Apr 20, 2020
Bill de Blasio NYC COVID-19 Briefing Transcript April 20
Bill de Blasio held a New York City coronavirus briefing on April 20. He canceled all June public events in New York City. Read the full transcript here.
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Mayor Bill de Blasio: (00:00)
Far from out of the woods. We’re just in better shape than we were at the worst point. And remember, I want to say this because our health care professionals deserve for all of us to understand this. What we’re providing them is still at that crisis standard that the CDC has set, the Centers for Disease Control. It means, in a wartime dynamic, in a crisis dynamic, this is a level of protection that will still help them. It’s by no means the level of protection we want to achieve in better times. We want to give them so much more. So by that crisis standard, we do have a sufficient supply for this week we have begun it’ll get us through to Sunday and that means the N95 masks, the surgical masks, the face shields, the gloves. These things are constantly being delivered to hospitals, more and more to nursing homes as well and to first responders to all of our agencies that protect us.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (01:01)
Those supplies by the crisis standard we have enough for this week. We also, thank God, have enough ventilators. We’ll be saying more about ventilators this week. And that’s an area where we came from behind and we’ve made a lot of progress and the situation is much better than what it was a few weeks ago. But there’s been a growing problem and this problem we have not found a solution to yet, that is the surgical gowns. And these are crucial because they protect our healthcare workers when they’re doing some of the most sensitive work and some of the work that really makes them most vulnerable. Now, it got to the point where it’s very clear we were not going to be able to buy enough on the open market no matter what we did. It got to the point where it was clear. Sometimes the federal government has gotten us supplies or the state has, but those have been very uneven.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (01:50)
We always appreciate it, but we can’t say it’s reliable or an abundant supply. So we made the decision to manufacture our own here in New York City and that is now starting to become a major part of the equation because it’s the one thing we can depend on. But even with that, we do not have a secure supply. We’re using fallback items like coveralls that certainly provide protection. But even with the fallbacks, we are not sure we’re going to have enough to get to Sunday of this week. We’re fighting every way we can to find more, but that’s how tight this situation is. This is an area I’m really concerned about and we’re going to work every way we can. So I want to immediately say I’m making an appeal to the federal government because if there’s any place that might be able to find a supply that has not yet been tapped, it is the federal government. We need more surgical gowns in New York City and we need them now.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (02:49)
And I have reiterated this request over the weeks. I will go today and reiterate it again. But we’re trying our best to create our own in the numbers we need. And those numbers are very, very large. That’s the truth. But we need the federal government immediately to try and help us find solutions even just to get to the end of this week. Now, I want to give credit when the federal government does something right I’ll also say that, and here’s an example of them doing something right. They did not have a substantial supply. We asked over a week ago, we knew that this was a growing crisis and I do want to say, what they did come up with is deeply appreciated. 265,000 Tyvek suits to help our public hospitals. And that is helpful for sure. And I want to thank everyone who was involved in that effort.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (03:42)
I particularly worked with Peter Navarro and the White House has been very responsive. I want to thank Peter and everyone who worked to get us those Tyvek suits. That helps a lot. But again, we need a much, much greater number to move forward. So the other thing that we asked for, we said if you can’t get us actual surgical gowns and imagine the greatest country in the world, the richest most powerful country in the world and we can’t get surgical gowns for our largest city to even get through a week. It says so much about what we’re learning from this crisis, about the madness of so many of the supplies we need for healthcare and for protection of our people are not even made in this country and not even available or can’t even be moved quickly. It certainly speaks to the lack of use of the Defense Production Act to build these kinds of supplies on a much greater level.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (04:30)
There’s a lot of things wrong here, but I will say that when we couldn’t get the surgical gowns, I said to Peter Navarro, “Can you get us fabric?” Because at least if we have fabric, waterproof fabric, we can start to manufacture more and more of our own gowns here. And he did come through and a group of other folks from the industry, the textile industry came through. I want to thank everyone who’s a part of that effort and we’ll list them out soon so we give all the thanks that are due, but we’ve got enough fabric in now to make 400,000 gowns. That’s substantial, but again, nowhere near the need we have. But I’ll still say if we can make 400,000 gowns, that’s 400,000 times that our health care workers are protected and I certainly am very appreciative for that. 40,000 will be made now, the full 400,000 will be made by May 23rd. We’re going to try and speed that up, but we’re literally building a new industry right away in this city and my goal is to see it expand rapidly.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (05:33)
This is not a product that was made here in New York City. We want to see it become a major, major part of what we do as we fight this battle. But we’re going to need a lot more than that to get through.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (05:47)
Now, let me talk to you about another piece of this reality we’ve been facing and a few weeks ago, we went through something that was a huge challenge. We saw a major, major uptick in the number of calls to EMS, 9-1-1 calls on a level we had never seen, literally in our history. The kind of records that were set were the kind of records you never want a set of the most calls to 9-1-1 ever. Our EMTs, our paramedics fought back. I want to thank commissioner Dan Nigro and everyone at FDNY for the really powerful smart, calm, steady way they handled this crisis and the way they fought back. And now I am really pleased to say we’ve seen a rebound. We’ve seen really big improvement. Still a lot to do, but FDNY held line, EMS held line, our EMTs and paramedics worked long hours. They saved a lot of lives. They fought back.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (06:57)
There’s no question that we are not out of the woods yet. So I’m saying there’s been a rebound but there’s still a lot more to this game. But the numbers are coming down substantially and getting much closer to normal. So, I want to give you an update on that and just a sense of how extraordinary the surge we saw was going back to March 30, a number that’s just astounding. We got a 6,527 medical emergencies in one day. Never seen anything like that. By this last Saturday, April 13th, excuse me, April 18th, this last Saturday, April 18th, the number was down to 3,485 so not quite half, but getting close to half the number of calls that came in just about three weeks earlier. So Saturday was 3,485. When you compare that to the average for last year, the average day last year, it was actually below the average. The average last year was 4, 196 on a typical day. So thank God that number has come way down.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (08:05)
