March 11, 2020
Mayor Bill de Blasio: Welcome everybody. Thank you for being here. I am joined by Deputy Mayor Raul Perea-Henze, Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services; our Health Commissioner Dr. Oxiris Barbot, who you'll hear from in a moment; our Emergency Management Commissioner, Deanne Criswell; our Commissioner for Community Affairs, Marco Carrion; our Commissioner for Immigrant Affairs, Bitta Mostofi. Thank you.
Want to say at the outset, people all over New York City are depending on all of you and, the fact is, that's not anything new and I think everyone in this room knows that, that the work you do is for so many New Yorkers, many cases their first source of information, in many cases the source of information they trust the most, a place they turn to make sure they really know what's going on from people that they have faith in. And I want to thank you for what you do every day, but I also want to thank you for the work you've all been doing in the last few weeks. This is a complex situation dealing with a disease that's literally brand new to the world, just months old. A lot we're still trying to learn. Everyone's trying to learn about, you know, getting information out in this atmosphere is particularly important. And so thank you for all the work you've done to inform your communities. I think it's making a very big difference. So we've gathered together in different times when we've been challenged, when we've been at crisis. This one really is different. Thank you. Also want to thank you, I want to acknowledge and thank Dr. Mitchell Allen, the Chief Medical Officer for our Health and Hospitals system. Thank you for joining us. We have been up against many, many challenges as New Yorkers, but a still little understood disease facing the entire globe, challenging the entire globe, an ever shifting environment. This creates dynamics we really haven't faced before or certainly not in recent memory. And the fact that new information comes in literally by the hour and is effecting our approach and strategies adds to these dynamics. So, I just want everyone to understand that at the outset.
The scientific community is trying to understand this disease and there's new information coming up every day, including from our own health workers here in New York City. All levels of government are trying to come up with the right strategic decisions, but based on information that changes frequently. I do want to emphasize, I think the situation in the United States, America is by definition different than say Italy. And I think Italy is different than say South Korea. I think South Korea is different than say China, et cetera, et cetera. I think each nation is facing some particular dynamics and circumstances and although it's valuable to look at what we learned from other countries, it is not the whole story, the comparisons aren't inherently imperfect.
I do feel as New Yorkers, we even when dealing with a crisis, we are blessed to have some very, very key and distinct factors in our favor. And we have unquestionably the best healthcare system anywhere in the United States of America and that's both our private voluntary hospitals and nonprofit organizations, and clearly our Health and Hospitals corporation or public hospitals and clinics, we have just a lot more and a lot better healthcare available and a history of making healthcare available to people in a very universal fashion. And even more recently by guaranteeing health care for all New Yorkers, telling people health care will be available to them without any regard – bless you. You sneeze properly, you get up, you get a point. Little bit more to the elbow, but you were close there. The fact that we're not asking documentation status, I want to really emphasize that, anyone who comes for healthcare will not ask documentation status – we want everyone to get the help they need. We're not in our public healthcare system stymied by someone's ability to pay or not. We're going to give them care. People have insurance, we'll draw on that. If they can get insurance and they don't have it already, we'll get them on insurance. But we're not ever going to withhold health care from anyone who can't afford to pay for it. We're trying to demystify the process and get people help, as simply as calling 3-1-1or going online and finding out where they need to go. And again, always knowing that they can turn to our health and hospitals corporation.
So we do have that great advantage. A lot of health care, law quality, Harris County, very accessible healthcare and equal opportunity healthcare. We also have the advantage of New Yorkers. New Yorkers are, I think it's fair to say the most resilient people, certainly in America, maybe in the world. And the – I'm very, very impressed by how New Yorkers are handling this crisis, by how much they're listening for the guidance and acting on it, helping each other. We need that. I said the other day, and I'll emphasize this is not just a crisis that the government takes care of for you and we'll call you when it's over. That's not how this works. Everyone has to be a part of solving this. So those good common sense personal hygiene adjustments as we just saw make a difference. I'm watching out for those who are most vulnerable, the folks over 50 with those major preexisting conditions, you know, making sure that we're following the guidance every day for folks who need to be quarantined, honoring the quarantine. These are all really, really important things that really will affect the trajectory. And so far I think New Yorkers are really listening and really following through.
So there's a lot of reasons to feel that there's a much stronger hand to play here than has been seen elsewhere. I also would say watching particularly the example of Italy, and so many of you come from different communities in the city, so you appreciate where your ancestors come from. Well, my ancestors are from Italy and Italy had a crisis almost before they knew it was, you know, upon them. I mean, the speed with which that happened in such an unexpected manner, such a fast trajectory, very different than what we've experienced so far. Now we knock on wood and every day it has to be analyzed and assessed. But Dr. Barbot and I, and Dr. Perea-Henze and I, we got together on January 24th and had a press conference at OEM telling New Yorkers that this disease would eventually reach New York City. Not a matter of if, but when, and outlining on January 24th all the precautions and preparations that were in place, didn't have our first case Doctor, I think until, we said March 1st? So we had, you know, five weeks of preparation before even getting a single case as opposed to when I say this with great sorrow for Italy, you know, almost no preparation before they suddenly had a full blown crisis. We have to look at those differences and understand them. That does not mean we're out of the woods by any stretch. We have a long tough battle ahead. Dr. Barbot said, and I've commended her for it, her assessment as a professional is that this will be until September, could be less, could be more, but I want to just let that hang in the air for a moment. Six months. We could be at trying to get this under control and starting to resume some kind of normalcy. So when you put that into perspective of the amount of time we had to prepare, what we have to throw at this challenge against how long we will be working to resolve it. Again, I think we have strengths here that a lot of other places don't have.
Just a couple of other points. The fear out there, everyone knows it's real. The anxiety, the confusion. Dr. Barbot rightly has talked about, you know, not only the physical health dynamics, the mental health dynamics and reminder to everyone, there's a lot of very worried people, anyone can call 24 hours a day, 8-8-8-NYCWELL, and talk to a trained counselor. The anxiety is natural. It's normal. It's not like you on your TV and you get all the answers, right? It's normal – people would be worried even that it could get all the answers because it's a serious disease, but it's even worse when you can't get all the answers because no one has all the answers.
So there's a lot of fear. The best way to fight fear is with information is with a good guidance by all of us showing that we believe in each other and that we can get through this. That's what we're trying to do every day and always tell people what we know and what we don't know, and the fact that sometimes what we know will change. The guidance could very well change. The decisions could change with new information. I will say very quickly, I'm sure it'll come up in discussion, I have been reticent for sure and I'm in constant contact with my colleagues, reticent to take the kinds of actions that might cause a huge number of unintended consequences and other negative dynamics. Easy example, closing schools, and I appreciate the state and the partnership. We've had to determine the right way to address a situation in a school, not with a sledgehammer, if you will, but with a scalpel, not with a full closure of vast numbers of schools for long periods of time, but with a very pinpoint approach to addressing the specific school, the specific needs and then getting that school up and running. Why? Because families depend on those schools for a safe place for those kids. Many families have no alternative. They have no alternative in some cases as a place to get their children quality food and nutrition. By the way, families want to make sure their kids get educated. We all care about health and safety first, but the notion of losing months and months of our children's education should be very troubling to all of us. So we're trying to strike a balance. We can talk about this and many other veins. We're trying to strike a balance. Every day will be a new day in terms of assessing the information we have. So again, it goes back to giving people good information. We depend on you. Reassuring where we can reassure, being honest about what we do and don't know. Giving people guidance about how they can comport themselves and what the best things to do are.
