Apr 3, 2020
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio COVID-19 Briefing Transcript April 3
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (00:00)
I’ve said to all New Yorkers that this Sunday, April 5th is a absolutely essential day, as we prepare for a very, very difficult week ahead. I’ve called to arms all New Yorkers who can help in this fight. I’ve asked our federal government recognize, and I’ve told them this now over the last two weeks, that this was going to be an essential moment where we had to be supported and prepared for a really difficult battle ahead. We have to think about all of the pieces that we need to get through this important, challenging moment in the history of this city.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (00:42)
I want everyone to understand that it’s not just one thing that we need at this point. We have to pull together all the pieces if we’re going to save every life that we can save. We need the supplies. We’ve talked so much about that. The equipment. The PPEs. All the things that we need to get through this fight. We need more than ever the personnel, the people, the doctors, the nurses, all of the medical personnel that will help us through this fight. We need the beds, the hospital beds, the hospital capacity and we’re going to be building it in every conceivable location to get us through. I’m going to go over with you the details so that everyone understands what New York City is up against, what it’s going to take.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (01:44)
We’ve obviously looked at every piece of the equation. The PPEs, The personal protective equipment is something that has been rightfully focused on deeply because that’s what protects our doctors, our nurses, all our healthcare workers who are heroes fighting at the front line. That matter is crucially important. But I’m going to focus even more on the pieces of the equation that we’re struggling with even more right now. Everyone understands it’s been a dramatic fight to make sure we got enough PPEs, but I want to be honest with everyone that make you sure we have enough ventilators is even tougher. Making sure we have enough beds is going to be an extraordinary race against time with only a month to produce a number of hospital beds that’s almost inconceivable in the modern history of the city, but we believe we can do it if we get the help we need. Possibly the toughest part of the equation is the personnel. We’re going to need help not only from everyone in this city, but from the entire country if we’re going to meet this in time.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (03:02)
I will not focus as much in this update today on the PPEs. They’re vitally important, but we’re even having a tougher time with the other pieces of the equation. I want to lay that out in specificity.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (03:17)
I always try and give thanks when people help us. I’ll be critical when we don’t get help, and I’ll be thankful when we get it. Later on, I’ll go over a number of organizations and people who’ve stepped forward. But I want to give a special thanks to the president and to Jared Kushner. They told me yesterday that they would get a 200,000 N95 masks to our public hospital system, the part of our healthcare system that has been bearing the brunt in places like Elmhurst Hospital and Lincoln Hospital, Bellevue, Queens Hospital, all of these places have really been the tip of the spear. I was on a call with the president and Jared Kushner yesterday, they said they would produce these things immediately and low and behold, Dr. Mitch Katz sent me a photo a couple hours ago that they had been delivered to health and hospitals, so that’s going to really help us get through a lot of the month of April. I’m very thankful for that.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (04:17)
Now what are we up against now? Well, here are the numbers. We said from the beginning we would need 15,000 ventilators to get through this crisis. Basically think about April and May, that’s the right way to still think about this. To get through April and May, to get through the worst of it, to save every life that can be saved, we will need 15,000 total ventilators, 15,000 more than we started the month of March with. We have gotten some ventilators in, but right now we’re struggling to have enough for next week. We will need approximately 45,000 new medical personnel over that which we started the month with. I’ll go over those details with you as well. We will need 85,000 hospital beds beyond the 20,000 we started March with. Again, I will go over those details with you. We had a presentation from Dr. Katz about that, so you’ve had a lot of that before.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (05:26)
The ventilators, why are they so crucial? Because as you’ll hear from our doctors, and I want to keep emphasizing this, just think about the person in your life who you love, could be a grandparent, an aunt, an uncle, a mother, a father, a brother, a sister, think about that person, a spouse, that person who needs that ventilator right then to live. Doctors do not have the luxury if someone’s gotten to a point where they cannot breathe out of a ventilator, the doctor can’t say, the nurse can’t say, “Hey, could you hold on for a few hours while we try and find one? Could you come back tomorrow?” They can’t say that. When a medical professional needs that ventilator, they need it right that moment. The ventilators to me are one of the clearest examples of life and death. If we’re going to save every single life we can save, we must have the ventilators we need exactly where we need them, when we need them.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (06:31)
What do we need for next week? A minimum of 2,500 to 3,000 ventilators. Now we will update these numbers every single day. Let us all pray that we start to see better news and we start to need less than projected, but we have to plan on the very toughest assumptions. 2,500 to 3,000 ventilators more than what we have right now. That is a part of that overall 15,000 I mentioned.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (07:14)
