NYC Mayor de Blasio on Coronavirus Preparedness
New York City Strong news – New York, NY: Office of the Mayor reports 2.26.2020.
Transcript on Coronavirus Preparedness.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: On behalf of the City of New York, I want to respond to the Centers for Disease Control warning that was issued yesterday and I want to commend the CDC for acknowledging the reality and saying very clearly that it’s not a question of if, but when the coronavirus affects the United States in a much more profound manner. I welcome that acknowledgement by the CDC and the federal government. I will say very plainly that on January 24th with my colleagues, I made the same exact statement about the City of New York. So, it has been clear for weeks now that was not a question of if, but when it is important that the federal government is accepting that reality and acting more aggressively and I’m going to talk about things I think need to be done additionally by our federal partners to address this crisis.
No one should take the coronavirus situation lightly. In fact, I think the problem we’re seeing in many countries of the world is that there was not an aggressive approach and there was not transparency and there was not a willingness to fully acknowledge the danger. Here in New York City, we took the exact opposite approach. We acknowledged it from day one in a very open manner that allowed us to communicate with our people about what they needed to do. I want to thank New Yorkers. New Yorkers heard the instructions that were offered by our public health officials and they acted on them and our focus right now is on addressing this crisis and ending it, but when the story is told later, New Yorkers will prove that they once again showed strength and resiliency by following through and doing exactly what they need to do to protect themselves and their families and their neighbors. That’s part of why we have the situation in this city that we have today, which is clearly better than many other places.
The precautions that were put in place back in January, including in our public health system, our schools, working with our federal colleagues at the airports, have had a very positive effect even against the backdrop of a major, major crisis. So, first information that I want to update you on, on the City of New York – as of this hour, there are no confirmed cases of coronavirus in the City of New York. Every single potential case that was tested came back negative and that is a very good thing. That does not reduce our vigilance one iota. We’re in a state of high vigilance, high readiness – all elements of the City government to address this crisis.
We all ask ourselves the question after seeing the CDC guidance yesterday, what would we be able to do if this became a much deeper crisis? What kind of capacity could the city of New York bring to bear immediately want to give you a couple of updates? Right now we have 1200 hospital beds that we can make available immediately for any individual who is in the testing process or who tests positive and needs isolation in a hospital setting, 1200 beds that can be brought online immediately. That is a very, very substantial capacity given what we’re seeing playing out even in some of the countries that are dealing with this crisis in a much deeper manner. Already our public health officials have distributed 1.5 million masks in the City of New York. That is a very good start, but we need more. We have requests out for an additional minimum of 300,000 surgical masks to guarantee that these arrive in New York City promptly. We will need federal assistance, so I’m calling on the federal government to help us and all other localities to get the masks we need. Working with the private sector providers.
Now, we need the CDC to help us to help ourselves. Not just New York City, but cities all over the country. We have very advanced laboratory facilities as a part of our Department of Health. Other cities do as well. These facilities are being under-utilized by the CDC. We’ve made this point now for weeks and weeks. There has been an honest effort between CDC and city, state to try and speed up our ability to do this local testing, but more can and should be done immediately. As our Health Commissioner, Dr. Oxiris Barbot and I were talking about, what’s the simplest way to explain this? It’s obviously technical. It’s obviously complex, how the testing occurs, so I’m going to use very plain simple human English. Right now the CDC posture is they are letting perfect be the enemy of good. We believe that if they would empower local laboratories, we could work with them to do high quality testing faster. That will allow us to keep staying ahead of the situation. We want to be their partners, but we need more flexibility. We also call upon the CDC to add to its testing regimen for travelers. Right now it is too narrowly focused on travelers coming out of China. We think that has to be expanded to any traveler coming from a country that’s seen a major surge in cases. We think that needs to be expanded to any country that now has a travel warning attached to it by the United States government. So, I am urging the CDC and the federal government to add the testing protocol upon entry for visitors from Hong Kong, Iran, Italy, Japan, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan, and Thailand. If these steps are taken, I believe it will help us to respond more quickly. It will help all of us to identify cases more effectively and really limit the spread of this epidemic.
