NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio Covid-19 Update – March 10, 2020
Video and transcript found further down on this page come to us from the NYC Mayor’s Office.
At Bellevue Hospital, on March 10, 2020, in midtown Manhattan, New York City’s mayor held another press conference concerning the city’s approach in handling the current health crisis brought on by Coronavirus. It appears that this sort of news conference will be taking place, quite possibly, on a daily basis as health concerns in our area continue to heighten.
One particular item coming out of today’s press conference, which yours truly considers to be a major concern, has to do with the discussion(s) concerning the lifespan of the virus on inanimate surfaces. For days now, Mayor de Blasio has been stating, with great conviction, that the virus dies in a matter of minutes. Yet, one reporter addressed the concern and apparently there appears to be a discrepancy in what’s factual and what’s not.
As per the Mayor’s words in a recent press conference:
“This is a disease that requires a very direct level of contact. The question of surfaces has come up a lot. The best understanding of our public health officials is that this is a disease that does not live long on a surface. Certainly, on most surfaces like metal, plastic you know, a desk, a kitchen counter, a subway pole. It’s only a matter of minutes before the disease dies, the virus dies in the open air.”
At today’s conference, a reporter put forth the following to the Mayor:
“…state health officials said today that actually the virus can survive on metal and plastic for days, not minutes as your health officials have said, can explain that”
Mayor de Blasio:
“I was briefed on the latest information coming in to state. What I am told, and I’m happy to confirm this is that there is a new study that suggests that, that the state is evaluating and we will evaluate too. That is a study that we have not seen previously. It’s one study, we take it obviously every study seriously, but we have to evaluate that and as I understand it, the state is in the process of evaluating that as well.”
The most concerning thing about this is how confident the mayor was in his deliverance in that tidbit. That is, how the virus dies within minutes. An idea which stands counter-intuitive to the MTA’s claim of having to scrub the subways in response to this outbreak; contrary as well to the CDC’s guidance to disinfect surfaces of all kinds regularly; or even the numerous sources and papers indicating that coronaviruses (of which there are numerous) in general can live anywhere from 2 hours to 9 days.
IF there’s widespread confusion (or rather, lack of certainty) as to the virus’ lifespan then why is someone of the Mayor’s stature telling people, with surety that it can only survive for a few minutes or less on surfaces?
Yours truly will be researching this subject in-depth to better understand what’s going on and will share my findings very soon.
Below, is the corresponding transcript to the video posted above.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: Well, first thing I want to say is – I want to thank these extraordinary people who work here at Bellevue.
This is a world-renowned institution that does so much good every single day. This is a place where – I say this with tremendous respect to all of you – you, day-in, day-out, year-in, year-out, you handle whatever’s thrown at you and you’re doing an amazing job. I remember vividly the days I got to spend with some of you during the Ebola crisis, there was no place better in America to handle that challenge. And you did it beautifully and you’re playing a crucial role right now helping us address coronavirus. One of the very first people came to be tested in all of New York City, came right here and, thank God, that was a negative back when – seems like a long time ago – it was only weeks ago. But we are depending on all of you and all your colleagues in Health and Hospitals, and I can safely say we are in very good hands with all of you. Let’s thank them again.
Also, this group is exceptionally good at the elbow bump. I think you guys can go out and teach all of New York City how to do that. I want to start up on our update today. We’ve got some new information, but I wanted to say something really clear to all New Yorkers. Every single day, we’re going to give you new information. Every single day, we’re going to give you what we have that we can tell you that’s clear and helpful. But every single day we’re to tell you we’re also receiving a lot of new information from our own experiences here in the city, from national sources, international sources, and everyday we’re trying to understand the exact right approach to take the information changes day to day. We get new interpretations all the time. We get new strategies all the time. We’re going to constantly update people, but you should assume a changing dynamic. This a – you know, we’ve dealt with a lot of things but I think we can all say with coronavirus we have rarely seen a situation that started with people not even understanding the disease to begin with because it was brand new – that’s been the whole international community, medical community. And then, we’ve all had to learn by doing and our understanding of the best approaches keeps evolving. So, you will hear change because the information is changing. But we are still in the middle of a fight right now. We have to, every single day, do the best we can with the information we have and the resources we have. So, we’ll tell you what we’re doing, why we’re doing it, and then as information changes we’ll provide those updates. The fact is, everything is inherently preliminary at this point because, again, the information about the disease continues to evolve. It helps us to have our own experience here in New York City, our own work from our Department of Health and Health and Hospitals, our disease detectives giving us new information all the time. But there’s a lot more out there that we are trying to glean and work with.