Another very important message. We will not tolerate any discrimination. We will not tolerate any hate crimes. Right now we've seen particularly troubling instances of discrimination directed at Asian communities, particularly in Chinese community. This is unacceptable. We've talked openly and honestly about the fact that too many hate crimes go unreported. I am beseeching you all to tell the members of your communities that they are the victim of a hate crime, it must be reported to the NYPD so we can act on it, so we can find the perpetrators, so there will be consequences, so we can stop someone from doing it to another person. Any act of discrimination could very well be something that constitutes a breaking of the law of the city, which we have a very strong human rights law. So people are discriminated against in employment, in terms of their day to day lives, shopping, housing, anything, we want to know about it, we want to stop it. There's no discrimination. There are no hate crimes that are acceptable, but we have to tell people how crucial it is to report them. Anybody who wants to report such a crime or act to discrimination can call 3-1-1. And obviously that is available in many languages.
So, it's up to all of us to contribute to ending this crisis. Every New Yorker can help. And the information you spread really can empower people to do that. We want to get a lot of information out. This is a – guidance and safety tips, frequently asked questions. This is available now in 15 languages and by Friday it will be 23 languages, so this is all this, these two pages, very, very important basic information we want to get out there. Please get this around to all your communities. It will also be available at nyc.gov/coronavirus.
This is a flyer – Stop the Spread – very informative, basic flyer. A lot of great information here. This is available in seven languages and by Friday will be 23 languages. This happens to be an example of the Chinese, we'll get this around to everyone obviously, but you know here on one clear page is a lot of the most important things for people to know and including one of my personal favorites. If you're sick, don't go to work. If you're sick, don't send your – if your kid's sick, don't send your kid to school. Let's really do the basics here. That alone could have a huge positive consequence in terms of ending this crisis. That will be an advertising campaign, multimillion dollar public advertising campaign with the Stop the Spread message. Subway ads are already up in English, Spanish and Chinese. There'll be TV ads in English, Spanish, Cantonese and Mandarin. Those will start Friday. There'll be TV next week, TV ads in starting next week, Korean, Russian, Hindi, Punjabi, Vietnamese and Japanese. And as I turned to Dr. Barbot simply to say obviously we're holding a press conference, we expect questions, but I also welcome information, insights about what you see in your communities, concerns that are being raised. So not just traditional questions where we're giving you an answer as a government, but we welcome your feedback. We welcome your observations as well.
With that, Dr. Barbot –
Commissioner Oxiris Barbot, Department of Health and Mental Hygiene: Thank you, Mr. Mayor. So I want to start off where the Mayor also began to remind New Yorkers that we have an incredible resource here in the city, NYCWell, and I want to just remind folks of the phone number 8-8-8-NYCWELL. The reason why that's so important is because we recognize that when people hear new information that may sound scary and they're hearing every day of increasing numbers of individuals affected around the world, increasing number of individuals who are dying because of this illness, it may cause anxiety, depression of a variety of reactions and indeed, you know, they may be having family members that are affected in these countries. And so we want them to know that NYCWell is a resource that is available 24/7, any language, you can text as well. And so I've also been saying that anxiety and fear about this illness is not an excuse to spread hate and the best way that New Yorkers can contribute to having a more healthy city is by ensuring that they have all of the correct information. And so we encourage New Yorkers to take advantage of the resources that we have.
I want to just review and summarize what we are learning every day about this virus. When this first began, we were very clear that in what it means to be a novel virus is means that it's never existed before. No one in the world has ever been exposed to this. And so there are a lot of people who are not immune. And when we have that kind of a situation, it's natural that every day we will be learning new things. Initially we thought that this virus was transmitted by prolonged household contact, meaning that people who can track did the illness tended to be members of families or people who live together. And then as we learned more specifically here in the cluster that we have been investigating in Westchester, we are learning more every day. So now we know that it's not just household contacts, it's also people who have spent a significant amount of time together, which can range from having close conversation over a meal or in other situations that might make it easy to transmit the virus. And we may continue to learn more about how this virus behaves, but the important thing is that there are some very basic things that as the city's doctor, I want New Yorkers to always do and those are to wash your hands frequently, best to do it with soap and water, but if you're not close to a water source, to use alcohol based sanitizer. The other thing is that if you cough or sneeze, to do it into your sleeve, not into your hand, and most importantly, if you're sick, don't go to work, don't send your child to school.
What we are learning about this illness is that while people may present with symptoms of fever and cough, fever and shortness of breath, it's not like the flu. Sometimes you know when we get the flu, you're fine one day and the next day you feel like you got hit by a truck. What we're learning about this is that people generally present with mild symptoms, some cough, a little bit of fever, and they still go to work. We don't want them to do that anymore because while you are symptomatic, you can transmit the virus. We want people to stay home, stay home 48 hours. And if you're not feeling better, typically what we're seeing is people start developing shortness of breath. We want people to reach out to their doctors and let them know what the symptoms are. And then their doctor will make the clinical decision about whether they get the more common tests we've been talking about BioFire, that's positive, then they will give you the appropriate treatment, where if that's negative, then they will do the COVID-19 test. So that's the very sort of simple overview of what we've learned, what we recommending to New Yorkers. The other thing I want to say is that when you are sick, we are asking businesses to help support workers stay at home so that if businesses can implement working from home, ensuring that staff have an opportunity to do what they need to do, we want to encourage that. But again, we don't want folks to be going into work when they are sick. Additionally, I want to say that – I want to echo a very important point that the Mayor made, which is we are committed as a City to ensuring that individuals who need access to care have access to care. And that's why it's so important that we have NYC Care so that it's a guarantee for New Yorkers who may be feeling not only these symptoms but have any other medical needs and have access to care. And I want to remind the New Yorkers that we don't ask folks about their immigration status. We, if people are uninsured, we work with them to get them insured and that shouldn't be a reason not to access care.
The last thing I will say is that over the – I was going to say over the last few months, because it feels like it's been that long. But since the beginning of this outbreak, we have been reaching out to a number of different communities to ensure that not only are we putting things out on our website, not only are we doing these press conferences, but we are making ourselves available for meetings and communities to answer questions that individuals may have. And so we were, we are going to continue that. And as the mayor said, and as I have said before, we're in this for the long haul and we need all New Yorkers to do their part in slowing the spread of COVID-19.