Before I close, I’ll note some of those who are with me and we will turn your questions, but before I do, thank you. The most important information that has been provided on this situation was the information that was provided by all of us a month ago and I want to go back to it. I know everyone rightfully is trying to get new information, deal with new realities, but stay with the basics first. If someone has the symptoms and a nexus to one of the countries deeply affected, meaning they were there themselves or they are living in the same home as someone who was there or in constant contact with someone who was there and they have any of those identifiable symptoms they need to get to health care immediately. That is what has been working in New York City. We did have a number of people who matched that definition and they consistently went and got health care quickly. They were therefore isolated from everyone else productively. The testing happened quickly. The testing came back negative. So, the real simple basics, if you have symptoms that seem like a flu and there’s any possibility of a nexus to travel to those countries or anyone who’s been to those countries that’s close to you in your life, get to a doctor immediately. Now, a very fair question. What if someone doesn’t speak English? What if someone doesn’t have a primary care doctor? What if someone is not able themselves, physical disability or some other reason, to navigate the process? All that is necessary is for someone to call 3-1-1. The person themselves or anybody in their lives can call 3-1-1 and if they cannot get to a doctor immediately we will get a doctor to them. It’s as simple as that. There is no filter here. There’s no delay. Anybody needs help, just has to pick up the phone and they will get help. And the classic obvious advice, better safe than sorry; if you may have it, if you’re worried you might have it, act like you do have it. Do not delay. Do not explain it away. Do not hesitate. Better safe than sorry.
Finally, and I’ll offer a couple of sentences in Spanish, but just to say New Yorkers, I have often said, do not scare easily, do not get intimidated, do not panic. We’ve been up against many, many things. We’ve been up against global health crises, terror attacks, the greatest terror attack in the history of this country against our people. We’ve been up against any number of crises. New Yorkers are very, very consistent. They’re tough, resolute. They help each other. They know how to deal with pretty much anything. So I’m going to ask everyone who is listening to me right now and all my colleagues in the media, this is not the time to sow panic. This is the time to share information and help people understand this can be dealt with. The places that have the problem are the places that did not deal with reality, that were not honest and open, that did not help people understand what to do, that did not make help available easily. We’re doing the exact opposite here in New York City. We have the greatest public health capacity of anywhere in this country and we’re using it. So there is not a single reason for panic. There’s a reason for people to focus and follow through on the basics and if we do that, we will all be safe.
In Spanish –
[Mayor de Blasio speaks in Spanish]
As I said, want to thank my colleagues who have been at the forefront of addressing this crisis. Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services, Dr. Raul Perea-Henze; Deputy Mayor for Operations Laura Anglin; Dr. Oxiris Barbot, our Health Commissioner; Deanne Criswell, our Emergency Management Commissioner; Lorraine Cortez-Vasquez, our Aging Commissioner. Representing the DOE, Chief Operating Officer Ursulina Ramirez; Dr. Machelle Allen, Senior VP, Chief Medical Officer at New York City Health and Hospitals. I want to thank everyone who’s here from FDNY, OMB, all the other agencies that are involved in addressing the response. Also want to thank our elected officials who are here and have been very, very supportive and are spreading important information. Manhattan Borough President, Gale Brewer, the chair of the Committee on Aging in the City Council, Council Member, Margaret Chin, chair of Committee on Health, Council Member Mark Levine, Chair of the Committee on Hospitals, Council Member Carlina Rivera. Thank you to all for your partnership as we address this crisis.
With that turn to questions from the media. Yes?
Question: Mr. Mayor, you talked about wanting more flexibility from the federal government in terms of he believes local labs to out. Can you just say like what is that flexibility, what don’t you have now? What do you need to do that?
Mayor: Dr. Perea-Henze, Dr. Barbot will speak to that.
Commissioner Oxiris Barbot, Department of Health and Mental Hygiene: So, right now, there is a test that they are finalizing and the very last step is what’s limiting our ability to do that test here in the city. And we would like the CDC to allow us to partner with them on finalizing that last step so that we can make that test widely available and get results as quickly as possible for New Yorkers.
