Wednesday, May 6, 2020

MAYOR DE BLASIO on COVID-19 May 6, 2020

  Mayor Bill de Blasio: I want to start with a word – and it's not a word that is necessarily one that's so common to life in our city – and the word is, moderation. Moderation sometimes may seem like a bit of a foreign word here in New York City, and I mean that in a way that's actually kind of positive. We, as New Yorkers, we tend to think about big dreams, have big plans and do things with a lot of energy. As New Yorkers, we put our all into everything, and you certainly have seen that in the way that all of you have fought back this virus. It's been outstanding and I'm very, very proud of the people this city. Just like we do everything in a big bold way in normal times people have fought back with all they’ve got in this time, and that's why we're pushing back this disease more every day.

Now, it would be natural for New Yorkers to want a big, fast, bold restart. It's natural for us to want to get back on our feet as quickly as possible. We are not a patient people, and that is in many ways part of what makes us great, but this is a time where we need to start appreciating what's good about the word moderation because for us to get to where we need to go, for us to get to that big strong restart and to get to the recovery which I know we can achieve, we have to do this the smart way. This is a case where a little moderation I think would be good for all of us. One step at a time and let's get it right. So, there's no on off switch here. This has to be done in stages, it has to be done gradually. .

So, for example, what kind of personal protective equipment will people need in each industry, in each part of our economy as they open up. We want to be very specific about what will protect both the folks who work in each industry, and their customers. We have to be very clear about how we're going to use temperature checks. I think this'll be an important part of the equation, but how are we going to use them? Where are we going to use them? Making sure we have enough thermometers. These are all things that we're planning on right now, and as we get the details ready to go, we're going to be announcing.

How do we make sure that cleaning is handled the right way? It's going to be different depending on what type of work we're talking about, but we want it to be clear and transparent. What kind of cleaning is going to be necessary to sustain the right environment going forward and keep everyone safe? And when someone tests positive, what happens next? Everyone who needs to be quarantined is quarantined. We want to be clear how that works, right down to the point where someone shows up at work and at that moment finds out they've got a positive test. What do they do then if they find out the night before, what do they do? We're going to lay it out so people know exactly how to handle each scenario.

Now, we already know a lot from the science. Even though no one knows everything about this disease, we know a lot from the medical community. We know a lot about what has been working and not working in other places of the world. We're going to take the good models, and adapt them for what we do here. But we also know there's no place like New York City and we know that we as a city government, we can take all the best information, and come up with the right game plan, but we need to always run it by the people who actually do the work. The people in each business, the people in each sector of our life in this city and our economy, who understand the day to day life of their workplaces best, and can give us real world advice about what's going to work, what's not going to work, what questions they need answered. We want to help each business back on their feet as quickly as possible. And it's very, very important that we think about everything that makes up life in this city.

So, we're naming a group of different councils. We're going to start with a group of people that I'm appointing to each. If we think others need to be named, we will, if we think any other group has to be formed, we can do that obviously at any point. But I think this initial group gives us a good start at some of the things we have to work on right away. So, today we are going to roll out six councils and then there will be four more on the way after that. The first of these we'll meet tomorrow. All the others will be meeting in the next few days. By next week everyone will have had their initial meeting, and we'll be up and running. And their views, their questions, their input are going to be used immediately in our restart planning, and then continue on as we build ahead towards recovery. Each group will have between 20 and 40 members. Each group will be led by one or two deputy mayors and heads of different city agencies seeking their input. We'll roll out today the names of the first six councils, and then the additional four as quickly as possible, and I'm going to give you some examples of councils we're bringing together that are particularly crucial for the restart.

So, small business, this advisory council will be led by our Deputy Mayors, Vicki Been and Phil Thompson. Now, small business has really taken it on the chin here, and even though I am glad there's been a very robust federal aid program, we need to make that program work a lot better, and we're pushing hard on the federal government on that front. We need to make sure every single New York City small business that can take advantage of it does. We want to figure out every way we can help. . So, we are going to listen. We're going to come up with plans that will help small businesses back on their feet. We need them. We need them because they’re the heart and soul of our city. We need them because they-re so much of what makes New York City great. We need them because that's actually where a huge percentage of employment is in this city. We need everything. We need our bodegas and corner stores. We need our bars and restaurants. We need our startups. You know, that are such an important part of our emerging tech economy. You name it, we need them all. So, this group will be eyes and ears, idea generators, innovators to help us figure out the next steps.

