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Transcript: Mayor de Blasio Holds Media Availability on COVID-19

March 13, 2020

Mayor Bill de Blasio: Okay. We have a lot to go over with you today. And, obviously, we all just finished watching the President's remarks and the President specifically declaring the national state of emergency. This confirms what we've been talking about, obviously, for weeks now that we needed the federal government to play a much more active role and hopefully this is a step in the right direction. I'm going to go into a number of things that the government is doing, but, again, want to first talk about New Yorkers and everyone's lives, every-day lives. I've talked to so many people these last days and there's obviously a tremendous amount of fear and anxiety, tremendous amount of confusion – who wouldn't be confused in this ever-changing situation? New Yorkers right now are hurting and they're looking for answers. But I also want to remind everybody, despite the anxiety and the confusion, New Yorkers are still New Yorkers. We are the toughest, most resilient people in this nation. And I see so much evidence of that as well. And I appreciate – I see so many people helping each other out, going the extra mile for their fellow New Yorkers. And this is what I think we'll see throughout this crisis, and I always will be honest with people, we're going to be at this for months and we're going to need people to do that, to be a part of the solution, to help us solve the overall situation, but also to really be there for each other. Now, I also want to say, even though New Yorkers are tough, if you're feeling scared, if you're feeling anxious, if you need help, there's nothing wrong with that and you have every right to get help and help is always there for you. I want to remind you, you can call 888-NYC-WELL, 24 hours a day, multiple languages, trained counselors. So, if you're feeling anxious, you're feeling depressed by everything going on, you need some help, we want to know there is some place to turn – 888-NYC-WELL.

Look, we've been getting so much news, so much changing all the time. This, again, this really feels like a crisis that changes almost by the hour. Most of the news we get isn't real good, a lot of it's really quite troubling. But there are still things happening that should give people some confidence and some hope. And I just want to take a moment to thank my colleagues here and all the people who work under their command. Each of these people represents many thousands more who work for them and I've a lot of them these last few weeks, and I'm going to be asking a lot more, but they have always risen to the challenge. I think it's hard for every-day people watching the news, getting their information wherever they get it online, etcetera, from the newspapers, it's hard to imagine what these people do and all of the thousands and thousands of people who work for them do, but I want to give you a window on it. They work extraordinarily hard and there are no boundaries to their work. There is no clocking in and clocking out, everyone here signed up for the 24/7 plan. And I will give you some evidence – last night, I was over at OEM till about 9:30. When I left OEM, it was filled with public servants who were manning their posts, dealing with everything that was happening. I continued emailing and calling these folks and some other folks till about 11:00 pm, and everyone was 110 percent on duty. And I sent an email this morning at 6:50 am to a group of people and instantaneously a number of them responded with specific information. So, you got people here are going to be working really, really hard and they all know we're going to be doing this for many, many months. As I said, no one's going to have a day off, everyone's going to be working very, very long days. There's no holidays. There's no weekends. It's just going to be continuous for all of us and that's what everyone here signed up for, but I want to honor them for that so New Yorkers can at least feel comfort that the entire team will be devoted throughout. And that's certainly the case of our first responders are healthcare professionals, so many public servants who are going to be there no matter what.

We obviously have the basics of the President's state of emergency. There are a lot of details that we need to get filled in, a lot of information we don't yet have about what it means. But, directionally, certainly a lot of good new initiatives in the President’s state of emergency that hopefully will help us in very tangible ways. Want to confirm also to all New Yorkers and clarify what our state of emergency here means, because I think, understandably, there's lots of questions. There's a Medium post that’s up now. I think we're changing the title to make it a little clearer, but it's up now, from me, just explaining some of the basics on the state of emergency for the city. That obviously is available. It's a Medium post, it's also been sent out our Twitter handle for the Mayor's Office, @NYCMayorsOffice, and mine, @NYCMayor. We're sending it out because we really want people to have an understanding of this. And the important thing to understand is state of emergency doesn't mean that every piece of our lives have changed overnight by the stroke of a pen, obviously. There were the rumors yesterday that I really – I can't say I'm ever shocked by anything, but I was troubled by them. The rumors of Manhattan being quarantined and everything being shut down, it bore no semblance to reality. But I have to tell you how many, many, many people – people I've known a long time were all bombarding me with emails and texts asking me if it was true. And people I would've thought would immediately not assume it's true and people obviously did not take the opportunity to go and look at the many information sources we have. I want to really reiterate to people, we have got to be sober and clearheaded in this crisis. It's not going away. It's going to be here a long time. Anytime you're not sure of something you hear – and I ask this, of course, of our colleagues in the media as well, they can obviously get to all of our colleagues for quick confirmations – but for every-day New Yorkers, you can go to You can call 3-1-1. You can get our regular updates by text – again, text COVID – C-O-V-I-D – to 692-692. COVID, text that to 692-692. That number now, it's amazing – there's 220,000 people getting those updates now. It's almost a quarter-million people and the more people get them the better so good information is out there. For Spanish speakers by the way, they can text to COVID ESP – so, C-O-V-I-D E-S-P to 692-692 and get Spanish updates.

But once we heard that rumor yesterday, we immediately shot it down. It has no basis in fact at all. What our state of emergency means is that the city has the capacity to take actions including very intense actions to protect everyone and to address the crisis. As I said yesterday, and I say in the Medium post, right now, the most important piece of the equation is the limitations on gatherings. We did that in conjunction with the State. The State put out the rules, we’re absolutely unified on that. There are many, many other emergency powers that could be utilized depending on what we need. But we want people still to go on about their lives. We want people to rest assured that a lot is being done to protect them, a lot of public servants out there making sure things are working in this city. To the maximum extent possible, we want people going to work, earning their livelihood. So, I don't want any misunderstanding of what a state of emergency means in our case. And as we have to use any of these emergency powers, we're going to announce that in real time. We have a lot of powers in reserve right now. We'll announce when and if we need to use them.

So, in the months ahead, I've established the notion, there's three pillars to protecting this city and our longterm interests of our people and the health and safety of our people. And I've talked in terms of lines of defense and the line of defense that I want to defend with everything we've got, it’s got three pillars – our schools, our mass transit, and our health care system, and those three interrelate deeply. You take one out of the equation, it affects the others. My goal is to keep all three of those going as effectively as we can and the most important piece of that will be our health care system. And again, we will constantly update you on how we're handling each of these.

On our health care system, I want to start by saying that we are constantly working to understand coronavirus, the entire global medical community is. We have some of the best public health experts in the world right here in New York City and they're constantly consulting with other experts all over the country, all over the world. An interesting new study today, or yesterday, I should say – WHO study. This one is extraordinary. It is a study of 65,000 actual coronavirus cases in China – so, in other words, an extraordinarily in-depth extensive study. And there's a lot in it, but the thing I want to say, which was very important for us to see and confirmed exactly what Dr. Barbot has been saying, Dr. Katz has been saying, is that based on the latest evidence, this is not an airborne disease. This is a direct transmission by fluids kind of disease, not a disease that hangs in the air. So, this is the latest as of yesterday. Again, we'll constantly update you as we get new information, but when it comes to our health care system,
New Yorkers should understand, of course, we have real challenges ahead, but we also literally have the biggest, best public health system in America and the biggest best health care system overall of any city in America by far, and the talent pool doctors and nurses and technicians and all types of medical professionals and support staff – there's just no place in the country that has this level of talent all amassed in one place. And that means, of course, as we always say, physical health and mental health, we're going to need them all. We're going to need every single health care worker to be a part of the solution. We need to protect them. We need to make sure that their skills are used to the maximum. We need to find everyone who could be brought into our service, including former health care workers or people who want to come here to help. There's people we can help take on different roles and some of that's indicated in the Presidents specific announcements today. But we have to protect our health care system at all costs. And that is underlying all the decisions we're making. I will remind you at the same time that even if some of our health care workers, God forbid, they are exposed to this disease, the vast, vast majority – overwhelming majority will be treated and will come through and we'll be able to get back to their jobs. So, we're going to have times where some health care workers are offline or maybe they're in quarantine as a precaution, but they're also going to keep coming back online and we're going to constantly help people to get back on the playing field.

Then to the question of our schools – I will say at the outset that every new piece of information helps us in our decision making. There is no such thing as a perfect definitive piece of information, whether it's World Health Organization, or CDC, or NIH, or academic studies, or anything, each piece just helps us know a little more and gives us perspective. But as we discuss our schools, this is important information from the CDC today. This is – and this is online – guidelines from the CDC for considerations of school closure. This is a very thoughtful document that I think says better – I've been trying to talk about the unintended consequences and the many, many factors that go into the decision. I think the CDC has done a hell of a lot better than me at expressing how complex this reality is and how many consequences intended and unintended come out of school closure. So, I would urge everyone to read this thoroughly.