Mayor: I’m going to give you my editorial comment and my health colleagues can – I think the CDC is trying very hard to address this crisis. I give them credit for that. I think the phrase I used earlier, don’t let perfect be the enemy of good. We believe in a crisis of this magnitude that decentralizing the approach and helping localities that have vast capacity, this is the finest public health apparatus in America right here, you know, get the ball to the Department of Health, right? You know, just focus on where you can get more capacity to speed up the response. So I would argue it is a matter of them being a little more creative, little more flexible to help us do the most we can do. There’s real work that has to be done between them, but I think it’s been held a little too close. So then a little bit too much business as usual. And this is not a business as usual situation. Yeah.
Question: I wanted to ask about the masks, because I saw earlier this week the OEM that put in an order for additional masks, was it a company in New Jersey. Could you explain a little bit of the federal government’s role in this? Is it just delivering them? Are they a hindrance in that or is it true that they haven’t—
Mayor: I’m going to start and turn to Deanne. Again, I’ll be the guy who gives the simple, hopefully common sense answers and my colleagues will give them more erudite answers. The problem right now, and you’re seeing it around the world is everyone’s competing for masks. So the government actually has to step in. This is what a government supposed to do and make sure that they are maximally produced and distributed quickly. So we need 300,000. If normal private sector channels are going to get them to us promptly, that’s great. But I don’t feel confident of that in this environment, so I’m asking the federal government to actually step in and create some coordination here and some command and control to make sure these masks get where they need to be.
Do you want to add?
Commissioner Deanne Criswell, Office of Emergency Management: Yeah, the only thing that I would add to that is yes we did put in the request for masks, but everybody’s putting in requests. So there’s just a long waiting list and the only way to fulfill that is by the federal government. They have means where they can enact the Defense Production Act and get people to produce these more quickly.
Mayor: I want you to expand on that just for a second. Deanne was a senior official at FEMA, so she understands what the federal government is capable of doing. Could you speak to how that works?
Commissioner Criswell: Yeah. The Defense Production Act allows the federal government to authorize or enforce manufacturers to produce things in a priority and move things down below that priority levels so that way they can prioritize producing the personal protective equipment that we need for this crisis and put other things that are more routine down at a lower level of priority.
Mayor: Literally they have to, in an emergency, the private company has to change what it is doing. You want to finish?
Question: [Inaudible] these masks are for? Are they for health care responders, are they for first responders?
Commissioner Criswell: The masks would be for our health care professionals and our first responders.
Mayor: Hold on, hold on, let it get around a little bit.
Question: For schools, what advice are you giving schools?
Mayor: We’ve now done two rounds of information to parents and obviously to the school personnel. We’re doing another one today. Stay on the basics here. Anyone with symptoms and that nexus needs to get care immediately. Again, and I credit everyone – and I gave you guys an editorial view earlier about help us not – help us avoid panic and help us get out information in the earlier weeks. One of the good things that happened is you all spread that common-sense information and people actually listened. So, thank you. The fact is that we’ve seen – Raul, seven tested cases?
Deputy Mayor Raul Perea-Henze, Health and Human Services: Seven total –
Mayor: Seven total now in over a month, almost five weeks, all negative, which means people are doing what they’re supposed to be doing. So, we want keep telling parents, keep telling school personnel – get tested immediately. That is the ballgame. So, we’re continuing to pump out that message.
Question: Just a follow-up – are there nurses in schools or is it teachers that are observing children or administrators observing children?
Mayor: Again, I want to start in the home. The most important thing is the people, and the people have been responding. So, I want to just – I understand everyone’s going to think about what can the government do, what can officials do, but I want to – this is a grassroots solution first. We also have an amazing grassroots health care world in New York City – nonprofit organizations community-based clinics, everyone’s in this together, a great deal coordination. Every New Yorker needs to take responsibility. So, if you have a symptom and you have that nexus, if your child does, act. Now, of course, the instruction to our educators, and I’ll start and if our chief operating officer wants to add anything, jump in – to all educators, to school personnel of all kinds, to medical personnel in schools, nurses in schools – if they see a child with symptoms, of course, they’re going to immediately investigate whether that’s [inaudible] nexus, of course they’re going to immediately get them to further care. That’s the instruction we’re giving.
