Apr 13, 2020
Bill de Blasio NYC COVID-19 Press Briefing Transcript April 13
Bill de Blasio held a NYC press conference on coronavirus on April 13. Read the full transcript with all of his updates.
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Mayor Bill de Blasio: (00:00)
Every time we practice these rules, it helps us forward. So, you can call 311 at any moment, tell them exactly what you’re seeing. Where it is, what time you saw it, and we’ll send out the NYPD and the other agencies to enforce and fix the situation.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (00:14)
And, another option is, you can go on nyc.gov/coronavirus, and you can just quickly put down just a little bit of information. And that will instantly register, so all of our enforcement agencies can get on it right away.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (00:28)
And in the next few days, we’re going to add another option, where you can just submit a photo on the 311 app or the 311 website, and just indicate the location. And just by virtue of having that photo and knowing what time it was, and the location, the NYPD and all our other agencies will be able to act quickly to address the condition.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (00:52)
We want to make it easy, we want to make it fast. We want to make sure the enforcement is fast. Everyone has a role to play in this, and we need everyone to help us. You are the eyes and ears. It’s your city, it’s your fight against the coronavirus. We’re all in this together. Letting us know if you see a problem is one of the best ways to contribute to getting us out of this really, really tough phase and onto a better future.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (01:18)
So I’ll conclude, and then I’ll just say a quick few words in Spanish, and we’ll turn to our colleagues in the media. But, I’ll conclude on this important point about being a team.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (01:29)
A lot of us are feeling, right now, the absence of sports. We, so many New Yorkers, we love our teams and we love team sports. We love playing team sports. I’m missing it all the time. I bet a lot of you are missing it, all the time. We’re not getting to watch the teams we love, but in fact, we are now part of a team. And as I said in the beginning, this is the most important team you will ever be a part of in your whole life, right now. And, we watch sports and we have heroes who play on teams that we love. And they do amazing things, and they show strength and they show resilience and they do things we thought couldn’t be done. And we love them for it.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (02:13)
Well, guess what? That’s you, now. You are actually in the middle of such an extraordinary fight, you get to do the things that you have admired in other people. You get to be the player on the field who makes a difference, who does the extraordinary, who does what people thought couldn’t be done.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (02:34)
So, this is where we are now, all 8.6 million of us on one team. And people have been acting like they’re on one team, they’ve been making a huge difference. And we see it, already. Those three key indicators, we’re all of us, going to be able to watch them together. We’re all going to be all talk about what it means. But you saw, even on day one, that what you’ve been doing has had an impact. What you’ve been doing is working. We’re all going to keep watching them together, to get us through to the next phase.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (03:01)
So everyone, we, right now in our time, we’ve been shown a challenge we could never have imagined. But, you have been doing everything that we need you to do, to win. This is a battle. This is something we’ve never seen before. But together, we can overcome it. And instead of just saying, “Here’s some vague ideas,” we’re going to show you the facts that prove we can overcome it, and prove what it means for you to be in this game. And fighting hard, and fighting to win. So thank you for being a team and acting like a team. It’s making a huge difference. Just a few words in Spanish.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (03:44)
[Spanish 00:03: 43]. With that, we will now turn to our colleagues in the media.
Speaker 1: (04:29)
And just a quick reminder to folks, that we have Dr. Barbot in the blue room, and Dr. Katz and Dr. Daskalakis on the phone. And with that, Andrew Siff from NBC New York is up first. Andrew?
Andrew Siff: (04:41)
Mayor, good morning. Hope you’re doing well.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (04:43)
Thank you, Andrew.
Andrew Siff: (04:46)
Question about the reported shortage of swabs for COVID tests. Wasn’t the reason you brought on Jimmy O’Neill to sort of get ahead of these gear shortages? And, how severe a shortage is this? What will it do to the goal of ramping up testing, to the point that it makes a difference?
