Cuomo Extends NY Eviction Freeze; NJ Deploys National Guard to Nursing Homes

More than 32,000 tri-state lives have been lost to COVID-19 to date, though the actual toll is likely higher; the number of confirmed cases is nearing 500,000, though infection is also likely more widespread

NBC Universal, Inc.

What to Know

  • More than 32,000 people in the tri-state have died because of COVID-19, though officials acknowledge the real toll is likely higher; other indicators like infection rate and daily hospitalizations continue to slowly decline
  • More than 50% of New Jersey's 8,801 deaths have come from long-term care facilities; Gov. Phil Murphy says 120 National Guard soldiers will deploy to those facilities starting this weekend to help with mitigation
  • New York City is launching free COVID-19 antibody testing for up to 140,000 people clustered around five test sites starting next week; a second round of testing is expected in early June

As the federal government reported another 3.2 million jobless claims Thursday, bringing the total to more than 33 million in seven weeks, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced new measures to help New Yorkers who are struggling financially.

He extended the state's moratorium on residential and commercial evictions another 60 days, through August 20, and banned late fees for missed payments through that time. Renters can use security deposits as payment and repay that over time, as is also the case in New Jersey.

Cuomo said the state is working with banks on relief for landlords as well.

"There is no doubt a trade-off between the tenant and the landlord," the governor said. "We are helping the landlords also, but on a human level, I don't want to see people and their children being evicted at this time through no fault of their own."

In the city, the Rent Guidelines Board on approved a freeze on nearly 1 million rent-regulated apartments. They also rejected a rent reduction proposed by tenant groups and a rent hike proposed by landlord groups, however the vote is preliminary, with a final vote planned for June.

The board also rejected a rent reduction that was proposed by tenant representations and rejected a rent increase proposed by groups who represents landlords. The final vote is expected to take place in June.

To ensure families have enough to eat, he announced a new $25 million initiative to buy excess agricultural products and donate them to food banks. Starting this week, the program will connect 2,100 upstate farms with 50 food banks, providing 20,000 households with fresh meals.

New York City, meanwhile, continues to offer three free meals a day to all New Yorkers at more than 400 locations. Mayor Bill de Blasio recently announced a $170 million food initiative to help people struggling now and ensure the city has enough food reserves to meet future demand.

New York's Department of Labor, meanwhile, has shelled out $5.8 billion in unemployment benefits since the start of the pandemic. New Jersey's has sent $1.9 billion in assistance to more than 1 million filers in the last two months.

NJ Deploys National Guard to Death-Ravaged Nursing Homes

Overall, New Jersey has lagged New York on the downward slope of the COVID-19 curve. Gov. Phil Murphy's daily death tolls have been exceeding New York's in the last week, the number of total lives lost topped 8,800 on Thursday. Still, Murphy says his state's infection rate is slowing, along with new hospitalizations and ventilator use, as has been the case in New York for two weeks.

Nursing homes have been ground zero of the national crisis but nowhere more so than in New Jersey, where they account for a disproportionate share of deaths. Fifty-one percent of the state's COVID-19 deaths to date have come from long-term care facilities, 513 of which have experienced viral outbreaks.

Murphy said Thursday he would direct the National Guard to deploy 120 members to long-term care facilities starting this weekend. Nearly two dozen would be sent to a Sussex County center where rampant violations and hazards led to nearly 100 resident deaths (with more than a dozen bodies found piled in one room), and more than $220,000 in ongoing fines as a result.

"We don’t take this step lightly, but the crisis in our long-term care facilities requires us to take it," the governor said.

New York's nursing homes and adult care centers have experienced some of the nation's worst outbreaks, though hospitals account for most confirmed state deaths. An unexpected spike of nearly 1,000 COVID-19 deaths on the state's tracker Wednesday night was clarified in a note Thursday afternoon: "The increase in fatalities reflects new data reported Wednesday, May 6 in addition to confirmed fatalities within nursing homes and adult care facilities that were identified as part of a data reconciliation process earlier this week."

