This is our daily update of breaking COVID-19 news for Monday, March 23nd, 2020. Previous daily updates can be found here. Our guide to understanding New York on PAUSE, NY's stay-at-home order; is here; 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.
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7:10 p.m.: A total of 75 people have been released from city jails as COVID-19 continues to spread among inmates and staffers in the jail system, Mayor Bill de Blasio said during a press briefing on Monday.
A review of another 200 inmates will be completed by tonight, and those determined to qualify will be released Tuesday, according to the mayor. Another 100 to 200 will be determined for a possible release by Wednesday.
“This process will be ongoing—it will be constant—to determine what is the right number of people and who are the right people to release and under what condition to make sure that everyone is safe but also to make sure that we look out for the health and wellbeing of all,” de Blasio said.
In an effort to curb a growing number of COVID-19 cases on Rikers Island, the city is also planning to use the Eric M. Taylor Center for additional social distancing space for inmates, a healthcare provider who works with Correctional Health Services told Gothamist.
According to the Daily News, Chief Medical Officer Ross MacDonald said in a letter on Sunday: "We are taking the unprecedented step of opening a closed facility."
The facility was to be closed as a part of a sweeping plan to build new jail facilities in each borough except Staten Island in order to ultimately close Rikers Island.
The CHS, the Department of Correction, and the Mayor's Office of Criminal Justice did not immediately confirm this. The mayor didn't mention it either, but he alluded to the spaciousness of the island.
"We continue to ensure that there is additional healthcare capacity for our jail population," de Blasio said. "We continue to ensure that there is ample space for inmates who need to be isolated. One thing we have, particularly on Rikers Island, is space, because our jail population is less than half of what it was six years ago, thank God."
The city's jail population is just under 5,400 people as of this month, according to the Mayor's Office of Criminal Justice.
There are hundreds of other incarcerated people the oversight agency, the Board of Correction, has said should be considered for release—those who are over 50, locked up on technical parol violations, serving short sentences, or have serious health conditions.
Healthcare professionals have said jails are breeding grounds for viruses to spread due to crowding and insufficient hygiene supplies. The correction officers' union has said vital supplies like masks, gloves, and hand sanitizer—which are being sought for frontline hospital workers—should be distributed to officers to mitigate the problem, rather than reducing the jail population.
As of Sunday night, there were 29 inmates who had tested positive for the virus. The Daily News reported on Monday that number had risen to 39 inmates. 21 DOC staff have the virus, according to the newspaper.
NYC Gets 400 Ventilators From Federal Stockpile
6:15 p.m. New York City has received large shipments of critical medical supplies, including 400 ventilators from a federal stockpile, along with hundreds of thousands of N95 face masks, gloves and two million surgical masks, mayor Bill de Blasio announced at a press conference this evening.
The supplies, which arrived from a mix of government, private suppliers and corporate donations, come as the city prepares for a surge in coronavirus patients. Several local companies have also agreed to produce face shields for hospitals.
"These numbers represent something good," Mayor de Blasio said. "But we're going to need a lot more of where that came from."
In the case of ventilators, the city has requested 15,000 to get through May.
On Monday, de Blasio toured a long-term care facility on Roosevelt Island, which is currently being built out as a hospital to free up capacity at other hospitals for coronavirus patients. The Coler hospital, a former city hospital, is expected to have 100 beds this week and 240 next week, he said.
Earlier on Monday, Governor Andrew Cuomo visited the Javits Center, where 1,000 beds are currently being built out by FEMA and National Guard members.
De Blasio added that he was in touch with Peter Navarro, a member of the White House coronavirus task force, about the city's requests for supplies.
"I am glad to see the conversation get started," he said. But he added that he still wanted President Donald Trump to activate the Defense Production Act to order companies to guarantee a supply chain for New York City's ongoing crisis.
De Blasio Orders All City Agencies To Cut Spending
Citing what is expected to be a looming recession and historic budget crisis, de Blasio said he will require all city agencies to cut their spending.
"The size of the deficits ahead are huge," he said.
Scott Stringer, the city comptroller, has projected a loss of $4.8 to $6 billion in tax revenues for the fiscal years 2020-2021.
The cuts will not be in areas involving COVID-19 response, the mayor said.
City Councilmember Says He May Have Coronavirus
5:15 p.m. Mark Levine, the Manhattan City Councilmember who chairs the Council’s health committee, announced this afternoon on Twitter that he has a fever and a dry cough.
