On December 20, 2022, Mayor Eric Adams held his first press conference on COVID in months. The time had come to start wearing masks in crowded indoor settings again—if it had ever ever really left. The Health Department directive urging New Yorkers to do this, citing "substantially elevated" cases of RSV and flu viruses and "steadily increasing" COVID hospitalizations, had been issued more than a week earlier, on December 9.
"Mask up, get tested, get treated if you're eligible, and, if you haven't gotten your flu shot or your COVID-19 booster, we encourage you to roll up your sleeve," Adams said.
Later that night, Adams attended the New York Post holiday party and posed for a picture, sans mask.
Now, the Post reports that 915 New Yorkers died of COVID last month, making it the deadliest month for coronavirus deaths since February of last year. More than 77,000 New Yorkers have perished since the pandemic began, part of the more than 1.1 million deaths nationwide. (Deaths in New York City are slightly decreasing now in January, and those that have died tend to be over the age of 60, with pre-existing conditions.)
Dr. Ayman El-Mohandes, the dean of CUNY’s Graduate School of Public Health, told the Post, "People have let their guard down a bit, to be honest." El-Mohandes added, "It does appear in the current situation we are seeing a surge in new variants and people are less attentive."
If "people" have let their guard down, it may be because their public officials have let theirs down too. Not even 13 percent of New York City residents have received their COVID booster, which experts say still provides a measure of protection against the new variant that is circulating, which is the most transmissible yet recorded. The MTA no longer tracks mask usage on public transit. The governor holds indoor press conferences and swearing in ceremonies attended by U.S. Senators, where masks are hard to spot. (The state's health commissioner resigned last month, and a permanent replacement has yet to be appointed.) Life goes on. And so does the coronavirus.
More information to ponder on this snowless Monday:
More than 7,000 nurses are officially on strike at Mount Sinai Hospital on the Upper East Side and at Montefiore Medical Center in the Bronx. Read our story on the Montefiore nurses, and check back later for more coverage.
According to FOIL requests filed by the Legal Aid Society, heat and utility outages in NYCHA buildings last year increased by 25 percent. Reminder: NYCHA's head lives in Minnesota and is paid hundreds of thousands of dollars every year.
Governor Hochul's state of the state speech is scheduled for 1 p.m. on Tuesday. The governor is expected to push for the construction of more housing, but it's not clear whether she'll support strengthening rent regulations (a la Good Cause Eviction). State Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins recently said it was time for "lawmakers to step in with corrective actions."
It's been one year since a deadly fire killed 17 people at the Twin Parks North West complex in Fordham Heights. David Brand has an update: Many tenants have moved away, and the ones who have stayed don't have heat.