The crucial point I made yesterday, and I’ll keep saying it, New Yorkers are going to be able to have a really big impact on this crisis by your own actions. So, the government is here to protect you, protect your health. We’re going to do everything we know how to do. We’re going to throw in every resource we got, but this one is participatory. This one is for everybody to be a part of the solution. The government cannot solve this alone. It has to be in every family, on every block, in every workplace. Everyone has to participate from those basic things, washing your hands, hand sanitizer, covering your mouth when you cough or sneeze onto the kinds of decisions we make in our life, starting with being very sensitive to the vulnerable people. We have seen this over and over again. It’s very consistent all over the world. People over 50 with the preexisting conditions, that’s the number-one problem. Either people like that in your life, support them, be really careful, watch out for them. We need New Yorkers to watch out for their fellow New Yorkers, which New Yorkers are very, very good about. But if someone in your life is vulnerable, be careful – another great example I’m giving, and I think it’s a real life example – grandparents who want to visit their grandchildren, we all understand that that’s normally fantastic, but if a grandchild is sick, the grandparents should not be visiting with them now. If the grandparent wants to visit their son or daughter, but the son or daughter is sick, this is not the right time for that. So, we really want to be clear about those common sense measures. The folks who are vulnerable need to take precautions. We need to support them as they take those precautions. We’ve talked about employers being as flexible as possible where you can have some telecommuting. We like that. We need that. Where you can’t, we understand. Where you can stagger work hours – that helps. Everybody can participate. Literally every single person that’d be part of ending this crisis. So, we’ll keep giving information and we’ll keep updating people every step of the way.
Now, folks want information, they want accurate information. Want to remind you, you can go on our website, nyc.gov/coronavirus – nyc.gov/coronavirus – and you can text COVID to 692-692 – that’s COVID to 692-692. I think it was yesterday we said 20,000 people have done that. Now, 60,000 people have done that. It’s a really good way to keep informed. We’re going to give a quick presentation, then you’ll hear from – I’ll give a presentation – you’ll hear from the CEO of our Health and Hospitals, Dr. Mitch Katz, you’ll hear from the Speaker of City Council Corey Johnson. I want to thank for their partnership and the good work they’re doing Borough President Manhattan, Gale Brewer, thank you very much; Council Member Steve Levin of Brooklyn, thank you very much for all you’re doing working with us. Let’s give them a round of applause to thank them
Okay, so as we said, we’re now in what we are simply calling phase two, and that means more and more guidance to New Yorkers of things that we want you to adjust in your life. I gave the example of employers staggering work hours and allowing telecommuting where they can. Again, those who are self-employed, those who have the ability to make those decisions yourself, we want you trying to – if you’re going to have to use subways, use it on off hours. To the maximum extent possible, avoid the rush hour. If you can telecommute yourself, we prefer that right now. We need people to be mindful. We have a real concerned about the super packed subway cars, particularly in rush hour. If you don’t need to be on one of those, please avoid them. Even means letting a few trains pass until one’s less crowded. And then there’s the really basic, but very, very important things – you know, a lot of people get sick and they power through it. A show of hands – even these health care providers – you ever been sick and powered through? Raise your hand. Raise your hand. Okay, stop doing that.
So, what we need to do, all of us, is if we’re sick, we need to take it seriously. We need to talk to our doctor. We need to stay home if we’re sick. Health care workers, obviously we depend on you, so the best way is for the health care – and Mitch will speak to this – health care worker’s sick, they get to be evaluated by health care professionals, and if they shouldn’t be at work, they shouldn’t be at work. If they can be, that’s great or with whatever precautions, and I want you to go in detail about that. But for the rest of everybody else, if you’ve got those cold and flu symptoms, don’t go to work, consult with your doctor, make sure you’re well before you get in the presence of lots of other people and, God forbid, do not go near someone in that vulnerable group over 50 with the preexisting conditions.
