Thursday, September 10, 2020

Mayor de Blasio on the State of the City and COVID-19 numbers 9, 10, 2020


 Mayor Bill de Blasio: Good morning, everybody. You know, this month, September 2020, is shaping up to be one of the most important in the City's history. So much is going to happen this month that's going to say so much about our future, and we're going to be talking throughout the month of September about what New Yorkers are doing to help this city move forward and what we need to do to keep moving forward. There's a lot to focus on, but before we talk about the present and the future, let's take a moment to think about our past. Tomorrow, an anniversary that every year we feel so deeply on September 11th. For so many of us, it is a very personal moment. For so many of us, it brings back the deepest feelings – what we felt that moment, what we felt that day. And it particularly brings back the memories of those we lost. So many New Yorkers, have a family member, a friend, a colleague, someone in their life they lost. So many New Yorkers come to know the stories of the heroes who served us that day so selflessly and so many who have been lost even since then from the work they did that day, and in the rescue and recovery efforts. This is an anniversary that brings out so much feeling, and, of course, there's a lot of pain, but I hope people every year – and I hope tomorrow you will feel this as well – remember the heroism of not just our first responders, but every-day New Yorkers as well. The compassion, the strength, the resiliency this city showed in our most difficult moment. We will always remember the men and women who served us. We’ll always remember the first responders. They are the best of us. But we also have to remember how this city showed the whole world the strength, the meaning of New York City – each person there for the other, no matter who they were or where they came from – people united to see our community forward. And that spirit can never be forgotten.


So, tomorrow. we mourn again. We honor those we lost, their greatness. We miss them, but we take inspiration from them as we move forward. And on that horrible day, we never could have imagined this moment in history. But I think those heroes we lost would tell us to, once again, believe in New York City, believe in each other and move forward. So, God blessed them all. And to all the families grieving again, as we approach this memorial, God bless you.


Well, as I said, this month – now, in 2020, this month will be so important to everything that happens in the future of this city, because we are talking about the beginning of our rebirth. That's what September 2020 will be. We're coming off the summer. Kids are coming back to school. Businesses are reopening. We're fighting back the coronavirus. We are leading the nation in showing that we can get it right. So, there's so much we have to do right now, but there's also something going on in this month that will determine much of the future of our city. And it still doesn't get all the attention it deserves, but it literally will determine so much of what happens over the next decade in this city, and that is the census – 20 days to go, less than three weeks to go. Again, I don't blame a single person who says, what does the census mean to me?

Why is it such a big deal? It's abstract to say the least, but here's, again, why it matters. The census, it's in the United States Constitution. The founding fathers understood the importance of this – it will determine how much representation we get in Washington, and we know that means decisions will be made that will affect every single one of us for years and years ahead, based on how much representation we have and billions – hundreds of billions of dollars of funding get determined according to the census. And if New York City is accurately represented in the census, we get our fair share. And if we're not accurately represented, we lose a huge amount of money. And don't just think about that in terms of a budget, think about that money for your kid's school, for your subway ride to make it better, for affordable housing, your family needs. If we don't have that money, it doesn't happen the way it should. If we have it, we can do so much, but it all depends on the census, and only 20 days left.


Now, where do we stand? As you can see, we've made some progress and our census team is doing a fantastic job going out to the people this city, but we're still behind the national average. And that's what matters here, how we compare to every place else. So, right now, as of the 9th, our response rate – 58.9 percent. Now, the national rate is 65.5 percent. We have to do everything we can to catch up. And, look, it's a horrible time to try and do this, I know – the pandemic, all the dislocation, all the challenges we faced, it's not surprising we're behind the national average, but we have to catch up as best we can. And every effort we all know was made to try and discourage people – and this is a very cynical strategy that came out of Washington. Every effort was made to discourage people from participating in the census, changing the rules, changing the questions, changing the deadline, and particularly attacking immigrants and discouraging them from participating. But you know what, again, the U.S. Constitution says everyone should be counted, regardless of where they come from, regardless documentation status. So, we need to get that word out. This has to be a supreme group effort in this city, everyone together, just like we fought back the coronavirus. So, our Census 2020 team is out there and going to the grassroots, they’re knocking on doors, they’re making those calls. They're doing amazing work to get people to sign up. Every single New Yorker can make a difference. Remember, if you haven't done it, it takes just 10 minutes to fill out the census form for your whole household. So, please, everybody. We need you.


