Friday, May 22, 2020

MAYOR DE BLASIO on COVID-19 - May 22, 2020

  Mayor Bill de Blasio: We're about to start a very important weekend. And it would be important any year – obviously, it takes on added meaning this year. Memorial Day weekend, let's remember why it exists to begin with – to honor the lives of those who gave their all for us, and to not ever let it be forgotten that people have come forward over the generations to protect all of us, to serve their nation, and gave their lives fighting for an idea of what this country is about, the freedoms we enjoy, the way we live, and the idea that we could all create something better all the time. So, Memorial Day is about remembering something bigger than all of us, remembering these heroes. It's obviously also a time to appreciate all those who serve us now and all those who have served us and live here in our city. Over 200,000 veterans in New York City, and we every day work to support them. It shouldn't just be on Veterans Day that we help veterans, shouldn't just be on Memorial Day that we remember those who gave their lives for us. It should be every day.

So, that's why Memorial Day exists. But we also know there's a whole other reality that has emerged over the years to Memorial Day. It is for all of us something also very different, very immediate, very human, very real. It is the unofficial start of summer. The coronavirus will be contained over time. There will be a vaccine at some point, hopefully really soon, and we'll be able to go back to so many of the things that we've known, but right now we have a very different reality, everyone knows it. If we get a little too loose, we're going to start going backwards. And the last thing we want is more restrictions on our lives. So, I'm going to keep reminding you, if we play this right, fewer and fewer restrictions over time, more and more normalcy, more and more restart. And we play it wrong. You go backwards, you play it really wrong. You could go backwards a long way. We cannot let that happen. I will not let that happen. So, when you go into Memorial Day, think about the many, many ways you can enjoy it – the many wonderful things about Memorial Day, even in the middle of this crisis, but be smart about how you approach it.

So, there's going to be a special effort this weekend to help people, to make sure that we do things the right way. I've been really clear about the beaches, they are closed for swimming. There will not be lifeguards. People are not supposed to go to the beach to swim. There's not going to be anything with group activity. No sports, no volleyball, no gatherings. We want to make sure that people understand what the beach is for today. You can walk on the beach. You can hang out on the beach, but do it in a manner that is consistent with everything we've been talking about. You go out for the amount of time you need, then you get back home. You socially distance the whole time. You wear the face covering. These are the smart moves to keep our progress going. Now anyone who's unhappy about that, anyone who thinks it's unfair, the buck stops with me. This is a decision I'm making as the elected leader of this city to protect all of us. 

We will have the Parks Department out there in force to get the word out. They've been doing an amazing job, as we talked about earlier in the week. Parks Department has been stellar in this difficult season. They've been out there educating people, helping people. Anyone without a face covering, they go up and say, “Hey, we can fix this right now. Here's a face covering for free”. They're going to keep doing that. They'll have over 150 parks personnel out across the beaches this weekend, and every year the NYPD has a summer beach detail, we will add to that detail. So, it will be hundreds of officers out there. Again, if things are going well, they're going to be in the background. If there are gatherings, if there are people trying to go into the water, Parks is going to take the lead, but if they need support from the NYPD, they will have it.

Now, in parks around the city, and all over the city, our social distancing ambassadors will be out in force. So, these are civilian employees of the City government – 2,300 city employees will be out educating people, reminding them, giving out free face coverings. There'll be in 230 parks citywide. And I want to tell you – talk about giving out face coverings – our ambassadors, and all city agencies, and all our partners at the community level have given out now more than 6 million face coverings in just the last couple of weeks. Originally, I said we were going to give out 7.5 million. We obviously want to increase that goal because it's gone very well, and people are enthusiastic to get the face coverings. So, we're going to more than double where we are now. We're going to go to 12.5 million, and just keep growing. There'll be 50 city vehicles out. The loudspeakers reminding people of the guidance on how to handle things, reminding people there are free face coverings available, etc.

One of the things a lot of us are missing a lot this city – I can confess I'm missing it all the time – are amazing restaurants and bars. I spent a lot of time at those restaurants and bars, and I would love to see them back, and they will come back and due time. Normally, Memorial Day would be a time when they’re very, very full. People are partying, people are having a good time, but that’s not where we’re at yet. So, want to remind people that there are clear standards. There will be enforcement – there has to be penalties, there will be penalties. We're going to have teams from our Office of Nightlife and from Police Department going out around the city to restaurants and bars, getting these posters up, reminding people that the idea is if you go to a restaurant, a bar, it's for takeout, keep moving or of course you can get delivery at home. We're not doing congregating, we're not doing gatherings. We want people to keep moving, observed social distancing, stay safe. So, the message is as simple as it could be – take out, don't hang out. 

