Apr 1, 2020
Washington DC Mayor Muriel Bowser Press Conference April 1
Muriel Bowser: (00:00)
It is April 1st, which means a lot for a lot of people, that their rent is due. So I want to remind residents and landlords that residents cannot be evicted right now and late fees cannot be charged. I certainly encourage all renters to do their best to stay current on their rent and if you can’t pay today, I highly recommend that you reach out to your housing provider or check our Office of Tenant Advocate for resources available to you in working with your housing provider.
Muriel Bowser: (00:40)
Let me also say, because I know it’s on everybody’s mind. So many people in our community have lost jobs or been furloughed, or without their paychecks, or the wages that they’re accustomed to. Federal assistance and unemployment benefits will start arriving soon. So, we’re asking our housing providers to be patient. Additionally, the district’s economic recovering team is developing additional assistance programs as the emergency continues.
Muriel Bowser: (01:14)
We have posted mortgage guidance from many lenders on coronavirus.dc.gov, and we urge homeowners to visit the site and then reach out to your lender.
Muriel Bowser: (01:27)
Let me turn to data about cases in Washington. This morning we reported 91 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the district, bringing our overall total to 586. Last night, we shared data about how many first responders who went to our testing site on Monday tested positive for COVID-19. Those were five members from fire and EMS, and four NPD officers. This morning, we began reporting our data by age, group, gender, and ward. My message to residents and to the press is not to read anything into the ward breakdown. We haven’t. Our epidemiologists and DOH professionals draw no conclusions from the data as it’s reported except we don’t have any hot spots in the city. No matter which ward you live in, we need your assistance. Our message is very clear. Stay at home and stop the spread of the virus and save lives in DC, and in our nation. Last night, I think many of us saw the updated projections from the White House and they confirmed what mayors, county executives, and governors have been saying. We have not reached the peak of this epidemic. But as Dr. Fauci also said, now is the time to put our foot on the accelerator. It is time for us to stay home as much as possible.
Muriel Bowser: (03:05)
We’re staying home for our children, for our parents and grandparents and our elderly neighbors. For our first responders, doctors and nurses, police officers. For everybody who’s serving us at grocery stores and providing an essential service. So stay home for them and we know that when we stop the spread of the virus, we can get back to normal life, sooner rather than later.
Muriel Bowser: (03:31)
So with that, I want to ask Kevin Donahue, the Deputy Mayor for Public Safety to give you additional information on our public safety cluster.
Thank you. As the mayor mentioned, we did high volume testing of both fire, police, and department of corrections and some of those numbers of positives are reflective what I’m about to give you. The contact tracing of those individuals continues literally as I speak.
So, for NPD, there are now 12 sworn officers who have tested positive and 154 officers who are quarantined as a result of some contact either on or off the job. For fire EMS, the number is 21, with 177 individuals who were quarantined as a result of some contact on or off the job. Those contact numbers will change and the thing I’d also note about the first responders, that those are cumulative numbers, that we started giving out at this point almost two weeks ago. So that includes the first person to test positive, as well as the ones that were tested positive just more recently. As those first ones recover, it does not mean that all those positive individuals still have the virus and are still out. So we try to give you cumulative numbers as we work. Thank you.
I apologize. So for jail numbers, there’s still one individual who’s a staff member who’s tested positive at the DOC and there are 103 individuals who are out with quarantine, either on or off the job, from possible exposure. Then for those in their custody, the number is, who’ve tested positive is five and there are 83. Sorry, 88 individuals who are in the custody of the DOC who are either isolated or quarantined as a result of some possible exposure.
I apologize. One second. I’m sorry. There were six. You’re correct. There are six who tested positive, who are residents in the custody of the DOC and there are 88 individuals who are isolation or quarantine who are resident in their custody and there are 113 personnel at the department of corrections who are in quarantine as a result of possible exposure to COVID-19.
Muriel Bowser: (06:20)
We’ll take questions. Yes.
Speaker 1: (06:23)
Would you mind telling us about the two new deaths that occurred? When did they happen? Ages? Where did they die?
