Wednesday, May 20, 2020

MAYOR DE BLASIO on COVID-19 - May 20, 2020

  Mayor Bill de Blasio: Let's take a moment today to think about people in our lives who mean so much to us because they are our elders. The folks we look up to, the folks who brought us up, the folks who got us this far. Let's take a moment to think about the senior citizens in our lives, our moms and dads, our grandparents, our aunts and uncles – the people who have done so much for us – and to think about what they mean to us. And I had an experience this week – I have an aunt, my Aunt Jean, she lives up in Maine, she's 93 years old. And she reached out to me because she saw one of these morning press conferences, and she was very taken with the use of the word boomerang to describe the fact that we have to fight this disease and make sure it doesn't have a resurgence. So, she reached out to me to tell me she thought that I was saying something important and she liked the way I said it. And we went back and forth about what was going on, what was going on here, what was going on up there. And in the conversation with her, I felt a tremendous sense of reassurance, because over the years she's told me stories from her own life. She's 93 years old, so she went through the Depression. She has always told me stories of what her family went through, our family went through in the Depression, how they overcame it, how they survived that. She's told me stories about my dad when he was in the US Army in World War II – the letters she would get when he was fighting in battles all over the Pacific. The letters that would come that would tell her that he was still alive, and what that felt like.

When I talked to my aunt, I feel just such gratitude for her. I feel such a sense of inspiration that, you know, she's still here, and that she still has this wonderful spirit and love of life. And I think every one of us has people like that in our life. And it's a reminder that we literally wouldn't be here without all of them, but also what they've taught us, what they mean to us. It's a society that in many ways, prizes, youth so much. That's certainly true in media, and entertainment, and advertising. But I think it's a time when maybe we're reassessing a bit, and we're coming to remember what we owe our seniors and to appreciate them more, and to look out for them more, and to defend them more. So, to me, this comes down to the seniors in our lives, what they have given us, what they mean to us, and what we owe to them. What we owe to them in terms of making sure they are healthy, making sure they are safe, always being there for them.

Now, this crisis has clearly been so tough on the oldest New Yorkers, and it has shown us, once again, we have to redouble our efforts to help those who are most vulnerable. And some of the folks who have had the toughest time, our seniors who live in nursing homes. There are 169 nursing homes in New York City, and this whole crisis has made us think about what happens to folks who live in a nursing home any time, but particularly during a crisis. And it's making us think about just the way nursing homes are organized in our society. They're largely for-profit enterprises. And I think a lot of tough questions being asked and it should be asked about where we are now, and where we want to go in the future. But I think about what has been like in these last few months in the nursing homes of our city, what it has felt for seniors. The fear that we all feel I'm sure has been magnified for so many of them. The sense of isolation that all of us are feeling has been magnified for so many seniors. We all have more to do, and I know the State of New York has been working hard to address this issue, and the City has as well, but we want to keep doing more and more.

Today I want to talk about a four-part plan to address the needs of our seniors, particularly our seniors in nursing homes. First, if you had to guess right now what I would tell you is the most important thing in terms of fighting the coronavirus in this case in nursing homes, I imagine if I gave you one guess, you would say testing. Once again, all roads lead to testing. We in the first weeks of this crisis, there was no testing to be had basically, and what we had had to go to save lives in the hospitals, had to go to protect the healthcare workers and first responders who are the people saving our lives. We're now spreading out testing throughout communities. 

So, starting next week we will offer PCR test, the diagnostic tests to every nursing home in New York City. This will be for onsite testing in the nursing homes. As many test kits as the nursing home needs, we will provide, we're working with a lab to do the processing, so this'll be a dedicated effort focused on the nursing homes, all 169 of them, and whatever amount of tests they need, whatever amount of lab capacity they need, we will find it for them. If every nursing home does this consistently, we believe it will take us up to a need of about 3,000 tests a day, and we want them, we want all the nursing homes. Again, we don't control them. There's a few that are in the domain of our public health system, but the vast majority are private nonprofit that we don't control, we don't regulate, but we're offering this to all for free.

Second part, we're going to provide more staff. So, here's what happens. When you start doing more and more testing, you will find more people who test positive, it's understandable. And that will include some of the good people, the valiant people who work in our nursing homes. Anyone who tests positive who works in a nursing home has to stay away for 14 days. You're going to have staffing shortages. We are committed, the city of New York is committed to filling those gaps, to making sure there's enough personnel for every nursing home. So, we've been sending additional personnel already to nursing homes. We asked the nursing homes of this city to tell us what they needed. We put in place almost 250 additional staff in nursing homes citywide, nurses, nurses aides, other staff. We will continue to fulfill the requests from every nursing home. By the end of next week, every outstanding staffing requests from every nursing home in New York City will be fulfilled by the city of New York.

