Tuesday, May 5, 2020

MAYOR DE BLASIO on COVID-19 MAY 5, 2020


  Mayor Bill de Blasio: You know, a lot of days I have the privilege of telling you about good things that New Yorkers are doing, heroic things that New Yorkers are doing, the way that New Yorkers are standing up to this virus and fighting back. I try to really focus on that cause it's an extraordinary story of the goodness of this city, the honor, the decency of the people of this city, and we only wish that that goodness, that decency were reflected in the way our national government sees this struggle here in New York City and understands what our people are going through. For our first responders, our health care heroes, the everyday people in New York City who have fought through this and now deserve some help to get back on our feet so we can move forward. We didn't ask for this disease. It came from far away, but it has knocked us back no fault of our own, and yet we have fought back. All we want is respect and support, and a sense that we're all in this together, but that's not what we're seeing coming from the White House.

He says, Florida is doing phenomenal. Texas is doing phenomenal. Midwest is fantastic. Okay, so Texas – here's a letter signed by a hundred mayors in Texas, Republican and Democrat, both talking about how their cities are suffering. How they help, or they will not be able to serve their people. They will not be able to provide basic services. They will not be able to get back on their feet from the great state of Texas right here. He says, the Midwest is fantastic. How about this headline from the Associated Press? Coronavirus cuts deep scars through meat packing cities in the Midwest, crisis growing in Iowa and other states. I don't know what country he's living in, but here in the United States of America, people are hurting. And it doesn't matter what state they're in. It doesn't matter if it's red or blue. It doesn't matter who they are. They're hurting and they need the help of their government. And now, we have the President of the United States trying to back away from his responsibilities.

You know, I talked to the president about Elmhurst Hospital and he expressed sympathy, expressed admiration for the health care workers. He said, oh, I grew up in that area, Queens. Well, Mr. President, if you respect those health care workers, you don’t walk away from them. Help them, because those very same people who have fought this heroic battle are now the people that don't know if they're going to have a job in the future because there's no money left. The only place that we can get the help we need to get back on our feet is the federal government. 

This is a story of New York City coming together in common cause. And the numbers tell you something you should be very proud of. Daily admissions for COVID 19 in our hospitals down below a hundred a day now. Still too many, but tremendous progress. Fewer and fewer New Yorkers fighting for their lives in our intensive care units, in our public hospitals. The percentage of people testing positive, generally going down. Not every single day, but overall going down and going down a lot. You did that. You achieved it. You get the credit, and I'm sure you're proud of it and I want you to feel the pride that causes you to want to finish this fight strong, and take the next step.

So, we have a three-part action plan to add support to 3-1-1 immediately. One, we've hired reinforcement call takers, this one made all the sense in the world, so many calls, more people need to take them. 285 more call takers have been added in the last two weeks, 150 are NYPD cadets, what a great training for them and how to serve and help people in the City devoted young people ready to serve people and get them answers, get them help. 120 temporary hires, 65 percent of whom speak Spanish and that's crucial in this crisis, so many folks who speak Spanish needing help and needing that reassuring voice on the land line. Also 15 FDNY employees have stepped up to help reinforce 3-1-1 and now we've added four new call centers because we needed more capacity. Now, 3-1-1 got a lot done before the crisis, but the crisis demanded a different mindset, so we brought in leaders from the NYPD and the FDNY to really strengthen the approach at 3-1-1 to think not just about responding, but about actually preventing problems, preventing emergencies when someone needs food, if they don't get food, there's an emergency that's going to happen eventually. If someone has COVID symptoms, we don't know yet, that means they have the disease, but we do know it's a danger that must be addressed immediately. You talk about urgency, you talk about focus, you talk about getting things done, you're talking about the NYPD and the FDNY. So we've brought in a leadership group of senior officers from PD and FD and they're bringing some very important practices with them, like a morning roll call where they get everyone together and talk about what is coming in the day ahead, what they're seeing, what happened on the last shift, what are the new topics they have, address, how they can get ahead of things proactively. Also, a reliance on data and learning from the data, 3-1-1 has some great data scientists, the NYPD and the FDNY have really perfected the use of data to serve people better, so they're bringing in that expertise to ensure they see a spike in calls at a certain hour, they see a certain problem that needs to be addressed, they're shifting resources, shifting personnel to that problem. They're also creating an express lane and the express lane idea is if you're calling with something related to COVID-19, if you're calling with a need for food, something as urgent as that goes to the front of the line gets addressed immediately. The goal here is to have little or no wait time for people who are calling about anything related to this crisis in English or Spanish and of course we serve people in many other languages as well. So, what's happening now at 3-1-1 is something very different to deal with a crisis we've never experienced before. I want to thank everyone at 3-1-1 for the amazing work you do, and you've been strong during this crisis. I want to thank the NYPD and the FDNY for stepping in and bringing your expertise. Folks who know how to deal with emergencies and challenges better than anyone else on earth to make 3-1-1 much stronger, much faster, able to serve much better. This is something really important, it's going to help hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers right away.

