Wednesday, May 13, 2020

MAYOR DE BLASIO on COVID-19 - May 13, 2020

  Mayor Bill de Blasio: I've had an opportunity to really look closely at what's happened all over the city to feel what you're feeling and understand what New Yorkers are going through in all five boroughs. And it's been tough for all of us. But I have to also tell you, for me it's been an honor and a privilege to see the strength and the resiliency that all of you have shown in this crisis to look into your lives and see what's so good about this city. And, as New Yorkers, we are legendary for being tough and we're legendary for being self-reliant. No matter what else is happening around us, New Yorkers make things happen. We always find a way. This crisis has brought that out so deeply. The strength that people have shown, the creativity, the ingenuity. That self-reliance is part of what makes this city so great. And I think we have shown the whole world yet again why New York City is a very special place. So, I commend all of you for everything you've done. 

So, let's talk about this proposal coming out of the House of Representatives, because it really will be the game changer we need. First of all, in terms of the impact on New York City, and this is over two years and it really defines clearly what we need to be strong again. $17 billion in aid directly to New York City over two years, $34 billion in direct aid to the state of New York. Now, I think everyone knows this, but I want to put a point on it. The city, we've already taken a massive hit in every way. The human toll, first and foremost, what families have gone through the pain, the suffering of this continuing right now, the economic impact, the number of people that don't have a livelihood, the number of people don't know where the next meal's coming from. We've taken a huge financial hit, and it only gets worse all the time. So, to stabilize this city government to make sure that we can pay the bills and keep our public servants at the front line doing the great work they do and build for a future when our economy actually comes back strong. We need to think about the year, this year, the next year, we have to think several years ahead and this plan by providing $17 billion actually gives us the ability to move forward. But then there's the state piece, because remember the city depends on the state for so much support. Many, many areas, education's a great example, but there's many others where State funding directly State funding that comes via the state, but from the federal government. We need that State funding to be consistent, to be able to do everything that people expect us to do every single day in this city. The State's been going through a horrible economic crisis too. The State's been taking a huge hit on its budget. If the State of New York isn't whole, then the City of New York can't be whole, so that $34 billion for the state of New York, a huge step to making the state whole, so that we can be protected as well so that everyone gets served. The overall package, $500 billion in aid to States, $375 billion indirect aid to localities. This is exactly the kind of assistance that we need to get evil to move forward again.

Now, there are also specialized elements of funding of this, and it's so important. For the entire country, $10 billion increase in food stamps, the SNAP program, and we see already how many people are going hungry because of this economic crisis. I want to remind you our estimate was before COVID-19 a million or more New Yorkers were food insecure. That means they were hungry some part of the year. Now, we think that number is 2 million or more, so it's doubled in the course of 10 weeks. That's the magnitude of this crisis that direct food aid from the federal government through the Snap benefits is crucial and more will be available to New Yorkers because of this new national allotment. Housing, I've said that we have four pillars of everything we're doing right now. Protecting your health, protecting your safety, making sure you have a roof over your head and food on the table. 

Let's talk about those who have served us so well. The health care heroes, the first responders, the essential workers who have sustained us during this crisis. The bill includes federal benefits for first responders, for those we've lost in the line of duty related to COVID-19. We of course want to make sure that every public servant lost in the line of duty is covered and not just first responders, but we're very, very appreciative that this action would take us a big step in the right direction starting with our first responders. And then the heroes fund, this is a crucial piece of this package to recognize those who have given so much on the frontline who worked through this crisis no matter what. Listen to this because this is again something that actually speaks to the moment in a meaningful way, $200 billion nationally to establish hazard pay for essential workers and their survivors. 

