March 9, 2020
Pat Kiernan: There are at least 12 city residents now confirmed to have the virus, 105 coronavirus patients being treated across the state. Mayor de Blasio revealed the latest case in the Bronx. He said the situation is ever-changing. He urges anyone who feels sick to stay home. De Blasio said one key thing is if you're feeling sick, think about getting on the subway during busy hours.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: If you are traveling by subway and the train that comes up is all packed and you can possibly wait for the next train in the hopes that it might be less packed, please do – very common sense measure, something a lot of us do anyway.
Kiernan: The Mayor joins us live on the phone. Now, Mayor de Blasio, thank you for being with us. Tell me about that comment about being on the subway. We're all so close together in this city. You just don't know who's standing next to you on the train.
Mayor: Yeah, Pat, I want to make sure it was clear when you are summarizing. What we're telling people is if you're not feeling well, stay home. Don't go on the subway. Let's just start with the ultimate common sense. In this environment, if you've got those cold or flu symptoms, stay home. Don't go to work. Don't send your kids to school. If they have those kinds of symptoms – people have, you know, paid sick days, thank God in New York City. It is something we put in a few years ago. It's really, really important to do everything we can to stop the spread of the coronavirus. Now obviously a lot of people are going to have cold and flu symptoms that are just going to be cold, the flu. But the most important thing is to stay home. And then if you get something that seems at all persistent we really want to get you to medical care, of course, want you in touch with your doctor in any circumstance.
But the thing here is to look, I think there's a misunderstanding out there about the disease. I want to really clear that up Pat, because you cannot get it from just being in a room where someone was. You can't get it you know, because you're in a subway car and someone else was on that same subway car, you know, half an hour ago. It has to be direct, immediate contact and it has to be a transfer of fluids, like a sneeze, a cough spitting that gets into your eyes, nose or mouth directly. So you need a pretty direct transmission. But that being said, when we're all packed like sardines at rush hour, you're really close to your fellow New Yorker. We like people, if they're sick, not even to be in that situation. And if you can vary your hours, if you can go to work a little more flexibly. We're asking employers to try and be flexible about staggering work hours. If employers can have employees telecommute, that's a good idea to do that whenever possible. So we want to just try and clear things out a little bit. But we also overall overwhelmingly, and New Yorkers are doing this, we want people to go on with their lives and just take those smart precautions.
Kiernan: Has your thinking changed in the past week in terms of public assembly, in terms of riding the subways, in terms of keeping schools open?
Mayor: Pat, this is literally day to day, hour to hour, how we're looking at this, what I'm learning more and more and we are getting our own. I want to emphasize this, we are getting our own direct information. Our Department of Health, our disease detectives doing this work with real life cases here in New York City conditions. We're learning some things that are, you know, somewhat different than what some of the going assumptions are in the global medical community. What we're seeing is, you know, very clearly, again, you need that direct transmission. We're seeing this as a disease that is much, much more of a problem for older folks than younger folks, and particularly the real danger is for folks with preexisting conditions. And we identified five yesterday in our press conference, heart disease, lung disease, diabetes, cancer and a compromised immune system. Those are the really crucial factors in whether this is going to be just an unpleasant experience or a bad experience, like so many other diseases versus something that could actually be fatal. So really, Pat, the bottom line and this gets to your question is, the folks who are vulnerable are over 50 and have one or more of those preexisting conditions. The vast majority of New Yorkers, being folks under 50 and healthy, are not in particular danger. And if they were to get it, would experience something like a common cold or flu. So with all the information we have so far, even with community spread, we're trying to do is keep people going about their lives. You know, make sure people can still have their livelihoods but protect against the spread with, you know, the smart common sense measures that people can take. And with some very selective actions. We're not at the point of needing any larger closures. That's the consensus we come to.
Kiernan: I am going to ask the next question with the proviso that I think all of our attention should primarily be on the medical aspects of this right now, but we are seeing an economic impact. And that economic impact will linger even if at some point we get the all clear on coronavirus. What can the City be doing now and what is the city doing now, especially for small businesses, restaurants and tourism focused businesses that have really seen a decline?
