May 5, 2020
Mayor Bill de Blasio: Good morning, everybody. You know, a lot of days I have the privilege of telling you about good things that New Yorkers are doing, heroic things that New Yorkers are doing, the way that New Yorkers are standing up to this virus and fighting back. I try to really focus on that cause it's an extraordinary story of the goodness of this city, the honor, the decency of the people of this city, and we only wish that that goodness, that decency were reflected in the way our national government sees this struggle here in New York City and understands what our people are going through. We only ask that people in Washington show a little respect for the people in New York City have borne the brunt of this crisis who have been living in the epicenter of a national dilemma, a crisis we'd never seen before, a pandemic the worst health care crisis in a hundred years. There are so many ways I could describe it, but we all know what's going on. And anyone with a heart and soul would show respect and appreciation for the people in New York City. For our first responders, our health care heroes, the everyday people in New York City who have fought through this and now deserve some help to get back on our feet so we can move forward. We didn't ask for this disease. It came from far away, but it has knocked us back no fault of our own, and yet we have fought back. All we want is respect and support, and a sense that we're all in this together, but that's not what we're seeing coming from the White House.
This morning I woke up to this President of United States, a former New Yorker who seems to enjoy stabbing his hometown in the back, talking about no bailout for New York. What kind of human being sees the suffering here and decides that people in New York City don't deserve help? What kind of person does that? Well, I'll tell you something. Every day, President Trump resembles more and more Herbert Hoover, the president who ignored the Great Depression, who didn't care to put America back on its feet, who has been now remembered in history as someone who failed at the most basic responsibility, which is to protect the people he serves. President Trump wasn't there for us when we needed the testing to stop this horrible disease. And now, he's talking about not helping us in our hour of need.
He says in this interview, he's not inclined to do bailouts. They gave a $58 billion bail out to the airline industry. A few years ago, he gave a one-and-a-half trillion-dollar bailout to big corporations and the wealthy. So, who is he kidding? He's not inclined to do bailouts now, that means he's not inclined to help firefighters, EMT’s, paramedics, police officers, doctors, nurses, health care workers, teachers, sanitation workers, all the people who are depending right now on the federal government stepping up and making New York City and New York State, and so many other cities and states, whole so we can get back to business, so we can get back on our feet, so we can lead the recovery. So, right there, he says he's not inclined to do bail outs. He's a pure hypocrite given how much money he's put in the hands of the corporations and the wealthy already. He says that it's not fair to the Republicans because all the states that need help are run by Democrats. So, now, he is putting partisanship ahead of the needs of the nation. You know, I referenced Herbert Hoover a moment ago. Even Herbert Hoover in his worst moments didn't try and pit Americans against Americans, one part of the country against another in a crisis, a leader is supposed to bring us together. What the President is doing, is playing politics while people are suffering. He says it right out loud there. The States that need help run by Democrat. Who cares who runs the states? The people need help, there are Americans who need help right now. Do you not care about that firefighter, that EMT, that paramedic, that police officer, that health care worker, because they live in a state run by a Democrat or a city run by a Democrat? Does that make them less American in your view, Mr. President? It's absolutely unacceptable. We've never seen anything like it the entire history of this republic, and people won't stand for it, because we need help. We need help, because people have been fighting and suffering, and all we're asking you to do is get back on our feet so we can contribute to this national recovery. There's not going to be a national recovery without New York City and New York State and cities and states all around the country that had been hit so hard.
Then he says, Florida is doing phenomenal. Texas is doing phenomenal. Midwest is fantastic. Okay, so Texas – here's a letter signed by a hundred mayors in Texas, Republican and Democrat, both talking about how their cities are suffering. How they help, or they will not be able to serve their people. They will not be able to provide basic services. They will not be able to get back on their feet from the great state of Texas right here. He says, the Midwest is fantastic. How about this headline from the Associated Press? Coronavirus cuts deep scars through meat packing cities in the Midwest, crisis growing in Iowa and other states. I don't know what country he's living in, but here in the United States of America, people are hurting. And it doesn't matter what state they're in. It doesn't matter if it's red or blue. It doesn't matter who they are. They're hurting and they need the help of their government. And now, we have the President of the United States trying to back away from his responsibilities.
Look, we cannot allow this to happen and we won't. We're not going to allow one man to stand in the way of what the people of this city, this state, this nation need. The people rule here. The people will not stand for a government that turns its back on those who have fought heroically through this pandemic and are being looked at with great respect all over the country. You know, I talked to the president about Elmhurst Hospital and he expressed sympathy, expressed admiration for the health care workers. He said, oh, I grew up in that area, Queens. Well, Mr. President, if you respect those health care workers, you don’t walk away from them. Help them, because those very same people who have fought this heroic battle are now the people that don't know if they're going to have a job in the future because there's no money left. The only place that we can get the help we need to get back on our feet is the federal government. Mr. President, be as kind and decent to those health care workers as you were to the airline industry, and the wealthy, and the corporations. That's what we're asking. One standard for this whole country. It doesn't matter which state, doesn't matter red or blue, it just matters that Americans need help and they need it now.
Let me bring you back right here. And even though we'd been through so much together, you know what, I've really admired and appreciated that the people of this city want to do things the right way in this crisis. They want to get it right once the first time. We are being guided here in this city by the facts. We're being guided by the data, by the science. And every day I'm going over with you with everyone. Those indicators that tell us what's happening. And you could look at them as just numbers, but I always remind you behind those numbers are human beings and families in the city. When those numbers go down, it means something is happening, and it means you're the reason why it happened, because you're doing the right thing to make it happen. This is a story of New York City coming together in common cause. And the numbers tell you something you should be very proud of. Daily admissions for COVID 19 in our hospitals down below a hundred a day now. Still too many, but tremendous progress. Fewer and fewer New Yorkers fighting for their lives in our intensive care units, in our public hospitals. The percentage of people testing positive, generally going down. Not every single day, but overall going down and going down a lot. You did that. You achieved it. You get the credit, and I'm sure you're proud of it and I want you to feel the pride that causes you to want to finish this fight strong, and take the next step.