Muriel Bowser: (06:31)
We reported in today’s data, a 71 year old female who died, we believe at home and we also will update you on because we think we under reported a death on Sunday and I have to get you more details about that. 11. Yes.
They had a news conference at the jail today. One of the things that they complained about was again, inadequate supplies and adequate protection for the people who work there. Inadequate supplies for cleaning, for the people who are incarcerated there and they said that the director of the department of corrections, it’s unusual but he hasn’t been there for weeks.
Any reaction to this?
Muriel Bowser: (07:30)
I can’t comment on a lawsuit Sam.
I’m just talking about the conditions there.
Muriel Bowser: (07:36)
I thought they were talking about a lawsuit.
I understand from them, they’re not part of the lawsuit. They might be a friend of the court but it was a news conference of corrections officers, not the people who are actually suing the city.
Muriel Bowser: (07:49)
Okay. I’ll have to check back with that because with matters of litigation, we have to work very closely with our lawyers to make sure we’re responding appropriately.
Muriel Bowser: (08:01)
But I will say from reports of our cleaning and sanitation, we haven’t gotten any outlying supports from the jail that the jail isn’t being cleaned according to our standards. But that, I will assure you, is our expectation and what we will confirm with jail staff that we are following every safety and health protocol with the cleaning of the jail, that we’re following every protocol if we have a confirmed case, how to deal with that inmate, but also anybody that has closely interacted with that person. That’s why the numbers you heard about quarantine involve the very detailed tracing that we do to try to keep everybody safe.
They’re saying that the director, Quincy Booth has not been there in weeks. That he’s afraid to go to the jail. How do you react to that.
Muriel Bowser: (08:57)
I’m not going to react to any outlandish statements like that. What else do you?
Does it surprise you if he hasn’t been…
there for weeks?
Muriel Bowser: (09:05)
Well, like I said, I’m not going to react to those statements. Yes?
So you’ve said that the 71-year-old woman died at home. That sounds to me like you’ve had four people die at home out of the 11. Does that concern you that people are not seeking medical care?
Muriel Bowser: (09:25)
As we stated very clearly, we want everybody to be reaching out to their healthcare providers to discuss any symptoms, or concerns that they have with their health. It’d be very difficult for me to stay or any of us to say standing here, what happened, what the cases were. That’s why people have to reach out to their providers and get direction from their providers about what to do.
I also noticed on your hospital data that less than half of the available ventilators in the city at these hospitals are not in use. So it sounds to me like there’s plenty of ventilators right now. Have you asked FEMA for a number of ventilators to add to that number and where does that stand?
Muriel Bowser: (10:18)
We have asked FEMA, as part of our regular request. I also, and Director Rodriguez has regular conversations with FEMA on a daily basis, sometimes many times a day. I spoke directly with our administrator following a White House call about our needs. And the special needs, as I see it for the National Capital Region, not only FEMA’s responsibility, but our leader’s responsibility to ensure that the nation’s Capital has everything that it needs.
Muriel Bowser: (10:53)
I share the concerns that you’ve heard from governors and mayors across the city that a national distribution according to need for each locality is what’s in order. We also reported last week that we drew down contingency funds to purchase ventilators and that order is outside of the FEMA supply chain.
But if I could follow up, has FEMA delivered any ventilators to the city so far?
Muriel Bowser: (11:23)
I don’t think so far.
Muriel Bowser: (11:26)
Speaker 3: (11:27)
Going back to that 71-year-old women who you believe died at home? Was she tested in the district? Is she included in the districts tally of new cases?
Muriel Bowser: (11:34)
I’ll have to ask Dr. Nesbitt if she knows that answer to that question.
Dr. Nesbitt: (11:39)
Good morning. The 71-year-old woman who we’ve recently learned has died, I want to make sure that we extend condolences to her family. And to all of the other residents and families who are grieving the loss of a loved one related to COVID-19 and for those families who have members who are currently recovery and everyone who will be impacted by COVID-19. Based on what we know at this point, the individual was not previously tested and we learned of their COVID status at the time of death.
