Apr 27, 2020
Bill de Blasio NYC COVID-19 Press Briefing Transcript April 27
Mayor Bill de Blasio held a NYC press conference on coronavirus on April 27. He plans to open up to 100 miles of streets to pedestrians & cyclists in New York City. Read the full transcript here.
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Mayor Bill de Blasio: (00:00)
… Been exposed to this virus or not? Are we still vulnerable? These are the questions that people want answered and want to know what it means for their own safety and everyone they love and we know, the question has always been from the very beginning. This goes back to when we first talked about COVID-19 back in January. The question has always been testing, testing, testing. How are we going to get the testing? How are we going to be able to get answers? Even with this difficult adversary, this mysterious adversary, how do we at least get less mystery about our own lives and get answers through testing? So testing is the way forward and it’s been a long fight just to get the testing we need, the ability to give the tests, but today we have good news. Today we are beginning to see an easier process for testing and I’m going to talk about it by putting in context of what I experienced Saturday in the Bronx at the Health + Hospitals Gotham Community Testing Center in Morrisania.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (01:10)
I went up there to see how the testing was being done, to see how our extraordinary healthcare workers at the front line are giving people answers, helping them get clarity, figuring out with them what they’re going to do next based on the results of the test. Making a lot more testing available in the places hit the hardest like the South Bronx. So we all know that a few weeks ago we were just trying to save our hospitals, save lives. We couldn’t put together the personnel and the PPEs and the test kits and all to do community testing.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (01:44)
But now we were able to over this last week or more, and so as of this morning, they’ll be eight Health + Hospitals, community testing sites around the city, open for business. And since we started this initiative a couple of weeks ago, even less than a couple of weeks ago, there’ve been now over 5,000 tests at the H + H sites. Another more than 2,600 tests at the sites we’ve sponsored with local 1199SEIU, the Healthcare Workers Union and One Medical. That number is substantial, but now we’re going to be taking it up.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (02:19)
There’ll be 10,000 tests per week or more at these community-based sites and we want to keep ramping that up. But the challenge has been, and I saw this with my own eyes on Saturday, that the test process we’ve known up to now, the test kits that were used, which had a specific long swab and it required a trained medical professional to administer the test. Not fun and easy, very long swab. They had to go way up into someone’s nose, had to be handled a certain way, kept in a certain environment to be sent on to the lab.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (02:53)
This was a more elaborate process and not only slower, more elaborate for the patient, but for the healthcare worker. A challenge in many ways and our healthcare workers have gone through so much already. But realize even in the testing process, how much they have to do. A healthcare worker even to do one test had to put on, if you will, their body armor. They had to put on the whole PPE ensemble, the face shield. The N95 or whatever type of mask was appropriate. The gloves, gown, a whole specific plan to keep them safe.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (03:32)
Because the problem was with the test we’ve been using up to now a lot of times it made the patient sneeze and obviously it might be someone with COVID-19 and that was going to expose the healthcare worker. So it was a laborious, careful process, but of course a process done with someone who might be infected with a disease that might therefore infect the healthcare workers. So we had to take real precautions and that was every single patient, every single person being tested hour after hour, day after day.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (04:04)
And it was a slow process and a process that came with real exposure for the healthcare workers who have been through so much. We have been working to confirm for weeks now that there was a better way to do this and the good news I have today is there is a better way. There is a better way to do testing. There is an easier way to do testing. And there is a safer way to do testing and we’re going to start that this week at our Health + Hospitals clinics right here in New York City.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (04:32)
So we’re calling it just to make it simple, straightforward self-swab tests. What does it mean? It means when you go to one of the community testing sites, instead of the healthcare worker having to be all prepared with all the PPEs and then take that very long swab and administer the test. No, this is a whole different thing. This means the healthcare worker explains to the person there for the test how to administer the test themselves. They go into another room for privacy and the patient takes something that’s basically a sterile Q-tip, puts that in their nose. They don’t have to go way deep, just enough to get a sample.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (05:17)