Part three, outbreak response team. So, the goal here of course, is to keep containing the coronavirus, keep pushing it back. But wherever we see an outbreak, even if it’s as localized as happening in a single nursing home, we want to go right at it. We want to act immediately. So, we have 10 outbreak response teams ready, teams of minimum three people led by our Health Department. Each team has an epidemiologist as the lead individual in the team, but they'll bring in additional experts in infection control, mental health, whatever it takes to assist that nursing home to address what they're facing and fix it and move forward. By the way, this is for nursing homes, and it's also for other congregate settings that serve our seniors, like assisted living facilities. So, the second there's any sign of a problem, this team can go and can oversee the response, can help control infections, make sure the PPEs are where they need to be and the supply is right, and people are using the right way. 

Part four is looking ahead to the future. Look, the future might look very different, and I think we need to start thinking about a different future. I think we need to think about a time where more and more of the care given to our seniors is given to them at home. I know from the seniors in my life, I mentioned my aunt Jean, who is living still at home in her home in Maine. And I know this was true of my mom, and my aunts, her sisters, everyone had the same wish, they wanted to stay at home no matter what. We got to make that the norm more and more. Now, we got to think about why it even got the way it got that so many people ended up in a nursing home, including a lot of seniors who didn't want to be there. Having folks at home is in many ways not only a better quality of life, but it's a better place to care for someone done right. It's a better place to make sure that people have the support they need, and by the way, if people are living at home, there's much less chance of being in a situation where they're exposed to a disease that's spreading. There's a lot to think about in terms of how to build— a really comprehensive plan to maximize home care, because that's what would take to reprogram our city towards much more focused on helping our seniors to stay home and have all the support they need. 

Let's talk about something that's been a crucial mission from day one, protecting our healthcare heroes, protecting our first responders. From the beginning of this process, we said we had to protect the people who were protecting us. The first responders across all agencies, the healthcare workers across all of the different types of hospitals, everyone who was at the front line needed protection that meant the personal protective equipment, the PPEs. And we know it was a fight from day one and again when we look back on the history of this, the scarcity that attended to this crisis from the first minute that we're still fighting against now was shocking in this land of plenty, but I want to thank all the people in all of the agencies and the hospitals, all the great people at emergency management, everyone who bonded together to create a system to get the PPEs we needed and I got to tell you, I was deeply, deeply involved in that process and it was not only a matter of life and death and people knew it. That means the N95s, the face shields, the goggles, the gloves, the surgical gowns, the face masks, meaning the surgical masks. All of those items are now in sufficient supply to get us through the month of May to protect our first responders and our healthcare heroes. That's progress, that means all hospitals can be provided with what they need, nursing homes, as we just discussed. The folks at the medical examiner’s office who do such important work, again, often unsung heroes and we thank them for all they do, it's not easy. It's painful often, but they do such good work. And of course, FDNY, NYPD, correction, all of the agencies that need the PPEs we're providing for them and any of the other key agencies that have PPE needs. By the end of this year, we will have in place a 90-day supply, three months’ supply of critical PPEs. We will have in place 4,000 full-service ventilators that will not be the ones that are in use in hospitals, four in reserves in reserve with a maintenance program to keep them in good shape. We'll be ready no matter what is thrown at us in the future. And we'll have the ability to build right here in New York City what we need if we ever find that the supplies, we depended on are failing us, we'll be able to go into high gear in this City and cover a lot of that gap right here.