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (05:07)
Great question, Andrew. Okay, let me separate for a moment the reality in the hospitals which is where Jimmy O’Neill is focused with his whole team, he’s got dozens of people working with him, versus the broader question of testing which is really central to our strategy going forward.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (05:29)
So in the hospitals, Andrew, the question has been this week to week, day to day struggle to make sure the equipment and the supplies, the PPEs, are where they’re needed when they’re needed. I always say, and I hate to have to emphasize it, but it’s true. This is a crisis standard with the PPEs. It’s not the ideal standard. It’s not what we wish we could do. It’s a crisis standard, to protect our healthcare workers. But, Jimmy and his team have been working to make sure that flow of supplies is constant. The materials, the things that are needed in each place are in the right place at the right time, being distributed effectively. And when there have to be adjustments, which is normal when you’ve got 56 hospitals and an ever-changing dynamic, those adjustments are made in real time. That’s the central focus of his team, while obviously, all together watching personnel levels as well, to make sure that is accounted for with our hospitals.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (06:28)
The testing. The testing has been in a dynamic of scarcities, from day one. The weeks and weeks and weeks that we all pleaded, before things got so bad, for the testing that could have helped us stave off this disease. The weeks since then, we’ve been pleading for more testing, so we could make more impact. The amounts we’ve had, have caused us to be essentially limited to the patients with the greatest problems, who are right now in a life and death situation, where the testing was crucial to protecting them. Protecting our healthcare workers, determining who could be on duty, who couldn’t be, at any given point. And trying to keep as many healthcare workers in the game as possible, and, making sure those who needed care got it. And the same, with our first responders, to make sure that we were handling them and supporting them properly.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (07:17)
That’s where the emphasis has been. We are now trying, as we see a little bit of progress with this disease, to open up more and more of the testing capacity for strategic use in communities where the need is greatest. Communities that have been hardest hit, and the vulnerable individuals within those communities, and we’re going to give out more of those details soon. But even that testing, remember, the tests kits are one piece of the equation and they come with lots of components, just to make matters more complicated. We need all of the pieces. The swabs and everything else, but then you need the personnel to administer them, who are trained. And, you need the PPEs. So, until very recently, we were struggling to have enough personnel and we still are fighting that fight, but we hope we’ll be able to free up some more personnel for testing. We hope to be able to free up more PPEs, but that again, is going to be a day to day a decision. If we can put those pieces together, we can start this grassroots testing in the places that have been hardest hit.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (08:14)
But as you can hear in my answer, Andrew, it’s still an atmosphere of tremendous scarcity. What we need, to get to low transmission, that next phase we all want to get to, is much more widespread testing. And I have appealed consistently to Washington, I spoke to the president yesterday and other key members of administration, the FEMA administrator and others to say, “This is the crucial need, if we’re going to transcend to the next level, and really reduce the presence of this disease.”
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (08:43)
We have not gotten, yet, any guarantees from Washington about how and when we will get a much greater amount of testing. So right now, I at least want to keep us doing what we’re doing, start to get into targeted community testing. But I know that until we get a much more ample supply of testing, we can’t sustain what we need to, to get into that next phase.
Speaker 1: (09:04)
Next up is Debralee from the Bronx Free Press and Manhattan Times. Debralee?
Hey, good morning everyone. How are you?
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (09:11)
Sir, I wanted to follow up on that question and also, just generally, as we talk about amplified testing both in resources and personnel, Mayor and Commissioner Barbot. The question becomes, when will we have these resources? Because, one thing is pie in the sky, in terms of what we need, what we need now and what we don’t have, what the requests have been. But in order then, for us to return to some semblance of normalcy, as per the administration, we’d have to get to zero transmission. And we’d have to really ramp up testing.
When you look at it in light of, opening up the city and the region for business, and particularly for schools as well, how can we achieve that with the resources in hand? And then, specifically, can you tell us what kind of testing needs to be in place? When you talk to school leaders, they talk about these buildings having to be safe. For the gathering spaces, for the community, for families, for parents, for teachers. How will you in fact be able to assure that come September, that’s the end goal now, that these buildings will be that? What will testing look like, at that point, when you have strangers coming in and out of the buildings all the time?