Who has not gone? Go ahead.
Mayor: To convince?
Question: To convince the immigrant communities.
Mayor: Again, we are very satisfied so far that immigrant communities are seeking help. We’ve had – every community, of course, matters, every community has been being communicated with. A lot of this has revolved obviously in the early weeks around the Chinese community. There’s been tremendous communication, tremendous leadership by Chinese community leaders, elected officials like Margaret Chin and many others, community-based leaders – everyone’s doing exactly what we need them to do to make sure people know what to do. The follow through is obvious, the facts on the ground after five weeks show that everyone’s actually doing what they’re supposed to do. We want them to keep doing it.
Question: A little more clarity [inaudible] cpartner with the CDC to do in terms of the test. Is it developing the test with the final –
Deputy Mayor Perea-Henze: Let me just make it very, very simple. Right now, they’re waiting to do all the steps before they send us the testing. What we are asking for is for them to send us what they have so we can partner with to finish the testing.
Question: So you would help develop the test?
Deputy Mayor Perea-Henze: Absolutely.
Mayor: We can be their pure partners. They’re acting a little too siloed, if you will. They’re keeping everything close in the CDC, but they can’t do it as fast as we need. We should be empowered, deputized to simply be their partners to do the testing.
Commissioner Barbot: I would clarify that the test has already been developed. They’re finalizing validation steps and we want to be partners in that final validation step.
Mayor: Can you say just –
Mayor: I’m sorry. Hold on. Hold on – dude, dude, dude, excuse me. I said hold on a moment, could you respect that? That’s really not cool. This is a very serious matter. Could you help everyone understand what a validation step is? It’s not a word that most people are used to.
Commissioner Barbot: It means that there are specific procedures in place to make sure that every time that test is run, you can be assured of the same level of accuracy so that it’s replicable.
Mayor: Okay. Go ahead.
Question: Are you saying you don’t have the test here.
Commissioner Barbot: Correct. We don’t have the authorization to do the test here. We have to rely on the CDC.
Question: So, just a quick follow-up on that. Do you have the operation authorization to do the first few steps of the test or none of the test?
Commissioner Barbot: No. So, we had initially gotten the go-ahead to run the test, and then there were issues found on the third and final step, and so CDC found that there were issues with a third batch – third component of the complete assay that needed to be run. And so, that’s the part that needs to be rerun and that’s the part that’s holding up our ability to run it here locally.
Question: An element of the test itself?
Mayor: I’m going to stop the questioning on this narrow point. Hold on, hold on. We will do a follow-up immediately after this – technical briefing to make sure everyone understands. We should not ask every – you know, I understand that the will for clear information, but this is not going to be productive to keep trying to drill down on something until we can make it exactly plain. Let’s talk about other matters. You will get that answer very quickly. Who has not gone? Hold on. Who has not gone?
Question: Mayor, is New York City putting up people who are self-quarantined [inaudible] are being tested for coronavirus up at hotels?
Mayor: Anyone that needs to be quarantined, we’ll quarantine.
Question: Is there anybody in that hotel right now?
Deputy Mayor Perea-Henze: We have capacity to have people in quarantine. We started by having three, the last one left yesterday I believe. And so, right now, there are zero people in quarantine.
Question: [Inaudible] in the hospitals.
Deputy Mayor Perea-Henze: They were in the hospital and the hotel for observation.
Question: Which hotel?
Mayor: Again, we’re not going to get into that.
Go ahead. Back there.
Commissioner Barbot: We are not recommending the use of masks. There’s a place in a time to use masks. We recommend individuals who may be symptomatic and seeking medical care to wear masks so that when they go to the doctor’s office and they end up having either the flu or coronavirus, they don’t inadvertently infect other people. But for everyday New Yorkers, there’s no need to use a mask. We need to remember what we know works and what works is washing your hands frequently, covering your mouth and your nose when you cough and you sneeze, and remembering, as the Mayor said, if you’ve traveled to China and now more broadly to countries that have community person-to-person spread and you’re feeling symptomatic to call your doctor.