Now, we've tried to make sure that we focus on neighborhoods, where we needed to see that rate go up and we've done a few competitions, including our Census Subway Series. And last week's contestants were Midwood, Brooklyn versus the Upper East Side, battle of the Q train. And the winner is Midwood, Brooklyn prevailed in that contest. Congratulations to everyone in Midwood. Now, let's keep going. Let's keep making sure every neighborhood gets counted and this city gets its fair share.


Alright, now let's go to some important news from the last 24 hours. Again, absolutely crucial to the future of the city is bringing back our economy, bringing back people's livelihoods, making sure that folks have an opportunity after all we've been through to put things back together and move forward. And our restaurant industry is a huge part of this city, it's part of our culture, it's part of our identity, it's part of what we love. Also, businesses built by people who work so hard to create them and an industry that employs hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers. So, what a good thing that indoor dining will be back. That is very good news for this city, but I have to emphasize – and I think, throughout, you've heard me say with every part of the life of this city, that every part of our economy, we have to put health and safety first, we have to be careful. So, as indoor dining starts to come back, it will come back with rigorous safety measures with real limits, with careful inspections, because we have to get it right. A lot of conversation over the last few weeks with the State, this was something where a lot of work had to be done to make sure that we balanced the needs – the real needs of the restaurant community, the workers, the owners, the communities that love the restaurants with that thing that we want the most, the ability to beat back the coronavirus. Every New Yorker I've talked to starts with wanting to defeat this disease and recognizing how far we've come. And when I talk to people from around the rest of the country, there's a certain amount of awe at how far New York City has come in terms of beating back this disease, going literally from worst to first, and we've got to keep doing that. So, one of the things that I push very hard and my team pushed hard in these discussions with the State was tight restrictions and smart rules and careful assessment of how we are doing. So, we're talking about, to begin with, a maximum 25 percent capacity in restaurants, tables at least six feet apart. There will not be seating at bars in terms of the bar tops. And then a bunch of additional safety measures, temperature checks at the doors, of course, PPE for all employees provided, regular information kept to make sure there can be testing and tracing as needed. These precautions are going to be necessary, because, unfortunately, what we've seen around a lot of the world is indoor dining has had a direct connection to some of the resurgences we've seen, particularly most recently in Western Europe. So, we have to keep a close eye on this. And I believe firmly that we need to watch our overall trajectory of this disease. And if we get to two percent infection rate on a regular basis on that seven-day average, at that point, we need to immediately reassess indoor dining. Hopefully, we never get there. Hopefully, in fact, we go in the other direction and get better and better all the time. So, it's great that indoor dining is back, but we're going to be very careful – and our health team will certainly emphasize this – we're going to be very careful to make sure it's done right.


Now, talk about doing things right – one of the biggest stories in the last six months of how we have successfully fought back the coronavirus, one of the most essential elements of the whole strategy was also one of the simplest – a face covering.  And most people – I certainly use the paper masks, those blue masks, that's what I see mostly when I go around the city, the most popular choice. Those simple paper masks or the cloth masks that people use have been one of the biggest difference-makers in fighting back this disease. We didn't know that in the beginning – the health community, the scientific community did not recognize in the beginning of this crisis how crucial this would be, but, thank God, it was recognized and, thank God, New Yorkers have taken to face coverings as well as you have, because it's made a huge difference. Now, we want to get clear today about the ground rules for face coverings, because since it is literally possibly the single most important element of the strategy, we want people to really get what to do right. And you're going to hear from our Health Commissioner, but I'm going to tell you just to begin with, think about the face covering, just look at it regularly. Is it in good shape? Has it been soiled? Is it torn? Is there any reason it's time to replace it? Keep an eye on it. Think about how crucial it is to make sure that it's in good working order. And those paper masks, those surgical mask – those can work for days and days, but not if they get wet or dirty. And after something like five days, it's a good time to change them. So, you're going to hear now from the expert, who's going to emphasize these rules. And, as our Health Commissioner, Dr. Dave Chokshi has really emphasized to me the simple power of face coverings, but how important it is to make sure people use them consistently and use them the right way and maintain them well. So, here to hear directly from him, our Health Commissioner Dr. Dave Chokshi.


