Monday, August 17, 2020

Mayor de Blasio on Public School openings, and COVUD-19 August 17, 2020,


  Mayor Bill de Blasio: Well, good morning, everybody. I want to talk, in a moment, about the first day of the new school year. And it certainly symbolizes a new beginning every year. It's a time of great hope and possibility every year. This year, it's going to take on so much greater meaning as we fight back from the coronavirus crisis, as we make sure our kids have the bright futures they deserve. We're going to have a lot to say about that in a moment. But first I want to talk about a great New Yorker who we lost in the last few days, Claire Shulman, former borough president of Queens. This is a true New York story. Claire Shulman always wanted to do something to help people and she had a passionate what-you-see-is-what-you-get way about her. And she would make things happen wherever she went. She started out as a PTA president in Bayside, and she let people know that the school had to be better for her kids and everyone's kids. She became a nurse and served people in need, and she brought that compassion forward and everything she did in her life – this is someone who came up from the grassroots. She wasn't part of a political dynasty. She wasn't born with a silver spoon in her mouth. She was just someone who wanted to serve her fellow Queens residents, and she did so with extraordinary tenacity and an understanding of what life was like in the neighborhoods of Queens. Extraordinary tenure, 16 years as borough president, making sure that Queens got its fair share and making lives better for so many people in her beloved borough. So, for everyone in Queens today who knew Claire Shulman or heard about what she did for all of you and for all of New York City, we mourn her passing, and her family is in our thoughts and prayers today.


So, that just gives you some indication of the preparations underway already. I want to thank everyone who's a part of this, all the custodial service staff that's working so hard, and I've met a lot of these men and women. They care deeply about our kids. They are doing this work because they know how important it is to get it right. Everyone at the School Construction Authority, who's working hard all the time to improve our school facilities. Folks have been working now for months and months, and we still have weeks ahead to continue to improve and focus every inch of the school on safety and health. Now, look, the message in that video is whatever our schools need they're going to have. We're going to send them the supplies in great bulk before school begins and then constantly resupply as needed. This is about everything, everything a school can need, whether it's the hand sanitizer or the wipes or soap, you name it, face shields, surgical masks. Whatever our educators need, whatever the staff needs, whatever our kids need, we're going to make sure it's there. So, this is about being ready. It's about moving past fear to resiliency, getting ready to have a school year where our kids get served in a safe way and putting in place the precautions needed.


Now the point that we keep making, whatever the school needs, it will get, and we are establishing a new hotline for principals. Principals will get the information later today. The hotline will be up and running this week so that principal can call if there's anything they need. If they need additional PPEs for their educators, if they need additional cleaning supplies, it will be immediately delivered. Any principal can call with any request and there'll be action right away to get it to them. Everything our educators need, of course, will be provided for free. Their health and safety is crucial here. So, I want people to be clear – and I know the Chancellor feels this deeply – that we need our educators and our staff to know that all of this support will be in place for them ahead of school opening and then if anything comes up where there needs to be rapid response, we can do rapid resupply to schools, just a phone call away. Now the Chancellor is not only going to give the order. The Chancellor himself is going to go out and do unannounced spot inspections of schools to make sure that everything's in place before and during the school year. We're going to have ongoing monitoring by a number of Department of Education officials, unannounced safety checks to make sure that things are right for the whole school community.


Now, let me turn to another very important matter as we fight the coronavirus. Obviously, everything we're doing right now is to beat back this disease so that we can start moving forward as a city, so people could get their livelihoods back, so people can have the assurance that we're getting safer. This is about, of course, our schools, it's about small businesses, it's about every part of our lives. What we need to always do is if we see a problem act on it very, very quickly. I talked to you a few days ago about a concern we had about Sunset Park, Brooklyn. And since then there's been a massive outreach effort. 7,300 doors have been knocked, 77,000 robocalls, 35,000 live calls talking to residents of Sunset Park. Over the last few weeks, we've done 5,200 tests, almost 800 of them through mobile vans, just in the last few days. Here's what we know at this point. We do not see a cluster situation at this point in Sunset Park, based on the information we gleaned over the last few days from this intensive testing. We do see individual households with specific problems and those households are being engaged intensely to ensure that they quarantine, that they safely separate. And what we're finding is actually a very, very strong response. The vast majority of households, readily working with our Test and Trace team to safely separate because they understand the extent of the challenge and they're working with us to keep the disease contained so it doesn't spread in the community as a whole.


Now we've got to continue this focus on testing in Sunset Park. So, this week at the Brooklyn Army Terminal, there will be free testing available to all members of the community, including antibody testing, and the City will provide a shuttle bus in Sunset Park to get folks to the Brooklyn Army Terminal for free testing. There will be pick-up and drop-off at 6th Avenue and 44th Street, as well as 7th Avenue and 60th Street. It will be going from 9:00 AM to 6:30 PM every day, this week. And everyone will be kept safe, obviously, with face coverings when they're on that bus. And the important thing here is, if you live in Sunset Park and you haven't yet been tested, or you haven't been tested recently, please take advantage of this free testing. It will help us all. We'll keep giving you updates. But we do know, again, that we do not have a cluster situation there at this point based on the information we have. And we do know that with our intensive outreach, to those who – families that have at least one person who's tested positive, we're seeing about a 90 percent compliance rate with safely separating. And again, we are doing constant follow-up with those families to make sure that continues to be the case.


Now, meanwhile, right in the same neighborhood, you know, we gave a lot of warnings in the last days of last week. I think a lot of people heard that there was a problem in Sunset Park. So, you’d think it would be the last place that anyone would choose to do an illegal gathering that would put other people's lives in danger. But unfortunately, that's just what some people did. A small number of people in the scheme of things, but enough people to be worried about. Several hundred gathered in indoor spaces. Exactly what we cannot have. Two illegal raves, in fact, in Sunset Park. The Sheriff's Office stepped in quickly, broke up these raves. They are holding accountable those who organized them. It's just unacceptable. I want to be abundantly clear. You cannot organize a large gathering that's going to put people's lives in danger, or you will suffer the consequences. And I want to command everyone at the Sheriff's Office. They've been vigilant. They've really been heroes throughout this crisis. They broke up these two gatherings quickly. And I'll say to everyone, we all understand that people are feeling cooped up and looking for things to do, but whatever you are looking to do, you have to do it the safe way. You cannot take the chance of endangering other people's lives.


Now, we’ll get some updates as we continue to battle back this disease. We do see day by day, week by week, some real improvement and some specific steps towards our reopening. And a couple of things today that are notable because they are things that people love and they're starting to come back to life. A little step towards normalcy. And so, the State announced some additional standards over the last few days. For some people, this is truly a passion – bowling, bowling alleys will reopen at 50 percent capacity and that's happening today. And then next Monday, museums, aquariums, and other low risk cultural spaces can open at 25 percent capacity. And this comes with a whole host of precautions. There's timed ticketing, staggered entry, everyone has to wear face coverings, constant cleaning. So, the State rules are very stringent, as they should be, but it is a good step forward to give people some other options, but safe options so we can keep moving forward.


Let's go over today's indicators. Number one, daily number of people admitted to hospitals for suspected COVID-19, threshold 200 patients, today's report 57. Number two, daily number of people in Health + Hospitals ICUs, threshold 375 patients, and today's report 264. And three, percentage of people testing positive citywide for COVID-19, threshold 15 percent, today, once again, one percent. That is my favorite testing number besides zero and again, commend all New Yorkers for the progress we've made.

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