New testing reveals low infection rates among health care workers; Eviction ban extended to August

Photo courtesy of the Governor’s Office

Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Thursday that COVID-19 antibody testing of health care workers in Westchester, New York City and Long Island revealed similar, or lower, rates of positive tests than the general population in those areas.

Over 27,000 health care workers at 25 downstate facilities were tested for COVID-19 antibodies to see if they had contracted the virus at some point.

Westchester and New York City exhibited much higher rates of infection among the general population than among health care workers. In Westchester, 6.8 percent of health care workers tested positive for antibodies, compared to 13.8 percent of the general population, and in New York City, 12.2 percent tested positive compared to 19.9 percent of the population. Long Island exhibited similar rates, with 11.1 percent of health care workers testing positive compared to 11.4 percent of the population.

“We were afraid of what was going to happen,” Cuomo said of concerns about healthcare workers being exposed to the virus. “But that is amazingly good news…It also shows everybody that the masks, the gloves and the hand sanitizer work. If they work for frontline workers, they’re going to work for people in their day-to-day lives.”

Cuomo also announced Thursday that he is rolling out further relief for renters who have been impacted by a job loss or reduced income. More than 33 million Americans have filed for unemployment since mid-March, when the pandemic caused economic shutdowns all over the country.

Cuomo announced today that landlords will be prohibited from charging late payments or fees for those who are not able to pay rent on time, and provided renters the option to use their security deposit as rent payment. Tenants who choose this option will have to pay back their security deposit over time.

In March, Cuomo signed an executive order protecting tenants, commercial or residential, from eviction for failure to pay rent until June. Today, he extended this moratorium on evictions to August 20.

“I hope it gives families a deep breath,” Cuomo said. “Nothing can happen until August 20 and then we’ll figure out between now and August 20 what the situation is.”

Many renters, community organizers and state lawmakers believe these measures do not go far enough, and have called on the governor to cancel rent entirely for the duration of the pandemic. In fact, the Legislature introduced a three-bill package last week that proposed waiving rent for tenants and providing mortgage relief for landlords.

Progressive leaders in the federal government are also looking to cancel rent payments nationwide. Congresswoman Ilhan Omar of Minnesota introduced a bill that would cancel rent and mortgage payments across the country. It would also allow landlords to apply to have their losses in income covered by a Rental Property Relief Fund through the Department of Housing and Urban Development. New York’s Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is a co-sponsor of the bill.