Tuesday, May 12, 2020

MAYOR DE BLASIO on COVID-19 - May 12, 2020

Mayor Bill de Blasio: Well, good morning, everybody. The past few days we've focused on the progress we've made in this city, throughout this city, and how it relates back to everything that you have done, your hard work. I am very, very clear about the fact that socially social distancing isn't easy. Shelter in place isn't easy. Even remembering to wear a face covering all the time isn't easy, but New Yorkers have done it overwhelmingly, and consistently with a lot of strength, a lot of discipline. So, we have talked about how that has given us now a chance, having done a lot to get to a stronger place to go on the offensive, to do the things that will contain this disease further and move us towards a better situation. Now, we've talked about some of the things that we're going to need to do. We're going to need to have the most extensive ability to trace people around the city who have been exposed to disease, to get them the help they need, to get them to isolation if they need that in one of the hotels, all the services that go with that. We've talked about that whole apparatus that has to be built, and obviously the grassroots piece intensifying our grassroots efforts. More community efforts like the community clinics I spoke about yesterday, fortifying them, strengthening them, helping them with new tools to deepen their work. More and more telemedicine, more and more support and personnel to reach deeper into communities. These are the characteristics of going on the offensive. These are the characteristics of being able to move forward in a coordinated way to beat back this disease. 

Right now, at our public hospitals and clinics, we have capacity for just over 5,000 tests a day across 23 sites. And again, every single one of these tests counts for the everyday New Yorker. It gives you information you desperately need about your own status, but of course it is crucial to our ability to fight the disease everywhere, and to lay that foundation for the ability to trace the disease and follow up with each and every case over time. But we've got to get to the point where testing is much more widespread around this city. It will be done in stages, but it's absolutely a requirement if we're going to win this fight to have testing be widespread.

I'm announcing 12 new Health + Hospitals sites, and these will be expanding over the next three weeks. So, during the month of May. First, starting next week, week of May 18th, two new sites. In Manhattan in Washington Heights. In Brooklyn, in Midwood. So, when you take where we are today, about 5,100 tests per day in our Health and Hospitals sites, that's going to add another 1,200 or so. That gets us in the course of next week up to 6,300 per day. Then the following week, the week of May 25th, we will add 10 new sites. In Staten Island, three sites, Prince's Bay, Concord and Port Richmond. In Queens, one site in Woodside. In Manhattan, a site in East Harlem. In Brooklyn, sites in sunset park, Bay Ridge and Canarsie. And in the Bronx, in Fordham Manner and Melrose. So, add that into the equation. So again, by next week we get the sites up. It takes us to 6,300 tests per day. When you add those additional 10 sites, that will add 4,400 tests per day more. Therefore, by the week of May 25th we'll be at 10,700 tests per day at Health and Hospitals sites alone. By the week of May 25th when you add everything together, we'll be in the range of about 20,000 tests day. I want to see us in the months ahead, get to 50,000 tests a day, and then ideally go beyond that. The criteria for who gets tested will keep evolving as more and more testing becomes available, and we'll have more to say on that in the coming days, but it stands to reason. As we reach deeper and deeper into the city, we want more and more people to participate. 

Test and trace. Remember testing is important for every individual who gets tested, and tells you something absolutely vital for yourself and your family, and helps you know how to handle the situation you're in. But what we want to do for everyone, is build out the tracing element of this. Finding out if someone tests positive, who have been the other contacts that they've had, close contacts who need to be evaluated in many cases will need to be tested as well. So, the goal here is to trace people, and then for those who do require support and isolation, to make sure that happens seamlessly. Once someone's identified as needing that isolation, and needing that option, to get them there, the transportation to get them there, the medical support once they're there, food, laundry, you name it, all of that has to be put together. It has to be constant. It has to be something that people can access quickly. And when they're done and they're safe, they go back home. And then of course there's more people who will need to take advantage of the isolation. So, it's a nonstop effort, always having a room available for anyone who needs it, and that's crucial. I want people to be very, very clear about this. We're building out a test and trace capacity with the goal of making sure there is an isolation location for anyone who needs it. And we have a lot of hotel capacity that we already control, and we can get a lot more as needed. So, we'll build it as big as it needs to be.