Mayor: It's a great question, Pat. We announced yesterday a series of measures that could help thousands of businesses. One, to make no-interest loans. So just, you know, direct resources we can put in the hands of businesses up to a hundred employees. And that can be loans of up to $75,000, no-interest. And people of course have to apply for that. And can get information via 3-1-1. Then for the really small businesses, the mom and pops, under five employees, we're going to have some direct grants available. If they have seen a decrease of sales of 25 percent or more, we're going to just do direct cash grants to help keep them afloat, to help make sure they don't have to lay off folks. So these are some immediate measures. We're looking at other measures as well. And you're right, the economic impact is huge. So the way I look at this is first and foremost, it's about health and safety, like everything else. But you know, in all of the controversy and all of the concern here, we've got to be smart about this, that, you know, millions of people are going about their lives. They need their livelihoods, you know, they need to make sure their kids get an education, they need a safe place for the kids to be. We have to always strike that balance. So it's going to be health and safety first, but we're not going to take actions that might be more disruptive unless we're sure it's time for them. And definitely Pat, to your point about small business. Look, I've been going out and about patronizing small businesses showing New Yorkers, I'm out there obviously, was on the subway the other day. I’m going to keep doing that. What we understand about this disease, you're not going to contract this because you're out walking around or going about your normal routine. That's not how we should think about it. You contract it in close contact to someone who has it. Who again, coughs, sneezes, or spits even, you know, in conversation sometimes people spit a little bit inadvertently. You have to be pretty close up on you. It has to be a pretty direct hit. If people are smart you know, washing your hands a lot. Because if you can of course, just, if you had the fluid on your hands and you touched your nose, mouth or eyes, that's another transmission possibility. So you're washing your hands a lot, that really matters. Alcohol based hand sanitizer, it really matters. Covering your own mouth when you cough and sneeze. These basics, just being really vigilant, not, you know, if a family member is not feeling well, don't go visit that family member, wait until they're feeling better. People staying home from work or school if they are not feeling well. And stay in touch with your doctor. And anyone that we think is showing persistent systems, excuse me, symptoms, we want to get them in. We want to test them.
But to the numbers, Pat and I do have an update for you. You know what we are seeing overwhelmingly, still we're getting negatives. So you had said a moment ago, 12 cases. What I actually announced yesterday was 13. I just want to make sure you've got that. There was one new case in the Bronx. But now as of this morning, three more. We have two in Brooklyn, one in Queens. So we're at 16 right now. I'll be doing a press conference in the early afternoon to go over all the details. But I want to give you the 16 and I don't for a moment think – belittle that number. But that is against 201 tests that came back negative. And we have another 86 outstanding now, pending tests. So we're still seeing, even of the people who get to the point of testing where there's usually a very specific reason for the testing. We're still seeing them overwhelmingly coming back negative. So 16 and we've got a few people among those 16 who unfortunately, combined advanced age and a preexisting condition. So we're watching those folks very carefully. I'm really worried about a handful of those folks. But for what we're seeing pretty – it’s really quite consistent that younger folks without preexisting conditions are coming through this very well. Young people, kids coming through it with almost no impact. And we have not seen a child yet so far, with a preexisting condition. That's where the area concern should be for parents. And I'm saying this as a parent, everything we know so far, if your child has one of those five areas of concern – diabetes, lung disease, heart disease, cancer, or a compromised immune system, that's where parents should be concerned. And definitely we're going to advise precaution and keep those children away from anyone who was sick. If they're sick themselves, we want them to get immediate attention. But for the vast, vast majority of our kids, we are not seeing any – we're seeing no cases so far in our schools. But we're also not seeing any lasting impact for those kids.
Kiernan: Mayor de Blasio we invite you to update us like this as many times as is necessary in the coming weeks. Thank you for joining us this morning.
Mayor: Absolutely, Pat. Thanks a lot.