"I'm assuming that it's coronavirus," he wrote.
Speaking on the phone from his home in Washington Heights, the 50-year-old Levine said he was feeling okay. His fever was around 101 degrees.
"I'll be listening to my body," he said, adding, "Knowing my test result would not change what I need to do."
The councilmember is heeding his own advice which he tweeted to New Yorkers last week. He has argued that while widespread testing was important at an earlier stage of the outbreak, the city currently needs to reserve the healthcare system for the people who are most sick.
In a miscalculated step, the city last week announced the opening of more than a dozen testing centers across city hospitals and community clinics, only to later advise health care professionals at those locations to stop testing patients who did not require hospital care. In addition to conserving tests, the city is asking healthcare workers to preserve the protective gear they need to administer tests. Under the testing protocol, the gowns, gloves, masks must be discarded with each new patient.
The city is now asking New Yorkers who feel sick to wait and only call their doctor if their symptoms continue to worsen beyond a week.
Levine said one of the biggest challenges has been trying to keep himself away from his wife and two sons.
"Trying to exercise social distancing is not easy but that's what were doing," he said. He added that they were all washing their hands often.
While he confessed it wasn't fun to be sick, he also said, "I don't think it’ll be that bad."
After Coronavirus Death, Students Evacuate International House On Riverside Drive
Hundreds of students have been asked to move out of their Morningside Heights housing facility after a staff member tested positive for COVID-19 and a resident died of complications from the virus, according to emails sent out to residents and staff.
Dorm residents, mostly international students at elite colleges, were asked to move out of the south building of the International House on Riverside Drive off of 123rd St by no later than March 24.
“As we all process the painful loss in our community, we are writing today with some updates and a renewed sense of urgency to expedite departures from the South Building,” the president’s office wrote in the email sent out of Saturday.
Originally, residents had been asked to move out of the dorm by Friday March 27 after a staff member tested positive, but the move-out date was pushed up after the announcement of the resident’s death. Residents say they were never asked to quarantine themselves.
The deceased resident and the individual who tested positive were not identified. Students said they were angry at the facility for pushing them out and they feared that they might have been exposed to the virus in the shared bathrooms and living space.
"They believe that a number of residents have been exposed to the staff member and yet they're making this move of evicting everyone,” one student who wished to remain anonymous. "We are rendered almost optionless. We have no place to go."
After pushback from students, the dorm promised resources to help all residents find alternative housing.
But local Council Member Mark Levine and Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer say that the facility should rethink “eviction.”
“We believe that moving ahead with the current plan of evicting dozens of students, some of whom are currently in the community by way of student visas, is irresponsible and counterproductive to slowing the spread of the virus,” they wrote in a note to International House on March 22.
-Reporting by Dylan Campbell and Megan Zerez
At Least 1,800 People In NYC Have Been Hospitalized Due To COVID-19
3:30 p.m. New York City is reporting 12,339 positive cases of COVID-19, an increase of nearly 1,600 overnight. At least 99 people citywide have died as of Sunday evening.
By borough, Queens has the most confirmed cases with 3,621. It is followed by 3,494 in Brooklyn, 2,572 in Manhattan, 1,829 in the Bronx, and 817 in Staten Island.
As of Sunday evening, at least 1,800 people in New York City have been hospitalized as a result of the disease. Of those individuals, at least 450 were in the ICU.
There are now more than 41,000 people in the United States who have tested positive for coronavirus. At least 573 people have died.
Cuomo Visits Javits Center As It Undergoes Hospital Conversion
2:30 p.m. Speaking inside the Jacob Javits Center, Governor Cuomo said FEMA officials would try to retrofit the sprawling facility on Manhattan's West Side into four hospitals with a total of 1,000 beds in order to free up room in local hospitals that are expected to be inundated by coronavirus patients.
The makeshift hospitals are part of the governor's plan to add more than 50,000 hospital beds across the state. Earlier in the day, he ordered all hospitals in New York to expand their capacity by 50 percent. The biggest crush in patients is expected to be in New York City, which has become the country's epicenter for coronavirus cases.
Construction at the Javits Center is expected to start this week. Cuomo said he is hoping the work can be completed within a week to 10 days. Members of the National Guard have also been assisting in the effort.
The hospitals built out by FEMA will be staffed by 320 individuals sent by the federal government, he said.
In addition, the governor said the state wants to construct another 1,000-bed facility with the assistance of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for patients needing a "lighter level" of medical care.
