Happy Saturday. Good enjoying Holy Week. Happy Passover. Holy Saturday. Easter is tomorrow. Big day.
Saturday, April 11, 2020
Mayor Bill de Blasio: Here we are, in the middle of this crisis but we are also in the middle of a holiday season that is one of the anchors of our year, any year, even in the time of pain and sorrow and challenge. Or Jewish community continues to celebrate Passover and our Christian community prepares for Easter, we are all feeling the strange pull of traditions that we cling to and care about and ground us on the one hand, and then pull of this crisis contradicting that, working against it feels like all the time. We are trying to have our deep connection that we all cherish to our traditions, to our faith, to our family and at the same time, working against so many things that hold us back from being connected to each other. I think one of the toughest parts of this is for all of us who are parents and I know even in some ways even more deeply for grandparents, who are not going to have the same connection that they might have and would have in a normal year to their children and grandchildren because people can’t travel, people can’t gather. I think there is a deep, deep yearning and a deep pain when on top of everything else, we are kept apart from the people we love the most and the people who give us so much joy. And all the adults are feeling this crisis and particularly when they can't be near their children and grandchildren, it just makes it even worse, even tougher.
But again, we keep reaching back for our faith, for our beliefs, for our values, for our traditions to help us see our way through. At the same time, we got to think about what our children are going through. This has been such a tough time for them. Such a disorienting time. Our kids, we all know are resilient and we all know that our children can feel our love even if we can't be in the same room with them or even in the same city with them. They can feel our love. But for so many children right now, this is a really difficult, challenging time. And think about what we've asked of our children. It's a lot, nowadays just in normal times, to deal with all the challenges of modern society. I can say as a parent, our children deal with challenges today that I never dealt with when I was growing up and they grow up kind of faster nowadays and there's too much information available, too many real difficult things put before our children, even in normal times. Now think about what these last weeks have been like for our children. Think about the disruption. Think about the confusion and in so many cases the trauma.
A lot of our children have lost a loved one. A lot of our children have seen their families racked by disease. A lot of our children know that someone in the school community they come from, has been real sick or even has passed away because of the coronavirus. I know our children are resilient, but I also know they feel that fear and they feel it in a different way than the rest of us. On top of that, think of what children are going through when they can only spend a little bit of time outdoors. They can't really see their friends the way they are used to. They can't go to school, they can't play team sports. It's been a tough, tough time. But at the same time, we know everything we're doing is to protect our children, our families to help end the pain and the trauma. We've all been through so much, but we have to work constantly to make sure that this ends. This is the thing we all have to be focused on. I know every New Yorker feels this. People are always asking when will this end? And to get to that point we have to work together and we all have to do our part. We all have to support each other. And in this season of faith and this season of love, the highest love we can show for each other is to protect each other, support each other, practice these new rules, these new realities that have actually started to help us get safer. The social distancing, the shelter in place, the things that have been really difficult for everyone and probably in some ways the most difficult for our children are also how we protect our children and our families and we get to that point where we can start to turn the page and work towards a day when we get back to some kind of normal. We get back to the lives we once knew.
So, this conversation about how to protect everyone and how to really keep bending the curve of this disease and how to move us forward. It's been something we've been talking about every day, every hour here at City Hall. And I've been having these conversations with Chancellor Carranza particularly in terms of our schools. And we all have felt that the real pain of knowing that our kids are missing out on so much of what they could have if they were in a school building. But we've also been more and more sure every day that keeping this policy, this strategy of social distancing and shelter in place, keeping that going and deepening that is the best way forward to protect all of us. At the same time, we've seen really heroic efforts by everyone at the Department of Education, by our educators, by all the people who work in our schools, to find every way to keep educating our kids and keep supporting them even through these extraordinary times. And I have to remind everyone, our educators were asked to learn an entirely different way of teaching. And they weren't given a year to get ready. They weren't given a month to get ready. They had a week to quickly retool and turn to distance learning, online learning and make it work. And it's been really an amazing story. And I think when this crisis is over, this is going to be one of the heroic passages. This is going to be one of the amazing moments that will be looked at with admiration. The New York City Public Schools, even in an hour of crisis, managed to come back so strong and create a new reality online to support our kids.