Mayor: Who has not gone?
Question: Do you see any relevance with this experience connected to the ongoing debate for universal health care?
Mayor: I don’t want to get into a bigger policy discussion. The obvious matter is, the more health care people get, the less likelihood that something like this gets out of hand. But that’s a discussion for another day.
Question: Thank you, sir. The President yesterday says the coronavirus situation nationally is under control and it will go away and the $2.5 billion [inaudible] should be enough. He’s going to make additional comments later today. Is there any message you feel the federal government needs to know based on our experience?
Mayor: Yeah. I think the honest assessment I would give you is, the federal government’s been kind of a mixed bag on this. There are some things I think they’ve done very, very well. I think they were smart to act at the airports, originally, they were smart to do the travel restrictions. I think it was not smart to suggest there was an end in sight to a disease that literally we still know – medical science does not understand this disease. They literally don’t understand it, it’s so new. They don’t have a cure. They don’t have a vaccine. It is not particularly responsible to suggest there’s an end date to a brand new global health crisis. So, that’s not helpful. I think having – and again, you know, I can disagree with the President on politics, but, in a moment like this, we are all wearing the same uniform. We all have to address this crisis. So, I think the administration did some very good things, but I think they’re sending a lot of mixed messages and they should stop. They should just get a one page. It should be, this is going to be with us for a long time until further notice. We all have to work together. Localities have to be empowered. Localities, ultimately, have to be reimbursed or they’re not going to be able to do this – we’re going to run out of money real quick. We should be much more stringent on the travel restrictions in light of the realities we see in the countries I mentioned. The CDC should play a more aggressive role in terms of stepping in where there are gaps, clearly things like the mask situation needs federal – and with FEMA, etcetera – it needs federal intervention at this point. So, I think we have a mixed bag. On the money issue, it’s a no brainer. We’re dealing with an unprecedented global health crisis. If the minority leader in the Senate, who I have tremendous respect for, is saying – who knows a whole lot about the federal government over decades and decades – and if he’s saying $8 billion, no one should be skimping at a moment like this. Get the money going so we can solve the problem. I’d say that the administration would be better served to maximize rather than minimize in the middle of a crisis.
Question: Question for you, Mr. Mayor. I need clarification on the number of hospital beds. You said that you have 1,200 –
Question: Now, is this 1,200 additional hospital beds to what already exists?
Mayor: 1,200 that if needed can be used to address coronavirus without compromising our other health care services. Meaning, we can work strategically with our vast public health system and our private partners to free up 1,200 beds in the event of an emergency. We can do that.
Question: [Inaudible] still take care of other people –
Mayor: That’s absolutely the right question. I thank you for the question. That’s exactly the question – great minds think alike, I asked the exact same question. We obviously do not want to rob Peter to pay Paul. It is a well-known fact, there’s been a surplus of hospital beds over recent decades in New York City, so this is not entirely a newsflash. But the point is, when we say we’re going to maximize and coordinate how beds are used, you know, prioritize the greatest need, really be agile about how we use them, that’s a number we can get to in real time.
Question: Mr. Mayor, if those 1,200 beds fill up, what’s your plan then?
Mayor: We are – at this point, we have zero need in New York City. It’s a little hard to articulate to you that I am deadly serious about a global health catastrophe, while simultaneously able to tell you that it has not existed in New York City at this hour, although I’m 100 percent certain you will see it. But I don’t need to go from zero to 1,200 in a minute. We’ve got a long time to ramp up if we ever had anything like that. So, the capacity we have right now is outstanding given the challenge we’re facing right now.
