Wednesday, May 27, 2020

MAYOR DE BLASIO on COVID-19 - May 27, 2020

  Mayor Bill de Blasio: Well, good morning, everybody. This city continues to move forward because of all that you are doing. Again, I express my thanks every day for New Yorkers who are doing so much to fight back this disease, get us past this crisis and on to better times. We've talked a lot about the crucial new pieces of the equation. More and more testing, and our tracing program. Tracing contacts so we can contain the disease further. We've made some big strides the last few days on these fronts.

So, to review – look, a few days ago we wanted to get to 20,000 tests per day in New York City. That was something that for months alluded us. Being able to get to that basic level, 20,000 tests per day. We hit that number ahead of schedule. Now as of today, we are at 27,000 tests per day capacity and growing. We're well on our way to our goal of getting to at least 50,000 tests in the coming weeks, and then we're going to go and surpass that. The testing initiative now has over 180 sites that are either up and running or have been announced and are on the way. So, to get easier and easier for more and more New Yorkers to get testing, and that's going to help us move forward. And then tracing, as I said, the goal originally was to have a thousand contact tracers trained ready and on the field by June 1st. That number will now be 1,700 by June 1st, and then we'll grow from there. We are going to get to the level of 2,500 contact tracers in the first half of June. And then as I've said, we are ready to go to as many as five to 10,000, that's what will help us beat back this disease.

It is the ability to take care of people who are found to either be symptomatic or who test positive. It's so crucial to think of why we need to take care of folks in that situation because if we take care of them, we help them to get well. But of course, we also help them to not spread the disease. Now, any individual who test positive for the disease, anyone who's symptomatic, we've been telling you for months, there are things you have to do, because once you know you are symptomatic, once you know you test positive, you know there are things that you can do to make sure that you of course take care of yourself, but also that you don't spread the disease inadvertently. 

We want to take care of you, and all the people in your life, and that's where the take care point comes in. We can do a lot to help you because think about it, if you're able to safely separate and be at home, well, okay, then you still need help, right? You need to make sure you're getting medical attention. You need to be able to check in with medical personnel as you're progressing or if there's a problem to address it. You need food, you need all the basics to get to you. You might need prescriptions. How do you do all that? Well, we are setting up an apparatus that will allow us to support you. If you're at home and you can isolate properly at home, then this apparatus will support you safely separating at home. If you have to be in a hotel, we'll be able to help you as well. But just to make clear at home, we can account for the whole range of needs, meals, prescriptions and medication, physical health support, mental health support. People are going through so much, and we have to make sure that people have that support as well. So, there'll be regular contact with our test and trace team. There'll be phone calls in person visits when necessary. Text messages, you name it to stay close, stay connected. And who does all this work, who makes sure you have what you need, these are the folks we call resource navigators. They help you safely separate at home.

All of this is free. I'm going to say this many, many times today and the days and weeks to come. Every bit of this service is being provided for free, because this is how we help people. This is how we overcome this disease. If you end up knowing you need to separate from people at home but you need that support, the last thing you should have to worry about is how am I going to pay for it. We have brought on 15 community-based organizations as you see there on the screen. These organizations will actually hire the resource navigators from local communities. They're going to be familiar with all the neighborhoods of the city. They’re going to speak the languages of all the neighborhoods of the city, be able to connect with people. That initiative is starting right now. Those navigators will be on the ground next week starting their work as the contact tracing starts to grow, and ramping up so that we'll have plenty of capacity to reach anyone who needs that help.

So, if you have a loved one in your home, and they're older, and you want to protect them, you clearly might be better off going to one of the hotels to make sure there's no risk to the person you love. So, right now, we have 1,200 hotel rooms right ago. And again, I’m going to keep saying that key word free. We'll more than double that number to over 3000 rooms in the course of the next few months. But the bottom line is as many rooms as we need, we're going to have, so we're already planning on building that out, but here is the simplest rule in the world. Anyone who needs that hotel room to safely separate from the other people they live with, they will get that hotel room for free. This is how we protect people.  What does that mean? It means daily medical check-ins. It means meals, it means laundry. It means making sure you get, again, any medicines delivered that you need. It means mental health support as well as physical health support.

