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Nearly 1 in 4 New Yorkers Needs Food as Pandemic Persists


Two months into the coronavirus pandemic, with hundreds of thousands of people out of work, nearly one in four New Yorkers needs food, Mayor Bill de Blasio said on Thursday.

To address the problem, the city plans to increase to 1.5 million the number of meals it distributes each day by next week, officials said, with a million to be delivered and 500,000 available for pickup at schools.

Before the virus hit, Mr. de Blasio said, officials believed that “somewhere over a million” city residents “were food-insecure, needed food more, at some point in the year.”

As a result of the pandemic, he said, “we think that number is two million or more. So almost a doubling. That’s why we have made food such a central part of what we do in response to this crisis.”

The city has been expanding its food-distribution efforts for weeks and has given out 32 million meals during the crisis, the mayor said.

Kathryn Garcia, the top city official in charge of delivering food, said the city had terminated some food vendors for poor performance.

“‘Would you serve this to your grandma?’” city officials asked food vendors, according to Ms. Garcia. “We will hold people accountable.”

Separately, families of New York City public school students will soon get more than $400 per student, regardless of income, to help pay for food while school buildings are closed through a federal relief program.

New York State is investigating 157 cases of a severe inflammatory syndrome that is linked to the virus and affects children, a 53 percent increase in the past nine days, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said on Thursday.

“The more we look, the more we find it,” Mr. Cuomo said at his daily news briefing. On May 12, the state was investigating 102 cases.

The condition, which the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has labeled Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in Children, often appears weeks after infection in children who did not experience first-phase virus symptoms.

Instead of targeting the lungs as the primary virus infection does, it causes inflammation throughout the body and can severely damage the heart.

Most the children found to have the illness in New York so far have tested positive for the virus or antibodies to it, Mr. Cuomo said.

Researchers are examining whether the infected children were genetically predisposed to the syndrome, the governor added.

“Is there something in their DNA code?” he said. “Is there some common denominator among these children? Why are these children affected when other children aren’t?”

In New York City, health officials said on Thursday that there were at least 89 cases of the syndrome that met the C.D.C.’s criteria. As of Wednesday, officials were investigating 158 potential cases of the illness. Twenty-six did not meet the C.D.C. criteria, and 43 were still being investigated, officials said.

The Times is regularly profiling essential workers in the New York region during the pandemic.

Where do you live? Bensonhurst, Brooklyn.

Where do you work? Liberty 8th Avenue gas station in the West Village of Manhattan.

How has business changed since the coronavirus has come to New York?

I was staying open 24 hours for the first month of this situation, but then I couldn’t any more — none of my workers wanted to come to work, which I don’t blame them for. I lost about nine guys.

They just said, “You know what? Money isn’t worth our lives.” Which I understand. But I’m still here. I have no choice — you really don’t if you think about it. How are people going to survive? How am I going to survive?

Has your life changed?

I haven’t seen my grandma in two months. I used to see her every single day. She lives two blocks from me. It’s too high risk.

Are you ever nervous or scared?

Yes, but I don’t stay open for me, I stay open for the community, which is first responders, the ambulance, the firefighters, the Port Authority police, they all come here.

We could have closed if we wanted to, but where are people going to get gas? The first responders, or people going to buy groceries for people who can’t get out of the house?

Is there an upside to any of this?

They all know me, they say, “Thanks Tommy, we know you don’t have to be here, that it’s a real hazard for you to even be here,” but I still stay open for them.

Every time I see these people come out of their house at 7 p.m. I’m like, “Oh are you guys applauding for me?” I’m a first responder if you really think about it.

Pandemic or no, and a spotty weather forecast notwithstanding, summer beach season begins on Friday with Memorial Day weekend. But many beaches in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut are closed. At the ones that are open, a day at the shore will be very different.

Those seeking sun, sand and sea face a patchwork of restrictions. Here is a guide:

  • New Jersey: Summer at the Jersey Shore, a 130-mile stretch of coastline that serves as a crucial economic engine for the state, is on, but with limits. Gov. Philip D. Murphy required local officials to limit capacity at their beaches, and how they do so is up to them.

    “We’ve begun to take what I would call baby steps,” Mr. Murphy said early Thursday of the state’s reopening efforts in an interview on CNBC. “Beaches is a big step.”

    Amusement parks, playgrounds and arcades on the state’s famous boardwalks are closed, and seaside restaurants will be allowed to provide takeout or delivery only.

  • New York City: Mr. de Blasio has said that the city’s beaches, including those at Coney Island and on he Rockaway peninsula, are open only to nearby residents who want to take a walk on the sand. Swimming is prohibited, as are gatherings or parties of any kind, and the mayor has repeatedly urged people not to travel to get to the beaches.

    Riis Park and Fort Tilden in the Rockaways, which are part of the Gateway National Recreation Area and are run by the National Park Service, will be open only for “passive recreation” like walking and running. Parking lot capacity will be capped at 50 percent.

  • Long Island: Concerned that city residents closed off from their own beach might head east, officials on Long Island have moved to restrict access to their shores to residents only. As a result, access to Suffolk and Nassau County beaches will require proof of residency.

