks, as the weather warms and more New Yorkers flock to green spaces.

Noting that the configuration of certain parks "lend themselves to overcrowding," the mayor said that the city may look to experiment with the plans to "limit the number of people going in.”

Police Commissioner Dermot Shea previously raised the possibility of the NYPD blocking entry to certain parks this week.

More details on that potential effort would be announced on Friday, the mayor said.

Stuffed animals sit on the Park Avenue median, with messages "Stay at home" and "Keep Your Distance"

On a Park Avenue median

On a Park Avenue median
Dan Callister/Shutterstock

3.2 Million More Americans Report Being Out Of Work

The U.S. Department of Labor on Thursday reported another 3.2 million people filed for unemployment last week, the seventh straight week in which jobless claims have been over three million. The latest tally means that since March 15th, more than 30 million Americans are now out of work, reflecting the devastating economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

The Department of Labor also for the first time reported that more than 1 million gig or contract workers in the U.S. have received benefits through April 18th. Another 1.4 million have filed for benefits since that time. Those individuals had previously been ineligible for unemployment benefits but were granted assistance under the $2 trillion coronavirus relief package passed by the federal government.

It is not clear how many gig or contract workers have yet been paid benefits In New York, where the state Department of Labor has not broken down those numbers, much to the frustrations of many still waiting on their claims.

Last week, another 195,000 New Yorkers filed jobless claims, down 24,000 from the prior week. That means that since the crisis began, a total of 1.8 million people in the state have reported losing their jobs.

In a report released Tuesday, Scott Stringer, New York City's comptroller, projected that 900,000 city residents would lose their jobs this quarter, bringing the local unemployment level to a staggering 22 percent. Prior to the coronavirus crisis, the figure was roughly 4 percent.

New York City is now facing an $8.7 billion budget shortfall, an insurmountable amount that elected officials say will require the federal government to pass another stimulus bill providing direct aid to local governments. Mayor Bill de Blasio on Wednesday warned of having to cut city expenses "radically" if no federal aid materializes.

In a statement, Stringer said, "In a crisis this severe, the federal government must step up and deliver relief to New York – the economic engine for the nation. Every year New York taxpayers put billions more into the federal coffers than New York receives in federal dollars, and it is unacceptable for Congress to be passing the buck – instead of passing robust local aid."