So, as we keep fighting that fight, we don't forget for a moment because we're a decent city, a compassionate city, we don't forget for a moment how many people are hurting right now. We're still not out of it and people are hurting. How many people have been hurt? How many families have lost a loved one or dealing with the disease right now? How many families are dealing with the devastating impact of this crisis on their livelihoods? And you see constantly the dominoes falling in this crisis, and it's affecting in one way or another, millions of us. People who literally have to ask, who maybe never asked the question before in their life, where am I going to get my next meal? People who are struggling still to get that unemployment check because the job's not there. People are worried that their apartment may be gone. They’re worried about literally how are they going to keep a roof over their head and their family. People own a small business and they're worried they won't be able to get back on his feet. That's what's happening to so many people, and while we're fighting for fairness and decency and justice in Washington, we're helping our people right now. With all those problems, every single one I just mentioned that a family may face, where do people turn? A lot of times they turn right here to their city government and the number-one way people do that is by calling 3-1-1. And 3-1-1 was created to make it easier for people to get what they deserve, to get the information and get the support, get the services, and throughout its history, a lot of good has been done because of 3-1-1. It's worked pretty well, and when you see our enforcement agents go out to address a problem, if you see a line at a supermarket needs to be spread out, or a problem in a community that call to 3-1-1 sparks action. Whether it's the NYPD, or the Parks Department, or the Department for the Aging getting someone a meal, whatever it is, it is the fact that a New Yorker could pick up the phone and know that something can happen and will happen. That's the power of 3-1-1. But 3-1-1 that system we depend on has gone through an undeniable strain in these last weeks before this crisis, a typical day was 55,000 calls, that's a lot of calls. The peak in April, nearly 200,000 calls a day, four times as many calls, and that just exploded in a matter of weeks. 3-1-1 team did their best, but it's been clear they need a lot more help and now we're going to give them the help that they need to really expand what they do, so more and more New Yorkers can get help and get it quickly.
So, we have a three-part action plan to add support to 3-1-1 immediately. One, we've hired reinforcement call takers, this one made all the sense in the world, so many calls, more people need to take them. 285 more call takers have been added in the last two weeks, 150 are NYPD cadets, what a great training for them and how to serve and help people in the City devoted young people ready to serve people and get them answers, get them help. 120 temporary hires, 65 percent of whom speak Spanish and that's crucial in this crisis, so many folks who speak Spanish needing help and needing that reassuring voice on the land line. Also 15 FDNY employees have stepped up to help reinforce 3-1-1 and now we've added four new call centers because we needed more capacity. Now, 3-1-1 got a lot done before the crisis, but the crisis demanded a different mindset, so we brought in leaders from the NYPD and the FDNY to really strengthen the approach at 3-1-1 to think not just about responding, but about actually preventing problems, preventing emergencies when someone needs food, if they don't get food, there's an emergency that's going to happen eventually. If someone has COVID symptoms, we don't know yet, that means they have the disease, but we do know it's a danger that must be addressed immediately. You talk about urgency, you talk about focus, you talk about getting things done, you're talking about the NYPD and the FDNY. So we've brought in a leadership group of senior officers from PD and FD and they're bringing some very important practices with them, like a morning roll call where they get everyone together and talk about what is coming in the day ahead, what they're seeing, what happened on the last shift, what are the new topics they have, address, how they can get ahead of things proactively. Also, a reliance on data and learning from the data, 3-1-1 has some great data scientists, the NYPD and the FDNY have really perfected the use of data to serve people better, so they're bringing in that expertise to ensure they see a spike in calls at a certain hour, they see a certain problem that needs to be addressed, they're shifting resources, shifting personnel to that problem. They're also creating an express lane and the express lane idea is if you're calling with something related to COVID-19, if you're calling with a need for food, something as urgent as that goes to the front of the line gets addressed immediately. The goal here is to have little or no wait time for people who are calling about anything related to this crisis in English or Spanish and of course we serve people in many other languages as well. So, what's happening now at 3-1-1 is something very different to deal with a crisis we've never experienced before. I want to thank everyone at 3-1-1 for the amazing work you do, and you've been strong during this crisis. I want to thank the NYPD and the FDNY for stepping in and bringing your expertise. Folks who know how to deal with emergencies and challenges better than anyone else on earth to make 3-1-1 much stronger, much faster, able to serve much better. This is something really important, it's going to help hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers right away.
Now, one example— I told, several times, I've told you about the importance of our New York City, small businesses, getting that federal loan program, getting the opportunity to tap into that because the Paycheck Protection Program, it's a good thing. But what we found was the first round, a lot of money went to businesses that weren't the most needy; the second round, the money is going fast. We want to make sure that every New York City small business that needs those loans and that can turn into grants eventually, that every small business that needs them applied. Remember this newest round, $310 billion for small businesses and a special thank you again to our Senator Chuck Schumer, Congress Member Nydia Velasquez, the Chair of the House Small Businesses Committee, Speaker Nancy Pelosi. They all fought hard to make sure there was more money actually for small businesses, every kind of small business in every kind of community, but now we need our small businesses to take advantage of it. You can apply, it's first come first served, so apply quickly if you have not money could run out in the course of this week. So please apply immediately, go to the federal website, small business sba.gov but the reason I bring it up now is because if you need help and you're struggling with that application, you need answers, you need support call 3-1-1 and our small business team will help you to complete that application and get in immediately. There are a lot of ways 3-1-1 can help and that's a great example, let's help our small businesses get back on their feet. So, anyone out there, if you own a small business or you know anyone who does, tell them right away, fill out that application, if they need help, call 3-1-1.
Now I'm going to go to a matter that really deserves attention and I want to tell you what happened here just in the last few days. And, if you're a parent, I want you to listen carefully in particular. I made a point since we're all in this together in this City, we're all working together to protect people, when something is raised by our colleagues in the media that points out something, we all need to know about or something that needs to be addressed. I'm trying to remember to say thank you. So I want to thank Melissa Russo who raised an important issue about a problem we're starting to see and we take it very seriously and in general we know as we've dealt with the coronavirus that we have not seen the same kind of impact on young people that we see on older people, particularly much older people. But something's happened the last few days, that's beginning to concern our Health Department and again, parents pay attention because it does involve our children and I say that as a parent myself, I take this seriously. Even a few days ago we were not seeing much incidents, but now we are 15 cases in New York City now we've identified and that is enough for sure to say even though it's uncommon compared to the hundreds of thousands of people who have contracted this disease is still causing us concern. So, this particular condition, even though it's rare, here are the symptoms and again, this affects children, fever, rash, abdominal pain and vomiting. If your children are experiencing any child's experiencing these symptoms, particularly in combination, call your doctor right away. We want to make sure that if a child is dealing with this reality, they get the support that they need. We will have in a few minutes an opportunity to hear from our health care leaders who can explain in more detail, but again, when we see something, we want to identify it and tell the public about it. This is something that's concern I want to make sure all New Yorkers are aware and we've put out a health alert letting health care providers know that if they see incidents of this new condition that we want to make sure it's reported immediately to our Health Department so we can identify what's going on and how extensive it is and deal with it.