They, forgive my bluntness, they spit into a cup and those two samples provide enough information for the testing to be done. Much simpler, much easier for everyone involved. No chance to cause the same kind of sneezing that that long swab way up the nose does. Simpler, but also safer especially for that healthcare worker, so many of whom had been putting their lives on the line now for weeks and weeks.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (05:50)
So when that’s done, just like we’ve all experienced, many of us, at least at doctor’s offices, you hand the sample over to a doctor, a nurse, a health care worker, you do the same here. The clinic or the healthcare provider sends it off to the lab to get the results. Now this is simpler, this is better. This is something we’re going to start using now aggressively because it’ll improve the situation for everyone. We need partnership from the private labs to do the processing. We’re gauging these conversations with them already.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (06:26)
We need them to step up. What our healthcare leadership here in New York City have told us is it’s a very similar process to what they would do with the current samples. Doesn’t take a lot of modification, but we need the private labs to agree immediately to do this on a wide scale. We have enough to get started, but we want to make sure we do this on a wide scale, so I’m asking the private labs step up. Make the small alterations necessary to be able to take these simpler tests. I think that will be a step forward for everyone.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (06:56)
For healthcare workers, this will be a simpler, better reality. Also, think about the PPEs that will now be saved in this process. They’ve been precious up to now, that personal protective equipment. We know it’s been a fight week after week to make sure we had enough. This will mean we’ll be able to conserve our supply a lot more and make sure we have it for everyone who needs it when they need it.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (07:23)
So there’s a lot of virtues here. It will also just take fewer health care workers to administer this kind of test because we’ll get more done in the time we have. So just it helps on so many levels and allows more healthcare workers to be at the front line where they’re still needed so deeply. Now it’s faster as I said, right now at an H + H site because you have to process each individual and explain what’s going to happen, then administer the test and everything has to be done very methodically.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (07:59)
They can do about 15 tests per hour for each healthcare worker taking the tests. I’m sorry, 15 I shouldn’t say per person, per site, 15 tests per hour. With this new approach, that will go up immediately, the 20 tests per hour and then we’ll keep expanding from there. Again, we need help. The private labs, we need them to really get with this new approach, quickly help move it forward because this will make everyone’s lives easier and faster. And this’ll give more people answers and it will simplify and clarify our steps forward as we move into that test and trace period in the month of May.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (08:39)
But we also still need the federal government. I don’t want anyone for a moment to think this means the federal government doesn’t have responsibility. They still do. And the big question now and again, testing has been the big Achilles heel of the federal government from the beginning, but here’s the chance to get it right. Use all the tools of federal government to expand lab capacity, so we can help New Yorkers and this is needed all over the country. We need the supplies that go to those labs to make them work particularly what’s called reagents, which are part of the process of doing the actual analysis of each sample.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (09:18)
There is still a crisis of supply affecting the labs. We still don’t see the federal government owning this problem to the extent they need to. It’s been the same story from the beginning, not focusing on testing when we needed them to and then even when everyone became clear that testing was the answer. We don’t see the federal government using all its powers, all its tools to secure the supply chain to make sure that test kits originally and the lab capacity is there. That needs to be fixed immediately so we can take a big step forward in May.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (09:55)
Now remember, the more tests you do, the faster you move towards low- level transmission of this disease. It all starts to come together. Expand testing rapidly. More and more of the contact tracing. More and more getting people to isolation who need it. That’s what May is going to look like, but this is actually going to help us speed that up markedly to be able to do a simpler kind of test. One day and I think it is possible, we’ll be able to test everyone we need to.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (10:28)
Again, we cannot do it without federal help, but one day if we do this right, we’ll be able to reach everyone we need to on any given day. And you’ll see a extraordinary correlation of how every step towards that day connects with pushing back this disease. I’m not saying it’s going to be perfect. I’m not saying there’s always going to go into a perfect straight line. You’ve seen with our indicators and we’ll get to them in a minute. Things go up, things go down.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (10:56)