It’s still a lot to do, but that’s giving us real relief. We also of course had a huge challenge ensuring that we could respond in this crisis with so many more calls and obviously the most urgent, the most life and death calls got prioritized. But if you take the average across the board, in March that average was just over 10 minutes on the response time, in the last two weeks, it’s gone down to, up until Friday of this last week, it went down to eight minutes 46 seconds. Now, on Saturday, April 18th, it went down to six minutes 43 seconds. So something’s again profoundly changed. Many fewer calls, much faster response time. Thank God for that. Also, the number of FDNY personnel who have been on leave, sick leave continues to go down. So again, 1,446 have returned to service, a much lower sick leave level now than we saw at the peak. The same with for fire and for EMS, the same thing. So EMS has now almost a thousand members who have returned from dealing with COVID-19 and we see the number of folks on sick leave going down.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (09:24)
Long way to go, but real progress for sure. Now, one of the things that tied us over, I want to give a lot of thanks to FEMA and so this is the federal government doing something really good and I want to give credit where credit is due and I’ve talked to Pete Gaynor who’s the administrator for FEMA nationally, a really, really good guy who’s really been there for New York City many, many times. Tom Von Essen, our former fire commissioner from the days of 9/11 who now is the FEMA Regional Administrator.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (09:53)
They’ve both been absolutely fantastic. When they saw that FDNY EMS were struggling so much, they reached out immediately and got ambulances and EMTs and paramedics from all over the country and I had a real amazing experience going to meet a lot of these good, good people who came from around the country to help us and to thank them on behalf of all New Yorkers and folks came from California and Alabama and Florida all over the country and I particularly met ambulance crew from Kalamazoo, Michigan. Two really good guys that drove all night to get to New York City because they just wanted to help out and that has made a huge difference. That’s really been one of the X-factors in giving relief to EMS and help them through.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (10:39)
I’m happy to report FEMA has helped us again and just in the last week, we’ve added another hundred ambulances from around the country. So now from FEMA we have 350 ambulances active with 790 EMTs and paramedics that come from 19 states of the Union. This is truly America stepping up to help New York City just like New York City has so many times, sent our heroes and our first responders out to help folks all over the country in the middle of their challenges and disasters and folks are really coming to bat for us. So, we expect this group now to take us through basically the month of April in continuing to provide a lot of relief and support for our EMTs and paramedics, help them through. I’m sorry, I should say past April, another 30 days, my apologies, through into May, to the end of May and to give a lot of relief to our EMTs and paramedics who, again, they’ve done so much in these last weeks, they continue to need that support and that teamwork and it’s continuing to come thanks to FEMA. So that’s very good news.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (11:51)
Now, couple of days ago we talked about the fact that as we evaluate where we’re going, going forward, we keep recognizing the power of what people are doing, what everyday New Yorkers are doing. And again, I’m going to say thank you a lot of times because you’ve been amazing at social distancing, you’ve been amazing at shelter in place. It’s not easy, but you’ve been doing it really, really well. I want to be very clear. We’re going to be smart about how we come back. We are going to be smart about how we turn the corner. We’re not going to let our foot off the gas prematurely. We’re not going to run the risk of this disease reasserting itself. So, we’re going to be going in stages as we work that slow, steady road back to normal.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (12:44)
And we already miss so much what was part of our everyday lives. A lot of us are missing sports, both playing sports, watching sports, we’re missing all sorts of community gatherings, family gatherings. There’s so much we miss right now and it’s almost like it’s impossible to count all the things that are gone that we love and we miss. And this is the time of year where you start to have more and more big public events. The street fairs, the festivals, parades, outdoor concerts, outdoor plays, things that are really a beautiful part of the year in New York City. That’s all true. But we also know compared to all the basics we’re focused on right now, compared to people’s health and safety and food, shelter, all the things we’re trying to guarantee for New Yorkers and especially compared to the big question, how do we come back safely, smartly?
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (13:35)
These kinds of community events, we love them, but they’re not what we need right now. They’re not the most essential things and we have to be smart about it and we have to also recognize when thousands and thousands of people gather in one place, of course that goes against everything we’re trying to do with social distancing and shelter in place and everything we’re trying to do to bring ourselves back. So, a few days ago I said that city permits for events scheduled for the month of May have been canceled. I told you we were going to talk to the organizers of events in June, which includes some really big important annual events. We have had those conversations and this probably will not surprise you, but I’m now reporting today that we will cancel city permits for June events as well.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (14:20)
It’s not a happy announcement, but it’s one we have to make and look, a lot of these events will be postponed. I want to be clear. The permits are being canceled for June, but the event organizers, a lot of them are looking at doing something later in the year and we’re going to work with them on that. And again, I think the fact that they’re postponing now is actually going to help us get to that point later in the year where things can open up and be better. And then we’re going to work closely with them to find the right time and place to do what they do each year. The bottom line of course is to think about safety, to think about saving lives, protecting people’s health, speeding us to that day when we get more normal. So, this is the right thing to do and this is what we are doing.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (15:09)
But I will say obviously, I will note three events in particular that are just highlights of the whole year. The Celebrate the Salute Israel Parade, the Puerto Rican Day Parade and the Pride Parade. And this was, this year is the 50th anniversary of the Pride Parade and it’s a very, very big deal. That march is such an important part of the life of this city. But this year in particular was going to be something that was a historic moment. Look, we’re going to miss all three of them in June, but they will be back. And we will find the right way to do it working with all the event organizers and that joy and that pride that all of these events bring, that celebration, will be back. We’re going to do it when it’s the right time.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (16:07)
Now to the question that we turn to everyday, how are we doing overall? And we have these three indicators we keep coming back to that tell us so much. It’s a high bar, but we wanted to set a high bar to make sure we get it right. So, what I would say we are seeing day after day is, progress in many of the categories. We still haven’t hit that perfect note we want to hit, which is getting all three of categories to go down together for a long period of time. But we see consistently most of the categories going in the right direction. And so something is moving positively because of everything people are doing and it says just keep doing it.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (16:51)
