Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Governor Cuomo Updates New Yorkers on State's Progress During COVID-19 Pandemic - NOVEMBER 24, 2020


Positive Testing Rate in All Focus Zone Areas is 4.13 Percent; New York State Positivity Outside All Focus Zone Areas is 2.62 Percent     

Statewide Positivity Rate is 2.96 Percent

47 COVID-19 Deaths in New York State Yesterday

 Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today updated New Yorkers on the state's progress during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

"Remember the experts said, 'Beware the fall.' It gets cold, people start to stay indoors, college students start to come home and there's less outdoor activity. That's the spike we're seeing go up now, and we are now going into the holiday season and 37 days of increased social interaction," Governor Cuomo said. "This is not a normal Thanksgiving. It was not a normal summer. It was not a normal Labor Day. It was not a normal school year. Even President Trump's CDC and President-Elect Biden's advisors agree we should all be celebrating only with our immediate household. I know it's hard, but we cannot go backwards - it would be disrespectful to the essential workers, nurses and doctors, many of whom gave their lives so we could stay home and stay safe. This year, I give thanks to all those essential workers who showed up for work every day, even in the worst of this crisis. Celebrate Thanksgiving with your extended family: The family of New York, representative of all those people who did the right thing this entire year for one and other and acted as a family. We will get through this surge by continuing to do the right thing: Wearing our masks, washing our hands, avoiding gatherings large and small, and staying New York Tough."

The Governor noted that the positive testing rate in all focus areas under the state's Micro-Cluster strategy is 4.13 percent, and outside the focus zone areas is 2.62 percent. Within the focus areas, 37,658 test results were reported yesterday, yielding 1,554 positives. In the remainder of the state, not counting these focus areas, 127,103 test results were reported, yielding 3,327 positives.

Today's data is summarized briefly below:

  • Patient Hospitalization - 2,856 (+132)
  • Patients Newly Admitted - 373
  • Hospital Counties - 52
  • Number ICU - 559 (+14)
  • Number ICU with Intubation - 263 (+14)
  • Total Discharges - 83,701 (+200)
  • Deaths - 47
  • Total Deaths - 26,441

Infection           3.3 %                  3.4 %             3.6 %
Rate %

Opioid Manufacturer Purdue Pharma Pleads Guilty to Fraud and Kickback Conspiracies


 Opioid manufacturer Purdue Pharma LP (Purdue) pleaded guilty today in federal court in Newark, New Jersey, to conspiracies to defraud the United States and violate the anti-kickback statute.

Purdue pleaded guilty to an information charging it with three felony offenses: one count of dual-object conspiracy to defraud the United States and to violate the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, and two counts of conspiracy to violate the Federal Anti-Kickback Statute. 

“The abuse and diversion of prescription opioids has contributed to a national tragedy of addiction and deaths, in addition to those caused by illicit street opioids,”  said Deputy Attorney General Jeffrey A. Rosen.  “Today’s guilty pleas to three felony charges send a strong message to the pharmaceutical industry that illegal behavior will have serious consequences.  Further, today’s convictions underscore the department’s commitment to its multi-pronged strategy for defeating the opioid crisis.”

“Purdue admitted that it marketed and sold its dangerous opioid products to healthcare providers, even though it had reason to believe those providers were diverting them to abusers,”  said Rachael A. Honig, First Assistant U.S. Attorney for the District of New Jersey.  “The company lied to the Drug Enforcement Administration about steps it had taken to prevent such diversion, fraudulently increasing the amount of its products it was permitted to sell. Purdue also paid kickbacks to providers to encourage them to prescribe even more of its products.”

“As today's plea to felony charges shows, Purdue put opioid profits ahead of people and corrupted the sacred doctor-patient relationship,” said Christina Nolan, U.S Attorney for the District of Vermont.  “We hope the company's guilty plea sends a message that the Justice Department will not allow big pharma and big tech to engage in illegal profit-generating schemes that interfere with sound medicine.  We hope, also, that this guilty plea will bring some sense of justice to those who have suffered from opioid addictions involving oxycodone and some vindication for families and loved ones of those who did not survive such addiction."

