Monday, May 4, 2020

MAYOR DE BLASIO on COVID-19 May 4, 2020

  Mayor Bill de Blasio: Monday morning, and a morning that really feels different in so many ways. First of all, it's a beautiful morning and really feels like spring is here finally, but also there's a little more hope in the air, because we've seen some real progress, and that's a good feeling every day when we think things are getting a little bit better and we see some real evidence of it. And we know that we're focused on not just what we feel but what we know. Proving to you each day that we are making tangible progress so we can get back to that road to something much better. But again, we're always going to focus on the facts, and when the facts are moving the right direction, that's because of you. The warmer weather makes us start to think maybe things are even a little better than the facts suggest, and that's why we have to always keep our balance. Be hopeful, be inspired, be diligent, keep doing what we have to do, because what we're feeling that beautiful weather out in that pole of normalcy, let's make it become real by our actions. So, we understand, all of us, that we have a job ahead of us. 

Our hospitals do not feel normal yet. While we might feel out in the streets is a lot better than what people are experiencing in the hospitals. There's still a huge challenge in our hospitals. It may be better than what it was a few weeks ago, but it's still very, very real. In our public hospitals, we're still around double the capacity in the ICU’s that we were a few months ago. There are still every single day people coming in in desperate shape who need the help of our healthcare heroes. There are people who have been in the ICU a long time, still fighting for their lives. So, remember that as we start to feel a little better, we have to have a lot of empathy, a lot of feeling for the doctors and nurses, the frontline healthcare workers who continue that battle, every day go toward that danger. We've all heard the heroic story of Elmhurst Hospital in Queens, but there are many, many others like it. And each day, remember these professionals go into a situation, still fighting an enemy that is not fully understood by the medical community. Still understanding that danger awaits them when they go through those doors and yet they show up every single day. We all want to go as far away from wherever COVID-19 might be. These healthcare heroes go right toward it.

So, we need to keep supporting them. And remember this was a war. The body armor for the health workers is those PPE’s, that personal protective equipment that we've talked about so much. That remains such a crucial piece of the picture. And remember for a long time, this has been a week to week, day to day struggle for weeks and weeks to make sure there was enough where we needed them, and so many people have been working so hard to always make sure that our hospitals, our nursing homes had what they needed. 

So, how did we get to a point now where we're starting to have a little bit of breathing room? A lot of it was good old-fashioned New York City ingenuity. It was those folks at the Brooklyn Navy Yard and other places who built face shields, like the one you're seeing there. That was literally put together by hand in the Brooklyn Navy Yard by New Yorkers who wanted to help our healthcare heroes. That made a huge difference. The folks who came together, you met them a few weeks back who put together the ventilators from scratch, an amazing effort. The surgical gowns that had been both created here in New York City never were produced here, now they are, and sourced from places as far away as Vietnam using relationships that New York City companies had. There's been a lot of good stories here of New York City ingenuity of New Yorkers coming together, but we cannot rest on those laurels, because we know we got to keep protecting our heroes, and we know we're far from done with this disease right now and we also know that this disease later on could have a second wave, and we're not going to be caught looking. We're going to be ready for it.

So, here's where we stand today. For the first time since March, we actually start a week with enough of all of the PPEs we need on that crisis standard, and I'm always going to emphasize that, that basic standard. Not what we'd like to have ideally, but what is workable and usable for a situation like this. We have a little breathing room. We can finally ensure for the whole week ahead that every hospital, every nursing home will get what they need. And that means the N95 mask, the surgical mask, the gloves, the face shields, the surgical gowns, the whole set. It's striking the largest city in the country, the greatest country in the world. 

. The question for today is how do we stabilize the situation? How do we help right now? How do we build a stronger future for protecting our elders? Over the last weeks, we've sent 10 million pieces of personal protective equipment to the nursing homes to protect the folks that work there, and the folks who live there. This week we are sending to nursing homes across the five boroughs. 1.9 million surgical masks, 170,000 face shields, 760,000 gloves, 173,000 surgical gowns, 15,000 coveralls and aprons, and 10,000 shoe coverings. So, we're going to keep surging those PPE’s into the nursing homes, continue making them stronger so they can protect the precious individuals who are living there and who mean so much to so many families in this city. That's a commitment we're going to keep.

