Wednesday, August 26, 2020

Mayor de Blasio on COVID-19 and Schools Opening


Mayor Bill de Blasio: Good morning, everybody. You know, we've talked about this for weeks, for months – the grit, the strength of New Yorkers; the amazing ability in this crisis to keep fighting back no matter what has been thrown at us; the compassion; the decency. So, those are the things we should celebrate. We're going to talk today about some of the challenges too, the trauma, the pain, so much of what people have been through. We’re going to particularly focus on our kids and everything they are dealing with in the midst of this crisis. But before we get to that, I want to talk about what we're doing to try and beat back this disease once and for all, because, in the end, it's the first, second, third topic every day – is how do we fight this disease? How do we get to a point where we can really get back to normal in this city? And I want to be really clear about the fact that the work that's being done now to ensure that people who travel to this city really understand the laws of this State, and this City, really understand they have to quarantine. And this is true for someone coming in from outside New York City, it's true of a New Yorker goes to visit family, or, for any other reason, travels to one of the states that's really having a tough time with COVID-19 – whatever reason, whoever the person is. if you traveled to one of those states or come from one of those states, you come here, you really have to quarantine. It's the law, it's for everyone safety.


One of the great efforts to make sure everyone understands this and to enforce this has been done by our Sheriff's Office. And I was out yesterday in Staten Island by the Bayonne Bridge with Sheriff Joe Facito and his team. And they're doing an amazing job, getting the message out and making sure people know we have to take it seriously. So, we have 31 States still where their COVID-19 infection level is still too high. So, anyone coming from those states has to fill out that traveler health form, has to quarantine. Now, we have been able to keep the infection level low here, but we are watching very carefully and with great concern – the number of travelers start to increase. And, right now, we think about 20 percent of the COVID-19 cases in this city are associated with people who have traveled. So, I want to be clear, the Sheriff's Office is going to be out there in force. They've done 3,000 vehicles stops already. They'll be doing a lot more. They're getting a lot of compliance from motorists. And I want to commend everyone – everyone's paying attention and doing the right thing. There's only been indeed so far for two summonses. And, at the same time, what the really good folks at the Sheriff's Office are doing is handing out masks for free. So, they're educating people. They're reminding them of the law. They're helping them to stay safe. And if someone won't comply, then they're ready to provide the penalties.


Now, I just want to say to everyone, since we all know the most important thing we can do together is beat back the coronavirus, the best thing to do is if you don't need to travel to one of those affected states, just don't – don't do it now, wait until they end up in a better situation. But if you do need to travel or you have traveled recently, please follow the rules for the good of everyone – yourself, your family, your community. And, again, Sheriff's Office will be out there, reminding people how important it is and making clear people understand it is the law.


Now, let me go back to our kids and the challenges they face – and not just the kids, the entire community – and that means parents, that means, as kids go back to school, educators, school staff, everyone's feeling the pain and the challenges of the last six months. And that means we have to address the mental health needs of our school community, starting with our kids. And we have to remember that there is no health without mental health, something our First Lady reminds me all the time. When we talk about keeping people safe, when we talk about keeping people healthy, we need to see that as not just protection from the coronavirus, or physical harm, but protection for people's mental health as well.


And so, today, we announce the Bridge to School plan – and the Bridge to School plan makes clear that, from the very first day of school, the mental health needs of our kids and our school communities are going to be front and center. And it's support for students, teachers, principals for the whole community. And I need everyone understand, when we talked earlier in the week about the comparison of New York City's approach to opening schools with the entire world – we looked literally at examples from around the world, we took the best, strongest practices from different countries, combined them into a gold standard here to make sure our schools are healthy and safe. When we looked at that, we put mental health right there in the mix, because we knew our kids couldn't be healthy unless they were getting that mental health support. So, that gold standard continues to be built every day, and here to talk about what we're doing to support our kids, someone who I think everyone knows has been a champion for the mental health needs of all New Yorkers and has reminded us every single day that we have to focus on mental health. It's been swept under the rug for too many years and now it's getting the attention it deserves.

Now, Chancellor Carranza has done an extraordinary job getting ready in every sense, and he knows the power of addressing kids’ emotional needs and thinking about the mental health piece as well. And he's also reached out to a lot of partners, a lot of folks who want to help make this work, including the Robin Hood Foundation, and other great partners. And here to tell you about the support we're getting for this initiative, our Chancellor Richard Carranza.


Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza: Thank you, Mr. Mayor. As a lifelong educator, I know that students are much more likely to learn and feel safe and rebound from tough blows when they feel connected to their teachers and their peers. Supporting students socially and emotionally improves not only their academic progress, but prepares them to succeed in life. Even before this pandemic, the majority of our students faced trauma every day. Poverty is traumatic. Homelessness is traumatic. Fear of deportation is traumatic. Yet schools can do so much to help students learn how to manage their stress and find refuge from their pain and anxiety. We've demonstrated this in New York City, as our First Lady and our Mayor have spoken about. Now, after the added trauma and upheaval of this pandemic when safety required that we abruptly close our buildings and limit our in-person interactions through social distancing, rebuilding those personal connections and honoring our students' lived experience is more important than ever before. That's one of the biggest reasons why we're going to such lengths to welcome students back into our schools this fall physically and virtually, while strengthening our social and emotional supports to student learning. Our students are the heartbeat of our schools and we have worked so hard to build and strengthen social emotional supports in New York City schools for the entire time I've served as Chancellor and throughout this administration as well. That includes historic efforts that the Mayor and First Lady and I announced just over a year ago, to provide all elementary school students with rich education and social-emotional learning, and every middle and high schooler with restorative practices aimed at strengthening community, building character, and creating the conditions to heal.


