Eviction protection extended; push for antibody testing

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People walk by ambulances parked outside NewYork–Presbyterian Brooklyn Methodist Hospital, Wednesday, May 6, 2020 in New York during the coronavirus pandemic. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo says most COVID-19 patients coming into New York hospitals are not working and not traveling daily and tend to be older than 50. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)

NEW YORK (AP) — Gov. Andrew Cuomo extended protections for New Yorkers unable to pay their rent, and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio set an ambitious goal to test 140,000 people for coronavirus antibodies by early next month. The state’s daily death toll was 231.

More on the latest pandemic-related developments in New York:

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EVICTION MORATORIUM

New York’s moratorium on outbreak-related housing evictions was extended Thursday by Cuomo for two more months.

The governor in March had issued a moratorium on residential and commercial evictions that lasted through June, but he said he wanted to reduce the anxiety of families struggling through the economic shutdown. It is now extended until Aug. 20.

“I hope it gives families a deep breath,” Cuomo said at his daily briefing.

The executive order will also ban late fees for missed payments and allow renters to apply their security deposit to a payment, though they’d have to pay it back over time.

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DEATH TOLL JUMP

New York’s official COVID-19 death count jumped by 720 because of a more thorough reporting of fatalities at nursing homes and adult-care facilities.

“There was consistency lacking in the quality of reporting, so we went back and did a thorough review,” said state Department of Health spokeswoman Jill Montag.

The statewide outbreak toll is now 20,828.

That total doesn’t include more than 5,300 deaths in New York City that were attributed to the virus on death certificates but that weren’t confirmed by a lab test.

The health department has been working with nursing homes and adult care facilities to create a system for reporting fatalities in real-time and retrospectively, Montag said.

At least 5,003 residents who were confirmed or presumed to have COVID-19 have died in nursing homes since the outbreak began. An unknown number of the state’s 2,585 presumed nursing home deaths are included in the city’s count of presumed deaths.

New York tallied 231 virus-related deaths Wednesday. Though hospitalizations continued to decrease slowly to under 8,700, the daily death toll has hovered around 230 for four days.

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JETBLUE FLYOVER

New York City residents got a special sight Thursday evening, as JetBlue sent three of its specially painted planes to the skies above the city in a special flyover to thank health care workers for their efforts against the coronavirus.

One plane was painted in red with the shield of the Fire Department of New York, while another was mostly blue in honor of the New York Police Department and has the department’s flag on the tail. The third featured JetBlue’s logo and the well-known “I Love NY” slogan.

The flyover coincided with the launch of a program from JetBlue, donating pairs of round-trip flight certificates to health care workers. Customers have until May 15th to nominate workers to receive certificates.

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ANTIBODY TESTING

New York City will test 140,000 people for coronavirus antibodies between next week and early June, de Blasio announced Thursday.

The antibody tests, which indicate whether a person has been infected with the virus at some point, will be offered for free by appointment at five locations, the mayor said. The results will be available in one to two days and will also be used for research, he said.

Researchers say it is unclear whether coronavirus antibodies provide immunity from further exposure to the germ. The human body produces antibodies days or weeks after fighting an infection. Most tests use a finger prick of blood on a strip.

“We are not promising people a rose garden here,” de Blasio said. “We’re not saying the antibody test is the last word. It’s not. But it tells you something.”

The city will use tests made by BioReference Laboratories for the free program.

The state has already performed antibody tests on about 27,000 workers at health care centers in the New York City area.

At a separate briefing Thursday, Cuomo announced that those workers tested positive for antibodies at a lower rate than the general population, a finding he said shows the effectiveness of protective masks and gloves for front-line workers.

“That is amazingly good news,” he said. “We were afraid of what was going to happen.”

The survey found 12% of health care workers in New York City tested positive for antibodies, compared with 20% for the city’s general population. Positive rates for health care workers in Westchester County, just north of the city, were about half of those for the general population, though worker rates were roughly the same on Long Island.

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Villeneuve and Hill reported from Albany, N.Y.

Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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