First of all, the first indicator, daily number of people admitted to hospitals for suspected COVID-19. That is down, good news, down from 317 to 212, that’s a really good drop. The daily number of people in ICU use across our public hospitals for suspected COVID-19, that is up, although it’s up by just a little bit, 849 to 853 so, not the right direction, but notable that it’s a very, very small increase. The percent of people who tested positive for COVID-19 citywide down from 38% to 34%, public health lab down 84% to 67%. So, this is not a perfect daily report, but it’s getting better and it’s damn close to what we’re looking for. Let’s see if we can keep pushing, everyone keep doing what you’re doing so we can get this tracking to start moving consistently in the right direction and that’s going to give us the chance to really start to make the moves towards a more normal life.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (17:57)
So, let me close with this. We said from the beginning, this crisis, it’s like nothing we’ve ever seen. We’re fighting an invisible enemy, an enemy no one understands and there’s no timeline here and there’s no ground rules, there’s no playbook. No one knows exactly how this will go. Anyone who tells you they know exactly how this is going to go is lying to you. What we can say though, one thing we have heard universally is this is a crisis that has an endpoint. Everything we know about the nature of this disease is that there is a point where we turn a corner. That doesn’t mean it won’t be back in the future. It doesn’t mean there won’t be challenges. We obviously all want to see that day where there’s a vaccine and a cure, but this crisis will end at some point. The question is, are we strong enough? Are we tough enough? Are we resilient enough as New Yorkers to fight our way through to that point? The answer is a resounding yes.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (18:57)
You have proven it already in so many ways. The heroic healthcare workers, first responders, they’ve proven it over and over again. But everyone in this city who’s contributing in so many ways to this fight has proven it. So, I’ve no doubt we’re going to get there. I know it’s going to be a tough road. I know it’s not going to be simple. I know it’s going to be a long road. Now, how do we get there? We’re going to keep coming back to the testing we need, to allow us to make that transition to when we have a low level of transmission of this disease and we can really start to get to normal. Can’t do it without the testing.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (19:34)
But the other thing is we cannot do it if we don’t get help from Washington DC. It’s as simple as this. Think about it for a moment. This city, this heroic city that has been fighting this battle, epicenter of the crisis for the United States of America. Fighting so often alone without help from the federal government from the very beginning when the tests weren’t there, to the many may times we’ve asked for help and it hasn’t come. I will always give credit for when the help did come. I’ll always say thank you for that. But we still don’t have a clear picture on testing. And the one thing that I’ve asked the president for lately that should be the easiest part of the equation is to help New York City through this crisis. Give us the financial support to make us whole, to actually balance our budget, pay our first responders and our public servants who are doing this work. Because you know what, and I’ll address this to the president again. Mr. President, you know what we’re doing right now?
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (20:36)
We are saving lives here in New York City. We are spending hundreds of millions of dollars now. It’s going to be billions of dollars to save lives. We are not hesitating. We’re not for a moment doing anything but what is right to protect New Yorkers and to protect all Americans by beating back this disease. We estimate by the end of this calendar year, the City of New York will have spent $3.5 billion to save lives and protect people in this city.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (21:07)
Federal government is not stepping up, you, Mr. President, are not saying, “I see your burden. I see the fight you’re waging. Let me offer a helping hand. Let me save the day by taking that burden off of New York City.” Fact, Mr. President, it was quite clear when the airline industry was in trouble, you are quick to act. You gave them $58 billion. But when New York City, cities all over the country, states all over the country have been pleading in the middle of a huge budget crisis where we can’t provide the services that our people need going forward, we’re not going to be able to have a recovery, you are absolutely silent. I’m challenging you to open your mouth.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (21:47)
I think I may be the first person in history to challenge Donald Trump to speak up. He’s not shy. But it’s amazing, he was asked yesterday, his press conference and he barely could say a word about the need for a stimulus program that would actually help America’s cities and states. So everyone’s watching, Mr. President, you say the word and Mitch McConnell will act. The Senate will act. We can be made whole and we can actually help restart the nation’s economy and move recovery. But if you don’t act, we’re just not going to have what we need to move this city forward, to help our people, to protect our people, to help our nation. We’re not going to have it.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (22:29)
So, I don’t know what more I have to say, but that is the truth. And there’s still time to act right now in Washington. That stimulus bill is being discussed right this minute. You know what? There’s even some bipartisanship. I’m hearing it from mayors all over the country, Republican and Democrat. You’re seeing it from governors, Republican and Democrats saying this, the federal government has to provide this help. Even yesterday, two senators, a Republican Senator, Cassidy from Louisiana, Democrat Senator Menendez from New Jersey put forward a $500 billion plan to help cities and states recover. Even in Washington there are people trying to act in a bipartisan fashion to move us forward. Mr. President, you’re the only one who’s missing in action right now. Why don’t you step up and say this is the right thing to do. And you would be doing something for this whole country in our time of need.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (23:26)
To conclude, let me say a few words in Spanish and then we’ll go to questions from the media. [foreign language 00:23:34]
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (24:16)
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (24:20)
With that, we will turn to our colleagues in the media. And as always, please let me know the name and the outlet of each journalist.
Speaker 2: (24:28)
Hi all. Just a reminder that we have Commissioner Nigro, Commissioner Criswell, and Commissioner Barbot on the line. With that, we will start off today with Debralee from Manhattan Times Bronx Free Press.
Hey, good morning everyone. How are you?
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (24:43)
Good morning, Debralee.
So, Mr. Mayor, in light of these ongoing cancellations announced today of these large scale public events of youth summer employment programs and continuing stay at home measures for really the duration, essentially, the first half of the summer, we’re bound to see these moments of resurgence of surreptitious gatherings, whether there be young people socializing at our barber shops on weekends or the religious gatherings at shul and other instances. We heard of both just over the weekend and they’re likely to pop up again. But in reports, you’re seeing young teenagers being arrested. And in some instances, you’re seeing nothing happen where the police officers show up and sort of shrug their shoulders and ask people to disperse. What are the strictures that are being put in place? What are the assurances that you’re providing that there’s one standard as folks continue to adjust to the new normal and some communities are not being penalized in ways that others are not?