Sometimes we’ll have setbacks. That’s part of life, but so far New Yorkers have done an extraordinary job pushing back this disease and now the testing is starting to come into play. If we do it right, may not be a perfect straight line, but it will be regular consistent progress. The more testing, the more progress. This will help us achieve more testing, as simple as that.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (11:21)
So of course once you have the testing more and more widespread, you need that ability to trace the contacts of everyone who tests positive. And as we’ve talked about before, when we were tragically seeing the disease spread and spread the spread, we weren’t able to do the contact tracing. We were trying to save lives, protect hospitals, deal with the most basic needs of people, but we couldn’t build a whole contact tracing network that we wanted for something of this size.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (11:49)
Now the good news is we can and that’s what we’re going to build in the month of May. A contact tracing network in this city likes never been seen before on a vast scale. So every time someone tests positive, immediately we can swing into action, figure out who were the close contacts, get those people tested too, isolate anyone who needs isolation.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (12:12)
So I’m announcing today that we are hiring. We are looking for talented, experienced health workers. So anyone out there listening to me now watching this or anyone who hears about this. If you have experienced in the healthcare field, if you’re ready to lend your talents to this fight, we need you and we need you right away. We are hiring immediately and we’ll be hiring throughout the month of May.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (12:38)
City of New York plans to hire 1000 contact tracers immediately. They will be working with all the healthcare personnel we have already and people we will train from a variety of city agencies to complement this work as well. But right now we need 1000 new contact tracers. We’re getting great help from our Fund for Public Health and I want to thank everyone at the Fund for Public Health for the great work you do. And all the people who support you and have donated to the Fund for Public Health, you’re going to see that support come alive in a powerful way now as we fight back this disease here in the epicenter.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (13:19)
But we want to get the word out to everyone that we need to hire up right away as this work begins. What will they do? The contact tracers, literally, they’ll do the interviews to determine who were those key contacts. They’ll followup with those contacts. They’ll arrange for each of them to be tested. Folks who need isolation, they’ll make sure they’re getting it.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (13:42)
They’ll help make sure that the steps that are needed are glued together and they’ll ask the questions that are needed, and that training will be so important to understand. If there’s anyone who needs that followup, talked about disease detectives before. This is a variation on that, but it’s the same concept of knowing how to ask the right …
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (14:03)
… but it’s the same concept of knowing how to ask the right questions, knowing how to search for the clues of the people in someone’s life who tested positive that need to be contacted, need to be followed up on, need to be tested. Again, we’ll start immediately, and anyone interested should go to the Fund for Public Health website. It’s fphnyc.org, again fphnyc.org. Very, very important. Please, we need you to come forward right away so we can get you into this battle and help save lives here in this city.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (14:38)
Let me switch to a couple of other important topics before I talk about the daily indicators. First of all, something so many New Yorkers ask about and care about and it’s important to everyday life, alternate-side parking. Alternate-side parking, in this crisis, we’ve seen something very unusual. There’ve been so many fewer people out, and obviously businesses closed, et cetera, that the reality why we need alternate-side parking to begin with has been altered fundamentally.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (15:10)
We’ve been watching regularly. Our sanitation department is monitoring communities to make sure we don’t want to see communities get dirty. We don’t want to see anything that would undermine the hygiene of this city in the middle of a pandemic. Been very pleased by what we’re seeing. Streets are staying generally clean. I know a lot of everyday New Yorkers are helping to make that happen, and I thank you for that. As we continue to see progress, we can continue to pull back on alternate-side parking. We’ve been doing it two weeks at a time. We’re going to keep doing that for the foreseeable future, and we’re going to judge each time what makes sense. But I am here to announce that we will suspend alternate-side parking for the next two weeks, and that will take us to Tuesday, May 12th. Again, as we get close to that point, we’ll have another update.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (15:58)
Very important update I want to give now, and it’s something that’s been worked on for the last few days. The weather has been getting warmer, slowly but surely. We’ve talked about the changes that when it gets warmer, there’ll be more and more people outside. Gotten a lot of good questions from everyday New Yorkers and from the media and from elected officials how are we going to balance this?