You talk about period of up to 14 days, it's not forever, but for that period of time we're going to make sure you have what you need. How do you get to a room? Well, obviously if you're identified as someone who has tested positive or is symptomatic through our test and trace initiative, they'll be able to, people involved in the contact tracing will be able to refer you to a hotel room, make all the components come together, get you the transportation you need, etcetera. But what if, for example, you go in to a doctor's office, and this the doctor who says, wait a minute, you know, you're symptomatic or the doctor tells you, they in fact did the test with you, come back and say the test is positive. It's important that you safely separate, its important you go to a hotel.  So, any health care provider all over the city, they can simply email This is a simple process through which any health care provider can make sure that you get the hotel room you need, if that's the best way to protect your loved ones and help you through this situation.

Let's say you don't have a doctor, well we’ve said many times, any New Yorker who's in the middle of an urgent situation needs to check on what's going on, wants to talk to a health care professional who doesn't have their own, you can always call 3-1-1 and get connected to a health care provider, to an Health + Hospitals clinician. But specifically if you know you're symptomatic already, if you're know you're symptomatic, you know in a living situation that you can't safely separate from others, you can call directly to our COVID hotline to get connected to the hotel program, and that number is 844-692-4692. When you call that number, if you say, look, here's my situation at home, here are my symptoms. A doctor will evaluate it with you, and they say, yup, that's time to go to hotel, then all of the wheels start in motion and we make sure you get the support you need. So, again, it's test, it’s trace, it’s take care, they all go together. So, we're getting members from 60 great organizations around the city. They really represented a wonderful cross section in New York City, they'll be meeting twice a week with our test-trace and take care of team and they'll be guides helping us think through how to keep making this the very best effort it can be. I can't emphasize enough how important this will be in beating back this disease cause remember the coronavirus thrives when there isn't that ability to find each and every person who needs help. But when every single day you find more and more people who need the help and get them the help they need and that happens faster and faster and better and better, that keeps constricting the spread of this disease. That's what has worked around the world and that's what's going to work here in New York City.

Okay. Now, as we continue to fight this disease, as we work towards this restart, let's of course always think about the horrible physical toll this disease has taken. The people we have lost, we think about them all the time. The people who are still suffering. The folks who we worry about, particularly because they're older and they have those preexisting conditions that we want to protect. The physical reality is always in the front of our minds, but as usual, the mental health reality often escapes our view, and this is something we should not allow to happen. We know the history of this country has been that somehow mental health has been too much of a taboo subject, but the mental health challenges of coronavirus had been profound. People have felt scared, anxious, confused, isolated, and they need more support than ever. And they need to talk about it and get it out and know that someone's listening and someone cares. This was abundantly clear to me yesterday I toured Queensbridge houses with some wonderful leaders of our cure violence movement, community activists who had done so much to keep neighborhoods safe. I talked to a lot of the residents of Queensbridge houses, largest public housing development in the city, in fact, in this country. People are carrying a weight, it's a very deep weight and it's a very real weight and we have to address it now and going forward. We've talked before, there's a lot to do this summer going into the fall, particularly for our school children. And this is a time to think about mental health in general and it is mental health awareness month. So, everybody this is a time to reflect, to think about how we support all those people, those health care heroes, those first responders, they'd been through a lot. How we make sure that mental health services are available in the places that are doing such important work. Our hospitals, our shelters, the places that serve young people, including a homeless youth, making sure that we're attending to that, not just the physical needs but the mental health needs as well. Mental health services that people need, mental health information they need. And it's a reminder this month and every month, if for any reason you need trained counselor to talk to 24/7 multiple languages and yes, for free, always for free call 888-NYC-WELL you are never alone in New York City. If you need mental support or someone in your life needs mental health support and you want to talk about how to get it to them, call 888-NYC-WELL.