    Beaches across New York State are required to cap capacity at 50 percent. Long Beach, which has often drawn beachgoers from New York City, will only sell beach passes to residents. The boardwalk will be open with social-distancing rules.

    State-run beaches, including Jones Beach and Robert Moses State Park, miles-long expanses that draw many city residents, will be open, with limited parking.

    Mr. Cuomo said on Thursday that he expected those beaches to reach maximum capacity as early as 10 a.m.

    “You don’t want to take that ride and find out the beach is already closed,” he said.

  • Westchester County: County-run beaches at Playland in Rye and Croton Point Park will be open to county residents only.

  • Connecticut: Local officials have been allowed to make decisions about access to beaches they control.

    At state parks with shoreline beaches, visitors can only gather in groups of five or fewer and must keep 15 feet between beach blankets. Face coverings are required when people are near others. If social distancing cannot be maintained, officials may close parking lots or beaches.

In Brooklyn, a nightclub has been closed for two months. In Manhattan, a travel agency says it is unlikely to ever reopen. Both have not paid rent since the coronavirus shutdowns began.

Their landlord, Jane Lok, collected about half of the monthly rent she was owed by her six commercial tenants in April and May, a drastic drop-off from normal times. She owes a $20,000 insurance premium this month and a much higher annual property tax bill in July.

“I’m just running my numbers and seeing when I will run out of money,” Ms. Lok said. “We are already dipping into savings.”

Residential rent collections have also declined as tenants who lost jobs have stopped paying. But the erosion of commercial rents, so far, is worse and has stripped landlords of their largest source of income every month.

The cascading impact of the pandemic and stay-at-home orders on New York City have reached a breaking point, property owners and developers say. Two months into the crisis, the steep drop in rental income now threatens their ability to pay bills, taxes and vendors — a looming catastrophe for the city, they warn.

If building owners cannot come up with enough money to pay their next property tax bill in five weeks, the city will be starved of an enormous revenue stream that helps pay for all aspects of everyday life, from the Fire Department to trash pickup to the public hospitals. It could lead to a bleak landscape of vacant storefronts and streets sapped of their energy.

A group of small businesses joined forces with New Jersey’s Republican Party on Thursday in a bid to overturn the state’s coronavirus-related shutdown.

In a civil complaint filed in state Superior Court, they contend that Gov. Philip D. Murphy “exceeded his authority” and violated New Jersey’s constitution when, on March 21, he closed many businesses in hopes of slowing the virus’s spread.

Mr. Murphy’s March 21 order distinguished between essential retail businesses that could stay open — groceries, laundromats and hardware stores — and nonessential businesses like gyms, salons, bars and movie theaters.

The lawsuit contends that Mr. Murphy’s order denied business owners equal protection under the law, and that the distinction between what qualified as essential and what did not was gravely flawed.

For example, the complaint questions why liquor stores were allowed to stay open, but not barber shops were not.

“This is despite the well-known health hazards of alcohol, as well as the strong link between alcohol use and the occurrence of domestic violence,” the complaint says.

Among those bringing the lawsuit are Postas Barber Shop in Franklin, N.J., in northern New Jersey, and the Bucket Brigade Brewery in Cape May County, at the state’s southern tip.

“If I don’t have my clients, I don’t have business,” John Postas, the barbershop’s owner, said in an interview. “So their safety and their health is of the utmost importance to me.”

“I’m not saying open with zero protections,” said State Senator Michael L. Testa Jr., a lawyer who is representing the business owners and who is also a New Jersey co-chair of President Trump’s campaign. “I’m saying, allow businesses such as your hotels, motels, restaurants, barber shops, salons, stores that sell the exact same products as a Walmart, a Dollar General, they should be allowed to be open.”

A press representative for Mr. Murphy said the governor’s office would not comment on pending litigation.

In a statement, the state Democratic committee called the suit as an exercise in “scoring political points.”

New Yorkers are slowly beginning to return to the subway system, in another sign that Americans at the center of the global coronavirus pandemic are eager for a return to normalcy.

Subway rides are now averaging 600,000 a day, after a low of 400,000 in April, Metropolitan Transportation Authority officials said Wednesday.

New York City Transit’s interim president, Sarah Feinberg, called the increase “significant,” though the numbers are still far below the system’s typical ridership of more than five million per weekday.

Bus ridership is up too, from a low of 400,000 to some 700,000 trips a day.

The nation’s biggest mass transit system saw its ridership plummet over 90 percent, in part by government order: Only essential workers are supposed to use it, along with people who absolutely need to.

New Yorkers are also slowly returning to the Staten Island Ferry, with rush-hour ridership up to 600 passengers, from lows of about 400. In response, the city will this afternoon start running rush-hour ferry service every half-hour, rather than every hour.

The virus has taken an awful toll on transit workers: As of Wednesday, 123 of them had died from it, officials said. All but three of them worked in the agency’s subway and bus divisions.

