City reverses course on 24-hour jail shifts — One in five New Yorkers may have had coronavirus — Cuomo blasts McConnell bankruptcy idea as ‘really dumb’

Mayor Bill de Blasio is vowing to end the practice of forcing correction officers to work 24-hour shifts after their union brought a lawsuit challenging the policy as a “death sentence.”

As our Danielle Muoio reports, three unions that represent 10,000 correction officers, captains and wardens filed legal papers arguing the city is putting their health and safety in danger by requiring officers work those long shifts and return from sick leave without first getting tested for Covid-19.

At Rikers Island, a hotspot of infections where hundreds of officers and hundreds more inmates have tested positive for the coronavirus, they said the sleep deprivation forced by the long hours would make them more vulnerable to disease. “In the age of COVID-19, triple shifts may be a death sentence,” the suit says.

De Blasio apparently agreed, promising Thursday night to change the policy. “The idea of a 24 hour shift being imposed on our Corrections Officers was a mistake and NEVER should have happened,” he said in a tweet. “To New York’s Boldest: you’re vital to keeping our city safe. I promise we have your back and that this will never happen again.”

The conflict is the latest example of the city’s struggle to protect its public workforce from the virus, while still performing essential government functions. At least 209 city employees have died, with workers complaining of a lack of protective equipment and unclear guidelines that leave them vulnerable to infection.

IT’S FRIDAY. Got tips, suggestions or thoughts? Let us know … By email: [email protected] and [email protected], or on Twitter: @erinmdurkin and @annagronewold

WHERE’S ANDREW? In Albany with no public events scheduled.

WHERE’S BILL? Holding a Covid-19 press conference and appearing on WNYC’s Brian Lehrer show.

“ONE OF EVERY five New York City residents tested positive for antibodies to the coronavirus, according to preliminary results described by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo on Thursday that suggested that the virus had spread far more widely than known. If the pattern holds, the results from random testing of 3,000 people raised the tantalizing prospect that many New Yorkers — as many as 2.7 million, the governor said — who never knew they had been infected had already encountered the virus, and survived. Mr. Cuomo also said that such wide infection might mean that the death rate was far lower than believed. While the reliability of some early antibody tests has been widely questioned, researchers in New York have worked in recent weeks to develop and validate their own antibody tests, with federal approval. State officials believe that accurate antibody testing is seen as a critical tool to help determine when and how to begin restarting the economy, and sending people back to work. ‘The testing also can tell you the infection rate in the population — where it’s higher, where it’s lower — to inform you on a reopening strategy,’ Mr. Cuomo said … In New York City, about 21 percent tested positive for coronavirus antibodies during the state survey. The rate was about 17 percent on Long Island, nearly 12 percent in Westchester and Rockland Counties and less than 4 percent in the rest of the state.” New York Times’ J. David Goodman and Michael Rothfeld

— A million New Yorkers have likely already been exposed to the coronavirus, New York City’s top health official said Thursday, calling the 138,000 confirmed cases in the city the “tip of the iceberg.” City officials also revealed that New York currently has the capacity to do about 11,000 coronavirus tests each day — far short of the hundreds of thousands a day that will be needed to suppress the disease and restart the city’s beleaguered economy. Mayor Bill de Blasio warned against efforts to reopen local business too soon, saying the disease “has not been beaten yet.” New York City now has 138,435 confirmed cases of Covid-19, with 2,519 new cases identified on Wednesday. “That really, I think, is the tip of the iceberg,” Health Commissioner Oxiris Barbot said. “It wouldn’t surprise me if at this point in time, we have probably close to a million New Yorkers who have been exposed to Covid-19.” POLITICO’s Erin Durkin

— A debate over antibody-detecting blood tests to determine the reach of the coronavirus is playing out on Staten Island, where elected officials are bypassing city warnings in an effort to improve care inside beleaguered nursing homes. The Staten Island borough president’s office is partnering with Chembio, a Long Island-based company that promises 15-minute results from finger-prick blood tests to assess the presence of antibodies that appear in response to the virus now crippling New York City. The company has the necessary federal authorization to conduct this type of exam amid the global pandemic, and the borough president, Jimmy Oddo, is raising money to order 7,700 of its kits to distribute throughout nursing homes. He said he reached out to the Cuomo administration, which regulates the facilities, after Mayor Bill de Blasio’s health team issued blanket warnings about these types of tests. “We get it, but we’re desperate,” Oddo said of the city’s concerns. POLITICO’s Sally Goldenberg.