Last week announced the executive leadership of our test and trace corps. We are now bringing two more leaders in to build out this leadership further to oversee the tracing and isolation operations. And each of these pieces is a really big job unto itself, given the scale of this city. So, we looked for people who were really good, really talented, really experienced, and could handle the sheer intensity of what we were asking them to do. So first, our new Director of Tracing Dr. Neil Vora. Neil Vora is someone who since 2015 has served in our Health Department as Director of Disease Control Informatics Data and Outbreak Response. That is a mouthful, but, but a very important job. And he is someone with tremendous expertise in tracing infectious diseases. In fact, so much so that in 2014 working with the Centers for Disease Control nationally, he literally went to West Africa in search of information on Ebola and literally went into caves in West Africa to learn about the bats. Who were the carriers of Ebola and rabies. Talk about hands-on, talk about a can-do spirit. Dr. Vora has proven by his actions that he is someone who is going to go out there and get the job done no matter what it takes. He's also overseeing New York City's Ebola monitoring and Zika Testing Coordination Program. So, he has dealt with tough situations before, and brings so much expertise and spirit to this effort. So, we welcome him. We welcome Dr. Vora as our new Director of Tracing.

Now, the team he will lead, the contact tracers, their job will be to identify each and every case. Dr. Vora knows from the work he's been doing already as a key member of our COVID-19 response effort, that we've got to make sure that that is good and precise work, but then we also have to make sure there's the right hand off to the team that will manage the isolation for all new Yorkers who need it. And so, to coordinate our isolation team, the new director of our isolation effort will be Dr. Amanda Johnson. She is currently the Senior Director of Ambulatory Care Integration at Health and Hospitals.

Now, Dr. Johnson is not only a great physician herself, but she has built a career on helping other physicians to build their skills, to really understand their patients and everything that's going to take to get someone through the whole process from the beginning of their challenge or disease identified to full recovery. She was chief resident at the university of California at San Francisco and also there and in her current work at Health and Hospitals. Her focus was on teaching residents, teaching doctors to care for the whole person, to care for the patient from beginning to end, to make sure that there was that continuity, and this is so important to the work she will do directing our isolation effort. Also, a bonus qualification, she has a joint MBA, MD from Harvard. So, her background is not only as a doctor but also with an operational mindset, a business mindset of how to make something big and complex come together. The isolation team that Dr. Johnson will put together will make sure that people have a seamless experience and we want to encourage those in need isolation to take advantage of it, to know it's there for them, to know it's free to know, to know it will be an easy, straightforward process. And in that vein the actual hiring of the tracers is moving rapidly, we have the generals, but now we need the army. And 7,000 applications have come in so far and we're still encouraging more because as I've said, we're starting with a certain number, but this effort is going to grow out easily, could take us to the five to 10,000 range. So, we want people with public health background to apply and apply right away at nyc.gov/traceteam. Again, nyc.gov/traceteam put your application in immediately. And I have an update today that the first 535 contact tracers are now being trained through the Johns Hopkins university training initiative sponsored by Bloomberg Philanthropies. As they complete their training and they're ready to go, those tracers go into action right away. So, this effort is moving quickly, our goal is to have 2,500 tracers in play by the beginning of June on the field doing this good work. 

We have found a great leader to serve in the role of executive director announcing day that Grace Bonilla will be Executive Director of the task force. She has been doing an extraordinary job since 2017 as the Administrator of the Human Resources Administration, she'll continue in that role but also take on this important responsibility. Her whole life has been spent helping vulnerable New Yorkers and folks who are not getting their fair share, this is what she has focused on. She is a lifelong New Yorker, born and raised in Queens, she understands life in this City. She also understands the immigrant experience coming from an immigrant family. She has done amazing work before government as well and including as CEO of the committee for Hispanic Children and Families and she was one of those unsung heroes who helped us to put together the pre-K initiative. And the very beginning of the administration, we had a senior advisory group in 2014 that helped us figure out how to rapidly put together pre-K. And it was a group that immensely contributed to that success in the first months of this administration. So, Grace has done so much and we're so happy she'll be taking on this role. The goal here is clear, right now, what can our city agencies do as part of this immediate response to help address these disparities and then go beyond to contribute to all the thinking, the planning, the, the bigger changes that we're going to need in this City that we'll be working on over the next 20 months, the more structural change as well. 