"This case makes clear that no company, including Purdue Pharma, whose actions harm the health and safety of the American public, is beyond the reach of law enforcement,”  said Assistant Director Calvin Shivers of the FBI's Criminal Investigative Division.  “The opioid epidemic continues to spread across the United States impacting countless Americans and harming communities. Together with our law enforcement partners, the FBI is committed to investigating and holding criminals accountable for the roles they play in fueling this crisis.”

As part of today’s guilty plea, Purdue admitted that from May 2007 through at least March 2017, it conspired to defraud the United States by impeding the lawful function of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).  Purdue represented to the DEA that it maintained an effective anti-diversion program when, in fact, Purdue continued to market its opioid products to more than 100 health care providers whom the company had good reason to believe were diverting opioids.  Purdue also reported misleading information to the DEA to boost Purdue’s manufacturing quotas.  The misleading information comprised prescription data that included prescriptions written by doctors that Purdue had good reason to believe were engaged in diversion.  The conspiracy also involved aiding and abetting violations of the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act by facilitating the dispensing of its opioid products, including OxyContin, without a legitimate medical purpose, and thus without lawful prescriptions.

Purdue also admitted it conspired to violate the federal Anti-Kickback Statute. Between June 2009 and March 2017, Purdue made payments to two doctors through Purdue’s doctor speaker program to induce those doctors to write more prescriptions of Purdue’s opioid products.  Also, from April 2016 through December 2016, Purdue made payments to Practice Fusion Inc., an electronic health records company, in exchange for referring, recommending, and arranging for the ordering of Purdue’s extended release opioid products – OxyContin, Butrans, and Hysingla.

Under the terms of the plea agreement, Purdue agreed to the imposition of the largest penalties ever levied against a pharmaceutical manufacturer, including a criminal fine of $3.544 billion and an additional $2 billion in criminal forfeiture. For the $2 billion forfeiture, the company will pay $225 million within three business days following the entry of a judgment of conviction in accordance with the Plea Agreement.  The department is willing to credit the value conferred by the company to state and local governments under the department’s anti-piling on and coordination policy if certain conditions are met.

Purdue has also agreed to a civil settlement that provides the United States with an allowed, unsubordinated, general unsecured bankruptcy claim for recovery of $2.8 billion to resolve its civil liability under the False Claims Act.  Separately, the Sackler family has agreed to pay $225 million in damages to resolve its civil False Claims Act liability.

The criminal and civil resolutions, which were announced on Oct. 21, 2020, do not include the criminal release of any individuals, including members of the Sackler family, nor are any of the company’s executives or employees receiving civil releases.

On Nov. 17, 2020, the bankruptcy court in the Southern District of New York approved the financial terms of the global resolution with the company.  The resolution includes the condition that the company cease to operate in its current form and instead emerge from bankruptcy as a public benefit company (PBC) or entity with a similar mission designed for the benefit of the American public.  The proceeds of the PBC will be directed toward state and local opioid abatement programs.  Based on the value that would be conferred to state and local governments through the PBC, the department is willing to credit up to $1.775 billion against the agreed $2 billion forfeiture amount.  The department looks forward to working with the creditor groups in the bankruptcy in charting the path forward for this PBC to best accomplish public health goals.

The global resolution does not resolve claims that states may have against Purdue or members of the Sackler family, nor does it impede the debtors’ or other third parties’ ability to recover any fraudulent transfers.

Except to the extent of Purdue’s admissions as part of its criminal resolution, the claims resolved by the civil settlements are allegations only.  There has been no determination of liability in the civil matters.