Now you’ll ask the obvious question, where could we get them? Well, the federal government is the single most important source. We have only an approximation, and let me hasten to say the federal government has to cover the needs of the entire nation. I do understand that. I’ve had this conversation with the president, the FEMA administrator, the military leadership. I understand the entire nation has to be served, but I also understand we are the epicenter of this crisis, still about a quarter of the cases in this entire country right here in New York City. We are the tip of the spear and everyone I talked to in Washington acknowledges it. We’re about to hit a huge surge in these coming days. They all know it. There’s not a single leader in Washington, whether in healthcare, FEMA, military, White House, no one denies that we are bearing the brunt and it’s going to hit in the next few days.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (08:10)
When I talk about the 10,000 ventilators in the federal stockpile, it stands to reason that they should go where the need is greatest in our nation. Right now, that’s here. The second we don’t need them, we will happily work to move them to any other part of the country that does.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (08:26)
The New York state stockpile to the best of our information at this point, there’s about 2,000 left in that stockpile. Again, I understand the state has to think about every part of this state, but we are overwhelmingly the place in this state where the problem is greatest. Those are two places to turn.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (08:42)
Now, where else can we think about? Well, today there was something really positive that happened and that was that the governors of both New York and New Jersey took a crucial step and that was to order private companies to release any stockpile they have of crucially needed supplies. Ventilators, obviously, PPEs. We’re waiting for all the details, but I want to be crystal clear, this is exactly the kind of thing we need.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (09:24)
In fact, I would urge every state in the union to exercise the same approach. Any private medical facilities, doctors, any industries, construction, manufacturing, any place that’s holding back personal protective equipment or ventilators at a moment of profound crisis, we have to be clear, this is a war-time dynamic. People’s lives are at stake. There is no reason in the world to hold back that equipment. If that equipment is meant for someone who’s fighting at the front line, someone who’s one of our healthcare workers, our first responders, that’s one thing. If it’s part of fighting COVID-19 that’s great. But we know for a fact there are still a lot of equipment, a lot of supplies that have not been applied to this struggle. They are sitting in offices and warehouses and that’s unacceptable.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (10:25)
I commend both states for taking action. We will act in tandem with this effort. I am authorizing the NYPD, the fire department of New York City, the Sheriff’s office in New York City to immediately support the efforts to acquire these supplies from these private sources.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (10:48)
I am certain, many, many companies will comply with the new order readily. In that case, we want our law enforcement agencies to help make sure that the deliveries are done promptly and that they are secure. We all know how valuable these supplies are. We want them to be secured. But in the event that any private organization, any company, any individual attempts to resist this new instruction from the state and does not provide those crucial lifesaving supplies and equipment, then I’m authorizing the NYPD, the Sheriff’s office, the FDNY to use their law enforcement capacity to make sure that those items are turned over immediately and brought immediately to where the need is greatest in our hospital system.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (11:44)
Now, another part of this equation, and this one’s tough because it’s never been before. We don’t have any companies in New York City that make ventilators. It just doesn’t exist. But I have asked our economic development corporation to attempt rapidly to answer this call with some form of local production. They have developed a plan. We will have more to say on that in the next few days as soon as the details are perfected. But this is an important part of the equation. It has never been done, but we have to see if there’s any viable way to produce ventilators locally that could help us achieve this goal.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (12:32)
Finally, the alternative devices. These devices, and the doctors will talk about this later, Dr. Katz has given me a tutorial on this, they do help for sure. They can help in several ways as part of a variety of tools we use to save lives. They are not the same as a ventilator per se, but they are still very valuable piece of the equation. We’ve secured 1,780 of these devices. We believe there’s about 3,000 in New York state reserve. We’re going to certainly work with the state to maximize the use of these items as we get ready for this very difficult week ahead.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (13:21)
Let me now talk to you about our heroes, our health care workers. Our health care workers, I think this is their toughest hour, but it’s also their finest hour. They have been going through so much the last few weeks. They’ve been extraordinarily Valiant. We’ve got to make sure we protect them. We’ve got to give them the equipment they need to do their jobs, but we also need to give them a lot more reinforcement. Look, think about it, these folks have been working night and day through very tough conditions, seeing a lot of painful realities. A lot of them have not gotten any break at all. They’ve watched as a lot of their colleagues have gotten sick and had to go offline, that just put more pressure on so many of the healthcare workers. They had to do even more work. We need to bring in additional personnel rapidly to relieve them, to support them, to rotate, give them a chance to get a break. But also because the need is just exploding in terms of the COVID cases.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (14:20)