Mayor: Thank you very much. Commissioner.
Mayor: Two other quick points before we open it up. One, I want to make sure I'm giving you the up to the minute information about the number of confirmed cases in New York City. This morning that was 46, now is an update to 53, so that's again, starting on March 1st until now, 53 confirmed cases. Also an hour or so ago I spoke to the chair of the St. Patrick's Parade Committee, Sean Lane. He and his colleagues are talking through the situation with the St. Patrick's Parade. We're also in close consultation with the State and the Governor's Office on this. First, I want to understand the intentions of the parade organizers. I know they are trying to very quickly decide if they think there is a context for them to continue or not. We're waiting to hear that back. But certainly the City and State are looking at the situation as well and I think we will have resolution on all of this today or tomorrow, either way, but trying to always do these decisions in consultation as much as possible with the organizations involved. Okay. With that. Want to take questions? We'll start on this side. Go ahead.
Question: New York 1 is reporting that this St. Patrick's parade has been called off –
Mayor: We are waiting for confirmation. We heard that too. But again, from the information I had in the last conversation that was not confirmed. So I want t -
Question: So what was the discussion that you've had with the parade –
Mayor: I don't want to get into details of a private discussion simply to say the, I think it was a very thoughtful conversation where clearly the folks who run the parade are very, very concerned for everyone's health and wellbeing. They obviously also have a tremendously beloved annual event that's been going on for hundreds of years literally and want to be very careful and smart about it. So we're all in consultation. If they have made that final decision as confirmed, well that will end the discussion. If there's more to be done, again between us and them and the State, I believe that all be resolved today or tomorrow.
Question: Did you and Commissioner Barbot personally tell the Parade organizers that you wanted this –
Mayor: I'm not going to go into a private conversation. We're weighing all the factors with them.
Question: Did you speak Commissioner Barbot –
Mayor: Again, that's all there is to say to it. Go ahead.
Question: You spoke about those who are uninsured, but there are people in the City and can't afford to stay at home.
Question: Because they are undocumented and they need the work. So what is this city planning on doing for those people?
Mayor: Well, I want to make sure I'm understanding your question. Right now, again, our goal is to be smart about the public health needs of this city, but also keep the city running as best possible. Keep people employed. We obviously care deeply about people's livelihoods. I'm very worried about, you know, there's literally millions of New Yorkers who if they lost, you know, even a week of pay would be in real tough shape. So we're trying to balance all those factors. But let me understand your specific question?
Question: Okay. That was the question because you spoke earlier about people feeling sick and having to stay home –
Question: But with some people, they cannot work remotely because of the type of job that they have. So that means that if they stay home because they [inaudible]
Question: They might end up losing –
Mayor: Let's talk about that. It's a great question. So this is going to be a combination of Dr. Barbot talking about how long it normally takes to understand if someone is sick with coronavirus or not, but also paid sick days. So obviously for all New Yorkers with a very few exceptions, for the vast majority of New Yorkers, paid sick days means if your own company does not have a paid sick days policy or your union has not guaranteed you a paid sick day policy, we ensure that many other New Yorkers have such a policy. That's five days each year. That's really important here because that connects to how long it takes to figure out what's going on with someone. There's also real discussion going on at the State and federal level where we would need the help about, you know, trying to extend paid sick days, unemployment insurance, obviously want to see all of that done. But let's start right here at home. Doctor, help us understand what it normally takes to determine from symptoms, what's going on.
Commissioner Barbot: Certainly. So the average time that it takes for someone who has been exposed to COVID-19 to develop symptoms is anywhere around five to six days. It can be as short as two days. And so in that time, most people develop, as I mentioned before, fever and cough, or fever and shortness of breath. And so what we are advising New Yorkers to do is to stay home for the first 48 hours and if they're not getting better, to then reach out to their doctors. What we're also asking doctors to do is to implement things that such as telemedicine, so that instead of someone having to go into the office, they can be assessed either over the phone or through things like FaceTime or other video conferencing. The point being that a patient be assessed to determine whether or not their symptoms are getting better or whether they're getting worse enough so that they need to be seen in a health care facility.
Mayor: Anyone [inaudible] this row? Yep.
Question: Brooklyn Hospital Center. Are there any updates on those two cases, [inaudible] –
Mayor: In general now I'll start and if anyone has something specific to add, they will. So we said a couple of days ago that just the volume of cases is such that we're not going to be doing individual updates as we were able to do before with a much smaller volume. There will be some exceptions, obviously in particularly notable cases, for example, with public employees will be one of the areas where we'll try and get you more. But generally we're not going to be able to answer specific questions on specific cases. Go ahead.
Question: What is the testing situation? We're still hearing that people can't, there's not enough tests –
Mayor: I'll start and my colleagues will jump in. That's just not accurate. What I think we have here is there, there are people understandably just want the test, right? They don't even have symptoms, they want the test or they have very initial symptoms they want the test to. I don't blame anyone who feels that in this atmosphere, being bombarded by alarming stories. But the first thing and really want people to report this is okay, you feel symptoms, first, you know, don't go to work, don't send your kid to school, etcetera. If, and doctor, you'll - both doctors, you'll correct if you don't like anything.
You know, if your symptoms start to fade over a day or two, that's one thing. If your symptoms manifest and continue or get worse, that's another thing. Anything that seems like it's sustained, we want someone to get to medical care and get tested for the more traditional - I'm using my own term - more traditional diseases. Before we ever heard of coronavirus, there were lots of other diseases that would cause those kinds of symptoms. And there is a test called BioFire, which is very typically given by physicians that rules in or rules out. Is it 29? I keep losing this please.
Commissioner Barbot: 26.
Mayor: 26. I'm sorry – I said 29 – 26 common if you will diseases. If you have one of those diseases, you have one of those diseases. If you don't have one of those diseases and you have sustained symptoms consistent with coronavirus, then we want you tested for coronavirus. If you just came back from one of the countries and have symptoms, then one of the countries that were, you know, obviously a deeply affected and have symptoms, right? We want to get you tested. If you have a direct nexus to an existing coronavirus case and have symptoms, we want to get your test tested. But you know, if any one of us just woke up in the morning and said, jeez this seems really controversial, I'd like to get tested. That's not what we're going to accommodate right now. It's not for lack of testing capacity. It is I think intelligent prioritization. Anyone want to add?
Deputy Mayor Raul Perea-Henze, Health and Human Services: Yes. Let me see if it's on.
Mayor: I will also say just one thing that the doctors have a rule with me. If I say anything that's a little off, they will jump in and correct.
Deputy Mayor Perea-Henze: We certainly know that.
Mayor: You're not shy.
Deputy Mayor Perea-Henze: So let's talk about the capacity. Right now the Public Health Lab here in New York City, which is one of the premier labs in the country can do up to 60 to 80 tests a day. You may all be aware of all the issues that we had where the CDC and the FDA and the federal government being slow and then sending us, you know, chemicals for the test that didn't work. The Mayor really was constantly asking and relieved – demanding that the federal government allowed us to do our testing here locally. Now we have that testing. As of today, two commercial labs, our online Quest and LabCorp, and also H + H that works with Northwell, and many other hospital labs are going to be online. I was on a call with the Governor's staff earlier today in which he announced that 28 more labs statewide would be now approved to do more testing.