Acting Manhattan U.S. Attorney Announces Settlement Of Lawsuit Against Pharmacist For Fraudulent Billing Practices


Defendant Ramesh Taduvai Makes Admissions and Agrees to Pay a Total of $600,000

 Audrey Strauss, the Acting United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, and Scott J. Lampert, Special Agent in Charge of the New York Regional Office of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of the Inspector General (“HHS-OIG”), announced today that the United States has settled a civil healthcare fraud lawsuit against RAMESH TADUVAI (“TADUVAI”), the former part-owner and Pharmacist-in-Charge of Manav II, Inc., d/b/a Good Health Pharmacy (“Good Health Pharmacy”) in Manhattan.  The settlement resolves claims that, from February 2013 through February 2014, TADUVAI submitted false claims for payment to Medicare and Medicaid for prescriptions that Good Health Pharmacy never dispensed to patients, and received reimbursements to which the pharmacy was not entitled, in violation of the False Claims Act.  Under the settlement approved yesterday by U.S. District Judge P. Kevin Castel, TADUVAI will pay $600,000 to the United States to resolve the fraudulent billing claims.  TADUVAI also made admissions regarding his conduct as further described below.

Acting U.S. Attorney Audrey Strauss said:  “For more than a year, pharmacist Ramesh Taduvai knowingly billed the Medicare and Medicaid programs for prescriptions that his pharmacy never dispensed to patients.  This Office will continue to hold accountable those who engage in fraudulent billing schemes to personally profit at the expense of federally funded healthcare programs.”

HHS-OIG Special Agent in Charge Scott J. Lampert said:  “Health care professionals must be held to a high standard of ethical behavior.  HHS-OIG will continue to ensure that those individuals and entities that bill federal health care programs do so in an honest manner.”

According to the Complaint filed in Manhattan federal court: 

TADUVAI has been a licensed pharmacist since 1999 and was a 50% owner of Good Health Pharmacy, a retail pharmacy in New York, New York, from late 2005 until October 2014.  From February 2013 through February 2014, TADUVAI, on behalf of Good Health Pharmacy, knowingly billed Medicare and Medicaid for prescription drugs that were never actually dispensed to patients.  After Pharmacy Benefit Manager CVS/Caremark (“CVS”) determined that Good Health Pharmacy had submitted claims for medications that were not supported by records showing that it had purchased the medications, TADUVAI presented checks that he had issued, purportedly to independent pharmaceutical wholesalers, and falsely claimed they were proof of the purchases.  However, Good Health Pharmacy had in fact not purchased these drugs and the checks were instead deposited into bank accounts controlled by TADUVAI.  In March 2017, TADUVAI, Good Health Pharmacy, and others were indicted by the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office for crimes related to underreporting income, some of which related to the issuance of these checks.  In November 2018, TADUVAI pled guilty to three counts of criminal tax fraud in the second degree.

As part of the settlement, TADUVAI admits, acknowledges, and accepts responsibility for the following conduct: 

  • At all times during the relevant time period, TADUVAI was Good Health Pharmacy’s Pharmacist-in-Charge and was responsible for the pharmacy’s operations and the management of its staff.
  • Good Health Pharmacy, under the management of TADUVAI, as Pharmacist-in-Charge, submitted false claims for payment to Medicare and Medicaid for prescriptions that were never dispensed to patients and received reimbursements on these prescriptions to which it was not entitled.
  • TADUVAI issued checks, purportedly to independent pharmaceutical wholesalers, and claimed that these checks were proof that Good Health Pharmacy had ordered and paid for drugs for which the pharmacy billed CVS and federal healthcare programs, but the medications were not actually purchased and the checks were instead deposited into bank accounts controlled by TADUVAI and others.

Ms. Strauss thanked HHS-OIG for its assistance with the case.



Gift Cards Are Always a Popular and Convenient Gift Choice

Consumers are Urged to Follow Basic Tips to Ensure Successful Gifting

 As part of its seven-part consumer alert holiday series, the New York State Division of Consumer Protection recommends New Yorkers be informed consumers when purchasing gift cards and gift certificates this holiday season.