Okay, I’m going to state it just so we’re consistent – over 50 preexisting conditions, that means heart disease, lung disease, cancer, diabetes, and a weakened immune system. Those five areas – we’ve also said not a condition, but a factor – smoking and vaping. Smoking and vaping do not help, in fact, they make it harder for someone to handle coronavirus for folks who have the preexisting conditions and are over 50 be very, very mindful of who you’re coming in contact with. We want you to adjust your routines mindfully and if you do have symptoms, that group of people needs to get to care immediately.
Okay. Now, update on numbers. We have a very rapidly evolving situation on the numbers of cases and we’re obviously concerned when we see more cases, but there’s a piece of this that actually is in its own way good news, which is the testing capacity is coming online more and more. We still are waiting for that formal confirmation from the FDA that we’ve been talking about. We’re hopeful but we still want it to be 110 percent formal. We haven’t gotten that yet, but the private labs that started up on Friday are now really ramping up. So, we are starting to get more and more test results back. They are coming in so intensely now that being able to give you the detailed case breakdown, we’re not in that position to do that at this moment, because so many new cases are coming forward. We will of course when we can give you updates on particularly pertinent cases and again, what we have been doing historically – there was a good question yesterday – I want to just clear this up for all the cases we’ve given you up to date –the ones with detailed profiles were all New York City residents, but one exception, the original lawyer from Westchester County, and the reason he was counted among the city cases was he was diagnosed hospitalized in New York City and remains in New York City. That was the one aberration. But now, with the private lab results coming in very, very rapidly, we’re adjusting our approach, because we don’t get the profiles on each case as quickly as we were because of the sheer numbers. So, again, we won’t be giving across the board individual profiles. We will be giving them in particular cases. And we are happy to be getting more and more test results because it allows us again to ensure that people are getting the care they need, people are isolated that need to be isolated, and folks who are negative can go on with their life.
As of 12 noon – so, I gave a report yesterday and then this morning we had a different report. Now, we have another update as of 12 noon, working with the State of New York, the number now for confirmed cases in New York City is now 36 – 36, that is 16 new since yesterday and 11 new even since this morning at 7:00 AM when I last spoke about this. I said yesterday, we’re going to start to talk to you about people who have their cases resolved. The first two that we will get information on, but they are not yet fully through the process, are the two health care workers who had been in Iran. They are now asymptomatic. They’re going through a first of two tests that will lead to them coming out of quarantine. We’re waiting for the results soon on the first test and it will take a second in short order thereafter, if both those come back negative, they will be out of quarantine hopefully as early as the end of this week. So, those are the first two that we will report on. As other people come out, we’re going to give you those updates.
Now, as of – this is – I want everyone to hear a carefully, this is a different time frame because this is the last information we have. As of 10:00 am, before some of the newer information came in on cases, so this is probably dated by now – actually, is dated by now, but at least it’s somewhat helpful information. As of 10:00 am, the number of negative cases for New York City was 258 – that was 57 new since yesterday. The number of pending tests, 195. So now, what you’re seeing is we’re talking about – and this is what we’ve been projecting – we’ll be doing hundreds of tests a day and that’s where the numbers are getting – moving so rapidly that we won’t be able to do the individual cases the same way, again, with some exceptions.
In mandatory quarantine, 30 people right now. In voluntary isolation, 1,980. So, this is the context of community spread, which has only been with us since the latter part of last week and intensive testing, which has really only been with us the last few days. Now, we’re going to see a very different trajectory in terms of the information flow and the numbers and we’re going to keep giving updates every day.
Okay. A few quick updates in terms of the city. An issue that has been getting a lot of attention, rightfully so, around the country, around the world is cruise ships. So, the cruise ship terminals in Red Hook and the West Side of Manhattan, those are licensed via the Economic Development Corporation. They are run by a private entity called NY Cruise. We are following the guidance of the CDC and saying to all New Yorkers, this is not the time to take a cruise. I just want to start with that. Obviously, the cruise ships have been a real focal point for problems while our nation gets ahead of this crisis. This is not a great time to take a cruise, but if people do choose to take a cruise specific actions are being taken. The two terminals are being thoroughly cleaned throughout and health care workers will be on site if anyone is leaving on a cruise for additional screening during boarding. Anyone who attempts to get on a cruise and it has a temperature of over one 100.4 – 100.4 will not be allowed on a cruise ship. So, that’s outgoing and that’s trying to guide our fellow New Yorkers on how to handle this situation and protecting all the fellow passengers. The obvious other question is the incoming, and on the outgoing, I don’t have in front of me, but I’m going to turn to my team and say we should check with EDC on the outgoing cruises – we have the incoming, let’s get the outgoing dates. For incoming cruises, the next incoming cruise to the Manhattan terminal on the West Side will be Sunday, March 15th that cruise will be met by Department of Health Officials. And the same standard of 100.4 degrees will be implemented in this case, meaning folks who are coming off that cruise with that temperature will either, if they’re from New York City, depending on their overall health, they will either will be allowed to go home into self-isolation or will be taken to a hospital depending on their health. If they are not from New York City, they’ll be taken to a hospital or other health care facility right away. That Sunday, March 15th – this coming Sunday. The next incoming cruise to the Red Hook terminal in Brooklyn is April 9th, so we won’t be seeing much there anytime soon.