Even a few days ago we were not seeing much incidents, but now we are 15 cases in New York City now we've identified and that is enough for sure to say even though it's uncommon compared to the hundreds of thousands of people who have contracted this disease is still causing us concern. So, this particular condition, even though it's rare, here are the symptoms and again, this affects children, fever, rash, abdominal pain and vomiting. If your children are experiencing any child's experiencing these symptoms, particularly in combination, call your doctor right away. We want to make sure that if a child is dealing with this reality, they get the support that they need. We will have in a few minutes an opportunity to hear from our health care leaders who can explain in more detail, but again, when we see something, we want to identify it and tell the public about it. This is something that's concern I want to make sure all New Yorkers are aware and we've put out a health alert letting health care providers know that if they see incidents of this new condition that we want to make sure it's reported immediately to our Health Department so we can identify what's going on and how extensive it is and deal with it.

On the question of antibody testing, I told you a few days back, we had been in conversations over the last few weeks with the Department of Health and Human Services and with the Centers for Disease Control. The focus was on antibody testing on a widespread level for our first responders and our health care workers. Last night I spoke with Admiral Brett Giroir, who is the Head of the U.S. Public Health Service and Assistant Secretary at H + H – sorry, HHS, my apology – HHS. And he was abundantly clear the federal government is ready to move with antibody testing for the heroes here in New York City, any first responder or health care worker who wants to take advantage of it, it will be made available for free. This initiative will be up and running by next week, maybe even sooner, but certainly by next week the goal is to test 140,000 of our heroes and this testing will be done at hospitals, firehouses police stations and correction facilities. So, this is very, very important, it's going to give us much more ability to let all of our heroes know what's happened in terms of exposure to this disease in their own lives. It's going to be really helpful in terms of finding more donors for the plasma treatments that we're very hopeful about. It's going to give a lot of information to the federal government and to us about what's happening out there with this disease that's going to help us fight this disease further. So, this is a step in the right direction for sure.

Today is also Building Service Worker Day. Now, talk about unsung heroes, the doormen and the doorwomen, the porters, the cleaners, the security officers, the folks who keep buildings running, every kind of building, every place that's functioning right now – that's part of fighting back this disease. Every place that people live that has a staff that makes sure the building keeps running. Everything we depend on every day in this city, in peace time and wartime - these are unsung heroes who are there for us and keep things running. Take an opportunity today to thank them. They don't get the thanks they deserve, but what would we do without them? The city wouldn't work without them. Let's thank them today. Special thank you to our colleagues in labor – 32BJ, SEIU – all over New York City for the amazing work you're doing in this crisis. And yesterday, and this we should be thankful for every day, but yesterday was International Firefighters Day. I went to go meet with EMTs and paramedics at EMS Station Four on the Lower East Side yesterday. Our EMTs, our paramedics, our firefighters, all part of the FDNY family - they've been amazing. They've dealt with things that no one's ever seen before; they have saved so many lives. They have stood firm, absolutely made us proud in this crisis. Keep making us pride, proud. We should be thankful for them all the time, but let's give a special thank you to them this week.

Okay, the part of this press conference at each day we all look forward to the daily indicators to know where we're going. Yesterday, great day; today, a little less great, still some good news. We need it to get better to fully take the next steps. So, three indicators, first one daily number of people admitted to hospitals for suspected COVID-19 – that is down, that is good. It from 88 to 75. Think about that for a moment – 75 people admitted to hospitals for suspected COVID-19. That is a sea change from where we were a few weeks ago – that's fantastic. Daily number of people in our ICUs across our public hospitals for suspected COVID-19 - down from 632 to 596, great news. That still means there's almost 600 people right now fighting for their lives in those ICUs. So good important news, but with something that reminds us, the battle still rages for so many. Here's the one I don't like, the percentage of people tested citywide positive for COVID-19 – up from 17 percent to 22 percent. We know each day can vary for a variety of reasons, but the reason we want all three to go down at once is that tells us we're on a solid, consistent path and that's what leads us to be able to start loosening up. Didn't have the day we needed today, but, overall, we're making progress. Let's keep fighting. Let's keep fighting to bring these numbers down consistently and take that big next step forward.

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