“Gift cards offer convenience to so many gift givers during the holidays,” said New York Secretary of State Rossana Rosado, who oversees the Division. “Gift cards are also a great way for consumers to show support for their local businesses. If gift cards are on your holiday shopping list, be sure to know your rights when it comes to buying and spending them.”

New York State General Business Law §396-i, acceptance of unexpired gift certificates, protects consumers who buy and use gift cards. The law states that no gift card may expire earlier than five years from the date of purchase and requires businesses to prominently post the ‘Terms and Conditions’ that apply to their gift cards – including the procedure to replace a missing card.

Below are tips consumers should keep in mind when buying and using gift cards this holiday season:

  • Check packaging. When buying a gift card, consumers should make sure the packaging and security seals are intact.
  • Use caution with third parties. Consumers should use caution when buying gift cards from third parties or online auctions, as it is difficult to verify the dollar amount remaining.
  • Review fine print. Consumers should always review the fine print and check for hidden fees or any restrictions on the use of the gift card. ‘Dormancy Fees’ for non-use cannot be imposed if the card is used within two years of the purchase date, and any such fees must be waived where the cardholder uses it within three years of the purchase date
  • Don’t fall for scammers trying to get your gift card. Consumers should be particularly cautious about callers claiming to be from the government or utility company saying that an overdue bill or federal debt can be paid with a gift card.  No one from the government, utility companies, or the police would ask for payment via gift card.
  • Be prepared if a business is struggling or considering bankruptcy. If you hear a business is struggling or considering bankruptcy and you have unused gift cards, you should call the business and ask them to offer you cash for any remaining funds. Consumers can also ask debit or credit card companies to reverse the charges.
  • File a claim for gift card amount. If the business is currently going through bankruptcy, consumers can file a claim against the company for the gift card amount. For more information, consumers can reference https://www.uscourts.gov/services-forms/bankruptcy/unclaimed-funds-bankruptcy to check on any unclaimed funds in their name or to file a claim against a current bankruptcy matter.
  • Check unclaimed funds site for unused gift cards. Businesses are supposed to transfer any uncollected gift cards funds to the State Comptroller in the name of the purchaser. The New York State Office of the State Comptroller has an application process where you can search to see what funds are available in your name. You can access their site at: https://www.osc.state.ny.us/ouf/

Consumers having difficulty with an existing gift card are encouraged to file a complaint with the New York State Division of Consumer Protection. The Division of Consumer Protection provides voluntary mediation, between the consumer and business, when the consumer has been unsuccessful at reaching a resolution on their own. The Consumer Assistance Helpline 1-800-697-1220 is available Monday to Friday from 8:30am to 4:30pm, excluding State Holidays, and consumer complaints can be filed at any time at www.dos.ny.gov/consumerprotection. To view consumer alerts, consumers can visit https://www.dos.ny.gov/about/newsroom.html. The Division can also be reached via Twitter at @NYSConsumer or Facebook at www.facebook.com/nysconsumer.


Van Cortlandt Park Alliance is committed to bringing to light the true story of the land that is now Van Cortlandt Park through programs, art, and dialogue.
Stealing Joy: Finding Resilience in Black Holiday Traditions
Thursday, December 3, 6:00 to 7:00pm

Join a conversation between friends, Kamau Ware and Nicole Taylor, that highlights the ways Black people make space to affirm themselves during troubling times. This reflective conversation will cover history and recipes of the African American experience. RSVP Here.
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Photo: Created by Kamau Ware for the Sugar Shadow Collection © 2019
Lenape (Delaware) Arts in Indian Territory: History, Survivance, and Renaissance
Tuesday, December 8, 4:00 to 5:00pm

