Saturday, March 21, 2020
Thanks to The Friend of Pelham Parkway, and the Daffodil Project in the Fall hundreds of Daffodil bulbs were planted which have come up to grow in the Spring. The photos below shows one of the Friends of the Parkway pointing to where Daffodil bulbs were planted. The photo on the right shows that the Daffodil bulbs have grown to a pretty garden.
Here are some more areas where the Daffodils were planted on Pelham Parkway North.
Friday, March 20, 2020
Richard P. Donoghue, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, today urged the public to report suspected fraud schemes related to COVID-19 (the Coronavirus) by calling the National Center for Disaster Fraud (NCDF) hotline (1-866-720-5721) or to the NCDF e-mail address email@example.com.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: I'll try and give you quick updates and then we're going to hear from our Police Commissioner and our School's Chancellor. We're going to talk today, of course, about the new measures taken by the State and going to talk about what is still not happening with the federal government and what we need from the federal government and obviously the overall situation in terms of what's happening with the people of this City.
I do want to start by saying that we had a very, very important announcement by Governor Cuomo. I want to thank him and commend him for the decision that he made. I think it is the right decision. It's going to be a new reality in this City and we have to understand that this is something that's absolutely necessary. I want to say to my fellow New Yorkers, none of us asked for the coronavirus to say the least. None of us expected the coronavirus. We are in a whole new dynamic. We're all learning every day how to make sense of it. And when I give you these briefings and just like my colleagues we’ll try and be as blunt and straightforward as we possibly can be, but some of the time the answer will be we don't know because we still don't know. There are so many things we're trying to sort out in a brand-new reality.
What I can say is a lot of the pieces are coming together to make sure that we do everything humanly possible to slow the spread of this disease, to give us a chance to prepare for the weeks ahead when we're going see a lot more cases and make sure our healthcare system will be as strong as it possibly can be. And that's why the Governor's decision was so important to make sure that all non-essential workers go home, that only people who are working are people who are doing something absolutely necessary for our City and our State. To make sure that people had some clear rules about what you can and cannot do. And we want to be clear about how we're going to enforce those rules. And you're going to hear from our Police Commissioner in a moment and clearly the NYPD is going to play a major role in enforcement along with other agencies that we depend on like the FDNY, the Sheriff's Office, many other agencies will be involved. But really, we want to emphasize from the beginning – I want to be clear that we're in a brand-new reality – we have not gone through something like this across our whole City in generations.
And our goal would be every single day to try what we think makes sense, to see how it goes, to listen to New Yorkers to best understand what's going to work and what doesn't. I constantly am listening for the feedback I'm getting. People are reaching me from all parts of the city, are giving me updates, I know my colleagues are too, and we're getting a real sense of what people need and how best we can serve them. But we are all trying to catch up with a new reality. So we will be enforcing the Governor's order, the Governor's order is the right thing to do to protect us all. And particularly to protect those who are most vulnerable, the folks over 50 with those preexisting health conditions and particularly folks over 70, even if they're pretty healthy, those are the people in most vulnerable - those are our loved ones, our friends, our neighbors, the people we worship with that we need to take care of.
So, acting on the State's order, we're going to do all we can to educate people to help them understand how to live with this new reality, how to work together, how to support each other. It's not going to happen overnight. It's not going to be perfect the first time, but we do know that we're going to be able to help people understand how to make it work and that we all have to make it work. We all have to do this together. So, you'll see folks from your city government led by the NYPD out there, reminding people, educating people, warning people to make sure we get this right.
So, let me go over a few other matters, starting again with the State order. Again, starts to take full effect on Sunday night at 8:00 pm, 100 percent of nonessential workers must stay home. But there are a number of industries and businesses that are essential – those that provide food, groceries, obviously food delivery, pharmacies, mass transit, healthcare, that's, those are the areas that of course will be protected – will keep going. But I think it's as simple as this. If you don't need to be out, you shouldn't be out, and if you can be home, you should be home. That's what it really comes down to. Especially for those folks most vulnerable, as I mentioned, you know, folks who at this moment are vulnerable to this disease, let's just think about it, we don't want them to take any chances whatsoever. If anyone in those categories wants to go outside for a little bit, I get it, but please, absolutely distance from anyone around you and as briefly as possible really, really limit the people who come in contact with you. No one should come in contact with anyone over 50 with those preexisting conditions or over 70 in general without checking first to see if you have a temperature, use a thermometer. If you have a temperature over a hundred, you should not be in contact with anyone in those vulnerable categories. People have to be really, really smart about it and always, always practice social distancing. That's six feet apart - wherever you are - except when you're right among your own family members, you go out for a walk, stay six feet apart from people. You go to the grocery store, stay six feet apart from people. Anything you're doing, keep to that rule. Does anyone think it's going to be perfect, no. But if you keep thinking all the time and acting all the time, you'll be able to protect yourself.
