During this pandemic, there are some local elected officials working day and night to figure out how to get more ventilators and hospital beds since hospitals are limited in capacity. There are those working to get vulnerable out of jails. There are those working on suspending alternate side parking rules (which the city just suspended from March 18- March 24). And then there are those where are doing the bare minimum– or nothing at all.
Let’s begin with City Council Speaker Corey Johnson. He’s been all over the place getting information and lists of resources out for anything that can possibly happen. His Twitter feed is just a stream of updates every few minutes or so. In his blog post, he wrote, “We are facing a challenge unlike anything we’ve ever seen before, and have taken measures to mitigate Coronavirus/COVID-19 that would have seemed unimaginable just a few days ago.”
“As we keep our city safe with aggressive social distancing and mass closures, we must also make sure our impacted businesses, workers, essential services, and other institutions are able to survive this crisis,” he continued. “We do not know the full extent of the economic impacts yet, but we have to start taking action now to provide relief because workers and businesses are already feeling the impacts.”
In his blog post, he wrote about keeping businesses afloat, “adjusting to our new reality,” helping those who are vulnerable, supporting workers, and taking care of one another’s mental health.
“Levels of anxiety will be high for all New Yorkers. We need to make sure we have support for those with new and existing mental health needs,” he said. “The challenges before us are enormous and will require hard work, sacrifice and a collective response prioritizing the common good. The days ahead will not be easy. But New York City has faced adversity before, and come out stronger than ever. We can again do it again by sticking together and looking out for one another.”
Another elected official who has been doing a lot is Council Member Mark Treyger. Currently, he is calling for an increase in hospital capacity throughout the borough. His district has almost 20% of residents older than 65, many with at least some of the five preexisting conditions that make the disease particularly deadly – diabetes, heart disease, lung disease, cancer and immune deficiencies.
“I repeat. A number of primary care doctors I’m speaking with are considering shutting down their offices in Brooklyn due to not having enough protecting gear for their staff and are directing symptomatic patients to hospitals. This will overburden our hospital system,” Treyger said. “Only will get more intense if we don’t provide primary care doctors in our neighborhoods with adequate protective gear for their offices immediately because many are considering shutting down this week.”
This morning, he Tweeted, “I’ve established a connection between @BKCyclones, @ConEdison, @nycemergencymgt, @ConeyIslandHosp & City Hall about using MCU stadium parking lot in Coney Island to expand CI Hospital’s capacity to serve a senior citizen dense region of our city in Southern BK. We must expand capacity.”
He was also a most vocal advocate of shutting down NYC public schools.
Council Member Carlos Menchaca has been working tirelessly as well. He is also calling for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to stop arrests and to release immigrants that are at risk for the coronavirus. Responding to a Twitter thread about recent ICE arrests in NYC, Menchaca said, “It’s why I and other immigration advocates have called for a suspension of enforcement, as was done in previous emergencies. Because when you’re in one, the last thing you need is to put more people at risk or prevent them from getting the help they need.”
“This isn’t just about people who are being arrested or detained. It’s about protecting the safety of ICE officers, lawyers, judges, and supporting personnel — their families too,” he said.
He and other city council members sent a letter to ICE calling for the suspension of ICE, and the release of detainees, especially those who are elderly, pregnant, and with prior health problems.
Menchaca is also calling for a moratorium of all construction site work in NYC. His Twitter and Facebook feeds are filled with resources for people who need them.
Council Member Brad Lander has also been very active on social media, providing people with resources and urging the city to do more. His Twitter and Facebook feeds are also filled with a steady stream of updates. Currently, he is calling on the city to release those with low-level arrests and those who are over the age of 60 and are vulnerable. He also took to Facebook to give a shoutout to Masbia, a soup kitchen and food pantry in Brooklyn.
“Help is needed at the Masbia Soup Kitchen Network in Boro Park & Flatbush. Masbia was our partner in Hurricane Sandy, miraculously providing food for a month for the 500+ frail elderly at Park Slope Armory. They operate both a food pantry & soup kitchen at their two Brooklyn sites. They have transitioned to grab & go meals. Their food pantries are now giving two weeks of food at a time,” Lander wrote. “They need volunteers at both locations. Yesterday, they had to turn away a truck full of food from City Harvest food because of a lack of volunteers.”