Join Joe Baker, Executive Director and Co-Founder of The Lenape Center, for a virtual presentation on Lenape (Delaware) Arts in Indian Territory. 
RSVP Here.
Photo from The Thaw Collection, Fenimore Art Museum.   
These presentations are made possible with funds from the Decentralization Program, a regrant program of the New York State Council on the Arts, with the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature, and administered by the Bronx Council on the Arts.
The Enslaved People Project is a joint effort of the Van Cortlandt Park Alliance, Van Cortlandt House Museum operated by The National Society of Colonial Dames in the State of New York, and the Kingsbridge Historical Society.  While we know that the majority of enslaved people that lived in Van Cortlandt Park were either African or of African descent, some are described as “Indians” in the historical record. It is unknown if those people were indigenous to this area or brought here by their enslavers. It is called the ‘Enslaved People Project’ to be inclusive of all enslaved people who lived on Van Cortlandt Plantation, whether their origins are known or unknown.  Visit our EPP page for more information.
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Van Cortlandt Park Alliance
80 Van Cortlandt Park South, Ste. E1
Bronx, NY 10463

Partnerships for Parks - Raise Money and Set Goals During the Pandemic


Join us in December to learn how to raise money and set goals during the pandemic. Also, fill out our brief survey for the chance to win a $100 Amex gift card!


Fundraising to support local parks and neighborhoods during COVID-19 may be difficult, but funding is available! Back by popular demand, our second fundraising webinar this fall will help you hone your grant-writing skills and learn how to seek out discretionary funding from elected officials. Join us and create a compelling fundraising pitch to communicate your group’s needs and form a plan to address them.

You will also:
  • Hear from expert speakers on the ins and outs of writing grant proposals
  • Learn how to choose a fundraising goal and strategy
  • Pick up tips on soliciting business and in-kind donations
  • Have a chance to connect with community leaders
Featured speakers: 

Katie Grassle, Senior Program Manager, Citizens Committee for NYC
Emily Sherrod, Community Engagement Manager, City Parks Foundation

Registration for this session is required and will close the day before the event. You will receive information on how to join the webinar once you register. If you have any questions, please contact Jordan Mullaney at jmullaney@cityparksfoundation.org.

Wednesday, December 2 from 6:00 pm to 7:30 pm



Planning for the future is possible during COVID-19, and we’ll show you how. Attend the second session of our two-part webinar to learn practical methods for moving forward after facing challenges on the path to your goal and walk away with an attainable plan. All are welcome to attend.

We will walk through techniques from the Partnerships Academy Fellowship, which leaders have used to reach new fundraising goals, receive 501(c)3 status, develop new programs, and recruit members. You will also meet like-minded New Yorkers doing important work to support their parks and communities. As a bonus, we are offering a chance to win FREE raffle prizes by taking Leah's Goal-Setting Quiz!

Registration for this session is required and will close the day before the event. You will receive information on how to join the webinar once you register. If you have any questions, please contact Jordan Mullaney at jmullaney@cityparksfoundation.org.

Thursday, December 10 from 6:00 pm to 7:30 pm



Please take 5-10 minutes to fill out the following survey. Your input will help us plan meaningful webinars for park and green space advocates across the city in 2021. Include your contact information to be entered into a raffle to win a $100 AMEX gift card! The deadline is December 10, 2020.

Partnerships for Parks is a joint program of City Parks Foundation and NYC Parks that supports and champions a growing network of leaders caring and advocating for neighborhood parks and green spaces. We equip people and organizations with the skills and tools needed to transform these spaces into dynamic community assets.

Statement from Governor Andrew M. Cuomo on Nuclear Regulatory Commission Approval of Entergy's Sale of Indian Point


"Cleaning up Indian Point will be complicated and expensive, and for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to act without considering New York's request for a hearing is unacceptable and denies New Yorkers the public and transparent process they deserve. We remain committed to ensuring that the decommissioning process is done quickly and prioritizes the safety of New Yorkers and as such, we are considering all options at our disposal to see that the shutdown of this facility protects the public's health and the environment. Critical to that is for any new owner to have the capability and financial wherewithal to expeditiously and thoroughly decommission and restore the site. New York is unwavering in our commitment to holding any owner of Indian Point to the highest standards throughout this process and we will continue to fight to ensure it is shut down safely."