Now, we all know the way for is all about testing and we know there's different kinds of tests, different kinds of approaches, but every test of every kind contributes to the solution. There's still not enough testing available, there's still not enough of the diagnostic testing that we particularly need, there's still not enough lab capacity, the federal government is still missing in action when it comes to testing. But we do have some good news today, talked about a few days ago, and this is a step forward, and I do want to give credit when the federal government does something that helps us, and I've done that throughout this crisis. On the question of antibody testing, I told you a few days back, we had been in conversations over the last few weeks with the Department of Health and Human Services and with the Centers for Disease Control. The focus was on antibody testing on a widespread level for our first responders and our health care workers. Last night I spoke with Admiral Brett Giroir, who is the Head of the U.S. Public Health Service and Assistant Secretary at H + H – sorry, HHS, my apology – HHS. And he was abundantly clear the federal government is ready to move with antibody testing for the heroes here in New York City, any first responder or health care worker who wants to take advantage of it, it will be made available for free. This initiative will be up and running by next week, maybe even sooner, but certainly by next week the goal is to test 140,000 of our heroes and this testing will be done at hospitals, firehouses police stations and correction facilities. So, this is very, very important, it's going to give us much more ability to let all of our heroes know what's happened in terms of exposure to this disease in their own lives. It's going to be really helpful in terms of finding more donors for the plasma treatments that we're very hopeful about. It's going to give a lot of information to the federal government and to us about what's happening out there with this disease that's going to help us fight this disease further. So, this is a step in the right direction for sure.
Now, a few more things before I conclude, it's very, very important, while we're fighting this battle to express our thanks for the people who've really stepped up. And those thank you’s I think are even more important in the middle of a crisis where people are working so hard. So, a couple of different things we honor each year, happen to fall today and this week, and let's take time to thank the people we know who serve us so well, starting with Teacher Appreciation Day. Our educators have done an amazing job. They've never been asked to do anything like online learning, distance learning on a vast scale. They've done it really well. The dedication has been outstanding. Our educators are going out of their way to reach kids, reach parents, help them keep learning no matter what. Any educator in your life, please take the time to thank them today and this week because they certainly deserve it. They've done something remarkable.
Today is also Building Service Worker Day. Now, talk about unsung heroes, the doormen and the doorwomen, the porters, the cleaners, the security officers, the folks who keep buildings running, every kind of building, every place that's functioning right now – that's part of fighting back this disease. Every place that people live that has a staff that makes sure the building keeps running. Everything we depend on every day in this city, in peace time and wartime - these are unsung heroes who are there for us and keep things running. Take an opportunity today to thank them. They don't get the thanks they deserve, but what would we do without them? The city wouldn't work without them. Let's thank them today. Special thank you to our colleagues in labor – 32BJ, SEIU – all over New York City for the amazing work you're doing in this crisis. And yesterday, and this we should be thankful for every day, but yesterday was International Firefighters Day. I went to go meet with EMTs and paramedics at EMS Station Four on the Lower East Side yesterday. Our EMTs, our paramedics, our firefighters, all part of the FDNY family - they've been amazing. They've dealt with things that no one's ever seen before; they have saved so many lives. They have stood firm, absolutely made us proud in this crisis. Keep making us pride, proud. We should be thankful for them all the time, but let's give a special thank you to them this week.
Okay, the part of this press conference at each day we all look forward to the daily indicators to know where we're going. Yesterday, great day; today, a little less great, still some good news. We need it to get better to fully take the next steps. So, three indicators, first one daily number of people admitted to hospitals for suspected COVID-19 – that is down, that is good. It from 88 to 75. Think about that for a moment – 75 people admitted to hospitals for suspected COVID-19. That is a sea change from where we were a few weeks ago – that's fantastic. Daily number of people in our ICUs across our public hospitals for suspected COVID-19 - down from 632 to 596, great news. That still means there's almost 600 people right now fighting for their lives in those ICUs. So good important news, but with something that reminds us, the battle still rages for so many. Here's the one I don't like, the percentage of people tested citywide positive for COVID-19 – up from 17 percent to 22 percent. We know each day can vary for a variety of reasons, but the reason we want all three to go down at once is that tells us we're on a solid, consistent path and that's what leads us to be able to start loosening up. Didn't have the day we needed today, but, overall, we're making progress. Let's keep fighting. Let's keep fighting to bring these numbers down consistently and take that big next step forward.
So, before I say a few words in Spanish, I just want to come back to what I started with. This is just about basic humanity and decency. Anyone watching has seen the pain that New York City has experienced. Anyone watching has seen the heroism of so many New Yorkers. Anyone watching with a heart and soul would say, I want to help those people because they've done something so good, so decent. That's all we're asking of our federal government. We’re just asking the President of the United States to act like the President of the United States and care – actually care about the people of this city, regardless of politics; care about the people of the city like any President should, regardless of where they come from. But you’d think a president who grew up here might have a special feeling for this place, might go out of his way to help his hometown. I'll give him another chance to show that there's a beating heart there, but these comments today show me something very cold, very, very unfair towards the people he grew up around – the people gave him every opportunity in his life. So, Mr. President, you have a chance to atone for what you’ve said here; you have a chance to get it right. Remember, your hometown, and remember every hometown in America – just lend a helping hand so people can get back on their feet once and for all.
A few words in Spanish –
[Mayor de Blasio speaks in Spanish]
With that, we will turn to our colleagues in the media and please remember to give me the name and the outlet of each journalist.
Moderator: Just a quick reminder that on the phone we have Dr. Barbot, Dr. Katz, Dr. Varma, Commissioner Shea, and Commissioner Kish. Juliet from 1010 WINS has the first question, Juliet.
Question: All right, thank you. Good morning, Mr. Mayor. Good morning everybody here on the call. There's now playing, a plan in place to deal with homeless underground. So, what is the plan to deal with homeless encampments? I know Mr. Mayor, you've said they're not acceptable, but I happen to know of three encampments where there are groups of people with sleeping bags, blankets, shopping carts – even one had a tent. A response to a 3-1-1 call in one location indicated, it was indicated it was cleared by police, but that was not the case. So, I'm wondering what is happening with that? What is your concern and what is the response?