When I made that very tough decision, and I know the Chancellor felt the same way, it was literally a painful decision to close our schools because we feared that moment that we would not be able to bring them back. And I said it bluntly from the very beginning that if we close the schools, there was a very strong likelihood we wouldn't be able to bring them back for this school year. We knew that would be a really huge problem in terms of what we would lose and the education of our children, what families would lose. So many families who depend on, depended on, and still depend on our school system for food, for their children, for a safe place for the kids to be. We knew a lot was being lost, but we also knew, painful though it was, it was the right thing to do to protect everyone, our children, our parents, our families, our educators to protect everyone. And I had a real faith that even though we were asking our educators to do something they'd never done before, that they would rise to the challenge. And they have. You know when you make a decision, it's with the information that you have at the moment. I felt my gut, and I know the Chancellor did too, that our educators would find a way, even with the little time they had to prepare, they'd find a way to do something amazing with distance learning. They have surpassed every expectation. And everyone at DOE, all the folks who are in the leadership at the Department of Education, all of the technology people, everyone who had to put together this amazing system and all the companies we turn to for help who really, really stepped up. Everyone went above and beyond because they realized they had to help our kids. And we didn't know how long this crisis would go on.
So, before I go on to tell you how we're going to go forward, I just want to say a real thank you. Thank you to Chancellor Carranza, thank you to the whole team at the DOE headquarters that work so hard and I can tell you everyone, whether I called them at midnight or I called them at seven in the morning, they were all working. Because they knew this was sacred, if you will, to make sure that every child got the help they needed. I want to thank all the educators who have done so much who just never gave up, including all those educators who came in and continue to come into our regional enrichment centers to protect and teach the children of first responders and health care workers and essential workers that we need so desperately right now. I want to thank parents. This has not been easy. As I said, it's not easy to be a kid nowadays. It's not easy to be a parent nowadays and parents have really had to dig deep and create and deal with really challenging situations. It is not easy to have a child cooped up at home, I assure you. But our parents have really stepped up and they've been great partners in the distance learning that the DOE has done and we're going to work with them to become even stronger partners. And I want to thank our kids. I want to thank the children of the New York City public schools. There's no, I've said to people for years and years and years, there's nothing more wonderful than a New York City public school education. Not only for what it gives you academically, but for what it gives you in your heart and soul, how it teaches you to deal with every kind of person, the whole world. And our kids, they're finding a way as well.
So, everyone, thank you. Thank you for stepping up and I'm going to ask you to keep stepping up. I'm going to ask you to dig deep and help us through to the end of this crisis. We originally said the best-case scenario would be to come back on Monday, April 20th at the end of the spring break. We could see already, that was not going to be possible many days ago. And then the State put the pause on until April 29th. But we've had conversations in the last few days to say, is it viable? Is it safe? Is it smart? Would it work? Would it help our children? Would it be fair to the entire school community to bring our schools back at this point, at any point between now and the end of June? And after very careful consideration, I announced today that the New York City public schools will remain closed for the remainder of this school year.
Again, there is nothing easy about this decision. I can't even begin to express how much for all of us, the goal of making our schools better for all our kids and fighting against the inequalities that were so clear in our school system. You know, that was the first mission in so many ways of this administration and making sure that kids, including so many kids who have been left behind, got much greater opportunity. That's what we've been so focused on for six years. So, Lord knows having to tell you that we cannot bring our schools back for the remainder of this school year is painful. But I can also tell you it's the right thing to do. It clearly will help us save lives because it will help us to guarantee that the strategies that have been working, the shelter in place, the social distancing, all the focused strategies that are finally beginning to bear fruit, they need the time to continue to be effective. And when I talked to you the other day about the stages we would go through, I reminded everyone, the worst mistake we could make is to take our foot off the gas and end up in a situation where this disease had a resurgence and threatened us even more. We're not going to allow the coronavirus to start to attack us even more and to make sure it doesn't, we have to, we have to be cautious. We have to be smart about the moves we make and we can never get in a situation where we end up jumping too soon and regretting it later.
I had a conversation last night with Dr. Anthony Fauci, who's really been a hero in this entire national crisis. And I said to Dr. Fauci, that I had talked to the Chancellor and to our health care leadership, and really increasingly we were thinking it did not make sense. And he said to me he agreed and he appreciated the sense of being cautious and careful because the most important mission for all of us in New York City and all of us in this country is to end this crisis. To not let it reassert and keeping the New York City public schools closed is a way to contribute to finally beating back the coronavirus. And of course, what we think about every single day, and we think about this during normal times as well, protecting our kids, protecting our families, protecting our educators. From that perspective, this was obviously the right thing to do. So, it's not an easy decision. It's not a decision that is satisfying for all of us who have devoted so much of our time to try and make sure our kids got the very best education. But it is the right decision. And it's also a decision made a little clearer by the fact that the distance learning is working more and more every day and we're going to have more and more good ways to reach our kids and help them over the next few months.
