Friday, May 1, 2020

MAYOR DE BLASIO HOLDS COVID-19 AVAILABILITY - May 1, 2020


    Mayor Bill de Blasio: So, understanding that May is here, we also know that with that comes the warmer weather, and that's what's predicted for this weekend. We all are noting that the weather reports are talking about temperatures in the seventies. So, the spring fever, we're all going to feel it more and more, and particularly our young people are restless, and I don't blame them, and it's been a tough few months, and now the warm weather is going to pull at them. So, the truth is May can be a great month for the city in terms of fighting back and really starting to turn the tide on this disease, but it's going to require us to be tough and disciplined, and the warmer weather will make that harder. But I've seen so much from all of you already, so much achievement in fighting this disease. I have no doubt that we all will buckle down together and get it right. The bottom line is we cannot let up now, and the indicators that we go over every day are telling us a really important story, a good story, but a cautionary tale too, and a lot of information that helps us understand why we can't take our foot off the gas just yet.

Okay, so what do the indicators tell us when they look at them in big picture? The first thing they tell us is don't count your chickens before they're hatched. That this virus is tragically still alive and well, and living in this city. We have not beaten it, and we should not take it lightly. It's a fearsome enemy, and we need to understand this enemy if we're going to beat it ultimately. Today when I go over the indicators, you will see some good things for sure, we've seen that many days, but you have to put it in perspective of what's happening around us. So, yesterday in New York City, 2,637 confirmed new cases of the Corona virus in the five boroughs. That is a huge number. The number of people we lost yesterday, 202 New Yorkers lost their lives yesterday to the Corona virus. These numbers, when we look at them compared to where we were a few weeks ago, maybe we feel a little better, but we can't forget that each and every one of these cases, each and every one of these numbers is a human being. And we can't for a moment, forget what we would have thought about this. If I said these numbers to you three, four months ago, it would have been staggering that that's what happened in a single day in New York City. It would have been staggering. We can't get numb here. We have to realize that numbers like that tell us there's still a real fight ahead. Even if we're going to be tugged by that warm weather, even if we want it to be over, and Lord knows we all want it to be over. We got to look at those realities square in the eye.

So, let's talk about the indicators in the context of a longer period of time. So, on indicator number one, daily number of people admitted to hospitals for suspected COVID-19, well this chart speaks volumes. It's very striking, and you see it and you get very hopeful, and you should be hopeful. But you should always be sober about the larger reality at the same time. So, this is how many more patients we needed to care for each day in our hospitals. Now, when you look at the progress, the peak that we experienced with this disease, we now know that on March 31st 850 new cases one day, 850 new admissions to the hospital for suspected COVID-19. On April 11th when we started putting out these indicators publicly, so basically three weeks ago, went down to 383 that's great. By April 22nd last Friday, 176, by today 136, fantastic. That's the good news. Real progress. However, remember the numbers I told you a moment ago. Overall, the number of new positive tests, the number of people who have passed away, and that 136 we feel good about that number, but we still have to remember why we shouldn't feel good about that number, because that's still the number of people every single new day that we're seeing go in to the hospital.

Now, we've talked a lot about test and trace, and we're going to keep talking about it. This is going to be the game changer. The ability to go after each of these cases and find everyone else that might be affected and test widely, and we're building that up rapidly. But you can see, the numbers we're talking about now, how daunting a task that is, you're still talking about thousands of new positives each day. It just puts in perspective how much we have to do.

Now, let's go to indicator number two, the daily number of people in ICU’s across our public hospitals for suspected COVID-19. Now, what does this tell us? Well, it tells us a lot of New Yorkers are still fighting for their lives. And it tells us that our public hospitals, which were born the brunt this crisis, are still experiencing a lot of strain. And we need to get to the day where there are almost no New Yorkers, one day we hope zero New Yorkers fighting for their lives. And we have to get to the day where our public hospitals can rest assured that they can handle whatever is being thrown at them, including all the many, many challenges they deal in normal with in normal times. So, this number is encouraging again, because there's some decrease, but you'll notice the difference between this chart and the last chart. There's decrease, but nowhere near as sharp a decrease. This causes real pause. You know, when we launched these indicators three weeks ago, our ICU’s, our intensive care units and our public hospitals were basically at double their normal capacity. So, there's been improvement since then, but still not back to normal. And again, listen to the numbers, you all like progress, but then you still have to listen to the raw number. April 14th was the day where we saw the most people in these ICU’s, 887. By last Friday was 786; by today, 704 – steady progress, obviously, but not sharp, sharp progress and 704 people is a lot of people.