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (25:44)
Debralee, it’s a great question. I’m going to say that I’ve asked about the facts and I don’t think the facts bear out on equal treatment. Meaning we do not have, I’m really sensitive to this point and concerned about it, I’m glad you’re raising it, I won’t tolerate unequal treatment. I have had this conversation with Commissioner Shea and Chief Monahan, Chief Pichardo that the bottom line is this, before you even get to the question of fairness across all communities, I want to see an aggressive, assertive, consistent effort by the NYPD and all enforcement agencies no matter where they are, no matter what’s going on. We cannot tolerate gatherings. We cannot tolerate a lack of social distancing. There has to be just really fast, consistent enforcement. And that’s why I want people calling 311 or giving us information on where they’re seeing problems so we can act on them quickly.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (26:47)
NYPD unquestionably has been enforcing in all kinds of communities. And I’ve asked them to consistently put out reports so people can see the whole truth of the many times when enforcement was done across many communities. We don’t want to give summonses and violations and fines if we don’t have to, but some places people have been resistant, they’re going to get those fines. We certainly don’t want to arrest people in this environment, but if we have to, we will. So we’ll get that information out more clearly because I think when you see the whole picture, you see consistency across communities. And if there’s any instance where there is not consistency, I will deal with that harshly because I won’t accept it.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (27:34)
And by the way, to our officers, we all know the vast majority of our officers are out there enforcing these rules and it’s part of why we’re succeeding. We have to thank the NYPD and all the Parks Department enforcement officers, everyone has been doing this enforcement. It’s part of why we see these indicators getting better. And they’ve been doing it even though they’ve been short staffed. But I don’t have any hard evidence of any officer failing to disperse a crowd or following through. If I get hard evidence of that, I am going to ask the NYPD to follow through in whatever manner related to discipline they normally would in such a case. But I would welcome you, Debralee, and everyone, anyone in the media who has hard evidence that any officer did not follow through on enforcement or that there was unequal treatment in communities, I want it and I won’t tolerate it and we’ll act on it.
Speaker 2: (28:25)
Next we have Katie from the Wall Street Journal.
Hey, good morning, Mr. Mayor and everyone. I wanted to ask, you sort of mentioned it with Debralee’s question, but do you have the numbers and, I guess, of how many photos and tips that have come in on the 311 neighborhood watch social distancing line and how that’s been going and if you’ve followed up on any of those tips?
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (28:51)
Of course there’s followup on all those tips. We’ll happily assemble the numbers and get them out. I’ll ask my team to make sure that happens. And again, when I spoke with our NYPD leadership, I made clear to them that I want public reporting on how enforcement is going and I want to show the fullness of it. There are many, many times where they’ve broken up gatherings across a whole range of communities, but that has not been something that’s been portrayed publicly. I want maximum reporting. I want to show all the times, whether it’s a line at a supermarket or it’s breaking up a gathering on the streets or whatever it is, or certainly a religious gathering. You’ll remember a couple weeks ago I made very clear that any attempt by any people of any faith to gather in religious worship is unacceptable. And I’m sorry it will have to be broken up, but it will. So we’re going to get out more and more of both the overall numbers, but also I want you to see the pictures. I want you to see, hear the stories. I want you to see how much enforcement has been done. I don’t think it’s been portrayed effectively. I think a lot more is happening than has been talked about. And I’m going to ask NYPD in particular to put all of that out more so you see it.
Speaker 2: (30:10)
Next we have Marcia from … Or sorry, next we have Marcia from CBS.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (30:18)
My question today has to do with when the city gets to the point of reopening. But it has to do with the fact that you’ve had a lot of people or city workers who have passed away because of the virus, be it transit workers, be it firefighters, police officers, and especially teachers. And I wonder if that’s going to make it more difficult for you to reopen. I mean, kids going back to classrooms where their teacher isn’t there anymore, sanitation workers unable to pick up the trash. And how difficult will it be that your workforce has been depleted? What special problems will that pose for you, and especially in the classroom?
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (31:00)
Yeah, Marcia, it’s much more of a human problem and an emotional problem than anything. I want to start with that. I think for all the folks who serve us, the fact that they have lost their colleagues, I think a lot of them are going to go into the future with that pain, whether you’re at a sanitation garage or you’re at a school or a police precinct, just the loss of someone they cared about and someone that they worked so closely with. I think that’s going to be a pain that we’ll feel for a long, long time. And I think in school communities in particular, it’s going to be very, very challenging because we have schools that have lost teachers, principals, people who are backbones of school communities. And a school community is like an extension of the family. It’s very, very tight knit. You’re also going to have kids who have lost family members.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (31:57)
So one of the things the chancellor talked about in the last week is how we have to provide a lot of mental health support starting now. And we’re going to be expanding that as we go through the spring for children and families who have been through a lot, but really getting ready for the beginning of school in September. I think it’s going to be a painful beginning trying to sort out how to move forward while recognizing the loss and the trauma that kids have been through. So that’s where I think the real challenge is and it’s a tough one and we’re going to, whatever is needed to address it, we’re going to provide. In terms of running our city and moving forward, we’re going to find a way as we always do. But the losses are great and not just in number, in talent. Some incredible human beings who did so much. But we will find a way through that problem. I think the emotional and human and psychological problem is going to be, in many ways, the tougher part.
Speaker 2: (32:56)
Next, we have Julia from The Post.
Hi, good morning, Mr. Mayor. I know we’re still months away from reopening the city, but you said on Morning Joe this morning that you thought that workplace temperature checks would be a key point of reopening. I’m just wondering if you could expand on that a little bit. Do you think you’ll require that? Will they be suggested? Will we see temperature checks at restaurants? And what are the other facets other than citywide testing for a reopening plan?