Another great way to be outside is our open streets and this has been a new initiative. And again, thanks to our colleagues in the City Council, a great idea that now that we have sufficient enforcement capacity, by the way, a lot of our city agencies are almost back up to full personnel NYPD, especially almost back up to the full personnel levels that had before the coronavirus. So far there are over 31 miles of open streets and bike lanes. Tomorrow, we will open over 13 new miles of open streets across the city. So. you'll see the exact locations, we have 1.8 miles managed by local partners local organizations that we're working with closely to keep them safe and keep them effective. 8.8 miles supported by local precincts, working with the community, 2.7 miles of park adjacent streets. All of them open tomorrow and will bring us to a grand total of 45 miles of open streets. 

Another important point is to think about how as we move forward, we learn lessons and how we keep people safe. And we're constantly looking at what's happening in the right way to do things. So, we have been all of us dealing with uncharted territory these last weeks. It's kind of stunning to think we've been doing this for a little more than 10 weeks. It feels like it's been a lot longer than that, but this crisis came on and so suddenly, and we've all made a lot of adjustments and we had to figure out the right way to get our standards understood by people and acted on by people the right way to enforce, but also the right way to stand back and let people figure out how to do it themselves and let community step forward in terms of educating people, helping make sure they're social distancing. 

I had a remarkable conference call video call with leaders of our cure violence movement yesterday. And these are folks who have in the last few years, folks in the care violence movement, also known as a Crisis Management System, have rewritten how you fight violence from the grassroots. It's an idea that's been around for a while, but in the last few years in this city, it has blossomed, and these are extraordinary people from the community of the community. Some have had problems and challenges in their life before, but they've turned them into strength, and they've turned them into the ability to communicate to others and help them on a better path. They are mediators, they are educators, they are people who stop violence before it even happens. And I've had the privilege of getting to know a lot of these folks and getting to know a lot of these organizations and they're doing something amazing and it's every year contributing more and more to reducing gun violence in this city and saving lives. So, as a result of this conversation yesterday we agreed that it made sense for the cure violence movement to step forward in this moment of crisis and play a crucial role at the local level. Now, fighting the coronavirus just like they fight gun violence every day. We will work with 18 Cure Violence organizations across 21 neighborhoods of this city and use the trust that they have built in communities. The important standing they have the reach they have to educate people about the coronavirus to help people do social distancing, to make sure folks have face coverings and are using them to make sure they have a sense of all the things to do to keep themselves safe, their family safe, their community safe. 

Talking about another great nonprofit organization, I had an experience just yesterday with one, the New York Blood Center. What amazing work they do. Chirlane and I went and gave blood yesterday and this is something that's really important. As you see, that's us at the New York Blood Center location in Lenox Hill, they have locations all over the city and we need help. Let me give New Yorkers a goal and we'll keep track of this goal with you. I'd like to see a thousand New Yorkers a day give blood through this crisis to keep the supply up, to make sure we can protect our fellow New Yorkers. And I know people want to do something positive. I want people to recognize that you can make a big difference by giving blood, particularly want to make an appeal to people of African descent, that it's very important to give blood at this point. And there is a reason for that and people know about the scourge that is sickle cell anemia. Obviously, it hurts and hits the African-American community most deeply. When you give blood, if you are a person of African descent, it is helpful because only a small percentage of blood supply can actually be used to treat a sickle cell patient most effectively, fact is less than two percent. So, making sure there are enough blood donations that could be used for those suffering from sickle cell is crucial. So please everyone, everyone give blood. It makes such a difference. Let's hit that goal of 1,000 per day. Again, sites all over the city, essential travel to say the least. If you're able to do this, to make an appointment, go to or call (800) 933-2566.

Now, a few quick thank you’s. I'm feeling tremendous gratitude as we go on this crisis. All the people who stepped up. We have made a lot of progress, particularly when it comes to personal protective equipment, the PPEs. But thank God a lot of people keep coming forward to help. So, I want to thank some of those who have stepped up. Peter Tu, wonderful community leader, Peter Tu and American Fuso Business Community have donated 200,000 N95 masks and 2,000 thermometers. That's fantastic. Maple Tree, a real estate firm, 252,000 nonsurgical masks. Peloton, 150,000 nonsurgical mass, Deloitte, 25,000 KN95 masks and the Networks for Emergencies and Relief, 40,000 disposable masks. Transperfect translation company, which is focused on a very particular need right now. Making sure we can help people get what they need in the language they speak. They're providing 125,000 and free translation services. We thank them for that. So those are wonderful donations people are making.