On the issues related to the federal government, I mentioned that we still are waiting for the formal approval on the automated testing. Again, we keep seeing promising signs and some movement, but we do not have the fully confirmed formal approval. We need that right away. We’ve also talked about the N95 masks, which are particularly important for keeping our health care workers and our first responders safe. We definitely need more of these masks. The State, to their great credit, has kept their reserve. They gave us 120,000 new N95 masks. That’s crucial. I want to thank the State for doing that, but we will certainly need more and we’ll need them soon. We’re sending a specific request today to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services for 300,000 more N95 masks, specifically for our Health and Hospitals personnel who need them and for our first responders. That supply, in addition to the 120,000 from the State, the 300,000 more we’re requesting from the federal government, we could get that soon, that will take us through the coming months. Related to our disease detectives, we are working right now to double the number of disease detectives. One element of that will be training all school nurses to do this work, to do the initial screening. We’ll have an update shortly on the exact timeline on the doubling and the protocols we’ll use, going forward. But the – one of the most immediate things we’ll do is get all of these very effective school nurses into this work immediately. That’s going to help us speed up the process.
An important note for all New Yorkers – obviously, there’s information out there about coronavirus and there’s misinformation and there’s confusion. One area that should be crystal clear is that it is absolutely crucial for everyone to keep giving blood. There is no danger in giving blood, but we must maintain our supply. At this moment, our supply is okay, but we’re concerned. We have seen some workplace blood drives canceled. That is a worrisome sign. So, we will be working to make sure that as many as possible blood drives continue. We’re encouraging all New Yorkers who can to give blood. I’ll be doing that myself in the coming days. And a thank you to all New Yorkers who have been giving blood and everyone who works to keep our supply strong. But there is no health risk related to coronavirus in the process of giving blood.
One more update. Yesterday, we talked about later in the day an emergency medical technician who works for the Fire Department tested positive for coronavirus. The information we have at this moment is that that was passed along by a flight attendant who is this individual’s girlfriend who had been traveling to an affected area. As a result of this diagnosis, five fellow EMT are in self-quarantine. They are all asymptomatic. The EMT in the timespan that’s pertinent here treated 11 patients, but as – when treating these patients wore protective gear. The Department of Health and the FDNY will be reaching these patients today to follow up and do the normal diagnostic work. But the good news is they are identified and the other good news is that the EMT wore protective gear, but we’re still going to treat each case obviously very seriously.
Okay. Just very few sentences in Spanish –
[Mayor de Blasio speaks in Spanish]
And that is a thank you to all New Yorkers who really have been following the guidance in so many ways and helping us to address the situation here in New York City. Now, to talk about the capacity of our Health and Hospitals facilities and all the personnel, like these good people here, who will be part of fighting off this virus here in this city. We want to turn to CEO of Health and Hospitals, Dr. Mitch Katz.
President and CEO Mitchell Katz, Health and Hospitals: Thank you, Mr. Mayor. And thank you for having this at Bellevue. Bellevue is the longest running public hospital in the United States. Established prior to the signing of the Declaration of Independence, Bellevue was a leader in the HIV/AIDS epidemic. Bellevue was there to provide care with compassion without fear, to provide the very best of care. Also, in the Ebola outbreak, this hospital was the only hospital in New York State to successfully take care of somebody with Ebola who fully recovered and to do that without any other infections occurring to health care personnel. This is a hospital that knows how and knows how to do it with compassion, with love, with competence. It’s also a public hospital, which means that people who are undocumented, people without insurance, they know that they can come here, they can come to Bellevue, they don’t have to worry that they’re going to get a bill that they can’t pay, that they’re going to be treated as unwelcome. With all of the negative anti-immigrant spirit coming out of Washington, how great that that’s not true in New York City, it’s not true at Bellevue, and I’m so grateful to you, Mr. Mayor to the City Council for always maintaining that.
