Sunday, October 4, 2020

Mayor Gives COVID-19 Update - 9 Zip Codes in Brooklyn and Queens to be put on Pause, With 11 More on High Alert in Brooklyn and Queens


Mayor Bill de Blasio: Good afternoon, everybody. You know, over these last weeks, we had some moments as New Yorkers that we could celebrate after everything we've been through. We saw a really extraordinary fight back against the coronavirus and months of low levels of positivity. We saw, last Thursday, a great moment for the city where all our public schools were open, but we've had challenges throughout. And when we have challenges, it's important to lay them on the table and be upfront about them – that's what all New Yorkers want. So, today, unfortunately, is not a day for celebration. Today is a more difficult day. And I'm going to be giving an update that gives me no joy at all. In fact, it pains me to be putting forward this approach that we'll need. But, in some parts of our city, in Brooklyn and Queens, we're having an extraordinary problem, something we haven't seen since the spring and we have to address this issue for forthrightly. That's why we're here on a Sunday after several days of continuing to review all the data and look at everything from the point of view that it’s gotten us this far as a city, always relying on the data and the science. What has become clear is that there are a number of neighborhoods now that have continued to have a high level of coronavirus positivity, and that requires stronger action than we've had to take for many months. I want to emphasize there's been extensive efforts over recent weeks in these communities – extraordinary outreach efforts, close cooperation with community institutions and community leaders across the ZIP codes involved. An immense amount of City personnel have been out educating, providing free face masks, enforcing where enforcement was necessary. All of these things have been going on for weeks, in addition to a huge expansion of testing in these communities. These efforts have truly been extensive, but, in the end, were not enough to turn around this situation. So, what we are now reporting is we now have nine ZIP codes in Brooklyn and Queens that have been above a three percent positivity level for seven consecutive days or more. And that measure tells us that we have to take more extensive action. It will be very difficult. I want to emphasize this again, it gives me no joy in saying this because it will be very difficult for the people who live in these ZIP codes of all communities. It will be difficult for people who have done so much to fight back through this crisis, but it is necessary to stop the spread of the coronavirus in these communities and beyond, and it's necessary for the good of all of New York City, which still overall continues to have a very low positivity level. We have to keep it that way. So, we have to take strategic action now to protect everyone, over 8 million New Yorkers who are depending on this virus to be held in check.


Now, the proposal I'm going to go over – we've presented it initially to the State of New York. I want to emphasize that everything I'm about to say will require the support and approval of the State of New York. And we're going to be working intensely today and tomorrow on the details with the State and, assuming we get through all this quickly and it is approved, we'll put this into effect on the timeline I will describe. So, the plan is to rewind in these nine ZIP codes – to rewind, to go back to address the problem by using the tools that we know work, which is to ensure that non-essential businesses are not open and a variety of activities are not happening. Again, no joy in saying that, but, that, unfortunately, we do know is what is necessary to stop the spread of the coronavirus. So, this would begin this Wednesday morning coming – Wednesday, October 7th – require the closure of nonessential businesses in these nine ZIP codes, and I want to go through them now. It's Edgemere, Far Rockaway 11691; Borough Park, 11219, Gravesend, Homecrest, 11223; Midwood, 11230; Bensonhurst and Mapleton, 11204; Flatlands, Midwood, 11210; Gerritsen Beach, Homecrest, Sheepshead Bay, 11229; Kew Gardens, 11415; and Kew Gardens Hills, Pomonok, 112469 – those are the nine ZIP codes that have over three percent positivity for at least seven consecutive days.


Now, on top of that, out of an abundance of caution, we will be moving to close schools as well. And by that, I mean, starting Wednesday morning, public and non-public schools. Again, this is the strategy that worked for us in the spring and summer, which is limiting activity in a community to stop the spread. That's how the City came out of an extraordinarily difficult crisis in the spring, a much tougher situation than what we're dealing with now. And one that was in every corner of the city, we fought our way back with these restrictions and with social distancing, with a mask wearing. We have to do it again in a pinpoint area, but it is crucial that we do it in a rigorous fashion to stop the spread within those communities and beyond. So, again, pending approval from the State of New York, starting Wednesday morning, public and non-public schools would be closed in these areas. In addition, dining, both indoor and outdoor dining would be closed in these areas. Of course, as was true throughout the crisis, restaurants would still be able to do a delivery and have pickup by their customers.


