Absence of $15 Billion in Ongoing Funding Could Lead to Increased Demand on City-Run Services to Test, Treat, and Vaccinate New Yorkers
City Stepping Up, Distributing At-Home Test Kits to Boost Ongoing Preparedness
New York City Mayor Adams and city health leaders today called on all members of Congress to appropriate more than $15 billion in emergency funding for COVID-19. While New York City will continue providing testing and vaccine services to New Yorkers at no cost through NYC Health + Hospitals, gridlock in Washington, DC has threatened the health of communities across New York and the rest of the nation. Earlier this week, Mayor Adams met with the New York City congressional delegation and urged them to push for immediate passage of the COVID-19 aid package. As the city and the nation wait for action from certain members of Congress to protect Americans’ health, New York is taking action to bolster preparedness efforts. Specifically, the NYC Test & Trace Corps will provide an additional 6.3 million free at-home tests in April to over 2,500 community organizations, libraries, cultural institutions, houses of worship, and elected offices across the city.
“We have more tools than ever to fight COVID-19, but now is not the time to scale back,” said Mayor Adams. “As we step up and provide more than 6 million at-home tests to keep our residents safe, we need our federal government to continue pushing for much-needed resources. We remain committed to assisting the New York City congressional delegation as they work to secure COVID-19 supplemental funding, but inaction by certain members of Congress right now puts the whole country at risk. We need federal action now before we left to fend for ourselves if another surge hits our city.”
Test & Trace has distributed nearly 11 million at-home tests to date, with approximately 7 million tests delivered to New York City schools. Test & Trace currently maintains a stockpile of tens of millions of tests that can be rapidly distributed in the event of a surge.
Making at-home testing widely available ensures New Yorkers can test themselves immediately if they have symptoms so they can safely head to work, school, or other gatherings with family and friends, or quickly receive treatment, if needed.
The more than $15 billion in funding Congress has yet to authorize has the potential to:
Last night, rumors began to surface that Congress may soon consider an aid package valued at approximately $10 billion — less than half of the $22.5 billion President Joseph Biden had initially sought to continue the fight against COVID-19.
“New York City is well positioned to respond to the increase in cases through a robust testing network, including the distribution of over 6 million at home tests through community-based partnerships” said Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services Anne Williams-Isom. “I urge all New Yorkers to take the necessary precautions, including getting vaccinated, boosted, and wearing a mask, in order to protect their health, the health of their families, and school communities.”
“Cases are rising, and we expect to see a steady increase in transmission as BA.2 continues to circulate around the city,” said New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene Commissioner Dr. Ashwin Vasan. “We’ve all been through so much the last couple years and we need every tool available to us. It’s crucial we all take the steps we know work to keep us safe and healthy, like getting vaccinated, boosted, tested, and wearing masks in settings where the vaccination status of those around you are unknown. ”
“At NYC Health + Hospitals, we believe that health care is a human right and we serve every New Yorker regardless of their ability to pay or their immigration status,” said Dr. Mitchell Katz, president and CEO, NYC Health + Hospitals. “The COVID-19 federal funding pool helped us take care of hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers without disrupting our non-COVID care. This funding ensures that everyone can access a COVID-19 test and a vaccination so they can remain healthy.”
“We want every New Yorker to have access to home tests so you can know if you have COVID before you go to work, school, or see friends and loved ones,” said Dr. Ted Long, executive director, NYC Test & Trace Corps; senior vice president of Ambulatory Care and Population Health, NYC Health + Hospitals. “Thanks to our thousands of program partners, we are prepared for the BA.2 variant with at-home tests accessible at locations for all the city’s diverse communities. I urge the federal government to renew emergency funding so that they can continue to assist us with our critical mission to provide ready access to testing, treatments and vaccination, and to end the pandemic.”
Earlier this week, President Biden warned there may not be enough vaccine supply to guarantee free access to vaccines for those who want them this fall, just as the federal government approved a second booster dose for adults aged 50 and older, making this federal funding even more dire. In addition, the federal government is already scaling back allocations for COVID-19 treatments, like monoclonal antibody treatments and oral antivirals. These treatments have been a lifeline for many vulnerable New Yorkers, and without them, severe outcomes due to COVID-19 infection will increase.