We are prepared at Bellevue. We are prepared at the other 10 acute care hospitals of Health and Hospitals. We are prepared at our other 60 outpatient sites. We have known for several weeks that it is likely that we would reach a point where there would be many people seeking our services because of respiratory disease. As the Mayor has explained, 80 percent of people who contract this virus will have little or minimal symptoms, but 20 percent will need healthcare services, and probably about 5 percent of those people will need intensive services such as a breathing tube and a ventilator machine. We are prepared for that. We have been practicing – Bellevue in all our acute care hospitals have plans. Now, those of you in the press may say, well, wait a minute, we’ve been hearing that hospitals are crowded.
We’ve been hearing that ICU’s, are crowded already – how could you possibly be prepared to take on additional people? And the answer is that in an emergency you change how you operate. You don’t continue to operate in the same standard. So, we are prepared at Bellevue and all of our hospitals that were we to have many patients with respiratory distress, we would rapidly discharge those patients who are in the hospital now and do not need to be in the hospital, because they can be safely cared for at home. We would cancel all elective surgeries, so there is a lot of incredibly valuable work that a hospital like this does – we remove gallbladders, we fix hernias, we fix bones, we do arthroscopy, we do bariatric surgery – all very worthwhile. All that stops in an emergency. We have outpatient clinics, Health and Hospitals does 1.1 million outpatient visits a year. In an emergency, we will be canceling our outpatient surgeries. We will be canceling our outpatient visits and we will be directing all our great physicians and nurses and technicians and physician assistants and nurse practitioners and pharmacists to our inpatient areas. We know we’re in every hospital. If we needed to set up intensive care beds, someone thoughtfully asked the other day, well, but do you have enough intensive care bed? An intensive care bed is defined by the great nurse who is caring for the patient is not a physical space. If you give me a great nurse as I have in Bellevue, I can turn any space into an intensive care space. What matters is the staffing. What matters is having the appropriate equipment. We have at Health and Hospitals 376 negative pressure rooms. If we needed to double up negative pressure rooms, not something we would ever do in regular practice, where the overwhelming likelihood is you’d have two patients with different diseases – of course they would not go in the negative pressure room together. In the case where we suddenly have many people who’ve tested positive of COVID-19, we would be able to double up existing spaces. We have practiced on our masks. We have practice on our gowns. We know the different levels of protective equipment that are necessary. We have implemented that in all of our settings. We very much appreciate the efforts on having more testing. That would make a huge difference for us and we greatly appreciate the efforts that you, Mr. Mayor, and the City Council have made to make that happen so that we know who is sick, who is not sick, and that will allow us to take care of people. We are 30,000 employees strong. We will all be taking care of those patients. If we have a large number, Mr. Mayor, Mr. President of the City Council – we are ready. We are prepared.
Mayor: Thank you very, very much. Mitch, an energetic report as always. Thank you very, very much. And now, I want to thank again for his partnership and the great work he and all the members of Council are doing and spreading good information and helpful information and helping to make sure that folks all over the city get to the help they need – Speaker Corey Johnson.
Mayor: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker. We’ll do questions and I’ll start on this side. Again, let me do my simple ground rule up front – I’ll start on this side, I’ll go to that side. Everyone, one round first for everyone and then if there’s anything real pertinent, we’ll come back on it.
Question: Mr. Mayor, the [inaudible] told people to not wear masks because masks cannot protect you from being infected, only can prevent sick people from infecting other people, but at the same time you said that medical personnel’s need [inaudible] people sneezing to your face. So can you explain the rational of [inaudible]?
Mayor: I will start and then our health professionals can go into more detail. One of the things that is clear about health personnel is that they are constantly exposed to people and the difference, I would say, between – from what we’ve seen so far, and again, everything, this is preliminary based on the knowledge we have of this disease from only weeks of everyone even knowing it existed and trying to constantly update our knowledge. But there is a real difference between the interaction the people, every day people, have with others versus when a health professional sees many, many patients in a day in much more intimate dynamics. So I think this is a fundamental, qualitative difference, but take it from there.
