New York City police union files lawsuit to block vaccine mandate

By Kanishka Singh

(Reuters) – New York City’s police union filed a lawsuit on Monday against a vaccine mandate for municipal workers ordered last week by Mayor Bill de Blasio.

The mayor on Wednesday ordered all city employees to show proof of inoculation against COVID-19 or be placed on unpaid leave, drawing the union’s ire.

The Police Benevolent Association of the City of New York said on Twitter that it had filed a suit in the state Supreme Court. It asked the court for a temporary restraining order to halt the mandate while the suit remains pending.

The union added on Twitter that there was “still no written, NYPD-specific policy guidance on how the mandate will be implemented.”

The mayor set a deadline of 5 p.m. this coming Friday for employees to show proof of inoculation to a supervisor. Over 70% of all 160,000 New York City workers, including a similar percentage in the police department, have already received at least one dose, the mayor said.

Patrick Lynch, president of the Police Benevolent Association representing the city’s 50,000 active and retired officers, said they should have the opportunity to choose whether to get the vaccine.

De Blasio cited overtime and redeployments as contingency plans should a large contingent of those officers and other unvaccinated city workers refuse to comply with the mandate.

Municipalities, school districts and other jurisdictions throughout the country are grappling with masking and vaccination requirements. The number of new COVID-19 cases has steadily declined in the United States since a surge caused by the Delta variant of the virus during the summer.

De Blasio had said employees will no longer have the option to be regularly tested instead of getting the vaccine, but added the city will still grant medical and religious exemptions.

(Reporting by Kanishka Singh in Bengaluru; Editing by Howard Goller)

New York City to require COVID-19 vaccinations for all public employees

(Reuters) -New York Mayor Bill de Blasio said on Wednesday he was expanding the city’s vaccine mandate to include all public employees, requiring them to show proof of inoculation against COVID-19 or be placed on unpaid leave.

As a sweetener, city employees will receive a $500 bonus for receiving their first shot at a city-run vaccination site by 5 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 29, the deadline for showing proof of vaccination to a supervisor, de Blasio said in a statement.

“There is no greater privilege than serving the people of New York City, and that privilege comes with a responsibility to keep yourself and your community safe,” he said.

The policy in the most populous U.S. city comes as numerous other municipalities, school districts and other governments across the nation grapple with masking and vaccination requirements. The number of new COVID-19 cases has steadily declined since a surge caused by the Delta variant of the virus during the summer.

Seventy-one percent of all 160,000 New York City workers have already received at least one vaccine dose, the mayor said.

De Blasio said employees will no longer have the option to be regularly tested instead of getting the vaccine, but added that the city will still grant medical and religious exemptions.

The rate of vaccination in the New York Police Department has lagged the overall rate among city workers.

More than 460 New York City police officers have died of COVID-19. Officials with the Police Benevolent Association of the City of New York, which represents the city’s 50,000 active and retired police officers, were not immediately available for comment.

Workers at the city’s Department of Education and New York City Health and Hospitals agency have been subject to vaccination mandates since September. The vaccine rate in those departments is at least 95%, de Blasio said.

Civilian employees of the city’s Department of Correction (DOC) and uniformed members of the DOC assigned to healthcare settings are also immediately subject to the mandate. But for other uniformed correction officers, the deadline for vaccination is Dec. 1, as the city works to address severe staffing issues at the Rikers Island jail complex, de Blasio said.

(Reporting by Akriti Sharma in Bengaluru and Brendan O’Brien in Chicago; Editing by Andrew Heavens and Steve Orlofsky)

‘Historic’ New York-area flooding in Ida’s wake leaves at least 14 dead

By Barbara Goldberg and Maria Caspani

NEW YORK (Reuters) -Flooding killed at least 14 people, swept away cars, submerged subway lines and temporarily grounded flights in New York and New Jersey as the remnants of Hurricane Ida brought torrential rains to the area.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio told a Thursday news conference there were nine confirmed fatalities in New York caused by what he had described as a “historic weather event.”