Okay. Indicator number three, number of percent, percent of people who tested positive for COVID-19. Well, this obviously is the indicator that talks about how widespread this disease is in our City and we're going to get a better and better picture as we add more and more testing. So, this is a great story, the citywide percentage is really improving pretty steadily on April 11th when we started the indicators 58 percent, by last Friday 30 percent, today 23 percent – that's fantastic, a very, very hopeful sign. And the public health lab, which again is a particularly rigorous standard, we saw a real progress today, this is exciting to see as well. When we launched 78% of their tests were coming back positive, by last Friday 52 percent, by this morning 17 percent, now that's fantastic. Now, this number has gone up and down quite a bit so I want to note it's everyday based on the facts of that day it's been as you can see a much choppier pattern. So again, we should never get overconfident but we're happy to see this progress, it certainly shows we are still decelerating and decelerating is the name of the game and that gets us to that point where we can do that big handoff to test and trace and then take the next big step. We still cannot say with assurance that we're out of the woods when it comes to that point about plateauing. Right now, it looks really good, but we are not to a point where we can say we are absolutely sure we won't have some kind of level off and we do not want that level off. That prolongs this agony we're all dealing with cooped up in our homes and everything else, so these numbers we need to keep pushing down steadily.

So, all of that will get us where we need to go, and I want to see us rapidly make progress in the month of May. That big apparatus building and these numbers continuing to go down and we'll go over the indicators regularly and if they keep moving the right direction, we're going to make more, we have more and more ability for that handoff to go well. And then to get to that low-level transmission period, that is the gateway to starting toward normalcy. These numbers go in the wrong direction, we're going to stay tight, we're going to stay in a situation where we do not allow the disease to reassert. So, real transparency here and a real warning about what happens if we slip up, but a very positive reminder of how close we're getting to the point where we can start to make even more progress. So, today's daily indicators after all that context, today's daily indicators show you again just how it's still way too gray a situation and it's something we have to fight harder to overcome. Kind of a mix progress in some ways for sure and progress particularly with the public health lab, which has been— toughest measure but not overall progress that we need to see. So, on the first indicator daily number of people admitted to hospitals for suspected COVID that went up. It went up only slightly 129 to 136 it's not horrible, but it's not what we need, we need it to go down. The daily number of people in ICU across Health and Hospitals for suspected COVID went down but only by one 705 to 704, 704 is not a good number, progress but not the kind we need. The percent of people who tested positive, unfortunately that one went up for citywide 22 percent to 23 percent but again a very small increase. So, we've got a lot of effective break-evens here. The good news, and this is very good news because it is the toughest measure, is that the public health lab went down and it went down markedly from 36 percent to 17 percent. So, that is the hopeful the hopeful reality today.

Now, we're going to do a lot of things in this next phase in May and when I say phase, I don't mean yet getting to low-level transmission, we're going to have to earn that, we'll have to fight for that. But I mean that May— May becomes the time, if March was the time we were dealing with that horrifying unforeseen, unheard of up— swing in this disease, April was the month we were beating back from the worst and making real progress. May is the month where we do something transcendent, particularly because we build up test and trace. Now we're going to use every conceivable tool. Yesterday, I talked about the fact that we're going to have stronger enforcement efforts, not just the NYPD but by a variety of other agencies that we're going to have people out there on top of enforcement, educating, providing the face coverings for free. We're going to do all sorts of innovative things to keep people helping each other through this crisis and supporting them and pushing them. And of course, enforcing, we’re going to use all the tools creatively and assertively to keep making progress. So, whenever we have a new tool, we're going to talk about it and the impact it can make.