Dr. Nesbitt: (12:12)
It’s really important that we underscore the mayors point that we want to make sure the individuals are seeking healthcare advice from their healthcare provider. We want to make sure we underscore the importance of everyone staying at home. It’s the best thing that we can do to reduce the spread of transmission of COVID-19. However, any individual who is demonstrating a sign or symptom of COVID-19, or not in their usual state of health should call their healthcare provider and get advice as to what should be done.
Dr. Nesbitt: (12:45)
We want to make sure that we don’t have individuals who are at home not feeling well and not seeking the healthcare attention that they should be receiving at this time. Some of our children may be presenting with atypical symptoms of COVID-19 that are not the typical symptoms that we see of fever, cough and shortness of breath. And we also know that some of our elderly individuals who have been diagnosed may also have atypical symptoms.
Dr. Nesbitt: (13:12)
In children, we may see loss of appetite as one of the presenting symptoms. And in the elderly they may present more commonly with fatigue other than fever, cough and shortness of breath. So it’s critically important that we have people calling their healthcare provider and getting advice as to what to do, in addition to making sure they’re doing those most important things of staying at home at this critically important time.
Speaker 3: (13:38)
Just to follow up, Dr. Nesbitt, have any medical professionals died in the districts tally of the 11? Do any of those include medical professionals?
Dr. Nesbitt: (13:45)
Our current investigations of these cases have not identified any healthcare professionals.
Speaker 4: (13:53)
I think it was Kevin who talked about the ramped up testing of first responders over the past couple of days. Can you tell us first, what is the protocol for which first responders get tested? Is it first responders who are symptomatic, or is it first responders who have exposure?
Dr. Nesbitt: (14:13)
At this time we’re focusing on our priority groups, which include health care workers and our first responders who are demonstrating symptoms. So the individuals who were tested on Monday would focus on first responders who reported having symptoms.
Speaker 4: (14:27)
And so what about first responders who feel that they’ve had a high risk exposure? Are they able to be tested?
Dr. Nesbitt: (14:34)
Those individuals are under quarantine for their incubation period and will not be determined to have testing at this time. Other reason beyond that is that it will not impact their quarantine period. And so they are under active monitoring for the determination of the development of symptoms.
Speaker 4: (14:54)
If I could follow up.
Dr. Nesbitt: (14:55)
Speaker 4: (14:55)
If they tested negative, wouldn’t that certainly reduce their quarantine time?
Dr. Nesbitt: (14:59)
It would not.
Speaker 4: (15:00)
Dr. Nesbitt: (15:01)
Because individuals may develop symptoms and we would not want to hasten their return to work.
Speaker 4: (15:06)
And so are you saying that only people who are symptomatic should get tested?
Dr. Nesbitt: (15:12)
We are saying that is our recommendation at this time is that individuals who fall into our priority groups one and two who have symptoms, or who we are recommending for testing, including the healthcare workers and first responders.
Speaker 4: (15:27)
If I could just follow up on first responders. And maybe it’s a question for the deputy mayor, but how are first responders, firefighters and police officers being deployed? Are they still rotating engine companies and whatnot, or are they assigned to specific units to reduce the possibility of spread?
They are at this time. As you know, fire, EMS has to fill a certain number of seats each day. They’re making ample use of overtime to do that. The department has tried to minimize the movement between engines, but I know that is something we continue to look at as we do more testing and as the numbers of individuals we need to quarantine changes.
Follow up on that either the doctor, or Kevin. So I understand there was a long line of police officers waiting to get into their district stations today, because they were getting their temperatures taken. Now it’s my understanding that that was done last week by FEMS, why did it just start today with NPD and what is the threshold to send someone home as far as the temperature is concerned?
Dr. Nesbitt: (16:43)
So it is common to recommend that healthcare professionals and first responders have screenings before the beginning of their shift, which includes an active screening for temperatures, as well as signs and symptoms of COVID-19. That screening process can begin on a rolled out basis depending on the risk in a certain population and a risk amongst certain employees.
Dr. Nesbitt: (17:06)
Many of our healthcare facilities began that type of active screening, including our hospitals and our skilled nursing facilities, long term care facilities several weeks ago. We implemented it at FEMS a couple of weeks ago as well, and the implementing it at NPD was the next step. We’re also looking at the necessity of implementing at essential businesses as well.