I know there is tremendous concern among parents, students, caregivers, teachers, principals, crossing guards, cafeteria workers, you name it, everyone's concerned. And there's a lot of anxiety. And I can tell you I know it because I spent years and years and years as a New York City public school parent – from the time each of my kids went into pre-K to the time they finished high school – 14 years each and they were three years apart. So, over 17 years I had that experience. I also happened to be a community school board member and worked with parents all over my part of Brooklyn. I understand the anxieties right now. I also understand that many, many parents want us to keep school open, depend on it, need it, don't have an option. And there's a lot of different statements out there and I'm sure you'll ask me about some of them. I urge you to take a look at this one from 1199 SIEU, literally single largest labor union in New York City talking about their workers, the people we depend on for our health care system and why they need our school system to be up and running. And it's quite clear in the statement, there’s  are strong preference, which I agree with, is to keep our school system running and if, God forbid, it wasn't, we'd need some very substantial fallbacks to protect and support the children of our health care workers among many others, our first responders and many others.

So, I look at this through the lens of parents that I've known and as a parent myself, and I know there are many, many factors that have to be looked at here, but I'm also looking at this from the perspective of how we protect those three pillars I keep talking about – schools, transit and health care, how those pieces interrelate and they must be protected. And I look at it from the perspective of the real world, which we'll talk about. My strong belief is that if the schools weren't open, that children would end up going all over their buildings, their communities looking for something to do that you would not see a pristine quarantine situation. You'd see the real lives of kids play out. And that comes with some real challenges of its own. Been working closely with the Chancellor and his team, because, obviously, since we do want to keep schools open, we have to make an immense set of adjustments, and we can, and we will. So, for example, things we've said in the last few days, and we'll keep adding to them, canceled all non-essential and non-instructional activities, either canceled or moved online if they can be. We've canceled field trips, we're going to be canceling work that takes school officials from school to school, except for that that's most essential and make that virtual. In our school cafeterias where we can create some social distancing, a space between kids, we're going to do that. Where we don't have those physical possibilities, in many cases we will move breakfast and lunch into classrooms. We're going to rework gym, phys-ed to reduce the number of kids who are ever in close proximity and wherever we can move  phys-ed activities outdoors, as the weather is getting warmer, we will do that.

So a variety of steps will be taken to support everyone in the school community. And we'll talk about it, I'm sure, but I spent about an hour with Michael Mulgrew at OEM earlier today, and we talked about a variety of specific actions we can take to support and reassure not only teachers, but all members of the school community. And even though we have some differences on the approach, we're gone to work together because it's okay to have differences on the big strategy. We're still going to work together every single day to make sure everyone's safe.

I do want to say, and I think some of this is public domain now, we're happy to be transparent about it. We're seeing obviously an impact on school attendance because of the really shocking global news that's come out in the last 24, 48 hours. And to give you a perspective, our attendance as of this Monday was 89 percent, which is pretty close to our typical average throughout this school year. It went down a little bit on Thursday to 85 percent. But really I think again we're seeing just extraordinary concern over just the last 24, 48 hours. So now, as of today we had 68 percent attendance. Obviously something very worrisome, but that's today – I think people are going to be acclimating to the new reality and that's going to change and affect how people think over time. A number of kids didn't come to school today and that's a concern but I also want to be very clear, we'll get you the exact number but well over 600,000 kids did come to school and again that's a huge number of young people and their families who are depending on us.

Now I want to talk about some specific cases or specific instances with schools. In each of these cases, one you'll see there is the tendency to apply abundance of caution here. You'll also see the consistent application of the new policy, which the State promulgated and we agree with fully about limiting school closure where there is a specific concern and the steps we will take to clean the schools, do the follow-up on the individual case, isolate people who need to be isolated, and then move forward.

So as of this morning we had one confirmed case of a positive coronavirus test that was in Staten Island. The student in this case was at the Richard Hungerford School, co-located within the New Dorp High School campus. For the record, there are a couple of other or several other Hungerford schools in other locations in Staten Island. The only one that was affected here was the one at New Dorp High School. Again, the student is in the Hungerford program, that D75, District 75 special education program, but it is connected [inaudible] separately to the New Dorp High School itself. Same building. So the entire school building was closed. Cleaning and disinfecting went on today. There'll be an evaluation of the building over the weekend. Disease detectives are talking to the student and their family. The plan right now is to reopen Monday.

We had a very different situation in Brooklyn, on the Brooklyn College campus. And I want to emphasize, and I say this collegially, the leadership of Brooklyn College and CUNY made this decision because this refers to one of our New York City public schools that's on that campus. But the decision was not made by the DOE in this instance. It was made for the entire campus by the Brooklyn College leadership and we respect that, we certainly honor that that was a decision they made to close their entire campus for the day. The individual in question is a self-reported case and we have not been able to confirm it yet by a college student, not a New York City public school student, a college student at Brooklyn College.

So we'll wait for more information on that. But at this moment based on the actions, the cleaning of the campus today, the fact it's not yet a confirmed case, but also if it were confirmed is the college student who, to the best of our knowledge, had no contact or no specific contact with the Brooklyn College Academy, our school. The intention now is to reopen on Monday.

Lastly Brooklyn Occupational Training Center on Avenue X in Brooklyn. That's a District 75 school as well. It serves medically fragile students. We have a teacher who self-reported a positive case that was confirmed later in the day. Again, that school – we're going through the protocol now. Because it's medically fragile students, we're going to double check and make sure before we reopen that one. So, there's still a question about what day that will reopen and we'll update you when we have that.

Let me go over the overall numbers now – as of 2:00 pm today, and this is based on a lot of new information we got from the State and their testing numbers that they're getting into us, now for New York City, 154 confirmed positive cases of coronavirus, that is 59 since we gathered last for the press conference yesterday. So 154 cases. I'm going to give you a borough breakdown, but again, you're going to see, sometimes, dissonance between the totals because the numbers are not always broken out in time for the latest updates. So, the last borough breakdown we had, and we'll keep giving you updates as we go along, 35 cases in Manhattan, 24 cases in Brooklyn, 26 cases in Queens, 13 cases in the Bronx and five cases in Staten Island. We have 29 people in mandatory quarantine, I believe that's the same as yesterday, in voluntary isolation, we have 1,747 people.

Couple more things on testing. We had very good news this morning. I spoke to – some of you may have seen, I spoke to the Health and Human Services Secretary Azar last night. A good conversation, very tangible. I appreciated his responsiveness and we will be in touch regularly as we go forward. This morning, the FDA formally approved for one company, for Roche, the faster automated testing. We need that to happen though still for other companies. So that is a very important step. It is not the same as all the companies being approved. We need that. It is not the same as us getting the test kits we need still to keep supplying our public health lab and others. I believe we will see progress on that, but we just need a constant uptick in federal testing capacity or federal support for our testing. Again, the president's remarks today are promising on that front, but we have to see the results.

And as this automated – this permission for the automated testing has now arrived, there will be some ramp up, but certainly it will sooner rather than later start to allow us to get much faster tests and more. That's some good news on the supply front. We are still very, very concerned that we're not seeing the progress on the federal side we need. Now, we did get some new guidance, which is helpful on masks and this is new guidance from the CDC and the WHO, which again gets back to the study I indicated that this disease is transmitted by droplets, by fluid, if you will. Liquid from one person has to get directly into another person, not airborne. And that suggests very clearly that there's more than one kind of mask that can be helpful here. The N95 masks are particularly valued, but they are not the only ones that prevent transmission.

So we certainly – our ideal is to get a substantial number of new N95 masks, but we are more confident now that surgical masks can achieve a lot of what we need for sure. Let me give you the numbers on N95 right now. Our citywide total supply is 503,000 and that is combining stockpiles that are available now at Health + Hospitals, FDNY, Department of Corrections, and other agencies. But we would like to add to that substantially. This is our ideal, is to have a much greater [inaudible] supply on the N95 masks. And we have asked the FDA for 2.2 million more. That is a new number, but we have only been approved so far for 76,000 and I'm looking to Deanne, that's approval but not delivery.

Commissioner Deanne Criswell, Emergency Management: Correct.

Mayor: Okay, so, again, 503,000 in stock. Now we would like 2.2 million more. We have that request into the FDA, but now let's talk about what we do have, and this is very important because we will, based on our own experience but also the CDC and WHO guidance, we will treat the surgical masks as an acceptable replacement for the N95s. And now some actual good news in this world – in stock right now, 16 million surgical masks in the New York City supply
And in the next two weeks – and we actually believe this is happening, that this is coming specifically – 25 million more masks will be arriving.

There was misinformation today and we'll shoot down misinformation whenever we see it, that the NYPD was somehow being deprived of masks. We would never allow that. Spoke with Commissioner Shea this morning. Anything the NYPD needs, they will get. That is self-evident. That's always been the case. Delivery today to NYPD of 250,000 masks – and that supply will be augmented anytime the Commissioner says. I know the Commissioner spoke with the Health Commissioner, spoke with the Emergency Management Commissioner. Everyone is coordinated.
And the same will go for other agencies. What they need, they will get. Other supplies though – this is, so I gave you some relative good news.