“AT A BROOKLYN nursing home where at least 50 people have died who were suspected of being infected with the new coronavirus, a top administrator says his center had to go it alone for weeks during the outbreak, with little support from the state or other authorities. Cobble Hill Health Center Chief Executive Donny Tuchman said some staff wore garbage bags for protection. Some worked 16-hour shifts. And at times, patients were dying so quickly that the center’s refrigerated storage was beyond capacity, forcing workers to rotate bodies in and out as they waited for space at funeral homes or morgues. With dozens of symptomatic patients and almost no gowns in early April, Mr. Tuchman kept begging for more personal protective equipment. ‘There is no way for us to prevent the spread under these conditions,’ he wrote to state health officials on April 8, in an email reviewed by The Wall Street Journal. “Is there anything more we can do to protect our patients and staff?” In return, state officials emailed guidance on how to conserve supplies during a shortage, and a reminder to submit requests daily to New York City’s Office of Emergency Management, a review of the email chain shows.” Wall Street Journal’s Leslie Brody

“AFTER FERNANDO Pena-Lopez died from the new coronavirus on April 6, his family immediately began looking for ways to properly bury him. His son-in-law Ramon Henríquez called up 20 funeral homes before he found one in Brooklyn, far from their home in East Elmhurst, Queens, to take care of Mr. Pena-Lopez, 59 years old. When he called New York City’s Human Resources Administration earlier this month to apply for a grant to help pay for burial services, he was told twice he didn’t qualify because Mr. Pena-Lopez, like thousands of other New Yorkers, was going to be cremated. ‘We tried having a regular funeral,’ Mr. Henríquez said. A lack of space and a backlog at funeral homes influenced the family’s decision to cremate Mr. Pena-Lopez. … But as more New Yorkers choose to cremate loved ones who have died from the virus, they hit a roadblock in receiving financial help from a program designed to aid families who couldn’t otherwise afford a funeral.” Wall Street Journal’s Katie Honan

— Mexican immigrants are being denied their final wish to be buried in their homelands.

— The medical examiner’s office launched a portal to allow funeral directors to track bodies in city custody.

MAYOR BILL DE BLASIO said Thursday the amount of people without enough food in New York City is expected to nearly double to roughly 2 million as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. The mayor delivered the grim news during his daily press briefing Thursday morning, warning the number of New Yorkers at risk of going hungry was expected to balloon exponentially as half a million residents are expected to lose their jobs through next March. “I fear the number is going to be around 2 million New Yorkers who are food insecure as this crisis deepens, and that’s a horrifying number,” de Blasio said. The mayor’s office estimates the food insecure population has grown to somewhere between 1.9 million and 2.2 million since the pandemic struck, based on the volume of unemployment claims from low-income New Yorkers and estimates from undocumented residents. Before the public health crisis began to take its toll, roughly 1.2 million residents were food insecure, according to the city’s figures. POLITICO’s Michelle Bocanegra and Erin Durkin

— Kosher meals offered at city-run food sites quickly ran out.

“WHEN ROBERT ROWE JR. was discharged from the hospital this month after testing positive for the coronavirus, he needed a place to stay so he would not put his 84-year-old father at risk. New York City health officials put him up at a three-star hotel in Midtown Manhattan. The room was provided under a city program that was intended to protect recovering patients’ families and roommates. Case workers are supposed to check on the patients twice a day by telephone. But on Saturday, Mr. Rowe, 56, was found dead in his room at the Hilton Garden Inn on West 37th Street, nearly 20 hours after a city worker last phoned him, though it unclear whether he picked up. Two other men sent to the same hotel — Julio Melendez, 42, and Sung Mo Ping, 64 — also died last weekend, and a fourth man in the program died early this month at a Queens hotel. The deaths exposed holes in the way the city monitors isolated patients and underscored the difficulty in containing the outbreak in New York City: how to keep people who have been infected or exposed to the coronavirus from passing it on.” New York Times’ Ashley Southall and Nikita Stewart

— A new map illustrates that city sidewalks are too narrow to keep a safe distance.

— At New York’s largest hospital system, 88 percent of coronavirus patients placed on ventilators did not survive, according to a new study.

— An FDNY firefighter is mourning his infant daughter, who died of Covid-19 at less than five months old.