New York's death toll inched closer to 21,000 (20,828), with Cuomo adding another 231 names to the tragic list Thursday. The state official toll does not include probable fatalities, which New York City has started counting in accordance with CDC guidelines. As of Thursday, the five boroughs had 5,378 presumed virus deaths, cases where death certificates list COVID-19 or an equivalent as a cause, on top of the 14,248 the state confirmed (19,626 in total).

Ultimately, death is a difficult daily metric to chart with any true certainty. The trends over time are more informative than any number on any given day.

Cuomo is acutely attuned to the infection rate. That, the data shows, has slowed -- from a point where each infected New Yorker was sickening at least one other New Yorker, which the governor says defines an "outbreak," to a 0.7 ratio.

Connecticut, which has been the least-impacted of the three tri-states, has lost 2,797. Of the local governors, Ned Lamont has outlined the most aggressive reopening plan, with a number of industries, including personal care services, slated to resume with restrictions this month.

NYC Launches Free Antibody Testing in Hard-Hit Communities

Infections have been confirmed in more than 490,000 people locally -- 327,469 in New York, 133,635 in New Jersey and 31, in Connecticut -- though the actual number sickened could be up to 10 times that.

New York City has more than 180,000 confirmed cases but early antibody testing suggests up to 2.1 million may have been infected at some point. The uncertainty fuels New Yorkers' collective anxiety. De Blasio says universal diagnostic testing would be the easiest way to inspire the confidence they need to eventually reboot their daily lives. But that may never be available.

To gain a better snapshot of potential spread in the meantime, the mayor said Thursday the city is launching a new public antibody survey in partnership with BioReference. Starting next week, up to 5,000 people a day will be able to get free antibody tests. A second round of testing is expected in early June with the hope to make the testing available to up to 140,000 New Yorkers.

Initial testing sites will be in hard-hit communities -- Morrisania, East New York, Upper Manhattan, Concord and Long Island City. Testing will be scheduled by appointment; availability opens Friday via a dedicated hotline. Individual results will be ready in 24 to 48 hours. This new survey is in addition to previously announced free antibody testing for 140,000 frontline workers.

Results from the state have shown NYPD and FDNY personnel didn't necessarily have higher rates of antibodies than the general public. On Thursday, Cuomo shared results from antibody tests of 27,000 healthcare workers in the downstate area and found similar results. In New York City, 12.2 percent of healthcare workers tested positive, compared with 19.9 percent of the general population. In Westchester, the difference was similar -- 6.8 percent of healthcare workers tested positive for the antibody compared with 13.8 percent of the general population. The difference on Long Island was just 0.3 percent.

Cuomo described the results as "amazingly good news" and an indicator that healthcare workers are getting the PPE they need to stay protected. The findings also show that masks, gloves and sanitizer work for everyone, he said.

Beyond Reopening, a Push to Build New York Back Better

The pandemic has been the nation's worst healthcare crisis in a century and incited America's worst economic catastrophe in decades. States are desperate to reopen, even in the face of grave warnings from public health experts who note infection spikes in those that have recently eased restrictions.

It's not just about today's COVID-19 numbers. Hasty reopenings may get some states back to business faster. But it may also force them to shut down again. Cuomo doesn't just want to "reopen" New York -- he wants to build it back better.

"We should take this moment in history to use what we've learned and actually build our systems back better," Cuomo said Wednesday. "I don't want to replace what we did - I want to set the bar higher and actually improve our situation so we are prepared for the future."

No one, not even the globe's top scientists and health experts, fully understand this new coronavirus. A new study finds it has mutated since emerging in China last year and the current strain is more contagious. Children were once largely thought to be spared by the virus; now hospitals in New York have reported dozens of cases of a new, potentially life-threatening pediatric syndrome that may be linked to COVID-19 exposure. Asymptomatic people can transmit the virus, other studies have shown; we have no idea how many are truly infected.

Nationally, nearly 1.3 million people have been diagnosed with COVID-19. More than 76,000 have died.

Worldwide the virus has infected more than 3.8 million people and killed over a quarter-million, according to the Johns Hopkins University tally, which experts agree understates the dimensions of the pandemic because of limited testing, differences in counting the dead and concealment by some governments.

Copyright NBC New York/Associated Press
Contact Us