The email below was sent by CIty Council Brad Lander on April 1st, 2021:
It’s no April Fools: the growing number of vaccinated New Yorkers and expansion of eligibility to all New Yorkers 16 and over brings a lot of cause for hope. And also to work harder together to make sure everyone gets vaccinated, so we can slow the spread of new variants, and move safely to open our wounded city back up.
As of this week, everyone over the age of 30 is eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine in New York State. People over 16 will be eligible next Tuesday, April 6. Close to 2.2 million NYC residents have now received at least one vaccine dose, or 33% of the population.
Older people remain among the most vulnerable to COVID. While their vaccination rates are higher than other age groups, fewer than 40% of New Yorkers over 65 are currently fully vaccinated (and that number is much lower in communities of color). As eligibility becomes universal, we must make sure that seniors, who may be less tech savvy, can still find convenient and accessible appointments.
Do you want to help? Join the Neighbor Network to phone-bank with vaccine information, become a “vaccine navigator,” or make wellness calls.
My office helped to launch Neighbor Network last March, in partnership with Heights and Hills and Greenwich House, to combat social isolation for home-bound older adults and help address food, medicine and other needs as the pandemic hit. Over the past year, we have trained close to 1000 volunteers who have made more than 19,000 calls. About 220 seniors are currently receiving weekly check-in calls from volunteers.
As vaccines have become available, Neighbor Network has shifted to prioritize vaccine outreach through two new programs:
General phone-bank: Volunteers phone-bank seniors (we’ve been focusing on Bed-Stuy and Crown Heights so far) to share general vaccine information and identify seniors who want help arranging an appointment (sign up here).
Vaccine Navigators: Volunteers go through a more in-depth training and a background check to become “Vaccine Navigators,” and then help individual seniors through the entire process of making an appointment, arranging transportation, and getting all necessary doses (sign up here).
Since launching the vaccine outreach program in early March, we have trained close to 150 callers and vaccine navigators, and called over 1700 seniors. Currently, 67 seniors are matched with navigators assisting with vaccine appointments. Please join the Neighbor Network to help!
Racial disparities in vaccine access persist as the numbers grow. Citywide, 18% of Blacks and 19% of Latinos have received at least one vaccine dose, compared to 31% of Whites and 36% of Asians. Low vaccination rates, infection incidence, and infection severity map closely together, reproducing long-term patterns of layered racial inequity. So we are committed to using the tools we’ve developed to combat vaccine inequity. We are currently focusing vaccine outreach calls to seniors in Bed-Stuy and Crown Heights, and developing partnerships with organizations serving higher need communities.
Neighbor Network’s original programs are still going strong. We are expanding to new neighborhoods through partnerships with trusted service providers. Those interested in making wellness calls can join our first volunteer event with Sunnyside Community Services in Queens on April 6. Volunteers will call seniors who are on Sunnyside’s waitlist for case management services, providing company and helping make sure urgent needs are met.
Health officials and experts agree that vaccinated people can safely see each other indoors unmasked, in small groups. But they also caution strongly that we must continue to wear masks, limit indoor activities with more than one other household, and avoid crowds and other risky activities until we reach vaccination rates of 75-80%. That’s especially true as new variants are spreading, and the decline in cases has slowed. I’m continuing to avoid activities like indoor dining and the gym. While I strongly believe that the public health data is consistent with safely ending the two-case rule for school closures (while expanding testing + tracing), and with welcoming additional students back into blended learning, the next few months remain critical ones, and we really need to keep our priorities straight.
My office is also continuing to assist constituents where we can in securing a vaccine appointment, with language assistance in Russian and Bangla. If you need help getting an appointment for yourself or a loved one (or any other community issues) please reach out to our office at firstname.lastname@example.org or 718.499.1090 (leave a message and someone will call you back).
Let’s do all we can to keep our neighbors safe, so we can bring our city back to life.
Sign up: Join a Neighbor Network training get older New Yorkers vaccinated
Covid-19 Updates and Resources
Latest Virus Data: In NYC, 3,486 new COVID cases were reported March 31st, for a total of 845,399 cases since the start of the pandemic. We have lost 31,209 people in NYC from the virus, including sadly 67 reported on March 31st. The number of new cases and the positivity rate have been declining slightly for the past week, but the citywide 7-day rolling average of positive test rates is 5.9%. City data here.
Vaccine Data: As of today, 2,873,565 vaccine doses have been delivered to New York City, and 2,405,191 have been administered (1,277,582 first doses, 733,896 second doses). For more information on vaccine eligibility, locations, and data, visit the NYC Vaccine Command Center’s Website. (And you can review our office’s Vaccine FAQ here).
Beware of COVID Vaccine Scams: Please ignore any individual or organization claiming to be able to provide a vaccine in exchange for payment. No vaccine distributors will ask you for Social Security, credit card, or bank account information. The vaccine is completely free, regardless of whether you have health insurance. If you suspect any fraudulent activity relating to COVID-19, please call the Brooklyn District Attorney’s Action Center Hotline at 718-250-2340.
Get Tested: Even with these new vaccines in circulation it is still so important to keep up our social distancing, wear masks, and get tested. For information about testing sites around the city, visit New York City’s Covid-19 testing website.
Self Senior Sign up: If you are a senior or know a senior who would benefit from free friendly calls from the Neighbor Network during this isolating time, you can now sign up here by filling out this form or calling 914.572.5526.
Education Updates and Resources
Pre-K application deadline is April 7. You can apply online or by phone. Sign up for the pre-K admissions email list for updates, tips, and reminders. Throughout the admissions process, you’ll use MySchools.nyc to learn about pre-K programs, apply, get your offer, and learn about waitlists. For more information visit the DOE pre-K website.
Second DOE opt-in period deadline is April 7: Visit the Learning Preference Survey (or call 311) to select blended learning for your child if your child is currently fully remote
PB Expo April 7: Participatory Budgeting Cycle 10 voting begins this coming Monday April 5! For more information, you can join Brad and our Cycle 10 volunteers for this virtual Expo and learn all about the great PB projects on the ballot this year. Wednesday, April 7, 7:30 PM. Register here: http://bit.ly/PB39Expo
Other Updates and Resources
Legal Services Hotline: NYC Financial Justice Hotline is a free legal hotline for low-income NYC residents. The hotline staffed in English and Spanish,provides free legal information, advice, and referrals on a wide range of financial justice issues–from discriminatory banking practices to predatory debt collection. You can find more information here.
COJO Flatbush Tax Collection: They are offering free tax services for tax season. If you need assistance filing your taxes you can find more information and contact them here.
Access Benefits Helpline through Legal Aid: Anyone having trouble with an application to apply for or recertify for HRA cash assistance, SNAP, or Medicaid benefits, can all the Legal Aid Society’s Access to Benefits Helpline at 888-663-6880 M-F 10am-3pm.
We are redirecting our Fresh Direct Bag Program: After collecting and redistributing more than 50,000 bags, we are transitioning our Fresh Direct bag donation effort now that Fresh Direct has established its own program to connect bag donors with nearby food pantries. A couple of our partners, Masbia and People in Need, are now signed up for direct bag drop off through Fresh Direct’s program. Locations and times are below. You can find the complete list of partners here. Thank you to the many constituents who have continued to collect and donate their extra bags over the course of the pandemic. This has provided a much needed supply of durable bags to food providers, and helped reduce the number of these bags entering our waste stream. We hope you will continue to donate directly through this new program.