Commissioner Oxiris Barbot, Department of Health and Mental Hygiene: So it’s incredibly important –
Mayor: Is yours on? Yes, okay.
Commissioner Barbot: Yeah, it’s important for us to first and foremost protect our health care workforce. And it is imperative that they have the equipment that is needed in order to ensure that when they are seeing patients that are potentially symptomatic with COVID-19 that they are protected. Because if we, as we anticipate, have more individuals diagnosed with COVID-19, and we have health care workers that are also affected, it then starts affecting the capacity of the health care system, and so that’s why it is one of our central areas of focus. And then secondly, with regards to the utility of masks for everyday New Yorkers that are not symptomatic, the concern is that it provides a false sense of security.
The most important and central way to minimize your risk, because, you know, we need to be realistic here, there is no zero risk situation unless you hermetically seal yourself in your apartment- the most effective way is to have diligent hand hygiene practice, which means washing your hands often, thoroughly. And if you’re not close to a water source to use alcohol based hand sanitizer. And so for everyday New Yorkers, we don’t recommend the use of mask of surgical masks. The one situation where mask would be useful is if someone is known to a health care provider to be coming in because they’re ill, then we are recommending to health care workers that they meet that person outside of the office or as soon as they come into the office and place a mask on them so that they don’t then infect other individuals.
Mayor: Okay. Yes?
Question: The nurses [inaudible] couple of questions about resources. One beyond n95-respirators, I think [inaudible] could be, maybe not now, but there could be shortages of [inaudible] gowns and the regular surgical masks, [inaudible]. That’s one question, is that something, do you [inaudible]?
President Katz: The, the surgical mask, we have a very, very large cache and are not, not at all an issue. And the gowns the same. So those are not – we’re, as the Mayor’s appropriately called for, it’s in the n-95 masks where we want to make sure that it’s not that we have enough for today, but what the Mayor and the Speaker wanted to make sure is that we have enough to get us through September.
Question: The other question was [inaudible] is there a time [inaudible]?
Mayor: Take, what is our plan? What? I couldn’t hear that.
Question: What’s the plan if nurses and other health care workers have to start quarantining, what’s the plan [inaudible]?
Mayor: So, just I’ll start and pass it. Again, that’s a standard procedure. Some of that will happen inevitably. Remember that, you know, we’re going to take a whole host of precautions to keep our health care workers safe to begin with. If some end up having a quarantine, that will happen and then they’ll come out of quarantine and we’d be back in the game. And we’re going to clearly work to make sure that there’s sufficient personnel at all times, including by adjusting away from those less necessary procedures. You want to add any –
President Katz: I think you’ve said it well.
Mayor: Okay, go ahead.
Question: Yeah, on the budget, I was wondering if you can say where you’re thinking is now a potential adverse impact to virus on the economy and if you’re contemplating budget cuts anticipating maybe even a recession coming?
Mayor: A couple of different things. I mean the immediate thing we’re looking at working with the Council obviously is relief for small business. We announced a couple of initiatives that will be added into the budget. We’ll look to see if there’s other things that we need to do. In terms of revenue forecasting, we will do that as part of the budget process, which culminates in the next six weeks or so. So we’ll have a lot more information. The stock market dynamic, deeply troubling, this morning seemed to be a little bit better obviously, but we got to see this play out. Clearly could have an impact on revenue in terms of the finance sector. We’re very worried about our businesses and drop off in sales for them and obviously that has revenue ramifications in many ways. So yeah, it’s very much in our mind, but it’s too early to have a number, obviously. We will have to make adjustments accordingly, but that will be against the backdrop of where our revenue was in general. So in terms of cuts, it’s too early to say because we have to see the overall revenue picture. All of that will be revealed when we do the Executive Budget.
Question: You suggested that people avoid rush hour subways [inaudible] biking and walking –
Mayor: Yes, if they can.
Question: Right, [inaudible] still afraid because of cars parked in bike lanes and just lack of protected bike lanes. Yesterday, Transportation Alternatives [inaudible] specific demands to make it safer. Are you [inaudible] immediately commit to any of those?