Okay. So, that fight will proceed in the days and weeks ahead. But right now, we're engaged in a fight, an urgent, urgent fight this very minute. And this involves our children and protecting our children. And we all remember that the whole trajectory of this horrible disease that we've faced, coronavirus, when it first hit here, we saw the horrible toll it took on the oldest New Yorkers. Horrible toll it took on people with preexisting conditions for a long time, thank God we saw very little impact on our children. Now, we see something different that we did not see in the beginning and the entire medical community is coming together to answer this challenge and we take it very, very seriously and I want everyone to take it seriously. And I keep saying to parents and family members, I need you to be vigilant to protect your children, all our children, because your vigilance will make all the difference in this crisis. Pediatric Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome. Again, Pediatric Multi-system Inflammatory Syndrome, PMIS we're going to keep updating you on it as we get more information. So first, the number of children affected in New York City, we now have 82 confirmed cases. This number has gone up consistently in recent days from a point where we had literally no acknowledgment of this problem because health care professionals weren't seeing it even just a few weeks ago to now 82 confirmed cases. 53 of these cases have either tested positive for COVID-19 or had COVID-19 antibodies. Now, a few days ago we lost a child, that's the first time we saw a child die from this horrible syndrome and we all have to work together hoping and praying that there will not be another child lost and that we can every child going forward. But again, that that vigilance is crucial, it's crucial in the whole health care system, which is why our health commissioner issued an alert to all health care providers to immediately both look for these symptoms in children and act on them, but also report any and all activity to the Health Department so we could understand better how to fight back this problem. But again, it comes down to all of us because the sooner anybody identifies in a child in their life, this problem, the sooner they get to health care, the more chance that a child can be saved. And I keep saying it, early detection matters here, we know this in health care, we know there are certain challenges and diseases where early detection can lead to full resolution. We need early detection in this case because we know can make a huge, huge difference. Now, our health care professionals are learning about this syndrome as quickly as they can and there's still unanswered questions. There's things we don't know – we don't know what makes kids specifically susceptible, why some kids and not others. It's still, even though it's a striking number, it's a small number compared to the number of kids in the City or even the number of kids who have been exposed to COVID. Why are some kids susceptible? How long does it take for this syndrome to manifest in a child? What's the timeframe so that we know what we're dealing with, how much time we have to save a child? What is the likelihood of a child developing it going forward as we learn more about it? Again, that's what we don't know. What we do know is early detection, early treatment makes all the difference.

So, to aid in that effort, we're launching a citywide effort to inform parents to alert parents. We need public awareness to grow rapidly. This is something, remember it parallels the reality of COVID-19, the coronavirus, we had never heard of it. It didn't exist to human beings six or seven months ago and then it suddenly was something happening far away and then one day it was happening here, and everyone had to learn about it and we still don't have all the answers. Well here is P.M.I.S. Something that it was not evident in the beginning of this crisis now is we have to rapidly inform families all over the City. 

Well, it all comes back to when it comes to protecting people, protecting our health. It all comes back to deepening our efforts to reduce this disease with the things that are working. Social distancing is working, shelter in places working face coverings are working. We see it every day, we see the facts, we see the evidence. We want to make it easier for people to socially distance, particularly as the warmer weather comes on and the open streets initiative is helping us to do that. We've been working with the city council and NYPD, DOT a real joint effort to keep building out the open streets vision. So, today we announced several waves of open streets opening up total of over nine miles by tomorrow we will double that total 12 miles more of open streets. We'll be opening tomorrow, Thursday. And this will be different types of open streets. There'll be streets managed by local partners like business improvement districts, streets supported by local precincts where the precincts will figure out a plan with community members to make sure the open streets are protected and that there's presence to make sure people are safe and then protected bike lanes. So, we've got a lot of partners in this and we're going to be showing you on the screen different places that they'll be and different people who have been partners and organizations. 

I mentioned police precincts are getting involved working with community members, making sure that open streets are available to people, but are also safe. Precincts are working together with community partners to add 7.6 miles of open streets and that will be in the Bronx, Queens, Brooklyn, and Manhattan – all opening tomorrow and then, again that mile, that mileage, 7.6 miles. Then streets adjacent to parks; this is something that's very important, particularly as the weather gets warmer, people are gravitating to parks. We want to make sure there's ample space so there isn't crowding. We'll be adding 2.8 miles of streets around parks. This'll be in Brooklyn, Manhattan, Queens and Staten Island all opening tomorrow. And then protected bike lanes; this is important, obviously many, many New Yorkers are choosing to use bicycles to get around more than ever as part of their everyday life. Many are using bicycles of course for exercise at this moment where people are looking for the right way to get exercise and the safe way to get exercise. We're adding 9.2 miles of protected bike lanes in Brooklyn, Queens, and Manhattan. The timing will be starting tomorrow; the bike lane on Broadway in Manhattan. The rest will be phased-in, in the remaining days of this month. And that's what we're announcing today; more will be added as we go along.

I can't wait for the day when school resumes and our kids can go back into all their classrooms. And I have a particular joy when you go into a pre-K classroom and you see those four-year-olds full of life, full of hope – well, that day is coming again soon. So, the good news is that pre-K offers have been sent out to families of kids who will go into pre-K starting in September. We are preparing for the launch of the new school year. We’re preparing to make it the strongest and best school year we've ever had in the history of this city and it begins with our youngest kids in early childhood education. So, the update for you – 61,790 students offered pre-K seats. And very good news, we have a record number of families that received an offer that was their top choice – 77 percent of families got their top choice in these pre-K admissions. And then another record, 90 percent received an offer from one of their top three choices. So, the pre-K program has been getting better and better each year and I want to thank everyone who's a part of the pre-K initiative. It's a labor of love for everyone involved, but this is a great example of progress- getting more and more families their top choice or one of their top choices. Now, that's good news. One thing that's not as good news, it's not surprising though, is the number of applications were lower this year than in recent years and that is not shocking given that there's been an overlap with the exact timing of this horrible crisis – with the coronavirus, that has thrown off the normal admissions process. So, I want to remind all parents, all family members, it is not too late to apply. In fact, you still can apply for pre-K for your child. So, if your child was born in 2016, all you have to do is go online, or call 3-1-1 and you can put an application in right away. There are still seats available, every child – I guarantee it – every child benefits from pre-K. So, if you haven't applied yet, please do for your child.