“Volunteer work mostly does not involve direct contact with clients: stocking shelves, sorting & packing food, driving/delivery. They need people for all their afternoon shifts, starting around 1 pm, continuing through food pantry service (4 – 5 pm), and then dinner.”
“Obviously, please be thoughtful about whether you can or should volunteer. Aggressive social distancing is essential. But so is making sure that people who are homeless or hungry can eat during the crisis,” he continued. “Do not volunteer if you are not feeling well, or think you have been recently exposed. But if you can, this is an exception to social distancing that I think makes sense. They have gloves/masks/aprons, but you can bring your own if you prefer.”
Council Member Stephen Levin is calling for a complete NYC shutdown to halt the spread of COVID-19. Writing to Governor Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio, he said, “Now is the time to enact a full #shutdownNYC, in order to save the lives of our people. Only essential services should remain open. This map shows clearly that lower-income outer-borough NYers are still getting on the train, coming in to work.”
“Wealthier NYers are working from home. The consequence of this is that it will be those communities, largely outer-borough communities of color, who will bear the brunt of this disease,” he continued. “And yes, that means a higher death toll. It will be Brookdale, Lutheran, Lincoln, and Montefiore that will get overrun first and most heavily. We can’t let that happen in our city if we have the ability to stop it.”
Levin is also calling to get 35,000 people tested for the coronavirus by April 1. In his statement, he noted that the city must be prepared as soon as tests are available. “There needs to be a clear, strategic plan on how to best give those who need it access to testing quickly and in an orderly way,” he said.
“When New Yorkers face a crisis, we come together in common cause. We did that after 9/11, we did that after Sandy, and we can do that right now. The New York civic spirit is second to none,” he said. “Our moment calls for us to meet this public health challenge with that same spirit, and the most effective way New Yorkers can do this is by getting a test if you fall into the following categories, in the following priority.”
The categories he listed are:
- Older individuals presenting with the symptoms of fever, dry cough, and/or shortness of breath.
- Anyone who has had close contact with someone who tested positive.
- Anyone with recent international travel to affected areas.
- Anyone with symptoms of dry cough, fever, and/or shortness of breath.
Week 2 – Anyone else who believes they may be affected.
“In order to meet this demand, we must set up 5-10 temporary testing sites in each borough,” he said. “It is vitally important to divert the testing away from hospitals and doctors offices so as to not take vital care away from sick New Yorkers and place health care workers at risk of infection.”
Council Member Justin Brannan has also been on top of it. He’s been advocating for closing public schools and for people to stay home. More recently, he advocated for suspending alternate side parking rules (which worked). He even met with Dr. John Marshall, chairman of Emergency Medicine at Maimonides Medical Center to give advice straight to his constituents.
“Our Emergency Rooms are packed with people who are confused and scared but really should not be showing up to the ER. That’s because unless you are VERY sick, you should not go to the ER – just like before COVID-19,” Brannan wrote. “Here’s the deal: this is a pandemic. Chances are YOU WILL GET COVID-19 and you will be fine. You may not even know you have it. You will make a full recovery. No different than you would recover from a bad cold or the flu.”
I'm getting a lot of folks asking what they should do if they start to get sick. This is going to be critical in the coming weeks. I visited with Dr. John Marshall, Chairman of Emergency Medicine at Maimonides Medical Center, to get you the advice straight from the doctor. Please share!
Posted by Justin Brannan on Tuesday, March 17, 2020
“We need to make room for people who are VERY sick. Our hospitals simply do not have space or the resources to give everyone a COVID-19 test at this time,” he continued. “And if you are otherwise healthy, you do not need – and doctors will not give you – a COVID-19 test.”
Council Member Chaim Deutsch advocated fiercely for suspending alternate side parking rules. In fact, he even took the extra step and promised to fight parking tickets for people.
“If you receive a violation for parking during street cleaning, please contact my office,” he Tweeted. “I will gladly write you a support letter reminding the city that we are in a #StateOfEmergency, there is a pandemic raging, and people are being asked to STAY INSIDE!”
His office also put together some information on what steps are being taken to protect veterand and their loves ones.
“With half of the veterans who use VA services being 65 and older – one of the groups most vulnerable to the coronavirus – ensuring our veterans remain safe and informed is one of my top priorities,” he wrote. “Veterans are being asked to call their local VA medical center before going to a clinic, urgent care, or emergency room. When calling, ask your VA health care team about virtual care options, such as telehealth or the My HealtheVet Secure Messaging.”