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (16:20)
Well, we’re going to have a bigger plan for the truly warm weather in summer, but in the here and now, we can predict in the next few weeks as we go through May, it will get warmer and warmer, more people out, more challenges. Lot of folks have asked good questions about what can we do differently. I’ve said consistently we want to see if there’s new approaches, but we have to make sure they’re safe, and we have to make sure there can be enforcement.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (16:44)
City council came forward I think it was Wednesday with a vision of how we could come up with a plan to open up more streets, do it over time, and do it in a way that was responsive to the core concerns we’ve heard from the NYPD, for example, about safety and enforcement. We’ve been engaging the city council over the last few days with a very positive spirit because, as I said a few days ago, when you look up the history of relationship between both sides of city hall, we always come together in the end and find a solution. There’s been a collegial, positive spirit always, but particularly during this pandemic, and we share a lot of the same values. The city council’s been absolutely right to say, “Let’s keep looking for solutions here,” and I want to thank them for that. I think it’s been right to say, “Let’s find a solution that helps open up space but absolutely keeps people safe,” because the first job here is to protect people’s safety.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (17:41)
I want to announce today that we have reached an agreement with Speaker Johnson and the city council, and over the next month, we will create a minimum of 40 miles of open streets, and then the goal during the duration of the COVID crisis, and we don’t know how long that is obviously, but as this crisis continues, we’re going to all work hard to keep it as short as possible, but during this crisis, the goal is to get up to a hundred miles of those open streets.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (18:14)
The way we will do it, we’re going to focus first on streets in and around our parks. Very concerned about the streets on the outside of parks that oftentimes we’re seeing that immediate area getting very crowded. That’s an obvious opportunity. Those streets adjacent to parks are an obvious opportunity to open up more space, so we’re going to work together to figure out how to do that.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (18:40)
Some places, we’ll be able to expand sidewalks. Use the example of what we did over the holidays around Rockefeller Center where you just open up the sidewalk space into the street more, but with the proper kind of barricades. Some streets will be more local areas that aren’t necessarily where you have a major attraction like a park, but they are places where we can safely open up some space and have it be enforced. Another important piece of this discussion is early action bike lanes where we see an opportunity to do more with bike lanes. Done some of that already in this crisis. We want to do more.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (19:22)
The focus here will be to focus, of course, same as we’re doing so many other things, where the need is greatest. So many communities that we already have identified have been very hard hit by COVID, want to be particularly sensitive to implementing these kinds of steps, working with the city council, working with the police department, transportation department, sanitation department, parks department, figuring out all the right places we can do this, but first priority on the places hardest hit, and then of course, figuring out where they’ll have the biggest impact where the most people are. That’s good news from the good work we’ve all been doing together with the council over the last few days.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (20:05)
Now, let me go into the indicators for the day. I think today’s indicators are broadly good. It’s not the perfect thing we want, all down in the same direction, but broadly good, and we keep making progress in one form or another. I want to see more, and I want to see steadier or progress for us to really be able to make some of the bigger moves we all would like to make.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (20:32)
The first indicator today. Daily number of people admitted to hospitals for suspected COVID-19, this is obviously the root of everything. This one’s down meaningfully from 144 to 122. That’s very good. The daily number of people in ICUs across our health and hospitals, public hospitals for suspected COVID-19, that’s down by only a little, 768 to 766. Percentage of people who tested positive for COVID-19 citywide, stable. Not going in the wrong direction at least, but stable at 29%.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (21:04)
The one place that was not so good, the public health lab tests went up 46% to 55%. That is again, important measure, but it’s a measure of a smaller group of people. When you composite the day, progress, but not enough progress, but it’s a reminder everything we’re doing is affecting these indicators. Let’s keep doing it.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (21:28)