Mayor: Well, Juliet, you have distinguished yourself over these weeks in finding things that need to be fixed and I really appreciate that and we're going to go fix it. They're absolutely unacceptable. Again, there's a story that really should be understood for decades encampments were tolerated in New York City. People would see them in different places and, somehow, they were allowed to exist. I found it absolutely unacceptable and I said to the NYPD, to Social Services, to Sanitation Department, I said, if we see any encampment developed anywhere in New York City, we're taking it down period. So, I want you please to give those three locations to my colleagues here at City Hall right after this and they will be dismantled immediately. It's unacceptable; it's not a way for human beings to live. It's not right, it's not fair to anyone; it's not healthy. We will not tolerate it. So just give us the locations and they will be gone. It's as simple as that.
Moderator: Nolan from the Post is up next. Nolan?
Mayor: All right [inaudible] –
Moderator: We will come back to Nolan.
Mayor: Double back to Nolan.
Moderator: Brigid from WNYC is up next. Brigid?
Question: Good morning, Mr. Mayor. First, ethical questions about enforcement for you and Commissioner Shea. Excuse me, first for tonight’s historic subway closure [inaudible] by the Governor, how many police officers will be guarding MTA stations overnight from 1:00 AM to 5:00 AM since every station that doesn't have a locked entrance presumably needs an officer and do you have an estimate for how much its enforcement will cost? And then separately in the 75th precinct there was another event captured on video of an aggressive police encounter with officers [inaudible] with someone's social media [inaudible] with a teenager for not wearing a mask. Commissioner Shea, do you have details about this incident? How are officers being instructed to enforce the city's guidance on social distancing and wearing masks? It appears that one of the officers actually punched the young man in the head, but that cannot constitute excessive force and does the department need to do additional retraining for officers in –
Mayor: Brigid –
Question: – how to effectively interact with community members on social distancing concerns –
Mayor: Brigid, hold on. Brigid, respectfully, I'm trying to get everyone to really respect the ground rules here. I'm absolutely going to answer your questions, but folks in the – our colleagues in the media, we're trying to get to as many people as possible. We have a clear rule; get two questions upfront. A run-on question that becomes four or five questions is just not fair. We really are trying to be consistent here. We're taking lots of questions in the course of a week. So, we're going to speak to obviously the first question about the subways. We'll speak to the video from the 7-5 Precinct, but I'm going to take that broadly and again, I'm sure your colleagues will have questions as well, but please everyone just respect each other by not trying to stretch two questions into four or five questions.
Let me start and I’ll turn to Commissioner Shea. On the question of closing the subways in the late night hours, this is something I think is absolutely the right thing to do to ensure the subways are safe and clean; to ensure that our essential workers are respected, protected, know they can be safe in the subways with a cleaner environment. The folks who are putting themselves in harm's way, knowing that every effort is being done to keep them safe, but also because I think it will disrupt another decades old pattern of homeless folks, street homeless folks staying on the subway all night in a way that I think is unhealthy, unfair, not good for anyone involved - starting with the homeless person. We want to disrupt that, we want to get them help, we want to be able to be there with outreach services to get them to shelter. So, I really think it is the right policy. Clearly it will require serious effort by the NYPD, but I'll remind you that in those same stations that are closed, there will be people cleaning; so there will be MTA staff there. Those are not stations that from every understanding I have from the MTA, they're not just going to be empty and barren, they're going to be activity going on. But the NYPD certainly is going to support in a variety of ways. The Commissioner can speak to that. I will remind everyone that since there aren't trains running, NYPD officers will not be on trains, so it frees up a certain amount of personnel to address the stations during those hours. Also, obviously, hours that there's generally in this city much less activity than other hours of the day. On the 7-5 Precinct, and I know Commissioner Shea will speak to it, I have seen the video, there's obviously going to be a review to understand all the facts. The Commissioner and I spoke this morning. I think every one of these cases has to be seen individually. I would caution against anyone trying to look at different videos or different situations and see them all the same. They're not all the same. I want to caution that any time that officer asks someone to observe social distancing or put on a mask, the response from any New Yorker, one, should follow the rules and the laws we're living with right now; two, should be concerned about the health and safety of everyone, starting with their own family. The response should be to follow the instruction of the officer, and people have to understand that. We look at every incident carefully, and, as I spoke about the incident in the Lower East Side the other day, when I see something I think is inappropriate, I'm going to say it, and, obviously, that was a case where an officer was modified right away. But I also want to remind people that what New Yorkers need to do is respect the NYPD as well, and respect the instructions, and certainly never ever fight with an NYPD officer. That is not acceptable. People are not ever allowed to use physical force against an NYPD officer. That's just not something that can happen in this city. So, we have retrained our entire police force to deescalate, to respect communities, to work with the neighborhood policing approach, and I've seen tremendous progress. There's still work to be done, but I want to remind everyone it's a two-way street. Respect goes both ways and that's how we create a better city for everyone. And when an officer says, follow these rules around social distancing or wearing a face covering, that is for the protection and health of everyone. And I say, I'm glad that officers are out there making sure that people are safe, because, if not, people wouldn't be safe, period. Commissioner?
Police Commissioner Dermot Shea: Thanks, Mr. Mayor. So, on the first part with the transit – as soon as this press conference ends, I'll be on a video conference with senior leadership and the NYPD, including Chief Delatorre, the head of the Transit Bureau, just finalizing the stage-one of this plan for tonight. And, again, this is something that's never really been undertaken to this scale. I expect it to be fluid and we will learn from tonight's, and, as we go forward, try to develop a system that is as efficient as possible to get the job done with the minimum amount of officers. Hundreds of officers will be deployed tonight. And, you know, again, as I said, we’ll learn from tonight's experience and see if we have to adapt and if we can do it with less or have to add more. And all of that will be done in conjunction with our partners from the transit system. In terms of the video in the 7-5, we've seen a couple videos surfaced in the last couple of days. I would just point out a couple of things. The common denominator here is, starting with a lack of compliance. And I think echoing some of what the Mayor said, respect here is a two-way street. We understand that everyone is stressed out under these trying times in two months, but, you know, we need people to work together more than ever. And when officers approach a crowd for whatever the reason, you know, work with the officers. We commit to work with the community, but one thing that we cannot have is – we cannot have individuals having physical contact with our officers. To the comment about the punch, you know, every incident is unique and has to be examined under the lens of the circumstances of that particular incident. A punch is something that we actually trained for in the Police Academy. It is a part of the level of escalation that begins with discussion, begins with the de-escalation, and it progresses up from there. So, to answer your question, no, a punch should not be assumed to be excessive force. It should be examined in the totality of the circumstances and, as any incident is reviewed, we review all of these incidents. But, again, I don't think it's surprising when you look at – start to see some of the patterns emerge here, your individuals that are being repeatedly arrested, and it is not shocking to me that they are not complying with the police's orders at times. This individual, in this particular incident that you mentioned, had just been arrested for a burglary a month ago. So, that's something that the officers are dealing with as well. But we'll work through it. We'll continue to do what we do, keeping New Yorker safe and, you know, hopefully we'll come out of there sooner more than later.