For folks who we know were planning gatherings, obviously we're quite clear and it's tough to say, there's so many gatherings we look forward to each year. Anything non-essential should not happen at this point, just has to be postponed. The core of this crisis will certainly go on for weeks, most likely months. If you have to postpone, you'll be postponing for a while, but it is the right thing to do to keep people safe. And I remind people that's true outside as well as inside, that six feet apart matters in either situation. We want to make sure people remember, even when you're doing those basic things, going to the grocery store, going to the pharmacy, you still need to keep six feet apart. And again, we're going to ask the NYPD and other agencies to keep an eye on places where people are getting a little too crowded and to go in and remind people to separate and spread out. I don't think most New Yorkers need a lot of reminding of what this pandemic means and the dangers it brings, but we're all human beings, we're social, we're used to being close together, especially in this City. I know the NYPD and others will do a great job of making sure we’re reminded to do the smart thing and the healthy thing and the safe thing.
Okay, let me now talk to you about the overall situation. And this is the part of each briefing that I really hate to give cause it's just astounding and it gets worse each time. But my job is to tell you the truth and my job is to tell you the facts that you need to know, so here we go. As of 10:00 am today we can confirm in New York City, 5,151 cases confirmed of Coronavirus and to give you perspective, that is now about one-third of all the coronavirus cases in the United States of America. It is about two-thirds of the cases in the State of New York. I hate to say this, but it's true, we are now the epicenter of the crisis right here in the nation's largest city. And we have so much we have to do.
The City, we are doing everything that we possibly can. People are giving us ideas every day. We're running with those ideas. We're trying to create new things to help people. We're, we're our public servants are doing an amazing job. A lot of people are coming forward from the private sector offering help from the philanthropic center - sector. They're so many people offering help from individuals like those amazing medical professionals who've come forward over 2000 of those retirees who have volunteered to come back to help. Business people big and small, offering to give anything they have to help this City. So many amazing positive stories and that reminds me just how good New Yorkers are and how much we're going to really find a way to get through this together.
So, the City government is doing everything it knows how, New Yorkers, businesses, nonprofit organizations, community groups, houses of worship – everyone's chipping in – State of New York, doing the right thing, the right policy to protect us all and taking a lot of the other right moves to be careful to make sure we all get through this. Everything makes sense until you get to the federal government. And I still can't understand it. Every day that I talk to you, I cannot understand what's going on here. There was another big press conference by the President and his key officials. They were talking about what is undoubtedly one of the biggest crises in this country in generations, one of the biggest threats to our national security in generations, and, yet, essentially, today, the President offered no new evidence of action. I don’t understand why he won’t do the single simplest thing that would help us and help this whole country mobilize our armed forces. We need their ability – their logistical ability, their operational ability, their extraordinary personnel, including their extraordinary medical personnel. We need them here, we need them now, it's as simple as that. And the orders still have not been given, the same with the Defense Production Act. We have been waiting and waiting. The President said today he would utilize it, but there's no specific evidence of that confirming to us any specific supplies or equipment being built manufactured— distributed. We have nothing yet to tell us when we're going to get help and we need it. Continue to appeal to our congressional delegation, which has been very supportive. I'm reaching out to cabinet secretaries. I'm reaching out to the Vice President, anyone who will listen. But we need the President's full authority utilize under Defense Production Act so that it will actually turn into thousands of ventilators, millions of surgical masks, all the things that New York needs.