This is not good news, which is the other supplies we need that we are not getting a clear answer for from the federal government. So right now, again, because the private market is not consistently producing supplies given what's going on, we are consistently asking the federal government to step in, ensure more production, use its emergency powers to ensure that any private company creating these medically crucial supplies goes to maximum production 24/7, rationing out the supplies to where they're needed around the country. We're not seeing any of this yet, honestly. And these are things that the United States has done in crises for decades. So it's absolutely perplexing why we're not getting a clear answer on this. We have requested 800,000 face shields, 95,000 surgical gowns, 600,000 pairs of surgical gloves, and we are waiting for answers on all that. We'll do our best to push the federal government to move on all of those.

Finally, a very important topic – evictions. This has come up a lot in the last few days. Rightfully, we know what's happening out there. A lot of people are losing their livelihoods. They're not going to be able to pay the rent. The help that would be there for people is not yet where it needs to be. So a lot of folks are really in a tough situation. The City already had said over the last few days, we would suspend all evictions in NYCHA and in any of the affordable housing we control. We've got good news – just a short while ago, that the court system, the State court system, has confirmed that they will suspend eviction actions through the courts. And then even more recently we got news from REBNY, from the Real Estate Board of New York, that their member organizations’ companies will suspend evictions for the next three months.

So I want to applaud the court system. I want to applaud REBNY. These are very important actions. That being said, if we see any evidence of anyone being evicted, we will step in any way we can, including free legal services. And there will also be cases where there is not necessarily an attempt to evict, but there is a problem because someone can't pay the rent. If we can provide direct support through the Human Resource Administration, we will. That's obviously for folks with real challenges in terms of their income and low-income. We will try and help directly in every way we can. Just in Spanish.

[Mayor de Blasio speaks in Spanish]

And I'll finish on that note in English as well. I just continue to be appreciative. I'm very appreciative of my fellow New Yorkers, they are really listening to the guidance they're receiving. They're acting on it. They're helping each other. I want to thank all New Yorkers for all you’re doing to help us get through this crisis. Okay, we’re going right to left today. Anyone on the right, Les?

Question: What about the idea that the City can control the marshals? So the courts stayed evictions for one week. What about the idea that the City can control marshals?

Mayor: You know something I don't know and I want to check with our team. I did not hear one week. I want that double checked to make sure – you can scream out if you know the answer.

Question: The courts have stalled the eviction proceedings for one week with the option to then renew, understood that they're going to renew and they have stopped actually issuing eviction warrants for longer.

Mayor: Right. We'll get you all the details, but that's our understanding. It is a more long-term action than that.

Question: There is, the oversight committee of DOI some talk of the city being able to have marshals not enforce evictions and for private –

Mayor: Yeah, we don't want people to evict it in the middle of a pandemic. So we'll follow up on that. Certainly with DOI, anything we can do to stop evictions at this point, including within our own power. We will. So I don't have all the details. We'll get you the specific answer, but that's absolutely the direction we're going in.

Question: Having heard your decision to keep the schools open. Is there a point at which you would think that was untenable?

Mayor: We absolutely – look, this whole experience we're about to go through are, or are going through, every day will be different. And we are processing an immense amount of information all the time. And it's a very complex equation. And again, when you look at the CDC guidance, I think you've got a real window on how complex the equation is. We're thinking about many pieces of it, including the impact on our kids, the impact on their nutrition, the impact on the families and the ability of the public health workforce and first responders to get to work. You know, I am absolutely convinced, and this is something I'll say out loud and if it turns out to be a different scenario and it changes, I'll tell you that too. But I think there is an illusion out there that you can shut down schools temporarily in the midst of a growing crisis. I think the sober, honest reality is if you shut down, you have to be ready for the possibility that that's it for the school year. That might be it for the calendar year. So I'm being real about the fact that I think is a very high bar to shut down. But of course if conditions change and information changes, our internal deliberations change, I reserve that right at any moment to go in a different direction if that's what I think is in the best interest of the city. Rich.

Question: So I was going to ask the same question, but I'll ask it a little bit differently here. How much pressure are you feeling from various angels, to close the schools? I mean, what are you hearing?

Mayor: Yeah, it's an excellent question, Rich. I got to tell you. And it's probably something that might be unusual to hear. So I’m going try my damnedest to articulate it. So in a crisis it’s not business as usual. And the question of pressure almost fades away. I have a very clear understanding of crisis. Whether it's things we went through in this city, obviously Ebola was a very powerful education for me and a really troubling moment for this city. I'm really glad it's not back. The issues we faced with terrorism. But you know, I remind people I spent four years in this building as a staffer in a time in our city's history, it was almost perennial crisis, the AIDS crisis, the crack epidemic, riots. It's just, I'm just being very personal and, but trying to help people understand how I'm making decisions. I have experienced so much in the way a crisis that the concept does not scare me. It doesn't faze me. It is part of human life whether we like it or not. So in a funny way, I find like my whole system cools down in the middle of this because we are getting a ludicrous amount of incoming.

I mean, the amount of information we're taking in, we're all talking constantly. We're getting new information, we're trying to assess it. We're making constant decisions on ever changing world. You have to stay cool. If you start to panic, you're never going to be able to serve anyone. So, and I think my colleagues are doing the same thing. I give them a lot credit. Everyone you could, you would be impressed by these internal conversations. Once in a while they get heated, but generally not. People are all saying we better keep it together for the sake of 8.6 million people. So yeah, I'm not surprised. There's politics out there. There's people with constituencies. Of course. I'm never surprised when I see a bunch of people stake out their position. But they are not me. They don't have to make a decision for 8.6 million people. It's really easy to talk. And I don't mean that derogatorily, it's just reality. This is crunch time. Every decision matters.

So Rich, I'm aware, I'm listening. And by the way even having said all that, that doesn't mean you don't listen. It doesn't mean you shut yourself off. You actually have to listen at the same time while not getting overwhelmed by the noise, if you will, or critique. Critique is going to come with the territory. You got to stay cool. You got to listen, you got to consider alternative views. You got to constantly keep in mind the notion that you should critique your own assessment, critique your own assumptions. And people here have been doing a lot of that in a good, healthy way. But this is not a popularity contest, this is war. You know, I really feel like that. It's not literally a war, but the prism that I'm looking at this through is war. This is the kind of decision making that you have to make, you have to approach in a way that has nothing to do with everyday normal. And you have to do what you think is right for everyone. And it doesn't matter if it's popular or not. You have to do what you think is right. Back there.

Question: I was wondering if you've spoken with the Governor at all about potentially reopening the health care enrollment for people that are uninsured or underinsured?

Mayor: I have not, but I'm happy to. We want to do everything we can to support health care for people. So we'll do that and have a follow-up. Anyone else over here, going over here.

Question: One more crack at the schools question Mr. Mayor, then another question. You talked about attendance and it being at 68 percent, and that still means over 600,000 kids in schools. Do you have a threshold, a percentage attendance threshold under which you’d think that it wouldn't make sense to keep schools open?

Mayor: Not a hard and fast one. I'll tell you why. I think we're going to see an evolutionary pattern here. And again, maybe it is the blessing of having been through you know, a real myriad of experiences in public life that tells me, you know, this thing is going to be very different in a day, in a week, in a month. This whole reality. I think there's a shock right now. I think the last few days have an absolute shock to the system. You know in a way that if you look at, if coronavirus, so we were all together on January 24th, I mean I guess first news out of China was December, right? If you look at the entire trajectory from the first day, you heard the word coronavirus to today, the last 48 hours have been just unbelievable. So if people are reacting to that, that's kind of normal. But I want to see where things are in a week or two weeks.

I think it could be very different because I think at once that little bit of calm sets in and people have to actually – and look at the whole picture. I think a lot of them are going to want to preserve as much normalcy as they can. I think the practicalities also are going to come into play. That parents really want their kids educated. They want them to get those school breakfasts and lunches. They want to go on with their lives, but they obviously care first and foremost about their kids' safety. And we will show them the ways we're keeping their kids safe. So I think it's going to be different over the days ahead. And so that's why I wouldn't say, oh, it has to be this number. No, it has to be in my view, a sustained reality and it's going to interact with everything out there in the world.

There may be things that happen outside that are much more foundational in how we make the decision. But, I’m trying to, and I appreciate, and I know you're conscientious about the details. When I say to you day to day, hour to hour, I want you to feel that in your bones. I want you to understand and I threw in that reference to make a point. When I said earlier, the last traffic between all of us was 11:00 pm and it picked up at 6:50 am. I wish I could interpret to a civilian what this is like. But it's like being on a train on a track and the track never ends and there's no station and there's no Terminus and it's going to be going on and on and on and on. And that's what we do. A lot of us, this is just our lives. So I mean this is for some strange reason, our vocation. This is how we think.

So my point in that is, I mean I was talking to Dean Fuleihan off and on between like 9:00 pm and 11:00 pm and it was like the ever changing situations just in those two hours, right? So there may be a moment where I hear a set of information and say, okay, now I really want to look at this differently. And that could happen tomorrow at 6:00 am for all I know. Or it could happen Sunday. But it's that total and we are all thinking together. Chancellor and I are talking all –
everyone's talking and we're going to make those decisions based on the best information. Not going to make them precipitously. We're not going to make a decision that we think, wait a minute, that might be really different in 72 hours. But you know, sometimes you're going to say, yeah, I see something, but I'm not convinced it's going to sustain.