Okay. Let's turn to another topic and this topic, this is really on our minds and it really has grabbed us all just in the last week or two. It's sobering, it's bluntly frightening and I want to say to parents out there of, you're hearing this information about pediatric multi-system inflammatory syndrome. And it sounds scary, it does sound scary, I'm speaking as a parent myself. It's something we did not see essentially throughout March and April, this was not something that the health care community saw on their radar and then in the last week or two, suddenly we're seeing something that's very troubling. And we're combining the efforts of health care professionals all over New York City to understand what it is and how to deal with it. We're talking about characteristics that have been seen before but now are being experienced through the prism of this pandemic, that's what's causing particular concern. So I'm going to give you an update on the numbers here and they continue to grow and that's why we are really, really concerned and really want to get the word out to all family members to keep an eye on their kids and to act immediately if they see a problem. As of the latest information we have 52 confirmed cases, so that number has continued to grow, 10 cases pending right now for this City. Of the 62 cases, so the 52 confirmed in the 10 they're still being evaluated, 25 tested positive for COVID-19 and another 22 percent – excuse me, another 22 had COVID-19 antibodies. So again, 25 individual children tested positive for COVID-19, 22 had COVID-19 antibodies. We have lost one child and that has made it even more sobering and even more an area of concern to all of us. But again, what we understand so far from our medical community is early detection, early action makes all the difference here. So again, the symptoms, persistent fever, again, persistent fever, rash, abdominal pain, vomiting and if you see any combination, especially be concerned. Dr. Barbot, I thought yesterday I gave a really great description that every parent could understand, or every family member could understand. If your child is off, if your child doesn't have energy of your child, is not themselves, and has at least one of these symptoms, call immediately to your doctor, your health care provider. If you see multiple symptoms even more urgent, we want people not to hesitate here and if you don't have a regular doctor, call 3-1-1 and you'll be connected to a Health and Hospitals clinician. This is something where the quicker a parent reports to them, the quicker a health care professional can evaluate, the more chance of protecting the child and seeing through them, seeing them through this challenge safely.

Consistent results now, every single night, last night, 362 individuals were engaged by our outreach workers and again, specially trained police officers who work with the homeless, 360 to engage 211 accepted help, 178 went to shelter, 33 went to hospitals. Every single night, we're seeing the same things, high level of engagement, large number of homeless individuals being engaged, the majority accepting help. We've never seen that before, it keeps happening night after night, I'm sure it won't happen perfectly consistently every night. But if the first week is any indication this is a game changer and we're going to put everything we've got into making this work because I think it could fundamentally change the future of homelessness in the City for the better and get a really large number of people off the streets once and for all.

Okay, let's now talk about the daily indicators. Overall, the work you've done has been great and the indicators have really, really moved over the weeks. But we've got to keep going, we had a really good day, yesterday, three going down together. Today, we do not have as good a day, but I'll qualify it by saying where things went up it was very by very little amounts. We want it all to go down consistently when they all go down consistently it says something really profound has happened and that's the gateway to opening up more and reducing restrictions. But today little too much of a mixed bag. So, indicator one daily number of people admitted to hospitals for suspected COVID-19 that is down from 55 to 51. And I always want to celebrate when only 51 people are going into the hospital for COVID-19 compared to where we were a few weeks ago. But the sheer numbers when they're this good, that is something really to be happy about. That one went down. Let's keep that going down. Now, on the number of people – indicator two – daily number of people in the ICUs across Health + Hospitals for suspected COVID-19, that number went up. It only went up by a small amount in the scheme of things from 537 to 550, but it still went up. That's not what we want obviously. And that's a number that's still higher than anyone would want - that many people still fighting for their lives. So, we got to see more progress there. And then indicator three, percent of people tested positive for COVID-19 citywide – it went up by only one percentage point. Again, not what we want, but only one percent up. So, overall trend line, very good. Daily results, not yet what we're looking for. Stick to it because we know what you're doing is working. Let's just keep doing it. Let's keep trying to do it better.

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