And by the way, I've warned people in two or three weeks at this rate, we're going to run out, but that's the beginning of the crisis. Later in April, into May, it gets worse. So, we need the Federal Government to act. Senator Schumer to his credit is playing extraordinary role. He has offered this Marshall Plan for hospitals. That's exactly what we need to give our health care community what they need, the supplies, the equipment, everything they need. But listen, it also to his great credit, recognizes that States and Localities are right now bearing massive new expenses and are stressed in huge ways and we need the financial relief to so we can help our people and our people need money back in their pockets and the federal government can do that. So again, thank you to Senator Schumer for all you are doing. I want to give a number of updates about actions quickly that the City is taking. And then I'll turn to our police commissioner and then our School's Chancellor.
Let me just say, I mentioned earlier of the sheer number of cases, again, 5,151 – an astounding number – 29 people in this city have passed away because of coronavirus. We've lost 29 New Yorkers and that number is sure to keep growing very, very sadly. In terms of the boroughs, we have 1,406 cases this as again as of 10 am this morning. 1,406 cases in Queens— 1,518 cases in Brooklyn 1,304 – I'm sorry, 1,314 cases in Manhattan, 667 cases in the Bronx and 242 cases in Staten Island. Let me tell you about some of the things we're going to do. — Chancellor will go into more detail on the question of our enrichment centers. These are the new centers we've never had them before, this is a brand new thing. And I want to thank everyone at the Department Education. Everyone, our educators, our staff, our – senior leadership, everyone, these, these folks have been working nonstop to get this ready. This, these are the enrichment centers to provide education and to give a safe place to the kids have, are absolutely essential. Workers are our healthcare workers, our first responders, and our transit workers. We know we need all of those workers at the front where they're needed most and they need to have their kids someplace safe. So, they will open up on – Monday morning, there'll be 93 to begin, but we could well be adding more. A 76 of those will be a K to 12 education centers – 17 will be early childhood grades only. And these sites can handle well over 50,000 students. It's not going to be anywhere near that number to begin but it could grow much more as we go along and we want to be ready for anything.
The first group, of course again, is health care workers, first responders, transit workers, I've identified them before. All of them will be able to once confirmed, of course we'll be able to have the kids— go to these schools and centers during the school day. For the department education staff who will be working at the centers and the food— distribution locations, I'll be talking about those in a moment. Of course, their children as well we'll have that opportunity, for the frontline investigators and child protective workers in the Administration of Children's Services who protect kids against child abuse. The same for Department of Corrections essential staff, the same for Department of Homeless Services and Human Resources Administration shelter staff and key contracted staff, the same and for sanitation essential staff. And that obviously means in case of corrections and sanitation, our frontline workers as well. So – we will be getting all the details out on the different categories of City workers and – other workers who qualified to have this opportunity for the kids. Those categories are not a final, meaning, we will reserve the right over the next few days into next week to add as we see what's going on, as we hear from additional folks what they need. I mentioned the feeding sites – we're going to be doing a lot of work in these next weeks and months on new ways of feeding New Yorkers. – In terms of feeding, in this case we mean grab and go meals. So this is not people sitting down, of course we're trying to enforce social distancing in every way we can. So, the grab and go meals would be for any young person under 18, whether they go to a public school or any other kind of school. 435 sites we'll be opening on Monday, they will serve breakfast, lunch and dinner. A young person can come and get all three meals at once or any combination – for limited hours and a day on the early part of the day. Details will all be posted – we've got – this is based on sites that were either part of our summer food program from last summer, about a hundred of those sites are being used here. A number of other sites where we see a very high level of kids who during the school year get school meals at a reduced rate or free because of their status economically. We're also to have a special initiative to get food to the homes of medically fragile students. Those are students who really need particular help the Department of Education is going to have a special plan for them. And we're working with Door Dash and we want to help them, excuse me, we want to thank them for their help in making this possible. Everyone who stepped up to make these feeding sites possible, I want to thank all of you. There are a lot of public servants, everyone out there I just want to say a lot of public servants who know it's a tough situation. There's a lot of fear, there's a lot of anxiety, but they're stepping forward anyway to help their fellow New Yorkers, and I want to commend all of them.