Countless rescues were made overnight of motorists and subway riders who became stranded in the flood waters, de Blasio said. “So many lives were saved because of the fast, courageous, response of our first responders,” he said.

Images posted on social media overnight showed water gushing over subway platforms and people wading through knee-deep water in their buildings.

Streets turned to rivers as flooding swept away cars in videos captured by stunned residents.

Four residents of Elizabeth, a city in New Jersey, perished in flooding at Oakwood Plaza, a public housing complex that was “flooded out with eight feet of water,” city spokesperson Kelly Martins told Reuters.

“Sadly, more than a few folks have passed as a result of this,” New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy said without elaborating on the death toll at a briefing in Mullica Hill in the southern part of the state where a tornado had ripped apart several homes.

The hit to the Middle Atlantic region came three days after Ida, one of the most powerful hurricanes to strike the U.S. Gulf Coast, devastated southern Louisiana. Reconnaissance flights revealed entire communities destroyed by wind and floods.

Ida’s remnants brought six to eight inches (15 to 20 cm) of rain to a swath of the Northeast from Philadelphia to Connecticut and set an hourly record of 3.15 inches for Manhattan, breaking the previous one that was set less than two weeks ago, the National Weather Service said.

The 7.13 inches of rain that fell in New York City on Wednesday was the city’s fifth highest daily amount, it said.

The number of disasters, such as floods and heat waves, driven by climate change has increased fivefold over the past 50 years, according to a report released earlier this week by The World Meteorological Organization, a U.N. agency.

One person died in Passaic, New Jersey, due to the flooding and the search continued for others, the city’s mayor, Hector Lora, said in a video posted to Facebook on Thursday.

“We are presently still making efforts to identify and try to locate other individuals that have not been accounted for,” Lora said.

NBC New York reported at least 23 fatalities, including a toddler and said that most “if not all” deaths were flood-related.

The governors of New York and New Jersey, who had declared emergencies in their states on Wednesday, urged residents to stay home as crews worked to clear roadways and restore service to New York City subways and commuter rail lines serving millions of residents.

“Right now my street looks more like a lake,” said Lucinda Mercer, 64, as she peered out her apartment window in Hoboken, New Jersey, just across the Hudson River from New York.

Mercer, who works as a crisis line fundraiser, said flood waters were lapping halfway up the hub caps of parked cars.

Subway service in New York City remained “extremely limited” while there was no service at all on commuter rail lines to the city’s northern suburbs on Thursday morning, the Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) said. Janno Lieber, the MTA’s acting chair and CEO, told local media it was going to take until later in the day to restore full service.

The Long Island Railroad, which is also run by the MTA, said early on Thursday that services on most of its branches had been restored but commuters should expect systemwide delays of up to 30 minutes.

‘HUMBLED BY MOTHER NATURE’

Michael Wildes, mayor of Englewood, a city in New Jersey located just across the Hudson River from Manhattan, said the city’s central business district was under water and some residents had to be evacuated to the library overnight.

“We are being humbled by mother nature in this last year and a half,” Wildes told Reuters by phone.

He said there were no known deaths in Englewood, although police, fire and other emergency responders had extracted several people trapped in their cars.

Mark Haley of Summit, New Jersey, said getting back home after a 15-minute drive to a bowling alley to celebrate his daughter’s sixth birthday on Wednesday night became a six-hour slog through flood waters that often left him trapped.

“When we got out, it was a war zone,” said Haley, 50, a fitness trainer, who got home to find almost two feet (0.6 m) of water in his basement.

All New Jersey Transit rail services apart from the Atlantic City Rail Line were suspended, the service said on its website.

Amtrak said on Thursday morning that it canceled all passenger rail service between Philadelphia and Boston.

New Jersey’s Newark Liberty Airport warned about flight disruptions and said about 370 flights were canceled as of Thursday morning.

More than 200,000 electricity customers were without power early on Thursday in five northeastern states that got most of the rains overnight, mostly in Pennsylvania and New Jersey, according to PowerOutage.US, which gathers data from utility companies. There were also outages in New York, Connecticut and Massachusetts, it said.

