Mar 30, 2020
Bill de Blasio New York City COVID-19 Briefing March 30
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (00:14)
… hear from the federal government who are doing so much for us. You’re going to hear from Rear Admiral John Mustin in a moment and the regional administrator for FEMA, Tom Von Essen, who’s well known to all of us in New York City. But I want to thank everyone who was a part of this. Many, many people worked together. And look, we got to remember this is a wartime atmosphere. We all have to pull together. We may have differences in peacetime, but to the maximum extent possible, we all have to be as one in wartime. I know our colleagues in the military understand that. We all need to understand that now. So I do want to thank President Trump. I want to thank Secretary Esper. I want to thank Chairman Milley, everyone at the United States Navy, the United States Marine Corps, the United States Coast Guard, all the people at FEMA, so many people, the federal government who came together to make this happen and so much more for New York City.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (01:23)
I want to thank Governor Cuomo and everyone in the state government who has joined us in pushing from day one for this kind of support. I want to thank from our administration, everyone who worked to get the dredging done working with the military. I want everyone to understand, and Admiral Mustin will affirm this, this ship is here ahead of schedule because of the amazing work of the military. It’s here ahead of schedule because the dredging was done faster than anyone knew it could be done to allow this ship to dock. I want to thank everyone in the City Economic Development Corporation, our emergency management team, and also of course the State Department of Environmental Conservation and the Army Corps of Engineers. Everyone pulled together. This was supposed to take two weeks to make it possible for this ship to dock. They did it in eight days. And that means help has arrived quicker and we’re going to be able to do the life saving work right now.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (02:23)
Want to also thank, from the military, one of the leaders who did the work to make this moment possible, Marine Corps Colonel Brian Duplessis, who’s with us. Thank you Colonel. And from my team, Deputy Mayor Raul Perea-Henze for Health and Human Services and Commissioner James Hendon, Department of Veterans’ Services. Colonel James Hendon. Thank you.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (02:44)
So with this ship comes an extraordinary compliment of talented individuals in service to our nation. 1200 medical staff and sailors here to help us all. 750 beds will be put into play immediately to relieve the pressure on our hospital system. Let me be clear that this is such a crucial part of the plan we are putting in place, but I want you to understand the sheer magnitude of the plan. We need to triple our hospital bed capacity in New York City by May. The number of beds we had at beginning of March have to triple by May. It is a daunting task, but we got a big, big boost. The arrival of the Comfort, this is like adding a whole nother hospital to New York City. It’s like think of all the big hospitals in New York City, Bellevue and all the other famous hospitals we think of. It’s like another one of them just floated right up to help us right now. And I hope New Yorkers know that this is something we’ve been fighting for and we’re going to be fighting for a lot more help. Because this is just the beginning. My job is always to tell you the truth and I’ll tell you when we get the help we need and I’ll tell you when we need more help. I’ll tell you when we’re getting into the thick of the battle and I’ll tell you when we’re coming out of the battle. Right now, the toughest weeks are still ahead, but we are grateful. We are grateful for every doctor, for every nurse, for every ventilator, for the supplies, for the beds, for everything that’s come from the Comfort, and everything that has come from all over the country. And I have to tell you, it’s the federal government, the state government of course, but it’s also the companies that have come forward offering help, people we’ve never met, individuals who come forward with supplies, healthcare workers who have volunteered. It’s the United Nations which came up with a quarter million surgical masks and got them to us right away. We’re seeing amazing offers of help and people are moving fast to get help to New York City and we appreciate it. We need it.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (05:07)
So let’s look forward. Let’s pray there’s going to be a lot more days like this when people can see our nation stand by us. And then I affirmed to you when the battle is done here, New York City will stand firm for the rest of our nation. New York City will be the first to donate to the rest of our nation. We will send the ventilators, the supplies. We will ask our doctors and nurses to go to the front, wherever it is in this nation, because our country was there for us and we will be there for our country.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (05:40)
A few words in Spanish. [Spanish 00:05:42] With that, I want to turn to a guy who’s been a hero before for this city, and we need him to be a hero again, and I know he is already rising to the occasion. He helped lead New York City through our darkest hour on 9/11. He was then our fire commissioner and he did an outstanding job under the most adverse circumstances our fire department had ever known. When he became the regional administrator for FEMA, he could never have imagined this day, nor could any of us. But I said to Tom earlier, thank God he is where he is now. I think God had a plan for him because his city needs him again. My great honor to introduce the regional administrator for FEMA, Tom Von Essen. Von Essen, my apology. I kind of Van that.
