Tuesday, October 13, 2020

Mayor De Blasio Report to the City and COVID-19 Update

 

Mayor Bill de Blasio: Good morning, everyone. We've got a lot to talk about today, but before we get into some important updates, I want to talk about a great New Yorker who we lost over the weekend and someone that for a lot of us was a real inspiration – First Lady Joyce Dinkins, who, if you knew her, you knew was an extraordinarily gracious and strong woman who gave her all for this city. A proud daughter of Harlem who cared so deeply for that community and its great history and culture, but she loved all of New York City. She particularly loved the of children in New York City. And, as First Lady, she focused so much of her energy on improving literacy among children. And that was truly a labor of love for her. I had the honor, as did Chirlane, of knowing Joyce Dinkins, and really appreciating the extraordinary grace that attended to everything she did. And I'll tell you, it wasn't always easy. She and Mayor Dinkins took more than their fair share of criticism and attack, but they kept going through everything. And she was, in so many ways, a strong presence that just kept everyone focused on the reasons that we all do this work and why it's important to persevere. And I can safely say, as someone who was proudly a member of the Dinkins administration, along with Chirlane, that we all knew in the administration there wouldn't have been a Dinkins administration without Joyce Dinkins, without all that she contributed. And that was a moment in history where a lot of things changed. A lot of things needed to change and New York City needed to be represented in full. And that was a crucial moment and she was one of the true contributors to all that was made possible at that time. So, we miss you Joyce, and we thank you, and this city mourns you. And to the entire Dinkins family – I spoke to Mayor Dinkins last night and he talked about his bride – he always referred to her as his bride and that she was gone now. And I know how close that bond was. So, to Mayor Dinkins and the whole family, our condolences on behalf of all the people of this city – our condolences and we stand with you. And Joyce Dinkins, rest in peace.

 

With that – look, we are coming off of a long weekend and it's a time that we reset and we prepare for a lot ahead. I hope everyone got a chance to get a little bit of rest and relaxation this long weekend. I can tell you, our City workers, our City agencies were hard at work this weekend as they have been throughout, protecting all of us, making sure that every effort is being expended to fight back the coronavirus. And there's been so much that's been done in recent days, the outreach efforts, the testing efforts, the enforcement, so much to make sure that we overcome the challenges we're facing now. And I'll go over a few facts with you, but I do want to let you know, there's some really encouraging news when it comes to the testing that's been done in our schools. That's a bright spot I'll talk about in a moment. But first, let's talk about the place where we're having the biggest challenge, which, of course, is in the red zone areas in Brooklyn and Queens. We're now on day-four of the pause in those areas and we are seeing some results. We've got certainly a lot of work ahead, but we are seeing some leveling off, beginning in the communities that have been most affected. And it's really about everyone in the community participating, it's about everyone understanding that it's all of our business to fight back this disease together and that individual buy-in and participation is the single most important tool – we've learned that long ago about the coronavirus. When people decide to make a difference, it counts for so much. So, this week will be absolutely decisive. I just want everyone to understand, this is a decisive week in our battle against the coronavirus. This is the week where we can start to turn the tide in those red zone areas and contain the problem that we're seeing there. I fundamentally believe this challenge can be contained. I fundamentally believe that we can stop this problem we're seeing in Brooklyn and Queens before it grows, that we can stop it from turning into a larger second wave in New York City. There is absolutely still time to do that, but it's going to take everyone's participation. So, all those efforts we're talking about – the outreach, the education, the testing, the enforcement, that's all going to be going full bore this week. And we're continuing to work with community leaders to encourage maximum public participation – all of this effort to turn back this disease.

 

Now, in terms of enforcement, very robust efforts have begun and they will deepen. Over the weekend, we had over $150,000 in fines through providing of over a hundred summonses by City agents in the red, orange and yellow zones. So, that enforcement effort will continue. But again, what we really want to emphasize is the positive – getting tested. This is the single most important part of the equation. We need folks to get tested. We are seeing an uptake in community testing. We want to encourage everyone to get tested this week. If you have not been tested recently, particularly in the red zone, orange zone and yellow zone areas, go get tested. There's lots of testing locations available. It will make a huge difference to everyone. Now, we know, as these restrictions are put in place, we know that obviously – a burden for everyone in the community. We want this to be a very brief period of time, only a matter of weeks. And many folks are feeling the effect, but particularly our small business owners. We really feel for them. And this was a tough part of the decision, obviously – I feel a lot for the small business owners who have fought through this crisis – seven long months, now into eight. And they've gone through so much, we need to help them in every way we can. At the same time, first and foremost, we have to protect everyone from this disease. So, there's a lot of questions among small business owners. How do they navigate this particular moment? And we've launched an online tool to help business owners get answers and all individuals in these zones get answers. The tool is online nyc.gov/covidzone. You can get answers there about what rules apply, where, what information you need and how you can get other answers that you need. And to give you a sense of the effort to reach out, to educate, to support small businesses, I'd like you to hear from our Small Business Services Commissioner. He is leading the way, helping small businesses through this crisis with his very dedicated team. So, let's turn now to Commissioner Jonnel Doris.