All right. I also heard a criticism, I guess Kevin can answer this, that some of the police cars that are rotated within officers, that they’re concerned that they’re getting in and out of these cars, and several officers are using the same car. Are these cars being a deconned on a regular basis. And is there a concern with that?
That’s something that I would want to have NPD respond directly about the specific protocol they have in place when they change. As you know, Paul, we’re in a unprecedented…
-pandemic and as the department identifies ways to keep its members safe, it will Institute changes to what it does and for that specific protocol I really want to make sure NPV gives you the right information.
Speaker 6: (18:15)
I’m hearing reports of large numbers of DOES, Department of Employment Services employees calling out of work. Is there any truth to that? Can you speak to any concerns around that and when would claimants for unemployment be receiving their first check?
Muriel Bowser: (18:39)
We certainly are concerned about having a full compliment of essential employees. The Department of Employment Services is very critical in that they are one of the agencies that’s just been crushed with calls and service. We will have a more fulsome report out from our DOES director to talk about, one day this week probably, to talk about what people can expect in terms of when payments will start. Yes sir.
Yes, mayor, I’ve got a question on employment services as well, but some of the messages that you were talking about, the error messages last week are still error messages this week.
Muriel Bowser: (19:27)
I explained very fully yesterday about the changes that we need to make in the system, which are obviously unexpected. They’ve changed during the emergency piece of legislation. We’ve worked very closely with our vendor to make these changes to the computer system, which is a very old system and we are hopeful that that change will happen in the coming days.
Mayor, I want to ask two questions for Channel 9, since we’re pooled today they sent the questions to us. Mayor Bowser, do you believe the US Postal Service should be scaling back service given that employees in mail sorting facilities are in very close proximity to each other and postal workers are in very close contact with members of the public? There’s already been one confirmed COVIT-19 case at the Brentwood postal center in Northeast.
Muriel Bowser: (20:22)
I actually haven’t been briefed on the post office operations yet, Sam, so I will want to learn more. We would of course expect that that proper conditions are being offered at the post office. According to our order postal service is essential work.
Second Channel 9 question Mayor Bowser, do you believe the federal government is doing enough to keep its non-essential employees and contractors at home?
Muriel Bowser: (20:54)
I don’t. I think that the word went out in the capital region. Give me that question again. For non-essential people, are they a teleworking, is that the question?
Is the federal government is doing enough to keep its non-essential employees and contractors at home?
Muriel Bowser: (21:10)
Well, certainly if people want to give us feedback about the types of work that’s being done that they don’t believe is essential, I am more than happy to have that conversation with OPM and our contacts in the federal government. The essential work applies to them too, and just like we believe all of the work that local governments do is essential, but some of it can be done remotely, and that’s what we would call on the feds to do and their contractors to do. Yes.
Speaker 7: (21:46)
Question about the possible folks at DOES calling out sick. [inaudible 00:21:55]. Are you seeing people calling out sick?
Muriel Bowser: (21:57)
People are calling out sick, yes.
Speaker 7: (21:59)
But in large numbers?
Muriel Bowser: (22:00)
Yes. People are calling out sick across the government.
Speaker 7: (22:03)
But are they calling out to sick in large numbers in that department, and if so how is affecting-
Muriel Bowser: (22:07)
It’s relative, okay. It’s a relative. It’s not a huge operation at DOES, and so any number of people calling out when you have had historic call volume is going to affect your ability to deal with those calls. Now having said that, if every person was there every second of their tour, we would still be crushed by call volume. So we are examining ways to boost the number of people who can answer calls. That includes a couple of contracts, one implemented, one on the way and we’re developing some other ideas.
Speaker 7: (22:50)
[inaudible 00:22:50] So we’ve heard that a number of patients have tested positive. So the question is, we’ve heard that they were in the Competency Restoration Unit where people go-
Muriel Bowser: (22:59)
You have to speak up. I can’t hear you.