As I conclude, and I’ll say a few words in Spanish, but first say, look, the test and trace plan we talked about a few days ago, this is really the key. It’s going to be very aggressive. It’s going to be large-scale. This is how we take the good work that all of you have done. We supercharge it by finally getting testing on a wide scale, tracing people, isolating everyone who needs it. Doing that is the path forward, but we knew the testing piece of the equation was a challenge because we’ve always struggled to have the testing capacity we needed from the very beginning of this crisis.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (22:08)
Finally, we see something simpler: having an approach to testing that will protect our healthcare workers more, save time, allow a simpler process, a process that’s easier for the person being tested as well as for the healthcare worker, and the fact that it will speed things up and require less personnel over time is a huge, huge benefit. The goal here is to test as many people as possible. This is another step toward that. It’s a good way to start the week with some good news, and it makes us even more ready to go into May with that aggressive test and trace strategy that I think is going to be a game changer from New York City. Just a few words in Spanish. [Spanish 00:22:54]. With that, we will turn to questions from our colleagues in the media, and as usual, tell me the name and the outlet of the journalists calling in.
Speaker 1: (23:53)
We’ll now be in our Q&A. As a reminder, we have Dr. Daskalakis, Dr. Barbot, Dr. Katz, and senior advisor Jay Varma also on the line. First question today goes to Bridget from WNYC.
Good morning, Mr. Mayor. I have some questions that relate to the election tomorrow, what has been the presidential primary here in New York. Just a few questions. First, the governor announced an executive order last week that the state board of elections wants municipalities to mail absentee ballot applications to all voters. Just interested in your reaction to that, along with keeping poll sites open, do you have any concerns there? He also canceled the special elections for Queens borough president and city council, and I’m wondering your thoughts on that. Then finally, the state board of elections is meeting today and may cancel the presidential primary here in New York. Given that you’re a supporter of Senator Sanders, I’m wondering about your thoughts on that.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (25:03)
Thank you, Bridget. I think the absentee ballot approach is very much a step in the right direction. Look, Bridget, you’ve been very, very deeply involved reporting on these issues for years now. This state was way behind the country for a long time. Last year, we saw extraordinary reforms and change. It was a moment a lot of us have been waiting for for decades where New York state finally caught up with the rest of America in terms of a lot of crucial reforms to make voting easier and to protect the voting process.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (25:39)
In this crisis, to me, the first question is health and safety. Care deeply about the sanctity of our elections, but the first question is health and safety. I think the absentee ballot approach is the smart way to go, and in fact, it’s teaching us for the future if mail-in ballots might be a part of yet another piece of a strategy, which some states used very widely already, not just because of this crisis, to make it easier for people to vote and encourage more people to vote.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (26:11)
I’m very happy that that approach is being used here. I think we could go a lot farther with that potentially. I think the absentee approach is what everyone should do, so my advice to everyone involved is let’s just focus on folks mailing in. It’s the safest approach so long as it’s being made widely available, and it will be handled benevolently, meaning for years and years, there was kind of a burden of proof on the voter. My assumption and my hope here is that every absentee ballot application will be regarded as automatically valid. In that case, that’s the way to go. That’s where the energy should be focused on. Certainly don’t want to see people out and about who don’t have to be.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (26:52)
On the other issues, I honestly compare to all the other concerns out there. None of this registers to me as something I’m particularly worried about. Respect the decisions that the state has made. I was a proud supporter of Senator Sanders. He obviously made the decision to leave the race and support vice president Biden. I think that’s… matter is closed. I think keeping the election activity to a minimum in this environment makes sense. What I’m looking forward to is getting through this recovery the right way and getting our whole society back to normal and having elections again as an indicator of our renaissance, of our resurgence, but I think that’s something that obviously is going to happen in the fall, not now.