(Reporting by Kanishka Singh in Bengaluru, Maria Caspani and Peter Szekely in New York, Barbara Goldberg in Maplewood, New Jersey, and Nathan Layne in Wilton, Connecticut; Additional reporting by Doina Chiacu and Susan Heavey in Washington, Ann Maria Shibu and Akriti Sharma in Bengaluru and Sarah Morland in Gdansk; Editing by Christopher Cushing, Shri Navaratnam, Hugh Lawson, Frances Kerry and Steve Orlofsky)

New York becomes first U.S. city to mandate COVID vaccines to enter restaurants, gyms

By Maria Caspani

NEW YORK (Reuters) -New York City will become the first major U.S. city to require proof of COVID-19 vaccination for customers and staff at restaurants, gyms and other indoor businesses as the country enters a new phase of battling the highly contagious Delta variant.

Unlike the surges last year and in January, highly effective vaccines are now widely available against the virus that has killed over 600,000 people in the United States, lessening the need to close businesses and for people to stay home.

The federal government and several states have already required public employees to get vaccinated as have some hospitals and universities. Meatpacker Tyson Foods on Tuesday became one of the largest private employers to require all workers be immunized.

New York City’s policy requires proof of at least one dose and will be enforced starting Sept. 13. Like past policies over masks and stay-at-home orders, the plan will likely meet resistance. In France, the requirement of a nationwide health passport proving vaccination has resulted in police using tear gas to disperse protesters.

“It is time for people to see vaccination as literally necessary to living a good and full and healthy life,” de Blasio told a news conference.

About 60% of all New Yorkers have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, according to city data. But certain areas, largely poor communities and communities of color, have lower vaccination rates.

HOT SPOTS

The city’s announcement comes as cases surge nationwide with Florida and Louisiana emerging as major virus hot spots where hospitals are once again straining with the influx of COVID patients.

Florida and Louisiana are both reporting record numbers of hospitalized COVID patients, as one doctor warned of the “darkest days” yet.

More than 11,300 patients were hospitalized in Florida as of Tuesday, with COVID patients filling 22% of the state’s hospital beds, according to data from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. In highly vaccinated Vermont, 0.4% of its hospital beds are occupied by coronavirus patients.

Louisiana was also dealing with one of the worst outbreaks in the nation, prompting Governor John Bel Edwards, a Democrat, to order residents to wear masks again indoors.

COVID-19 hospitalizations in Los Angeles County have nearly quadrupled in the last four weeks to 1,096 on Monday, the department of public health said. The percentage of tests coming back positive for the virus also climbed to 6.2%, up from 1.3% a month ago, according to department data.

To fight the spread in California, political leaders in eight San Francisco Bay Area counties reinstated mandatory indoor mask orders in public places as of midnight Tuesday morning. Governor Gavin Newsom, a Democrat, late last month mandated all state employees to get vaccinated starting Aug. 2 or undergo COVID-19 testing at least once a week.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, a Republican, has taken the opposite stance. He issued an executive order last week barring schools from requiring face coverings, saying parents should make that decision for their children.

The Sunshine State claimed another grim record with the highest number of pediatric COVID-19 hospitalizations — 138 as of Tuesday, more than those recorded in Texas despite the much larger population of the latter.

DeSantis doubled down during a press conference on Tuesday, defending the state’s approach.

“We’re not shutting down. We’re going to have schools open. We’re protecting every Floridian’s job in this state. We’re protecting people’s small businesses.”

In Arkansas, another state were hospitalizations for COVID-19 have spiked, Republican Governor Asa Hutchinson said he will ask state legislators on Wednesday to provide an exception to a law that prohibits state and local government, including school boards, from mandating people to wear masks.

The private sector, including many large U.S. companies, have also taken some steps in response to the Delta variant threat.

Detroit’s Big Three automakers and the United Auto Workers (UAW) union said on Tuesday they will reinstate requirements to wear masks at all U.S. plants, offices and warehouses beginning on Wednesday but are not requiring workers to be vaccinated.