Now we'll be working with the State of New York. We want to work with the State in many ways as we have throughout this crisis. But one of the specific ways is that the State regulations officially require that all school systems around the State have kids in the classrooms for 180 days. Those regulations have been waived to date all over the state. We're going to work with the State to continue that waiver so that we can see the school year through, but again, with distance learning, not with our kids in their school buildings.
Look, the other thing to recognize here is that the timeline says it all. I told all New Yorkers over the last few days, we got to assume that April will continue to be real tough. We're going to go into May, we don't know yet what this disease will do. We may get the kind of relief in May that allows us to begin to make some changes, but that may go into June. But the one thing that was clear to us was if we even want to consider bringing our schools, there was going to be a lot of lead time, a lot of work that would have to be done including in the school buildings to get ready. And again, it was not realistic to believe that that work, which would have to start in just a matter of weeks, would be appropriate given the challenge we face, given the timeline we're looking at.
We also knew that if we just brought kids back for a few weeks, it really wouldn't add that much to their lives academically. The risks simply – the risk did not outweigh the reward. It just proved to be that there was not a clear reason of what we would gain to help our kids. But the challenges and the problems were very, very clear. And we knew that there was a real danger that if we came back, some schools would have to close because of individual cases of coronavirus and it would create so much disruption and confusion. But there's another factor that's really important to point to and it's where I started about what our kids are going through. Our kids have gone through a lot of trauma here. We all know, again, kids are resilient and sometimes they don't show it, but look at what they've had to witness. Look at what they've had to experience and think about those kids who are grieving right now who've lost a grandparent or aunt or uncle or a member of their school community, an educator or another member of their school community. Think about what that's doing to our kids and we want to help them through that. We want to support them. And we don't think the best way to do that is by bringing them back into the schools between now and June. We do think there's much that we can do to support them in the meantime.
And there's a lot we're going to have to do starting in September that's very different than what we've ever done before. I've spoken with the Chancellor about this, we're going to have to think about September in a way that really is a new era for the New York City public schools and a new approach. And one that's going to have to be very, very mindful of all the trauma that everyone's been through. And really, we're going to have to all work together to overcome it.
So, I'm going to lay out quickly, a five point plan for how we get from here to the opening of school in September. And again, we're going to ask a lot of parents, of teachers, principals, all educators to help us through this path together and work together to help our kids. And it's going to get tough. And not because of the disease alone, but because of the weather. As it gets warmer and warmer, our kids are going to get more and more restless. We know that. So, we have to help you through and we have to give you the best possible tools, the most compelling options to keep our kids focused on the distance learning and keep them safe and indoors for a lot of the day until we really see things change with this disease.
So, the first point is to make sure that the devices, the iPads and all the other devices that we have given out, will give out to kids, that every student who needs one gets one. And we will ensure that that happens by the end of April. I said at the day we had to shut down our schools that we knew a lot of kids just didn't have these devices and there would be a lag time. But we've gotten great cooperation from the companies involved and again, the team at DOE has stepped up. We now need to get devices distributed on a very fast pace. We already can say that 66,000 devices have been distributed. We have to get 240,000 more in the hands of our kids over the next couple of weeks by the end of April. And we will do that. And then I've said to the Chancellor, whatever it takes, the entire City government will assist to make sure this happens. So that's point one, devices for every child by the end April.
Point two – parent help line, we're going to take the helplines and hotlines we already have for parents and that they can reach through 3-1-1. We're going to expand them, we’re going to add more educators, add the ability to get much more coaching and support for parents in multiple languages and expand the hours. And we'll have a further announcement on that shortly. But a lot of parents, since they're dealing with an unprecedented challenge, they need coaching, they need help, they need support, they need ideas. And a lot of educators and trained professionals that they can reach at any hour of the day in multiple languages to give them that support.
Third, we're going to provide a lot more creative at-home programming. So, teachers already – teachers have always known how to be creative, but they have been extraordinarily creative in this crisis. So, DOE’s been creating new programming. Teachers themselves have been creating all sorts of important new ideas to help our kids. The Parks Department has put together some great new programming online and our Children's Cabinet is doing the same. We're going to be working with a number of media companies here in New York City and creating a variety of free programming to help children and help our families get through this, and more and more compelling options to make that stay at home a little bit easier, but also supercharge the education process in the meantime.