But it is constant and it will be constant. And Oxiris said six months, Governor said six to nine months. I think they're both right. I think, and that by the way, for everyone looking at the school year, I am saying, and I want you to take it in, And I said this to Michael Mulgrew in a very productive conversation. I said, you walk out, not the people. I'm not saying it individually. I'm saying we shut down this school system. We might not see it for the rest of the school year. We might not see the beginning of the new school year. And that weighs heavily on me.

Question: The New York City Correction Officers union has called on you to stop inmates from receiving visitors, noting that you know, the jails are very contained environment and all it takes is one person getting infected to spread it rapidly. What's your response?

Mayor: I think it’s a fair concern? I mean, we're looking at a lot of different pieces right now. I haven't seen their formal statement. I'm going to ask Deanne and Raul and Oxiris, and obviously Mitch in terms of the health care provision in the hospitals and all that, to all work with me on that question. I think it's a fair concern and something we need to make decisions about quickly. Go ahead.

Question: I had a question about the masks, but if I could quickly on schools. Obviously based on the attendance numbers, there are tens, if not hundreds of thousands of parents who are keeping their kids home. Presumably they have concerns about safety and about the spread and maybe they have elderly grandparents at home. There any number of concerns they might have. Are you discouraging them from keeping their kids home? I mean, what's the message for –

Mayor: Your question's a great one because you sort of gave the different categories a bit there. I, look I'm a parent. I respect the choices of parents. By the way, that's true every day of the year. You know, parents can make whatever choice they think is right for their kids. If a parent, for example, as you said, if you had an elderly member of your family in your apartment with a preexisting conditions, I wouldn't just ask the question about this kid going to school. I would ask a whole lot of other questions and I'm sure my colleagues would join in, of like how do you protect that grandparent? In many, many ways, I'm not sure I would say necessarily that means don't send the kid to school, but you'd have to start from protecting your relative is huge. There's like a number one thing. But I want to make the equation complex for you. You know, what if the kid can stay home? What if the kid can't and there's no place else to go? What if the family has food, what have they don't? What if the kid's whole life revolves around school and now you're taking that away from them? What about the kids' education, especially if it may be, we can't provide anywhere near the quality of education for a long period of time? There are so many factors here. I think what happened in the last 24 hours was a sheer shock we're all feeling and the people sort of understandably reacted and there's nothing wrong with that, but I think there'll be a chance to sort of catch people. Everyone will have a chance to catch their breath and then we'll see what they feel.

But I'm sure there are some extenuating circumstances. I respect any choice. But if you said to me, what's my broad guidance to parents? Here's my broad guidance. And I've had this conversation with a bunch of parents today. Just people who I know, you know, who are parents. I said what – I ask people, what do you think would happen if you let a bunch of New York City school kids out for not a day, not a week, but three months? What's going to happen? And everyone says they're all going to go outside and find their friends or go over around their building or whatever. You think they're going to stay in isolation in their apartment? That's just not real. So you're going to have, all a recreation of social networks and if you're worried about community spread, there'll be plenty opportunity right there. What are people who are not working, going to do? Do you think they're going to stay in their apartment in isolation for a week? Sure. For a month? For three months? For six months? No. So that's where the equation, in fact, again, look at the CDC guidance. It gets right into that. It's like it literally points out do not expect children to stay in isolation.

Question: [Inaudible]

Mayor: One more thing, I'm sorry. I apologize for the long answer. And the CDC guidance also points out children who are unsupervised creates a host of new challenges including health and safety challenges. Go ahead.

Question: On the masks – you're asking for 2.2 million in N95 – 25 million, sorry. There was another big number for those surgical masks. Are those, can you explain that? Are those just for health care workers?

Mayor: No, there are for a lot of people. So 2.2 million on the N95s is the request. We are getting, we believe, we'll believe it of course when we see it. Exactly. But you're pretty confident.

Commissioner Criswell: I'm pretty confident.

Mayor: 25 million more on the surgical masks. And then the other items I talked about.

Question: Just for health care workers?

Mayor: Health care workers, first responders, a whole host of people and patients, patients who need, and Mitch jump in. Patients who manifest symptoms and walk into one of Mitch’s facilities, explain does it help?

President and CEO Mitchell Katz, Health + Hospitals: Right. Well as soon as someone comes into any of our health care facilities and has any symptoms which may just be like a runny nose, we put a mask on them immediately so that we can make sure that there's no transmission of disease, or even just inadvertent exposures that would cause people to worry that they should quarantine themselves.

Question: That provides some barrier. Why not encourage members of the public? I'm assuming that there's enough of them in stock?

Mayor: Okay. This is an excellent question. So I'm going to just, I’m going to pop the ball up and you spike it. Okay. So they, this has become – we've heard this over and over again. And I got educated by Dr. Barbot because I bluntly, you watched the initial outbreak and people seemed to putting on mask as a protective. But in fact it turns out not as simple as that. And the masks are for the folks who do the work and are going to get a lot of exposure potentially to a lot of different people and to prevent someone who has the disease from spreading it outward. So Dr. Barbot please explain.

Commissioner Oxiris Barbot, Department of Health and Mental Hygiene: Right. The Mayor got it just right. The indication for the use of a mask is if someone is symptomatic, meaning they have a cough, they're sneezing and we want to protect other people from becoming infected. And then additionally, as Dr. Katz said, for individuals who are symptomatic, haven't yet been diagnosed and are seeking care in a health care facility so that we don't run the risk of infecting other folks who are there for other reasons.

Mayor: Did that get you what you need?

Question: I think I’m still just understanding, if it is at least somewhat effective in preventing you from being transmitted to you. So I just want to understand even if it's just marginally effective, why, I mean you’re not discouraging people from wearing them?

Mayor: No.

Commissioner Barbot: No, certainly if someone chooses to wear a mask because they feel that much more secure, then by all means. But as a population measure, the most appropriate use of a mask is for someone who is symptomatic to avoid infecting other people. For folks who are not symptomatic. You know, the guidance that we have been given from the very beginning, which is frequent hand washing covering your mouth and your nose when you cough or you sneeze are the most effective and consistent ways in which we can minimize more New Yorkers being infected. And so I guess to round out the response, what we're talking about here is a layered approach to prevention, right? No single preventive measure in isolation is going to give the greatest protection. It is the hand washing, the covering of the nose and mouth, the staying home if you're sick. All of those sort of cumulative efforts are what are going to keep not only individuals, families and communities safe, but the, the city has a whole. And I think, you know, we need to be prepared for the fact that there will be many more individuals who become ill. And so the more that we become accustomed to being diligent and dare I say militant about hand washing? I think the better off we'll all be.

Mayor: And one more point here. I think the there’s something like, I get the common sense to Bobby's question. Like, well what could it hurt or does it help a little bit? Again, we’re not going to discourage anyone. If they have them that's great. But I'm also just thinking about, you know, you have a mask on, you're going to take it off some time. Right? You got take off when you eat, when you drink. You know, it's not like to me like a perfect separation from the world right there. But I think what’s interesting, because there's a common sense to Bobby's point, well it does help somehow. And it's really interesting the medical community is not even granting it that notion of, you know, we prefer it. I don't know if there's another sort of piece of analysis that you guys can offer or we can get back to Bobby. But there is sort of something there. It's a good question. Like why wouldn't the medical world say, you know, better than not?

Commissioner Barbot: Well, because I think it gives people a false sense of security. If you're not doing the other things – you know, I talked recently about, I saw someone with a mask who put it below their chin and started smoking. Right? I mean like, come on, lets be real.

Mayor: We need that photo.

Commissioner Barbot: So it really does go back to in order for something, anything to be most effective, we need to have it be consistent. And so I have spoken about this earlier, we're looking for a cultural change in the way in which we do hand washing. You know, I've been a part of public health for a number of years and I was with the schools when we were doing H1N1 and it was really at that time that we started teaching even our kids to do this. And over the course, you know, I've got a goddaughter who's now 16 but back in that time was in grammar school and I was surprised when one day, you know, she came home and she did this and I was like, it's working. And so you know, population behavioral change takes time and it takes practice. And so that's why I can't lean away from the fact that hand washing, covering your nose and your mouth are really the fundamental components of ensuring safety.

Question: I have another schools question if the Chancellor wants to chime in. I'm curious I know the student attendance was 68 percent. Do you know how many teacher absences there were? And I don't know – I know we spoke about earlier this week, you said there's a significant number of substitute teachers. I don't know if there was a noticeable dip. I'm sure, I've heard from multiple teachers who they live on the Island and their kids don't have school. The UFT is telling them, urging them to close schools. So what is the plan is for that? And my second is do you know how many UPK or 3K schools are housed in some of these schools, whether it’s private or Catholic that will now be closed?

Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza: So in terms of the teacher attendance issue, there was a slight uptick in teacher absenteeism today. Again we don't have the exact percentage. We'll get it to you. Those numbers we get, we kind of solidify later in the day. But we can get you the specific numbers. I think it also relates to what the Mayor was talking about. There is a sense of shock currently about, you know, this new era that we're entering into. And in terms of the campuses that have been closed, I don't believe there has been any pre-K or UPKs in any of those campuses at this point.