 

Commissioner Jonnel Doris, Small Business Services: Thank you so much, Mr. Mayor. As you mentioned, from the beginning of this pandemic, we've been there on the front lines with our small business owners and the communities that they serve. They are the backbone of our city, employ the most employees in the city. And, certainly, we want to make sure that small business come back so our city again continues the resurgence out of this crisis. Here at Small Business Services, we have been into neighborhoods. We've been speaking to our businesses, but also we've recorded a message sent it out to over 200,000 individuals and small businesses. We sent out email communication and other types of communication to all small businesses in the red zones, the orange, and also a yellow – all the zones, to make sure that they are aware of the services that we can provide. We also met with business leaders, business improvement district leaders, merchants associations – again, trying to make sure that they have the necessary information that they need to get out of this situation and also to do it in a way that is aligned with our health experts. We've worked with the Department of Health and also the Office of Nightlife to, again, connect those businesses, who've asked for it, and for the support to connect them to the City services. We're conducting webinars in Spanish, Cantonese, English this week, again to inform our small businesses of all of the requirements, restrictions, and also the resources that we have here at SBS. We have spoken to small businesses concerning access to capital at this time, as many of them may need an infusion of cash to help and assist them. We've done that through our hotline and also to help them to navigate the lease challenges that they may have with landlord through our CLA program. Look, you are our highest priority here in the city. We want to make that you come back to our neighborhoods, continue to thrive, and we give you all the necessary information that you need.

 

So, before I end, I do want to say that – you know, it's important and imperative that you, as a small business owner, if you need assistance, that you do reach out to us. I was out in the Rockaways this past weekend, speaking to small business owners who've been impacted in the red zone and to hear that from them and the concerns that they have. We'll be out in Sunset Park and other places around the city where they’ve been impacted. But we want you to also know that you can reach us. You can reach us at nyc.gov/business, and you can also reach us at our hotline 888-SBS-4NYC. We've already had over 47,000 calls to that hotline. We will continue to monitor it, but we want to make sure that you understand that the New York City Small Business Services is here for you. If you have any questions, please don't hesitate to reach out to us. Thank you, sir.

 

Mayor: Thank you so much, Commissioner – 888-SBS-4NYC. I want to repeat that number because it's so crucial to any small business owner. Look, if you're having challenges, and there are many obviously, right now, but, as the Commissioner said, there's lots of solutions as well. There's lots of help that Small Business Services can provide it. And you mentioned the issue with leases – they've had some real success working with small businesses to renegotiate leases with landlords, to account for the challenges of this moment. So, any small business owner out there, if you're having a problem, you don't know where to turn, turn to the Department of Small Business Services, no matter what the issue is, they will try with every tool they have to help you through this crisis.

 

Now, let's talk about testing again. I mentioned at the beginning that we have seen some real good news in terms of testing in schools. And this has been a very positive reality from the beginning of our experience, bringing back our public schools. Look our educators, our staff, our parents, our students, everyone should be very proud of themselves, everyone at the Department of Education, because we brought back the nation's largest school system – was not easy, but we've done it. And one of the things that's been crucial is having lots of testing available. The testing we're doing, the careful work that's being done through our situation room to watch what's happening in every one of our schools. This has made a huge difference. Now, we've started our monthly sampling in every one of our schools, and this has just begun, it's going to grow, but we're seeing a very encouraging results and results that are consistent with what we've seen with the detailed testing efforts outside of schools. In even the hardest hit areas, we've seen very good results. We've seen good results through our situation room, but now we have a new measure, which is the beginning of this mandatory testing in every school. And this started Friday, and the first results are very encouraging. Testing took place in 56 schools, 1,751 adults and students tested, and we got only one positive test among almost those 2,000. So, that's really, really encouraging. And it says how important it is to constantly keep a lookout and constantly focused on testing. And so, in that vein – I want remind all parents, please sign and submit your testing consent for your child. Remember, the testing is quick, it's easy, it's free. It's available right there at the school or near the school. The results will be sent home to you so you'll know any time your child has been tested, what the results are. But it's good for everyone as well to keep this testing program going forward. So, families can either sign that form – paper form, or go online at mystudent.nyc, your own account and sign that consent. And, obviously, we need all the adults to sign consents as well. Teachers and staff can go on to sign their consents on the DOE website at healthscreening.schools.nyc. So, look, this has, from the very beginning, been the key issue, getting enough people tested and constantly acting on results. Good start in our schools – let's keep going. Let's go deeper. Everyone, please sign up right away.

 

Now, in terms of the concerns that families have, public school families have a lot of questions – good, important questions. We've been trying to answer them along the way. We want to give other opportunities for parents to get answers to their questions. So, tonight, from 6:30 to 7:30, a special event called NYC Office Hours. Just like your doctor has time you can go to the doctor's office, we'll do it virtually here, NYC Office Hours, with Dr. Jay Varma, who has a lot to offer in terms of information and insight. He'll be answering questions online and it can come from, obviously, parents, but also students as well about all the measures being taken to keep people safe and the concerns that people have. You can watch it on the Mayor's Office YouTube channel, Facebook, Twitter. You can submit your questions with the hashtag – #NYCofficehours. Get those questions in and Dr. Varma will give you answers.

 

Okay, let me go over today's indicators for the whole city. Number one, daily number of people admitted to New York City hospitals for suspected COVID-19, that threshold is 200 patients and today's report is 59 patients with a confirmed positivity rate for COVID-19 of 24.5 percent. Number two, new reported cases on a seven-day average, threshold is 550 cases. Today's report is 520 cases. And number three, percentage of people testing citywide who are positive for COVID-19, threshold is five percent, today's report 1.9 percent. And today's seven day rolling average indicator is 1.48 percent. And again, a reminder, everyone, please get tested. It is a really crucial moment. We need everyone in the city who has not been tested to get tested. Anyone hasn't gotten tested recently, get tested. This is so important that we see exactly what's happening in the city. So please make it a point today. It's Get Tested Tuesday. It's a good day to get tested.


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