So, now, I'm going to talk about the open street’s initiative, and this is something I want to thank the city council for their partnership. And it's been worked on, not just with the council but with of course, the NYPD and Department of Transportation. The open streets are going to be another way we help encourage social distancing, because the warmer weather tells us we're going to have a new challenge and we combine the fact that we have to meet that challenge by understanding where people are going to be. Again, we're going to require social distance distancing face coverings and people only being out for just a period of time they need for their exercise and then get back. But we do know warmer weather, it's going to draw more people, that's obvious. And we also know that, thank God, the NYPD and all our agencies are getting back their personnel and really great numbers. So, they're regaining their strength in terms of being able to enforce farther and farther across the City and better and better. So, with the city council, we agreed that we would put together a plan to open 40 miles of streets in May, a hundred miles overall in the course of this crisis. And the focus would be on those streets in their parks because we expect them to attract a lot of people in the warmer weather. We want to expand the parks, if you will, by opening up these streets. And of course, the hardest hit neighborhoods, the place where we've seen this disease have the most devastating effect. So today we'll announce the first seven miles over seven miles in fact, of these open streets and these will all be opening on Monday. 4.5 miles are inside parks, they are areas that will now be devoted to pedestrians, bicyclists. 4.5 miles and that's made up of Callahan-Kelly Park, Forest Hill Park, Fort Tryon Park, Flushing Meadows Park, Grant Park and Silver Lake Park. And then 2.7 miles of streets that are adjacent near parks that'll help to expand and affect the parks. And that will be a Carl Schurz Park, Court Square, Highbridge Park, Lieutenant William T. Triangle, Prospect Park, Stapleton Waterfront Park and Williamsbridge Oval.

Now, I'm going to close in a moment, but I want to talk about something very, very sad. This really, I heard about it late last night and it really hit me. We have lost someone who came to our aid, to our defense and there's something particularly painful when someone does the right thing; a fellow American comes from across the country to try and help the people in New York City and while working to save lives here, gives his own life. It's very painful, it's heroic. It's something we honor, but it's very, very painful that we've lost this good man. Paramedic Paul Cary from Aurora, Colorado, part of the FEMA relief effort has died of the coronavirus. For three decades he served the people of Aurora and then came very bravely to serve us – he did not have to do it - he made the choice to come here to save lives. And remember when he, and so many other paramedics and EMTs showed up from around the country, it was a very, very tough moment; we were having the highest number of 9-1-1 calls in the history of New York City and the disease was growing and its impact and lives were being lost and we needed every hand on deck and Paul Cary's one of those people who came. And I got to tell you it just hurts that such a good man has made the ultimate sacrifice for us. So, to the Cary family, we honor, we honor Paul’s sacrifice; we honor what Paul did. He clearly saved lives while he was here. We honor all of you. We grieve with you and we're going to find a way to create a special memorial for Paul here in New York City to remember all those who came to our defense; the paramedics, the EMTs, members of the military - so many good people - doctors, nurses from around the country. So many people came to help, but Paul gave his life for us and we're going to honor him in a particular way. So, everyone, look, the – it's a reminder of the sacrifices that we've seen so many public servants, so many people who serve you have been lost. We've lost four of our own members of EMS. We've lost 10 members of the FDNY overall. First responders, heroes have been lost, healthcare workers, doctors, nurses, everyone who threw themselves into this battle. So right now, we need to be there for their families. We need to be there for the colleagues who are hurting. Imagine how tough it is to be fighting still this battle every day and have lost someone who served with you. We will do a lot to support their families and we will do a lot to remember them and honor them, but I want you to remember, if you really want to honor these heroes, then it's up to you to stick to the rules we're living by now. Every time you do, you help stop the spread of the disease. Every time you help stop the spread of the disease, you're going to save lives and the lives you save could include our first responders and our healthcare heroes. So I want to make it personal for you. I don't want anyone separating your own actions from what it means for the people around you. I want you to take it personally and realize that if we do what we're capable of doing, we're going to save a lot of lives and every time we don't, we could endanger someone like Paul and we can't have that.

So, look, we've talked today about the real progress we've made and the challenges ahead. The good news here is we are winning this fight. There's no question in my mind we're winning this fight. The bad news is we have not yet won - that's the honest truth. Declaring victory prematurely has been proven down through history to be a very dangerous thing. And when anyone from the President on down talks about liberating a city or a state without making sure that the facts support it and the protections are in place for people's health and safety, that's not liberation – that's actually damning people – that's damning them potentially to their deaths and we will not allow that here in New York City. We're going to come back, but we’re going to come back safely and 8.6 million people together have been doing something extraordinary. We got some more to do, but I have absolute faith we will get there together.

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