Obviously, the city has a huge number of larger businesses as well, and we depend on them deeply. The larger businesses will be crucial to jump-starting our economic recovery. We're going to be listening carefully for how we can help them to get up and running as quickly as possible. Certainly, from the employers I'm hearing from, that's their desire to hit the ground running. But also, there's a tremendous understanding we have to do it right, and we have to do it in a way that's safe, and we cannot allow that boomerang to happen that we've talked about. With larger businesses in many cases, thousands of employees, huge logistical considerations. Many have big workplaces that have to be thought of very smartly in terms of keeping everyone safe. This group again will be led by our Deputy Mayor Vicki Been, and bring together leaders of large businesses from around this city, and we welcome their input and we need it.

The next group focuses on labor, and workforce development. Look let's face it, who is hurting most in this crisis? Working people. Who is this city? Why is this city so great? Because of working people. Who makes this city great? Working people. And so many working people have been heroes during this crisis, keeping the city going, and they will be the heroes of the restart and the recovery as well. They need to be heard, and their rights need to be protected, and their needs need to be recognized, and their voices often left out when governments make their decisions, this time we have to get it right, and have working people and those who represent working people at the table from the beginning. I am a big believer in the power of our labor movement. They will be front and center. Their voices will be heard as we build this restart and recovery. This group will be led by First Deputy Mayor, Dean Fuleihan and Deputy Mayor Phil Thompson.

Obviously also one of the underpinnings of our economy, and one of the pieces that we've been missing deeply has to come back strong, has to come back smart, but this is also a sector where some of the biggest challenges exist, because synonymous with gathering a lot of people together in one place. Some of our arts and cultural venues gather thousands and thousands of people in close quarters. How are we going to go about that in the future? When is the right time to do what? That's what we're going to work through with this group. Strike that balance – safety first, health of people first. Making us fight off this disease at all times is job-one, but we want to bring this sector back strong. We want to figure out the right stages to do that. Deputy Mayor Vicki Been will be leading this group, working with great leaders from these fields.

We have seen faith leaders of every background say safety and health of our people first and they've had to do really tough things, shutting down worship services, but making sure that always it was about people's safety, I commend them and thank them for that. The value has been on human beings and human lives and that's been so powerful and commendable. Now, the practical question now comes into play. How are we going to restart worship services and what's the right way to do it, when and with what conditions? This is something that like the other kinds of larger gatherings has to be approached very smartly, we're going to be listening to the voices of our faith leaders as we develop those plans. And again, everything is going to start to move in the coming days and weeks as we put these pieces together, we can project step-by-step their voices will matter immensely, this group will be led by Deputy Mayor Phil Thompson.

A new sector council that we're adding is in the area of construction and real estate. Big, big part of this City's economy, big part of what makes New York New York as well, and people want to get back to work and we want to get them back to work, but here are a set of challenges as well. Different kinds of work, some which might lend itself better to social distancing, some which might be better in terms of health, others present other types of work in this field presents more challenges, particularly indoor work. We got to figure out what kind of personal protective equipment is needed, what kind of distances needed, what kind of schedule needed to get this right, this group will be led by Deputy Mayor Laura Anglin and Deputy Mayor Vicki Been. So, those are some of the initial councils and we'll be putting out those names for more coming behind that. The good news is this is an example of listening to people who are the experts because they live the life, they do the work, they understand what everyone's going through. We want to hear from them, we want to hear their voices helping us understand what will work, also warning us about what may not work. Everyone has that New York energy, that desire to get going – we're never going to lack that, these folks are also going to help us figure out how to strike that balance and based on real experience and they will be pivotal in the effort to get New York City going again. 

Now, that is what I've talked about is the things we have to do to get ready for the restart and the recovery, but right now as we're doing that work, we're fighting every day against this disease. We're fighting every day to make sure that the people of this City are kept whole and supported no matter what this horrible crisis throws at us, and that means both the health care crisis and the economic crisis talked about many times. Our priorities right now four things, people's health, safety, making sure everyone has food eat, making sure everyone has a roof over their head. Well, in that last category, we all know the challenge this City has faced for decades is homelessness and we also know that homelessness is a problem that has often defied conventional solutions. That's why we started to do some unconventional things over the last few years, nothing more powerful than the HOME-STAT strategy and the more recent vision called the Journey Home, which are all about ending permanent street homelessness through intensive engagement with homeless individuals who live on the streets. We've seen some things start to work, but what we've talked about in recent days was something that clearly had not worked for a long time, which was the reality that many homeless people, particularly in colder months of the year will go into the subways and then many cases spend all night going back and forth on a single subway line. Last night, 139 homeless individuals out of 252 who were engaged by our outreach workers and by the NYPD officers, specially trained in homeless outreach. 139 individuals agreed to accept support, accept services and come in off the streets, come in out of the subways, this number is extraordinary. First of all, more than half of the people encountered and engaged, agreed to leave the subways to leave the streets and come in and that's an amazing reality to begin with. But we have more importantly never ever seen so much success in a single night before, we've never seen this many people, this higher percentage of people who are living on the streets agree to something different and it's only one night. And we obviously need a lot more information, we need to see how things play out over a longer period of time. But this number is staggering because look consistently what federal surveys have shown is that this City, and I don't say it with anything but sorrow, but the facts have been consistently that the federal annual survey shows somewhere between 35,000 and 4,000 people living on the streets of our City streets and subways combined. If in one night 139 people took a step towards leaving that life and coming into a safe haven or a shelter and starting the process of getting to long-term housing and never going back on the streets, that's an extraordinary number for one night and very encouraging. We have to sustain it in many, many ways, we've got a lot of work to do, but I want to say to everyone involved, to the NYPD to everyone at Social Services and Homeless Services, to the MTA, to the Governor's team. 