Tom Von Essen: (07:02)
No, that’s okay. Well thank you, Mayor. Yeah, it’s really seem to have gotten real personal for me this morning. About two weeks ago, we moved our Regional Response Recovery Coordination team down to a naval base in Earle, New Jersey, where we have an operations center and we’re able to get people off public transportation. We have all our equipment down there or set up there. It’s really a good setup. It was built during Sandy at the naval base. So we have about 30, 35 people working there every day, late, late into the night working to try and accommodate everybody we can in New York City, New York State, New Jersey, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands. That’s what Region II is at FEMA. So I’ve been down there the last two weeks and I came back for this today. And I was driving on East River Drive and I looked across by 14th Street. And I had a flashback to the morning I was driving in and they told me a small plane had crashed into the Trade Center.
Tom Von Essen: (08:18)
And life changed at that time. And I remember having the Comfort come then a couple… I don’t remember when, a couple of weeks later, whatever. And we didn’t need it for what we need it for today. We didn’t need it for people who needed hospital care. It wasn’t necessary, but we brought it in. We needed it for crisis counseling for a lot of fire chiefs and police officers who were really, really overcome with the grief and death that they faced with their friends and people that they worked with. And we needed it to house federal workers and give them food and everything. Then we got it out of here and we started putting them in hotel rooms. But I’ll never forget that feeling and I talked about it this morning. The names are perfect, the Comfort and the Mercy.
Tom Von Essen: (09:07)
And I was told they were here in 1918 for the pandemic we had then. Not these particular ships, but their predecessors. So the federal government has always been here, the Army, the Navy, the Marines, they’ve always been here for us when we needed them. And they here again for you now. And for me, the flashbacks I get knowing that the city is under such stress now, it’s real personal for me. The fire department, I spent 30 years in it. So when September 11th happened, it was personal. It was friends, it was leaders, people I had worked with. Everybody was affected by September 11th and that’s what’s happening now. Everybody you know is affected by the coronavirus in one way or another. A friend, a relative, a loved one that you can’t go and see because they’re in quarantine. Or you don’t want to… I stopped to see a hundred year old lady last week and just talk to her from six feet away.
Tom Von Essen: (10:08)
And I know everybody’s doing that and it’s important, but this, this is a big time visible sign of what our government is like when we put it into action. And the mayor said it and I’m really proud to be part of it now. I know how tough the people of this city are and I’ve seen us take on some seemingly insurmountable challenges. Once again, we need to do it. Once again, we need to be together, six feet apart. I saw the mayor taking pictures with some of the military folks. I never noticed it before, taking a picture with someone who is two or three feet away. It’s weird. It’s really strange what we’re all going through, but it’s necessary and it is going to make a difference. The more we separate, the more everybody stays away, the better off we’ll be and the faster we’ll get out of this. But thank goodness now, help has arrived. It’s going to make a big difference. FEMA is working with the city, with the state, to supply everything we possibly can. Working with HHS to get as many medical people here as we can, people to help us with the forensics and the mortuary problems that we’re going to have, because we are going to have an awful lot of folks that aren’t going to make it. But we’re doing the best we can. And it’s an honor to be back in the middle of such a tough, tough battle that we have in front of us. With September 11th, it seemed like every day we were fixing stuff and it was getting slightly better.