Speaker 1: (27:47)
Next question goes to Andrew from WNBC.
Mayor, how are you? Good morning.
Speaker 1: (27:52)
Hey, Andrew. How are you doing?
Good. I was wondering if you had seen some of the studies which show that outdoor transmission of this virus is extremely low, and-
Speaker 2: (28:03)
Outdoor transmission of this virus is extremely low and as a result of that, are you considering assisting restaurants by closing some of the streets like 9th Avenue to when they ultimately reopened, essentially create sort of the maximum amount of outdoor restaurant space in New York City? Have you begun discussions on that and do you think it can happen?
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (28:24)
Yeah, Andrew, I think that’s a very interesting idea. As we’ve thought about and we have begun discussions, but as I said, when we have firm plans step-by-step, we’ll unveil them. But there’s something elegant about that solution. We know that when the right time comes for restaurants to reopen, there’s still going to be real questions about how much distancing, how you protect customers, how you protect the folks who work in the restaurant, and clearly there could be advantages to having more of it be outdoors.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (28:56)
You still have to have those precautions thought through and acted on, but there’s something appealing about shifting more of the activity outdoors and adjusting accordingly, obviously in terms of how we handle streets and sidewalks. So there’s something very, very interesting there. Now I have not read that particular study to be fair and I think one of the things we can say about COVID-19 is we get new information all the time and a lot of unknowns. But I’m very intrigued by the idea and I want to see if it’s something we can act on as we think about that piece of the reopening. I don’t know of any if the doctors wants to comment further. Doctors, anyone,
Speaker 3: (29:40)
So, I’ll just add that my team and I actually have begun those conversations to talk about ways in which we can provide a clear guidance to New Yorkers with regards to maintaining distance while we are able to lift some of the layers of social distancing and certainly maximizing our use of outdoor spaces, one of those potential options, especially when it comes to restaurants.
Speaker 4: (30:15)
Okay. Next question is Jenn Peltz from the AP.
Jenn Peltz: (30:20)
Hi, Mr. Mayor. How are you?
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (30:22)
Good Jenn, how you doing?
Jenn Peltz: (30:23)
I’m fine, thanks. I had just some questions a little bit about the self swab testing that you mentioned earlier. One was, could you explain a little bit further about why there are two samples being collected here? One nasally and one from saliva? And also a little bit more about how come this reduces the need for personal protective equipment.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (30:54)
I’m going to start as the layman here and then pass to the doctors. So Jen it is two samples, two different samples from the same human at the same time and that actually is helpful in terms of cross checking and helping with ensuring the validity of the outcome of the test. But the other thing is just to try and I’ll try and be clear without being overly graphic. So why is it safer? Because when I was there at Morrisania in the Bronx, they took out the actual test kit and here’s the swab. And the swab, I don’t know I can get the exact length, one of the doctors probably knows exact, but it’s a long swab. Think about a Q-tip, it looks like most of twice that size. And the idea is to put it really deep into your nose in a way that a human being would have trouble doing themselves, but a medical professional can perform.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (31:57)
But the problem is it also causes for a lot of people kind of impulse, sudden impulse to sneeze. So you’ve got a certain number of people who are going to be COVID positive. They’re there with a healthcare worker and their healthcare workers right up close to them performing this test. And then the immediate reaction is someone sneezes right at the healthcare worker because they’re right there in front of them. So that’s not great. It’s been what we’ve had. It’s been the only option that appeared to be truly consistent and viable. And that required a healthcare worker, think about the face shield, the PPE’s, everything.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (32:31)
This ain’t that. This is like many of us have experienced at a doctor’s office, they give you an instructions and here’s the sample cup that you spit into and you put the cover on and here’s the Q-tip and bring it back and hand it over. And then they can package it and send it for processing.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (32:51)
So it just takes away that close contact, that sneeze, the things that would create vulnerability for the healthcare workers. Also, from what I’ve heard at least, has not been done to me, but if from what I’ve heard, a lot more comfortable for the patient to not go through that deeper procedure. Doctors, that was my attempt to put it into plain English. You take it from there.