We literally went, one by one, you know, and some can do 150, 200 like Columbia, Cornell Montefiore, Mount Sinai, and the expectation is that by the end of the week collectively we will all have around 5,000 – the capacity to do 5,000 tests a week. The public health lab here has two kits from the CDC. Each one of those kits can do a thousand tests each and they already put in for another order. As the commercial labs continued to expand their capacity, obviously that's where most of the testing will be done, not so much of the Public Health Lab. That was our first line of defense. And so hopefully in the coming days we will have the ability to test all of the categories that the Mayor just outlined very explicitly.
Mayor: Okay. Go on back. Yes.
Question: Today the CDC stopped [inaudible] Oversight Committee that they are trying to do with second type of test called surveillance testing in which you go out into the community itself and do proactive testing, and that's six communities around the United States so far are participating in that. Is New York City going to be participating in that?
Deputy Mayor Perea-Henze: We just – go ahead. Go ahead.
Commissioner Barbot: So we are part of that six cities that were participating in surveillance and we've talked about earlier that our early detection system, and that's been one of the ways in which we have identified new cases.
Question: How does that work?
Commissioner Barbot: So we work with hospitals around the city and samples that have been previously collected. We then test for COVID-19.
Question: Have you found anything through the surveillance testing?
Commissioner Barbot: We have found positive COVID-19. I mean the reality is we've talked about the fact that there is a community transmission, widespread community transmission, and what that means is that currently where we are in the outbreak, a New Yorker is probably as likely, if not more likely to contract COVID-19 from someone who has not traveled than someone who has traveled.
Mayor: Okay. Excuse me. That's enough. I got to get to other people.
Question: Yeah. My name is Javier Castano from Queens Latino and this morning, I was distributing my paper and many people ask me this question is why [inaudible] universities or the school or the all chat classes that take place in a place in a room like this with 50 people. So what is developing?
Mayor: So first of all, each institution is making its own decision right now. And what I was seeing is a mix. Columbia University decided the other day to go to online classes because that's something they can do easily, but they were keeping dorms open and other activities open. So it's going to be, you know, each one will make its own decision while we're working with them to try and figure out, you know, what are the smart standards going forward? And it's obviously about what – again, this is, this is where people have to play a role if we're going to get through this. Its people being smart about if you yourself are sick, don't go to a gathering. Being very mindful of the folks who are older and have those preexisting conditions. But also trying to strike a balance because there is a profound danger if you just start shutting down everything, you're going to lose a lot of other things that we depend on in the dynamics of that, like people's livelihoods.
And when people don't have a livelihood, there's a lot of consequences to that too. So we're trying to strike a balance all the time. It's very clear from what we know that this is a disease that transmits in a particular way, not in every way. And I think if you look at some of the reporting out there, you would think, you know, you just have to look at someone with coronavirus and you'll get it or, you know, walk into a room someone was in a day before. So no it's very direct contact and then fluid transmission, we don't know everything. And you know, the doctor could tell me tomorrow that there's new research that tells us something new. But after all of us talking about it for six weeks straight, we really do believe this is, you know, very direct contact, fluid transmission is what is the essence of this. So we want decisions made carefully and when we get to a point of needing to give some very specific guidance beyond what we've given now we will, if we get to the point of needing to instill - or utilize very specific tangible emergency measures, we would do that. But right now it's day by day, case by case.
Question: Mr. Mayor –
Mayor: Only people have not gone please. I'm sorry. We're going to – we got lots of hands so that's all we're going to do today is one round per person. Go ahead –
Deputy Mayor Perea-Henze: Let me add something that I think all of you should, as the Mayor said, could help us with. Remind people that 80 to 90 percent of all of us could be touched and we are going to be okay. We may have mild symptoms, as the Mayor keeps saying, also remind everyone that we need to protect those most at risk and those are our seniors and people who have this preexisting conditions. Only one percent of the population that has been affected worldwide right now is in serious conditions. The average age, you know, in some – in China and some of the places is 81-years-old. We don't have that many cases, but please remind people that it's okay to try to live a normal life as much as possible with the precautions that we continue to address.
Mayor: Okay, this side. People have not gone go.
Question: Yes. I, I just wanted to ask about how long the virus lasts on surface as you understand it?
Mayor: Go ahead.
Commissioner Barbot: So there's a range. Laboratory studies have shown that the virus can survive for hours. Real world scenarios indicate that the virus may live anywhere from like two to five minutes. I think the real question should be how can New Yorkers best protect themselves? And that's, you know, the answer is going back to the basics of hand-washing and covering your mouth and your nose when you cough or you sneeze. I think having the additional information of the importance of just basic cleaning is also important. Part of what we haven't talked enough about is the behavioral changes that we as a society need to go through and to remind ourselves that every time we're are wiping a surface, every time we are washing our hands that it's not just about doing it for ourselves, but it's for doing it for our neighbors as well.
Question: Okay, and just to follow up on that though, because there was a study and it was published today according to the this news report today, that found that the viable virus could be detected up to three hours later in the air and up to two to three days on plastic and stainless steel. And I'm just wondering like if the City has been able to evaluate that study and draw that into what you all are recommending people because this study is saying it could be up to two to three days on plastic and stainless steel.
Commissioner Barbot: So on a daily basis, we're looking at all studies that are coming out. You know, scientists across the world, they're studying all aspects of this. I think the important thing here to note is the difference between surviving in a laboratory setting and being able to actually transmit the virus in a way that it causes illness. And so I don't want New Yorkers to come away thinking that in any way, shape or form they have to worry more about one particular surface or another. The important thing is to focus on the fact that hand-washing, covering your mouth and your nose when you cough, is an appropriate way, not only in the beginning, but it will be an appropriate way in the middle, and it was always be an appropriate way to protect yourself and your family towards the end of the outbreak.
Mayor: Okay, we're going to finish this side, one per – one round each, go.
Question: Okay. So a number of a dim sum parlors in Sunset Park, the Eater reported that, is there anything that the city can do to help those business and employees when they are close?
Mayor: Yeah, I mean the, the things we've put out there already that for businesses under a hundred employees we can do no interest loans of up to 75,000 for businesses have fewer than five employees. We can do direct grants up to 40 percent of their – I think its operating expenses is the basis I need to check that – but substantial direct grant. That's one thing we're looking for. Any other relief we can find. Look, we're also telling people to not avoid restaurants, not avoid you know, the normal things they would do. This does not transmit through food or drink. Again, I constantly am peppering the doctors with questions, common sense questions that they are adamant. All of our healthcare experts are adamant. You don't get this disease by eating food in a restaurant or you know, eating takeout or drinking something. It is neutralized in your digestive system.