Commissioner Barbot: If I could just sort of add that, at this point in time, even though we are hearing most about the number of individuals that have died and the number of individuals that have been severely ill in China, what we are seeing in other transmission in other countries leads us to believe that in other countries the severity is not as bad as we’re seeing in China. So, as the Mayor said, we’ve got capacity and we are prepared for the worst-case scenario, but all indications are that it is a milder illness outside of China.
Mayor: Okay. Go ahead.
Question: [Inaudible] call to increase travel restrictions?
Mayor: Yeah. Again, when the first restrictions came out, I thought they were right, and they helped – it’s part of why we don’t have a bigger crisis here. But now we know in the case of these countries, it’s just a fact at this point that, you know, they had, each and every one of them with all due respect, an opportunity to hopefully avert this, or maybe it matters we’re beyond, you know, their reach. But in the case of Hong Kong, Iran, Italy, Japan, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand, it just stands to reason that anyone coming in needs to be screened and if they have symptoms, they need to be quarantined. It’s very straightforward at this point.
Okay, anyone who has not gone then we’ll go to people who have gone. Not gone – not gone – not gone – Rich?
Question: So, Mr. Mayor, you touched on it briefly. I’m just wondering, you know, is New York lucky or good here? I mean, how is it possible that –
Mayor: New Yorkers are good. This is really the story, I’m not making this up. It’s a very cynical world right now and, you know, bad news travels a lot faster than good news, but people are actually listening and paying attention. Rich, you remember – it’s a bad parallel, but I think it stands to reason. When we had the worst blizzard in our history, we told everyone stay off the road, they actually stayed off the road. When we had Ebola, which was horrifying, frightening as all hell, we told people, you know, they could go about their business. They went about their business. New Yorkers are extraordinary. So, I think we’re good. I also think we have the best public health capacity of any city in America.
Commissioner Barbot: If I could just add to that, please. I want to just be mindful of the fact that viruses don’t respect borders. And while we’ve been good at delaying, as we have said from the very beginning, it is inevitable that we will have someone who has coronavirus. It will also be likely that we may have a limited amount of community person-to-person spread, and that’s why we need New Yorkers to lean in to the messages that we’ve been giving from day-one in terms of the importance of washing their hands frequently, covering their mouth and their nose when they cough or sneeze, and, if they’ve traveled to one of these countries and they’re feeling symptomatic, to reach out to their provider.
Mayor: Anyone who’s not gone? Yes?
Question: Thanks. Actually, I was hoping to do an off-topic about the sanctuary –
Mayor: We’re not doing any off-topics right now. Anyone is not gone – not gone – last call. Come on, guys, real simple – Yoav?
Question: Thanks, Mr. Mayor. I’m just wondering how the coordination’s going with this State. You know, when the Ebola crisis came out, there was, I guess, some miscommunication and some surprises. Is everything going smoothly?
Mayor: Yeah, I think the coordination with the State is good. I think the – look, our health officials constantly are communicating on many, many, many fronts, and, right now, we’re unified in the approach.
Question: I wanted to go back to the hospital – you know, the 12,000 beds that could be made available. I think I asked this back in January, but –
Mayor: 1,200 –
Question: 1,200 [inaudible]
Mayor: That’s a difference. Did everyone else – wait, show of hands, who heard 1,200? Just make sure I wasn’t crazy. Okay.
Mayor: Well, I thought I said – did I say 12,000?
Unknown: No –
Mayor: Okay, thank you. The jury has spoken. Go ahead. 1,200 –
Question: Back to the question – so, of those beds that are available, are they centralized to one public hospital? Is that the plan?
Mayor: They’reall over our public and private hospital system? I want to thank for joining us and for his efforts helping us to spread the information and protect people – our Public Advocate, Jumaane Williams. Thank you very much for being here. Go ahead. Did you get your answer?
Question: Well, I’m just curious, is there some – and maybe Dr. Barbot could explain a little bit further, is there – would there be a need to kind of quarantine within the quarantine to maybe keep it to one hospital or one hospital –
Mayor: I’m going to start and pass to her. Again, you want every bed in an event emergency you can get, you want them to be all over, because people are all over. We have a lot of capacity, but you can speak to the specifics.