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (10:22)
Great, great question. I’ll start, and I know Dr. Barbot will certainly want to comment on this. So, Debralee, you’ve done your homework, obviously. I think you really framed it powerfully. Okay.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (10:33)
So, first of all, what I talked about last week with the phases, from widespread transmission now, to low level transmission to, you’re right, zero. No transmission, effectively no cases or only very occasionally. Dr. Barbot has said from the beginning, to give us some guidepost and we all understand it could change but she said, “Look, September is a viable thing to be talking about really getting back to normal, but no one’s guaranteeing that. We’re saying it’s something we can shoot for, that we think is realistic.” And remember, when we talked about coming out of the current phase, this month we’re going to be unfortunately in the widespread transmission, no matter what. Next month, undoubtedly, for some of May if not all of May, we’ll still be in widespread transmission.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (11:20)
We go into June, I hope we’re either already moving out, or start to move out in June. This puts, again, you raise the issue of the schools. This puts the school’s point in perspective, again. Given that it’s so unclear, when we even start on that pathway to low level transmission, this is another reason why it makes sense to keep our schools closed.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (11:43)
But then, you talk about what would it look like? Well, we keep demanding a real timeline from the federal government. And look, unfortunately, from what we know right now, for the kind of level of testing we would need, really widespread. Federal government is the only place where we could get the impact we need. We’re working on the private market and every other tool we can find, but to really guarantee a constant supply, the federal government is going to have to do something very different, than what they’ve done so far.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (12:10)
It’s clear, they’re still not using the Defense Production Act to the maximum. It’s clear, they’re still not at the level of coordination that we need to see on the federal level. We need to know a lot of testing is coming, and it will be sustained. I don’t think any of us believe that’s happening, in the next few weeks. I think that’s something that looks like a month or more away. And we just don’t have clean answers on it.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (12:34)
But it can be done. It’s a matter of using all their powers, to make it happen. Because again, Debralee, here is the fallacy. If the President of the United States or anyone else wants a recovery, and we all want it, right? But if you’re serious about it, you can’t do it without widespread testing. You can not have a real recovery if you can’t test people, and you can’t get this horrible widespread situation reduced, so we can get down to low level.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (13:05)
If you don’t get down to low level, you’re not going to have a recovery. If your hospitals are constantly on the verge of being overwhelmed, you’re not going to get a recovery. If your cities and states can’t function, can’t provide basic services because we’re still in the middle of a crisis and there’s no revenue, you can’t get to a recovery. You actually have to get the healthcare part of this equation right, to be able to get the rest of the economic equation right. And I fear a lot of the time, hearing the president and some others in Washington, that they kind of want to skip a step and say, “Hey, let’s just reopen, regardless of what it’s going to take.”
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (13:42)
And I think if you listen to some of the really great health experts, including Dr. Fauci, you hear the constant warning, “Get it right. Do not take your foot off the gas, do not jump the gun, or you’ll regret it when this disease reasserts.” So, that is my way of saying to you, to actually get to the day where we can get to low-level transmission, that takes a lot of testing-
Bill de Blasio: (14:03)
Get to the day where we can get to low level transmission, that takes a lot of testing so that anytime you need to test anyone, anytime you need to test people, you’re tracing in a group of people like those disease detectives from department of health, do they need a test available? Anytime we’re trying to make sure that someone who has been in quarantine or isolation can come out, you need a test available. We have to be able to have it when we need it. That would then put us on the pathway to showing that transmission has gotten so low that you could have confidence in doing things like reopening schools in September. Doctor.
Speaker 3: (14:35)
So to build on what the mayor just laid out, what I would say is first and foremost what the most important thing that we are doing right now to get us to that point of reducing transmission is the social distancing, is all of the things that are currently in place. Beyond that, this tightening of the supply chain for the swabs that are necessary for testing are part of a national and international challenge. And that’s why we have been focused on ensuring that we target testing to those most in need and that the testing of others is sort of ramped up as supplies allow.
Speaker 3: (15:25)
But the most important thing is that as we get to the point, or let me rephrase, the most important thing is we won’t be able to get this over the finish line if you will, if we don’t have the supply that the mayor was calling for and the assistance from the federal government because that’s when testing is going to become that much more critical for us to ensure that when we identify additional individuals who do contract COVID-19, we’re able to put the control measures in place to ensure that we go from low-level transmission to no transmission and testing is going to be critical at that juncture.
Speaker 4: (16:07)
Marcia Kramer from CBS New York, Marcia, Marcia.
Speaker 5: (16:13)
Can you hear me?
Speaker 4: (16:13)
Yes we can.
Speaker 5: (16:13)
Can you hear me Mr. Mayor?
Bill de Blasio: (16:15)
Hey Marcia, How are you doing?
Speaker 5: (16:17)
How are you doing Mr. Mayor? So, the question is this, there’s a big fear that if we don’t get businesses open soon, you may have widespread business failure in New York city. I wonder if that’s something that keeps you up awake at night, you’re worried about it. And how do we get to the point where we can do it so that we have both healthy New Yorkers and a healthy economy?
Bill de Blasio: (16:39)
Yeah, Marcia, excellent question. I do worry deeply about our businesses, particularly our small businesses surviving this and being able to employ our fellow New Yorkers and keep us all going. So, that worries me but worries me even more is all the people whose lives are in danger making sure we do everything to protect them and making sure we do not make the mistake of letting this disease come back even stronger. And there is evidence around the world that sometimes governments took their eye off the ball and they paid for it in a really bad way when the disease reasserted. So to save those businesses, we actually have to get the health care part of this right. And Marcia, I don’t think that means forever.
Bill de Blasio: (17:27)
I think that means doing it right for weeks or a few months and really making sure we’ve shut the door on this to the maximum extent possible moving into that phase of low level transmission, getting through that to the point where we basically don’t have cases. We got to get that right. That’s the best way to make sure that businesses can come back. In the meantime, it’s incumbent on our federal government to keep supporting small businesses. I’m done with the corporate bailouts. The big corporations are going to find a way, but the bailouts we need, the support we need is for small business. I know this is something Senator Schumer keeps talking about. There’s more that needs to be done in the next stimulus, so let’s get the healthcare part right and that’s the way to actually save the small businesses and revive the economy.