Speaker 7: (23:02)
So the patients at St. Elizabeth, we heard that some cases were in the Competency Restoration Unit where they go for psych treatment to see if they will be competent enough to stand trial. So my question is can the city safely release any of those folks and decrease the St. Elizabeth population
Muriel Bowser: (23:21)
I can’t speak to you with any detail about… Let me see if I have the number of confirmed folks there. I think I still have a positive of one at St. Elizabeth’s.
Speaker 7: (23:52)
A follow-up question if you don’t mind. We’re hearing that the St. Elizabeth CEO reached out to DC officials asking for tests and haven’t been able to get anyone on the phone.
Muriel Bowser: (24:09)
Speaker 7: (24:19)
The Saint Elizabeth CEO hasn’t been able to get them or hasn’t been able to get anyone on the phone.
Muriel Bowser: (24:19)
The St. Elizabeth CEO works for DC government and he has a chain and I haven’t heard that. Yes.
Speaker 8: (24:30)
[inaudible 00:24:30] grants deadline at noon today. Any chance you’re going to extend that again?
Muriel Bowser: (24:35)
Speaker 8: (24:35)
Do you know how many have applied for [crosstalk 00:24:40]?
Muriel Bowser: (24:41)
I think we’re over 6,000, over 6,000, yes.
Speaker 8: (24:45)
That’s the $25,000?
Muriel Bowser: (24:47)
Speaker 8: (24:49)
Do you have enough money to cover that?
Muriel Bowser: (24:51)
We have $25 million.
Speaker 8: (24:52)
Is that enough?
Muriel Bowser: (24:55)
As I’ve said, the need will out pace the funding available. None of those applications have been evaluated at this point. So the evaluation period will start after the application deadline.
The homeless population, can you tell us of the positive test cases, how many are homeless? And then I have a follow up to that.
Muriel Bowser: (25:25)
We have five confirmed positive cases in 49 people in the quarantine.
My follow up is about quarantine. Have you had to, are you making plans to FD-12 people homeless people to compel them to quarantine? I’m hearing that there are people at CCNB who may have been exposed, who were refusing to quarantine. Are you considering or has the city used FD-12 to compel homeless people to quarantine?
Muriel Bowser: (25:59)
I don’t believe that we have, but it is certainly a tool at our disposal which would be, as is the case every day, not something that any city official would want to engage.
Can I just ask about that? Does FD-12 cover this?
Muriel Bowser: (26:18)
I don’t know the answer to that off the cuff Mark, can I ask our team to respond to that? We have our human services branch here who can respond to that. It’s certainly a legal question that deserves a precise response. Yes.
Speaker 9: (26:36)
I have two questions to make sure we’re clear on the numbers. Four of the 11 people who’ve died in the city have died at home. Clear on that?
Muriel Bowser: (26:46)
I’m not, but I will get that confirmation for you.
Speaker 9: (26:49)
Second question. There was a release from the DC Nurses Association. They said that Howard University hospital, the nurse died from coronavirus last Friday. The nurse may live in Maryland or Virginia, and it may not be in the District’s official count but that-
Speaker 10: (27:03)
-Dr. [Inaudible 00:27:03] mentioned no medical personnel have died. Can you respond to that? I mean, they’re saying [inaudible 00:27:10]
Muriel Bowser: (27:13)
I don’t know that. If the nurse didn’t live in the district, we wouldn’t be able to confirm that.
Muriel Bowser: (27:19)
I couldn’t. I don’t.
Speaker 10: (27:23)
You see you’re having to connect even more strict restrictions on movement, and closures, and stay-at-home orders and where we are right now. Given that, as you said, we have not seen the peak of this yet, have we seen the peak of restrictions?
Muriel Bowser: (27:43)
We constantly evaluate adherence to our essential business and activity and that’s all I can say about that Mark. The only other change would be whether a business or location had to come off of the essential business or activity list.
Speaker 10: (28:09)
Yeah. Just ask me about a recreation question that I’ve been getting on social media. You talked about basketball and group activities like that, and you may have mentioned tennis, but can two people go out and play tennis right now? Or is that…
Muriel Bowser: (28:20)
I believe that we’ve cut off access to all of our parks and recreation facilities. Yes, sir.