Question: And is there a plan to, I mean, if it continues and there are more teacher absences, what's the plan then?

Mayor: I'm sorry, Richard, I’ll just jump in on the first part. Again, we are, kind of similar to the previous question, how are we going to handle different scenarios or what's the magic number? Again, we're not going to look at it by a day or two days. We're going to look at an overall pattern and we need to see where that pattern goes. But I want to emphasize we got a lot of very devoted educators and school staff who are showing up who are going to be there no matter what. We have – I understand it's a very fair point about folks who live in the suburbs and it emphasizes the point I'm making about the schools in general. If kids don't have a place to go to school, it encourages their parents to stay home. And if that's first responders and that health care professionals watch out. But I think with time what we're going to see is people will make the adjustments. I think a lot of people are going to want to get back to what they do, right? But so we're going to have to figure out also how to take whatever number we have on a given day and make it most effective. And if you need to bring in some people from other agencies to support in different ways, we can do that as well. Go ahead.

Deputy Mayor Raul Perea-Henze, Health and Human Services: This is a mental health explanation, not a public health examination. In the last 36 hours you've seen the Governor declared a state of emergency. The President, the Mayor declares state of emergency for the city. The President declares a state of emergency for the nation and it's frightening. What would you think a lot of parents and children would do? Probably just trying to decompress, take a day off, long weekend and really kind of begin to reassess. What do we do now? I think, you know, you're hearing from both the Chancellor and the Mayor. I think we're all shocked because everything is going so fast and so big. Right. Right now, they're 421 cases in the State of New York. We have surpassed, we're now number one in the nation. The clustering in Westchester has really grown. So if you put it all together I can easily explain a lot of the mental health issues going on with children and their parents and particularly the seniors that we started saying from the beginning are so vulnerable.

Mayor: Amen. Go ahead, Richard.

Chancellor Carranza: Yeah, so to get to the question, we've obviously been looking at different scenarios. We've had tabletop exercises where we look at what do we do if unfortunately, you know, our – all of our first responders get hit with this. So – but there's no magic number. Schools are different. They have different capacity. They had different numbers of students with the Mayor has said about, we've looked at how do we then maybe take some people from one place to another place, lots of different scenarios. So there's no magic number.

Question: [Inaudible] it's clear. Any - the Mayor many different agencies so let's just – using a hypothetical. If there's a school where there's 100 percent teacher absence or a very high number sub schedules overloading, you can't go all the subs. Are you pulling someone from the DOT or a City Hall –

Mayor: No, It wouldn't be - obviously, I mean respectful, you know we wouldn't do that. The question is we've got people in a variety of agencies who work with young people. It's just a common sense thing. There may be applicability from one agency to the next in a crisis. Remember, look, this is an emergency. We're going to be doing things we don't normally do. I also remind you in the emergency powers, if I have to suspend contractual dynamics, I have the right to do that. So we are going to figure out what's best for the people of our city and we're going to make the adjustments we have to make. But the reality here, I think everyone, I actually think every day New Yorkers are getting this. We left business as usual behind days ago. This is again your – you guys start thinking more like a war than like normal life. And we're going to be doing all sorts of different things to make things work. And we can't give you the exact template now because we just entered this reality. But we can say we want to make sure our kids are safe, we want make sure they're educated, we want make sure they get food, and if that means bringing some people in from different agencies to help at work, we'll do what we have to do.

Question: With all due respect, even that war time mentality this is when I'm speaking to every day New Yorkers, some who work in schools who have kids who are begging the school’s to shut down. If you're saying that this is an emergency, we're going to do things we don't normally do. Couldn't that same logic be applied to why you would go to school to [inaudible] –

Mayor: Couple of points. One, I'm sure you are finding the people want the school shut down and I would urge you to go talk to George Gresham's, you know a hundred or 200,000 members New York City, you’re going to find a lot of people who do not want them shut down. I've talked all these people, not only this situation but in previous crises. And I do feel – I absolutely respect your reporting – but I will tell you I've spent a real long time talking to parents in my life. I have a strong understanding a lot of what they're concerned about. You can go out and do your research. I think you're going to find a split for sure, but a hell of a lot people do not want them shut down. I think it will split economically, honestly, demographically, folks with fewer resources are going to be much more likely to want to see the schools keep up open. And a lot of people are worried about losing their own livelihood and they need their kid to be in a safe place so they can get to work and make whatever money they can make in an economy that's starting to shrink. There's a lot of real life stuff going on here. But to your question – it's not even, to me – I absolutely can take in the possibility of doing all sorts of additional things, the schools and far beyond because we're in the great unknown. There is nothing off the table to say the least, but right now, based on what we know, I think this is the right thing to do.

Question: Well Michal Mulgrew said that there are plans in place through OEM that contingency plans can be made to address a lot of the issues that you're bringing up in terms of closing schools, like what they did after Sandy with providing meals to students and a place for students who don’t, whose parents are, you know, single parents for them to go within the city –

Mayor: Sure.

Question: And he says he has plenty of volunteers lined up to staff those places. So I mean is that an option? He’s saying it is.

Mayor: I have great respect for Michael Mulgrew. We've worked together for many, many years. We had an hour long, very detailed, very productive, very positive meeting today whatever his public statements. I know him and I know what we talked about and the bottom line is any one of those solutions to some extent recreates the problem. You are congregating a bunch of people in the same place on any of those scenarios. And it does not solve a lot of the other problems. And I agree that there is a scenario – if you get to a scenario where you said we really don't have a choice anymore and we have to fall back, sort of strategically retreat. Yeah, there are things you would do that are better than nothing, but it is not an easy equation. Again, I'm going to really respect everyone's intelligence. Try reading through this and see if you feel very certain at the end of it because it's sobering about the unintended consequences.

But I don't need to know the exact alternative at this hour. We are constantly doing scenarios. We’re going to look at every – I mean Richard and his team have been looking at all sorts of permutations. We said to you guys a week or two ago, we're preparing distance learning opportunities, but we also know they're not as good as what we normally do. And again, great. So you have distance learning. You also have a huge number of kids unsupervised. It's not so clean suddenly. You have a huge number of kids who don't have a computer, like the dominoes start to fall pretty quickly when you actually run it as a real life scenario. But we'll look at everything.

Chancellor Carranza: Mr. Mayor?

Mayor: Yes, please.

Chancellor Carranza: Can I add one caveats. I think it's important in terms of context you remember that the percentage of attendance has been talked about and people are rightfully questioning, you know, why that percentage today? But consider the fact that the number of students in New York City that attended school today is significantly greater than if the second largest school district in America had 100 percent attendance. There's still more kids today that attended school in New York City. That's, that's who we are - that's who we're keeping the schools open for.

Mayor: Thank you.

Question: Mayor, regarding the jails, is there sufficient soap there, Are you considering relaxing prohibitions on inmates using hand sanitizer? And I have a second question [inaudible] –

Mayor: I’m always going to tell you when I literally don't know the answer, but we can get to the answer on the soap supplies. I know there has been a real focus on - we understand the dynamic of a jail. It's obviously a very vulnerable situation. We want to make sure that everything they have – everything they need to have. I will check again on soap. And what was your second question?

Question: Well the second part of that question was, are you considering the relaxing prohibition on alcohol based hand sanitizer in the jails? As I understand it correctly it’s contraband.

Mayor: That, I don't know if my colleagues know anything on this one. That's – that's a new one on me.

Question: Okay, the second question is what's the plan that perhaps the Commissioner can tell us this? If you, God forbid, or one of your team gets coronavirus.

Mayor: I'll give you my layman's version and then the experts will give you the medical version. I - look, I don't know how to say this to you guys anyway, but plainly if it happens, it happens. I'm not scared. I would go into isolation unless it was something where they told me I needed to be in a medical setting and I would do whatever the doctors told me to do and I'd constantly update you guys and I would run the city from wherever the hell I was. Would you like add?

Commissioner Barbot: That’s a great answer –


Mayor: And I do want –

Question: Contingency plan?

Mayor: Well no, I want to - I want to just throw in that, yeah, well you'll get a much more elegant answer from our Emergency Management Commissioner, but I really am going to try my damnedest to communicate this. I think it's hard for anyone. I don't blame anyone who hasn't been in the life here to understand it, but I remember vividly maybe this will give you a little window.

I have this deep recall with a very, very complex conference call. A whole lot of people, Deputy Mayors, Commissioners, were on the call and we were making some very serious decisions. And the reason I remember it so vividly is it was 2014. It was July. It was after the tragedy of Eric Garner and as you may remember, a very long planned family trip that went on at that time to my grandparents’ home towns in Italy, and I was on that conference call after- from the van. We were just having left my grandmother's hometown. And the reason I say that to you is, you can put me anywhere and give me, you know, a device, any device, and I can run the City of New York from it. And I don't mean that with hubris. I mean that that's the way the world is right now. So as long as I can be on a conference call and I can send an email and we do it just all day long, all of us, and I get why the various times you guys have been understandably focused on official schedule and I get the meaning of that.