Moderator: Henry from Bloomberg is up next. Henry?
Question: Hi, Mr. Mayor. How are you doing today?
Mayor: Good, Henry. How about you?
Question: I'm hanging in there. I'd like to try and see whether or not we can get more precision on what you think the timeframe would be on opening up various aspects of city life, particularly schools, the restaurants. You agree with the Governor's assertion that schools and theaters should open in, sort of, a stage four, the last stage that they are equivalent in terms of when they should be opening.
Mayor: Well, Henry, we keep working with the State all the time to refine the approach, because we're all in uncharted territory here. Here's why I'd say, I feel very impressed by the progress this city is making that gives me greater confidence about something that we all should be working towards, which is the reopening of school in September. We’ve got a lot to do to get to that point where we can do that effectively and safely and smoothly, but I'm getting more confident by the day when I see these facts. Now, we are not there yet. You've been watching our daily indicators, a lot of progress, but still not the kind of consistent progress we want to be able to take the first steps to relax some of the restrictions. But I am increasingly hopeful about the ability to open school well and fully in September. Remember, the tightness of the approach that we're using right now is again to ward off a resurgence, a boomerang, and that is the best way to keep squeezing this disease. And the test and trace strategy, which is going to be coming up intensely now is crucial to that as well. So, I think there's broad agreement and, certainly, this is some of what we see from around the world, that certain types of settings lend themselves in terms of reopening to being in the earlier stage, because they have more space available, more distancing to be done. Others are inherently places where people are close together – you would include schools in that, you would include theaters and sports events and all. So, it makes sense that you're going to go on stages. But rather than theorize about it, Henry, we're going to literally lay it out step by step as we are ready. When we see the indicators get close to where we need them to be, we’re going to lay out what the steps will be. And that's something that I think will be constant because we keep making progress, but I don't want to theorize about what happens too much down the line because the first thing is not to get overconfident and to fight off any chance of that boomerang. If there's a boomerang, then all schedules get set back and that's not something I'm going to see happen.
Moderator: Trying Nolan from the Post one more time. Nolan?
Question: Mr. Mayor, can you hear me?
Mayor: Yeah, Nolan. How are you going?
Question: I'm doing all right. Two questions – two separate issues, the first of which is, the Governor has frozen wage increases for State employees as a way to try to create some breathing room in the State budget. Are you considering a similar move here in the city? And the second question is, with the city's death toll, you know, approaching – the States rather – death toll, I think, approaching 20,000 at this point. What is does your administration continue to be so guarded in discussing how the city is treating its dead?
Mayor: Well, again, I don't feel we've been guarded. I feel like we've tried to answer a wide range of concerns, but also respect the families involved. I think there is a very big difference of interest here, meaning I think the media, respectfully – and I understand it's your job, but I also understand the nature of the free enterprise system – the media very much wants to report on this story constantly and I think a lot of families are not interested in constantly having their pain portrayed publicly. And we're trying to strike a balance here, where we're answering the concerns functionally without dwelling publicly on something that's very sad and tragic and very human and very individual. So, whereas a substantive issue to address, we're addressing it. The situation continues to move forward as we reduced the number of people we're losing each day, thank God, as we're taking small steps towards getting back to normal. But, you know, I think whenever an issue has come up, we've addressed it and been open about it, just not lurid about it. We're not going to go into a lot of detail. That's just the way we're going to handle this. On the wage issue, the State has different laws and standards than the City. Right now, our central focus is on keeping our city going, keeping our workforce going so we can serve people so we can provide services so we can get back on our feet. Our to do that is going to be absolutely determined by what happens with the stimulus bill this month. If we get help, we can move forward. If we don't get help, some very, very tough decisions are ahead, and much tougher decisions than something like a wage freeze – much harder decisions ahead if we do not get help from Washington.
Question: Christina from Chalkbeat is up next. Christina?
Question: Hi, Mayor. Thanks for taking my question. I was hoping to get some more clarity about the budget cuts to College Access for All and how the City plans on making sure that students who managed to graduate from high school in this very difficult year also continue to go on to college, if they're on that path?
Mayor: Thank you, Christina. Look, there was a lot of things that we do in normal times that we think are really valuable, like College Access for All, but just was profoundly disrupted by not having people together, you know, in a school building and things like college visits. There's many things that could not happen in this environment and in a situation where you have to make tough choices, this was one we had to sacrifice. But what continues is an incredible commitment at the DOE to support high school seniors to make sure that every single one who can graduate does. I know guidance counselors are constantly reaching out to high school seniors. I know the Chancellor and his team have said what whatever else they're doing now, and so many things are doing now, job-one is to really focus intensely on those high school seniors, get them the help they deserve. So, you know, we're going – we're doing that right now with the online learning, with counseling remotely. Remember, that our seniors, we want to see as many as possible get through in June, but if for any reason they're not ready in June, there’s still July and August to keep working with them. And online learning offers a lot of flexibility that we can use in this case, in a good way. And we're going to celebrate all our seniors with a citywide graduation ceremony. That's going to be something very special and we'll be putting that together soon in announcing details as we have them. But I would separate what we had to do with College Access for All, which is, obviously, a big program to acclimate our students to the opportunities ahead versus the pinpointed work to help each senior. That work to help each senior continues intensely.
Moderator: Next is Yoav from The City. Yoav?
