Monday, May 11, 2020

MAYOR DE BLASIO on COVID-19 - May 11 2020

Mayor Bill de Blasio: Think back weeks ago and remember this – it’s so striking to think about this whole crisis we've been through together. Most of it has happened over the last 10 weeks or so and it feels like such a long period of time, but think back to March where every day brought new shocking developments, things we had never seen before. A lot of times we were just fighting to keep going as we dealt with more and more challenges, and now thank God in recent days we've had much better news. We're still not out of the woods, but much better news, much bigger progress. And now as I talked about a few days ago, the whole idea is to get on the offensive against this disease, fight it back, martial our forces to make sure that we get to the day where we rid New York City of this challenge once and for all.

When I think about that sense of being on the offensive being on the march, I think about first of all, what all of you have done because that's the essence of why we've seen this amazing progress. I also think about the fact that as we fight back this disease, we're going to fight back the many, many challenges it has laid bare, most especially the disparities we see in communities around this city, the health care disparities in particular that have been so striking and painful in this crisis. We were all doing everything we could in the first weeks just to make sure that we could save as many lives as possible. Now we're going to not only save lives, we're going to fight these disparities in so many ways going forward. So, we talked about what it took to save lives, to protect people, particularly in the areas hardest hit – our public health care system, our public hospitals and clinics were really the core of that, particularly in the first weeks of this crisis. That's where so many people turned for help and they did an extraordinary job – to all the folks who work at H + H, all the folks who work in our public hospitals and clinics, they were absolutely outstanding during this crisis and that was many ways. 

Now, community clinics, think about what they mean to so many people. They’re the place that people turn for health care who don't have other options. They’re a place for a lot of folks who don't have a lot of resources, aren't sure where else to turn, don't have a long-term relationship with a private doctor. The community clinics are the place they can depend on. Literally the community clinics know the people in their neighborhoods. They speak the language of the people in the neighborhoods. They do amazing work and they've had to do a lot during this crisis, but with many, many challenges that have been a real hindrance to the good work they do in normal times. 

Of course, like so many other parts of our health care system, these clinics were often shorthanded during this crisis. They had to deal with those that they lost who are sick and that to deal with the fact that they had immense financial strain and couldn't afford to keep people on their payroll. We are now addressing that head on with members of our Medical Reserve Corps, doctors, nurses, other health care professionals. We're going to have hundreds of these professionals, these clinicians, to the clinics in the coming weeks and provide them with the personnel resources and cover the cost so that they can get back up and running as fully as possible.

Telemedicine, we've talked about this before. This is a crucial piece of the equation. When it comes to the clinics, telemedicine is also important, not just what we're trying to do with our public hospitals and clinics, Health + Hospitals, not just what we're trying to do with phone a clinician. We talked about that a few days ago, but the telemedicine that could be done with a community-based clinic. They know their patients, they know the people they have long-term relationships with, but they're not historically using telemedicine as a crucial tool. We're going to help them now do that more and more. And the wellness checks are a big part of it. Reaching out regularly to the patients from the clinic to just checking on them, see if they need anything, constantly proactively communicating. So last month and continuing this month, the Department of Health is running weekly telemedicine webinars to help these community-based clinics get used to how to maximize their use of telemedicine, and our goal is to train 150 of these clinics to be particularly proficient in telemedicine to help them make it a very common part of what they do, and then we'll expand from there.

We also want to see these clinics play a crucial role in our test and trace initiative. This – testing and tracing is the thing that you're going to see grow and grow in the coming weeks. It's absolutely crucial to how we move past this phase of this disease and move forward. These community-based clinics can play a crucial role. We're surveying all of them this week. By next week we're going to know what each one can contribute to the test and trace effort. I wanted to bring them into it deeply.

