1 2 3 4

New COVID-19 testing, vaccine site opens at Astoria Houses

Residents of Western Queens and Astoria Houses now have a new and closer COVID-19 vaccination and testing site made out of repurposed shipping containers.

The temporary medical care unit located just steps from the Astoria Houses Community Center will be operated by NYC-based charity hospital, The Floating Hospital, and will provide free vaccines and tests. The site will be open on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

NYS Gov. Hochul shakes hands with residents of the Astoria Houses

With only a single permanent vaccination site located within a half-mile of Astoria Houses, and just two permanent vaccination sites in the 11102 area code, the lack of access to vaccines has shown higher case and death rates in the area compared to other parts of Queens and New York City.

In the area code 11102, there is a case rate of 30,300 per 100,000 individuals, compared to 13,350 and 12,600 in Queens and New York City, respectively. The death rate within the same zip code is approximately 616 per 100,000, compared to 448 and 408 to the borough and city, respectively.

Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney was joined by NYS Governor Kathy Hochul, NYC Deputy Mayor Lorraine Grillo, and other community leaders to unveil the new 40-foot-long medical care center in the courtyard of the housing complex.

“We learned during COVID that there are great inequities in health care, there are great needs, and that we have to do a better job to support and provide health care, equally, to all people,” Maloney said.

The temporary medical care unit was designed by a research and development consortium composed of the New Jersey Institute of Technology and The Tuchman Foundation. Maloney worked with the aforementioned agencies, as well as the New York City Housing Authority, to secure the placement for the temporary healthcare unit.

Hochul praised the leadership of Maloney, as well as echoing similar sentiments about unequal access to healthcare.

“Today, we begin to right the wrongs of the past. If anything, this pandemic demonstrates that there are systemic disparities in healthcare access and therefore healthcare outcomes,” Hochul said. “Nowhere do we see that more intensely than in this neighborhood and in this community.”

Claudia Coger, the former Astoria Houses Tenants Association President, said that a high number of unvaccinated individuals live in the neighborhood. She says access is key when it comes to providing knowledge to the place she has called home for her entire life.

“Let’s get rid of some of the excuses,” Coger said.

City’s New Top Doctor gives COVID briefing

Dr. Ashwin Vasan has taken over as the city’s top doctor at the two-year mark of the ongoing pandemic.

Officially taking the reins from Dr. Dave Chokshi on March 16, Vasan held his first briefing last week in Queens alongside President and CEO of NYC Health + Hospitals, Dr. Mitchell Katz and Director of NYC Test and Trace Corps, Dr. Ted Long.

“Although it’s only my first week on the job, I understand how important regular communication is with all of you,” Vasan said to the press. “While the losses of the last two years have been profound, we’ve also developed tools in that period that are saving lives, including testing, prevention and new treatments, like antiviral pills.”

“It’s an honor to be the city’s doctor. Something you’ll hear me talk a lot about is the emotional toll that this pandemic has taken on all of us. We have all been through so much over these past two years and continuing uncertainty about the future of COVID can certainly add to the strain on New Yorkers mental health and well being,” Vasan said.

As of March 21, the city’s seven-day and 28-day average positivity rates are trending in the right direction with 1.66 percent and 1.89 percent rates, respectively.

Although he said New York City is currently in a “low-risk environment”, Vasan said he and his team at the city’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene is monitoring the presence of the BA.2 subvariant of Omicron.

Dr. Celia Quinn said that ‘about 30 percent’ of cases in the city can be attributed to the subvariant, and that while it appears to be more transmissible than other strains of Omicron, it does not appear to cause more severe illness.

“I think the important thing to remember and to emphasize for New Yorkers is that currently, there’s no evidence that BA.2 causes more severe illness, increases risk of hospitalization, or that our current vaccines offer less protection against it,” Vasan said.

With just 55 percent of New Yorkers aged 65 or older who received their booster or additional dose, Vasan and his team stressed the importance of vaccines and reconnecting with health care providers.

As some mask mandates have been relaxed in city schools and other places, Vasan and Katz hesitated to say what it would take to lift a workplace vaccine mandate.

“People who have tried to predict what’s going to happen in the future for this pandemic have repeatedly found egg on their face, as they say, and I’m not going to do that here today,” he said.

Dr. Katz added, “Nobody has suggested that we should, you know, because polio levels are so low, we should say that schoolchildren shouldn’t be vaccinated for polio. I think vaccine mandates have a long and important history in public health.

“If you have childhood vaccinations, then everybody grows up to be vaccinated. So it turns out to be irrelevant, right? The point of childhood vaccinations is by doing it at childhood, you’re giving the person maximum benefit. And then they grow up as a whole cohort of people who are fully vaccinated.”

Cuomo won’t quit, but some think he should

The hits keep on coming for former NYS Gov. Andrew Cuomo, yet for some reason, the man continues to put out campaign rhetoric, despite the fact he hasn’t even announced plans to run for office.

His new pseudo-campaign advertisement certainly raised a few eyebrows, considering his reluctant resignation from office last August amid multiple accusations of sexual harassment by former aides. In his commercial, Cuomo appears apologetic, admitting “I haven’t been perfect. I’ve made mistakes. But I also made a difference.”

Cuomo says that he believes “cancel culture” and “political attacks” contributed to his early departure from office, claiming that reports conducted by Attorney General Letitia James are full of “omissions and inaccuracies.”

In addition to the sexual harassment scandal, he has been heavily criticized for his misuse of government resources to write a $5 million memoir and deliberately altering the number of COVID-related deaths in nursing homes to inflate the perception of New York’s performance. (Not to mention the accusations against his brother, former CNN anchor Chris Cuomo).