Question: Hi, Mr. Mayor. I just wanted to get a greater clarity on what I asked about yesterday, about the enforcement of social distancing for a group, let's say of two people. Is the presumption that those people live together under the same roof? Or, is the NYPD instructing its officers to confirm – you know, check their IDs and confirm whether they should be within six feet of another.
Mayor: Again, this is something we're all learning as we build out the approach, Yoav. This is never something that the NYPD or any enforcement agency has had to do before. And so, we don't have every perfect rule in place. We're learning by experience. One thing that's true is that for anything to work, there has to be enforcement. There has to be some consequences. If you mean to ensure that a place where the 8.6 million people moves forward and fights back this disease and we save lives, enforcement is a crucial part of that, NYPD, Parks Department and all the other agencies that we have brought into play. So, we're going to keep refining our approach to enforcement as always. A substantial amount of any enforcement activity depends on communication, depends on public education, which there's been a huge amount of, depends on the training of the folks who do the enforcing, depends on their professional judgment, which we always depend on. That's just part of any enforcement activity.
So, we're working through to keep tightening up the protocols. We know the biggest thing we're concerned about is anything that's a larger gathering. We know we want to avoid anyone not social distancing whenever humanly possible and we know we want people to wear face coverings and I think that's the sort of hierarchy of need. But we'll have more to say as we refine the specific protocols, but again, some of it is common sense, just talking to people, reminding them of the importance and where folks need enforcement because they refuse to follow instructions then that's what we have summonses for.
Moderator: Shant from the Daily News is up next. Shant?
Question: Morning, Mr. Mayor with the Council doing a hearing on the budget tomorrow, just wanted to ask you about some of the issues that I understand are on Councilmembers’ minds. For one, the Summer Youth Employment Program, I know a lot of them want to bring that back in some form. Do you see a way to meet them halfway or do you basically consider that program dead? Another area is with crime down during the outbreak [inaudible] budget cuts for the NYPD and DOC and last thing –
Mayor: Shant – Shant, I couldn't hear that. You skipped out for a moment there. You said would crime down and then I couldn't hear you.
Question: Yeah. Sorry about that. With crime down, would you consider budget cuts for the NYPD or the Department of Corrections? And last thing if I'm understanding correctly, is that your budget – your revised budget has $2.4 billion for the coronavirus response this year but none marked for Fiscal 2021. So yeah, just what are your thoughts on preparing for Fiscal 2021?
Mayor: Again, I'm going to do this, but I'm going to start to just cut questions off going forward when people go from two into three, we're just – respect, the questions, they are all good questions, but it's the SYEP is one question, the PD and DOC is another question, and the 2021 is yet another question. So just saying it to everyone, I'll start to edit if needed. I would ask people just really respect each other and respect what we're trying to do here to get as many people an opportunity. Two questions, really clear what two questions is. SYEP, always talking to the Council. This is what we do. This is democracy. This is, you know, the different branches of government working together and I will remind you, this is now the seventh time, seventh year that I've gone through this process with the Council. Every single year we've come to common ground, gotten to a budget on time, gotten to a fair, smart, balanced budget.
So we're going to do it again, and the work with the Council has been very, very respectful cause everyone understands what we're going through. The Council cares deeply about SYEP. I care about too. It's expanded greatly during my administration. I've said we one, we don't have money right now two, we don't have a logistical framework to make it work because people can't gather and it is wholly dependent on people gathering in the same place. So I don't see a way to do it right now, but I'm always going to have an open door to the Council and budget adoption is not until the middle of June or later June. Things could change by then so don't see it now, but the conversation is open.
On police department and Department of Corrections, no anticipated budget cuts at this point. Both of them are doing extraordinarily important work and we need to keep them doing it, dealing with a lot of new challenges in this crisis. Again, anything could happen between now and adoption, and the number one question is what's going to happen in Washington with the stimulus. That will frame everything and then what's happening with the disease will frame a lot. So nothing anticipated now, but everything is an open question depending on what happens in Washington. And then absolutely in the following Fiscal Year we're going to be dealing with the coronavirus in a variety of ways, certainly the aftermath of it, if not the real thing again. So we will be definitely thinking about what that means for a future budgets. Right now we're focused on the here and now, but we have time between now and June to figure out how to project our needs ahead. They will be substantial for sure.
Moderator: Sydney, from the Advance is up next. Sydney.
Question: Hey, Mr. Mayor, I have two questions. I wanted to follow up about adding Staten Island’s private hospitals as well as the rest of the city's private hospitals to your daily ICU indicator count. I asked you a week ago if you would consider adding at least Staten Island to that count so that the five boroughs are represented and you said you would look into it, but it looks like you've decided not to add Staten Island and private hospitals. Can you explain why you decided not to?
And second, going back to the military medical personnel, it's my understanding that the federal government said that military medical staff could only be sent to New York City's public hospitals. I wanted to know if you ever tried to go back to the federal government and ask if it would be possible to send them to Staten Island because it has no public hospital and is still a part of New York City? Can I read you a quote, I know you don't want us to run on with questions, but it's relevant to the military medical part? So yesterday in response to what you said about not wanting to send the military medical staff to to Staten Island and only to public hospitals, Borough President Oddo and Congressmen Rose said, “the ease in which the de Blasio administration allows the fact that Staten Island has no public hospital to be an excuse for them to avoid their responsibilities to Staten Islanders is stunningly callous and contemptible.” What do you have to say to that? And again, you know, about if you tried to ask the federal government to send staff to Staten Island?
Mayor: Thank you for the questions, Sydney. Look I think we're just in a kind of revolving door here and I'm just not going to play that game. Whatever any hospitals have needed around the city, there is 56 hospitals, when they have needed help, we've gotten them help. In the beginning, we all were struggling just to try and keep the most basic operations going as the disease was growing intensely. Overwhelmingly, the biggest challenges were in our public hospitals starting with Elmhurst Hospital. We needed to reinforce the places that were bearing the brunt. As we got more resources, we started spreading them more intensely all over. Every hospital has been served by that effort. As we got more personnel, we've been sending them all over. You know, I get requests from Staten Island, from RUMCSI, and every request is honored, whenever we have something, we provide it.