It's an entire – not a misunderstanding because you did something wrong. It's just misunderstand because you can lived the life. Official schedule and meetings are like the small part of it. It is the hundreds of phone calls and emails and everything that goes on nonstop between all us, all the time, where a whole lot of the decision making happens. So put me anywhere and give me a device and we can keep things running effectively and then there's all these other wonderful people and our First Deputy Mayor, Dean Fuleihan, our Chief of Staff, Emma Wolfe, everyone else who keeps things running all the time.

Question: In other words, would you guys, not to be – would you guys need to be quarantined? You all are very close to each other.

Mayor: Well there's a thing called reality. We could try and socially distance at the press conference, but the blue room really wouldn't allow too much of that.

Question: But seriously, if you got the – a chance you got the coronavirus, you all would need to be in quarantine, right?

Mayor: And we would keep leading.

Commissioner Criswell: But if - I'd like to just add to - every agency, every city agency has an established continuative operations plan and we do have a city wide continuity of government plan. So every department head, and then including the Mayor, has a line of succession of who would take their place if they couldn't perform those functions. We've really pulled those plans out and looked at them really closely as they relate specifically to coronavirus. And we've been testing those plans ever since we started with this – what? Back in January, the end of January with that that first press conference. So these plans have been available. The agencies exercise them annually and we've just really taken a hard look at them through this process.

Question: And it would be the First Deputy Mayor, Jumaane Williams?

Mayor: No, it's the First Deputy Mayor, obviously. I would be quite resident New York City, I assure you. I intend to be fully effective and awake at all times. But the – you know, there's also a very deep bench. I mean, we have a strong structure here. You know the Deputy Mayors, the Commissioners, all the staff here, these are folks who are running, you know, an extraordinarily complex organization. And I've learned to perform at very high level, and there's lots of depth here. If someone's out of commission, there's always someone else who could step up. But I think from watching the cases, and again I know anything could happen. I do not have one of the five preexisting conditions. That’s not the end of the discussion. But I don't. And as Dr. Barbot will attest, an incredibly healthy specimen, you know, so anything could happen. But I suspect for a lot of people it would be you're isolated and fully functional and just doing your work.

Commissioner Barbot: Absolutely.

Question: Could you sort of update us on what's the hospital capacity and if you have sort of where the trajectory is going now, you're sort of worst case scenario, do you have the beds? And lastly, just the –

Mayor: Wait a minute, that's a lot right there. You'll get your next shot, don't worry. Just – I’m going to try this ground rule again. We're not going anywhere on your first round. I mean if you try and do 27 follow-ons I'll cut you off. But, but I'm saying it's, I'm beseeching you, I'm beseeching you. I'm trying to say to you all, I'm really going to try and communicate. We're going to be doing a lot of this together. It helps me to answer your question, to hear the first question and really give you an answer and then your follow-up or your second – I'm not trying to cut you off. If you say like two or three things, I can't keep it all straight enough to make sense. I'm trying to think about your first question immediately. So just help me by sequencing a little, because we have been consistently giving people time to ask their questions.

So your first question is about our healthcare system capacity. The initial estimate was 1,200 beds that we could make available immediately and again, remember a lot of people who need quarantine do not need to be in a hospital setting. A lot of people who even are – have contracted disease don't need to be in the hospital setting, but we could immediately put together 1,200 beds. We can go deeper through, and Mitch, I don't want to try and articulate more than – I don’t want to get more than I know about your specific turf, but you should talk about how you would progress into cancellations of electives and all that.

President Katz: Right, New York City is very lucky in that we are a hospital, health center-Mecca. People typically come from New Jersey and other areas to get outpatient procedures, to get second opinions. And what why that's relevant is all of that stops in a crisis. But the resource, the doctors and nurses who would do that kind of work, doesn't stop and they are available to then respond for patients with respiratory distress. We have, as the mayor said, identified 1,200 beds that we can use immediately. Every hospital knows where it would put additional people if they didn't fit into the usual space. We would rapidly discharge who have conditions that no longer require hospitalization. We would cancel elective surgeries, which would get us a great deal of resource, just as something no one outside of the medical facility would know, it – when you have surgery. There are two doctors in the room. An anesthesiologist is the third, two surgeon, an anesthesiologist, two nurses, the scrub nurse, and they're circulating – five highly trained people are necessary for one person having a 40-minute arthroscopy procedure. Right? And that's entirely right. But the point is, we're not going to be doing arthroscopy in this instance, all of those resources are going to be going to take care of our sickest people.

Question: Is 1,200 enough for your worst case scenario projections?

Mayor: Well, that's just – that doesn't even account for what he just said about how you could fall back and get deeper and deeper and open up more and more. Go ahead

Deputy Mayor Perea-Henze: I may actually sort of give you a little bigger picture. There are about 20,000 hospital beds in New York City. What we know about coronavirus is that 80 to 90% of those cases, the coronavirus cases do not need hospitalization. Right there, you just eliminated a whole bunch of cases. And we also know that only 6.1% require ICU treatment. So that's the universe that not only Mitch, but the voluntary hospitals are concentrated on. I’m working with the president of the Greater New York Hospital Association, Ken Raske, every morning in trying to make sure that we coordinate all the healthcare resources for the city, and we are in constant communication to see how we can wrap it up.

Question: I guess I'm wondering like based on the percentages you just talked about, the percentage of people obviously it's a small one who need ICU care. Like it's, does the 20,000 beds match up to that smaller percentage?

Deputy Mayor Perea-Henze: You don't need the 20,000 beds. You only need to know that you have enough ICU beds for that 6.1%. What I cannot tell you is the 6.1% means X number of cases.

Mayor: Yeah, but I want to even take it farther, which is, and we talked about this over several press conferences. This is not static. I mean Mitch was very clear. And again, Mitch, how many hospitals, how many clinics?

President Katz: Just, Health + Hospitals alone has 11 hospitals, five skilled nursing facilities and 60 other sites of outpatient care.

Mayor: So that's one piece of the bigger picture. Mitch said, you need more ICUs. I'm going to build ICUs. He's going to convert the cafeteria to ICUs. He's going to put a tent in the parking lot, turned it into ICUs. We look again, it is it. When I say the, the analogy to war, I don't say it to romanticize or simplify. It's just true. We're going to do things we've never done before. If we need to keep expanding capacity, we're going to take everything we can get our hands on and do it. I'm worried about, you know, weeks and months down the line, anyone that isn't should really wake up. But that doesn't mean that we are in a state of panic. It doesn't mean we don't have the ability to throw a huge amount of resources at this and it's going to be constantly building up our capacity to meet the challenge and we're going to need help. I mean, the State's been fantastic. The State has constantly, when we're asking for help, they're providing it. There's tremendous cooperation. If the federal government actually would come into this, and I mentioned all the things, the testing, the masks, the supplies, if they would really go to maximum, would change the playing field entirely. But there is no place in America you would rather be right now, even though we have all these cases, we have the most hospitals, the most doctors that, you know, nurses, everything. We have the most of everything and we're going to use it all and then we're going to add to it. But there's still going to be a reality that, you know, we're watching every day. How much could this jump up and how big could it be on what timeline? And we're going to be clear as we know that, but we have, you know, an extraordinary foe and we also have a huge amount of ammunition, you know, and, and we have huge resources to throw at this battle. And that's what we have to understand here.

Question: Two questions, Mr. Mayor. The first is on the issue of ventilators. So this might be for Dr. Katz, but the chair of the Council’s Health Care Committee has been saying – I think the numbers were 1,000 at a H + H and then 5,000 citywide. I think the chair's question is how many of those are kind of typically being used for other patients, you know, I guess currently or on a typical day because you can't divert all 5,000 to coronavirus patients?

President Katz: No, of course not. But remember that each one of those surgeries is somebody who is on a ventilator, right? So when you cancel the elective surgeries you gain – those then become large numbers of ventilators that are available for patients who would have COVID-19.

Mayor: So I'm staying there one second. So I think the point is to redefine the dynamic. It's really important. Understand if you have – if you think of your 100% of your resources, but the way they're being used now only would free up a certain amount for a situation like this but you say no, wait, we're changing the definitions. We're changing the approach. So we have a much bigger bandwidth that we can then devote to this situation. That's one of the pluses here. Also, we are absolutely looking for more ventilators. We're trying to see if there's any way on the private market to get them. But I'm going to do everything I can to push the federal government. I also want to give a shout out to Senator Schumer who has been intervening on our behalf regularly, was very involved in helping us on this approval for the automated tests. The federal government right now, I mean the United States of America for God's sakes, you can't find the factories that produce ventilators or factories that produce something kindred enough to be converted. Why on earth is the federal government not treating this like a national mobilization? Whatever those factories are doing now, they're doing ventilators and they're not doing it on an eight hour shift. They're doing it 24 hours a day as you would in wartime to produce the huge number of ventilators we'd like to have ideally, and then get them where the need is greatest, which would be New York State, Washington State, a few other places. This is perverse that this isn't happening. I mean, it could have been happening weeks and weeks ago, but even if it started now you could, I don't, I'm not an expert on ventilator mass production, but I could sure as hell tell you they, someone builds them now. Right? So go get thousands of them produce quickly. If they could get them to us, even a matter of weeks, it would have a huge impact.