Even in the midst of a pandemic, the summer beach season will start across the region on Friday, just in time for Memorial Day weekend. But with the coronavirus remaining persistent, a day at the shore will look markedly different.

Those seeking sun, sand and sea will have to contend with a patchwork of restrictions governing beaches across the tristate area. Here’s where beaches are open, and what restrictions have been implemented:

  • New Jersey: Summer at the Jersey Shore, a 130-mile stretch of coastline that serves as a crucial economic center for the state, is on, but with limits. Gov. Philip D. Murphy required local officials to limit capacity at their beaches, and how New Jersey’s municipalities do so is up to them.

    Still, amusement parks, playgrounds and arcades on the state’s iconic boardwalks are required to be closed, and seaside restaurants will only be allowed to provide takeout or delivery.

  • New York City: Mayor Bill de Blasio has said that the city’s beaches, including those on Coney Island and the Rockaway peninsula, are closed, except for nearby residents who want to take a walk on the beach. Swimming is banned, as are gatherings or parties of any kind, and the mayor has repeatedly urged residents not to travel to get to beaches.

    Both Riis Park and Fort Tilden on the Rockaway peninsula, which are part of the Gateway National Recreation Area and are run by the National Park Service, will be open only for “passive recreation” such as walking and running, officials said. Parking lots at both will be reduced to 50 percent capacity, gatherings are banned, and picnic areas will be closed.

  • Long Island: Concerned that city residents might crowd their beaches, many officials in Long Island have moved to restrict access to their shores to residents only. Suffolk and Nassau county beaches will require proof of residency.

    All beaches on Long Island and across New York state are required to cap capacity at 50 percent. Long Beach, which has often drawn beachgoers from New York City, will only sell beach passes to its residents. Its boardwalk will be open with social-distancing rules.

    The state-run beaches, including Jones Beach and Robert Moses State Park, miles-long expanses that draw New York City residents, will be open, but parking will be reduced.

  • Westchester County: The county-run beaches, at Playland Park in Rye and Croton Point Park in Croton-on Hudson, will be open for Memorial Day weekend but only to county residents, officials said. Those seeking to enter both parks must have a county park pass or a driver’s license with a Westchester address.

  • Connecticut: Beaches were never fully closed in Connecticut, and local officials have been allowed to make individual decisions about beaches in their jurisdictions.

    At state parks with shoreline beaches, visitors can only gather in groups of five people or fewer, and they must keep 15 feet between beach blankets. Face coverings are required when people are in close proximity to others. If social distancing cannot be maintained, officials will reduce capacity at parking lots or close beaches for the day.

    State officials have recommended municipal governments adopt similar guidelines.

Michael D. Cohen, President Trump’s former personal lawyer and fixer, was released from a federal prison on Thursday on furlough and returned to his home in Manhattan, one of his lawyers said. He had asked to be released over health concerns tied to the coronavirus.

His projected release date was November 2021. A law enforcement official said it was expected that Mr. Cohen would serve the balance of his sentence under home confinement.

If that happens, Mr. Cohen would become one of more than 2,500 federal inmates released to home confinement since the virus outbreak began.

Mr. Cohen had admitted to taking part in a scheme to pay hush money to two women who claimed they had affairs with Mr. Trump before he was president, which Mr. Trump has denied.

Mr. de Blasio had a suggestion on Thursday for city residents eager to help their neighbors during the pandemic: “Donate blood.”

“We need New Yorkers who can give blood to give blood,” Mr. de Blasio said.

The mayor planned to lead by example: He said and that he and his wife, Chirlane McCray, would donate blood on Thursday.

In normal times, schools, businesses and houses of worship routinely hold blood drives, enabling the city to keep a seven-day blood supply on hand.

But those blood-drive mainstays are closed because of the virus. In recent weeks, blood banks in the region have had enough blood to last only one to three days, the New York Blood Center said.

People interested in donating can find a blood center here.

If the United States had begun imposing social-distancing measures a week earlier than it did, about 17,000 fewer people in the New York area would have died in the virus outbreak, according to new estimates from Columbia University disease modelers.

The findings are based on infectious disease modeling that gauges how reduced contact between people starting in mid-March slowed transmission of the virus.

The researchers modeled what would have happened if the same changes had taken place a week or two earlier and estimated the spread of infections and deaths. Nationwide, they found, earlier action would have saved 36,000 lives.

In New York, the researchers found, the number of deaths would have been under 4,300 by May 3 if nationwide controls had been put in place on March 8.

When asked about the modeling at his daily briefing on Thursday, Mr. Cuomo cited a lack of early information about the virus, saying that “if this country knew more and knew it earlier, I think we could have saved many, many more lives.”

The governor did not directly address his own decisions, saying federal agencies or international health organizations should have detected earlier warning signs.

“Now, who should have known?” Mr. Cuomo said.” It’s above my pay grade as governor of one state.”

Reporting was contributed by Katie Benner, Luis Ferré-Sadurní, Michael Gold, Matthew Haag, William K. Rashbaum, Andy Newman, Sarah Maslin Nir, Azi Paybarah, Dana Rubinstein, Tracey Tully and Benjamin Weiser.



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