Big Tech companies like Alphabet’s Google and Facebook have said all U.S. employees must get vaccinated to step into offices.

(Reporting by Maria Caspani and Dan Whitcomb; Editing by Frank McGurty and Lisa Shumaker)

As NYC faces steep recovery, voters head to polls in mayoral election

By Joseph Ax

(Reuters) – Voters in New York City head to the polls on Tuesday to select Democratic and Republican nominees for mayor, following a campaign dominated by debate over public safety as the city recovers from the pandemic and confronts a surge in shootings.

The winner of the crowded Democratic contest, who may not be known until mid-July, will be a heavy favorite to succeed term-limited Mayor Bill de Blasio in November’s general election. Democratic registered voters outnumber Republican voters by more than a six-to-one ratio, state data shows.

The next mayor will be confronted with deep challenges including wealth inequality, police accountability, a lack of affordable housing and a struggling tourism industry in the country’s most populous city of about 8.2 million residents.

The leading Democratic contenders include Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, former presidential candidate and entrepreneur Andrew Yang, former sanitation chief Kathryn Garcia, civil rights lawyer and former MSNBC analyst Maya Wiley and City Comptroller Scott Stringer.

The election will be the first mayoral primary to use ranked-choice voting, in which voters rank up to five candidates in order of preference, adding a layer of uncertainty to the race.

Voters also will choose from eight Democratic candidates seeking to replace Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr., who is retiring. The nominee, who will be all but guaranteed to win November’s general election, would inherit Vance’s criminal probe into former President Donald Trump’s business empire.

Adams, a former police captain who put policing and crime at the center of his campaign, has led most recent polls, after months in which Yang appeared to be the front-runner. Garcia, who has run a technocratic campaign focused on her long experience in government, has risen in polls after securing the New York Times editorial board’s endorsement.

All three are considered more moderate and have called for increased police resources to combat rising crime.

Wiley, a liberal, has highlighted the protests against police violence last summer and proposed cutting $1 billion from the nearly $6 billion NYPD budget, redirecting the funding instead to other services, such as mental health counseling.

She has emerged as the preferred candidate for progressive groups, after Stringer lost numerous endorsements in the wake of two sexual misconduct allegations. He has denied any wrongdoing.

Almost all of the top candidates would make history: Adams as the city’s second Black mayor, Yang as the first Asian-American mayor, Garcia as the first female mayor and Wiley as the first Black female mayor.

DELAYED RESULTS

Polls close at 9 p.m. ET. Preliminary results showing voters’ first-choice votes are expected sometime after that, but barring a surprise outcome in which one candidates exceeds 50% of first-choice votes, the final results will likely take weeks.

The Board of Elections intends to announce the first round of results from its tabulation of in-person votes on June 29 and plans to release a second round that includes some absentee ballots a week later. Final results are expected the week of July 12, after the deadline for voters to fix, or “cure,” deficient ballots has passed.

The use of ranked-choice voting, which incentivizes candidates to ask their rivals’ supporters to rank them highly as well, prompted an unusual sight over the race’s final weekend: Yang and Garcia campaigned together on Saturday and Sunday in an apparent effort to blunt Adams’ rising momentum.

Yang encouraged his supporters to rank Garcia as their second choice; Garcia stopped short of doing so but offered praise for Yang’s campaign.

Adams’ campaign suggested the joint appearances were aimed at preventing “a person of color” from winning the race.

“I would tell Eric Adams that I’ve been Asian my entire life,” Yang responded when asked about the claim at a news conference. Adams later clarified that he was referring to Black and Latino candidates.

Wiley issued a statement criticizing Adams, though not by name, for his allegation, saying Yang and Garcia’s decision “is not racist.”

De Blasio, whose approval ratings have dropped in his second term, declined on Monday to say how he would rank the mayoral candidates on his ballot.

Noting it could take weeks for a clear winner to emerge, de Blasio said, “We’re going to have to exercise a little patience here, something we’re not particularly good at as New Yorkers.”