Where did we start? Well, at the beginning of March we had about 125,000 citywide clinical staff. All our hospitals combined. Just for all of us who are not doctors, and I’m constantly asking these questions so I can understand better and I can explain them to the people at city, clinical staff, here’s the broad definition: Doctors, nurses, respiratory therapists, pharmacists, dieticians. For the purpose of dealing with COVID, that’s the core group of professions we’re talking about. Again, at the beginning of March, about 125,000 folks in our hospitals, all our hospitals, public, private, every kind, from those categories of professionals, about 20,000 of them within that larger group, about 20,000 worked in our public hospitals at health in hospitals.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (15:14)
Now here’s what we need to get through April and into May and to really help save lives all through April and May. We need to build out rapidly additional staffing and the number is really substantial and it will tell you just how tough this fight is going to be. We will need an additional 45,000 clinical staff, that means a about 7,500 who will be in our traditional hospital buildings and another 37,500 who will be staffing all the non-traditional hospitals that are being created. You see already places like the Javits Center, the Billy Jean King Tennis Center. We’re going to be in the Brooklyn Cruise Terminal. We’re going to be in hotels all over the city, whole hotels converted to hospitals. All of this is going to take staffing.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (16:07)
Now some need a lot of intensive staffing like, of course, intensive care units, but others, the hotels in particular, given the patients they’ll be handling, can get a lot done with less staffing. There’s a phrase I’ve been hearing these last days that all New Yorkers need to understand this crisis staffing, crisis protocols that we’re going to be staffing these medical facilities not in the ideal way, not in the way we all wish we could, but in the way that makes sense in battle when we have to make smart choices and smart compromises to be able to save the most lives and serve the most people.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (16:43)
We’re asking our medical personnel right now. They don’t have the ideal in terms of the kind of numbers of personnel they deserve. They don’t have all the equipment they deserve. They don’t have all the PPEs they deserve. We have been now for weeks and weeks on a crisis footing and the CDC recognizes this, that there’s one standard, if you will, for peacetime. There’s another standard for wartime. We have to make tough, tough choices and get by with less in wartime. I keep saying that everyone this is like a war that hasn’t been declared and needs to be declared by our national government because you go to one of these hospitals, what our healthcare workers are going through sure looks like a war to me.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (17:26)
They deserve the best, but they’re doing their best even with the limits that have been placed on them. We need to recognize that and acknowledge that and say to them, we know what you’re going through. We have some inkling, even though none of us are walking in your shoes, but we know you don’t being given everything you should and we’re going to try and get you more and more. But even if we do well, it’s still not perfect. But I’ll tell you something. Our healthcare workers, just like our first responders, they keep showing up. They keep doing the job no matter what. We need to get them these reinforcements. We need to do it quickly.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (18:02)
We will do it in a variety of manners. Through contracting, we’ve already in recent weeks, added an additional 3,600 medical personnel. Our goal is to double that quickly through the contracting process. This means bringing in medical personnel from all over the country under contract, a lot from this part of the country. Volunteers, we’ve been working with our own New York City Medical Reserve Corps through our Department of Health and with the state through its medical volunteer system. Together, it’s almost accounted for a thousand new medical professionals. We need to get a lot more out of that. We intend to.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (18:41)
FEMA, I’ve been talking to the White House, to FEMA, to the military since last week. Our request, I’ve said many times, I’ve asked for 1,000 nurses, 300 respiratory therapists, and 150 doctors by the end of the day Sunday. I spoke just about an hour ago to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Milley. That request is being acted on actively. I’m not going to be able to tell you at this hour exactly what the numbers will be. I expect to hear that by the end of the day. My message to all, to FEMA and everyone is we thank them for all they’ve done and we need more. I need as much as possible. That this request be fulfilled in total by Sunday. If it’s not fulfilled by Sunday, we are going to start to have challenges immediately. We have to get the maximum help from Washington and I’ll have that report soon.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (19:39)