Now the focus will be on the places hardest hit by the coronavirus in this city, so we're going to be focused on neighborhoods all over the five boroughs. In Brooklyn, those neighborhoods will be Flatbush and East Flatbush, Brownsville, Brighton Beach, Flatlands and Canarsie, East New York and Starrett City, Sunset Park, Bushwick, and Bed-Stuy. In the Bronx, Crotona and Tremont, Highbridge, Mott Haven, and Morrisania, Bronx Park, Van Cortland Park, and Fordham, Northeast Bronx, Pelham and Throggs Neck, Kingsbridge and Riverdale, Soundview and Longwood and Hunts Point. In Manhattan, Morningside Heights, Inwood, Washington Heights and Hamilton Heights, East and Central Harlem, and the Lower East side and Chinatown. In Queens, Corona, East Elmhurst, and Elmhurst, Briarwood, Jamaica, Rockaway and Far Rockaway and Queensbridge. And in Staten Island Stapleton to St. George and Willowbrook. So, the goal will be to right now maximize the use of these community-based facilities, the providers, the clinics that have such a big impact on their communities. Help them right now to be in the forefront of our efforts to fight back the coronavirus, get them right now more deeply into things like telemedicine and the test and trace initiative and leave them in stronger shape for the future as well, serving the communities that have been hardest hit during this crisis, the low-income communities, the immigrant communities, the communities of color that have really taken it on the chin during this crisis. We want to strengthen these community-based providers now and for the future.

On Friday, I had a call with a group of small business owners, in this case, smaller bars and restaurants. There are a group called the New York Hospitality Coalition and they wanted to help me understand what they were going through and what they needed to come back. And what was so clear on this call was these are folks like, like every small business owner, they put their heart and soul into building up their business. It was something that was really a part of their identity. It was, they put themselves into it and they would do anything to keep their small business going. And they had a deep sense of being there for the people who are their customers, who are the people in their neighborhood that depend on that small business. They, each and every one of them, wanted to come back not just because it was their livelihood and what they had created, not just because they cared about the people worked at their small business, but because they knew their neighborhoods depended on them. So, hearing their voices – and I going to be talking to many, many other people in the small business community, going forward – reminds me of everything we're going to have to do. In the beginning of this crisis we did what the City could do with a $50 million loan and grant program. 

So, I have two personnel announcements today that are related to a new approach we're going to take to small business in this unprecedented time. First of all, I am creating a new position as senior advisor for small business related to the COVID-19 crisis, and I'm naming to this position Gregg Bishop. He's going to bring that expertise to bear to help us develop a whole new approach to bringing resources and support to those small businesses. He'll work closely with our public-private partnership czar, Peter Hatch, who's been doing a fantastic job bringing in philanthropic support and support from the business community locally, nationally, internationally for New York City. Now, we need a lot of that support to be focused on how to uplift small business and provide the resources for small businesses to get back on their feet and the ability for small businesses to have new customers, new revenue to keep them going in this new reality. I'll charge Gregg with finding whole new sources of capital for small business. When I had a call last week as well as the heads of some of the largest businesses in New York City, and to their credit, they said they understood small business was hurting a lot more than larger business and small business would be crucial to any restart and recovery and they were already asking themselves what could larger businesses do to patronize smaller businesses, to work with them, to provide them capital to do things that larger businesses hadn't done so much before systematically with small business but needed to do now for the good of New York City. It was a very heartening conversation. Gregg Bishop is who I'm going to turn to, to take that idea and make it a reality and really catalyze that instinct we're seeing in the larger business community and bring it to bear to help small business.

I've chosen Jonnel Doris. Jonnel has done an outstanding job as our Director for the Office of Minority- and Women-Owned Business enterprises. He's led a really systematic, energetic effort to expand M/WBE contracts coming from the city – $14.6 billion awarded since 2015, $1 billion ahead of pace for our 2020 goal. A of that has been because of Jonnel’s energetic leadership. So, as the new commissioner for small business services, I'm going to ask him to look at every way that that agency can help small businesses in this recovery. All the ways that we have to simplify what small businesses go through in their dealings with City government. 