Tom Von Essen: (11:40)
The grief of course was enormous, but the operation seemed to get slightly better every day. With this, it seems to be we’re not there yet. It’s not going to get better. Might not get better for us here in the city for weeks, maybe a month. I hope not. I don’t know. I listen to Dr. Fauci and hear about models and worst case scenarios, best case scenarios. We just don’t know, so we are preparing for the worst case. And that’s all we can do at this point and we’re doing a good job and we’re here for you. Thank you.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (12:15)
Thank you so much Tom. Now, such an honor to bring to you the military leader of this effort. He comes from a family long connected to the US Navy. He is someone we’re thinking about right now as one of our saviors, one of the people who led the forces that came to help us in our hour of need. But his day job is Vice Commander of US Fleet Forces. So he has a big, big job and a lot to think about, but right now his mind, his heart, his soul is focused on New York City. And I’m proud to say he is also a resident of Manhattan and has a family here and understands what we are all going through. And I just want to express, on behalf of 8.6 million New Yorkers, my gratitude for your leadership and for all the men and women who serve under your command. An honor to present to you Rear Admiral John Mustin.
John Mustin: (13:15)
Thank you sir.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (13:15)
Thank you chief.
John Mustin: (13:15)
Okay. Mr. Mayor, Mr. Administrator, Commissioner, thank you for being here today to welcome this great ship. To the officers, the crew, the medical professionals of USNS Comfort, thank you for the vital mission that you’ve undertaken. I’d also like to recognize and thank the many, many contributors who worked tirelessly behind the scenes to make this day possible. Each of those who helped to fit out and prepare this ship in record time, from the maintenance community, to the dock workers, to the ship’s company, to the doctors, to the dredgers, thank you, all of you, for the agility and professionalism that you have all shown over the past few weeks. That focused collective effort will save American lives. Today, I also want to recognize that not all of our nation’s heroes wear military uniforms.
John Mustin: (14:12)
Especially today, we acknowledge that many wear scrubs. Let us not forget nor fail to recognize that the doctors and nurses across America, those who are treating patients in these unprecedented times, they are all heroes. And like those heroes, the unmistakable white hull and red cross of this great ship have been a welcome sight around the world standing at the forefront of our humanitarian missions overseas. This ship represents all that is good about the American people, all that is generous, all that is ready, responsive, and resolute. Like her sister ship, the USNS Mercy which recently moored and is already serving patients in Los Angeles, this great ship will support civil authorities by increasing medical capacity and collaboration for medic-
… By increasing medical capacity and collaboration for medical assistance not treating COVID-19 patients, but by acting as a relief valve for other urgent needs, freeing new York’s hospitals and our precious medical professionals to focus on this pandemic. So now, this great ship will serve and support our fellow Americans in this time of need, providing critical surge hospital capacity to America’s largest city.
As a resident New Yorker myself, I can attest to the invincible spirit of New York, from the ships that she built in World War II, to her unflappable determination following 9/11 and Hurricane Sandy, I have great confidence that New York will weather today’s storm, as well, this time with the support of another great American community, the Naval families on board and supporting the crew of the USNS Comfort. Words are incapable of expressing the depth of my gratitude for those on this mission and for the families that they leave behind. The men and women on board Comfort are mothers, they’re fathers, they’re sons, daughters, sisters, and brothers. And while our lives may look drastically different today than they did even a month ago, the circumstances for these men and women are no exception.
They left their families during this uncertain time in our nation’s history knowing that they can make a difference. That is what the U.S. Navy does, and this is an example of Americans helping their fellow men. I know that for our military families, social distancing is not a new concept, but rather a frequent reality. And I remain grateful for all that each of them do for our nation and for our communities every single day. As you heard from the administrator, the last time this great hospital ship, all 70,000 tons of her was in New York, was in the wake of 9/11, where she served as a respite and comfort for first responders working around the clock. Today, like then, we bring a message to all New Yorkers. Now, your Navy is returned and we are with you committed in this fight. Mr. Mayor, every sailor, every Marine, and every civilian on this mission stands proudly, stands ready to serve the people of New York City. We have not yet begun to fight, and we will not give up this ship. Thank you.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (17:33)
Beautifully said, Admiral, and thank you so much. All right, we’re going to take questions now from the media and just please project your voices so I can hear you well. Go ahead. Oh, you have a microphone. It’s even better.