Mayor: I haven’t seen them, I’ll happily look at them. Look, we obviously have devoted a lot of police resources to clearing out bike lanes. We’ll keep doing that. We’re dealing with, you know, a crisis here with many, many elements. Whatever we can do to – that we deem appropriate to help make it easier, now we will, but I again would say for folks who have the option of walking to work, for folks that have the option of biking to work and feel good about their route, we appreciate that, it helps. But also for folks who ride the subway, if they can even vary the time off of rush hour, either the evening or the morning rush hour that helps. We know that’s not everyone, but it helps to the extent people can do it.
Question: Would you bike to work one day to practice your own advice –
Mayor: I have some to do on my bike, but I think that’d be a great idea. Let me see if I can do that sometime soon.
Mayor: Go ahead.
Question: Mr. Mayor, there’s been some concern about inmates in city jails, on Rikers and other facilities. Any sense for whether there are protections in place? Any plan a part of the Department of Corrections?
Mayor: We’ve talked before about the fact that there’s a constant screening going on. Everyone new comes in, if there’s any health issue that we are concerned about in general and specifically coronavirus, they’re immediately taken to health care facilities within corrections. And everyone’s been instructed that if they see any symptoms to isolate the individual immediately. I’ll check. I don’t know if – I’m looking up and down the line to see if anyone knows different, but I don’t think we have any reports of any instances of –
Deputy Mayor Raul Perea-Henze, Health and Human Services: We do not.
Mayor: Not within Department of Corrections. Back there.
Question: Can you talk a little bit about the Staten Island EMT worker who tested –
Mayor: Say again? I’m sorry.
Question: Can you talk a little bit about the Staten Island EMT worker tested positive for the coronavirus. Did his girlfriend test positive too? You mentioned she’s a flight attendant. Which country did she travel to and do they live together and can confirm –
Mayor: Yeah. I only have what I’ve given you and I want to be very careful. I’m looking to Freddi, I didn’t say Staten Island, so I want to make sure we’re all being very careful about our facts. The profile I gave her, the EMT did not include where he works or lives. Is there a Staten Island nexus?
Commissioner Barbot: We believe so.
Mayor: We believe so. Okay, so I just –
Mayor: Again, respect the hospital. I want to make sure we’re always giving you accurate information. Let’s just confirm all that before we go any further. But that’s, that’s all the details I have.
Question: [Inaudible] the process of when a hospital learns that someone has tested positive for the coronavirus, what – who is alerted next up? Our reporters, when we tried to confirm this information, we reached out to the State, the State said to reach out to the City –
Mayor: Wait, wait, back, back up your question in a second. I want to make sure I understand. You’re saying when someone is tests positive –
Question: Yeah, what’s the protocol for alerting the public? When we found out about this case on Staten Island, we learned from a hospital sources –
Mayor: Okay I let me – I want to make sure – again, I don’t mean to interrupt except I want to make sure we’re really being clear about the consistent reality. We’ve been updating you guys essentially daily and I’m sure we will be for quite a while. We give you the numbers as we have them. If there’s cases that we can give you a detailed profile on, we will, that’s going to get harder with the numbers coming in. I will just ask people to, for simplicity, you know, because you know we’re going to be constantly updating and we’re making sure that as best humanly possible the information is confirmed. Sometimes an institution has information and I’m sure it’s accurate a lot of the time, but it may not be exactly what we confirm. So we are trying to be the central clearing house information and put it out constantly, but that may not be going forward, those individual profiles simply because of volume. So whatever we can put out, we’re going to put out, I think the simplest thing to make sure you’re getting the whole story is to lean on these briefings and the other updates that our press office is putting out. Go ahead.
Question: A question for you, Mr. Mayor and a question for Dr. Barbot. For you, I’m wondering what our current testing capacity is if we are at capacity? And yesterday you essentially said that, you know, there’s plenty of people who may have it who aren’t going to get tested, but what we saw with the South Korea example that speaker Johnson pointed out is that aggressive testing really helped reduce the cases. So it seems like you said you’re looking internationally –
Mayor: I want to make sure, I’m sorry to interrupt, I want make sure I’m whatever sentence you’re quoting from. I want to make sure it wasn’t a misunderstanding. We’ve been talking about aggressive testing for weeks and weeks and wanting to test everyone who should be tested. I think we all agree there are people out there who may have symptoms we never hear about, including folks who have very mild cases, but I want everyone tested who should be tested. That’s absolutely why we’ve been clamoring for more and more testing. So I don’t, again, I don’t know what you’re referring to. Bring it up when you have it. A message of the city has been 100 percent clear, people who should be tested, and we need that testing capacity so we can do it. Volume, we’re now around hundreds a day. We need that capacity to get up to thousands a day. Hopefully, again, this FDA approval is going to come presently and that’s going to allow us to do that with the automated testing.