I cannot praise enough the faith leaders of this city – of all faiths – who came together. This is a kind of consensus, a kind of unanimity that you could rarely find anywhere in the world, but here in this beautiful city, people of all faiths came together and their leaders did something extraordinary and said in common - it won't be easy - it will be painful in many ways for people not to have their normal faith services. It was particularly painful around the holidays, the major, major moments each year that have occurred in so many faiths just in the time of the Coronavirus, but our faith leaders did it. I had the real honor last night of calling together faith leaders of every tradition as part of our Advisory Council from faith communities; hearing their concerns, hearing their ideas, hearing their commitment to the city. And it was a fantastic exchange and a very life affirming exchange and a reminder of the extraordinary role our faith communities play in this city and particularly the strength that these leaders have shown in this crisis. So, I just want to thank and commend all the faith leaders of New York City; special thanks to those who are serving our advisory council to help us figure out how we restart the city, how we create a fair recovery, how we address the material and spiritual needs of the people in this city, how we do things at the right time to keep people safe; a very, very powerful discussion and a very tangible discussion. So many of the faith leaders are concerned to make sure members of their congregations get the food they need and they're partnering with us and they've always partnered with us in so many things including helping homeless New Yorkers and so many other people in need. So, it was a great indicator of another strength in New York City, that our faith communities are present and accounted for in this fight and we are all working closely together to fight back this disease and get to a better place.

Now, I mentioned homeless New Yorkers. I want to keep updating you on the efforts to reach homeless New Yorkers related to this new plan to clean the subways each night and amplify the opportunities for our homeless outreach workers to reach homeless people and get them to safety and get them to a better life. Here [inaudible] the results from last night – 370 homeless individuals were engaged, 213 accepted help, 178 went to shelter, 35 to hospitals. Again, I've said it enough times and not going to repeat it; unprecedented results and the trend continues now for over a week very, very consistently. And this, if we can sustain this, it’s going to have a very long-term and positive impact reducing homelessness in New York City.

So first of all, so many organizations have focused on getting us the protection that our heroes need, the PPEs, the Personal Protective Equipment. So, I want to thank them today. That's what I'm going to focus on with my thanks today; the folks who have done so much to provide PPEs. So, AmeriCares has provided 550,000 N95 masks, 13,000 surgical masks, almost a thousand packages of disinfectant wipes. The China General Chamber of Commerce has provided 100,000 surgical masks. Ford and Troy Design Manufacturing has provided 30,000 nonsurgical face shields. A great, great New York City institution, Century 21 – Century 21 stores are providing 20,000 square feet of PPE storage space and help with delivery of PPEs to the residents of public housing. A special thank you to our own Century 21. Anheuser-Busch – well, when I first saw this, it said Anheuser-Busch and it said bottles so I was wondering where we were going with this, but it's actually not beer, its hand sanitizer – 23,000 bottles of hand sanitizer donated by Anheuser-Busch. Thank you very much. The Urban Assembly Maker Academy has provided 24,000 nonsurgical masks. Tivuna, construction company in Brooklyn has provided 14,000 coveralls to protect our health care heroes. The American Chinese United Care Alliance has provided 20,000 disposable masks, 3,000 pairs of gloves, and 500 KN95 masks. Finally, Public Health Solutions has provided $14,000 to help us acquire PPEs. All of these organizations, businesses, institutions, doing something so great to protect people in New York City, particularly to protect those who serve all of us and protect all of us.

Now, for the daily indicators – well, we got a mixed bag today. Again, I want to see us get to consistent progress and this is another reminder, we still have a ways to go. So, indicator one, daily number of people admitted to hospitals for suspected COVID-19, that is up from 51 to 78. And again, 78 is a hell of a lot better number than where we were just a few weeks ago, but we need to see that number go down and stay down. Daily number of people in ICU use in our public hospitals for suspected COVID-19, that is up. It's up by a small amount – 550 to 561 – but still up. And, again, that base number is higher than we want it to be, that means actual people fighting for their lives in ICU. So, again, an area where we have to keep doing better. The good news today is to percentage of people who tested positive for COVID-19 citywide, that is down from 14 percent to 13 percent. So, again, a sea change from where we were a few weeks ago. That's the good news today. Overall trends continue good. Today's results not what we're looking for. Let's double down on the things that are working so we can have more of the good days and start to string them together and move towards the first steps in our restart.

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