Well, speaking of streets some good news today as we continue to build out the open street’s initiative. This is an initiative city council put this idea out there, it's an idea that now is ready to go into higher gear. Want to thank the city council for their partnership, want to thank the NYPD and Department of Transportation, Department of Parks, all the city agencies that are working together to make this work. And thank God all those city agencies have more and more of their employees coming back who had been sick with COVID-19, the workforces strengthening all the time, so we can do these open streets now with the right kind of enforcement and make them work for everyone. So, over the last few days, including the weekend, we have opened over seven miles and now we're adding two more miles that will be open tomorrow, Thursday. And in this case, these are specific sites that are being managed by local business improvement districts. So, local organizations that do such important work for their communities and are taking responsibility for making sure that everything is set up and monitored and is safe and they'll work very closely of course with the NYPD and DOT. I want to thank the Flat Iron partnership, Garment District BID, that Lower East Side BID, the Downtown Brooklyn partnership, and the Third Avenue BID in the Bronx, all of them stepped forward and are going to ensure that these streets that you can see there on the slide will be open streets, again, starting tomorrow. Also want to announce that one open street that was part of the very original pilot program, this one is now coming back. It's a half mile long, 34th Avenue in Jackson Heights pilot location, now becoming a full-time location for the duration of this crisis. And again, this is the next phase, we're announcing more to come soon as we build this initiative out.

Another thing we are building out all over New York City is the initiative to distribute free face coverings to all New Yorkers who need them. This is getting a very enthusiastic response. People are really thankful to be getting these face coverings and the more they get, the more they're using them, which is exactly what we want. I told you this week earlier that we would be distributing 7.5 million free face coverings and that is really going to make a huge impact. And so people who want to know where they can get them, again, we have a map that identifies locations all over the city. We've added a number of locations since the weekend. All you have to do is go to and you can see any, you can see a number of places where you can get a face covering to help protect everyone, your family, your fellow New Yorkers to help drive back this disease.
Okay. Now, I'll frame what we do each day.  Of course, go over our daily indicators. I'll frame this by saying not every day goes the way we plan it. The big trend is good, but day-to-day we still see fluctuations that are sobering and it's a reminder, do not take our foot off the gas. Do not relax our rules until it's time. Get it right, fight back this disease. Avoid that boomerang because today we see some numbers that reminds us we still have some work to do. So, on the first one, daily number of people admitted to hospitals for suspected COVID-19, that number has gone up. Look, it's gone up markedly, although thank God against a much smaller base than it used to be. So, from 75 to 109, we got to see that go down obviously. Daily number of people in ICUs across our public hospitals for suspected COVID-19 - still too large a number overall. The increase is small from 596 to 599. We got to get that number down; that's another key piece of the puzzle. Very good number to go down is the third one, percentage of people testing positive for COVID- 19 citywide – that is down from 22 percent to 15 percent. Obviously, a particularly universal measure – that is a good example. That's good news today. So, more fight ahead. We want to get all these numbers going down together. I am convinced we will, but we got some more work to do.

So this brings me back to that word I started with, moderation. Think of the virus again - give it human characteristics for a moment. This is a virus that seeks out our weaknesses. Talked to you a few days ago about some places, some big cities in Asia that started to open up a little too fast and unfortunately had to clamp back down, in fact add new restrictions. In some cases, it was only one part of the city where there was a problem, but it became a problem for everyone. This disease looks for our weaknesses and tries to exploit them. We can't let that happen. So again, I see all over the city, incredible discipline, incredible adherence to the rules. I want even more. I don't want to let this disease back in the door. So, let's keep fighting because I know we all want that restart. If you want that restart, let's get it right, right now. Let's, and we'll do it in moderation because that's how we make sure that every step we take holds. Then we take the next step. That's the game plan and we'll have a lot more to say on this in the coming days.

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