In the Republican election, Curtis Sliwa, the founder of the patrol group Guardian Angels, is running against Fernando Mateo, a businessman who created the “Toys for Guns” program in the 1990s.

(Reporting by Joseph Ax; Additional reporting by Peter Szekely; Editing by Colleen Jenkins and Aurora Ellis)

New York City to hold ticker-tape parade for essential COVID-19 workers

(Reuters) – New York City will hold a ticker-tape parade next month for essential workers to honor their heroism on the front lines in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic, Mayor Bill de Blasio said on Monday.

The parade will be held along the Canyon of Heroes in Lower Manhattan on Wednesday, July 7. For generations, ticker-tape parades in the largest U.S. city have been typically reserved for championship sports clubs, astronauts and war veterans.

“We are going to hold a parade to honor them, to thank them and to celebrate them,” de Blasio said in a video statement released by his office. “This one will have a special spirit to it, a special heart and soul because it’s about celebrating everyday New Yorkers who did something so heroic.”

In addition to health care workers, the parade will honor police officers, teachers and transportation workers, who went to their jobs each day during the pandemic despite the risks.

More than 33,000 people lost their lives to COVID-19 in New York City, once an epicenter of the outbreak, as hospitals were besieged and streets virtually devoid of human activity.

“It has literally been the greatest crisis in the history of New York City. We were knocked down, but got back up,” de Blasio said.

In announcing the parade, de Blasio also urged New Yorkers to get a COVID-19 vaccine, with the city’s rate of fully vaccinated residents standing at 47% as of Monday, according to the city’s health department.

New York City, with 8.3 million people, reported a 0.59% seven-day average positivity rate and only 50 new hospitalizations on Monday. Most indoor capacity restrictions throughout the city were lifted in May, though masking requirements remain in place.

(Reporting by Brendan O’Brien in Chicago; Editing by Dan Grebler)

New York City plans Central Park concert to mark pandemic comeback

By Maria Caspani

NEW YORK (Reuters) – New York will host a concert in Central Park featuring an undisclosed line-up of major musical artists in August to mark the city’s comeback from the coronavirus pandemic, Mayor Bill de Blasio said on Monday.

The live music event is part of a week-long citywide celebration of the city – once the U.S. epicenter of the pandemic – as vaccination rates rise and the virus abates.

“This is going to be an amazing, memorable once-in-a-lifetime week in New York City,” the mayor told a news conference.

De Blasio did not announce a line-up or a date for the concert, although the New York Times reported it is tentatively set for Aug. 21 in Central Park’s Great Lawn.

Clive Davis, a legendary music industry figure, will pull together the huge event that will feature an “all-star” roster of artists, according to de Blasio.

The Times reported that the concert will have vaccinated and unvaccinated sections, with about 70% of tickets going to vaccinated individuals.

Encouraged by the warm weather, the city’s streets, restaurants and parks are once again teeming with activity, a sight unseen during the long months when COVID-19 wreaked havoc on the metropolis.

On Monday, de Blasio said, New York City clocked the lowest positivity rate since the pandemic began at 0.71%. Nearly 4.5 million people have received at least one dose of the coronavirus vaccine as officials offer prizes and other incentives to push those still reluctant to get the shots.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said at a separate news conference on Monday that the state would lift most remaining COVID-19 restrictions when 70% of residents have received at least one dose of the vaccine, 1.4% away from the current rate.

(Reporting by Maria Caspani, Editing by Angus MacSwan)

New York City Marathon returns after 2020 COVID-19 cancellation

By Amy Tennery

NEW YORK (Reuters) – A limited field of 33,000 runners will return to the starting line for the 50th running of the New York City Marathon in November after it was cancelled last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The annual event that draws thousands of cheering fans to the Big Apple will take place on Nov. 7.

“The New York City Marathon is a reminder of everything New Yorkers can accomplish with persistence, hard work, and community support,” New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said in a statement.

“As we build a recovery for all of us, there’s no better time to safely reconnect with the iconic events that make our city great.”