Fourth, we got about 75,000 seniors. They were looking forward to graduation, want for every child who we can help to meet the requirements in time, we need to do that. So very, very important mission and one that the whole DOE family feels deeply right now. We do not want to see these seniors robbed of their future, robbed of that joyous moment when they graduate high school. We have no idea, at this point, if there's going to be anything like a graduation ceremony this year, but we do know that so many of our seniors can graduate on time if we support them properly. So that's going to be a very important focus. We will have a full plan out next week that will allow us to focus on each and every senior individually, help them if they're on track to graduation right now, see it through. If they're not on track, do all we can to get them there. We have a lot of focused capacity to help these seniors. That's going to be a primary objective. So, to all the seniors out there we are going to help you and we're going to communicate with you and figure out what you need. We want the maximum number of seniors graduating on time by June, and we want to support them in every way possible.
And then the fifth point, we are working now on a comprehensive plan to reopen the schools in September and as I said, it will be unlike any other reopening of schools we've ever seen because we're going to have to ensure the safety of all our students in a new way. We're going to have to make sure our vulnerable students get maximum support. We're going to have to do so much for the mental health of our students who have been through as trauma and the mental health of the whole school community. Our educators have been through so much – everyone who works in the schools. We're also going to need to address the emotional impact on parents and families. All of that. This focus on mental health and support for everyone who's been through this crisis will be crucial to our plan to reopen in September. And next school year is going to have to be the greatest academic year the New York City public schools have ever had, because we're going to be playing a lot of catch up. So, we're going to be looking for every conceivable way to make it the richest, most powerful year we've ever had to really help our kids move forward. I'm going to turn to the Chancellor. I think it would be good to let him weigh in now and then I'm going to come back on just a couple of other items before we take questions from the media. So, Chancellor –
Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza: Thank you, Mr. Mayor. And I want thank you for your leadership. This is not an easy time, but I also want to echo your words of thanks to all of our educators, our administrators, our food service workers, our custodians, everyone that has been out supporting our students and our families. I've had the opportunity to participate in a number of online forums with families and parents. And the stories that they share with me are both inspiring but also challenging. So, I want to thank our families who have really stepped up and moved mountains to support all of our students. A special thanks to all of our colleagues and friends that are volunteering at the Regional Education Centers, our food service workers, who are also demonstrating true heroism every single day. I want to thank you for your service to your fellow New Yorkers. Without you, this city would grind to a halt. So, thank you for what you're doing. You are true heroes and every night at 7:00 pm when you hear all of those claps and cheers and pots banging, you're part of the heroes that they're celebrating. So, I want you to remember that.
I know that this news today may come as a bit of a shock to everyone out there, but the Mayor and I absolutely agree that this is in the best interest of all New Yorkers. We know that the past few weeks have not been easy. And we've asked a lot of our teachers and our administrators and our families and our students, I know you're exhausted. But thank you for continuing to do the work that you do. While we may not be together in school buildings, I want to be very clear that schools remain in session because of our teachers and our administrators and the learning continues. We just don't do it in person. And that'll continue throughout the rest of the school year by this announcement. I also want to reemphasize what the Mayor said. We are going to be here to support you, both our teachers, our administrators, our students, and our families, through this transition. We're staffing up our parent hotline, we're speeding up device delivery. And I want to thank you, Mr. Mayor, for helping us work with the supply chain. We, literally, when you think about what is happening around the world, every school system in the world is ordering devices right now. And we are at the top of the list because of your intercession, Mr. Mayor. So, thank you.
We're staffing up and we're going to be there every step to support you as we finish this school year in remote learning mode. We know what an undertaking this has been. But we want to thank you. Remember the two words that we've continued to emphasize. Number one is flexibility and the second is patience. So, thank you for your flexibility and your patience. We will also be reaching out to families to get your feedback about how remote learning is not only going but what that should look like as we go into the rest of this school year because we truly want it to be as an enriching experience as possible. You are truly our partners in this effort and we want to thank you.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: Thank you very much, Chancellor. Let me just turn to a couple of other quick items, important matters, but I want to get through them quickly and then we'll say a few words in Spanish and we'll turn to our colleagues in the media for questions. So, another area where we are focused, of course, on protecting people, protecting their health, ensuring that we do everything to address this crisis is with some are almost vulnerable New Yorkers who are homeless. And our shelter system is an area where we are focused on ensuring that those who do not have a home are protected, that they are given the support they need through this crisis. It's tough enough to not have a place to live. We want to keep people safe and healthy and make sure all the support they need is there for them.
So, first I want to announce that by Monday, April 20th, we will have 6,000 homeless people in our shelter system who were in other settings, will now be in hotel settings. So, 6,000 single New Yorkers, meaning single adults, will be in hotels, not traditional homeless shelters. That's about one-third of the single clients of our overall shelter system moved into hotel settings. We are doing that because we think that is the right balance to strike as we ensure that people get what they need to be safe. And I want to remind everyone, when we talk about the health and safety of homeless people, we have to protect everyone from COVID-19. We also have to support the needs of homeless folks well beyond COVID-19, folks who have serious physical issues that they might need support with, but also a lot of whom have mental health issues and need support and need services available to them constantly. And that's what happens, of course, in so many of our homeless shelters. So, we're going to keep that going while also recognizing a number of people need to be in hotel settings. We'll strike that balance.