Question: Just a brief follow up on that. Do you have a target for how many of you're trying to procure?

Mayor: We’re working on – our ideal number, so I gave it to you with like the masks – we're working on our ideal ventilator number. And again, if once we see that we're going to go right at the federal government and trying to push this notion off them mobilizing industry to do this, we're again also trying to see if there's any private contracting that would work and what the capacity of that would be. But we don't have that number yet.

Question: And then just one other question was just you said a number of times that the city was in a better position than some of the other locales that have dealt with it because of the five week essentially head start. And I just wanted to get a sense for what you were able to accomplish during that time that you think has put the city on a better foot. Because even with that head start, you know, through no known fault of the city’s own, you know, the testing has been delayed. What, you know, where were you in a better position?

Mayor: Yeah, I get it. It’s a damn good question. I was on a call a few hours ago with the U.S. Conference of Mayors, mayors around the country and my colleague, Mayor Jenny Durkan of Seattle, gave a quick summary of what she's been going through. I felt real pain for her and everyone out there, because remember they had a huge outbreak that was – really overtaxed their system almost instantly and they're still trying to recover in so many ways. I mean, we went from that January 24th press conference to March 1st without a single case. What did that mean? A whole lot of people got educated. And, again, this is where – and I think I'm going to get an amen over here on this point – this is not just what can the government do for you, which absolutely it’s our obligation to do as much as possible for everyone, this is participatory. There's no way you solve a crisis like this with orders from the government or, you know, supplies from the government. This is about every single one of the 8.6 million people doing what they can do. Dr. Barbot said the words hand sanitizer so many times, I know it entered the – alcohol-based and sanitizer – like, I didn't know there was another kind, it's okay – it entered the consciousness of people. I think the massive incessant public information efforts by all the agencies, obviously by the media – we saw people changing their behavior in a lot of very tangible ways, that for sure helped. There was time to do the planning and preparing, that definitely helped. The testing as it was, at least we are able to get going with what we had effectively. And that wasn't right on the point of contact. I mean again, other places – and this was true in China, in Italy, in a different way in Seattle – you know they woke up to mid-crisis, right? I remember the first few cases it was like clockwork. The disease detectives went out there, they were tracing immediately. Remember, Yeshiva University, the Westchester lawyer? And they really put a ring around the situation to the maximum stand possible and controlled what they could control. That stuff has a multiplier effect. Look, we have a serious number but we also have 8.6 million people. And that number could jump up a lot, and I told you a thousand by next week is what I'm betting on and that's not a minor matter. I think if all this stuff hadn't been done, that number could be a hell of a lot higher right now. So, I can't – Yoav, I can't say the proof is in the pudding in some perfect way. I can say it is very meaningful to me that we are at this advanced a point in the trajectory, starting from Wuhan until now in a city of 8.6 million people and we're clocking in at 154 cases. You could have easily said for something that started in December, you should be at a much, much more advanced place. And that doesn't mean we aren't going someplace tough, but I think some of these things really did help.

Anyone hasn't gone – hasn't gone?

Question: On teachers and other staff members, if they're in high risk groups, what is the advice to them?

Mayor: We're going to codify – that's a real good question – we're going to codify that. If a teacher is over 50 and has those preexisting conditions, we want to protect them deeply and we're going to work with DOE, the union's going to make all sorts of provisions to help them. Anyone who we think there's a very direct and serious medical concern we're going to treat differently, but we have to codify that quickly. We'll get that done the next few days.

Question: [Inaudible]

Mayor: I don't know if I'd say before Monday. You're good, but you're not that good necessarily but –

Chancellor Carranza: No, but there is a heightened sense of urgency. There's also a process by which teachers can request accommodations and we've put out guidance about these particular five conditions that we – there's an email address and we're actually processing those as well.

Mayor: Right. So, that is a preexisting procedure. We're now going to put that on a very expedited footing and we'll have some devoted, dedicated personnel on that. Now, that's a really fair, serious issue that we are going to be all over.

Who has not gone – you've gone, who has not gone? You have not gone –

Question: Yes. Mr. Mayor, can do – and maybe the Chancellor can talk a little bit about the logistics of the distance learning in case of school shutdown. Like, how would you – or even with the declining attendance, you know, do you give students computers? Worksheets? How do you make sure they're learning? What do you do about [inaudible] etcetera? And then, secondly, could you talk about the logistics of why if we shut the system down, it may not open again?

Mayor: Sure. I'll do my overview and then you jump in on all of it. Your question raises a lot of the concerns organically. A lot of kids without computers, in theory you could get them computers, but then their kids – you know, are the parent's home and the parent's not home? Are they going to actually take care to log in when they have to log in? Are they going to follow up with the homework? How do you follow up on their follow-up? You know, like it gets squirrely. It's far inferior. Could you do something? Yeah, you could do something, but it's nowhere near the quality of what we do now. And I'm sorry – and this is a parent speaking – you know, again, a lot of people want to think of this as a day or a week or some people have said how about a two week pause? And I just don't believe that because I think we're going into a growing crisis, not a decreasing crisis. And I know that's counterintuitive – well, if it was growing, you know, shut down everything. To some extent it's true that we will shut down some more things except if they're mission critical. It's a very complex equation. And I said to you, you do not want, for example, our mass transit system to go down. You do not want our hospitals to be compromised. And there is that inner connection to the schools and the schools are providing so many layers of positive impact that I really want to protect them with everything we got. So, the reason I don't believe in short-term is I just don't think – I'm watching a crisis that's growing all the time and I think the human reality if you say to folks, we're going to pause, is there's a high, high likelihood that even if you say it's time to come back, the momentum's lost, there's tremendous concern has grown. I think it's very hard to restart. I don't think it's impossible. If I had no choice, maybe I'd try it. But I'm a really – I'm a realist about how these trajectories go and my argument is I would rather hold the line with something and keep it working rather than atrophy it and take my chances on that. And I do have to think about that interconnection of you take a risk of going down for a period of time, if that makes more likely you're not coming back up now what does that mean for a million kids, and I worry deeply about that. So, I wish I could articulate it better. I think it's everything from logistics to really the momentum that comes with keeping something running versus shutting it down. I think that's a real issue. The – sort of, the restart is not easy. There's a lot lost in translation there. Also, the psychology, the difference of keeping continuity versus losing that continuity. We all experienced that, right? If you go away on a trip, you feel like your life's different when you come back, right? If you do something different for a period of days, you can feel it in your immediate life. Now, this is that on steroids, which is another reason why we are all going to stay at our post no matter what, because that continuity – the continuity of information matters. But it's true for a kid too. If you take a kid out of their equation, something is going to happen and I think it's not going to be a good thing.

Chancellor Carranza: Yeah. So, specifically to the question on distance learning. So, we have worked up a number of scenarios that really kick in right around day-three, going as far into the future as possible. What the Mayor has talked about in terms of the rigor and the comprehensive nature of distance learning kind of kicking in all of a sudden, it's problematic, especially for seniors. You can imagine what the Mayor's talked about. Let's say we go into June, then what happens to seniors that are on track to graduating?

Mayor: Meaning seniors in high school –

Chancellor Carranza: Seniors in high school. I'm sorry, seniors in high school. You know, so what does that [inaudible] for Regents exams? What does that [inaudible] for grade completion? So, it becomes very complex very quickly. Interwoven with that is we've already surveyed what is the penetration of WiFi and who has WiFi and connection to WiFi. And I will tell you with, you know, our student population almost 80 percent being students that qualify for poverty, we don't have a lot of penetration in terms of WiFi. So, then you have to ask, well, can you do this off of the cloud? Can people do this off of a smart phone? Can they do this off of the internet? Where could we get internet penetration? So, becomes very complex very quickly. What we do have in place is that we have the ability to go between five and 10 days right now with grade-level work, all of it available right now on our website. People can log on and see that. But also paper and pen copy because we understand that not everybody has WiFi. It becomes much more complicated when you go beyond that. So, it's complicated. We've scenario’ed, if that's even a term, different kinds of scenarios around this particular topic. But again, the best place for a student is in a classroom with a teacher, the well-trained teacher that is monitoring progress and is continuing to provide instruction.

Mayor: Okay. Anyone has not gone? Last chance – not gone before? And now, go –

Question: Just wondering, I've heard from some city employees that the work from home is not being implemented quickly. Where are you with that? They said that their managers are going to get back to you –

Mayor: Yeah, we did not promise you a rose garden on that one. This is a brand-new thing. We what we said yesterday – I'm as into instant gratification as anyone, but come on. We announced yesterday 10 percent of our workforce will go to telecommuting. We did not say we could just flick a switch and do that instantly. It's nowhere we've ever been before. This is a whole new world. So, it's going to take time. I don't think we have an exact date of how much will happen in each agency and when – it's a big endeavor. Remember, that's 30,000-35,000 employees. But we have to do it quickly and we will keep updating you as that develops. Do you want to add?