So, today, we're pleased to announce new ways that we will be providing these vital supports to our students and our staff, tailored to address the disruptions that we have confronted in the recent months. Foremost among these initiatives is curriculum that we are calling the Bridge to School plan, that will provide all schools with social-emotional learning lessons and activities designed for the first few weeks of school. As students re-enter their school communities, re-entering buildings, in many cases, that they abruptly left in March, or navigating a brand new building, these materials and lessons will help students build coping skills and process grief and reconnect and allow students to orient themselves to learning online or in classrooms during the first few weeks. In addition, with the generous support of the Robin Hood Foundation, the Gray Foundation, and the Tiger Foundation, and with the incredible support of the fund for public schools, we have been expanding access and training in trauma-responsive educational practices. Every New York City principals started this training this summer and we are going to expand to offer it to all school staff at the school year begins.


Finally, in partnership with Child Mind Institute, we will launch a helpline for educators and school staff to call to consult on best practices and classroom strategies for assisting students with their mental health and wellness. Staffed by mental health professionals, this hotline will help schools get immediate answers to urgent questions and concerns that they have for their students. So, together, through these efforts, we will build and we will strengthen our connections to restore our school communities this fall, whether students are on-site or online to help New York City school students build a strong and healthy future. As a largest school district in the country, by far, and the only urban school district in a position to reopen its public schools, our focus on SEL is another way in which we are setting the gold standard during this unprecedented time.


Mayor: Thank you so much, Chancellor. And thank you for all the work you and your team are doing. And thanks again to all of the partners who are giving us so much support in this crucial moment. And again, it all comes back to the extraordinary effort in this city to fight back this disease. And every New Yorker is participating in some way, and that's why we have gotten as far as we've gotten. And what we're focusing on now is neighborhoods that need particular attention to make sure we keep the infection levels low there. And we've seen that when we apply the focused efforts of our Health Department and our Test and Trace Corps, it makes a huge, huge difference. So, I want to talk to you about a couple of examples lately. And, obviously, a week or two ago, I talked to you about Sunset Park, Brooklyn. And that was an area where we had a particular concern. We saw some evidence that caused us concern. We sent the Test and Trace Corps in, in a very big way, and with folks who spoke multiple languages and could connect with the community. This is part of what we call our hyper-local strategy, really focusing on specific areas, even specific blocks, where there's a concern. In the course of this blitz in Sunset Park, Brooklyn, our test and trace team knocked on over 16,700 doors, made sure that folks in community got testing to the level of 8,500 new tests and just that one community. And now, as more and more people have gotten tested, we're seeing a clearer picture and it's a better picture. So, now, the seven-day rolling average for that community is 2.5 percent. So, it's more than the citywide average, but, thank God, not by a lot. And this is a really good sign that, that additional outreach, that additional testing allowed us to get a fuller picture and also encourage folks who did need to safely separate to do so. And that support was there for them. We've applied the hyperlocal strategy as well in Borough Park, Brooklyn, and that's continuing now. And, again, we saw some concern there at a particular location. That follow-up has been intensive. Good news, again, seven-day rolling average for that community is 2.5 percent. So, again, we see results that give us some comfort, but more work is being done. There have been a number of cases identified. And so, the test and trace effort is going deeply into that community – and free mask distribution as well to make sure everyone knows how important it is. So, two examples that are working – a lot more to do, but, again, they work best when we go deeply into communities, engage people often in their own language and get people to join us in being vigilant and following through for the safety of all.


I'm going to talk about our daily indicators in a moment, but I want to just take one moment before we do a talk about an extraordinary anniversary today – 100 years – the women's suffrage movement fought for so long. And on August 26th, 1920, a hundred years ago today, the 19th Amendment to the constitution finally adopted, and it gave women the right to vote. But we, I think, all now know our painful history, not all women, only white women – women of color excluded, and they had to fight for many decades more. And to give you a sense of how recent this was, my mom was actually born before this amendment was passed. Chirlane’s mom was born after the amendment was passed, but it was many decades before her rights were fully recognized. So, I want people to realize this struggle is very, very much in our recent past, and we need to keep learning the lessons and fight for truer equality in this city, in this country. And a small step and an important step forward today – the unveiling of the statue you see on your screen – Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and Sojourner Truth represented as the great historical figures they were. But what's interesting here is it's not just to celebrate this crucial anniversary. It's also the first time there has been a statue of real life historical figures who are women in Central Park. Central Park has plenty of statues of men. It even has some statues of fictional women. This is the first time that actual women who changed the world are being honored and represented. So an important day for this city and more such statutes will be coming in the future to actually represent our whole history.


Okay, with that, let's turn to our indicators. Number one, daily number of people admitted to hospitals for a suspected COVID-19, threshold 200 patients, today, 71. And the confirmed positive rate for COVID-19 among those patients, only 2.78 percent. Number two, new reported cases on a seven day average, threshold 550 cases. Today's report 233. And number three, percentage of people testing positive citywide for COVID-19, threshold five percent. Today's report, 0.83 percent.


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