Those who will be prioritized across our shelter system for transfer to hotels, will include seniors, will include, of course, anyone with symptoms of COVID-19, or who tested positive for COVID-19. They, of course, will be isolated in hotel settings. And anybody in shelters where it's been difficult to achieve social distancing. So, I want this to be clear. Some shelters have a lot of space, some do not. Where it's clear to our Department of Social Services and our Department of Homeless Services that social distancing cannot be achieved properly, a number of those clients will be moved to hotels to achieve the balance, to make sure there is the proper social distancing. So, we will use those hotels aggressively as a tool to support homeless individuals, to strike the right balance in our shelters to make sure people who need to be isolated are isolated. Commissioner Steve Banks is with me here, our Social Services Commissioner. I want to thank him and his whole team. They've done a remarkable job of keeping people safe in the shelter system and we have all agreed on this plan as the best way forward to use hotels to ensure that we can strike the balance and achieve those health and safety goals that are paramount right now.
We are also at the same time in this crisis working to continue what we talked about before the coronavirus hit us, which is getting more and more New Yorkers off the streets who have been permanently living on the streets. To do that, even in the midst of this crisis – and I commend everyone at Social Services, Homeless Services – we’ll open 230 new Safe Haven beds and low-barrier beds. These are the kinds of beds and facilities that help us get people immediately off the street who have reached that point where they're ready to finally come in and accept shelter and change their lives and hopefully never, ever go back to the streets. A lot of our street homeless folks are going through a lot right now like everyone, of course. We're going to remind them and show them that there's a better way and it's available to them now. And those outreach workers, those hero outreach reach workers continue to do their work while being safe. And we're going to work hard to get more and more people off the streets into shelter, particularly those who are older. That will be a focus – an intense focus in these next weeks.
Finally, I want to do some thank-yous every chance I get. I want to thank people who are doing amazing things. So many New Yorkers have been heroic, so many New Yorkers have dug deep to help each other. I want to do a special thank you to everyone at the Parks Department. We have asked a lot of them and they've been doing amazing things. The one thing I don't think people think about is, the Parks Department has part of how we help our kids who have to stay home because of shelter in place. But they have been, they've been coming up with great, exciting content to ensure that kids have something new and exciting to participate in from home. If you go to nyc.gov/parksathome, you can see the great content that Parks Departments put together.
But I also want to thank all the Parks workers, everyone at the Parks Department, especially the frontline workers in our parks. They've been working, despite all the challenges, to keep the parks safe and clean. They have been absolutely teaching and enforcing social distance and it's been remarkable how well they've done that. The results we've heard consistently from the Parks Department, from the NYPD have been really striking how well they've done it, convincing people that we all have to do social distancing together. This was not, I assure you, what Parks workers thought they had signed up for when they took their jobs, but they have been adapting and doing a hell of a job, helping to ensure that our parks are safe for everyone. So, thank you to everyone at the Parks Department.
And always want to thank those who are supporting all of our frontline heroes. And a lot of people have stepped up. Someone that New Yorkers know well from his illustrious career on the basketball court, John Starks. He has dished out an assist, and this time it's not with a basketball. This time it's 3,00 sets of scrubs for our city hospitals to help out our health care workers. IBM has provided a half-a-million dollars in [inaudible] technology to the Department of Health and a million donation to the Department of Education. Apollo Global Management, and cofounder Josh Harris, have provided 100,000 N95 masks. That's outstanding. 100,000 N95 masks to our public hospitals, particularly to Elmhurst Hospital. We are so grateful for that. And Salesforce has made a half-million dollar donation as well to help the effort to fight COVID-19 in New York City. So, a lot of people stepping up, a lot of people helping from all over the city, all over the country, and we are so appreciative. And I'll close, before a few words in Spanish by saying, look, even in the midst of this challenge and this pain another thing that people are doing that brings out the beauty of the holiday season is they are living out their faith.
All of you are helping each other, respecting each other, supporting each other. All of our faiths, all of our beliefs, no matter what your belief system is, they almost all come back to the same place, which is love each other, help each other. And that's what we're seeing New Yorkers do. And it's beautiful even amidst the pain and the struggle. So, thank you because you're showing the whole world something very beautiful in this time of challenge.