Speaker 4: (18:15)
[inaudible 00:18:15] from The City is up next. [inaudible 00:18:17]
Speaker 6: (18:20)
Hi Mr. Mayor, I’m just wondering if you can detail some of the city’s efforts to ramp up testing. The last public private partnership I can recall being announced was March 17th with BioReference. That was on the analysis side. If there’s a swab shortage, is there anything the city can do possibly to tap local manufacturers to create it? So, leaving the federal government’s role aside for a second, what has the city been doing and what have been the obstacles here?
Bill de Blasio: (18:59)
The city is we’re definitely looking for anything that can be done effectively to either create components or in any way expand capacity. We got to do a lot of expansion and we’ve got to keep it sustainable. But yes, we are trying right now to figure out if there’s a way to do it. I think the truth is that from what we’re seeing so far, the only way we could have the really big supply we need on a sustainable level is if the federal government was able to do something very different to help us. But we will keep looking to see how we can help ourselves for sure and as we have any progress, we’ll announce it. The challenge has been since that announcement from, with the great help we got from BioReference which was absolutely fantastic. How much of the testing has been needed to address the ever-growing number of cases and then ever-growing number of people whose lives were in danger to address the needs of the healthcare workers and keep them going and the first responders as well.
Bill de Blasio: (20:06)
So even though we built out a lot through BioReference, there was a whole lot of need too. The other thing to remember is since then the number one preoccupation has been keeping the hospitals going and only in the last few days have we begun to feel that situation is improving but it’s only improving to an extent and we’re still struggling on the supplies, the PPEs and that’s where a lot of focus has to be. So the answer is that’s where we’ve been over these last few weeks. But we are going to see quickly if there’s more we can do in the city and how far that could take us.
Speaker 4: (20:43)
Katie from The Wall Street Journal is up next. Katie, Katie, can you hear us?
Speaker 7: (20:50)
Can you hear me?
Speaker 4: (20:50)
Speaker 7: (20:52)
Hi thanks Olivia and thanks mayor de Blasio. my question, and I’ve kind of asked this previously, but hearing again about the increased advertising and the robocalls in 15 languages to communities, particularly the most vulnerable communities. I just, I’m so struck by how late it all seems and I want to know mayor why this wasn’t done a month ago, why this wasn’t done sooner. You look at the number of the sick and the dead and the communities and I just can’t help but think that this all feels a little late when it could have been done a month ago. And I just want to know why. The city knows which communities are the most vulnerable, they know the languages people speak, they know the healthcare realities that they have. So can you just explain to listeners and to viewers why now and not last month or not even two weeks ago?
Bill de Blasio: (21:41)
Well, Katie, again, I said just a few minutes ago that the first major campaign was mid-March and it was an $8 million campaign. So clearly in 15 different languages and much of it was in community and ethnic media. So in fact it did happen right as we were seeing this crisis take a new direction. That’s when that happened. This new one is targeted even further given what we’ve learned in the last days. In addition, the central thrust over the last few weeks has been to protect the people of the communities hardest hit by protecting the hospitals that serve them, the public hospitals and the independent hospitals. The last few weeks have been day to day, hour to hour, making sure we had the ventilators, the supplies, the doctors, the nurses, the healthcare workers where we needed them when we needed them in a crisis that took on an extraordinarily fast trajectory. That was how we could make sure to save the lives that could be saved and that’s always been, the core guiding light here is save every life that can be saved.
Bill de Blasio: (22:53)
So that’s where a huge amount of time, energy and resources went. And again, it builds upon, thank God the billions of dollars we put into our public house health system to save H and H years ago that now has given us a foundation to be able to save lives here and now. But no, we’ve been out there with these messages deeply into communities. We’re targeting them even more now and we’re going to keep fighting with everything we’ve got. We’re going to try and get the new testing out there. Again, with a clear understanding, it depends on the supplies, the PPEs, the personnel, but everything has been about trying to get what we need to keep things going and protect the healthcare, protect particularly the hospitals that save lives.
Speaker 4: (23:38)
Brigid from WNYC is up next. Brigid.
Speaker 8: (23:42)
Good morning Mr. Mayor. There was a lot of reporting over the weekend about the decision to close schools for the rest of the school year. You said the decision was made, the governor said the decision wasn’t official. You two haven’t appeared together since March 2nd. Respectfully, what do you think went wrong in terms of the communication in this particular case and respectfully, what’s the way forward so that your messages are in sync and New Yorkers don’t have to experience the disorientation they feel when you’re saying different things?