But the military medical personnel were explicitly requested for our public hospitals that were bearing the brunt. We got a good number. We got less than half of what we asked for originally. So it was not anywhere near the number that would have been ideal, but we've used them for the intended purpose. So I think this, your questions are trying to suggest something that's just not there which is any difference of feeling and concern. I care about all 56 hospitals. I care about all five boroughs. I think a lot of people don't want to ever let that in because it's politically inconvenient, but that's fine. I'm used to it by now. If the hospitals and Staten Island need something, we're going to get them help. We always have gotten them help, but different hospitals, different communities are dealing with different needs. That's just been clear throughout.
The other question, the indicators, again, as I said to you several times, the public hospital indicators are the most consistent and they tend to reflect what we're seeing from all 56 hospitals, but they are more readily available and consistent information. I'll double check with the team again, but to date, no one has shown me evidence that we need to broaden. You're seeing something in these – this indicator I think isn't there. It's not meant to be what's happening in each of 56 hospitals. It's meant to be a trend line for the whole city and using the 11 public hospitals is a simple verifiable way to do it and appears to be consistent with what other hospitals are experiencing.
Moderator: Last two. Katie from the Wall Street Journal. Katie.
Question: Hey, good morning everyone. I have a question for Dr. Babrot and it's actually about the warning about the Kawasaki disease and the toxic shock syndrome seen in children. I'm just curious what took the city so long, I guess to identify these pediatric cases. I know you said on April 29th that the city had not seen cases of this severe rare illness and children and they were surveying pediatrics intensive cares. So the 15 patients were hospitalized between April 17th and May 1st. So was there just more monitoring being done or what can you explain the gap there? Thank you.
Mayor: Yeah and let me jump in on Katie's question. Oxiris, and obviously if Mitch or Jay would like to join in as well after Oxiris. Start if you would by defining so everyone knows, particularly parents know, what are these syndromes? Explain it from scratch and how do identify and what it does to children, et cetera.
Commissioner Oxiris Barbot, Department of Health and Mental Hygiene: Certainly, Mr. Mayor. Kawasaki's illness is actually a rare condition. When I was a pediatrician in clinical practice, I actually had patients with Kawasaki's disease and what we see is generally children present with prolonged high fevers, several days of very high fevers. They can also have very red eyes very brightly colored lips, and then, you know, one of the hallmarks that we see is called what we call a strawberry tongue, which means their tongue is very bright and red. Then the other symptoms that children can have are rash. They can have swelling of their hands and feet, and generally if the condition is identified early there is definitive treatment, and there are typically no long-term consequences. However, if this, the syndrome is not identified early, there can be long-term consequences, most commonly related to ongoing heart problems.
So the important thing here is though that when you have a syndrome that's not very common in the context of a worldwide pandemic, there are situations where pediatricians may not be thinking, oh this could be an atypical manifestation of what's going on. And so we, when we got the question from Melissa, made sure that our – I directed my staff to reach out to all of the pediatric providers to say, are you seeing these types of symptoms coming in in children? And they're like, oh yes, we actually have seen them, or no we haven't seen them, but we will be on the lookout. And so, you know, in public health oftentimes we say that outbreaks are made or broken by astute clinicians that are paying attention in clinical settings, be it their private practice, be it in the emergency department, or be it in an intensive care unit. And that then signals the call for us at the Health Department to look more widely across the city to see if this is a one off or if this is part of an emerging trend.
That being said, there have been cases identified in the UK and we are learning that there are very small numbers of cases that have been identified in, for example, Philadelphia and Boston. We're not sure what to make of this yet, and as I've said several times in the past or still learning every day about how COVID-19 behaves not only from a public health point of view, but from a clinical point of view. And as we have learned that for example, in adults, the virus doesn't just affect the lungs. It can also affect the kidneys. We are learning that even though children by and large are mildly affected when it comes to COVID-19 that there can be situations where they are more severely affected. Thank God in this situation we haven't had any children who have died from the number of children that have been identified with Kawasaki or Kawasaki like illness. And so we want pediatricians, we want pediatric intensive care specialists to let us know when they have more patients and importantly, as the Mayor alluded to or stated in his opening remarks, we want parents to pay attention so when they see these symptoms to reach out to their doctors early, because the most important thing in this situation here again is not only diagnosing it early but providing the appropriate treatment early. The treatment for this is something called immunoglobulin as well as aspirin and it's actually one of the few, if not the only pediatric conditions where aspirin is an indicated treatment. So kind of a long winded answer, but very important that we not lose sight of the fact that we need doctors to report, it's actually part of the health code to report when they see atypical presentations of common conditions or even rare conditions because it could be, it could help inform our greater understanding of how this vicious virus is affecting our city as a whole.
Mayor: Dr. Katz or Dr. Varma, you want to add?
President Mitchell Katz, Health + Hospitals: I think Dr. Barbot did a great job of responding. I would only add that the city hospitals have successfully taken care of children who have this condition. So it is something that the astute clinicians that Dr. Barbot was talking about did see and provided appropriate care for the children.
Mayor: Excellent. Dr. Varma?
Senior Advisor Jay Varma: No, nothing else from me.
Mayor: Right. Thank you. Okay.
Moderator: Last question goes to Melissa from NBC New York. Melissa?
Question: Hi. Good morning Mr. Mayor. And I want to thank you so much for the acknowledgement. I really do appreciate that. What changes are you making now to make sure that your Health Department is getting the most up to date information on these emerging health concerns? And at this point, how, if at all, does the knowledge that children are impacted by this more than maybe we thought change or considerations about planning safer schools? That's my first one.
And then I have to ask one for my colleague, Andrew Siff, who wants to know, given that studies show minimal outdoor transmission, it seems like the city is expending massive energy on policing outdoor behavior. Wouldn't time and energy be better devoted to testing and tracing?
Thank you, Mr. Mayor.
Mayor: Thank you Melissa. Melissa, appreciate your question and again, always appreciate when our colleagues immediately bring things to our attention that we want to make sure are deeply focused on. So I think the first question, look, we have to be vigilant. We have seen some things with the coronavirus and I'll start and certainly our three doctors can jump in afterwards if there's anything they want to add. We have seen some things with the coronavirus that have been very consistent from the beginning. For example, that the vast majority of people did not need hospitalization – ended up with something that, you know, was much less severe. But there obviously had been so many people who did need hospitalization and so many people we lost.