Speaker 3: (17:47)
Yes. Thank you, Mr. Mayor. What’s your message to President Trump after the Comfort docked here to help New York City, and when it came in here to the pier, what was your emotion and what was your reaction overall?
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (18:00)
It’s a very emotional moment. I went up on the roof here to watch the Comfort come in and I had this incredible feeling of peace, actually, that help was finally coming, that we were not alone. And I just have a reverence for the military. I come from a family that had a deep involvement in the military. I have a reverence for the military, feeling the presence of the United States military here, it just gave me a sense that things were going to be okay.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (18:34)
And it’s such a moving site. The ship is so impressive just looming there in our harbor, it was like a beacon of hope, and it really felt that way to me. My message to the president is, thank you and we need more help. And that’s not because any of us likes to have to say that, but because it’s true that the toughest weeks are ahead. We are bracing ourselves for something we’ve never seen before in any of our lives. And the federal government in many ways is the only force that can help us to reach the level of preparation we need to save every life we can save.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (19:12)
So I’m going to keep calling the president, I’m going to keep appealing to him to get us all the help we need for these really tough weeks. And then again, we will turn around and help everyone else in this country right after. I’ll go this side. Yes?
Speaker 4: (19:27)
Mr. Mayor, as you know, normally this time of year we’d be very busy and focused on the state budget in Albany. I just want to ask, I know it’s kind of a secondary issue now, but there is a lot getting crafted out there. Do you have any concerns in terms of what you’ve been hearing in terms of how the city will be affected?
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (19:41)
I have real concerns. I have deep concerns because what’s being discussed is essentially healthcare for people who need it. We can talk about the Medicaid budget, but that’s, I think, the wrong way to think about it. What it equals is healthcare for people who need healthcare right now and need it more than ever because of the pandemic. I spoke at length last night with Speaker Carl Heastie and Majority Leader Andrea Stewart Cousins. I let them know that from the perspective of 8.6 million people in New York City, we cannot afford Medicaid cuts, healthcare cuts at this dire moment. The State must accept the Medicaid funding that was in the third stimulus bill. We need that money to be accepted and we need to make sure that the healthcare so many people are depending on is not disrupted.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (20:32)
So I understand that the State has a budget challenge. We have a huge budget challenge. I mean, I’m right now in the middle of cutting a huge amount out of this budget for this city right now, but what I will not cut is healthcare. And I said that the other day. We’re going to find some really tough cuts we have to make, but it will never be about healthcare. It will never be about the fight against COVID-19, so I urge the State, accept the federal money. Do not cut Medicaid, do not cut healthcare for New Yorkers who need it.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (21:03)
Oh, okay. Well, just keep going back and forth whoever’s at the microphone. Go ahead.
Speaker 5: (21:06)
Can you tell us what kind of services the ship will be providing and how will it be decided what patients will be going to the ship and which patients will stay at the hospital?
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (21:16)
I’m going to start and I’ll let the Admiral join in, obviously. What I have to explain to everyone, I think it is such a shock to hear this, that people are still kind of adjusting to it. The intensive care units in our hospitals used to be a small part of our hospitals. Again, at the beginning of this month, we had about 20,000 working hospital beds in New York City. What we have to do is convert as many as possible, potentially almost all of those traditional hospital beds, into ICU beds. We have to make whole hospitals into intensive care units to get through these next weeks. That’s how dire, that’s how tough this situation is. If we’re going to turn a hospital, I mean think of Bellevue, think of NYU Langone. You go by these huge buildings, they’re going to be all ICU if we can bring all the pieces together, the staff and the equipment and everything. Well, what happens to everyone else who doesn’t need intensive care?