Commissioner Barbot: So, I want to just start by reminding folks that coronavirus causes a spectrum of illness that can be anywhere similar to the common cold, to really bad pneumonia. All of our hospitals are proficient in treating patients that may present with those symptoms so that the level of isolation that would be needed is in those 1,200 beds spread throughout the system, because the reality is we can’t predict where it is that someone will present. And so, the important thing is to have care closest to them that meets their needs.
Mayor: And it’s also to your question, an important, I think, clarification – it’s not Ebola. You know, this is something that is still not understood, but it’s somewhere on that spectrum, as we said, common cold to SARS, etcetera. It’s not Ebola. With Ebola – and I remember vividly, and the heroic actions of people of Bellevue – you know, you had to lock down every single step in the process. This was like, death right away if you do something wrong. This is not that, thank God, as we know it at this moment. We take it very seriously, but you can have people in different hospital settings, properly isolated, possibly properly treated, and we want the – I think the real key here is we want people get the health care real quick, so we want decentralization in this case.
Question: I’m wondering if you have a price tag associated with a response. I think –
Mayor: No, we do not, but we will.
Question: [Inaudible] said earlier today that the Counterterrorism Unit will be involved in response. Why is that? Is there any –
Mayor: It’s a precaution we would always take in a crisis, that if we need the folks who are at the NYPD. I mean, look, we have a highly trained group of officers for dealing with crisis. If we need them for any situation, there’ll be available, but there’s not a particular role yet.
Deputy Mayor Perea-Henze: If I may, Mr. Mayor. lt’s worth reminding ourselves that when we started this situation, the Mayor convened a tabletop exercise and Deanne may want to comment on this, but we have a city-wide readiness mechanism that we’ve activated a month ago – five weeks ago. So, every element of the City government is already on high alert.
Question: Governor Cuomo had a press conference earlier today where he mentioned that they have a number of masks. Are they going to coordinate with you if you need them at all?
Mayor: We’re certainly in constant communication coordination. I want to be fair to the other, you know, 10 million or so people in the state who don’t live in New York City – that the Governor has to think about the whole state and that’s fair. But we’re all going to work together. I think the important point is to keep that supply coming in. The City and State don’t produce masks. The private sector produces masks and that’s where we need the federal government to step in.
Question: So, in terms of the masks, you guys are asking the feds to facilitate the production of more masks and not pay for the masks themselves or both?
Mayor: I’ll start and you guys can jump in. In a crisis, we’re not worried about who pays upfront. We’re worried about who pays ultimately. So, a lot of a lot of FEMA activity, for example, is you pay and you get reimbursed.
Question: So, the idea is that you’d figure out who would for these masks –
Mayor: The federal government in an international health crisis should maximally cover the needs of localities. This is – anything that is beyond our borders affecting us, the right and fair thing to do is to not take localities that have inherently limited resources and make them pay for it when the federal government does not have limited resources. By the way, there’s a lot of places in the country, again, could not pay for it – just couldn’t. So, it’s get the material where it needs to be. If it has to be on a reimbursement basis, that’s fine, but the federal government needs to step up.
Question: The Governor requested the Legislature approve $40 million for the emergency response. Does that number seem adequate for what the City needs?
Mayor: I think it’s too early to tell. I think, you know, right now, thank God with everyone’s help, this is a contained situation. If it gets more extensive, it’s going to cost a lot more. But I think it’s the right step to get the Legislature into gear to start putting funding forward.
Question: You mentioned no recommendation for wearing a mask. Do you recommend that the average person buy masks? Which masks should they buy? And is there any concern over price gouging?
Commissioner Barbot: So, at this point in time, there’s no recommendation for an every-day New Yorker to buy a mask. The situation, as I said earlier, there’s a place in a time for using masks and they should use the guidance from their individual providers about the most appropriate situations. But we’re not asking New Yorkers to go out and buy masks.
Deputy Mayor Perea-Henze: And just remember this, the mask is when someone has the symptoms – it’s to protect others. The mask is not to protect yourself. So, I think it’s a common mistake.