Now, again, the goal here is to prevent the spread. The goal here is to do everything we can to stop something bigger from happening right now. The schools, I want to emphasize, we have seen very little coronavirus activity in our schools. We have a situation room that's been monitoring constantly. This is not because we have seen a number of specific problems in our schools, our public schools, we have not. This is out of abundance of caution. And in coordination with a larger strategy that mirrors what we did successfully with spring of a larger shutdown to ensure we stop the spread. Now, again, everything is based on data and based on a scientific approach. As we get questions from media, you'll hear from our healthcare leadership. They have been looking at this data constantly, looking for what it tells us and what actions are necessary. The specific benchmark of three percent positivity or more, for more than seven consecutive – seven or more consecutive days – has been crucial in their deliberations.


So, that's what's going to happen in those nine ZIP codes that already have reached that level. But now, I want to emphasize, we have more work to do beyond, because there are 11 additional ZIP codes that are areas of real concern. These 11 ZIP codes have not yet reached a level of three percent positivity for at least seven consecutive days, but they are edging up toward that level and we are concerned. So, again, in these areas – we're going to do in all these areas, the original nine I mentioned and in these 11 ZIP codes, we're going to do a huge amount of ongoing outreach. We're going to have continued enforcement. We're going to have continued mask distribution. But these ZIP codes will not require those larger restrictions yet. And, hopefully, they will not at all, but we are going to be watching them very carefully. Let me go over these 11 ZIP codes that are on this watch list. Bedford Stuyvesant, West Clinton Hill, Fort Greene, 11205; East Williamsburg and Williamsburg, 11211 and 11249; Brighton Beach, Manhattan Beach, Sheepshead Bay, 11235; Bergin Beach, Flatlands, Marine Park, and Mill Basin, 11234; Crown Heights East, 11213; Kensington and Windsor Terrace, 11218; Rego Park, 11374; Fresh Meadows-Hillcrest, 11366; Hillcrest, Jamaica Estates, Jamaica Hills, 11492; and Auburndale, Fresh Meadows, Pomonok, Utopia, 11365.


So, in those 11 ZIP codes, there'll be intensive outreach efforts, testing efforts, not the full-scale restrictions that we're calling for in the first nine, again, pending State approval. But in these 11 intensive outreach to test and to enforce, in addition, we believe we should close down higher risk activities – and that means indoor dining, gyms and pools, that those activities should be restricted as of Wednesday morning, but other activities can continue. The other lower risk business activities can continue, schools can continue, etcetera. Now, beyond the nine ZIP codes that we have particular challenges in, and the 11 on our watch list, those 20 ZIP codes, beyond them, there are 126 other ZIP codes in New York City that, right now, thank God, overwhelmingly, are doing well. We always want to be vigilant. We want the maximum testing by all New Yorkers. We want to make sure that people are wearing masks, practicing social distancing. We need to be vigilant in every corner of the city, but I want to emphasize the vast majority of New York City is holding steady right now with low positivity levels and we want to keep it that way. And these actions that we're taking in Brooklyn and Queens are to protect the whole city.


Now, I want to emphasize, none of this is easy. It's difficult. It's challenging. It will require sacrifice. We're talking about the people who have been through so much, businesses that have struggled to survive. This will not be easy at all for families who depend on their livelihoods. But it's something that we believe is necessary to keep this city from going backwards towards where we were months ago. So, I want to emphasize that throughout we've been in constant contact with community leaders, elected officials, clergy, folks who have been working so hard to try and turn the tide in these communities and these ZIP codes. And we will continue to work with them because we're all in this together.