 I want New York City to protect itself going forward, because we've come to realize we couldn't rely on the private market, we couldn't rely on the federal government. We need to protect ourselves. There's no place like New York City, and New York City has tremendous ability and capacity, and the most talented people in the world. Going forward, we're going to make sure that we're ready no matter what else is happening around us. So, I told you a few days back about the fact that we're starting a New York City strategic reserve, and this is something that's going to grow, and it's not only going to be about stockpiling, it's going to be about ensuring we have the capacity to build things right here. And whatever we deal with in the future, we're not waiting on factories in another part of the country or another part of the world to the maximum extent possible. We have the plans and the ability right here to build what we need.

So, job-one, of course, is to make sure we can address the immediate needs. So, when we got to the point of having a two-week supply of PPE’s for the immediate needs of our hospitals and nursing homes, we are then going to start the process of building up our reserve. We want to have a 90-day stockpile of PPE’s and crucial equipment. We want to have that ready and in reserve for whatever happens up ahead. Look, I talked yesterday about the boomerang. We want to fight against that boomerang, but that reserve is there, God forbid we ever saw a resurgence of the disease. There's also more and more talk about a second wave of the disease later in the year at the beginning of next year. We want to be ready for that, so we're going to have our own reserves that we control ready at all times to protect our people. .

Now, an important piece of this larger puzzle, how we protect each other, how we fight back this disease is something that is a more recent part of the strategy, but I think it's been very, very successful overall, and that is face coverings. You know, weeks ago I said we want New Yorkers to now start using face coverings in public, I have to say thank you to the people in this City. Overwhelmingly, even though it wasn't something you were used to doing, overwhelmingly New Yorkers have taken to using face coverings when you go outside it takes some getting used to as we've emphasized, you don't need a fancy surgical mask, you don't need an N95, you just need something to cover your face. And New Yorkers have been creative and resourceful as always, and the vast majority of people are complying, and we want to see a lot more compliance going forward.

So, remember that protecting each other reduces the spread of the disease gets us one step closer to normal. I know putting on a face covering is not necessarily fun, I know as the weather gets warmer, it may feel inconvenient. Sometimes you don't remember it, but think about this to motivate you, when you put on that face covering, you are reducing the spread of this disease and taking one small step towards normalcy. So, it may not always feel fun, but it's going to feel really good when we get out of this. When we can put this crisis behind us, everyone can contribute, just put on that face covering, yes, don't hesitate to put it on, bring it with you, bring some extras with you so you always have one. Now, we know that sometimes people just forget, or they don't have one or they don't have a way to get one, so the City is going to step in. This weekend is the last couple of days we started huge distribution of free face coverings in parts and other locations around the City, great response, people were really grateful to get them, we're going to now build that up to a much higher level. So, we are now going to ramp up a plan and it will take effect starting immediately to distribute 7.5 million face coverings, meaning wherever you turn you're going to be offered in face covering and it's going to be on an ongoing basis for weeks to come to make sure that everyone has what they need. These of course will be distributed for free, as we work together to beat back this disease. 5 million in this, so there's a couple of kinds, I'll hold up this kind first. 5 million are the three-ply nonmedical masks. So again, I want to, when you look at one of these, and I did not really fully understand it first, these are the ones that have the wire at the top that you can kind of shape around your nose. These are the three-ply non-medical masks, these are not the same as what our health care heroes use, but they really do help. They really do reduce the spread of the disease if anyone happens to be infected it helps make sure that others are not, 5 million of these will be given out. Now, these are reusable so long as they stay dry. The other thing we're going to give out is 2.5 million of the— cloth face covering, so cloth face coverings that are reusable, that are washable, you can use them as long as they hold together. We'll be getting a lot of those as well. Now where will we be giving them out? A lot of places in New York City, a whole different, whole different set of places I mentioned our parks, of course, that will be one focal point. In addition, at public housing developments, at the grab and go food sites being run out of schools, at Mitchell Lama affordable housing buildings, at the Staten Island ferry. Any place that the NYPD and the Parks Department and other agencies are going to enforce social distancing, they'll also be carrying a supply of free face coverings. So, it's going to become more and more given to see it expand this week we're in now. And I think it's going to make things easier and easier for New Yorkers who want to follow these rules and want to keep people safe and that is clearly the vast majority of the people of this City.