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (33:27)
Yeah, Julia, we’re going to be putting out more and more specifics of the reopening plans as we’re working through the details for this city. I would say the important thing to recognize with the temperature checks, they absolutely have a role to play. They’ve been a important tool in other countries that have had some of the better experiences containing the coronavirus and working their way back. But guess what? There’s not enough thermometers right now. So this is another one of these staggering realities about our country that I just … It’s hard, as an American, to take in how ill prepared this country was in terms of just basic supplies and how little we make of our own at this point. Or to the extent we do make things or can make things, how long and slow the process of gearing up production has been. I just can’t make sense of it. I really think there should have just been a full scale mobilization from the beginning of industry. And obviously, I think of the military as well to have tried to break through all of this. And it still never happened.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (34:35)
So to even get to that point, we’d have to get a really substantial and steady supply of thermometers. We do not have that. That’s another thing I’m going to try and see if there’s any way to create in New York City. But I do think it’s a logical part of the equation and it fits with the testing. I mean, if you think about it, what you want as you come back is the ability to constantly monitor for who might be sick and then get them to quarantine or isolation, get them the support they need to get through, make sure they don’t go back into the workplace until they’re really well, make sure they are isolated from their family members and other people in their life. The temperature checks are a great way to see if someone might be starting to show symptoms. Obviously, wide-scale testing is needed to make anything like that happen. And if I had to say, initially, I think that’s something like hundreds of thousands of tests a day given the scale of this city, as much as we’re doing in the whole nation right now per day. So I think it has an important role to play in combination with testing, but we’ll put together those details as we get closer. And obviously, we’ve got to find the reliable … A huge supply of test kits and lab capacity just like we have to find a reliable supply of thermometers.
Speaker 2: (35:49)
Next we have Sean from the Daily News.
Yeah, good morning, Mayor. I wanted to ask about a plan that some city council members plan to propose this week under which cars would be banned from, I think, 75 miles of city roads. Just wanted to ask you if you agree with that goal or even think it’s feasible. And also, could you say what kind of communications you’ve had, if any, with the council on this issue?
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (36:17)
Thank you, Sean. I’ve spoken to Speaker Johnson several times over the last weeks about this broad concept. And you know we tried a version of it early on working with the council and it was not the best time to try it, obviously, given weather. But also what we found immediately was the real drag on the enforcement needs that we had everywhere else. And within NYPD in particular, that still is below the strength levels we want it to be. So I’m definitely ready to talk to the council about it, see if we can find some common ground. But what I’ve said to date is I’m concerned that it doesn’t fit our reality in terms of safety, it doesn’t fit our reality in terms of enforcement, where we need to put our enforcement. The models that have been used elsewhere in the country I think were for places that had a much different reality in terms of how dense they are and what their sort of driving culture was compared to us and one thing and another. So it’ll be a real conversation, but I still start with the concern that I have not seen a plan that I think works for New York City yet.
Speaker 2: (37:30)
Next we have Juliet from 1010WINS.
Oh, hi, good morning, Mr. Mayor, how are you?
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (37:36)
Good morning, Juliet, how you doing?
I’m okay. I wanted to get back to the NYPD enforcement of social distancing. What exactly are they doing on the subway to enforce that? Are they limiting people standing on platforms or limiting the number of people getting on the trains? What exactly is their plan on the subway?
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (38:03)
Look, that’s a great question, Juliet. I think I’ve talked to Pat Foye, the head of the MTA, about I think there needs to be a clearer message about how many, literally, how many people are allowed on a subway car. And clearly, it can’t be more than 50% of what the normal capacity is. It may have to be a lot less. But whatever it is, I think a clearer ground rule would help everyone. I haven’t heard it, at least. But yeah, the deal is that the NYPD is out there. If a subway car is too crowded, the idea is clear it out, disperse people throughout the train or get some people off if you have to. If a platform is crowded, disperse people through or spread them through the platform or have some people wait outside the station, whatever it takes.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (38:54)
Now, I still think we’re seeing kind of an uneven reality where we get kind of sporadic reports around overcrowding and it seems to be in large measure due to the shortages in labor at the MTA and the fact that there’s some disruptions on some lines and trains don’t come for awhile. Doesn’t seem to take a consistent shape or in a consistent place. But the plan that the police are working on or working from, I should say, what they’ve been doing now for weeks and weeks is just if you see any instance of overcrowding on a car, subway car, or on a platform, disperse, break it up, don’t allow it to exist. You can’t have a crowded subway car and just leave it be. You have to get people off and dispersed throughout the train or to the platform or whatever will work.
Speaker 2: (39:46)
Next we have Kathleen from Patch.
Hi, Mr. Mayor. I was just wondering if you could provide us some numbers on those surgical masks. How many do we have right now? And how many do we need by the end of the week? And how much those would cost on the today’s market.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (40:02)
Yeah, the cost part we can get back to you on, Kathleen. In terms of supply, so surgical masks has actually been, if there’s a bright spot in this whole reality, the surgical masks have been the thing we’ve been able to get the most of and our supply is good for this week. And from what I saw earlier, into next week as well. The N95s, which are a higher caliber, if you will, have been harder to get. But again, at least we have a secure supply for this week on that crisis standard. I’ll keep emphasizing that crisis standard is what we’re working from. So we can get you exact numbers. There is a lot, a lot. We need a lot to get through each week. But surgical masks, a strong supply. N95s, certainly enough to get through this week into next week. And we’ll get you a sense of what we’re finding we have to pay for these things in the current market.
Speaker 2: (40:58)
Next we have Andrew from NBC.
Mayor, good morning. How are you?
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (41:03)
Good, man. How you feel?
Hanging in there. Question about the large public events. You mentioned this morning that when you spoke to organizers, particularly of Pride and the Puerto Rican Day Parade, that they’re interested in postponing. But given the size of these events, you’re talking hundreds of thousands, maybe a million or more people, realistically, can those events happen in calendar year 2020?