Now, in terms of what it would take to turn us around, let's emphasize – the way forward is to double down on the basics, the core four, to focus on the face coverings, the social distancing, the hand washing the staying home with your sick. Those basic approaches make all the difference in the world. We have a standard we're setting for what we believe is the clear measure that would tell us that these communities can no longer – will no longer need restrictions and there are two versions. The first, the faster one, is a 14-day pause, which would require that the last seven days be under three percent positivity. So, this is the more hopeful version, that if a community can work together with us and we all are able to beat back the disease and we can keep the disease under three percent positivity for seven days, that we would reopen that community after a total period of time of 14 days. Again, this is our vision we're presenting to the State. This is what we think is the best-case scenario. The other scenario that we believe is quite plausible is a 28-day pause, four weeks. And by the end of that pause, by the last day of that pause, the community is below three percent based on a 14-day average.

Those are two very viable ways for a community to come out of these restrictions.


So, we will continue with the huge quantity of City personnel out in force, and we'll keep adding to it in all these ZIP codes – again, passing out masks, giving people information, enforcing and enforcing rigorously, and increasing the amount of testing. And when it comes to testing in the ZIP codes most effected, on Friday, for example, we had almost 2,000 new tests on top of what we had previously at over 20 locations in these keys ZIP codes. We're going to continue to amplify that, continue to add testing capacity in these communities. We're going to continue to ramp up inspection enforcement as we have been. There's been over 2,000 inspections to-date of businesses and community institutions that have yielded 26 violations and 883 warnings. So, the enforcement has been going on, will continue to go on. But, look, no one – no one wants to see the community, any community have to go through this closure of businesses and community institutions. There’s a lot of people in these ZIP codes, we're talking about nine ZIP codes with hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers in the many different kinds of communities. Everyone affected in common. We also know within these ZIP codes are many people who today are observing a holiday. And I want to say I'm sensitive to that fact. It was so important to get this information out as soon as this plan was formulated, that I chose to announce it now to give people the maximum amount of time to make adjustments. And we chose to have the implementation begin Wednesday morning to give time for that a transition. We'll be talking today with a number of community leaders, tonight with community leaders who are coming off the holiday and onto tomorrow morning, while we continue our discussions with the State as well. But the important thing was to give people time to adjust, to give our schools time to get ready, but at the same time act aggressively, because we've learned over and over from this disease that it is important to act aggressively. And when the data tells us it's time for even the toughest and most rigorous actions, we follow the data, we follow the science.


Now, some may ask, does this signal a larger resurgence in New York City? I've asked the health care professionals here with us their assessment – their assessment is no, it does not have to signal that. If we contain the situation in the nine keys ZIP codes and the 11 on the watch list, we can stop this from spreading more deeply into New York City. We can stop this from being a “second wave” in New York City. But in these communities, it is a very troublesome reality that must be addressed very aggressively.


So, I'll conclude before giving the daily indicators by saying that it is so important to understand, and there'll be lots of questions and lots of concerns, but it's so important to remember where we were in March, where we were in April, how difficult it was, how tough it looked at that time, how difficult it was to believe we can overcome it. And yet we all did. Why? Because people worked together, people heard the guidance, follow the guidance. We can use the exact formula again to beat this back. We'd beaten back something tougher before we're going to beat this back again.


Let me go over the daily indicators for the City as a whole. Indicator number one, daily number of people are admitted to New York City hospitals for suspected COVID-19, the threshold is 200 patients – today's report is 70 patients. The confirmed positivity level for those patients is 27 percent. Number two, new reported cases on a seven-day average, the threshold is 550 cases – total, today's report, 464 cases. And number three, percentage of people testing positive citywide for COVID-19 today's report is 1.54 percent. And on the seven-day rolling average, 1.72 percent. 


This was a special Press Conference where the Mayor only had questions from eight reporters. I was on hold, but not called on with my concerns for the Bronx as the mayor mentioned problems in the Soundview section of the Bronx. My question would have been about the two Bronx Zip Codes that were once in the top ten list of People with COVID-19, but there was no mention by the mayor of any Bronx Zip Code today. 

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