Bill de Blasio: (24:13)
Yeah. Brigid, respectfully back. As I’ve said many times, the vast majority of issues, the city and state have been absolutely on the same page. Again, you guys will report on the exceptional, I understand that, but I’m going to have strongly ask you to look at the whole trajectory through February, March, April, where the city and state and we’ve all been talking constantly, have agreed on directions together constantly. It is not shocking that sometimes there’s these differences of perspective because what I need to do to protect kids and parents and families and educators in New York City, it may be a different reality than what the governor’s thinking about if he’s thinking about the whole state or the whole tri-state region.
Bill de Blasio: (24:59)
But what I did, what the chancellor did was to protect our people. Schools clearly need to stay closed. They will stay closed because the reality is just what we talked about before. There’s not going to be a context to reopen schools with so much we’re going to have to deal with on the health front to get to a better place and a more stable place. So, we’re always working to make sure that we get to the same positive outcomes. Sometimes there may not be perfect agreement, but we’re still going to get someplace together. And I actually think, respectfully, I think that the media is very sensitive on this topic. I think everyday people just want to know where are we ultimately going to go? And I’m telling you the schools are not going to open because it won’t be safe to open them.
Speaker 4: (25:52)
Sydney from The Advance is up next. Sydney
Speaker 9: (25:55)
Hey there Mr. Mayor. So Borough president James Oddo said over the weekend that you agreed to send more medical staff supplies and Coronavirus testing to RUMC and SIUH. Can you tell us a little bit more details about these commitments? What specifically are you sending, when they’ll be arriving at the hospitals and also why it took you so long to commit to sending these things to Staten Island? And just one more-
Bill de Blasio: (26:16)
Sydney, Sydney, it didn’t take long. And again, I think very highly of the Borough president, we’ve had this conversation, he and I over many days. Every single time, and Dr. Barbot will attest to this, every time the Borough president has said there’s a certain supply needed, we’ve made sure the supply got where it was needed or we made sure that the state or FEMA or someone was getting the supplies where they needed. The personnel situation, we’ve been working on. That’s been a hard situation for everyone because we’re still trying to get more personnel.
Bill de Blasio: (26:50)
But no, I’m sorry, I’m just not accepting the way you’re phrasing the question. Staten Island has been a priority with all of the other boroughs to get constant supplies, PPEs, ventilators, whatever hospitals are needed and every time I’ve checked in on what’s going on with the Staten Island hospitals, I keep getting the report back that they like everyone else have been sent all of these basic supplies. What everyone is grappling with is that it is not the standard any of us want to be living with, which is to go back to a kind of peacetime standard one. This crisis standard. No one loves living this way, but all hospitals are being supplied and served.
Speaker 4: (27:32)
Gloria from New York One is up next. Gloria. Gloria, can you hear us?
Speaker 10: (27:39)
Yes, can you hear me?
Speaker 4: (27:42)
Yes, we can.
Speaker 10: (27:43)
Okay. I have a question from my colleagues who are covering the education beat during this time and they’re specifically wondering, the UFT has said that they have knowledge to believe 40 schools staff that have passed away as a result of Coronavirus, but the-
… passed away as a result of coronavirus, but the Department of Education has not released any data or any numbers about it. So what is taking so long, how are you tracking deaths within the DOE and why hasn’t the information been released yet?
Bill de Blasio: (28:21)
Gloria, every piece of information that we have that’s been confirmed should be released exactly as we’re doing today with the new indicators. So the chancellor is not on the phone with us, but the bottom line always is that we want… once something is confirmed, we want it released. So I’m told that today the DOE will put out an update, a very painful update. I mean, this is about people who are beloved in their school communities and have done so much good and now they’re gone. But today the DOE is going to give that update.
Speaker 11: (28:55)
Erin from Politico is up next. Erin.
Mr Mayor, on the school closing or opening issue. I heard you say that they will remain closed and that most people just want to know what the outcome’s going to be, which is definitely true. So can you explain… it would seem in normal circumstances, at least the schools are controlled by the mayor. If you say they’re closed, they’re going to be closed. Have you done any kind of analysis as to whether there’s anything in the governor’s emergency powers or any other contingency that could require them to open or as far as you understand, is your authority simply to close them because they work for you?