The 26.2-mile (42.2 km) race, typically the final of the six Abbott World Marathon Majors run each year, is hugely popular with amateur runners and professionals alike and saw a record 53,627 finishers in 2019, the last time it was contested.

New York Road Runners, which puts on the event each year, said runners will be required to show proof of a negative COVID-19 test or a vaccine and must adhere to government guidelines around travel and quarantine.

Organizers plan to use “a controllable and scalable time-trial start format” to reduce congestion at the start and finish.

“While cancelling the race was the right choice in 2020, we are excited to welcome runners back to our beautiful city,” said governor Andrew Cuomo.

“New Yorkers worked hard to flatten the curve after the COVID-19 outbreak and it is that work that allows us to be able to take this step in bringing normalcy back to our state.”

(Reporting by Amy Tennery, editing by Pritha Sarkar)

New York City to deploy more patrols in Times Square after shooting

By Barbara Goldberg

NEW YORK (Reuters) – More New York police officers will patrol Times Square after a shooting last weekend that injured three people, including a child, the mayor said on Monday as he sought to reassure visitors that the city is safe as it reopens after the yearlong coronavirus pandemic.

Mayor Bill de Blasio said the New York Police Department would add an unspecified number of officers from the Critical Response Command, one of the force’s first lines of defense against a terrorist attack, to patrols in Times Square, a popular tourist attraction.

“We’re putting additional NYPD resources in the Times Square area to add an extra measure of protection,” de Blasio said. “It will be use of our CRC officers in Times Square. You’ll see additional presence.”

Police on Monday were still searching for a man they identified as a “person of interest” in the shooting that wounded innocent bystanders just before 5 p.m. Friday local time. The attack stemmed from a domestic dispute, authorities said.

Among those wounded was a child from Brooklyn whose family brought her to Times Square to buy toys, said Police Commissioner Dermot Shea. She and the two other victims – a 23-year-old female tourist from Rhode Island and a 43-year-old woman from New Jersey – were not related to one another or to the shooting itself, Shea said.

The 4-year-old and 23-year-old were shot in the leg and the 43-year-old was shot in the foot, Shea said.

Times Square, which had a reputation for seediness in the 1970s and 80s, has more recently burnished its image and drawn tourists to “the Crossroads of the World,” as a result of soaring property values and gentrification.

After COVID-19 forced a year-long shutdown of New York, once the U.S. epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic, de Blasio has vowed to “fully reopen” the city by July 1.

The shooting, he said, will not affect tourism.

“In the end, people want to come to this city. It is an overwhelmingly safe city. When you look at New York compared to cities around the country, around the world, this is a very safe place.”

Tourism in New York is already picking up faster than anticipated, de Blasio said.

“People are starting to come here much earlier than I thought they would. I thought it would go into the summer before we would see that kind of comeback. It’s happening now,” the mayor said.

(Reporting by Barbara Goldberg; Editing by Steve Orlofsky)

New York mayor says city will ‘fully reopen’ on July 1

NEW YORK (Reuters) – New York Mayor Bill de Blasio said on Thursday that officials plan to “fully reopen” the city on July 1 after more than a year of coronavirus-induced closures and low-intensity operations.

“We are ready for stores to open for businesses to open offices, theaters — full strength,” de Blasio said on MSNBC.

The mayor said much of the reason for his optimism for the country’s largest city being able to get back to a normal level of operating was that 6.3 million doses of vaccine have been administered in the city of some 8.3 million people.

“What we’re seeing is people have gotten vaccinated in extraordinary numbers,” he said. “We know the vaccination effort is going to grow and grow,” he added “We’ve got to keep working hard at that.”

It was not immediately clear how the mayor’s plans would square with those of the state government, which has control over operating restrictions on restaurants and other businesses.

Broadway theaters have started to reopen this month for special events in front of limited indoor audiences. Many producers have targeted June 1 for their reopening dates.

(Reporting by Peter Szekely in New York; Editing by Nick Zieminski)