You get it through cough, sneeze, or spit and you know, through people talking in spit coming out inadvertently for example. And it has to go directly into your mouth, nose, or eyes. So people should go out and continue to live life, should go out to restaurants, and obviously we don't want any discrimination. That's unacceptable. But for businesses that are hurting, we'll try and give them support. We're hoping that we'll see other federal support as well. And I'd hope they can hang on, because you know, this is, this is something that'll be with us, but it will be with us for a finite period of time. Go ahead.
Question: For relief for small businesses, March 15th, deadline for income tax for '19, will administration consider an extension without [inaudible]
Mayor: Yeah, we'll look at that. I have to get clear about how, what we do interrelates with the State, but we'll certainly going to see if there's a way to provide some relief there.
Question: To the degree that some businesses are being proactive and staggering employee schedules and doing the best they can to have [inaudible] is there a clinical medical basis for that kind of move? Is that a good idea?
Mayor: Yes –
Question: Secondly – and if you could explain why that is and make that clear. And then secondly, is the City planning on doing the same?
Mayor: So, I'll start and the doctors can jump in. Yes – the answer to the first question, yes. There's a basis, it's just trying to take away the dynamics where people are on in unusually close circumstances, like a crowded New York City subway car in rush hour where, you know, God forbid, someone coughs or sneezes and can't get their elbow up in time. You know, you could be right there in front of them. That's a real thing. We want to try and just create a little more space, a little more openness, staggering work hours, allowing more people to telecommute really, really helps. So, that's the basis. The doctors can give you a more elegant answer. We are looking at it for the city, but I said in several press conferences, we do have a different dynamic. We are here to serve people. We are not profit-making enterprise.
We have less flexibility because our people have to be where they have to be when they have to be, you know? We have to – our first responders, our teachers, our health experts, you know, our nurses, our doctors have to be where we need them. But to the extent with some of our employees, we can create more staggering or telecommuting, we will. We're still working out how to do that.
Just timeout before these two – just looking to the communications people, going to remind you all the importance of keeping a running list of concerns. For example, the potential of moving the tax date. I want us to quickly answer all we can answer today, tomorrow, consistently keep a running list of the answers we're providing to our colleagues in the media. Do you do want to add on the why of the staggering?
Deputy Mayor Perea-Henze: I'll do a quick one. The main point is to avoid crowds where contagion transmission will be easier. So, by staggering time we're trying to diminish crowds and subways and buses and office settings, which will probably lead to less opportunities for transmission.
Mayor: And I think there's a particular concern about, sort of – there's close, and then there's super close. You know people on a crowded – really truly crowded in New York City subway car in rush hour are amongst the closest people to each other in the world, right? That we want – that's the kind of thing we want to open up. But we, again, don't want to go to the point without the hardest evidence of creating so much momentum for shutting things down that we undermine people's day to day lives, undermine how parents take care of their kids, undermine, you know, the availability of employees to take care of what needs, undermine the ability of people to pay for the things they need to pay for in their life. We're really trying to strike that balance. We think that staggering, that telecommuting can be very, very helpful in achieving that.
Okay. Finishing on this side, only people have not gone. I see two more. Go –
Question So, the World Health Organization is – already has updated [inaudible] to a pandemic. They are expected to recommend that governments around the world institute a quarantine. How far are we from that consideration?
Mayor: I can't give you a day or a projection. This is something we are taking in new information all the time. World Health Organization is one source, respect it – doctors, you can amend my layman's statement. I think we can say at this point in time we're looking at all the guidance, but with a bit of a trust-but-verify a worldview. I think we've been a little confused by our own federal government. You know, New York City, our health organizations have extraordinary capacity and extraordinary experience. So, you know, we are very, very mindful of first relying upon ourselves and our own people. But we're looking at CDC, NIH, WHO – all the guidance. But I find a lot of the media questions are about when – you know, when are we going to shut everything down? If I could be so plain. And that's not what we're trying to do. If we have to, we will. It's not what we are yearning to do. We want to try and do this very carefully and see if we can keep a lot of things running for the good of all while keeping people safe. We are not rushing with great joy to the notion of shutting everything down. Look what's happening in Italy right now. Folks, you know, we'll do whatever we have to do to keep people safe, but I am telling you it's going to take Italy not months but years to recover from that level of shutdown. I think we would all agree that's something we should not do lightly.
Last one on that side. Okay. I'll give you an opportunity and then we're going over here. Go ahead.
Question: As a community transmission increases, so is there any possibility the city is considering, you know, sharing information about the confirmed cases – where he or she have been, which train he or she took, which restaurant [inaudible] –
Mayor: No. I'll give you a straight forward no on that. One, we tried in the first weeks to be very transparent, to show people bluntly the opposite of what you saw in some other countries. There's been a direct correlation between countries that were secretive and not transparent with the media and the people, and the massive spread of the disease. We tried to be ultra-transparent about the specific details, the cases, the realities. But now, the number of cases are such that we cannot do that. We just can't accurately give you that kind of information, except, again, in cases that there's a broader public interest in that we understand it's important to provide as much detail as we can. But again – look, these two doctors, plus Dr. Barbot's deputy, Dr. Daskalakis, who is Deputy Commissioner for Disease Control, plus the head of our Health and Hospitals system, Dr. Mitch Katz, and his chief medical officer. They all are the people who are looking at all the information and providing advice on how we proceed. I have never had any of them say we need to tell people whether someone was on a subway car yesterday or a week ago, because that gives anybody any meaningful guidance, because we don't accept the notion that the disease hangs in the air like other diseases. And you two should really – I keep trying my best as a layman, but if it did, if it was a disease, like if you just walked into this room and someone had been here an hour ago who had coronavirus and it's just hanging in the air, we'd tell you, I assure you. It's just not how it works from our understanding. And if the surface issue was resolved and we – also, if we thought the surface issue was how you generally got it, we would tell you that. One, it's not resolved.
Our team thinks it's a very limited a shelf life in real conditions. And second, they just don't think that's generally how people are transmitting, because it takes a lot of steps to find the right service to touch and get it to your mouth or nose or ears really quick. Sorry – eyes, I should say – not ears – not ears. So, we're telling people what we understand, but I do see this consistent, like, what if – I remember this around the individual, the first lawyer from Westchester – the first case that was part of that cluster and people saying, did he take Metro North? And our answer would be, even if he did, we don't know he took Metro North, it has no bearing on anything, because if you took Metro North a week ago, it has no impact on anyone. If someone sat next to him and had a close conversation and contracted it, well, they'll know that for their own reasons. But telling people on Metro North be scared of Metro-North or telling people to be scared of the subways – I remind you all, we went through Ebola, and there were people who are scared because the one patient in the Ebola – and this is an absolutely, you know, Ebola makes, if I could be so cold, coronavirus look like a walk in the park. You know, this was really a high level of guarantee of death, unlike coronavirus. You know, the individual involved had taken the subway, there were people like shut down the subway, except the science didn't comport with that and we kept people going about their lives and we had one case and it was resolved favorably and it did not spread. So, we really have to strike that balance. So, that's me as a layman doing my damnedest. Now, let's let actual experts speak to you.