We are now in a fiscal crisis here in this city. It is not the responsibility or fault of anyone in these five boroughs. We didn't ask for the coronavirus and we have spent so much time, energy, heart, soul and money fighting back the coronavirus and often alone without the help of our federal government, but New Yorkers have done it. I originally reported to you last month that between the current fiscal year and the one that begins July 1st we had $7.4 billion in projected loss revenue because of course the economy is not functioning the way it normally does and that's taken away all the money that we use to provide services to all of you. $7.4 billion, we now have a new estimate that we have just published and I'm very sorry to have to give you this news, but it's not shocking to me that things have gotten worse. We are now $9 billion in the hole between the current fiscal year and the one that begins July 1st. $9 billion and we project unfortunately beyond next fiscal year additional lost revenue that will hold us back further. There is literally no way that we can solve this problem without federal help or without having to make very, very painful choices that will affect the quality of life in this city. Our building provide basic services and how many people we're able to employ to support you in the middle of a pandemic in the middle of a moment where people need that public support and help more never in the middle of a moment where we were spending billions of dollars to protect your health and safety, to make sure you're fed, to make sure there's a roof over your head. This is the very time where we're not getting the help from the US, Senate or the President and we are getting to a point of really tough choices. We have to pass a budget by law by the end of June. So, we have about four weeks.

So, this week I asked the State of New York for help. I asked the State of New York to give us a fallback, to give us a safety net and that is borrowing authority. We need some capacity to borrow. After 9/11 in the middle of that crisis, Mayor Bloomberg went to Albany, asked the Legislature and the Governor to support New York City and provide borrowing authority – they did. New York City handled that borrowing authority smartly, wisely – got us through that crisis, got us to the point we were just a few months ago before this pandemic, a strong city, economically strong, providing so much support to our people, safest big city in America, highest number of people employed in the history of New York City. That's where we were in February – that recently – because this city has been smart in its stewardship of our resources, smart in the way we serve our people and grow our economy, we need to keep doing that. So, we've asked the state for that borrowing authority. By the way, the State has granted itself the very same borrowing authority. In April, the State granted itself $11 billion in borrowing authority. I've asked Albany for this borrowing authority so we can protect our people and I know a lot of people are stepping up in the city and saying that's the right thing to do; a lot of folks in our labor community have stepped forward and let leaders in Albany know how important it is to protect working people and to keep working people, working by having this authority as a last resort. So, this is a city unlike the city we knew decades ago; decades ago, New York City went through a lot of trouble and we learned a lot of valuable lessons. The city of today, a strong, careful, smart city when it comes to our finances; this is a city that can and must move forward, that can and must provide basic services. Let's keep fighting for that federal stimulus. That's the right way to do it, but in the meantime, let's get that borrowing authority from Albany to make sure we have that fall back and to make sure we can protect our people.

Now, let me turn to our daily indicators and thresholds and again I'm going to refer to the structure we're using now and this again is an example of the success that has been achieved in this city that we're talking now in terms of these thresholds. So, the first one is the daily number of people admitted to hospitals for suspected COVID-19 – remember, we want to see that beat under 200 individuals a day. That is a level that is sustainable if it's under 200 a day. Look at today's report, 55 for a city of 8.6 million people – only 55 people admitted to the hospital for suspected COVID-19. That's really good news. Now daily number of people in our Health + Hospital’s intensive care units - so this threshold, we want to keep that under 375. We have a little more work to do – we're at 431 patients today, but we're confident that number can continue to go down and we'll continue to go down. So, more work to do there, but on the right track. And so important, the percentage of people tested citywide who are positive for COVID-19, again staying under that 15 percent threshold is what we want to see. We are at 8 percent today and that is so good to see every day we're in single digits. So that progress is because of you; don't let up. Keep at it with the social distancing, shelter in place, wearing the face coverings. Let's be smart as we get ready for the next phase, let's do things the right way and that's what gets us to the next phase.

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