In terms of what could happen to truly enlist all the medical personnel of our country, look, we are going to do everything the old-fashioned way, if you will. The volunteer recruitment efforts, you’re going to see an alert go out shortly asking for all medical personnel in New York City to volunteer, to sign up. I want to emphasize when we say volunteer, they will be paid for their time. I don’t want anyone to get the wrong impression. We’re asking them to break away from whatever else they’re doing, sign up now, join this effort. That alert will go out on top of all the other efforts to pull together volunteer medical personnel. But I want people to understand this is not what will get us through this crisis here in New York City, nor any place else in the country.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (20:34)
Again, we’re in the middle of a war, a war against an invisible enemy. Look, if another country were attacking United States of America, if I told you that a country was attacking United States of America, attacking our largest city and simultaneously attacking Florida, attacking Louisiana, attacking Michigan, and that thousands of Americans had died, and I said to you, “Do you think the military would be called up to fight that enemy?” I know you’d say, “Yes.” It would be so obvious. They would have been called up a long time ago, in fact. We’re dealing with an enemy that is killing thousands of our fellow Americans and a lot of people are dying who don’t need to die, who should not die, if the right medical help and equipment were there for them.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (21:21)
Well, you cannot say every state for themselves, every city for themselves, that’s not America. America is the place where we look out for each other. When there’s a disaster somewhere in America, everyone goes from all over the country to help, whether it was Katrina in New Orleans or Harvey in Houston or all the horrible hurricanes that have hit Florida, or even when we experience Sandy or even more, 9/11, people came from all over the country to help. Right now we have these wonderful ambulance paramedics and EMTs are here from around the country to help. It’s an American belief that we go to help. But usually what happens is a disaster hits one place or a few places and the whole rest of the country responds. This is something very different. We have to wake up to the reality we’re facing. This is a war with many, many fronts.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (22:13)
We cannot ask each city to try and somehow improvise while dealing with the greatest healthcare crisis in a century. We cannot ask each state to just go it alone when the only possible way of getting through this is with the full support of our federal government, our military, and the medical community of our entire country.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (22:36)
Right now there are doctors and nurses and other medical professionals all over the country going about their normal lives and are doing good work, but a lot of them could be freed up in a crisis to help save lives. They’re lives to be saved right here in New York City, so I have called for today something unprecedented, a national enlistment effort.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (22:59)
A national effort to bring all available medical personnel into the fight against the coronavirus, wherever that fight is raging the most, to recruit doctors, nurses, and medical professionals from all over the country, send them rapidly where they are needed most and then move them rapidly to the next biggest problem, the next biggest challenge. What we will do, and I know every other city and state will do the same, is we will then offer our personnel to go to the next front to help as well. That’s the only way we’re going to get through the months ahead. It’s never been done, but we know what it looks like because this country has been through war. We know who could organize it, and that’s our military because they’ve done it before.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (23:48)
Our military has the ability to put together a national structure to mobilize these medical personnel and ensure they get where they need to go rapidly and to make sure the priorities are right, but our military have not been brought into this fight in anywhere near the way they could be. Let’s be clear about that. I’m really thankful that the USNS Comfort is here. I’m really thankful for all the members of our military who are here in the city helping us, but they are few in number compared to the might of the American military.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (24:19)
When you think about our standing military, our reserves, right now there’s a very small presence in New York City. It should be a huge presence. Right now, the tens of thousands of medical personnel who are part of our military and our reserves, they have not been called up to action across the board. It’s time for the commander in chief to give the order. If we’re fighting a war, let’s act like we’re fighting a war. Right now, there’s a peacetime approach in Washington and that won’t cut it. I’m urging the president to do something that no president has had to do in our modern history, to create an enlistment effort for our medical personnel, civilians all over the country, and to ensure that our military medical personnel are not left on their bases, but are brought to the front. That’s what our military does. That’s what they believe in, going where they can save the most American lives. Well, we need them now.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (25:08)
A few more points. I mentioned to you there’s some wonderful people who’ve been helping us out, but before I go to that very positive, hopeful roll call, I do want to offer a personal condolences to our city comptroller, Scott Stringer. He lost his mom, Arlene Stringer-Cuevas. For a lot of us in public service here in New York City, well, we’ve all known Scott, many of us for many decades, and we appreciate him and the work he does for this city. But we also have known his mom. His mom did so much. A trailblazer in public life in this city, a New York City council member, a woman who often was one of the first women in the role she played, someone who served in our city government in social services.