Some other quick updates – there’ve been real questions about the small business grants and loans that we announced over a week ago. Want to make sure we're clear about how that works and I want us to do a better job of keeping this information straight forward and clear for a small business folks who need them going forward. The grants for businesses with five or fewer employees who have lost 25 percent or more of revenue, that application has been online and live since last Tuesday – and we have now 466 applications, they will all be processed by Monday and money will go into people's bank accounts on Monday. For the businesses with fewer than a hundred employees, and those that also lost 25 percent or more of their revenue, there’s a huge demand for those loans. We are not going to be able to meet the full demand immediately. We'll do our best to reach as many as we can initially, that's about 400 businesses as well. Those businesses will be able to process their applications tomorrow, beginning tomorrow and the money, the loan money will be in their bank accounts by the end of this coming week. So that one we're still playing some catch up on, but we should have money in people's hands by the end of this coming week.
On our City Parks, this is another one that pains me again. I'm a parent, I love our parks for my own experiences with them, but also all of the time I spent with my kids in our parks. It pains me to tell you we have to cancel all field permits— we cannot allow any events, we cannot allow any team sports. And I'm someone who loves team sports in every form. And it really, I'm very sorry I have to tell you that. But, it's just unfortunately pretty much all team sports come with people getting in close proximity and that's how this disease spreads. So, we're not going to be able to allow any permits for that. We're going to urge everyone to exercise on their own and socially distance to the best of their abilities. And parents are going to have a tough time with this and kids are going to have a tough time with this and it's not going to be perfect. But do the best you can to live in this new reality. Again, is it going go on forever? No. It will be a certain number of weeks, a certain number of months. We don't know exactly what it will be, but it will not be forever, we know it will be finite. We know this crisis will end. So, it's – we had tough, tough adjustment, but we have to be clear about keeping people safe. There's been real good questions about bike lanes and bike usage, so it seems to be a real surge in bike usage, that's fantastic. We want to support that; we're going to begin by installing temporary bike lanes hopefully by the end of next week. First of all, in an area very, very important Second Avenue, Manhattan between 34th and 42nd street, a temporary bike lane. They're also on Smith Street and Brooklyn, part of Smith Street that does not have a bike lane. We'll put in a temporary one there. We’ll be looking for other areas all over the city that need them. Certainly, want to encourage people to use bikes as much as they can at this moment. And we'll have constant updates on that.
Now, when it comes to another way that people get around our ferries, we do have, unfortunately, we do have to reduce some of our ferry service because there simply isn't a ridership to you know, justify the kind of frequency we have now, and we have to be smart about that. Every resource right now has to be used best to fight coronavirus. Every part of the city government has to support every other part. So, we will have to reduce frequency because we just see many fewer people. Staten Island ferry ridership is down 70 percent compared to the same point last year. We will still have ferry service, but we need people to, of course, be smart about social distancing and they will have fewer trips. And so, we have to be really smart about keeping an eye on that, keeping that balance. It will not be a huge change. We'll be reducing weekday schedules from four to three boats during rush hours. So, you'll still have regular service, it'll just be somewhat less. And that will go into effect this Sunday at midnight. The same for New York city ferry. NYC ferry reductions will begin next week. We'll get the exact details. Obviously, we will be careful to protect the times that people need the ferry the most during morning and evening rush hour. But there will be reductions as service details to be announced.
So, concluding and, just to say, anyone out there is confused, you're not alone. If you feel afraid, you are not alone. If you're anxious, you're not alone. Everyone is – all of us are trying to make sense of this. But I'll tell you something – and I really, really believe it New Yorkers are so strong. There are other places in this country – and I love this whole country – but there are other places in this country this may be a particular shock to the system, but here New Yorkers have dealt with every single thing ever thrown at them, and we've had a lot thrown at us. We are a tough people by nature and that's something to be proud of. So, everyone, you know, lets depend on that. Let's believe in that. Let's believe in also the compassion in New Yorkers, that ability to help each other out no matter what. We've seen that time and time again. Let's depend on that again. Let's be there for each other.