Bill de Blasio: (29:37)
I appreciate the question, Erin, and I think it’s a real question, but I also think in many ways it’s a hypothetical question. I’ll tell you why. Because the health reality, the safety reality is just overwhelmingly clear. In the final analysis, we have to protect our kids, our parents, our families, and our educators. The only way we can do that with assurance is to keep our schools closed. The only way we can help make sure that we actually get out of this horrible phase of this disease is to keep our schools closed. Now think about it this way. Who is presenting the opposite view? Well, I’ll tell you, when I talk to national and local healthcare leaders, they all say, “Keep the schools closed.”
Bill de Blasio: (30:21)
When I talk to educators and union leaders, they say, “Keep the schools closed.” When I talk to all the people who’ve been in the middle of fighting this crisis and want to see us turn the corner and beat back the coronavirus, they say, “Keep the schools closed.” I literally don’t hear any voice saying we need to open these schools in the middle of so much insecurity and such a huge fight. I don’t hear anyone saying, “Oh, don’t worry. It’s going to be fine. It’s going to be safe for 1.1 million kids.” So I understand the question, but I’m only going to say it this way. I think in real terms, in practical terms, like bottom line, the schools are not going to reopen.
Speaker 11: (31:02)
Jeff Mays from the New York Times is up next. Jeff.
Jeff Mays: (31:06)
Good morning, Mr Mayor. Just a quick question on the disparities, your plan to address the coronavirus disparities. I wanted to ask, is there any other plans to do things such as increase access to healthcare for people in these underserved communities or provide more PPE to the frontline workers who tend to be from some of these underserved communities? What else are you going to do other than the ad campaign to address these health disparities?
Bill de Blasio: (31:42)
Okay, so Jeff, you’ll remember that we said there were four points to what we are doing right away, protecting and continuing to support the public hospitals that have borne the brunt of this. Elmhurst being the most prominent, but many others as well, making sure they had the personnel they needed. We’ve gotten a lot of those military medical personnel to them, hundreds, which has been very, very helpful, given some relief and support, getting a lot more contract personnel in there. That’s been thousands. Making sure they have the supplies, the PPEs, the ventilators, anything and everything to protect the public hospitals that are really at the front line, the tip of the spear of addressing the disparities.
Bill de Blasio: (32:27)
And obviously true for a lot of the independent hospitals as well. And we’re supporting them directly to make sure they can keep doing their work. So this is the most important piece of the equation. If you’re going to fight disparities, you have to actually ensure that the hospitals that have borne the brunt and historically didn’t have enough. Because this is a blunt truth about the disparity. These are all the hospitals that were under-resourced for decades and have borne the brunt of this crisis but all the disparities for years and years before. As I said the other day, we put billions of dollars way before this crisis hit, saving health and hospitals, saving our public hospitals. Thank God that was done because now those hospitals can be in the lead of this fight.
Bill de Blasio: (33:10)
Second, to make sure we were communicating more deeply, more in a targeted fashion to the parts of the city, to parts of the community that needed even more communication. Third, the grass roots outreach that I described, which ideally is going to take a very direct physical form. In the meantime, it will be through things like texting and direct phone calls into individual households to help them get information, to have a way to get guidance. Fourth, to do the telehealth model on a much deeper level. So anyone but particularly folks who are in communities that have really suffered particularly and need more information, need more guidance, need a health professional talk to, that they can reach someone readily at a broad range of hours a day and get the help they need.
Bill de Blasio: (33:56)
So the immediate plan, but it is connected to years of trying to shift and I told you, billions of dollars redistributed towards communities of greatest need and we talked about the other day, not just for the hospital system, but for housing, for employment, for benefits, wages and benefits being improved. All of the things that come together, the public health people will attest to this and I’ll turn to Dr. Barbot, how all these things come together. If you’re actually going to go at these disparities, you have to spend years redistributing wealth and creating a whole different foundation for communities that have been left out to have some potential to get what they deserve, including the healthcare they deserve.
Bill de Blasio: (34:39)
And then most notably, what we started a year and a half ago, a guaranteed healthcare effort for anyone who didn’t have insurance to either get them better lower cost insurance or get them the NYC Care card so they could get healthcare directly through our public hospitals and clinics. Physical health, mental health, obviously the entire Thrive initiative has been about getting mental health services to people who never had them, who never could afford them. That has been working on a big scale, the demand for Thrive mental health services is skyrocketing, unfortunately, sadly, because of this crisis, but no one has to pay for those services.
Bill de Blasio: (35:16)
You know that mental health services used to be largely for those who were well off and those who did not have money didn’t get mental healthcare. Thrive has been changing that, it’s particularly true now. So all of these things are about addressing disparities in the healthcare. We’ve got all the things we did before, we’ve got the things we’ve announced more. And then as we look to recovery, we have to continue to change this city. We have to see the recovery effort as a fundamental moment for further redistribution and further equalizing and creating a fairer and more just city. We cannot just take a bad broken status quo and repeat it again. We’ve got to do something different.
