The Covid Emergency Is Over. Covid's Still Here.

The crisis phase of the pandemic is over and health care entitlements will change.

The Covid Emergency Is Over. Covid's Still Here.

Fast a week has passed since the coronavirus emergency ended. Let's see what this has meant for New York City.


Some private pop-up tents still offer Covid-19 testing on sidewalks. The city's mobile vans that test and treat have now disappeared. The home vaccination program has also been discontinued.

Covid-19 has not been eradicated. Covid-19 was still a problem in New York City when the federal public health emergency that ended on May 11 had ended. New York City averaged 254 cases per day and 13 patients were hospitalized. Department of Health statistics showed that on average one person died every day.

Mark Levine, Manhattan Borough President, said that although we are not in crisis, people should still be informed. Mark Levine, the Manhattan borough president, who was a City Council member until last year and chairman of the Council's health committee, said that while we are not in a crisis phase, people still need to be aware.

The city will continue to offer free home tests in libraries and other locations, until the supply of federally-funded tests is exhausted. Sharon Otterman, a colleague of mine, writes that public hospitals and clinics in the city will continue to offer low-cost care or even free treatment for those without insurance.

The federal program that sent home test kits by mail is ending. Insurers are no longer required cover eight tests per month.

At a recent Pandemic Response Institute panel discussion, Rima OKen, Director of Policy for the New York City Health Department’s Disease Control Division, stated that 'Covid related health care will start looking more like the rest of the health care we get, including health insurance for those who have it and our safety-net system for those who don't'.

Medicaid will cover the tests until at least September next year, according to the city. The city will also continue to offer its Covid-19 Hotline (212 COVID19), which connects you immediately with a clinician that can prescribe antiviral medications for anyone who has contracted Covid-19.

It will be harder to determine how many viruses are in circulation or the rate of spread. New York State announced that it will take three Covid-19 dashboards offline in the coming week. It is also evaluating changes to Covid-19 reporting and data collection. The city will continue tracking Covid-19 cases along with vaccinations, and perhaps most importantly, variants. The data reported may be less frequent and less detailed.

Early in the pandemic, medical supply shortages were a persistent problem. New York State's strategic stockpile has 8,64 million N95 Masks and 7,851 Ventilators -- there were only 1,749 in February 2020. In addition to the disposable gloves, there are now 76.7 millions in the state stockpile.

Economic fallout

Does the end of public health emergency mean that more people will return back to their office?

Answer will take some time. New York City is seeing more workers return to the office, but still has a long way to go. Eptura, which provides software for the workplace, reported that the measure they track -- "desk bookings" -- had increased by 168 percent in New York City during the first quarter 2023 compared to the same period in 2022. A desk booking is a day that an employee spends in their office using hardware or software, rather than remotely.

New Yorkers are concerned that the national increase in desk bookings is greater -- 194 percent between January and March compared to the first quarter last year.

According to Matthew Haag, my colleague, there is a record number of vacant office spaces in New York. This is more than all of Houston, Dallas-Fort Worth, and San Antonio combined.

Colliers, a real estate company, reported a 17.4 percent vacancy rate in April. This is the same as the February 2022 rate and the highest level since Colliers began keeping records in 1993. According to JLL, the Financial District of Lower Manhattan had a vacancy rate of 24 percent, and the area around Times Square was at close to 20 percent.

The high vacancy rate is concerning because the office buildings, and the money generated by them, were an important part of the economy in the city before the pandemic. Kathryn Wylde is the president of Partnership for New York City. She said that she didn't believe people continued to work from home because of the pandemic.

She said, "I don't believe it has been about health in a year or so." They've formed a habit they enjoy. She said that "some employers are becoming less patient because of the large number employees who don't show up. But it's still very sensitive to be too demanding."

The retail industry was also hard hit. On Tuesday, Century 21, a discount chain which sold designer products at discounted prices, reopened its flagship store on Lower Manhattan in a smaller version. Mayor Eric Adams said on WINS radio that the reopening is a'real indication' that New York City has not returned, but it's now back. Century 21 filed for bankruptcy in September 2020, but closed in October after its insurance carriers refused payment of $175 million in policies Century 21 claimed were in place to cover losses resulting from business interruptions like the pandemic shut down.


The day will be mostly sunny with temperatures in the mid-60s. Evening temperatures are in the upper 40s.

Today. Tomorrow (Solemnity of the Ascension): suspension.


City living

Electric Zoo theft: three New York City detectives have been charged with stealing nearly $3,000 of Champagne from an area reserved for VIPs. Three New York City police detectives were charged with stealing nearly $3,000 worth of Champagne from a V.I.P. area.

Kristin Jordan, a Harlem-based democratic socialist who is one of the leftist elected officials in New York City has abruptly withdrawn from next month's Democratic Primary and will not be running for reelection.

Few states have extended health insurance benefits for organ transplants to undocumented migrants. Some legislators hope New York is next.

New Jersey senators push back on congestion pricing. They argue that charging drivers to enter Manhattan's busiest areas would be unfair to suburbanites who live in the city.

The Tony Awards will go on as planned: The Tony Awards, which were in doubt due to the Writers Guild of America's strike, will continue in a modified form. The union has said that it will not picket at the show.


Dear Diary:

Early 1950s. On a hot summer's evening, there are only a few hours of daylight remaining.

After dinner, a group of us hung around Ralph Avenue's corner, mostly doing nothing.

A kid riding a bicycle was coming our way. No one special, no one we knew.

He began to pelt us with tomatoes that were way overripe, hurling them from his handlebar basket.

We were all caught in the midst of it. We all reacted in the same way before he crossed over the trolley tracks and disappeared on Ralph Avenue.

We never saw him. As I stood there, covered in tomato slime and smelling of rancidity, I couldn't help but think: "The guy was great."

We are glad we could meet here. Tomorrow, I'll see you. -- J.B.