"This was never an anticipated use," he said. "But you do what you have to do. That’s the New York way. That's the American way."
New York City Could See $6 Billion In Lost Revenue From Crisis
12:20 p.m. The blows to New York City’s economy from the global coronavirus pandemic cannot be fully measured yet — but the city is now forecasting a loss of $4.8 to $6 billion in tax revenues for the fiscal years 2020 - 2021.
The city comptroller Scott Stringer said Monday that due to the ripple effects of the pandemic, the estimated revenue loss will be more than a previous estimate of $3.2 billion based on declines in specific sectors - in particular the hotels, restaurants, retail and the cultural sectors which have laid off tens of thousands employees as New York curtails non-essential businesses under PAUSE.
“The COVID-19 pandemic is already putting enormous financial strain on our city’s workers as millions of New Yorkers grapple with the uncertainty of their next paycheck, paying rent, and taking care of their families. At the same time, the massive slowdown of our city’s economy is going to result in substantial losses of the tax revenue that keep this city running,” said Stringer in a release. “Our economic forecast highlights the significant financial pressure on our city’s coffers. We are staring down a fiscal emergency and need the federal government to step up by injecting as much funding into our city’s economy as possible — our healthcare system, infrastructure, transit network, and so much more depend on it. And our City government must act immediately to protect our fiscal position so that we can continue to provide vital services for our most vulnerable New Yorkers in the face of this emergency.”
The range of the estimate accounts for differing models on the severity and duration of the pandemic and the ensuing economic effects. The better scenario, where the pandemic and economic slowdown end by May with “relatively limited impacts” outside of hospitality and retail industries, projects a $4.8 billion revenue loss. The worse scenario envisions the pandemic lasting into at least June or July with a $6 billion loss.
The city currently has a projected budget surplus of $2.7 billion to help absorb the initial blow, though the deficit could be as high as $4.5 billion next year if the surplus is depleted, Stringer said.
The comptroller called for an immediate mandatory savings program where agencies must find 4 percent of savings, with exceptions for the departments dealing with health, hospitals and social services.
Stringer also called for the pending federal stimulus bill to include fiscal help for state and local governments via paid sick leave; direct cash assistance to all New Yorkers regardless of taxpayer, immigration status or earnings; increased unemployment insurance benefits, and robust loan support for small businesses.
Cuomo Orders All State Hospitals To Expand Capacity By 50 percent
12:00 p.m. Governor Cuomo on Monday issued an emergency order for all state hospitals to increase their capacity by 50 percent to prepare for the rising number of hospitalizations from COVID-19.
There are about 53,000 hospital beds in New York State, about 20,000 of which are in the city.
Even with an additional 50 percent capacity, the number of hospital beds would still fall short of the 110,000 that health officials have projected the state would need. Because of that, Cuomo said while the order for hospitals to increase their beds by 50 percent increase was mandatory, he was asking hospitals to see if they could double their capacity.
The caseload continues to climb. As of Monday morning, there are 20,875 confirmed cases of coronavirus statewide, a more than 5,700 increase overnight. Of those cases, 12,305 are in New York City.
About 13 percent of those infected are currently hospitalized, and 24 percent are in intensive care units.
Following a major disaster declaration from the Federal Emergency Management Agency late Friday, the state has received funding to equip and staff four field hospitals in the downstate area: New York City, Stony Brook, Westchester and Old Westbury.
Cuomo said he would be heading on Monday to New York City, where the Javits Center will be retrofitted with 1,000 hospital beds and equipment.
The state has also put out a request to retired medical professionals to volunteer in the response effort. To date, 30,000 people have offered to enlist, Cuomo said. On Monday, the governor said he would issue an executive order calling all nurses to enlist. The state will also ask health insurance companies to supply lists of retired nurses and doctors that they use to evaluate claims.
Despite having made some strides on hospital beds and staffing, securing critical medical supplies continues to be a problem for New York. Buying the items on the open market has resulted in a bidding war among states, Cuomo said.
As of Monday, New York City was set to receive hundreds of thousands of N95 and surgical masks, gloves and gowns, but the quantities will need be replenished during what is expected to be a months long crisis.
The governor criticized the "ad hoc" process by which states were scrambling to buy supplies from both domestic and foreign suppliers.
Like Mayor de Blasio, he urged President Trump to use the Defense Production Act to order private companies to produce the necessary items.
"Yes, it’s an assertion of power by federal government on private sector companies," Cuomo said. "But so what? This is a national emergency."