— Many immigrant doctors who got their medical degrees abroad are unable to practice during the pandemic.

“UNDER FIRE New York state officials are launching a probe into whether nursing homes are complying with safety orders related to the coronavirus amid the deaths of more than 3,500 residents, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Thursday. The move followed widespread criticism of Cuomo’s handling of nursing homes amid the pandemic, including his admission that he didn’t know the facilities had to admit infected people and claiming Wednesday that ‘it’s not our job’ to provide them with safety gear. ‘We’re gonna undertake an investigation of nursing homes now, to make sure they’re following the rules,’ Cuomo said during his daily coronavirus briefing in Albany. ‘It’s going to be a joint Department of Health and attorney general investigation.’ Cuomo also said an additional 35 nursing home residents had died from COVID-19 since his Wednesday briefing.” New York Post’s Bernadette Hogan and Bruce Golding

— Family members say they’re not getting answers about their loved ones at nursing homes.

— The first coronavirus patients admitted to a Queens nursing home under a state mandate bars the facilities from refusing “medically stable” coronavirus patients arrived with a supply of body bags.

“GOV. CUOMO has a bone to pick with the Senate’s grim reaper. The governor shredded Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Thursday as heartless and plain ‘dumb’ for suggesting that New York and other coronavirus-ravaged states should go bankrupt instead of receiving federal bailouts. ‘You will see a collapse of this national economy. So just dumb, vicious,’ Cuomo said of the Kentucky Republican’s bankruptcy blather during his daily COVID-19 briefing from Albany. McConnell — who proudly calls himself the ‘grim reaper’ of the Senate because of his penchant for blocking Democratic legislation — made the crude proposal in a radio interview Wednesday, saying no one on his side of the aisle has ‘a desire’ to ‘bail out’ hard-hit states ‘by borrowing money from future generations.’” Daily News’ Chris Sommerfedlt

AS THE STATE’S near-total economic shutdown continues into its fifth week, the number of people looking to collect unemployment benefits continued to reach unprecedented numbers. More than 204,000 people filed for unemployment in the week ending April 17, according to federal data released Thursday. That’s down from 394,701 claims the previous week. There were 1.36 million people collecting unemployment in New York state for the week ending April 11, according to the federal report. That’s an increase of nearly 990,000 from the same time last year. POLITICO’s Marie J. French

— “State officials acknowledged that a backlog in unemployment claims continues for those who are self-employed or independent contractors as well as others typically ineligible for regular unemployment benefits. Melissa DeRosa, secretary to Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, said the initial rollout of the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program in the federal CARES Act was a ‘complete disaster’ that initially required individuals to apply for regular unemployment benefits, then be rejected and apply for the coronavirus pandemic assistance. ‘That’s where the majority of the complaints are coming from,’ DeRosa said during Cuomo’s briefing at the Capitol.” Times Union’s Amanda Fries

— Catholic Health will furlough as many as 1,200 employees in an attempt to offset losses of up to $45 million in monthly revenue, just one of the health care providers struggling as they’re needed most.

“BY MID-MARCH, the staff at the Rockland Psychiatric Center in Orangeburg, N.Y., was growing frustrated. Patients in the center’s two inpatient buildings were continuing to gather for daily group therapy sessions, making social distancing difficult, and some workers believed they needed to stop. There were not enough test kits or protective gear, workers said. And some worried that patients being transferred from hospitals in New York City had not been adequately screened for the coronavirus. The administration soon convened town halls to discuss the concerns. Employees were told that they should not be taking hand sanitizer or masks out of the hospital, but some complained that little of either was available anyway, according to people who were present. Soon patients and staff members began getting sick, including the medical chief. Now, at least 30 Covid-19 deaths have been recorded in the state’s system of 23 psychiatric centers, and roughly a third of them have been at Rockland.” New York Times’ Danny Hakim

#UpstateAmerica: “These days I work for the Times Union, a newspaper that serves Albany and the surrounding area. The salary is peanuts.” A story in Stephen King’s latest book gives a shout out to the Capital Region and Madison Pour House.

— City Comptroller Scott Stringer wants the city to stockpile air conditioners ahead of a summer with beaches and pools closed.

— Brooklyn has slightly overtaken Queens’ death toll.

— The comptroller is objecting to contracts that leave the city on the hook for paying millions of dollars to school bus companies even though schools are closed.

— College students are filing lawsuits demanding refunds after their semesters were canceled.