Speaker 5: (33:12)
Thank you. I think you did really well, Mr. Mayor. Everyone who has the nasal pharyngeal culture done, the one up their nose almost always coughs and sneezes on the healthcare worker because it’s so uncomfortable, so new methods are really needed. In terms of the multiple specimens, in some cases we may be able to do it just with the nasal swab, just swabbing the front of the nose, something that the patient can do under the supervision of the healthcare worker.
Speaker 5: (33:48)
As you keep saying in teaching people, we’re learning new things about the disease all the time. We may find that adding sputum spitting does improve the test characteristics or doesn’t make it different enough, so we may just be doing the swabs. But I think the big point which you’ve made so well is that this will be safer testing, it will be more comfortable testing for the patients. It will enable us to do more testing and reach your goal of being able to open the city safely with enough data to be sure that we don’t have large outbreaks in the future. Okay.
Speaker 4: (34:32)
Next question is Christina from Chalkbeat.
Hi, Mayor. We have seen some reporting that the DOE is considering a grading policy that many advocates think is unacceptable. They don’t want to see any grades for high school and they want assurances that every student will graduate from high school this year. Just curious whether the DOE is taking that feedback, when we can expect an official policy to come out and what the holdup is.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (35:06)
Thank you, Christina. Now look, the focus has been over these last few weeks to really get the distance learning moving to the extent that we need it to and to try and consolidate the education of our kids right now under the most adverse possible circumstances. 1. 1 million kids spread out over a whole city, not a single one of them in a classroom in the traditional sense, although some are at the enrichment centers, it’s still not the classrooms that we knew, in the school structure we knew. So that’s been the focus of the deal. You get that piece right and start building for the future, for the summer and for beyond in different ways.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (35:52)
This week we’ll have an update on the grading policy. I’ve had detailed conversations with the chancellor and his team. We’ll have an update for you. I will say of course the voices of the advocates and every stakeholder is listened to. And we want to be fair and we want to be really respectful of students and families in this moment. We also want to strike a balance. I think it is important with everything in life that there be some real standards. I think it helps people to have some clear standards and we think we can do that in a fair way. That accounts for how difficult this experience has been. Clearly want to see as many seniors as possible move on at the end of this school year the right way, but we have to structure that in a smart way. And again, we’ll have the details this week.
Speaker 4: (36:49)
Next question is Henry from Bloomberg.
Mr. Mayor, how are you doing today?
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (36:54)
Good Henry, how you doing?
I’m okay. Let me ask you this. I don’t know whether you’ve ever spoken about this, but why do you think New York City has been such an epicenter for this pandemic a way beyond other cities that are densely populated and act as international gateways?