29 Inmates In NYC Jails Test Positive For COVID-19
11:00 a.m. NYC jails, including Rikers Island, now have 29 detainees who have tested positive for COVID-19, according to the Correctional Health Services, an entity of the city hospital system that provides medical treatment to inmates.
The CHS confirmed the updated numbers late Sunday, which were up by eight since Saturday morning. About 12 Department of Correction and five CHS employees have also tested positive.
Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Sunday that a total of 27 people have been released from city jails who are at a high-risk of coronavirus complications and a low-risk of re-offending. 13 more are expected to be released, most of whom are jailed for violating parole and require approval from the state, according to the mayor’s office.
The final decision regarding another 200 detainees serving less than 90-day sentences is expected to be issued Monday, de Blasio said.
The few hundred incarcerated individuals that the de Blasio administration has identified remain a far cry from those the oversight agency, the Board of Correction, detailed in a letter urging for a reduction in the jail population on Saturday. About 906 people in DOC custody are over 50; 189 are on technical parole violations and 74 are serving city sentences, which is one year or less for low-level offenses. There are 62 people in Rikers Island’s hospital for health conditions requiring a high level of care. Hundreds more are in jail for technical parole violations or for an open case, and 551 are serving a city sentence.
When asked about the board’s numbers, de Blasio said Sunday, “I respect the board, but I don’t think it was the most complete explanation of what’s really going on.”
"We have to balance all of the factors here, and the health conditions of people is absolutely a crucial factor," he said. "It's a tough, tough equation we have to work through very, very quickly."
"We're gonna strike that balance," de Blasio said, noting he doesn't want to "create a new problem trying to solve an original problem." People who are released would be a part of a supervised release program and require monitoring, de Blasio said.
Healthcare professionals and criminal justice advocates have emphasized the nature of jails and prisons makes it difficult to prevent the spread of a virus, due to crowding and insufficient hygiene supplies.
“Jails simply cannot protect patients and staff from a viral pandemic affecting the city,” Jonathan Giftos, a former medical director at the CHS, now the medical director at homeless medical care provider Project Renewal, said in a statement on Sunday regarding a federal facility’s—Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn—first positive case of COVID-19. “They are not closed systems; there is a tremendous flux of people in and out of the facility, including officers and other staff, who live in communities overwhelmed by positive cases.”
Social distancing and handwashing are “impossible in jails,” Giftos said. Reps. Jerry Nadler, Nydia Velázquez, and Hakeem Jeffries demanded that federal courts release at-risk individuals and stop filling the facilities with additional people arrested for non-violent charges during a Sunday press conference.
NYC Hospitals Will Run Out Of Available Ventilators This Week, De Blasio Warns
Mayor Bill de Blasio on Monday said that the city's 11 public hospitals have a week before they run out of life-saving equipment and medical supplies to treat patients with COVID-19.
"If we don’t get ventilators this week we are going to start losing lives who could have been saved," he said on CNN this morning.
As of Sunday afternoon, New York City has 10,764 confirmed cases of coronavirus. At least 99 people have died from the disease in NYC.
In recent days, the mayor has been making daily pleas for federal intervention in helping New York City procure what has become scarce and expensive resources amid the coronavirus pandemic: face and surgical masks, gloves, gowns and most of all, ventilators.
And with each plea, de Blasio's predicted window of time before the city's hospital supplies run out is becoming narrower and narrower.
Last Thursday, he said the city had 2-3 weeks left. On Sunday night, he said that the city's public health system had 10 days before it would run out of equipment.
Yet on Saturday, Governor Andrew Cuomo said that New York City would be receiving one million N95 masks.
Since it began, the coronavirus crisis has given way to a steady stream of alarmingly fast-changing statistics. While data on confirmed cases in New York City is reported daily by both Cuomo and de Blasio, the exact number of supplies currently available at the city's public hospitals and how quickly they will run out has been more difficult to corroborate.
Still, de Blasio has suggested that the quantities, especially for ventilators, will soon not be sufficient. He has urged President Donald Trump to use the Defense Production Act, a law which enables him to order private manufacturers to produce needed emergency equipment.
"The national supply chain is roiled," de Blasio said. "You can try to order from anywhere in the country and someone outbids you and suddenly your supply is gone."
After days of saying that his requests have gone unanswered, de Blasio said he had finally spoken with Trump and Vice President Mike Pence on Sunday night. He said he made the city's desperate situation clear.
He declined to say what their response was, except to say that it was a constructive conversation.