Bill de Blasio: (36:03)
So we’re going to go through all of these stages rapidly, but anything that we have that we can use to help people, we’re going to. And you made the point about the PPEs, the whole concept of getting the PPEs to protect our healthcare workers and our first responders has inherently been addressing the historic inequities because so many of our healthcare workers come from lower income communities, come from communities of color, need the protection. This has been the obsession to get it to them. We want to get it even more widely out into our workforce and into communities. But the first thing has been to protect our healthcare workforce and our first responders so that everything else can happen. Dr Barbot.
Dr. Barbot: (36:51)
So Mr. Mayor, just to add to what you laid out so comprehensively is that in tackling the inequities, it’s not enough to deal with what is on the surface, but it’s also important to deal with the underlying drivers. And so the fact that there has been attention paid to supporting the infrastructure, the healthcare infrastructure that serves communities of color and serves poor people in this city and the infusion of support to health and hospitals, the infusion of support to the underlying educational system, all of those things really drive to support inequity agenda. The sad reality is that these inequities have been for generations, heart baked into the way in which this city works, and undoing those takes much more than just dealing with what’s on the surface.
Dr. Barbot: (37:46)
It doesn’t mean of course we don’t deal with what’s on the surface, but if you don’t deal with what’s underlying it, then we’re always going to have those inequities. And so this equity plan that we’re laying out that the mayor really talked about is going to be a phased approach and there are going to be more components to it, but we’re starting here and now with doubling down on the direct mailings, on the robocalls, and we’re ensuring that we leverage the trusted voices of the community based organizations that serve these communities so that we can then go even further into delivering the message that’s going to help to save lives.
Speaker 11: (38:27)
Last two, Anna from the Daily News. Anna.
Hi, Mr Mayor, can you hear me?
Bill de Blasio: (38:32)
Yes Anna, how are you doing?
I’m good. I hope you’re doing well too. I wanted to know whether the correction commissioner, if there’s any reason why Commissioner Brann hasn’t spoken publicly about the pandemic given what’s happening at Rikers and just the high rates of infection and the number of workers and inmates who’ve gotten sick and died. She doesn’t appear to be at any briefings and I don’t think she’s ever appeared on television speaking about it. So you address that?
Bill de Blasio: (39:07)
Sure. Anna, of course, I don’t know everything about her schedule. I know about her work. I think Commissioner Brann has continued over the last couple of years to really reform and improve our correction system and it’s a huge difficult job. But she and her team have been moving the jail system forward and making it in so many ways safer and more humane for everyone. But it’s against a backdrop of making up for years and years of bad policies and disinvestment well before we came here. In this crisis, I know she’s been working very closely with Dr. Katz and everyone from correctional health to make that healthcare is provided.
Bill de Blasio: (39:56)
She’s been working with our team here at city hall and with the NYPD on determining what were the appropriate releases of inmates, which is now a number somewhere in the neighborhood of 1200 who have been released, including those released with the agreement of the state and the DAs, everything to ensure that inmates who needed to be as they were released were handled properly, supervised, gotten to isolation if they needed that, got the healthcare they need. She’s been in the middle of all this and leading through all this. So whether she is a public face all the time or not, I just don’t know how and when she addresses the press. But I can see her work and I’m very sure it’s effective.
Bill de Blasio: (40:44)
Certainly want to make sure if she’s got something that she wants to say publicly, she gets the opportunity to do it. But that’s why I’m convinced having watched what’s happened, that the work that we need done is being done.
Speaker 11: (40:57)
Last question goes to Henry from Bloomberg. Henry.
Yes. How are you Mr Mayor?
Bill de Blasio: (41:04)
Hey. I want to get back to the subject of these neighborhoods that have had a disparate impact. These neighborhoods, I’ve been calling people in these neighborhoods for the last month and they’ve really had no information at all for the last five weeks. I mean, some of these politicians have constituents who have had no clue as to what to do about the virus and people were getting sick. But my question really goes to the neighborhood clinics where you set up this health system and you touted it very highly that you were going to save the public hospital system by going into the neighborhoods and having clinics. And when this crisis hit, the clinics were gone and people couldn’t walk to-
The clinics were gone and people couldn’t walk to get medical care, so they stayed at home and their conditions became much more acute and they wound up overwhelming hospital emergency rooms. Isn’t this a complete reversal of what you saw as the salvation of the public health system in New York?
