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Vaccine eligibility will expand to at-risk groups

NYers with comorbidities, health conditions eligible for shots

Starting on Feb. 15, the state is expanding the vaccination campaign to offer the shots to people with conditions that put them at higher risk of death from the coronavirus.

"We are going to open it up to people with comorbidities … The prioritization is to reach those people who are most at risk or most essential through this period of time," Cuomo said.

He said 94% of people who have died from COVID-19 were identified as having comorbidities or other conditions, making them a priority in expanding the vaccination effort in an effective way.

New York State also launched a mass COVID-19 vaccination site at Yankee Stadium for Bronx residents on Friday as part of an effort to reach underserved areas with higher levels of spread.

In capturing what is at stake in the effort, Yankees pitching star Mariano Rivera, who joined the governor during his livestreamed briefing, said: "I used to pitch here and save games. Now this is about saving lives ... Hope is the name of the game right now."

The number of new positives reported today: 757 in Nassau, 771 in Suffolk, 3,883 in New York City and 8,777 statewide.

The chart below shows the daily totals of new coronavirus cases on Long Island.

Search a map of new cases and view charts showing the latest local trends in testing, hospitalizations, deaths and more.

Smaller landlords struggle under eviction ban

A moratorium on evictions is forcing small landlords on Long Island to run up credit card balances, take out loans and default on their own bills.

Sheriffs on the Island haven't carried out residential evictions since March, when the state began curtailing court activity in the early days of COVID-19.

With the virus straining many industries, thousands of Long Islanders have lost jobs and are struggling with basic expenses like rent. The government passed policies and bolstered benefits designed to protect renters. Only a fraction of that relief has reached landlords, and some small property owners are reeling.

"If you are relying on the extra thousand or $1,500 a month from renting out a finished basement or attic, and that suddenly goes away because your tenant can't afford to pay, you don't have a lot of cushion," said Lawrence Levy, executive dean at the National Center for Suburban Studies at Hofstra University.

Inability to collect rent forced Anthony and Kessa Figaro to take out a $10,500 loan. The couple started renting out their Baldwin home after moving to Florida five years ago, where Anthony Figaro got a job as a U.S. Postal Service account manager. The Figaros often work with insurance companies and temporary housing services to lease their four-bedroom house to people while their primary homes are repaired from floods, fires and other mishaps.

"You try to assist people that are impacted by tragedies or situations in their home," Figaro said. "We're not doing this because we just want to get as many tenants in as possible."

Remote learning won't end soon, educators say

Even as more people are getting vaccinated against COVID-19, safety concerns mean the return for full-time in-person education is still in the distance, a panel of school district officials said during an online discussion Thursday about the future of remote learning.

"If we moved away from the six feet distancing right now, my concern is that our infection rate would increase," Hank Grishman, Jericho school district superintendent, said during the Newsday Live conversation.

Grishman said the school district uses masks and plastic shields and maintains social distancing for students and staff who are physically at the school. But if all students were in school full time, "if we wanted to maintain the six feet of distancing, we would need another hundred thousand square feet."

Richard Loeschner, superintendent of the Brentwood Union Free School District, said the district has used a hybrid model that combines in-person instruction with remote learning.

"I would obviously support bringing the kids in but … we can't do it safely," Loeschner said, while also stating he was concerned about the long-term effect of hybrid learning.

The panelists said they hope widespread vaccinations will make it possible to return to normal education but that resumption carries its own challenges.

Lead singer of LI cover band dies

Danny Calvagna of Deer Park, the lead singer of local cover band 45rpm, died Wednesday from COVID-19. He was 66.

The group was known for its signature set of 1970s AM radio pop songs like the Partridge Family’s "I Woke Up in Love This Morning," Blue Swede’s "Hooked on a Feeling" and Paper Lace’s "The Night Chicago Died."

"Danny played feel-good songs that made people smile and dance," says Kenny Forgione, lead singer/guitarist of Wonderous Stories, who shared concert bills with Calvagna. "It brought the crowd back to when they were young."

