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Transcript: Mayor de Blasio Appears Live on CNN’s New Day With Alisyn Camerota and John Berman

March 17, 2020

John Berman: An update now in the latest pandemic developments – there are now nearly 4,500 coronavirus cases in the United States with 87 deaths. That's 4,500 cases we know about. The Kentucky Derby, the first leg of the Triple Crown traditionally run on the first Saturday in May, is being postponed until the first Saturday in September. It was last postponed back in 1945 during World War II. Bars and restaurants are closed in New York City for everything but takeout also closed – nightclubs, movie theaters, concert venues. Also New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art has canceled all programs and events through May 15th that does include one of the biggest nights on the fashion calendar, the annual Met Gala.

Alisyn Camerota: Alright, John, joining us now to talk about all of that is New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio. Mayor, great to have you here.

Mayor Bill de Blasio: Thank you, Alisyn.

Camerota: So what about that? I mean this city obviously is the hub – seen as the hub of culture and food, and the idea that all of these restaurants and cafes and theaters are shut down right now. I mean, obviously they're open for takeout, but that's a different experience.

Mayor: It is.

Camerota: And so as I understand it, 154,000 people work in the city’s bars and restaurants – in your office, whatever models you're looking at or scenarios, how long do you think they're going to be shut down?

Mayor: Okay. First of all, they're open for takeout and delivery. So, thank God some people will still be employed and a lot of people will need that food as another option. This is going to be months. There's no question about it. And I'm very, very worried about the employment impact, the impact on people's livelihoods. I think one of the fallacies in this whole discussion nationally is that there's not even a recognition of the sheer human and economic dislocation that's happened already, let alone what we're going to see as we go into April, May, June. The Congress passed that – or the House passed that initial stimulus bill. It's good, but it's small. We need direct income replacement at this point. We need to do what Franklin Roosevelt did in the New Deal. He created government backed jobs, put people back to work, saved the country. We can't create jobs now because people can't congregate. The federal government needs to actually put money back in the hands of people, not companies, people – who if they don't get that income back in their pockets, they have no choice. They want to work. They have no choice. If they don’t get that income, they won't be able to pay the rent, they won't be able to buy food, they won't be able to buy medicine. We have to be honest about that.

Camerota: When I hear you say months and use the terms April, May, June – is that what you're thinking for how long this –

Mayor: Absolutely. We – even longer, in fact –

Camerota: That's how long these will be closed down?

Mayor: My Health Commissioner said a week ago she believes it will go all the way to September, but we don't have a crystal ball. But I think people need to have in their minds – no one can predict – but we need to have in our minds that this could be a crisis of at minimum several months. Just looking at the numbers trajectory right now. But it could take us well through the summer. And we have to start being honest about the human impact. If people are without their income for months on end, you know, God bless Mitt Romney, I'm glad he's offering an idea, but $1,000 is not going to cut it for people. If you're talking about a three to six month crisis.

Camerota: But I mean – so you're calling upon the federal government to do more than $1,000 a month to send to people.

Mayor: A hundred percent, Alisyn, I'm saying, let's be honest, people want to work. We're telling them they can't as a matter of law, if you will. It's not safe to work, but the cost of living doesn't go away. You still need food. You still need medicine. You still need to pay the rent. What are people going to do? And if you can't get an income – I mean employers, I'm sure, will try for a period of time, but at a certain point they're not going to be able to pay people. If the federal government doesn't say we're in the great unknown, just like we were in the Great Depression – my family went through the Great Depression. I remember the stories that my older relatives told – 25 percent unemployment almost overnight in this country. The federal government under Franklin Roosevelt stepped in and said, we're going to do something we've never done before, and they made sure there was money back in people's hands through jobs and other forms of relief. Now we can't do that. Let's be honest. The federal government prints money. They bailed out the auto industry, the banks, etcetera, time to bail out the American people.

Camerota: It sounds like you are also signaling that New York City schools will not open on April 20th –

Mayor: I've been honest that April 20th is one when we're going to make our first attempt and this is exactly what we've said. We would love nothing more, but watching the trajectory, it's hard to imagine that's going to work. So we're going to plan for the best, be ready for the worst. The worst is we lose the whole school year, which is how I – look, I'm a parent. My kids went to New York City public schools. The idea of our kids losing months of their education and the food that they get and so many other things – it's very painful to me, but I'm also a realist that this crisis, Alisyn, is like nothing we've seen. I mean, I think the only models right now are the Great Depression in terms of the economic impact. I think it's going to blow by the Great Recession. I think the Great Depression and the 1918 Spanish influenza epidemic – those are the only things that you can point to that even resemble it. And this is the beginning, talk to us – you know, let's have a conversation in a month and see where we are.

Camerota: San Francisco has, last night, ordered a shelter-in-place edict for the whole Bay area. Would New York consider something like that?

Mayor: We’re absolutely considering that. I mean, right now we have taken a series of steps to reduce the number of people who are circling around, get people to telecommute, obviously social distancing, closing the schools, which was particularly painful, closing the bars and the restaurants. But we're going to look at all other options and it could get to that for sure. It could get to that for the whole country. But here's the thing I'm worried about. So, let's say we do that, you're still going to have a substantial number of cases of people who need hospitalization under any scenario, even the most perfect shutdown scenario. We're going to have to build-in a huge amount of new hospital and medical capacity. I just announced yesterday a plan to create at least 8,200 new beds through a variety of means or make available 8,200 new hospital beds. We're going to need a lot more than that.

And the thing we don't have, Alisyn, which the federal government is the only solution on – those ventilators. We have some, we don't have enough. The surgical masks, all the things you need for a hospital setting, even the basic things we need to protect people, the hand sanitizer. The federal government – I've used the word mobilization, nationalization. There's different ways to think about it, but the federal government has to ensure that the industries that create those vital supplies are at maximum production and then they're distributed where they're needed most as we do in wartime. And we need the United States military on the ground. Right now, we should have hospital ships going where they're needed to places like New York, for sure. We should have the extraordinarily well trained medical personnel of the United States military deployed forward to the parts of America that are suffering the most. I say, look, anyone, any member of the military who is working on a border wall or anything that's not coronavirus right now in the United States, I'm not talking about our troops based overseas, but if you're a member of the military, we need you right now at the front, and the front is in the places where the coronavirus epidemic has worse.

Camerota: On a personal note, I want to ask you how you're coping. You went to the gym yesterday and Twitter lost its mind.

Mayor: I don't get it, but we'll move on with our lives. The gyms are all closed now, Alisyn.

Camerota: Yes. I know that the gyms are closed. Is there any sense that you were late personally to get your arms around what the sacrifice is that’s required?

Mayor: No, everyone is going to have to make sacrifice, but as our Health Commissioner said yesterday, people still are – in new ways are going to have to get exercise. Whatever scenario we're going to tell people how to stay healthy. It may be a walk, it may be a jog, but obviously socially distanced until and unless we get to the point of literally ordering everyone indoors. So this is going in stages. Somehow people are going to have to stay healthy and sane through this, and it's going to take a lot of improvisation, for sure.

Camerota: Mayor Bill de Blasio, we really appreciate all the information –

Mayor: Thank you.

Camerota: We always like seeing you in studio. Thanks so much.

Mayor: Thanks so much, Alisyn.

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