Now, let's talk about what we continue to do as we work back towards normalcy. What we continue to do to keep making things happen for our kids. You know, I've said before, our kids have gone through a lot in this crisis. I think in some ways it's been particularly tough for them compared to everyone else, we all feel stir-crazy – I think they feel that many times over. But what has been a real ray of light here is that the remote learning, the online learning that was entirely experimental, trying to build something out for 1.1 million kids in a matter of days. It's really been a good news story, and everyone deserves credit, our educators, our parents, our kids, all the folks who came together from the DOE, the companies, everyone who put this together, they're doing something amazing and it's working. But one of the things that was clear from the very beginning we were honest about is, look, there's a digital divide is something we have to fight against and it's alive and well that means some people have technology and other people don't. Well, in the middle of this crisis, something good happened despite the pain, despite the challenges, and that was something really important for closing that digital divide. Every single public-school student who requested an iPad, got one. I just want you to think about the magnitude of that statement, in a City where for a long time the haves and the have nots have played out in terms of technology and huge numbers of kids just didn't have access to the technology that so many other New Yorkers considered to be absolutely basic to their lives. Every child who asked for an iPad got an iPad for free, that is now total up to 255,000 iPads that have been distributed in a matter of weeks. Extraordinary effort, everyone involved should be very proud of themselves and any public-school child who still doesn't have that iPad, it's totally available on request delivered to the door of the family. But for any reason there's still a child who hasn't gotten one, they can call 3-1-1, the family can call 3-1-1 and get one right away. But the good news is we now want to go further and there's a special group of New York City children we want to help and these are students with disabilities in our non-public schools. We want to make sure since we have some additional iPads available, we want to help them to learn to the maximum during this tough time, take full advantage of online learning. So, we are offering iPads for free to these students as well. Now I've often said kids with disabilities struggle, and they fight so hard and we have to have their back. We have to respect how tough it is for our students and their families dealing with this additional challenge and now a pandemic on top of it, we have to be there for them. So, we will provide a free iPad for any students who have disabilities and are in our non-public schools. We believe that's a university of about 35,000 students and that means students in religious schools, independent schools, any non-public schools, any student needs an iPad and goes to one of those schools and has disability can call 3-1-1, their family can call 3-1-1 or go to, sign up, iPad will be sent to your home for free.

We're now going to take that public health lab measure out of our indicators, it served us well to now, but we don't think it is necessary anymore. We're going to use that citywide testing number as the sole measure in the third indicator, especially as more and more testing is coming online, we're getting a truer and truer sense of what's happening, and that number certainly will suffice. So, I am very pleased to say we have three indicators now and all three are down today. So, congratulations New York City, this is the kind of day we have been waiting for and it is a beautiful thing and let's put together some more like it and that's our pathway to something better. Daily number of people indicator one daily number of people admitted to hospitals for suspected COVID-19, that is down from 113 to 88. Daily number of people in ICU across our public hospitals for suspected COVID down 645 to 632. Percent of people tested who are positive for COVID-19 citywide down from 20 percent to 17 percent an excellent day. All three down, all moving in the same direction. Let's do it again. Thank you. Well done, New York City.

So, as I close, I want to do a small thought process of empathy, because I think the vast majority of people in the City, you either know a doctor, a nurse, a lab tech, someone, a health care worker, someone who works in a hospital, someone who works in a nursing home. Think of the people in your life, think of your friends, think of your family. Most New Yorkers know someone who works in our extraordinary health care field in this city. Just take a short time to put yourself literally in their shoes, walking through the door of that hospital, that clinic, that nursing home, and as you do that, if you try and empathize, if you try and feel what they're feeling, I don't think you're going to say, oh, I don't feel any fear at all, I don't recognize any danger. I think you would immediately say, no, in fact, you do feel fear. You do feel the danger present, but what's so striking, what's so amazing is not that people somehow make themselves blind to the fear, but that they stare it in the face and they walk through the door anyway; it's absolutely inspiring. It's happening every hour of every day here in this city. Why do people do this? Because they believe in saving lives; they believe they are answering a higher calling than they are. So, lets us answer a higher calling and get them what they need. Get them those PPEs, make sure they are protected and then let's protect them with what we can do by sheltering in place to the maximum extent possible, by going and making sure that we always practice social distancing, by putting on those face coverings; all of that is part of protecting our health care heroes and protecting each other and it works and today's indicators prove it. So, we are clearly winning this fight. Let's keep winning and let's protect the heroes who we depend on so much.

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