Calvagna’s focus was bringing positivity through music and even labeled his concerts, "The C’mon Get Happy Show" at local venues such as My Father’s Place in Roslyn, The Warehouse in Amityville, Dublin Deck in Patchogue, Salt Shack in Babylon, the Paramount in Huntington and The Space at Westbury.

His last Long Island gig was a drive-in concert on Oct. 3 at Adventureland in East Farmingdale, a concept he helped bring to Long Island.

More to know

Johnson & Johnson asked U.S. regulators Thursday to clear the world’s first single-dose COVID-19 vaccine, an easier-to-use option that could boost scarce supplies.

Sears is closing its Valley Stream store in a few months, leaving the struggling retailer with only one location on Long Island.

One in five businesses in New York State expects to shed jobs by July as the coronavirus-induced recession continues, according to a Federal Reserve poll released on Wednesday.

The Senate approved a measure that would let Democrats muscle President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief plan through the chamber without Republican support as Vice President Kamala Harris cast her first tiebreaking vote.

The Nassau Coliseum's new leaseholder is getting $4 million in annual rent relief until six months after the state fully lifts restrictions on live arena events after two Nassau legislative committees approved changes to the county's agreement with Nassau Live Center LLC.

"The Masked Singer" host Nick Cannon has contracted the coronavirus and will miss an unspecified number of episodes when the Fox musical competition returns for season 5.

News for you

Try peri-peri chicken. Someday, when cancel culture gets around to poultry, I hope its first target will be people who stubbornly insist that chicken has run out of ways to delight us, writes food critic Scott Vogel, as he introduces readers to an "exciting discovery" that awaits at a new restaurant in Hicksville.

Take in a live comedy show. Comedian Andrew Dice Clay will spend Valentine’s Day performing on stage at Governor’s Comedy Club in Levittown to an empty room. Find out how you can catch the virtual show.

Help for renters and landlords. The state and federal governments have repeatedly updated protections for homeowners and renters throughout the pandemic. Here’s a guide on where things stand and what resources are available.

Do it for the 'gram. Sure, maybe you're not dressing up or going out as much these days, but if you’re ready for your close-up, this new boutique in Huntington offers Instagram photo shoots — for free and by appointment only — where clients pose in an outfit from the shop in one of seven different rooms.

Plus: Love is in the air. See the latest lineup of romantic movies to watch this week or start planning your Valentine's Day with our guides to couples' getaways, treats available for pickup or delivery and eateries offering specials.

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The pandemic relief challenge ahead: Ending it. In a Bloomberg Opinion column, Noah Smith writes: How and when to phase out COVID-19 relief programs is one of the most difficult policy problems that the Biden administration will have to solve. Eventually the virus will be vanquished, and the U.S. government won’t be able to keep large swaths of its economy on life support forever. Each relief program presents its own challenges in a phaseout.

The simplest will be the quasi-universal checks. That’s because they’re really just a series of ad hoc spending measures, limited by income to a part of the population. President Joe Biden is already having trouble with his push for $1,400 checks, so expect this to be the last round unless the pandemic comes roaring back. Down the road, maybe memories of the relief checks will increase support for policies like universal basic income, but for now this is a program that will phase itself out — though possibly too soon.

Pandemic unemployment benefits are another matter. Once COVID-19 is under control, the bulked-up payments — which Biden would keep at $400 a week per person through the end of September — will need to be phased out. As long as everyone knows that the benefits are only temporary, the payouts won’t discourage many people from working, since retaining a job is better than collecting checks for a few months and then still being unemployed after benefits expire. But if people think the extra money will be extended indefinitely, some might drop out of the labor force. So there has to be a clearly broadcast sunset to the program.

One good indicator of when it's safe to phase out the program will be the number of customers returning to eat at restaurants, tracked by the reservations website OpenTable. This data currently shows how depressed the economy still is. Continue reading