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (22:15)
We have to have hospitals for them, too. What happens to people who’ve been infected with COVID-19 but are not at the point where they need intensive care, hopefully on the way to recovery? They need a hospital bed in many cases, too, but we can’t put them in an intensive care unit, which has to be reserved for those we’re trying to save. So what the USNS Comfort allows and the Davits Center and so many other places being developed right now, is the ability to take all those other patients and give them care.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (22:45)
And each location will be different, but it will allow us to keep a healthcare system going while we convert the core hospitals into something we’ve never done, and this is beyond anyone’s imagination. I asked the head of our public hospitals, Dr. Mitch Kate. I said, ” Have you ever heard of any place where they had to turn hospitals into all ICU?” He said, “No. No one’s ever come near having to do that in the last 100 years in this country.” But because the Comfort is here, because of what’s happened at Davits Center, we’re going to have the ability to do that and save a lot of lives. Admiral, you want to join in?
Just in terms of the specifics and the mechanics, we’ve been working very closely with the local healthcare officials to determine what that process looks like. So frankly, we are prepared to receive and we trust the screening process that is in effect at the Davits Center so that we will receive advanced notice so that the ship can prepare to receive the patients. But in terms of what the healthcare providers determine are the best patients for us, those are the ones that we would expect to receive.
Speaker 6: (23:47)
Can I ask a question? Can you take us to the mechanics of this transfer of patients? How are you communicating this to the patients? What kind of situations are these patients experiencing and are the families going to be able to visit them on board of the Comfort?
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (24:07)
All right, I’m going to start and I’m going to give you the disclaimer right away that all of this is being worked out in real time. So I guarantee you, we’re not going to have all those answers today because we’re literally in a wartime situation, building it as we go along. Dr. Raul Pera-Henze, deputy mayor, if you want to jump in on any of these questions about procedure, please do or Admiral as well. I think the common sense basic answer is, we’re going to work out the protocol between all the players, how to get the right patients to the right locations. Again, reserving the hospitals for ICU to the maximum extent possible.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (24:46)
Some places will specialize in convalescent COVID-19 patients, meaning patients on the way to recovery, no longer intensive care. Some places will specialize in all sorts of other medical needs that require hospitalization, because remember, all the folks with heart disease, all the folks with cancer, there’s still so many people that will need hospitalization for other things that are not COVID-19. So we’re working out those protocols right now.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (25:11)
As to things like visitation, I think a fair statement would be the normal rules will not apply. I’m the non-doctor telling all New Yorkers right now. We’re going to always try to respect families, but we have to be clear that the normal rules of going to a hospital just aren’t going to exist in this kind of wartime environment, and people should get used to a different set of standards. It will be determined for each location what that is, but there’s going to be such urgency dealing with a huge uptick in cases, that we can’t do all the things we normally do. Admiral, you want to add or deputy mayor? Okay, deputy mayor.
Dr. Raul Perea-Henze: (25:51)
Yes. As the mayor outlined, we have stood up a hospital executive committee, which includes all the public hospitals, the voluntary hospitals, the independent hospitals and the command from Comfort and Davits. There is a screening mechanism, very complex, in order to allocate who goes where. As the mayor pointed out, we are prepared to convert as many of the regular beds in all hospitals in the city into ICU beds. Hopefully, we’ll get the ventilators so the most severe cases end up being taken care of there.
Dr. Raul Perea-Henze: (26:31)
The visitation piece will require a screening like we are doing for everyone right now, so if there is any risk that a patient that has no COVID-19 that is being taken care of here at the Comfort, has a relative that could be potentially infected, of course, there will be screening for them not to come in.
Speaker 7: (26:53)
You had said that Saturday you would decide whether or not to close the playgrounds. Why have you left the playgrounds open when, for example, Hoboken has closed its parks and Bergen County has closed its parks? Why do we not have consistency on that guideline for social distancing?