Any New York City-based community organization that would like to participate as an at-home test distribution partner is encouraged to sign up online. New Yorkers can find an at-home test distribution location most convenient to them by visiting the city’s coronavirus testing page. New Yorkers with a disability who need assistance or have questions regarding at home test kits or otherwise should call 311. Those who are deaf or hard of hearing and use American Sign Language can call via video phone at 646-396-5830.
April marks the beginning of Sexual Assault Awareness Month. This month is dedicated to raising public awareness and educating our community on how to help prevent violence. Sexual violence remains a pervasive public health, human rights, and social justice issue, and we observe this month to emphasize the need for greater prevention efforts and support for survivors.
We all have a responsibility to support survivors and prevent sexual violence. Below is a list of local resources and organizations to support:
Victim Assistance Programs:
The evening of April 1st also marks the start of the holy month of Ramadan. I’d like to wish everyone observing a blessed and fulfilling month!
State Senator Alessandra Biaggi
New Yorkers 50 Years and Older Who Received First Booster At Least Four Months Ago Are Eligible; Adults 18 - 49 Years Who Received the Johnson & Johnson Vaccine and Immunocompromised New Yorkers 12 Years and Older Also Eligible for an mRNA Booster Four Months After First Booster
State Department of Health and CDC Continue to Strongly Recommend Initial Booster Doses for Eligible Adults and Adolescents
Governor Kathy Hochul today announced eligibility for second COVID-19 vaccine booster doses. Booster doses are free and widely available statewide, including at all state-run mass vaccination sites. Eligible New Yorkers may receive an mRNA vaccine—either the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna COVID-19 vaccine—for their second booster shot.
"Second boosters are now available to eligible New Yorkers statewide, including at all of the State's mass vaccination sites," Governor Hochul said. "Getting vaccinated and staying up-to-date with all recommended doses is the most effective way to prevent severe illness and hospitalization, and move safely forward through this pandemic."
The State's Department of Health released new clinical guidance on the administration of second booster doses for all providers enrolled in the New York State vaccination program. The guidance follows the Federal Drug Administration's (FDA) approval of Emergency Use Authorization for a second booster and the updated recommendation from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to allow adults 50 years and older to receive a second booster of an mRNA vaccine at least four months after their first booster. Additionally, adults ages 18 - 49 years who received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine for their primary vaccine and initial booster dose now may receive a second booster four months after their first booster dose. Also eligible for the second booster are New Yorkers 12 years and older who are moderately to severely immunocompromised.
State Health Commissioner Dr. Mary T. Bassett said, "Providers statewide, including at the state's mass vaccination sites, are ready to administer second booster doses for eligible New Yorkers. For each of us, vaccination remains our personal best line of defense against COVID. As we have seen with the recent increase of the Omicron sub-variant BA.2, COVID is still with us. These safe and effective vaccines remain free, including the second booster."
The New York State Department of Health continues to share CDC's recommendation that all eligible adults, adolescents, and children five years and older get fully vaccinated and receive an initial COVID-19 booster when eligible. For eligible New Yorkers, a first booster dose is safe and continues to provide strong protection against severe outcomes. According to CDC data from the recent Omicron surge, those who were boosted were 21-times less likely to die from COVID-19 compared to those who were unvaccinated, and 7-times less likely to be hospitalized. In accordance with CDC's recommendation, the State's updated guidance acknowledges the increased risk of severe disease for certain populations, making a second mRNA booster available for those who may choose to increase their protection further.
The State's booster and additional dose website includes information for New Yorkers about first and second boosters, additional doses, eligibility, frequently asked questions, and resources for providers on-the-ground. The State will continue its outreach to booster-eligible New Yorkers through SMS-based messages, traditional and digital marketing efforts, and push notifications through the State's Excelsior Pass platform.
All New York State mass vaccination sites are administering second booster doses to eligible New Yorkers. To schedule an appointment at a state-run mass vaccination site, New Yorkers can visit the Am I Eligible page or call 1-833-NYS-4-VAX. People may also contact their pharmacy, local county health department, or healthcare provider to schedule appointments where vaccines are available. New Yorkers can also visit vaccines.gov, text their ZIP code to 438829, or call 1-800-232-0233 to find nearby locations. New Yorkers should make sure providers are administering second booster doses when scheduling their appointments.