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (41:29)
Andrew, they might. I mean, this one, it’s a great question. I think again, for all of us sports fans, we’re asking this question, can our leagues come back in 2020 at all? I think this is an area where we don’t know yet. I’m taking what I think is a cautious, steady approach to how we reopen New York City. And we have to always plan on the worst case scenarios, we have to protect ourselves. But there’s also better case scenarios that could come along and could get proven that might open up possibilities for later on, late in the summer going into the fall, there may be opportunities.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (42:06)
So I think what was clear was the event organizers really, and to their … The folks, Salute to Israel Parade, the Puerto Rican Parade, Pride, very consistently, there was a concern for the health and safety of all of the people who come to join these gatherings. That was their central concern. And they knew that it would be very hard for a lot of people to feel comfortable and it just didn’t make sense to have them in this environment. But I think everyone does want to consider, from what I’ve heard, the option of going and looking at opportunities late in the summer or into the fall. And we’ll know a lot more in the coming weeks according to these indicators I go over each day and how we see this disease act and how we all act. So I certainly don’t rule it out, Andrew. I think it is a possibility. And every organization will make their own choices and we will know a lot more as we get through the next few weeks.
Speaker 2: (43:05)
Next we have Henry from Bloomberg.
Hello, Mr. Mayor. I’d like to ask you a question about the budget. The budget has some deep spending cuts for this year, but a lot of them reflect less spending on schools, etc. because of the virus. And you’ve had some critics like the Citizens Budget Commission that says there’s not enough recurring cuts and your estimates of federal aid, state aid, and the bounce back of the economy may be way too optimistic. How would you answer those critics?
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (43:50)
Well, I don’t understand the part about state aid and federal aid. The only things we have indicated in the way with federal aid are the things that already exist, the amount from the previous stimulus bill, which I’m certainly happy we are getting but is nowhere near, obviously, what we are paying out in terms of COVID-19 related expenses. And the money we received from FEMA, but we still receive it with a 25% local payment requirement, which makes no sense in this crisis. By the way, that is much worse than what was true in previous natural disasters where localities were not required to pay 25%, they were required to pay substantially less. I know Senator Schumer is fighting for what I think is the right thing, which is 100% of FEMA coverage of costs related to COVID-19. This is an international pandemic and we are spending money to save lives and we’re spending it wisely. But always when people need help, we’re going to be there for them.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (44:58)
I don’t know why that isn’t 100% federally covered. So the only thing we’ve assumed, Henry, is the 75% coverage of the FEMA eligible costs and the previous money from the previous stimulus. We have not made any projection going forward about what future stimulus money should be. It should be a full coverage of all COVID-19 related costs and all lost revenue if they really want to get New York City and all cities and states back on their feet. And I just want to come back to this point. How do you restart an economy with these big gaping holes unaccounted for? And if they’ve already done two trillion plus in stimulus programs, including, again, 58 billion for the airline industry, why not make cities and states whole if you’re serious about a restart and a recovery? But we are not assuming that, Lord knows. So I don’t understand that part of the equation with the critique you raised.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (45:55)
In terms of the recurring expenses, look, we’ve already done some really painful things including not being able to provide for our young people this summer so much of what we would normally like to and believe is crucial to our city. But when you go forward, with all due respect to the Citizens Budget Commission, this is not a … I think from their point of view, maybe they think this is a wonderful moment for budget cutting. That’s not how I see it. This is a moment to try and protect our people, protect their safety and health, make sure they have enough food to eat, make sure they have a roof over their head. And whatever that costs is what we need to do. And then work our way back to the city that just months ago was succeeding across the board in terms of having a thriving economy and the lowest unemployment we’ve seen in a long, long time and the things you would want for this city. We want to get back to that. And the formula was working. We want to get back to that formula.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (46:56)
So I would argue we were on to something very good. We want to work our way back to it. But no, we’re not for a moment, we’re not assuming any state aid. In fact, the state cut us 800 million and we have to guard against future state cuts. So I think we’re being very realistic about that. I think if there is not federal aid, you’re going to see many tougher decisions that are really going to hold us back and undermine our ability to provide even the most basic services.
Speaker 2: (47:26)
Next, we have Mark Morales from CNN.
Mark Morales: (47:30)
Hi, everyone. How you doing this morning?
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (47:32)
Mark Morales: (47:36)
So I had a couple of questions. The first was about a report that happened over the weekend about the folks that are-
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (47:43)
Hey, Mark, Mark, you’re coming in and out. Let me interrupt you, Mark. You’re coming in and out a little bit. Can you get closer to the microphone and speak a little more steadily?
Mark Morales: (47:52)
Sure. Is this any better?
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (47:53)
Yeah, let’s try.
Mark Morales: (47:56)
Cool. So the first was about inmates at Rikers Island that have left the jail system and-
It’s at Rikers Island that have left the jail system, and have, well, they’ve gone out and committed crimes and are back in the jail system now. Can you speak a little bit about that and what have you seen? The second question, it was about testing.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (48:15)
It’s about… Go ahead, say it.
You mentioned on Friday that you were going to be opening up new testing centers, and I just wanted to know how did that work out? Who was tested? Do you have any data on that?
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (48:29)
Thank you, Mark. On the second question, we’ll get the data and start to put out that data as we confirm it. Some of the centers were opened Friday, some are opening today, and we gave the projections on what they’d be able to do each week. But again said, I want to see those numbers go up rapidly. So we’ll get a report out later today on how Friday went and on how today is going and what the numbers look like.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (48:59)
On the folks who have come out of Rikers, look, when this crisis began, the issue was how could we address the humanitarian crisis in our jails appropriately. Let out people who could be let out safely, deal with the fact that there were individuals would profound, major, major health problems who had been particularly vulnerable to this disease, but also always keep public safety in mind. And obviously by getting people out of the jail system it was going to allow a safer environment for everyone who was still in, including very much the folks who work there. And we depend on so much our officers.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (49:41)
That has proceeded to happen. About 1400 people have been released. And that has certainly improved the overall situation in our jail system. But we said there would be a rigorous monitoring effort as well. And that has been built up. We do see some recidivism. I don’t have the exact numbers, we see some, I’ve not seen a huge amount, but any amount is obviously troubling. And I think it’s unconscionable just on a human level that folks were shown mercy and this is what some of them have done. But it’s a small number of people. We’re going to keep just buckling down on it, making sure there’s close monitoring and supervision to the maximum extent possible.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (50:27)
The NYPD is going to keep doing what they’re doing, and they’ve obviously been driving down crime these last few months, and they’re going to keep doing that. But if anyone commits the kind of crime they have to be rearrested, of course they will be, if they have to be reincarcerated, they will be. But I think against the backdrop of what was a real humanitarian crisis, it was the right approach. Now we’re going to deal with everything going forward.