Commissioner Criswell: Yeah, I can add – we've been working with all of our agencies for the last two weeks as part of this continuity of operations planning process to help them really write a telework plan. It's not something that the City has done before. And so it will take some time to actually execute and implement it. But this is something we've been working very hard on over the last several weeks to figure out exactly what work can be done at home and then who can do it at home. Do we have the equipment to do it at home? And then if you can't do it at home, you know, how can we stagger those shifts so we can make sure we're keeping our distance within the workplace. And so as the Mayor said, it's – we've been really writing these plans over the last several weeks of physically implementing something that the City has never done before. And it will take us some time to actually get it fully operative –

Mayor: And then it has to work. And this is also, you know, anyone who is a student of wartime reality, it's like, this is again our civilian version of it, but in war you find that things fall apart really quickly. You know, plans fall apart when you think you have the perfect solution. And in real life it doesn't work it. We need these people to do their jobs. If we can make it work, great. With some of these cases, I'm sure we'll find, wait a minute, that doesn't work so well, we have to do something different because this city has to keep running. A lot of people are depending on our public servants. Yeah?

Question: In Italy, there are 17,000 cases and counting and there's a hierarchy, if you will, of which patients are prioritized in case of crisis. Do you guys have a similar hierarchy of who will be treated?

Mayor: No, we're nowhere near that. I’ll let the doctors, this is like – the Italy – I got to say again, I'm very proud of my ancestry, but that is a hot mess and it is because of – you know, they woke up to an extraordinary crisis. I mean it just hit them like a two-by-four. Again, guys, we had a lovely little press conference on January 24th we talked about all the preparations. We had five weeks to do something before we had a single case. They woke up out of nowhere, in the middle of a full blown crisis and it just – the projection of that was unbelievable and they just never had a day of rest, a chance to retrench. It was just like a tidal wave the whole time. So it's very hard to compare anything here to Italy. But no, we are nowhere near that. Please, Doctors.

President Katz: Correct. We will treat everybody who is ill.

Question: Yes. Just to follow up on the work from home question.

Mayor: Yeah.

Question: I mean telecommuting has been a thing for a while. Why didn’t the City have a policy in place for telecommuting?

Mayor: Well, telecommuting is a mixed bag. I mean it has virtues, but there's also a lot of virtues to being in the workplace and the collective reality of people working together and a lot of efficiency that goes with that. I mean, I'm not a management expert, I just manage a whole lot of things so I'm speaking from common sense. You know, I don't think telecommuting is the ideal. I think it is an option.

Commissioner Criswell: Yeah. I mean the thing that I would add to that is you know that the amount of collaboration that is able to happen when you're working together in a workplace is not replaceable, I think, by a lot of the teleworking options that are out there. And so telework is an option and it's one that we are now implementing. Some agencies have done this in limited fashions prior to this. I mean we're putting it in in greater force right now.

Question: [Inaudible] in place [inaudible] emergency, for example. I mean, why wasn’t there a policy set up for cases like this?

Commissioner Criswell: Yeah. I can't speak to why there wasn't one put in place prior to this, but we are writing the telework policy right now. It should be released later today. So we have more information that is going to go out to our employees, to our workforce.

Question: Besides 1199 and the UFT, did you consult with any other unions about keeping schools open, including the 32BJ and if so, what were their positions?

Mayor: You have to ask each of them their positions because I know members of my team had been talking to different people, but again, to me – and I did not directly consult with 1199. The only direct conversation I had with a union leader was with Michael Mulgrew. I'm speaking to Mark Cannizzaro later on today. But again, I will always listen to people's perspective, but the reasons I have for doing this are so deep-seeded and based on so many factors that I'm working from a very, very, you know, multilayered matrix. It wasn't about going to people and saying, well, okay, your one factor is going to decide it for me. I knew what I had to do based on everything I know.

Question: [Inaudible] back to school. On a different issue, the State ELA exams are coming up, I believe in less than a couple of weeks. And you know –

Mayor: Just to make matters more interesting.

Question: [Inaudible] some kind of disruption in the school right now with everything that's happening, no matter what perhaps attendance, but also adjusting to all these things. Is there any consideration being given to perhaps ask the State to delay those or anything?

Chancellor Carranza: So we are actively engaged in conversations both with the State Education Department and the Regents as are a number of my colleagues from other school systems across the State of New York. So there are active communications around that very issue.

Question: [Inaudible] specifically asking for a delay, do you have a position on that?

Chancellor Carranza Well, I think, you know, there's already been trauma inflicted as we've talked about, you know, just the very fact of what we're all dealing with, a pandemic. Throw into the mix the fact that you have interrupted learning time, throw into the mix we don't know what's going to happen tomorrow much less in a week. So I think there are conditions that could warrant some alternate thinking about when, where, and how much – and those are the conversations that we're having.

Mayor: And this answer. Sure. I appreciate the answer. It's also a reminder and I really want to try and communicate this well – as we're thinking about this stuff and these meetings would make your hair curl, there are so many factors, there's so much incoming. But everyone here could tell you their stories. And I think if you had a chance to look at that, you'd understand sort of the way we all think and try and make decisions. I mean, Deanne, I don't know everything about your history, but was a firefighter for many years, was a FEMA official. I mean you can think about this answer, but how many substantial disasters you have been present to address? If you know the answer off hand, you'll tell me.

Commissioner Criswell: I don't know the answer off –

Mayor: Would you say it's dozens?

Commissioner Criswell: Yes.

Mayor: Richard helped bring Houston back after Hurricane Harvey. In fact, when we were doing research on Richard, one of the things that really, really came through was throughout the Houston community, the appreciation for the leadership he showed and they were just laid waste. I mean they went through hell and the schools actually are actually coming back extraordinarily fast because of Richard's leadership. Raul as we said, was present at the beginning of the AIDS crisis here in New York City and one of the people in government trying – and we got actually very moving stories of him being one of the people in government trying to talk to the community of people with HIV and AIDS and try and work with them and hear them and make government work for them at a time when many other people were still in denial or unwilling to even engage the community.

Oxiris talked about H1N1, I'm sure you have many other stories of crisis that you went through.
Mitch, I know you were in the beginning of the AIDS crisis in San Francisco.

President Katz: Yes, Sir.

Mayor: Frontline of the crisis running their public health system. And then I've got a whole host of tales to tell including Ebola and Sandy and 9/11 and many others. I think everyone here has been in battle in a variety of ways and it's in our bloodstream. So when you ask even a question as simple as, should the test be canceled, which is a very good question, we're trying to process all of this all the time. And that is an interesting question. Some things it really does make sense to postpone or cancel. Other things would be really bad to postpone or cancel or have lots of negative experiences or outcomes. But I can at least say that everyone, certainly, you know, Dean Fuleihan is playing a crucial role and he's been through extraordinary times at the city and state level. Emma Wolfe has been through every challenge we've had in the last six years and played a crucial role.

You know, everyone has been to this movie in one form or another and is taking from our previous experiences and adapting them here on trying to, like, use that combined knowledge to make decision after decision after decision in real time. Last call?

Question: [Inaudible] how many are in –

Mayor: Of the what?

Question: Of the 154 cases how many are in the hospital?

Unknown: 21.

Question: 21. So that's less than yesterday?

Mayor: Wait, I think – no that's not, hold on. I think – I want to check.

Commissioner Barbot: 21 was in the ICU.

Mayor: The ICE is 21. Right.

Commissioner Barbot: 30 is in the hospital.

Mayor: Right. Sorry.

Question: And also do you guys have any kind of plan or chemically dependent New Yorkers who rely on methadone or suboxone programs in case the smaller private clinics start to close? I know that the city detoxes were set to close. Is that going to not happen or is there any plan for that?

President Katz: We would be able to supply the medications. We have a large number of waivered physicians. And as you know, the medicine itself is not at a detox center because there's not – it wouldn't be part of detox. Right. But it is available both through our pharmacies and through pharmacies in the community.

Mayor: And is it – I want to ask, thank you for your question. I want to ask are – do we see specific centers closing?

President Katz: I've not heard [inaudible].

Mayor: Are you seeing specific centers closing?

Question: No, I was just going – because I mean, well at least methadone is part of the – in some cases, some of the detox program. And I'm wondering how a lot of the private detoxes were weathering this, considering the virus and –

Mayor: No, it's a great question. I'm saying, do you –

Question: [Inaudible]

Mayor: You have not heard of closures.

Question: [Inaudible] the impending closures of city detoxes, no, I haven't heard of clinics closing.

Mayor: Wait, slow your role –

President Katz: She doesn't mean methadone. She means the fact that Health + Hospitals moved from –

Mayor: That earlier policy, right? Yeah, yeah, yeah. That – I want to –

President Katz: That’s not about methadone.

Mayor: That's a little apples-and-oranges on methadone and we should double check. But I don't hear any change in the approach so far out in the field.

President Katz: No.

Mayor: Okay, good. Thank you, everybody.

Question: [Inaudible]

Mayor: I don't know if we have it. Do you have it –

Unknown: [Inaudible]

Mayor: [Inaudible] okay, thank you.

Question: [Inaudible]

Mayor: [Inaudible] confirm that.

Unknown: [Inaudible]

Question: [Inaudible]

Unknown: [Inaudible]

Mayor: [Inaudible] take steps [inaudible]. Thank you, everyone.


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