New York City Reaches Virus Milestone With Infections Down to 1%

New York Assemblywoman Crystal D. Peoples-Stokes, the Democratic majority leader, speaks in favor of new legislation for police reform Wednesday, while standing with Assembly members during a news briefing at the state Capitol in Albany, N.Y. (AP Photo/Hans Pennink)

MANHATTAN (CN) — Just 1% of New Yorkers tested positive for the coronavirus as of Tuesday, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced with jubilation Tuesday, two months after the city hit its high of 71% confirmed infections.

“That is an amazing statement on what all of you have achieved, all of you have done,” de Blasio said at his daily press conference. “Let’s beat back this disease. … Every time you keep that face mask on, every time you stay home when you can, every time you practice social distancing, you’re beating back this disease. Look at that, 1% only. An extraordinary day for New York City.”

Still considered the epicenter of the Covid-19 crisis in the United States, and the globe, the city began the process of coming out of the coronavirus shutdown only one day earlier with the resumption of construction, manufacturing, curbside retail, agriculture and wholesale trade. Governor Andrew Cuomo additionally opened the door Monday for the city to resume elective surgeries and outpatient care unrelated to the novel coronavirus.

New York City has counted 204,576 cases of the virus and 21,918 confirmed and probable deaths. The state meanwhile has confirmed 379,482 Covid-19 cases and 24,348 fatalities, a numbers seen as likely partial since it only include deaths confirmed with a test.

After massive protests in recent days against racism and police violence sparked by the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis police custody, de Blasio announced Tuesday that the city will paint “Black Lives Matter” on one street in each borough, as Washington, D.C., has done outside the White House. 

De Blasio also expressed broad support for several policing bills being discussed Tuesday afternoon at a City Council hearing. These bills include criminalization of police chokeholds, affirming the right to record interactions with police, and a rule that officers’ shield numbers and rank designations must be visible to the public. 

De Blasio previously threatened to veto a chokehold ban. 

“There are some specific details being worked through, but I’m confident that we will work them through, and we’ll be able to move forward together with the City Council on all four of these bills,” de Blasio said. 

NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea tweeted April 16 that officers would be wearing black “mourning bands” over their shields to commemorate their colleagues lost to Covid-19 — strips of black that also happened to cover their badge numbers. 

The New York state Senate also Tuesday passed, 40-22, a repeal of 50-A, a controversial section of New York’s civil rights law that shielded police officers’ personnel records from the public. 

Governor Andrew Cuomo has said he will sign it. 

“This has got to be thoughtful and smart, and deep,” said Cuomo of police reform in a separate press conference Tuesday. “Don’t lose the moment and the opportunity of the moment.”

Chirlane McCray, New York City’s first lady and the leader of the widely criticized mental health initiative Thrive NYC, also spoke at the mayor’s press conference Tuesday.

Back in 2017, touting McCray’s status “as the African-American wife of a white mayor in a moment of renewed racial strife across America,” The New York Times crowned McCray “likely the most influential, if not consequential, first lady in the city’s history.”

For years, however, McCray has faced cries of nepotism over her position of power at the struggling Thrive, which to date has cost taxpayers $555 million, according to The City. During the Covid-19 crisis, the mayor also tapped his wife to co-chair the city’s Racial Inclusion and Equity Task Force. 

“We’re also turbocharging the mental health resources in the communities hardest hit by the pandemic,” said McCray, who was a former speech writer for New York’s first and only black mayor, David Dinkins.

The first lady emphasized Tuesday that the city is working with 270 community faith-based organizations to reach 10,000 residents by the end of the year. And she told the New York Post on Tuesday that she helped convince her husband to cut funds from the NYPD and transfer them to youth and social services.

The couple has not made clear exactly how much money would be moved, nor what services specifically it would be moved to. 

During the public testimony portion of the City Council hearing, New Yorkers expressed outrage over the behavior of the NYPD during citywide protests.

“As public defenders in the South Bronx, none of this has come as a surprise. It’s the treatment we regularly see our clients, overwhelmingly black and brown people, subjected to,” said Zami Rockoff, a staff attorney for the Bronx Defenders, during the public testimony portion of the City Council’s hearing.  

Jamil Hamilton, of the National Alliance on Mental Illness-New York City Metro, urged the city to rethink cops’ role addressing mental health issues. 

“The last few weeks have seen our city in turmoil and have forced us to think about the future,” he said. “Our city must change the way we view public safety and policing. … For too long, we have burdened police to become involved in every issue in our society.” 

The NYPD representatives appeared to have left the call before the public testimony, and Commissioner Shea was not present at all, even to answer questions from lawmakers. 

The Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office announced charges Tuesday against NYPD officer Vincent D’Andraia after bystander video showed that the 28-year-old “violently shoved” a 20-year-old protester to the ground.

“I fully support the long-held American tradition of nonviolent protest,” District Attorney Eric Gonzalez said in a statement Tuesday. “As district attorney I cannot tolerate the use of excessive force against anyone exercising this constitutionally guaranteed right. This is especially true of those who are sworn to protect us and uphold the law.”

D’Andraia is expected to be arraigned today on third-degree assault, fourth-degree criminal mischief, second-degree harassment and third-degree menacing charges.

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