Kai Johnson is Charged With the Murders of Price Tunstall and Malik Tunstall in August 2021 and the Shooting of a 16-Year-Old in April 2021
Damian Williams, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, Ricky J. Patel, the Acting Special Agent-in-Charge of the New York Field Office of the Department of Homeland Security (“HSI”), Keechant L. Sewell, Commissioner of the New York City Police Department (“NYPD”), and Jocelyn E. Strauber, the Commissioner of the New York City Department of Investigation (“DOI”), announced today the unsealing of an Indictment charging KAI JOHNSON with racketeering conspiracy, murder in aid of racketeering, attempted murder and assault with a deadly weapon in aid of racketeering, being a felon in possession of ammunition, and firearms offenses, relating to JOHNSON’s participation in: (1) the murders of Price Tunstall and Malik Tunstall in the vicinity of the James Monroe Houses in the Bronx on August 31, 2021; and (2) a non-fatal shooting of a 16-year-old in the vicinity of the James Monroe Houses in the Bronx on April 4, 2021.
Comptroller and hunger relief organizations call for stable and sufficient funding for healthy, fresh, and culturally appropriate meals especially during Ramadan, Passover and Easter.
The Office of NYC Comptroller Brad Lander is kicking off Ramadan with a series of events in partnership with Islamic Relief USA, community-based organizations, elected officials, and hunger relief organizations to distribute nearly 14,000 halal iftar meals to families in need at grab-and-go sites in every borough.
AG James Takes Action to Support Muslim Communities on Eve of Ramadan
Warns Against Discriminatory Action Targeting Communities
On the eve of Ramadan, New York Attorney General Letitia James warned a known anti-Muslim hate group to stop spying on Muslim communities. Attorney General James sent a cease-and-desist letter to Steven Emerson and the Investigative Project on Terrorism (IPT) directing them to immediately stop any unlawful and discriminatory surveillance they may be conducting on Muslim communities in New York. The action follows reports that IPT paid informants and infiltrators for over a decade to spy on Muslim houses of worship, Muslim advocacy groups, and prominent Muslim leaders — blatant violations of their civil rights. Attorney General James also issued a letter to the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), requesting an investigation into IPT’s possible violations of federal criminal and civil rights laws. As a charity that operates in New York, IPT is required to follow state laws, and is subject to enforcement by the Office of the Attorney General (OAG). Furthermore, Attorney General James warned against any discriminatory action targeting communities.
“As we enter the holy month of Ramadan, it’s more important than ever that we show our support for our Muslim communities and stand up to Islamophobia and hate of any and every kind,” said Attorney General James. “Let me be clear: We will not bow to hate, we will not enable bias, and we will not empower Islamophobia. I urge DOJ to stand with us and use its considerable power to protect Muslim communities throughout New York and across the nation. Our constitution protects the rights of all communities to live without harassment or intimidation; we will remain vigilant in the protection of these rights.”
In December 2021, the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) revealed that for more than a decade, IPT paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to spies in order to gain access to Muslim organizations and leaderships to record confidential conversations and documents. Most notably, IPT reportedly infiltrated the Ohio chapter of CAIR, through its then-leader, Romin Iqbal, who leaked confidential documents and recordings. In another undercover operation, IPT paid more than $100,000 to Tariq Nelson to spy on members of a mosque in Virginia and record privileged conversations without other participants’ knowledge.
The documents and recordings collected by IPT include a 2010 meeting of national Muslim leaders discussing the negative responses to the proposed Islamic center near Ground Zero in lower Manhattan, and a 2015 discussion of then-presidential candidate Donald Trump’s anti-Muslim rhetoric. Public statements from those involved in the operation suggest that IPT targeted the organizations and individuals in a concerted effort to infringe on the rights of Muslims, including their right to worship, peacefully assemble and organize politically, petition the government, and to vote.
In her letter to IPT, Attorney General James warns the organization that its actions could violate state and federal laws. New York Civil Rights Law prohibits discrimination or harassment against an individual exercising their civil rights on the basis of creed and prohibits the intimidation of an individual on the basis of their religion or religious practice. Attorney General James is immediately requiring IPT to:
In a coinciding letter to DOJ, Attorney General James urged the Biden Administration to launch an investigation into IPT for violations of federal criminal and civil rights law. Attorney General James maintains that although OAG stands ready to enforce New York state civil rights law, a DOJ investigation into IPT’s possible violations of federal law would send the message that the federal government will also use its powers to protect Muslims’ rights.