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (27:13)
This is an issue that obviously we’re working with the States on and the States have all been working together and there is not one uniform standard. That’s just the truth. We are very cognizant. Look, 8.6 million people in a very small space, I don’t think taking away parks is a great idea unless we have evidence that people are not following the rules in a really substantial way. I had had this conversation daily with our police commissioner. He says overwhelmingly they are seeing compliance. We know warmer weather is coming. Not today, but warmer weather is coming. We are going to watch carefully. What I said yesterday is this, right now the police and all our agencies are authorized to use fines. We’ve given enough warning, enough education. Anyone who, if you, Andrew, were in the park and an officer said, “Sir, you’re not practicing social distancing. I need you to move,” and you said, “I’m not going to move,” they’re going to say, “Sir, you’re about to be given a fine. This is your last chance.” And if you don’t move or you don’t follow the instruction, you’re going to get fine.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (28:18)
If we see any basketball courts where there’s games going on and we’ve warned people to stop, we’re going to take down the rims. We’re going to take out tennis nets, we’re going to take out soccer nets, whatever it takes. On the playgrounds, if we see individual playgrounds where there’s noncompliance, we can close the playground. If we see it broadly, all the playgrounds will be closed. But to date, based on the sheer facts coming back from the police department, parks department, noncompliance is limited. You will find some instances, I’m sure you will, Andrew, but not enough to tell 8.6 million people they cannot have parks. And that’s the balance we’re trying to strike.
Speaker 8: (28:55)
Thank you, Mr. Mayor. Yesterday we heard the British carrying numbers from the federal government. Do you have any particular forecast scenario for the city? I mean, particular for New York City?
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (29:07)
I’ve been real honest with New Yorkers. At this point, we assume at least half of all New Yorkers will contract this disease. Again, consistently we see for 80% that means thankfully, a fairly mild experience that they get through okay, recover quickly. But right now, at least 50%, it could be substantially more, we see this horrible increase in the number of deaths, and I’ve been honest. I think the weeks ahead will be tougher.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (29:36)
To date, I still fear that the worst is not going to be April, but actually in the beginning of May, but no projection is perfect. I guarantee you, and I wish I couldn’t, but I guarantee you, that April is going to be exceedingly tough and we have to understand that any projection of things being all okay by Easter, there’s just no way that’s true for New York City.
Speaker 9: (30:00)
This is a question for the Former Fire Commissioner Von Essen.
Speaker 11: (30:03)
This is a question, actually, for the former Fire Commissioner, Von Essen. Hi, Commissioner. Can I ask you a… Over here. Hey, welcome back to New York.
Thomas Von Essen: (30:12)
Thank you. I never left.
Speaker 11: (30:14)
Well, great to have you here now. I’m wondering, you mentioned mortuary logistics. What are you working on right now? What’s the current city capacity to hold the deceased? And is there any consideration of turning places like MSG, Madison Square Garden into a mortuary facility?
Thomas Von Essen: (30:33)
No, fortunately we’re not thinking of anything like that, but we are sending refrigeration trucks to New York to help with some of the problem on a temporary basis. I’ve been speaking to Commissioner Criswell this morning. The military has sent 42 folks to the Manhattan Medical Examiners Office to help over there.
Thomas Von Essen: (30:56)
We in New York City have a desperate need for help over in Queens and we’re working on that as we speak. There’s folks trying to put it all together. There’s only so many of these teams that the military has. We have 50 states and a couple of territories and commonwealths where we’re trying to not hold back resources, but trying make a plan ready that works for the whole country. So it’s difficult, but everybody’s trying and we will get more help here for New York.
Speaker 12: (31:26)
Thank you, mayor. Clearly, as you pointed out, this is a very visual representation of the help that’s arrived, but can you give us a clear sense of how much more help is going to be needed? If you will, how many equivalents of the Comfort does New York City need to get through the worst of this, sir?