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (37:19)
Well, that’s a profound question, Henry. I’ve spoken a little bit to it and I think we’re going to keep researching that question going forward, but I would say you’re on the right track. International gateway in a way that very few cities on Earth are. I mean, I think we have to understand New York City, who we are, what we are, how we compare to the rest of our country, how do we compare to the rest of the world. We are one of the most international cities in the world with a handful of cities as the true international capitals. That obviously in a pandemic makes us more vulnerable.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (38:05)
We have the greatest diversity in the world. So we have people traveling back and forth from every part of the world and we saw this pandemic growing from different parts of the world. And I think as we look at more and more, we’ll see that some of that came in from more than one location and that was more of a vulnerability for us than it might’ve been for some other places. Yes, there are densely populated cities in this country, but there’s nothing that compares to New York City. There’s just no city that’s laid out the way we are that concentrates anywhere near as many people. That’s a huge part of the equation.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (38:40)
When you think of the second biggest city in the country, Los Angeles, it’s structured entirely differently. It’s spread out over a vast area. You have many, many fewer people concentrated in big buildings. There’s many, many reasons why it made sense, very sadly, and the human cost has been profound and painful. There’s many reasons why we were particularly in the crosshairs of this disease. A lot more we’ll say about over time.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (39:10)
I think the other interesting question will be examined over time is when all those challenges added up and this disease manifested so intensely, I mean we’d never seen anything like it. I mean again, the only parallels a hundred years ago. Thank God this city long ago devoted itself to having a very strong public health apparatus, the Department of Health, health and hospitals, community based clinics. And that is part of what saved us here because our hospital system was strained deeply, but it never broke. A lot of other places, if they had gone through the kind of overwhelming growth of the disease that we’ve gone through, their hospital systems would never have been able to handle it. Ours held. So that’s something that all New Yorkers should be proud of and obviously the healthcare workers were the heroes. But those are some initial thoughts, Henry, but I think we’ll all be doing a lot more research as we get more information.
Speaker 4: (40:08)
Next is Gersh from Street’s Blog.
Hello Mr. Mayor, how are you?
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (40:12)
I’m good, Gersh. How you doing?
Great, I appreciate that. So I do want to obviously talk about this massive open streets announcement you just made. You did use the term enforcement. So I need to understand a little about what’s different now between what you’re going to do and what the NYPD was doing with the original open space pilot. Have you accepted the council’s position that open streets can be done with far fewer cops and with more trust in drivers to stay out of areas where they don’t belong?
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (40:42)
So I would say it this way. I mentioned I think in one of these settings and may even have been an answer to one of your questions, a long conversation a few days back with Commissioner Shay and Commissioner Trottenberg and we went deeply into the question of looking at each of the plans from around the country, something that you and others have asked, Oakland, Minneapolis, et cetera, things happening around the world and our comparison to New York City and what it would take here. And I think there is an assumption in everything we do and it gets back to vision zero, that we want to be very cautious about making sure drivers are constantly given the message, slow down, drive safely, recognize the ramifications of what it means to drive a vehicle and your responsibilities.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (41:35)
So that worldview, Gersh, makes us very cautious when it comes to trusting that if you create a situation where there are not protections and there’s not enforcement that you could put people in danger. And obviously the goal of an open street or safe street kind of structure is that people can enjoy it and experience the virtue of it and the social distancing without having a new danger from vehicles. So we’ve always had a concern about enforcement and continue to, but-
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (42:03)
So we’ve always had a concern about enforcement and continue to, but the discussions with the Council, I think, were kindred in the sense that we could come up with places to open, I think the areas around parks are a great example, whereby opening them up, you are going to capture the natural flow of people. One of the things, many of the questions I’ve gotten from all of you in the media but beyond, is one of the most important places to open might be where a lot of people are going anyway and just give them more space since more and more people will go there when it gets warmer. That also is actually a more straightforward enforcement dynamic than if you’re trying to open a bunch of places all over. So it was sort of a focus on where the need was greatest both in terms of where people would go and, obviously, communities most affected, using some of the enforcement we were already devoting to those areas in an efficient way.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (42:51)
And then more and more of the conversation revolved … This is something the Council felt deeply, and actually as we looked at it more, we felt this was a very important piece. Revolved around community partners that could be relied upon to create structures that if you were going to have a place closed off, there would be a constant effort to monitor it to make sure it was safe. If there was any problem, to get NYPD over there quickly. Something with a little more structure than, for example, what we saw in Oakland.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (43:23)
So I think there’s been a really good consensus that we can do something substantial while keeping the health and safety issues up front and ensuring the right kind of enforcement, more work with trusted community partners. But I would not go so far as to say forgetting what we learned from Vision Zero, which is to always keep our guard up against the problems of people who drive irresponsibly and making sure we’re protecting pedestrians at all times.