“If a veteran is showing flu-like symptoms, such as fever, cough, and shortness of breath, you can also call the VA’s Nurse Triage at 1-800-877-6976. This number is open 24-hours a day for virtual care and support,” he said.
Deutsch is also calling on the city to match bills during the pandemic.
”It may seem like a small problem right now, but many New Yorkers will see rising water bills this month, as they wash more frequently work from home, or self-isolate. NYC should waive these added costs and match prior month’s bills,” he said. “For those who are living paycheck to paycheck (or for those who are suddenly out of a job because of coronavirus) – there should not be a forced choice between basic hygienic protections and affording to survive.”
And then we have those who aren’t doing as much as their fellow colleagues. Take Council Member Kalman Yeger for example. He was one of the many council members actively calling for an alternate side parking suspension rule. Now that the city suspended alternate side parking rules for a week, Yeger believes it’s still not enough.
Yeger is also not very happy the Legal Aid Society called for a moratorium on NYPD arrests. In fact, he referred to the organization as “jokesters” and “anarchists.”
“How about an immediate defunding of @LegalAidNYC? We are in the midst of a pandemic and our last priority should be to continue dumping our tax dollars into this joke,” he said. “Our restaurants/small businesses are hemorrhaging, but these jokesters are happily collecting paychecks.”
Council Member Antonio Reynoso has been sharing a few resources on his social media, but it’s very little. He also released a letter encouraging people to wash their hands and stay informed.
“As the rate of Coronavirus spreads in New York City, following the lead of medical professionals is the only way that we will be able to contain the spread of this novel disease,” he said.
Council Member Laurie Cumbo is more active on Facebook than she is on Twitter. She has been sharing vital resources, such as information on food pantries, updates from the Mayor, educational free websites, and even tips on staying sane.
“At a time like this, it is so important to remember self-care! Whether you’re at home, at work, or somewhere in between, take a few moments for yourself today. It makes a world of difference! #selfcarecheckin #covid19,” she wrote.
Council Member Robert Cornegy Jr has also been sharing updates from the Mayor. He was also a supporter of suspending alternate side parking rules and had even sent a letter urging the city to do so. Currently, he is calling for additional funding for food pantries and those delivering food.
“I write to urge you to take all steps possible to release additional emergency funding to food pantries, with special regard to those organizations providing emergency food and delivery to seniors and the homebound,” he wrote to the Mayor and Johnson. “Our City must mobilize resources to meet the increased demand for the critical services that meet these needs.”
Council Member Alicka Ampry-Samuels has been sharing updates on her Facebook page as well as a few resources including some information on food services. She advocated for NYCHA residents and said, “As we all work hard to deal with the COVID 19 pandemic, we know that communities who have already suffered due to lack of resources will continue to suffer. We also know that people with compromised immune systems are in real jeopardy. As a city, we MUST ensure that homes are clean and safe from hazardous conditions and NOT harmful to one’s health. Sewage backup causes respiratory problems! Let’s get someone out here ASAP!”
She even posted this video on her Instagram.
Council Member Farah Louis also has just been posting updates on her pages, which include encouraging people to stay at home. But despite that, she was out yesterday.
“This morning, I passed by PS152/315, PS119 & PS361 to thank staff members for facilitating & serving free grab-and-go meals for those in need,” she wrote. “Thank you to all @NYCSchools employees working despite the circumstances to ensure children in #District45 have access to food & education.”
Council Member Alan Maisel hasn’t been posting much. In fact, his Facebook only has five posts related to the coronavirus.
Council Member Inez Barron isn’t on social media so we don’t know what she’s doing or how she’s getting the information across to her constituents.
And lastly, Council Member Mathieu Eugene just has one post on the coronavirus and absolutely no updates or resource information. His post? A generic statement on the coronavirus via Twitter, urging people to wash their hands.
“As New York City and the global community continue to cope with the immediate impact of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) in our daily lives, I want to emphasize the seriousness of this pandemic and the importance of incorporating preventative measures to limit its continued spread,” he said. “These include washing your hands with soap frequently and staying at home whenever possible. We must be proactive as a society in order to protect ourselves and the at-risk population from future infection, and practicing proper hygiene and social distancing is an essential part of that process.”