— A New York-sponsored study shows hydroxychloroquine can’t help seriously ill Covid-19 patients.

— A top de Blasio administration official estimated it would cost half a billion dollars to house all homeless New Yorkers in private rooms to slow the coronavirus’s spread in crowded shelters.

— Big and small retailers are holding out on rent to eke out negotiations tailored to the pandemic.

— Columbia University is keeping its $12 million in stimulus cash, even as other Ivy League schools return their money.

— No budget cuts are being made to the city’s ferry system despite pandemic-driven cuts to other parts of the budget.

— The Lower East Side’s Economy Candy is delivering care packages.

“THERE ARE 5.6 million registered voters in New York. Good-government advocates and Republicans alike raised objections to the idea — floated this week — of directly mailing each of them a ballot in order to prevent the spread of the coronavirus at polling locations. Elections commissioners, for starters, lack the infrastructure or experience with such an undertaking, said Republican Chairman Nick Langwrothy. ‘They don’t believe there’s any way, especially in the larger counties, that the numbers of mailing the ballots to every single register voter could ever be achieved,’ Langworthy said. And then there’s the cost and on-the-fly experimentation with democracy in the middle of a pandemic. ‘You have people who have never voted in a primary in their life that would be mailed a ballot to vote in a primary,’ [Langworthy] said. ‘They may not even be aware of the candidates or the choices on the ballot. They may choose to note vote in a circumstance like that.’” State of Politics’ Nick Reisman

— “New York State United Teachers, one of the state’s most influential unions, on Thursday announced 26 early endorsements for candidates both in state and federal races.”

— Close to 8,000 city elementary-schoolers found out they scored high enough on the city’s Gifted and Talented exam to apply to one of the public school fast-track programs.

— The state’s utility regulator authorized a procurement of at least 1,000 megawatts of offshore wind this year, even as there’s uncertainty surrounding federal approvals of projects.

— Domestic violence murders are up dramatically this year.

— Scientists at a New York lab warn that climate change will still be worse than the current pandemic.

— It snowed on Thursday, sources say.

— Long Island still has dogs and cats to adopt.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY: Vanity Fair’s Abigail Tracy (h/t Terry Sullivan) … Megan Sowards Newton of Jones Day’s political law group … Michael Hirsh, senior correspondent at Foreign Policy … Andrew Kirtzman … Edelman’s Luis BetanzoLarry KramerAlyssa Gowens Betz

WELCOME TO THE WORLD — Atossa Araxia Abrahamian, a senior editor at The Nation, and Joe Bernstein, a technology reporter at BuzzFeed, welcomed Kian Leo Bernstein on Tuesday in New York City.

FOR YOUR RADAR — A group of donors organized by veteran dealmaker Michael S. Klein has come together to create Project Isaiah that is focused on feeding communities affected by Covid-19 while also saving jobs in the foodservice industry. Devon Spurgeon is running day-to-day operations for the organization and Project Isaiah has hired airline catering firm Gate Gourmet to make boxed meals for non-profit organizations and individuals in need. Since launching last month, Project Isaiah has provided more than one million boxed meals to more than 110 organizations across 11 cities, saving more than 500 foodservice jobs.

A NEW RENT Guidelines Board report recommends the body consider hikes for the city’s nearly 1 million rent-regulated apartments this year, setting up a potential face-off with Mayor Bill de Blasio and tenant activists urging for a freeze. Owners of the rent-regulated apartments saw their operating costs rise by 3.7 percent between April 2019 and March 2020, according to the analysis, released Thursday. To mitigate those increases, the board suggests that rents increase between 2.5 percent and 3.5 percent on one-year leases, and between 3.3 percent and 6.75 percent on two-year leases this year. POLITICO’s Janaki Chadha

The NFL held the first round of its draft Thursday night from commissioner Roger Goodell’s Bronxville home. Both the Giants and Jets improved their offensive lines. The Giants went safe — Andrew Thomas, high floor, not flashy, and lord knows he fills a need. The Jets went with Mekhi Becton, huge (even for an offensive lineman, huge), likes to push trucks around, not great fundamentally yet. Very on-brand selections from both teams, really.

The day ahead: More NFL Draft, but let’s take a look back at Marvin Powell, a tackle who would be the optimal outcome for either of the New York first round picks from Thursday night. Powell reached his fifth straight Pro Bowl in 1983, and you can watch it in full.

 

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