I'm going to turn to our Police Commissioner. I'll just say this, Commissioner Shea and I have been talking over these last days. This is going to be a new reality for the NYPD. There's no force on earth more effective, more capable than the NYPD. There's no group of professionals, more agile, more sophisticated than the men and women of the NYPD. But there's an added positive reality here. And Dermot Shea is one of the people that created neighborhood policing from scratch over these last six years to really connect our officers more deeply to their neighborhoods, to build personal relationships to really understand what was going on block by block, to get to know the people who run those grocery stores and those pharmacies that are so crucial right now. So, our officers, kind of, in a way had a head start on this crisis and with the neighborhood policing strategy. We'll have a real understanding of where they need to be to help educate people to help people remember to keep moving on and dealing with these new rules. So, the NYPD is going to be absolutely crucial in this crisis, but I am convinced they are more than ready to meet the moment.
With that, I turn you to our Police Commissioner Dermot Shea.
Police Commissioner Dermot Shea: Thank you, Mr. Mayor. I'll give you a brief overview of what we're seeing throughout the city as it relates to the Police Department. In terms of crime in the city, we've seen a downturn and then about the last week since as with dealing with this crisis, as you see crowds disappearing on streets and other areas, that has translated to a decrease in crime. We've also seen a decrease in calls to 911 for service throughout the city. With one notable exception, calls for service regarding sick patients and that has seen obviously an increase as expected.
I want to thank the public and all the other city agencies, some of whom are sitting here, for the cooperation that has really been seamless as we've all come together to deal with this crisis, really as one city. Men and women of the Police Department, uniform and civilian, the message to the public is they are out there, they are out there in force, and they are there to keep people safe. Whether it's at a school for kids to pick up lunches, whether it's traffic agents, expediting ambulances to get to a hospital, the men and women of the Police Department remain committed to being out there. There has been a toll to this. As we look at the Police Department’s sick, we've seen a notable increase the last four days picking up. That is something that we are watching closely, but I will tell you that at this point we remain very well resourced to handle any and all obstacles that come our way. But we are watching that closely.
As I sit here, the number is probably changing and it has changed throughout the last 24 hours. But we have at this point in time, 52 members of the NYPD that have tested positive for coronavirus. That ranges from civilian members to the executive level. The very good news is, only 1 out of 52 is hospitalized at this time and that's hospitalized with pneumonia like symptoms. So, our hearts and prayers go out to the members and their families with that respect.
What are we doing now? We are paying extremely close attention, as the Mayor said, to areas where people are gathering for good reason. Grocery stores are at the top of our list. Grocery stores, hospitals, the schools and the many facilities in the board of ed that will be open for both children and for picking up breakfast and lunch. So, that remains a focus point in the next period going forward. In terms of the grocery stores and the bars and the restaurants with these new orders of closings. Certainly the, the food establishments and the grocery stores remain open, but we also ask for continued cooperation in terms of just managing any volumes of people.
The good news is we consider about 500 locations that I would categorize as large establishments throughout New York City. We have been to them all and we have not seen any major problems. We have issued very few summonses to any establishments because of the level of cooperation that we've seen. so it's about education, it's about working with each other, and it's about the social distancing that Dr. Barbot has been preaching now, seems like years, but it's really about weeks. So, we will continue to work with the communities that we serve every day to keep continuing to spread that word. We ask for your continued cooperation at this time of certainly stress for all New Yorkers, but again, thank you for all the cooperation.
Mayor: Thank you, Commissioner. I just want to thank you. Again, the men and women of the NYPD have been outstanding in this moment and really want to thank you for reminding people, again, this is one of the leading – I would argue, the preeminent public safety official in the United States of America. And what he's saying here is, that in fact, what the NYPD is finding, is the vast majority of New Yorkers are abiding by the new rules even before today, are being clear about their responsibilities to each other, the responsibilities to their community, and are listening to the constant information that they're getting about coronavirus and taking it seriously. So, I actually think as we go into this new phase with the new plan put forward by the state, that New Yorkers are going to adapt to it quickly, and the NYPD will be there to help. And if anyone needs a reminder, they'll get that reminder. If anyone needs to be reminded that you got to stick to the rules and keep moving along, the NYPD will do that. But I think new Yorkers are ready to listen, and their respect for the NYPD is great, and for all the other agencies that will help with the enforcement. So, thank you very, very much, Commissioner. Appreciate it. And we all share for you – with you, I'm sorry – the thoughts and prayers for your members who are ill, particularly the member who's hospitalized. And that's true for all of our public servants who are dealing with these challenges now and all their families.