Now, we've talked about some of the challenges that have been so profound in this crisis. W We've been trying to make sure as we deal with the coronavirus that we're constantly evaluating our shelter system and moving people as needed to make sure everyone is safe and healthy. I told you we were going to have a goal of moving a thousand people per week out of shelters into hotel settings to keep opening up the shelters to keep making sure we could do a proper social distancing. We met that goal last week. We will be meeting it again this week. There's now over 8,000 single adults in hotel rooms and we'll keep doing that as-needed in the weeks ahead, and particularly as we build up our widespread test and trace initiative, which is going to help. Everyone in that initiative will also be focused on our homeless shelters.

Now, the second update I want to give, and this is something we've been talking about over the last few days, is what's happening with homeless folks who have been in the subways. And I keep telling you something historic is happening, and, day after day, the facts bear it out. The new initiative that we put together with the MTA and the State, six days now and six days that have been entirely consistent, something really groundbreaking is happening here, something very different and very powerful. Last night, when a subway shutdown for cleaning, our homeless outreach workers and specially trained members of the NYPD were out there to help homeless New Yorkers, to offer them a chance to come in and get support. 261 homeless individuals were engaged, 139 of them accepted help. 116 went to shelter. 23 went to hospitals. Again, numbers we've never seen ever in the history of the city – such an extraordinary number of people agreeing to take help, agreeing to take the first step towards a very different life. 

We've suspended alternate side many, many times in the last 10 weeks. But now we do see a number of areas in the city where some litter is starting to add up and we're concerned. So, we'll go to do something a little different this coming week and then that will help us reset for the future. So, alternate side will continue to be suspended this week through Sunday through May 17th. And, by the way, this suspension now that's happened over recent weeks is actually one of the longest in the history of New York City. So, this suspension has helped people, made the lives a little easier, help people stay inside. We'll keep it going through Sunday, May 17th. Starting on Monday, May 18th, we're going to do a clean sweep all over the city, a catch-up to make sure neighborhoods are clean. So, alternate side parking will resume on Monday, May 18th and go through the end of that week. 

I want to talk about an incident that happened last night and this is something that we've seen in the context of this whole painful crisis. Remember, there were too many times, way too many times over the last 10 weeks when I've had to talk to you about incidents of bias directed at Asian Americans in the context of the coronavirus crisis. We don't accept bias in New York City. We don't accept hate in any form, any act of bias, any hate crime, we pursue it. We make sure there are consequences for the perpetrator. That's something that people have seen time and time again in this city, that we take it seriously. All of us take us seriously. We take us seriously here in the City government and the NYPD takes it seriously. So, we saw those horrible incidents directed that Asian communities. Now, last night, a different incident in South Williamsburg, two perpetrators, one male, one female ripped masks off, members of the Jewish community who were walking down the street. This is obviously absolutely unacceptable in every way. Whether it is this horrible anti-Semitic act that we saw or the horrible anti-Asian acts we saw in previous weeks, none of these acts of bias and discrimination are acceptable in New York City. And the fact that the perpetrators were arrested immediately is a reminder to everyone out there, we will not tolerate hate, we will act on it quickly. Anyone who engages in an act of hate will be suffering the consequences of their actions.

Every day we come back to our daily indicators and this is what we look at every single day to see how we're doing this city and where we're going today. I have good news. And this is really wonderful to report to you, because it gets back to what you've been doing every time I get to give you good news. It's just a reflection on all of you, because New Yorkers are taking shelter in place so seriously, social distancing, so seriously face covering so seriously and it's making a difference. So, the indicators today show it first. The daily number of people admitted to hospitals for suspected COVID-19, that is down from 69 to 55. And look, two things to see here, one down and down substantially – that's great to begin with – but down to just 55. We are not out of the woods, but when you see that number go down as low as 55, that sure is heartening compared to where we were and a credit to all of you. The daily number of people in ICU is across our public hospitals for suspected COVID-19 it's down, it's only a little from 540 to 537, but it's still down, and that is progress. And the percentage of people who tested positive for COVID-19 citywide, down from 17 percent to 13 percent. So, this is exactly the kind of day we want to see. Now, let's say we can stretch a number of these days together and that'll be the signal that it's time to start talking about relaxing some of these restrictions. But first, we have real work to do to get there.

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