Speaker 3: (50:56)
Next we have Sydney from the Staten Island Advance.
Hey Mr. Mayor, good morning. I have two questions if I may, about the medical personnel you announced yesterday and the 311 number. So first, can you explain what exactly the differences between the 600 medical personnel and volunteers, and 535 medical military staff. Are medical personnel, more nurses and technicians, and are military medical staff, specifically more like doctors and nurses, and why didn’t you send any of the medical military staff to Staten Island hospitals?
And my second question is, yesterday I tried out the 311 social distance enforcement number, and I received an error message saying the tech service was unavailable, your office was quick to fix the problem, and I resent the photo and it seems to be working. I got a text message saying that a representative would be with me shortly, but I never heard back. Can you explain how exactly the tech surface is supposed to be working? Is someone supposed to get in touch with you after you send a text, and why was the tech service not working, at least, yesterday?
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (52:04)
Yeah, there was an issue yesterday. It has been resolved. So the basic concept is this, if you call in, as I said to that day, on anything COVID related, particularly food, we want people to have the instant ability to talk to a human being, and register their need and get it acted on. On the calls related to violations of social distancing, that’s also obviously urgent. We need people to be able to get that to a human being right away, and then get it out to where it could be dispatched by NYPD. So I appreciate, again, I’ll keep saying thank you to you and everyone in the media who’s doing this quality control because I think it helps us to keep monitoring. Obviously the city does his own quality control, but anytime you find a gap in the system that’s helpful cause we want to fix it.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (52:52)
So in terms of the calls, that’s how it has been working and should work. And again many, many additional personnel have been added in the last few days to beef it up. In terms of the photos, I know, I’ve spoken to commissioner Shay about this, that the photos are being monitored constantly by the NYPD for action. In terms of whether there’s a response back to the person who sends the photo, I don’t know that, but we will get you an answer on that today.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (53:20)
On the question of the military personnel and the volunteer medical personnel. So the military are a variety of specialists. They’re doctors, nurses, respiratory therapists, dieticians, pharmacists. They’re are a whole range of specialists, primarily doctors and nurses. They, or the original request was for our public hospitals that unquestionably were bearing the brunt, Elmhurst, Bellevue, Lincoln, so many others, and that’s where they’ve gone, and they’ve been absolutely outstanding.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (53:48)
The personnel coming in through the medical volunteer Corps, which is a city function created by our department of health, are folks who bring a wide variety of medical skills, they are being distributed out to independent hospitals that need help, and to including obviously thinking about hospitals on Staten Island, at any hospitals, whether they’re a part of a bigger system or they’re independent, but the ones that need help the most we have found are the independents, and to nursing homes that need help. And that system, again, a wide variety of healthcare professionals, we’re applying that wherever the need is greatest. I think the simple point here is, which we’ve talked about before, Sydney, and I know you’re advocating for Staten Island. I appreciate it. The hospitals that bore the brunt of this overwhelmingly were those public hospitals. That’s where we sent the help from the military. Obviously, I’d like to see a lot more help come in and then we could expand it more broadly. But we have been able to get that medical volunteer group, which is a lot of the same exact medical professionals in terms of training out to a broader swath of the city and our healthcare institutions, our nursing homes, and we’re going to keep making adjustments as the need is clear.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (55:10)
I think that’s the central point and again, I appreciate the advocacy, but it’s really going to come down to us as where are the gaps that we need to fill, and we will move people according to the gaps. Whenever we see a situation where someplace just doesn’t have enough personnel and other place has more than they need, we’re going to move them around accordingly to address that need.
Speaker 3: (55:31)
Next, we have Gloria from New York One.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (55:37)
Can you here me?
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (55:41)
Yep. Can you hear us?
Ah, thank you. Oh yes.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (55:46)
I wanted to follow up on our report that we got this weekend about three men who were discharged, COVID-19 patients, and they were sent to the Hilton Garden Inn in order to isolate from their families. The three of them have passed away. I wanted to see if you had an update on that specific situation, and if there’s anything you could tell us about why these men were discharged, and how is the city monitoring this, and what happened here?
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (56:25)
So we are doing a review right now to understand what happened. My understanding very initially, and it’s obviously tragic, I mean as I understand it, Gloria, these are three people who were in hospitals for COVID-19, got care, recovered, and were released. And my understanding is one was from a Montefiore in the Bronx, one was from [inaudible 00:56:51] in Brooklyn, one was from Harlem Hospital. And then all three have passed away. We’re doing a full review right now to understand what happened, if they were all discharged, and all from different hospitals, something doesn’t make sense here. And why have they lost their lives? So we’re doing a full review to understand that.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (57:11)
We’re also going to add an abundance of caution, add additional medical personnel and other personnel to do more checking in with people even if they’ve been discharged. You’d think if someone has been discharged from the hospital, it’s an all clear and the reason they’re in a hotel is simply transitional, particularly if they happen to have a family situation that’s not conducive to go back to, or something like that. But we’re going to add additional personnel to ensure that everyone is being very closely watched and supported. But I don’t know, we don’t know yet what happened here and why it happened, and when we do, we’ll certainly let.
Speaker 3: (57:56)
Next we have Brigid from WNYC.