I want to turn to our School's Chancellor now to give an update on what is starting Monday. And as he comes up, Chancellor, I have to commend you again and your team. You were asked to do something that's never been done in the history of New York City before, and you were asked to do it in a week's time. And I know it won't be perfect, but you and your team have really done an extraordinary job moving mountains here. And a lot of kids and families are going to benefit and a lot of kids are having, are getting food right now because of what you and your team have done.
Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza: Thank you, Mr. Mayor. So, I want to echo what the Mayor has talked about, what our Police Commissioner has talked about, what Dr. Barbot has talked about. This is a time to be aware and it's not a time to be panicked. It is a time to follow instructions. And I've been so inspired, Mr. Mayor as I've been out in the city looking at the professional development, but more importantly speaking virtually with many of my colleagues across the system. When you think about in a matter of days, the largest school system in America is going to completely switch its instructional delivery method in a matter of three, four days. That's unheard of and it's only possible because of the incredible educators that we have in our schools and leaders that lead as principals and the support team that we have in place. I've also – I'm also going to take just a moment here to say thank you to our custodians, our school safety agents, our school food and nutrition workers who have all shown up every day without fail to make sure that our students have what they need, whether it's food, but that we have clean facilities that are disinfected and deep cleaned every single day, and keeping our building safe and secure as well. I want to thank them. I haven't heard one complaint from them to say they don't want to come in, so I want to thank them for what they do.
Our school teachers and administrators as well. We're about to go into the very big unknown, but we're excited because there are many schools in New York City that have already had some version of virtual learning, distance learning, remote learning, but this is an opportunity for us to take this to scale. So I'm thankful that on Monday we will switch to a remote learning model where our students will continue to be able to get the instruction they need over the next few weeks, hopefully not months, but whatever the time period is we will be able to continue to have them engaged academically. It doesn't mean that there won't be hiccups, and Mr. Mayor, I appreciate that you have said we are in uncharted waters and there will be hiccups. But the good thing is that we all recognize that a good is not going to be the opposite of a perfect, and we're going to continue to work through those hiccups as we build this new –
Mayor: Perfect is the enemy of good.
Chancellor Carranza: Perfect is the enemy of good. Yes, sir. So, there will be hiccups, but we're going to keep the lines of communication open. But not only will students be transitioning to remote learning on Monday, but across the city, and you mentioned this, sir, 439 buildings will serve three meals a day to any student that wants one. No identification is required. No identifying what school you come from. If you show up, you will be able to get not only breakfast and lunch, but also dinner, all at one stop. Now you mentioned that these sites were specifically chosen. 100 of sites were chosen because they were high participation sites in summer of 2019 and the remaining sites are schools where more than 50 percent of the students are eligible for free and reduced lunch. So we're trying to be very strategic in terms of where we locate these sites. To find a site near you, it's very easy. Just search free meals on the DOE website, free meals, or you can call 3-1-1. Or starting Monday, you can text food, F-O-O-D, or comida, C-O-M-I-D-A to 8-7-7-8-7-7, that simple.
Mayor: Say the name of the DOE website.
Chancellor Carranza: It’s www.nycschools. So, please it's that simple. 3-1-1 or texting 8-7-7-8-7-7, food or comida. We're also opening 93 regional education enrichment centers serving up to 57,000 students whose parents are on the front lines serving our city, including first responders, health care workers, transit workers. We will also be serving the essential staff – other essential staff including sanitation workers, DHS and HRA, shelter staff, ACS staff, and obviously the DOE staff that are reporting to the regional enrichment centers and serving food all day. 76 will be K-12 centers in 17 will be early education childhood centers. And again, we want to thank our first responders and our essential workers for keeping our city going. Students at these educational enrichment centers will be there from 7:30 am until 6:00 pm and they will participate in remote learning with their school as well as any art or physical education activities that we have. I personally had been blown away by the fact that we have 2,000 volunteers that have thus far volunteered and signed up to staff these centers. We've also heard the call to expand the eligibility for these centers and we are evaluating in the coming days and weeks our capacity to be able to meet that need as well.
So, the work isn't going to be easy and it's probably not going to be flawless, but I am very proud of the work and the labor that my colleagues in the Department of Education have put into making sure with a compassionate heart that our 1.1 million students will be served for either weeks or months, but they will be served. We have a long road ahead, but I'm confident that together we will be able to make this a reality for all of our students.