Speaker 11: (28:34)
[inaudible 00:28:34] association, they’re asking that we test all healthcare personnel who have been exposed to patients and staff. The test be initiated immediately and the results be sent out expeditiously. Any response to that as to whether the district is supposed to test all hospital personnel who have been exposed to COVID-19?
Muriel Bowser: (28:55)
Well, I think that all of the hospital providers are testing their personnel, and they have the ability, at least a few of them, to also not only take the specimens but do the test on site.
Muriel Bowser: (29:16)
Okay. Thank you everybody. Last question? Okay.
Speaker 10: (29:20)
I’m got to ask you if you can elaborate a little bit in terms of what you meant when you told the lawmakers on Monday that nobody wants us to clear out the jail, but people who were serving sentences that they’ve earned, let’s keep that in mind. And a large portion of the inmates in jail, pre-trial stage, haven’t been found guilty. So would you mind elaborating what you meant by that comment?
Muriel Bowser: (29:42)
What I meant by it is that we have people in jail who have been sent there by a judge and our responsibility is to make sure that everybody there is being treated fairly, constitutionally, and we’re following all of our health protocols, and that’s exactly what we’re doing.
Speaker 10: (30:03)
Any of them early, I mean the council gave you the ability to, I guess, increase good time. Is any of that happening? Has anybody gotten out of jail early because of the situation?
Out of the now 1500 or so people at the DC jail, lower than what I said in prior days, there’s about 80 people that there’s any discretion at all on the part that good time credits apply for. These are what’s called sentence misdemeanants. The legislation that the council passed about two weeks ago doubled the credits for essentially good time credits. That has, when it first was passed, dropped that population by about 20. Today, the first of the month, they apply again. It’ll drop by about 25 more. We’ve seen an almost 50% decrease just in that population to the use of the good time credits.
But I do want to give context. The mayor’s point that there’s sometimes an assumption that the city has authority to release people. People are in jail at the direction of a judge or the US Marshall Service or the Bureau of Prisons. The sentence misdemeanants, for whom represent a small population, good time credits apply to. We’ve seen a reduction there. I’ll highlight it, as I have done before, but the thing that we control the most as a city is the policies and practices of our police department in trying to influence the inflow of people into the jail, and that has profoundly changed since the emergence of this pandemic.
Speaker 13: (31:39)
Have you released anybody from the jail because of the policy since this started?
Yes. The 80 or so sentenced misdemeanants for whom good time credits apply. When it first passed, there were about 20 that got released just based on the passage. The first of the month, there’s a new calculation of those credits. Today’s the first of the month. About 25 more will be released today as the basis of the application of this credit. So, do you see us following the law? It applies to a relatively small group, but they’re applying it as aggressively as the law allows them to.
Speaker 13: (32:13)
45 have been released.
Approximately 45 had been released.
Muriel Bowser: (32:23)
Yes. This is the actual last question.
Speaker 13: (32:28)
Do you believe that, when you’re having conversations with the DC council, either by phone conference or video conference, however you guys are getting together, that those conversations and meetings are comporting to the open meeting laws, and can press be allowed to listen in when you were on the phone with a forum of the DC council as called for by the open meetings law?
Muriel Bowser: (32:50)
Well, the council requested daily briefings for us, which we’re happy to comply with. We don’t think that we have any violations of the open meetings law, but I’m certainly happy-
Speaker 13: (33:06)
Can the press listen in? Can we get that call in number?
Muriel Bowser: (33:09)
I don’t have a problem with the press listening to anything. We report out every day. You probably asked me 15 questions in the last 30 minutes. We’re here to answer your questions. There may be occasions where we have to have a closed meeting, and then if that’s the case, I typically would ask the chairman of the council for a closed meeting,
Speaker 13: (33:37)
You would have to go through the procedures of the council voting just like they were for any other…
Muriel Bowser: (33:40)
He’ll have to speak to what their rules are, but if there was an occasion that we had needed a closed meeting, we would say so. And as is, this press conference, the calls that we have with the community and any briefing that we provide to the council, it is information that we know can be shared publicly. If it is the case that we have to, as I mentioned, have a closed briefing with the council I’ll request that.
Muriel Bowser: (34:12)