Commissioner Dave Chokshi, Department of Health and Mental Hygiene: Thank you so much, Mr. Mayor. If there's one thing that the past seven months have taught us, it's that we are truly all in this together. Your health is connected to my health and the choices we make from staying home, to observing our distance, those things protect our fellow New Yorkers. As we head back into the cooler months, now is a good time to remind everyone about a few basic facts regarding face coverings. A face covering can include any well secured disposable mask or cloth that covers your nose and mouth. A disposable mask – like this one – can be reused. But you should immediately replace it if it becomes damaged, dirty, or wet. For a cloth mask or face covering – like this one – I have some simple recommendations. Use it for a day, hand wash it with soap and water. Make sure you dry it completely after doing so and rotate your supply.

Have more than one so that you can alternate them. Most importantly, choose a face covering that fits snugly against the sides of your face and that completely covers your nose and mouth. Don't share them and store them somewhere where they won't be touched. And don't use a mask with an exhalation valve as it allows unfiltered air to escape.


Since we're approaching the first day of school, a word about masks for children as well. First, if you have a child under the age of two, as I do, it's important to know that a mask or face covering is not recommended for them. For older children, check to make sure the mask fits snugly over the nose and mouth and under the chin. If you're able to find a mask that is specifically made for children, I'll note that all children will be given free masks in our public schools, but we're asking parents to ensure that kids wear masks outside of school, as well.


As with everything, and, as the Mayor has said, we're constantly monitoring the science and we will update you if research determined something different about what's best with face coverings. Face coverings, although simple, are such a vital component of reopening and slowly phasing things in like indoor dining. On that, we're pleased to be able to say that indoor dining will be available in a few weeks. Look, I know how important this is for people's livelihoods. I think about the cooks and the waiters whom I've taken care of as my own patients, but we must make sure our restaurants are safe for them and for our communities. Like our school guidelines, the restaurant restrictions are stringent to ensure that if we see the spread of COVID intensifying above that two percent test positivity threshold that the Mayor mentioned, then we'll have to reassess indoor dining. Capacity will be limited to 25 percent. There'll be temperature checks at the front door. Tables will be spaced at least six feet apart. And one member of the party will provide contact information to our tracers, should they need to reach them.


I know everyone is asking the same question, is it safe? The short answer is that we're able to take these gradual steps because the level of COVID has stayed low. All of us have a role to play in keeping that level low and it comes back to distancing, mask wearing, hand washing, getting tested and staying home if you're ill. Thank you, Mr. Mayor.


Mayor: Thank you so much, Dave. And everyone, look, you heard from the city’s doctor. What Dr. Chokshi is saying is, let's get this right and let's always focus on the facts, the data, the science. That's what's gotten us this far in New York City. That's what's going to take us forward. So, I want to thank you, doctor – you and your whole team for always making these decisions with us based on what we are seeing, the pure hard facts, and those facts will actually give us what we need to protect the people of this city. And that leads us perfectly to our daily indicators. Indicator number one, daily number of people admitted to New York City hospitals for suspected COVID-19, the threshold is 200 patients – today's report, 78 patients. And the confirmed positive rate for COVID for those patients is 10 percent. Number two, new reported cases on a seven-day average, threshold is 550 cases – today's report, 213. Number three, percentage of people testing citywide positive for COVID-19, the threshold is five percent – today's report, 1.09 percent.


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