Commissioner Barbot: I think, Mr. Mayor, you captured it. The only other thing that I would say is that in the very beginning, it's important for us to do the types of in depth investigations that the Mayor was talking about because we wanted to learn whether or not the virus was here in the city or whether it was something that was still just being exported from other countries. And once we established that beyond the shadow of a doubt, the value of continuing to report on in essence the same story but a little variation on the theme doesn't add anything to what we're trying to do in terms of educating New Yorkers about their potential risk, educating New Yorkers about how they can protect themselves and educating New Yorkers about what we're doing as a city in collaboration with New Yorkers to ensure that we slow the spread of the outbreak.
Mayor: Okay. You are the last one on this side. Guys, one round only. I'm going to say it a hundred times – go.
Question: Do you think that the virus will impact things like the Queens Borough President primary election and the Census? And if so, how does the city –
Mayor: So, let's – those are two very different things. Very fair question. We've gotten some people concerned about the special election for borough president. I am really, really hesitant to change an election, ever, for anything. I think it's a very dangerous thing to do in a democracy. So, we'll look at it, but I would say, you know, we'll give it a very careful look. We'll talk to health care experts, we'll consider the dynamics. But right now, it is not my intention to change an existing election. The Census, we don't get to make that call. If the Census is on, it would be absolutely at our peril if we did not proceed with a full-bore effort and that's what we're doing right now. And the Census, by the way, is very individual. I mean it's, you know, people making sure individuals have followed through. The Census doesn't involve, like, calling people to a mass meeting, right? It's really about going out into communities and connecting with people briefly, one-on-one, making sure that they followed through. So, I've heard no suggestion that the Census would be delayed. It's something we should study to see if there is an argument for the federal government to do that in this environment, whether we're going to get an aberrant census and the dangers that could come with that. But until that decision is made and formal, we have to assume it's on and we have to continue our efforts. That would be my argument.
Question: Mr. Mayor, you asked that we should provide information [inaudible] asking questions. The DOE announced recently that they're going to provide sanitizing supplies to private schools [inaudible] schools. One private school I spoke with 700 students said that they went down to pick up the supplies. They were given one bottle of bleach, one pack of paper towels, and three bars of soap.
Mayor: I need to know and my team needs to know exactly – you don't have to say it here, you can give it to us – that's unacceptable.
Mayor: I need to know that, because that's not what we said we were going to do and not the intention, obviously, because the DOE is a massive operation. It has the resources to support these other schools in a time of crisis. If – and I want to say this about the whole government, if you all believed that before this crisis, the New York City government was operating perfectly, then I want to thank you for your faith in government and ask you about your naiveté. The – or about any institution, any institution of any kind, any business, any organization, anywhere. There's always going to be imperfections. That doesn't make it good, but it's just true. I'm in an atmospheric crisis, it gets harder, but the rules are the rules. We said we need to, and we will, help these organizations. If an organization is not getting the help it needs, I need to know about it, my team needs to know about it, and we'll fix it.
Question: [Inaudible] 80 to 90 percent of the city would be touched by the coronavirus –
Mayor: No, not at all.
Deputy Mayor Perea-Henze: I said if 80 to 90 percent of us get touched, we will be okay.
Mayor: He was talking about the overall impact of the disease.
Mayor: We don't have that projection.
Mayor: So, look, again, I'll jump in and then my colleagues can. Guys, I understand, I really do, why you would like to be able to crystal ball the situation and be able to tell – you know, tell your readers and your listeners, your viewers exactly where this is going. If you do that, you'd be the first people to ever successfully – no one is certain. We've got to be comfortable with the fact that uncertainty is a part of life. But here's the certainty part, based on the entire experience of the disease, 80 percent or more of the folks who get it have minimal health impact; 20 percent have a more serious health impact, yet the vast majority of those will survive, will recover. There's a debate about the exact rate of fatality and we don't take that lightly. Even one more person dying is a tragedy, obviously, but we, you know, whatever that is, it is a very small percentage of those who get the disease. So, the Deputy Mayor's point is, whatever the ultimate number of people who do get in New York City, the vast majority are not only going to survive, the vast majority are going to have a very limited experience with a disease. And we've got to keep that in perspective here, and not turn it into something that's not, that's why I use the Ebola – when Ebola was bearing down on us, there was no gray. It was a truly consistently deadly disease. A huge percentage of the people who were affected ended up dead. This is not that. So, we can't tell you how many people can get it. We can tell you it is going to get a lot worse before it gets better.
Anyone want to add or –
Deputy Mayor Perea-Henze: Just a quick one. This is not measles; it doesn't hang in the air. And I'm old enough to remember, this is not HIV, right? If you get it, you're going to die. The Mayor –
Mayor: HIV in the early years, just to make sure people fully understand – you were around. By the way, Dr. Perea-Henze was working for Health and Hospitals during the beginning of the AIDS epidemic when literally, you know, the city was trying to keep up with an overwhelming crisis and people were dying constantly. So, you do have real perspective.
Deputy Mayor Perea-Henze: And we used to have this anxiety and we used to have these conversations and I can tell you, having been through both, this is much different. The Mayor just said it, you know, pretty accurately.
Question: Thank you. [Inaudible] channel community in New York city. Thank you so much Mr. Mayor, and your colleagues, for your work. I know you [inaudible] everything again, thank you. And I have a question about in the future. Now, that we have a controlled situation, but we don't know exactly what will happen, right? And what do you think – is there chance for the city to be closed in the future because we don't know exactly –
Mayor: So, this is – it's a fine question, but, again, gets to the – I understand everyone wants to both know exactly what's going to happen. We can't help you with that. And there's almost a desire I see in a lot of questions from not only here but other media, you know, tell us all the tools you have and when you're going to use them. And we're keep telling you, we are not going to do that because, one, it would be absolutely inaccurate and misleading. We know the emergency powers we have, I have tremendous emergency powers to shut down all sorts of things, but we are not using them until we are certain it's the right thing to do based on the evidence. Now again, I commend Dr. Barbot constantly for saying something that I think a lot of other people in government wouldn't say, but they should say, which is let's talk to you about how long will this war is going to go on, right? Because you know the famous – I'll use a bad analogy, but it makes the point – down through the ages, certainly in this country, you know, the famous promise, oh we're going to war and it'll be really brief. You know, for those of you who know your history, the phrase the boys will be home by Christmas, you know, or even more recently in presidential history, the mission accomplished in Iraq, right? What Dr. Barbot did, which I was fully supportive of, said the other day, based on her knowledge – September – six months – we will be at this for six months. We may tell you next week we think is going to be longer or maybe we'll catch some amazing lucky break and it's less. But I want people to start to see that. I think we owe people the – sort of to acclimate them and help them understand the battle ahead because everyone's got to be a part of it. So, think about – this is imperfect, but just take it as a working model. The next six months, we're going to be –
[Commissioner Barbot coughs]
Mayor: Did she do it right? Did you do it right?