Brigid : (58:01)
Thanks Mr. Mayor. First I just want to follow up. I have two questions, but I want to follow up on Gloria’s just to clarify, the hotel where those three individuals were staying, wasn’t that isolation hotel. So I’m curious if the city is planning to increase any screening for the other guests who are still there beyond just a wellness check. And then my second question relates to the governor’s announcement over the weekend about statewide antibody testing. I’m wondering what your thoughts around the plan and how the city fits into it.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (58:34)
Yes, on the first point. Yes. I tried to say, I’ll say it better, that we absolutely are going to check on people more deeply in that facility because we want to know, that hotel, we want to know exactly what’s going on and we’re confused how this could have happened. And again, don’t know if there’s a connection between the three deaths or not. We just don’t know enough yet to give you a definitive answer. But we, again, will be beefing up the amount of personnel devoted to consistently working with people who are staying in those hotels. I want to make sure we’re constantly checking on them, and if people need something that it’s evident real quickly enacted on.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (59:19)
On the antibody tests, again, this is an area I think we can say where there’s some real promise. There’s also a lot of open questions. There’s different kinds of tests of different kinds of quality level, and the quality levels and accuracy. I will have more to say very soon because our goal is to do more and more testing, both the PCR testing, the kind of main coronavirus tests. We want to see that on a vast scale as part of our recovery. We need a lot right now, but we want to see it. It’s prerequisite to making a recovery. But the antibody testing could play an important role too. There’s still some open questions, but we do anticipate using it in a substantial manner and as soon as we have the specifics worked out, we’ll be announcing that hopefully quite soon.
Speaker 3: (01:00:10)
Next we have Javier from Queens Latino.
Javier Gastonia: (01:00:15)
Good morning. I’m Javier Gastonia from Queens Latino, and in Queens, Cordona, Jackson Heights, Elmos, thousands of undocumented immigrants are waiting for the money from the Open Society Foundation. They don’t have the money to pay the rent, to buy food, or even to pay for cellular phones. Even green [inaudible 00:12:34]. So when and what the criteria the New York city is going to use to distribute those dollars?
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (01:00:47)
Javier, just to keep the line open there so I can make sure we’re saying the same thing. You’re talking about the money that we announced a few days ago from the Open Society Foundations?
Javier Gastonia: (01:00:56)
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (01:00:57)
As I said, that money is flowing quickly. Community based organizations that work closely with immigrant communities will be providing that support to people who need it, and again, given the nature of what’s being done here to help folks who have not gotten federal support, and obviously have often been mistreated by the federal government, we’re going to be very careful about handling this, and the best way to think about is the money’s going to flow quickly. It’s going to be available at the community level through these grassroots organizations that work with immigrant communities and we have faith in them, having worked with them in the past, that they’ll know how to get the word out to their communities rapidly and make sure the money gets in people’s hands who need it. That’s the smart way to handle this.
Speaker 3: (01:01:46)
Last two for today, we have Rima from Chalkbeat next.
Hi Mr. Mayor. Can you hear me?
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (01:01:53)
Yes. Reema how you doing?
I’m good. How are you?
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (01:01:58)
I just wanted to follow up on something you said earlier about students needing mental health support right now, and especially into the following school year. Given the need for those supports, but schools also facing potential big budget cuts. How do you sort of reconcile those two [inaudible 00:14:21], schools might need to potentially cut counselors and social workers, so how will schools be able to support, schools that lose those staffers, how will they be able to support students on going forward?
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (01:02:37)
Reema, look, you’re asking a very, very important question, because it kind of frames the whole discussion we’re having now about how are you going to have a functioning city? How are you going to have the largest city in the country that the entire country depends on, how are we going to have a recovery if we cannot even provide the basics? And that’s the danger right now. And this is why the federal support from the stimulus is so crucial. If you can’t even have enough personnel for your schools, that does not look like a restart and a recovery to me.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (01:03:15)
So what I would say in the here and now, the mental health support that kids need right now, families need right now, I put that under the category of emergency COVID expenses, mental health is part of health. We know there’s a crisis happening. We have to support those kids. We’ll be talking more in the coming days about the ways we’re going to do it, just like we’re doing distance learning, just like we’re trying to help the seniors who we hope will graduate by providing them extra support from guidance counselors. And we know there’s a lot of traumatized kids out there, and we have to help them now, we will.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (01:03:52)
Going forward if we don’t get support, we’re going to have a really big challenge ahead. So we’re going to do whatever it takes right now, but again, this is another one of many, many examples of why folks in Washington should not toy with this city and other cities that are simply trying to fight our way through a crisis and get back on our feet.
Speaker 3: (01:04:19)
Last for today we have Yowav from the city.
Hi Mr. Mayor. I wanted to ask you about the small business loan program, the $ 20 million interest free loans that the city put together, and I just wanted to ask you, we just heard about a lack of communication from SBS for the applicants, once they submitted there’s been no word, and I’m also curious if you have a handle on whether any of the businesses have received the funding yet, and if so, how many?
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (01:04:56)
I don’t have those numbers at my fingertips. I do know we expanded the loan and a grant program and it ended up being almost $50 million. I do know that both those programs, all the applications went in, a number have been funded for sure. We can get to exact facts. I’m certain there were more people applying than we can necessarily reach, but we can get the exact details on how many we were able to reach. But knowing that resources have been flowing, it’s a great question, what exactly is still outstanding, I know other people that have had problems, what we can do to help them.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (01:05:43)
So we will get you the facts as they are today. And Yowav, if of folks who had a particular problem, we want to follow up with that and see if it’s someone that we still can reach with this effort. So please, if you are getting reports of people who applied and did not get communication, we want to know about that, we want to follow up with them, but we’ll also get to the overall status where we stand with the grants that’ve gone out and the loans that have gone out.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (01:06:17)
Okay, well everyone, look, as we conclude just to say this, again, I take solace from the fact that this is a situation we will work our way out of. I take solace in the fact that unlike some horrible, horrible moments in history where people never knew if there would be an end in sight, there is an end in sight here, thank God. And I take a lot of solace in the fact that New Yorkers have done such an amazing job during this crisis. I have absolute faith that New Yorkers will fight their way through. I don’t have such faith in Washington D.C., and I’ll keep coming back to it.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (01:06:58)
I just want the people in Washington to try and be as good as what they see here. I want our elected leaders to be as honorable as New Yorkers have been, as diligent as New Yorkers have been, as devoted to others as New Yorkers have been. The folks we elect in Washington are supposed to help us in a time of crisis. The President has to step up. Senator McConnell has to step up. Their silence is deafening. So imagine for a moment a government as good as the people, and that’s all I’m asking of the president and the Senate majority leader. Just try to be as good as the people of New York city and help them out in their hour of need as we all fight through this crisis together. Thank you everyone.