In every crisis, new issues emerge, we don't even understand yet the full magnitude of the crisis we're living through right now. So, here's one that our healthcare leadership is now seeing and are very worried about and we need to act on it together. And this is something you can act on, particularly parents, grandparents, you can act on this. Right now, the issue is vaccinations, not the vaccine we hope for with the coronavirus, just the everyday vaccinations that kids get to keep them safe. The— vaccination rate in this City, this is striking, the vaccination rate in this city has been falling during this crisis and the sheer magnitude of it has become clear to us in the last few days. The reasons are obvious, doctor's offices have been closed in so many cases, families are staying home. We've had to focus on the most urgent needs in healthcare throughout, it makes sense that even parents, grandparents, other guardians, family members who wanted to get a child vaccinated might not have known where to turn or might have been hesitant to go out and get it done, given everything else going on. So our Health Department looked at the citywide vaccination rates for our children, looked at the number of vaccine doses administered and compared the period from March 23rd when this crisis had really gone into high gear to May 9th so about six weeks compared that period of time this year to the same period last year and what we found was quite shocking and troubling. The number of vaccine doses administered over that period this year versus last year for kids in the category two years old or younger, there's been a 42 percent drop in the number of vaccinations. For kids older than two years old, this is shocking and a 91 percent drop in vaccinations. Well, I'll give you a comparison, the same six-week period of time last year, 2019 almost 400,000 doses were administered in this City in the six-week period this year, fewer than 150,000. So, something has to be done immediately to address this and we intend to work with parents and families to do that right now.  A child who gets one of these diseases is likely to need to be hospitalized and they're likely to be more susceptible to contracting COVID. We know that anybody with a preexisting condition can be more vulnerable to COVID, so having pneumonia or respiratory disease makes that child both more susceptible, to contracting COVID and more vulnerable to the effect the COVID. And we're all watching this very troubling new syndrome MIS-C we don't want to see any child contract COVID, so the pieces unfortunately start to fit together in a way that should cause parents real concern and unvaccinated child at greater threat contracting a disease that could then put them at greater threat of contract and COVID, on top of that, that combination is dangerous in and of itself. Also brings up the link between COVID and MIS-C. We don't want to see any of that happen to any child.

So, the bottom line to all parents, all family members out there, get your child vaccinated. We're in a much better situation than we were. The reality March 23rd versus today, thank God, night and day in terms of what's going on with our healthcare system and our City. So now is the time to get your child vaccinated, this is essential work. Getting your child vaccinated is essential work. Getting your child vaccinated is a reason to leave your home and whatever it takes to get your child to that vaccination, it's worth it. So, we also have to remember this is for your child and it's for everyone because once one child gets sick, it can spread to the next child. So, we have to make sure we get ahead of this. You do not need to go to a hospital facility to get a vaccination for your child. Free vaccinations are available at over a thousand New York City facilities in the Vaccines for Children Program. Health + Hospitals is offering vaccinations at all of its clinics – 70 clinics around the city. So, to make an appointment, you go to 844-NYC-4NYC. So that's the number for NYC, again 844-NYC-4NYC – call, make an appointment right away. If you're – or, if you have your own doctor you can get done with, that's great too, but let's protect our kids and protect each other by making sure all our children are vaccinated.

Part of why our voices are heard is the representation we send to Congress – that's based on the Census. The Census says how many members of Congress you get. The Census says how much federal funding you get; the census, if it's truly accurate, will give you the level of funding and representation you deserve. If it's not accurate, you literally can lose a member of the Congress; you can lose billions, many billions of dollars. So, the 2020 Census will have so much to say about the future of this city and it's being attempted against the backdrop of the biggest crisis we've dealt with in generations and we're the epicenter. So, we are really up against the wall here yet again, and we've got to find a way forward and quickly. What does this money go for? So, the pool of money that is affected by the census, one estimate puts that about $650 billion. That's the pool that we want our fair share of. That means funding for hospitals; that means money for food assistance. We all are talking about food lately. That money is federal money in so many cases, food stamps and snap benefits, money that goes to infrastructure, to schools, to transportation, mass transit. So many things revolve around that federal funding that we depend on in this city. So, let's talk about where we stand on the census right now. Today, in New York City, 49 percent of New York City households have submitted their Census response and we thank them for that. The national average right now is 59 percent, so we're well behind the country. We all understand everyone's dealing with a lot right now, and so although there is so much going on and there has been so much good effort to get to that 49 percent, we’ve all got to double down, we have to intensify our efforts. All responses are totally confidential. So, if you need more information and you're ready to fill out that form and we need you to, go to We want to get you in. We want to get everyone you know in. We need your help telling everyone that you know in your family and your neighborhood to get this done and let's get the help we deserve from Washington.

Okay, now we're going to do our daily indicators. So, day that's not perfect, but is a good day. Two out of three moving in the right direction and the one that has gone in the wrong direction is just by a little. So, it's a good day; we want to have great days though. What do we have? Well indicator one, daily number of people admitted to hospitals for suspected COVID-19 - it went up but just by a little from 57 to 63 and that is a much, much lower number to begin with than what we use to deal with. So, not too bad, but we want to do better. The daily number of people in ICUs across our public hospitals for suspected COVID-19 is down – 492 to 483. That is wonderful. And this is the one that's most universal, the percentage of people tested positive for COVID-19 citywide – down from 9 percent to 8 percent. Isn't it great to see the single digits? We've been through so much together. That is really encouraging to see, especially against the backdrop where we're doing more and more testing and getting a better and better look at what's happening to so many New Yorkers. We're now at 20,000 tests a day and growing rapidly, but the percentages are coming back better, so that's wonderful.

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