Commissioner Barbot: Perfectly.
Mayor: Okay, I'm watching you.
Commissioner Barbot: I'll do it again.
Mayor: For the next six months, we're going to be dealing with this. We'd like to believe at the end of six months or so, we're sort of now coming out of it and starting to normalize. The numbers that Dr. Perea-Henze put forward about the 80 percent, the 20 percent, we really feel strongly, so you can project whatever number of people get this, you have a pretty clear chart of what's going to happen to those people. Our goal is to keep it a few people as possible. Meanwhile, you say, okay, what about the entire rest of civilization? Think about this for a moment, what about everything else we do? By the way, all of these people up here have to fight all the other diseases too. So, let's put this in perspective. Everything else we do in health care has to continue in the meantime, there's lots of other health care challenges. What we're doing about – I'm not making – you know what we do with heart disease, smoking, all sorts of other challenges. Our police still have to fight crime. We still have to stop traffic fatalities. Then there's a question of people's livelihoods. It is dangerous when people don't have a livelihood. It's dangerous when people cannot afford the rent, food medicine. So, the idea here is to try and balance all these factors even down to the fact that children missing their education is highly problematic. Children over the summer lose some ground in their education. Imagine if our schools were closed for months. What about all the parents who have no place for their kids? What about kids that don't get a meal? So, we're going to do this day by day, hour by hour, and if we make decisions, we're going to try and pinpoint them, which is I think against sort of, bluntly, the American discourse, which looks for you know, absolute certainty, simple, simple answers, yes or no, black or white total instant gratification. We are not near any of that. This is going to be nuanced and difficult and prolonged and we're going to get new information all the time and we're going to have to make smart decisions. But I have to protect the whole equation – 8.6 million people, the whole picture, not just the narrow question of what happens with coronavirus. I'm sorry for the long answer, but I hope that – I hope that answers some of your question.
Mayor: I respect any school's decision. I do think there's a direct correlation between the schools that have chosen to go to distance learning and either the age of the students or the economic circumstance of the families. College students, if you go to distance learning, you're dealing with adults. You're not dealing with kids who may not have another place to go. You're not dealing with parents who don't have the ability to bring their child to work and desperately need to work, which is a whole lot of people in this town. So, adults, meaning anyone who goes to college, essentially, that's overwhelmingly going to be an adult – a different reality. And then for some private schools, I think they make their decisions for whatever their reasons, and I respect them, but they make their decisions with the expectation, I assume, that the parents have lots of resources and opportunities to address the issue, unlike our parents of 1.1 million kids, you know, a huge percentage of whom are working people, working class people, lower income people who have many fewer options. So, we have to put that into consideration. Also, there's no question that the quality of teaching in a classroom setting is going to be better and a follow-up on that, it's going to be better than in a distance setting. So, we're weighing all of that. The DOE is preparing options for online learning, but it is by far not our preference, and we don't see a context for it right now. And again, I need people to hear, we're watching obsessively, but we are not seeing this as a disease that afflicts children in an overwhelming fashion with the notable exception of a child has one of those five preexisting conditions. So, I would say to any parent in that situation, exercise tremendous caution.
Mayor: The seven-year-old girl did not have any of those preexisting conditions.
Question: [Inaudible] talk about, you know, the subway –
Mayor: Right, I hear you. I will turn to my colleagues and that's certainly going on the list of things that we will follow up on. And I don't think – I know that has not been on the list of things we're considering so far. I think it's an unfair suggestion, but it has not been on the list of things we're considering so far. There'll be some really substantial logistics to that one. But if you all want to offer –
Mayor: Let's do both on this one. Start in English and then the crossover –
Commissioner Barbot: The most important thing is we have been emphasizing is that if New Yorkers are sick, if they have a fever, a cough, shortness of breath, stay home. We need to ensure that New Yorkers are clear about what their role in this is, right? It's not just about what public health does, it's not just about what the health care delivery system does, it's what we all can do together. And the first step starts with stay home, if you're sick. Like, I can't say it any more bluntly – as the City's doctor, just stay home if you're sick.
[Commissioner Barbot speaks in Spanish]
Mayor: I want to pick up just one point on that, which is a stay home if you're sick is – you don't need to go to the subway and have someone outside the subway with a one of those things they swipe over your forehead to tell you if you have a temperature, right?
Mayor: No question. But this is actually – I don't want to sound like I suddenly have lost track of the nature of human beings or New Yorkers, but I want to say something. We're talking about two months of essential total immersion for the people of this city being told to be scared of this disease. You know, I mean there's very few parallels. We like to put out all of our messages and our flyers and this has value, but you know, you cannot – you can't do anything in New York City or America right now without being bombarded with fear about coronavirus. So, I think when our health officials say, don't go to work if you're sick and check your temperature – one of the number one indicators, right? And I think doctors, it would be helpful to sort of really put a pinpoint on how much fever is crucial in this equation. I think there's a hell of a lot of people have a thermometer. If you don't have a thermometer, go buy a thermometer if you can. And I think that's, again, the vast majority of people. If you're not sure if you have a fever, take your temperature. Now, you could say, oh, you know, the government has to do that for me. I'm sorry. No, I'm trying to make clear. This isn't that kind of crisis. The government can do a lot. We cannot do it. All the people have to participate. So, you could say, well, what if someone is not responsive? How about their loved ones? How about their family members? How about their friends? Yeah, I'm sure there's some people who are like, oh, I'm okay, when you can tell they're not. Well, then other people need to say them – hey, you know what? You actually don't seem so okay. Take your temperature. And if you have a fever, stay home. It's a little change of behavior, of course, for a lot of people, but we all have to be a part of this. So, I'm going to keep telling you and I ask you to report it and I appreciate your reporting. If the answer is, I'm going to sit back and the government's going to come and take care of me, that is a misunderstanding of this crisis. Everyone needs to participate. Would you speak to fever?
Commissioner Barbot: Yes, we're telling people at temperature of 100.4 or higher.
Mayor: But speak to fever as an indicator of how to act –
Commissioner Barbot: In any situation, if you've got a fever of 104 – 100.4 don't go to work.
Mayor: Say that again, I think there's –
Commissioner Barbot: 100.4.
Mayor: Strike what you heard a moment ago. Erase that. I'm going to neuralize you, for all of you Men in Black fans. Start over – doctor, what's that temperature?
Commissioner Barbot: 100.4.
Mayor: Just less than two degrees over normal.
Commissioner Barbot: There you go.