Question: So, just in regard to the testing, without going into the nuts and bolts, is the issue of time then? How much of a difference in time would there be in the return of a test if you were able to do it here locally as opposed to Atlanta?
Mayor: And they’ll answer, I just want to, again, give you the common-sense answer. If it even improved things by hours, it’s worth it, because if you ended up in a situation of real high volume, you want every possible advantage you can get. But help define hours [inaudible] kind of thing.
Question: The 1.5 million masks – those have been distributed to like nurses and healthcare professionals. Have any of those been distributed to like citizens, non-health care people. And in terms of the RFP or the request for the 300,000, there was no price tag on that at all. You guys have no idea how much this would cost?
Mayor: We’ll come back to you on – I mean, you can give now, but, again, everyone, I’m just going to do a blanket rule. We’re not here to talk about money. This is a rolling situation. We’re going to front the money we have to, we’re going to expect the highest level of reimbursement. That’s what happened with Ebola. That’s what happened in other crises. This is not a budget discussion. So, you can ask all day long, we’re just not doing budget numbers here. But go ahead. It’s just not – you could ask, but I’m trying to tell you if you ask, if this is going on for days and days and days and you guys keep asking budget, we’re going to constantly tell you we don’t have the numbers and it’s not what we’re focused on. So, this is not the topic. The topic is protecting people’s health.
Commissioner Criswell: Yeah. The only thing that I would add is we’re asking the federal government to prioritize the production of personal protection equipment. We have existing contracts in place to purchase this equipment. We just need the material to be there to purchase. Right? It’s on a, it’s on an as needed basis. Right now we’re just asking for the n95 masks.
Mayor: Okay. We’re going to shut down in a minute, guys.
Question: [Inaudible] assurances can you give people on public transportation where there’s large numbers of people together?
Mayor: Right now, for five weeks we’ve got, you know, six million riders a day in the subways, and we have zero cases that tested positive. So, there’s all the reassurance you need, but this is, again, every single New Yorker is part of addressing this crisis. If you yourself, any individual thinks they have symptoms, you have to do the responsible thing and act. You cannot hesitate. If a loved one sees someone with symptoms, they have to make them get medical care, a parent with a child, whatever it is. So I, you know, this is not the nanny state. This is every human being can do something here. And if everyone steps up, we’re going to be fine. I really believe that we’ll have cases, but we’re going to be fine. So far, for five weeks in one of the largest cities on the earth, we have not a single case because people are actually doing their job and I want to commend all New Yorkers for that. Let’s keep it that way.
Question: Mt. Sinai released a statement [inaudible] their doctors have developed a way of identifying coronavirus through CT scans of the chest. Have you worked at all with them or you – is that another possible way of identifying the virus?
Commissioner Barbot: So, the use of CT scans has been used in China, but that’s not a scalable model to test folks.
Mayor: It’s a good thing, but it doesn’t solve our problem. Last call – Yoav.
Question: Just as far as kind of worst case scenarios, how far do you go in your planning such as the potential for the federal government to seek school closures and things like that? Do you kind of map that all, is that all already kind of—
Mayor: When you tabletop, you’re always trying to do worst case scenarios. Now, that’s a big, big jump from where we are now. So, I think the – you know, the comments – and I’ve done a lot of tabletops on a lot of different crises. I think what we would do more normally, would say you go from zero cases to 10 cases, 20 cases, a hundred cases, not shut down your school system. If you had a situation, a particular school, you could deal with that school individually. We don’t have anything like that right now, but the fact is everyone starting up that chain of scenarios higher and higher, getting ready. And I wanted you to know about the hospital beds in particular to help you all understand the extent to which we are going to be going in our planning. So, you go from zero cases over five weeks to 1,200 live cases is an extraordinary progression. And we’re saying we could do that tomorrow if we had to. So, we’ll look at every scenario, but I want to just strike that balance as I close and say, the people in New York City, the health professionals, everyone’s doing things right. Let’s keep it that way. We can keep this thing really contained. If we do that, we need a hell of a lot more help from the federal government so we can get there together.
Thank you, everyone.