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (31:45)
Yeah, it’s a great way of thinking about it. Think of this ship which has 750 beds to begin, has a capacity potentially of 1000 beds. So here’s the way to think of what we’re all working on right now. We started with around 20,000 working beds in New York City. We have to get over 60,000 by the beginning of May, according to what we know now, like adding 40 US Comforts. And that’s the magnitude of what we’re talking about.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (32:21)
And the amazing thing is that we believe with enough people working together that we can get there. As hard as that sounds. Here’s this extraordinary contribution from the federal government. Here’s the Javits Center where they’re talking about up to 3000 beds right there. The surge capacity in the hospitals, where every hospital is adding 50% more beds, that’s on top of that original 20,000. They’re all finding additional beds to add in their facilities. Creating new spaces.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (32:56)
Mitch Katz said a long time ago, he can turn the cafeteria into an ICU if he needs to. He can put up a tent in the parking lot and turn it into an ICU. And then the hotels and the other buildings that we’ll be moving to.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (33:08)
So it’s a Herculean task. It’s never been attempted in the history of New York City. We believe that’s the number. We’d love to find out it’s a lesser number. But that’s the number we’re shooting for. And I believe with enough work and enough creativity, enough teamwork, we can get to it.
Speaker 11: (33:26)
Last night your administration made an announcement about all of the supplies and the ventilators you’ve given to the hospitals throughout the city to date. I’m wondering how your administration is handling supply distribution to private hospitals. A lot of it has been focused on going to the public hospitals, rightfully so, but I’m wondering if any of these supplies and ventilators have gone to the private hospitals on Staten Island. And I’m going to have a second question.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (33:50)
Absolutely. I’ve had this conversation daily with Borough President Oddo to make sure that supplies are getting where they’re needed. Yes, the city has provided supplies to RUMC in substantial numbers and we’ll continue to do so. The supplies for Staten Island University Hospital come from a combination of sources, state, city, the Northwell Hospital System.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (34:17)
But I’m keeping an eye, and my team is, on all of it. We really don’t see a separation between public hospitals, voluntaries, independents, in this situation. We’re all working together. I remember the other day we got in 400 ventilators from the federal government. We sent 100 to the public hospitals, 300 to the voluntaries and independents. So that’s going to be the pattern. Not necessarily that percentage, but that approach. We’re all sharing to make sure at any given moment a hospital has what needs. Go ahead.
Speaker 11: (34:46)
How are you guys planning to get COVID patients from the outer boroughs to the Comfort? Places like Staten Island? How are you going-
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (34:56)
The idea is to keep folks who need that urgent care, that ICU care, in hospitals that will be converted increasingly to ICU care. Folks who do not require ICU care but do need hospitalization for COVID-19, the goal is to keep them as close as possible, of course, to their home and in their home borough. So we’re continuing to build out capacity in Staten Island and we will continue, as in every borough.
Speaker 12: (35:25)
[inaudible 00:35:28]. Can you hear me? Yeah. With rent due tomorrow for many people, wanted to ask about a proposal from some local officials who want to allow people to apply their security deposits to next month’s rent. Do you support that? Are you doing anything to make that a reality?
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (35:43)
I do support that and I think my understanding is that we need some state action to allow that to happen, but I think that’s exactly the right approach. Look, everyone’s hand to mouth, or so many people at least, are hand mouth right now. Their income has just been blown away. Federal help is coming, but that will take time. People need help right now.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (36:06)
Applying the security deposits actually it helps the renter to pay the rent. It actually helps in many cases, landlords, especially smaller landlords, because that money is in escrow right now, and the smaller landlords need money to get by as well. So it frees them up for them.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (36:21)
There has to be some process to eventually restore that deposit over time, maybe an installment plan over time, but immediate relief is needed. So I think it’s a great idea. We’re working with folks at the state level to see how to make that happen. Okay. Go ahead.
Speaker 13: (36:38)
Mr. Mayor, in terms of, you’ve talked about the ventilators and the hospital beds, where are you at in terms of the PPE for the hospital workers, nurses, doctors? Where do we stand on that?