Okay, as we get to the end here, I want to offer a special warm salute to our Muslim brothers and sisters in this city because we are marking the end of the month-long celebration of Ramadan. Most important part of the year for the Muslim community. Want to wish a special Eid al-Fitr to our Muslim community. This was a tough Ramadan to say the least. Just like we had a tough Passover, a tough Easter, all great faiths together are dealing with the challenge of having their holidays during this crisis. And yet there is also a message in that that people's faith was strengthened. People were reminded of all our ancestors, what they endured. The faith came through stronger than ever in this time and all the faith communities in the city supported each other. So, to all our members of the Muslim community wish you a very special moment in this holiday and we will all move forward together.

Now, to our daily indicators and this is going to be a moment to talk about what all of you have achieved. I tell you every day, but actually you have achieved more than you might've even realized. You've achieved so much that we're actually able to think about our indicators in a new way today because this is about the reality on the ground. The indicators are numbers that they actually just reflect what you're doing. So, for the last weeks, we've had these indicators now up for about five weeks, everything was about the trajectory. And there you see that downward sloping line, and we love the fact that it's gone down and down. Everything was about trying to move in the right direction. I constantly talked to you about. I wanted all of them to go down. I want them to go down together and it was all about making clear we could do that and we could sustain it and some days we've had those ups and downs, but what's gotten me interesting is the ups and downs have been happening in a pretty narrow bandwidth. More and more what we're seeing is sustained progress, that we've gotten to a point that is the kind of level we were hoping for and we were hoping we could have sustained. And I mentioned yesterday we're seeing these numbers at a point that seems to be pretty consistent, now we got to keep it that way. I'm going to be constantly talking about it, if we don't do things right, those numbers can start to go up. If they start to go up, more restrictions could come with them.

So, our indicators that we talked about before were trend lines, now we're going to talk about thresholds and that's going to be the focus going forward. The threshold is simple, it's the level you want to stay below. We've been working on this constantly with our Health Department, Health + Hospitals, our whole team. And every day, of course, the Health Department has put out these statistics. And now we want to say very clearly, staying below those thresholds on a sustained basis is what makes clear to us that we are ready for more progress. So, now, we have three thresholds and I'll describe them. We want to get below them, stay below them. Again, I've talked about that 10- to 14-day window – that's still super pertinent, because that is about the incubation period for the disease. So, that tells you the trend lines. But we want to get there, stay there 10 days to 14 days and keep staying there. So, let's talk about them now and they directly relate to the previous indicators we've talked to in terms of trend lines. First, daily number of people admitted to hospitals for suspected COVID-19 – so, the threshold is to stay under 200 patients admitted per day. 200 would be about double the seasonal rate for similar types of diseases to COVID. So, we sort of grouped together similar respiratory infections. We say, what would that normal rate be? And then, what would double that be? 200 is about that magic number. If you're below 200, you're doing okay. So, that's the threshold we will now live by. Today's report is good news – 76 patients admitted. That's the daily number – 76, well below the threshold and we've been staying below the threshold. And I talked about this yesterday, we've been consistently between 50 and 80 people admitted per day. That's been a great trend in recent days. Let's stay there. And that gives us that entry to the next phase. Let's talk about number two – daily number of people in Health and Hospitals ICUs. So, this is a really important issue. When we talked about this indicator, originally, we're talking about ICU patients with COVID or suspected of having COVID. Now, as we're about to go through changes, you're going to see fewer patients with COVID, but you will see other patients start to come in with non-COVID problems, because more and more our ICU will start to deal with a bigger range of health issues. So, what we care about here is the total capacity ICU. That's obviously the measure of, are we able to deal with whatever's thrown at us? So, we'll be looking at total capacity going forward, all patients in Health + Hospitals ICUs. To-date, it's overwhelmingly been COVID patients to the tune of over 95 percent. Now, we're going to generalize it and say any and all patients in ICUs, going forward. So, let's look at that daily number. The threshold is to be under 375, and that's, again, a hard indicator to reach in a sense it's about each individual patient fighting for their life and the work that's being done to save them, but we are steadily getting there. Today, we're at 451 – not there yet, but we are down more than 100 patients in the past 10 days and we're confident that this number will continue to decline. And, finally, indicator three, the percentage of people tested citywide who are positive for COVID. The goal was to get under 15 percent and stay under 15 percent. And, as more and more testing occurs, we're watching that percentage. We want to keep it there. Today, we're at 11 percent tested positive. The last 10 days, we have been below the 15 percent threshold. So, again, very positive trends overall. And so, I will from now on continue to talk to you about the indicators, three of them, but it'll be in the vein of the thresholds. Two, we are there. On one and three – indicators one and three, we are there. Indicator two, not yet there, but we think we will be there soon and then we have to hold it. So this is all about everything you've been doing and about keeping up this progress. 

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