BY SENATOR ANDREW GOUNARDES
As many of us approach week two of staying home, I wanted to remind you all that we are in this together as a community. By staying indoors when possible and practicing social distancing, we are helping our neighbors and preventing further spread of COVID-19. Last night, we held an online Town Hall. If you missed it, you can watch it right here. If we didn’t get to your question, we will still seek to answer your questions or get them answered this week.
This is especially important because the number of positive coronavirus cases continues to rise and, unfortunately, the Governor has stated that the apex of this crisis is higher and faster than we thought. We will need every tool at our disposal to tackle this virus, but please know that New York State will fight with everything we have to stop the spread and supply our hospitals with what they need.
I also want to say a big THANK YOU to our EMS workers, healthcare workers, police officers, firefighters, public transit workers, grocers, childcare workers, pharmacists, educators and many more essential workers who are keeping society running. Click here to read my op-ed in the Daily News about how we MUST protect these frontline workers as we failed to do after 9/11 with the supplies and testing they need.
Here are the key updates on covid-19 and NY’s response for you today:
Save lives, slow the spread. New York remains on pause and it’s literally a matter of life and death that you take this seriously. The only way we can stop this virus in its tracks is to stay far apart from one another. That means no team sports, no crowds, and please limit visits to the grocery store and pharmacy. If you see a crowd, call 311 and then let our office know.
People are struggling. Every day, my team is talking to people in dire financial circumstances because of this pandemic. This is an incredibly difficult time. Today, the United States Senate reached a deal that would give people $600 extra per week for four months and extend State unemployment benefits to gig and independent workers. If this Senate bill passes into law, these benefits would become available. While this relief plan is by no means perfect – New York State needs a lot more than we’re getting – this would make a huge difference for struggling New Yorkers.
If you have been laid off because of coronavirus, you should file for unemployment right away. The waiting period to receive these benefits has been waived. Many of you have shared horror stories of calling dozens of times and still being unable to reach anyone. We’re telling people to keep trying – that’s the only way to get through. DOL has implemented a new system for New Yorkers to file by last name we hope will speed things up. For more information on financial relief for you or your business, please check out my team’s COVID-19 resource guide.
Life-saving supplies are being sent to NYC, but we still need more. The federal government is sending New York City 4000 ventilators and New York State has purchased 7,000. However, we need an estimated 30,000 total. We are fighting to meet this need – and urging the federal government to activate the Defense Production Act. Without the proper number of ventilators, we will lose lives that we did not have to lose.
New York State is also sending critically needed Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to New York City, including 1 million N95 masks. We are also receiving supplies from FEMA and the Strategic National Stockpile. Again, it’s not enough to meet the vast need. So if you have or can make gloves, gowns and masks or ventilators, please email COVID19supplies@esd.ny.gov.
Hospital Capacity is increasing. FEMA started work on a 1,000-bed temporary hospital to open next week at the Javits Center. Equipment from both the state and federal government is being delivered there. Governor Cuomo and the Army Corps of Engineers are working together to immediately erect temporary hospitals in three other locations and will be looking into creating four 250-bed FEMA field hospitals. Hospitals have been mandated to postpone non-essential procedures and increase capacity by 50%, with a goal of increasing capacity by 100%.
Our COVID-19 resource guide includes a comprehensive list of community resources to connect you to the right place and provide you with the information you are looking for. We have a list of restaurants that are offering curbside pickup and delivery, grocery stores that have special hours for seniors, information regarding virtual schooling, and much more. Check out our guide to get connected with the information you need.
Are you a senior or vulnerable member of the community that needs assistance? If so, please let us know! Volunteers are available to help you with LOCAL food shopping, necessary errands, care packages of food (if you are in need), pet walking, and can even just give you a friendly phone call to check in. There are so many volunteers from the neighborhood who are eager to help their neighbors in need, so please call our office at 718-238-6044 (or the phone numbers below) and we’ll get you signed up!
Volunteer for your neighbors in need: Click here to volunteer!
The New York Blood Center desperately needs life-saving blood donations due to COVID-19 related cancellations of appointments. If you are able, please consider donating blood at one of their permanent locations. Visit their website for more information on locations, hours, and to schedule an appointment.
All in-person HRA appointments have been canceled. However, you can still apply for SNAP and Cash Assistance, and more, online at ACCESS HRA.
DMV offices are temporarily closed for all in-office visits. Online transactions, including license renewals, are still available and license and permit expirations will be extended. Visit their website for more information.
Free meal distribution sites for children have changed! Please visit their website to find your nearest meal site location. Remember, families can pick-up three meals per day for their children every Monday through Friday from 7:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.
This is really hard, and it’s vital that you take care of your mental health. More than 6,000 mental health professionals have signed up with New York State to offer FREE counseling. Call 1-844-863-9314 to schedule an appointment.
Finally, please consider these special requests from Dr. John Marshall, Head of Emergency Medicine for Maimonides Medical Center!
* They are in urgent need of blood donations! These are done on an appointment only basis in order to practice social distancing for the safety of all donors and our staff, and you would NOT need to go to the hospital. To donate, call Taylor at 718-283-7694 or email tberardicurti@Maimonidesmed.
* Anyone that has ventilators at home from a family member, that no longer needs it – even if it’s no longer working – please, please donate to Maimonides Medical Center. A single ventilator can save so many lives! Please let us know.
As always, reach out to me and my team via phone, email, and through our social media platforms. Please contact us at 718-238-6044, firstname.lastname@example.org, on twitter or instagram at @sen_gounardes or on Facebook at facebook.com/sengounardes.
If you have any stories of community kindness, please send it to us on social media or email us! Right now, it is more important than ever to celebrate the acts of kindness and love that keep us going and bring us together.