Bill de Blasio: (42:23)
No, it’s not. It is a response to an unprecedented global health crisis and I’ll start and then Dr Katz is on the line and he can add and if Dr Barbot wants to add as well. First of all, Henry, just following the track of what you said, obviously we’ve been incessantly trying to get information out very, very broadly. And on the one hand there’s been a nonstop flow of information, whether it’s these daily briefings or all the outreach that the city government does in so many ways to make information available to people. We’ve actually asked the elected officials, community organizations, faith organizations, everyone to be our partners in getting information out as well as the advertising the other ways we get information out. I think there’s been a lot put out I think it’s true, however, that with an ever changing crisis and a confusing reality because there’s no one on earth who fully understands the Coronavirus, that some of the information still needs to be amplified, clarified, done in other languages, reached in a more targeted fashion.
Bill de Blasio: (43:28)
That’s what we’re doing now. But there’s no question about how intense and total the basic effort has been to get good information out, including a lot of direction. I’ve heard Dr Barbot say in English and Spanish more times than I could count in the last few months exactly how people should address the situation personally in their family, in their lives. So that’s been happening. We’re going to just do more and more targeted all the time. On the question of community based clinics that Henry, the fundamental conundrum here was we had to fall back to the hospitals. This was a very explicit discussion over weeks and weeks right from here at this table that the trajectory we saw for this disease was so bad that we had to hold the hospitals as the last line of defense to save lives.
Bill de Blasio: (44:19)
And that meant focusing everything we had on supplying and protecting the hospitals and making sure that they were never overwhelmed. The community based clinics couldn’t do, of course, what the hospitals could do. There’s also the problem of trying to make sure that people didn’t travel in the ways that they historically had, it would have been another danger if that had happened. We had to try and limit what people did in the right way by making sure at the same time that people needed the help the most got it. So it was a very challenging equation. Now that we have a little bit of breathing room, we want to go back and reinvigorate those community clinics to the maximum extent possible so they can go out into communities. We’re still not saying to people, “Do a lot of traveling around, go back to your regular patterns,” but we do want to get the clinics out in an outreach way out into communities to the maximum extent possible as we work our way out of this phase and get to a better phase where we can then start to loosen things up.
Bill de Blasio: (45:24)
So to conclude, and I’ll turn to Mitch, Henry, this is absolutely the result of going from peacetime to wartime. What you saw was a radical shift because it was the only way we could guarantee that our hospitals could function and save lives and we had to make some very, very tough choices in an atmosphere where we knew there would be profound scarcity, whether you’re talking about hospital beds, personnel, PPEs until a week or so ago, it was entirely hand to mouth. It’s still pretty damn hand to mouth, as I said yesterday, I only can say that the city has the PPEs to get through this week. I can’t guarantee you next week yet. So that’s the backdrop against which we made the decisions, concentrating all of our capacity where it would have the biggest impact and protecting the core of our healthcare system. Dr Katz.
Dr. Katz: (46:18)
I would just add this to mayor that through your efforts, we have 311 sending all phone calls to health and hospitals with anyone with a clinical question. We’ve answered more than 50,000 questions and that’s a real doctor. 24 hours a day, seven days a week and because of the language capability of 311, it’s in all languages. So I think that’s one of the ways we’ve tried to stretch ourselves during these horrible times. Also, all of our clinics are open. Our doctors make telephone visits to their patients. I called all of my patients last Wednesday that were on my schedule, including a new patient who had not previously been seen, to check out if any of them needed refills that we maintain enough staffing so that if people do need refills of chronic medications or they need to be seen because they have a problem, they can still be seen. So we are doing our very best as you explained, to keep things going during this horrific emergency. Thank you.
Bill de Blasio: (47:25)
Dr Barbot, do you want to add?
Dr. Barbot: (47:27)
No, I think the two of you covered it just right.
Bill de Blasio: (47:29)
Thank you so much doctor. Everyone, thank you again. I’ll conclude with the point that we have today for the first time, these new indicators that are going to give us a very clear picture of what’s really happening and where we are going. Today you can see, thankfully, thank God, some proof we’re going in the right direction, but we’ve got a lot more to do. And finishing on that point of team, when you’re on a team, there’s that feeling, that very good feeling, that sense of camaraderie, that sense of everyone pulling together. We’re all used to thinking as individuals, but when you’re on a team, you think about something bigger. That’s what I see New Yorkers doing more and more and sometimes you see if you’re a sports fan, you see a team that’s got some good players on it, but somehow achieve something even greater than you would think that group of players could achieve, greater than the sum of the parts.
Bill de Blasio: (48:24)
Well New Yorkers were already great, but you’re achieving something even greater with the way you’re working as a team. We are really moving mountains right now because people are sticking with social distancing, sticking with shelter in place. It’s not easy. We’ve been really clear, it’s not going to be easy, but you can do it. You’ve proven you can do it and God bless you all. Keep going. Thank you.