That is, you know, there's no consolation on the fact that most people went through it better, but the predictions did hold on that sort of vast majority not having the extreme experience. From the beginning, we heard that the impact seemed to be mostly on those with preexisting conditions and older, particularly much older folks. That again, very sad for everyone who has been affected. That truth has seemed to be consistent pretty much throughout, but we have to have our eyes open for anything that might change and evolve – I mean our doctors have been warning us all along that no one knows everything about this disease anywhere and it's an ever changing situation. There's always new information coming in. So no one is saying we have the definitive understanding that we'd like to, we haven't seen much impact on kids, but when we see something like this, we're going to be very, very vigilant and anything else that might come along like this. So we'll be all over protecting every child who is affected in this way. But in terms of what it means for schools, I think the way to think about is, you know, that decision about how we're going to restart schools in September and exact ways we'll do it will evolve in the months between now and that we certainly want to make sure we come back safe and if we're seeing any other particular challenges to kids, we're going to add that into our strategy. But my bottom line is I believe fundamentally we'll be able to reopen schools in September, but the way we are going to do it has to be a safety first approach and absolutely we'll have to reference the best knowledge we have as we get closer from the health care community.
And on the outdoor question from Andrew, I don't think it's an either-or. It's a fair question for sure. I would say it this way: the testing and tracing operation is going to get anything and everything it needs to succeed. That is a different question than how we use all of our enforcement personnel to ensure there is social distancing. The fact that our numbers are going down is directly related to the fact that people stayed home to the maximum extent possible, practice social distancing, and more and more wearing those face covering. That is why we are seeing the amount of people affected by this disease steadily declined.
So we're going to stick with those strategies and we have to enforce them to make sure they work. That's just reality, especially in warmer weather. So I don't think it's either or. I think we will have a strong enforcement approach, constantly be informing and educating people, but also build an intensive testing, a tracing apparatus. We need both actually to succeed. It's the only way forward.
Doctors, anything you want to add on Melissa's questions? A question about how we stay vigilant to anything that might affect kids and, and as we look forward to school. Anything you want to add to that?
Commissioner Barbot: Yes, Mr. Mayor, I would add – first of all, I want to start by thanking Melissa for bringing this to our attention. And it's certainly something that we will continue to pay close attention to. So as a result of this, we issued a health alert that goes to thousands and thousands of doctors across the city. And so my and expectation is that as a result of us issuing [inaudible] as a result of the coverage that this is getting, we will get more cases identified, a Kawasaki’s Illness, as well as Kawasaki-like syndromes in children that are more aggressively infected. And so we will continue to monitor that situation. You know, with regards to the ongoing transmission of COVID-19 and children, I think from the beginning we have said that children are not an exception to this, that they like adults can be infected, they can transmit the illness, but that the learning that has gone on has been that they are not severely affected.
I think one of the new things that we are also learning and I think time will tell how much this will sort of change the clinical course and the public health course is that the strain of the virus that we're actually seeing here in New York is behaving slightly different than the strain that was observed in China. And so hence we're seeing children with Kawasaki's – Kawasaki-likes syndromes. And so the answer is that the preventive measures that have been put in place with regards to closing the schools, social isolation, physical distancing, the face coverings, that the vigilance of around hand hygiene, all of those things are the layered approach that are going to help us when the time comes for safely opening our schools. And I think that we've got a significant amount of time to continue doing that learning, learning from the scientific community and you know, as we've demonstrated to date: as the science becomes available, our guidance needs to adapt to that to ensure that we continue to keep New Yorkers safe.
Mayor: Dr. Katz or Dr. Varma, anything you want to add?
Senior Advisor Varma: I would just like to kind of emphasize the fact that we have to be really humble in the face of this infection. There's a lot that we're still learning. And there's a lot that we'll continue to learn. The fact that it wasn't seen or reported in Asia, may be something to do with the virus. It may be just that there needed to be a certain number of people that were infected until we saw these things. So I think it really does reinforce number one, the fact that we're learning as other people are learning. So we value the feedback and input that we get from providers and patients and need to always be open to consider new possibilities. And the second is that it just really does emphasize how important the efforts that New Yorkers are taking regarding social distancing. We can't be complacent and say that you know, even though kids generally have a mild illness, of course, if it's your child or yourself that gets that illness and it's severe you're more than just a statistic. It's a real dangerous problem. So I would just emphasize that these points about the need to be humble in the face of new information, constantly accepting and learning it, and also emphasizing that we should never take this virus too lightly.
Mayor: Amen. Dr. Katz, anything to add?
President Katz: No, sir. Thank you.
Mayor: Thank you.
All right. We'll conclude today and I just want to go back to the point about when people need help, where they turn. I want everyone to understand this has been a time in our lives, in our history, unlike anything else we've ever been through and I think there've been many, many times where people have been shocked to be dealing with something they never would have expected. There are people right now watching right now who have had to worry about food. I did a conference call with a tele town hall, I should say with thousands and thousands of members of AARP and a man got on the line from Manhattan who clearly explained that he had never had to wonder about food before in his life, but now had to and it was a shock to him. There are people who always had a job until the day that there were no jobs because of this crisis. Folks who felt that they had their life together and now are dealing with fears, anxieties they never could have imagined. This is happening to everyone in one form or another. I want people to not feel alone. I want everyone to know we are here for you. Your city is going to stand by you and support you and help you. That's where I talk about 3-1-1 as the way to think about that, helping hand that's always there. You need a meal call three, one, one. You need to know if it's time to, for example, just what we talked about with the Kawasaki syndrome. You need to talk to a medical person about it and you don't have your own doctor call 3-1-1. We'll connect you to health and hospitals, whatever it is. If you – you have a landlord is talking about evicting you, which is not allowed in the middle of this crisis, call 3-1-1. We'll give you the information you need. We'll get you a lawyer if you need. The bottom line is to think that if you can't make sense of the situation, there's some place to turn. You're not alone. And by the way, if you're dealing with the doubts and the anxiety and the fear or even feeling depressed, it's quite a time in history. It's not at all abnormal for anyone to feel depressed. We have another way to help and that's the helpline that's there 24/7 for free, 8-8-8-NYCWELL, for anyone who wants to talk to a trained counselor.
These are the things we do in New York City for each other, and we will always be there for you, and you should never feel alone – even in the toughest moments, there's always helped there for you. And today I particularly thank everyone at 3-1-1, they don't get a lot of attention, but they are always there for us, always helping people to get what they need, always there with the answers. And that means so much to us every day, but particularly in this crisis. So, everyone, we will get through this together, but one of the ways we've always gotten through in this city is by being there for each other. And we will continue to be there for you.
Thank you very much.