Commissioner Barbot: Don't go to work, right, at any point. And especially in where we are now in terms of this pandemic, we want people to have a lower threshold for staying home. So, at any point, if someone has a fever of 100.4 and cough, fever – temperature of 100.4 and shortness of breath, don't go to work. Stay home. Stay home, and if after 48 hours you're not feeling better, then talk to your doctor. And they may say stay home an extra 24 hours or they may say, you've got a chronic underlying illness, I want to see you. We need the most important part to be, don't go to school, don't go to work.
Mayor: Can I just ask you, for everyone's sake – just fever, nothing else. I don't know if that's even normal, but try it on for size. I would think we care about that too.
Commissioner Barbot: Just fever, we want you to stay home because you may have something else, but it doesn't necessarily mean that you have COVID-19.
Mayor: Right. But just fever alone against an abundance of caution – just fever, we want people to stay home.
Question: Good evening, everybody. Mr. Mayor, everybody –
Mayor: You're oratorically strong, I'm impressed.
Question: Thank you. Thank you very much. I used to be a homeless individual. I am now here because I'm trying to figure out, is New York City prepared to handle the homeless men, the women and the children the same way they are prepared to handle the individuals without the – you know, the medication and the insurance as those who are a little bit more privileged here in New York City within the five boroughs. And how do you – how could you elaborate this to all of us? Because I think it's an issue because myself being an ex-homeless individual, I created myself, and not looking to blow smoke up there, I want to just have everybody understand that when there's a will, there's a way, but you have to gather your strength, get yourself out of bed and be a strong individual. How does New York City [inaudible] –
Mayor: I got it. So, thank you. For folks in our shelter system, obviously we're ready to provide whatever health care support they need. For folks on the street, our outreach effort HOMESTAT is constantly working anyway, long before this crisis, three years, to connect with people deeply get to know them personally, find out what they need, help them, which is a perfect methodology that fits this moment. We didn't anticipate this moment, but it fits it where those relationships now get turned into also asking people if they're okay looking for people with symptoms, getting them help. Again, I think my experience says in this dynamic, homeless people are getting the same media and information the vast majority of other people are in many, many cases. If someone needs help, I think they'll readily come forward and accept it. If someone we think is a danger to themselves or others as per usual, we have the ability to act, but we will be out in force looking for people who need help. We are not seeing that as of yet. That's not where we're seeing the challenge. Okay. Thank you.
Mayor: It's a great question. Let me first say, with all due respect to that hospital, it is not part of our public hospital system. So, when I say we have been preparing since January 24th, let me affirm that means, first and foremost, the public sector, Health and Hospitals. That is Episcopal Hospital – that is not part of our public system. Immense guidance has been sent out. My colleagues will join in – immense guidance has been sent out regularly to hospitals about how to create the right protocols. Overwhelmingly, it has worked because you've not seen any other situation like we saw in that hospital. I think by definition there was a lapse and an unusual circumstance that led to it. That said, you know, the hospital – I know Dr. Barbot spoke with the head of the hospital immediately to make sure they had what they need. They could keep operating and they are. Those individuals, you know, before you know it, they'll be back out of quarantine and back on the playing field. But something imperfect happened there. It's the only case we've seen like that and there's a constant effort to ensure that the right protocols are used. Someone shows up, asks the right questions, treat them right away, put a mask on them if needed, isolate them if needed. And I think the vast majority of the health care community in New York City is doing, but you guys can affirm if you agree with that statement.
Commissioner Barbot: So, yes, since the – actually even before this outbreak on a regular basis, we train with hospitals to ensure that they are up to date on infection control procedures. We actually do what we call secret shopper visits through their emergencies departments to test them. And there are occasions when we do these tests where not every single person in that facility knows exactly what we do. We take those testing opportunities to retrain folks and make sure that they learn from that experience. And so, this was a situation, as the Mayor mentioned, where there was a clear lapse. And so, I spoke with the CEO. We are working in collaboration with the State to make sure that first and foremost, all of those health care workers are appropriately quarantined and that we ensure that that hospital is clear on protocols and has all of the equipment that it needs.
Question: [Inaudible] will the City cover the cost?
Mayor: So, yeah, this is not a new thing. I appreciate the question, but I mean this is pretty obvious from just the way we handle all things. First of all, there's a whole lot of people who are testing positive and are at home and seeing it through. So, there's not a guarantee you end up hospitalized. For those who are hospitalized, if they have insurance, we'll draw off the insurance. If they don't have insurance, they always have the option of being in a city facility and we're going to make sure they get the care they need no matter what. If we can put them on insurance, we'll put them on insurance. But there's – of course we're going to make sure that everyone gets care regardless of the ability to pay.
Okay. We're closing down. Last call. People who have not gone –
Commissioner Barbot: So, as the Deputy Mayor said earlier, of the people who contract COVID-19, 80 percent of them will do well and they'll do well outside of the hospital. Some people may have very, very mild symptoms and then others will progress to more severe symptoms. The thing about this COVID-19 is that there is no vaccination and that there is no antibiotic. There's no antiviral therapy that has been approved to treat it. So, when we say that people will get the appropriate treatment, it means that if they are sick enough where they can't eat or they can't drink and they need to be in the hospital to receive intravenous fluids so that they don't become dehydrated, they will get that. If their pneumonia as a result of COVID-19 is severe enough that they have difficulty breathing and they may need oxygen, that they will receive it. So, it's those kinds of treatments that will be available.
Commissioner Barbot: So, the people that present mild, you know, it's typically how you treat if you would get a cold or the flu at home. So, drinking lots of fluids, getting lots of rest, taking ibuprofen or acetaminophen for your fever. And the most important thing is not going out until your fever is completely gone.
Question: [Inaudible] should we avoid these large crowds, even though it may negatively impact these industries?
Mayor: Again, we are encouraging people to think about it in a more individual manner. If you are over 50 and you have those five preexisting conditions, you should take extra precautions for sure. Be very, very careful not to be in the presence of anyone sick and the example I use is a grandparent and grandchildren – if the grandchildren are sick, don't go visit them. You should be very, very careful about large gatherings. Folks who are in those particular vulnerability areas – bluntly, this is overwhelmingly the people we're losing – need to be extra careful. For everybody else to think about how to balance your life, and that means starting with your own situation – if you're sick, don't go out and put other people in danger and make sure that you are getting the care you need. If you are not sick, if you are not in the vulnerable category, you should be going about your life, but we want you to try and be mindful to avoid like the super crowded situations like the, you know, rush hour subway car. That's about it. You know, it's not quite all things in moderation, that would be too simplistic, but there are some of that. Try and strike some balance, because we are not trying to, at this moment, say, let's go to the extreme of shutting everything down, shutting down everyone's livelihoods, shutting down to everyone's way of life. If we get to that point or close to that point, we'll tell you case by case. But clearly, we are evaluating all the time – all the people up here are evaluating all the time. And if we get to the point where we think any particular type of activity needs to be suspended, we can do that voluntarily with the organizations, or we can mandate it depending on – you can – if we were there, you would know about it. We're doing this day by day, hour by hour. Okay.
Thank you everybody.
Mayor: We have covered it. Thank you.