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (36:52)
On personal protective equipment, this week and I’m always giving you this update week by week, if it ever turns into needing to tell you day by day, I will. This week, in terms of personal protective equipment for our hospitals, we do have a sufficient supply. We have sent it out and continue to send it out around the city.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (37:14)
Hospitals, this is something Dr. Katz said yesterday, everyone has to keep in mind, hospitals are teaching their professionals, their healthcare workers, a new way of handling this equipment because until there is a truly ample supply, like there used to be in peacetime, folks are being trained to handle supply differently to stretch it out, to reuse it whenever safe. That’s a whole different way of life. And instead of seeing in the supply closet a month or two supply, people are seeing less. They’re seeing days or a few weeks. And I think is understandably unnerving to the healthcare professionals, but we’re all working together to help everyone understand the new reality for this moment in history.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (37:59)
The supply today is sufficient. It will take us into next week. The thing I’m worried about right now is ventilators., Overwhelmingly. I’ve asked the President, the White House, for 400 more. We will take them from any source. If 400 more come in some other way, that’s great, but we need that to make sure we will get to April 5th okay.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (38:21)
As we approach April 5th, which I’ve said is a day I’m really concerned about in terms of equipment and in terms of personnel, I will update New Yorkers as to whether we have enough to get through the next week, but that’s how tight it has been.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (38:37)
Number one concern, ventilators. Right behind it, the need for more doctors, nurses, respiratory therapists to actually handle ICU capacity and give some relief to these health workers who have gone through so much. Yeah, go ahead.
Speaker 13: (38:55)
Initially, you said $1.3 billion you were looking to cut from the budget, but that that number might need to update.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (39:01)
It will go up. We’ll give you an updated number shortly, but it’s definitely going to go up.
Speaker 12: (39:07)
Thank you Mr. Mayor. And will patients treated on the Comfort have to pay their medical bills as usual, or will this be paid for by the federal government?
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (39:14)
Well, I don’t know. Admiral… First of all, insurance is insurance, so whoever has insurance, I assume that’s the go to, but Admiral or [inaudible 00:39:22] do you know the answer to anyone who doesn’t?
Absolutely. Yes, sir. When the President declared a National Emergency, the implication from the Department of Defense is that we provide this service and we are not looking to check insurance cards or send any invoices or bills. This is an investment by the government on behalf of the people of America. So there is no additional cost to the patient.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (39:45)
Oh, gosh, we like that plan. Admiral, that’s a great plan. We thank you for that.
Speaker 11: (39:49)
Thank you, Mr. Mayor. You mentioned that 750 beds are available immediately on the Comfort. Does that mean that patients will start being moved today, and if so, or if not, how many patients will be moved in what timeframe?
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (40:03)
So, I want to make sure they’re fully docked before any patients go in. They’re still securing it. But between the Admiral or Deputy Mayor, who wants to speak about the timelines? Do you want to start [crosstalk 00:40:13]?
So as the Mayor mentioned, obviously we want to take care of all of the regular husbanding services required once a ship comes into port. We’re prepared to begin receiving patients tomorrow. I won’t open the box to say while we may be ready internally to do that sooner, we want to use a very methodical process that’s been developed in conjunction with the local health authorities, which is predicated on starting tomorrow. [inaudible 00:10:42].
Speaker 14: (40:43)
Just a quick point. We’re going to do the assessment that I talked about before with the hospital committee going through the Javits Center and as the patients start coming from the hospitals, screening will happen today and probably in the next day or two you will start seeing patients here.
Speaker 15: (41:04)
Thank you. Mr. Mayor. Did you get any results, any outcomes, of the drug test, which was started last week?
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (41:12)
Wait, which one? I’m sorry. Clarify.
Speaker 15: (41:15)
Last Wednesday you were supposed to start the drug test of the new medications in regarding this problem.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (41:24)
Yeah. There’s several different approaches that are being tested now certainly in our public health system, but I want to make sure we give you a fully accurate answer so I’m not updated on that. I’ll make sure our team from health and hospitals get you that answer. Okay, everybody, thank you very much. Good day for New York City. Thank you everyone. [crosstalk 00:41:48]. (silence).