Earlier this week State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli released the findings of an internal audit, uncovering that a persistent lack of funding over the last decade forced the NYS Department of Health to operate without critical information systems and staff that could’ve helped identify and limit the spread of COVID-19 within nursing homes.

The audit uncovered that the health department understated the number of nursing home deaths by at least 4,100 people and that Cuomo used his executive authority to control infromation provided to the public.

“The pandemic was devastating and deadly for New Yorkers living in nursing homes. Families have a right to know if their loved one’s COVID-19 death was counted, but many still don’t have answers from the state Department of Health,” DiNapoli stated. “Our audit findings are extremely troubling. The public was misled by those at the highest level of state government through distortion and suppression of the facts when New Yorkers deserved the truth. The pandemic is not over, and I am hopeful the current administration will make changes to improve accountability and protect lives. An important step would be for DOH to provide the families who lost loved ones with answers as to the actual number of nursing homes residents who died. These families are still grieving, and they deserve no less.”

The fact the numbers were so easily suppressed speaks volumes about the level of corruption that exists in Albany.

Nevertheless, new polling data provided from The Hill and Emerson College, show that despite everything, were he to attempt to make a bid for his former office, he could potentially have a chance at beating his successor, New York Gov. Kathy Hochul.
The poll revealed that 37 percent of Democratic primary voters would support Hochul with Cuomo pulling in close behind at 33 percent. Meanwhile, current contenders U.S. Rep. Tom Suozzi and NYC Public Advocate Jumaane Williams polled in seven and four percent of voters respectively.

The poll also revealed that 59 percent of voters polled trusted the findings of AG Letitia James.

Cuomo’s recent “God isn’t finished with me yet” performance at a Brooklyn church furthered the rumors of his potential run for re-election, much to the chagrin of several other Democrats, who are hoping he won’t run again.

Jay Jacobs, the chair of the NY Democratic party, told CNBC that he thinks running for office would be a “bad mistake” for Cuomo, who claims that he is open to the idea of creating his own political party in order to try and reclaim his seat, instead of attempting to secure the Democratic nomination.

But Jacobs isn’t the only one opposed to having Cuomo run for office.

NYS Assemblyman Ron Kim, chair of the aging committee, slammed the former Governor and his administration, stating that the findings of DiNapoli’s audit “verified public fraud at the highest level of state government.”

“Cuomo suppressed and covered up life-and-death data while pursuing a multi-million dollar book deal,” Kim states. “His actions were never about protecting our most vulnerable, they were about pure egotism and self-enrichment at the cost of others’ lives.”

Public Advocate Jumaane Williams, another of the Democratic candidates in the race for Governor, also commented on Cuomo’s continued attempts to discredit the findings of the state AG, calling his “cancel culture” remarks a sign of his “unbridled hubris and insistence to deny responsibility, dodge accountability and gaslight the masses.”

Despite the opinions of elected officials within his own party, based on the polls, there are certainly a number of New Yorkers standing in Cuomo’s corner regardless of the harassment scandal, book deal, and nursing home audit. However, it still remains unclear if he intends to run in the upcoming election.

Pandemic predators

Dear Editor,
I’m shocked by accusations that “nonprofit” hospitals sued patients and filed liens against their homes during the COVID crisis, despite receiving state emergency funds.
The Coalition for Affordable Hospitals, a group of labor unions, claims that 55 hospitals sued nearly 4,000 patients for medical debt while getting over $442 million from the state’s Indigent Care Pool.
These pandemic predators exploited taxpayers and patients out of sheer greed. Among the worst culprits, says the Coalition, is Northwell Health, New York’s largest hospital system a biggest private employer with 23 hospitals, 650 outpatient facilities and more than 70,000 staffers.
Its president & CEO, Michael Dowling, got a total compensation exceeding $4 million last year, ten times higher than President Joe Biden’s salary. Not bad for the head of an enterprise designated as a “nonprofit, tax exempt” organization by New York State and the federal government.
In television commercials, hospitals portray themselves as compassionate lifelines to their communities. But their bottom line takes top priority in real life.
They are nonprofit profiteers who violated a basic mandate of medicine: “First, do no harm.” State leaders and regulatory agencies must probe and penalize them for financial abuse.
Sincerely,
Richard Reif
Kew Gardens Hills

Variant fears

Dear Editor,
The recent news about a new variant of COVID-19 discovered in South Africa is very worrisome news. We cannot allow this variant to spread across the globe, which will certainly cause a resurgence in infections, hospitalizations and deaths, especially if the current vaccines and boosters are not as protective against it.
Will we ever be able to rid the world of COVID? According to most medical experts, that will not happen. Instead, the virus will diminish in spread and intensity and become endemic like the flu, and will require a yearly vaccine.
COVID19 has really turned everyone’s lives topsy turvy.
Sincerely,
John Amato
Fresh Meadows,

Booster bozos

Dear Editor,
The FDA’s decision to limit distribution of booster shots to people 65 and older is ridiculous. I am 62 years old, and my wife is 66, which means she can get it but I can’t.
I have aortic stenosis with a 50 percent blockage in the artery leading to the aortic valve of my heart. I need to also receive this booster, but thanks to the asinine decision made by the FDA, I will not be able to receive this shot.
Anyone 16 or older should be permitted to get this important booster shot.
Sincerely,
John Amato
Fresh Meadows

Fill the Form for Events, Advertisement or Business Listing