Attorney General James Orders Craigslist to Remove Posts Selling Fake Coronavirus Treatments and Exorbitantly-Priced Items
New York Attorney General Letitia James today sent a letter to counsel for Craigslist.com, calling on the company to immediately remove posts that attempt to unlawfully and fraudulently profit off consumers’ fears around the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). Multiple posts in recent days have attempted to sell fake items that purportedly claim to provide “immunity” to the coronavirus or allow individuals to test for the disease, while others have sought to exorbitantly charge consumers for items like hand sanitizer.
“Consumers go on Craigslist every day looking for values, but these items only aim to cheat consumers and profit off their fears surrounding the coronavirus,” said Attorney General James. “These fake products have no place in the marketplace or on a site that consumers trust for every day purchases. We’re demanding that Craigslist remove these posts immediately and ensure the company has policies in place to stop scammers from taking advantage of vulnerable and panicked consumers. My office will not hesitate to take action against all those who use the coronavirus as a get-rich-quick scheme at a consumer’s expense.”
Attorney General James ordered Craigslist to remove postings where users have attempted to sell a number of fake items, including fake “immunity pack[s]” that, in reality have no basis to the claims that it will help protect consumers from contracting or fighting the coronavirus. There is currently no Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-approved vaccine to prevent the disease or treatment to cure it, and the World Health Organization has also said that there is no specific medicine to prevent or treat the coronavirus.
Additionally, a number of ads claim to sell products — including coronavirus “testing kits,” “protect[ive]” kits, and “N94” masks — which fraudulently claim to test for the disease and offer protection against it. The images of these fake test kits have been stolen from different government and private websites, and there has been no evidence of an N94 mask ever existing.
The letter also ordered Craigslist to remove posts that are in clear violation of New York’s price gouging law by attempting to sell, for example, a 1,200 ml bottle of Purell for the exorbitant price of $222.
Finally, the letter demanded that Craigslist provide the Office of the Attorney General (OAG) with information with respect to all proactive efforts the company is taking or planning to take to detect and remove similarly fraudulent, deceptive, or misleading postings on its platform related to the coronavirus.
Deceptive advertisements violate numerous New York laws, including General Business Law § 349 and Executive Law § 63(12). The OAG is also authorized to bring suit to enjoin any illegal acts and practices, including violations of the New York State price gouging law — GBL § 396-r — which provides for a civil penalty not to exceed $25,000 and, where appropriate, restitution for aggrieved consumers.
Separately, in an effort to support New Yorkers in the fight against the coronavirus, Attorney General James has already sent multiple cease and desist letters to individuals and companies selling and marketing certain products as treatments or cures for the coronavirus, including Alex Jones, The Silver Edge company, Dr. Sherrill Sellman, televangelist Jim Bakker, and others.
Additionally, Attorney General James has issued cease and desist notifications to multiple businesses in New York for charging excessive prices for hand sanitizers, disinfectant sprays, and rubbing alcohol — a violation of New York’s price gouging statute. That statute prohibits the sale of goods and services necessary for the health, safety, and welfare of consumers at unconscionably excessive prices during any abnormal disruption of the market.
The OAG continues to surveil and monitor businesses across the state for potential scams and price gouging schemes designed to exploit public concern related to the spread of the coronavirus. Scammers commonly exploit real public health concerns and use heightened public fear to prey on consumers and profit from frauds related to those health fears. If a consumer believes they have been the victim of a scam or have witnessed potential price gouging, they can report these incidents to the OAG.
Earlier this week, Attorney General James also announced that the OAG will temporarily halt the collection of medical and student debt owed to the State of New York and referred to the Office of the Attorney General for collection, for at least a 30-day period between March 16, 2020 through April 15, 2020, in response to growing financial impairments resulting from the spread of the coronavirus. Countless New Yorkers have been impacted — directly or indirectly — by the spread of COVID-19, forcing them to forgo income and business. After this 30-day period, the OAG will reassess the needs of state residents for a possible extension. Additionally, the OAG will accept applications for suspension of all other types of debt owed to the State of New York and referred to the OAG for collection.