As Coronavirus Cases Emerge in Empire State, Officials Update Residents on Efforts to Tackle It

As Coronavirus Cases Emerge in Empire State, Officials Update Residents on Efforts to Tackle It

Photo Courtesy of Mike Groll/Office of the Governor

During a coronavirus briefing Tuesday, Gov. Cuomo signed into law a $40 million emergency management authorization to bolster the State’s response to the public health threat.

By Michael V. Cusenza

As expected, the Novel coronavirus has reached the shores of New York.

Six people across the Empire State are infected with the China-born pathogen, Gov. Andrew Cuomo confirmed Wednesday as fellow elected officials sought to update residents, tamp down outbreak anxieties, and lend a helping hand to small businesses that have been impacted by the fallout from the swiftly spreading sickness.

On Monday, Mayor Bill de Blasio convened a tabletop exercise with City emergency response teams. Heads of all major City agencies attended to run through scenarios related to the coronavirus.

“We don’t have a timeline for this crisis. I think people should assume it will be with us for months and we’re going to be in a high state of readiness as long as it is here,” de Blasio said after the exercise. “But what we do know for sure is that those basic precautions really, really matter. It’s stunning that we have a global health care crisis and the best way to address it individually is to wash your hands, to use hand sanitizer, to cover your mouth when you cough and sneeze—those basics really, really matter here; and to be quick to come forward if you have symptoms. And look, right now, that means particularly if you have a nexus to travel to the countries that have been most affected, whether that means you or someone you’ve been in close contact with who has been in one of those countries recently. But we know community spread is likely, so even if you don’t have that nexus, but you have the symptoms, it’s important to get to health care right away. We’d rather have many people quickly find out they do not have coronavirus than people holding back who might have it and not getting the health care they need and maximizing the chance of a dangerous spread.”

Photo Courtesy of Ed Reed/Mayoral Photography Office On Monday, Mayor de Blasio convened a tabletop exercise with City emergency response teams to run through scenarios related to the coronavirus.

Photo Courtesy of Ed Reed/Mayoral Photography Office
On Monday, Mayor de Blasio convened a tabletop exercise with City emergency response teams to run through scenarios related to the coronavirus.

During a coronavirus briefing Tuesday, Cuomo signed into law a $40 million emergency management authorization to bolster the State’s response to the public health threat. According to Cuomo, the appropriation will allow the State to hire additional staff and procure equipment and any other resources necessary to respond to the evolving situation.

“The federal, state, and New York City governments must all work together to keep our residents as safe as possible from infection, and address the needs of those who become ill,” State Sen. Joe Addabbo, Jr. (D-Howard Beach) said after voting in favor of the funding Monday in a special late-night legislative session. “I believe this new law providing $40 million in emergency aid is an important step in our ongoing efforts to protect the public health during this time of fear and uncertainty. There is nothing wrong with being ready to immediately address any local situation regarding the coronavirus. Let’s be aware, but not scared.”

Additionally, this week, U.S. Reps. Grace Meng (D-Flushing), the first vice chairwoman of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus; Nydia Velázquez (D-Queens, Brooklyn, Manhattan), chairwoman of the House Small Business Committee; and Judy Chu (D-CA), chairwoman of CAPAC, introduced legislation aimed at assisting small businesses that suffer economic harm from the coronavirus outbreak.

File Photo  “[C]oncerns about the coronavirus have hit many small businesses hard. We cannot let them suffer,” Rep. Meng said. “Government must be a strong partner in helping small businesses succeed and we must not abandon them in their time of need.”

File Photo
“[C]oncerns about the coronavirus have hit many small businesses hard. We cannot let them suffer,” Rep. Meng said. “Government must be a strong partner in helping small businesses succeed and we must not abandon them in their time of need.”

According to the congresswomen, much of the recent slowing of the economy is linked to the coronavirus, which has weakened demand in travel and tourism. Besides the decline in foot traffic for many retailers and restaurants, particularly those in Chinese communities, small firms have experienced challenges related to their supply chains. Companies sourcing products and services from China have had delays or complete cancellations of orders, resulting in lower profits for the company. Besides these challenges, small firms must start the process of preparing their companies for the potential to have employees become infected and remain home or telework. In many instances, a small employer may be unable to absorb the additional workforce reductions without a coinciding loss in productivity.

Under the “Small Business Relief from Communicable Disease Induced Economic Hardship Act,” small businesses would be able to access Economic Injury Disaster Loans of up $2 million to help meet financial obligations and operating expenses, which would otherwise have been met if it were not for the virus’ spread, according to Meng, Velázquez, and Chu. The bill specifies that the loans would be interest free. Companies that are major employers could be potentially eligible for larger loans.

“Small businesses are the backbone of our economy in Queens and throughout New York City,” Meng said. “They enhance our neighborhoods, bring investment and innovation to local communities, and provide jobs to area residents. But concerns about the coronavirus have hit many small businesses hard. In fact, I have heard from many Asian American-owned small business owners in my district that they are severely struggling. We cannot let them suffer. Government must be a strong partner in helping small businesses succeed and we must not abandon them in their time of need. I call on all my colleagues to immediately pass this legislation so that our entrepreneurs and small businesses can get back on track. When small businesses succeed, America succeeds!”

For the most up-to-date information, the State Department of Health has created a website specific to the coronavirus: health.ny.gov/diseases/communicable/coronavirus.

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