Question: So you’re capacity is hundreds and you’re [inaudible].
Mayor: Hundreds, hundreds. It’s Public Health Lab, H + H, private labs, everyone together, hundreds per day is the capacity, currently. The turnaround time is slower than we want. The number we can get to is less than we want, that’s why we want the FDA approval.
Question: Just for Dr. Barbot, several positive cases have done health care workers. Are you looking at doing more widespread testing as a precaution of city health care workers?
Commissioner Barbot: So when we have a positive health care worker, we work very closely with the State to ensure that we are monitoring the health care workers and ensuring that they go through the appropriate quarantine timeframe. The testing for health care workers is the same as it would be for everyday New Yorkers, right? We test people who are symptomatic. We don’t test people who are asymptomatic. If someone has had an exposure that we are concerned about, then we do that testing.
Question: Given that there in such a vulnerable position treating patients, is there no consideration being given to just across the board testing health care workers?
Commissioner Barbot: That’s why we quarantine people who may have had questionable contacts. Again, if someone is asymptomatic and we test them, we don’t want to have a false sense of security that they’re actually negative. That’s why we want to align testing with symptoms.
Question: Following up on that NYU Langone told Politico that the City Health Department is turning away patients from testing. And so I wanted to get a sense of how you’re determining who gets tested and what capacity you’re at for testing.
Mayor: Yeah, again, we always – I want to get back to our basics that we’ve talked about several times. I don’t know who said what at NYU Langone and we always welcome getting that information and being able to check it against our reality. So I’m glad you’re raising it. The City Public Health Lab, who said previously has limited capacity that only started up a week ago Monday to be clear, because that was when we finally got the federal approval. The H + H has substantial capacity working with the private labs. That’s where the real numbers are as those private labs. So if there was an instance where the city health lab did not have capacity at any given moment and we were diverting to other labs that would be normal. But I don’t know what NYU Langone is saying. I’d like to hear a very specific instance so we can respond to it.
Question: [Inaudible] Story, but to also follow up the New York Times had an opinion piece of a woman who went to three emergency departments to try to get tested for coronavirus and was told, sorry you’re not hitting qualifications for testing. So Dr. Barbot can you kind of explain what the triaging process looks like? Do you have to have certain amount of symptoms plus saying, oh you came from this a geographic spot to actually get tested ahead of somebody else. What does that process and how do we prevent people from coming in and then they can’t get tested? Come back and they’re possibly sheds the disease up to six days or seven days.
Commissioner Barbot: So I think it’s important to first sort of level set and realize that the testing criteria have been evolving by CDC. You know, initially it was a very specific part of China travel, then it broadened, and so I think it’s illustrative of the fact that this is a rapidly evolving situation and guidance for testing has been changing as we learn more and more. Recently there has been a loosening of those testing guidelines so that we are now focusing on testing symptomatic individuals and there’s no longer that threshold of having to have a travel connection. And so it’s unfortunate that New Yorkers who had been previously, you know, trying to get tested went through that. And you know, and I think it’s a real thing. I’ve heard the same thing and it’s very concerning, and so that’s why we tighten up all of our possible connections with health care delivery systems so that they are on top of all of the new developments. So recently, today is what, Tuesday, Wednesday, I can’t –
Commissioner Barbot: So yesterday we issued a HAN, a health alert, to all doctors making sure that they were aware of changes that have taken place and how they can order labs directly from commercial labs.
Question: Mayor, so just to compliment the last question, are we at maximum testing capacity as is right now?
Mayor: Right now we have the capacity to keep up because I mean you’re seeing these numbers evolve. We’re getting hundreds of tests that we need to do and we have the ability to do hundreds of tests. What we don’t have is the ability to get them in – back in real time and that’s the problem. So every test that comes in is sent to a lab for testing and there is capacity, but the turnaround time is slower than we need it to be. And we need that capacity to keep jumping up because the number of cases will likely keep expanding. We want to get, you know, the – again, we’re trying to give you as much information as we can get. It’s just getting harder to get all of the information we’d like out quickly. But we’re still seeing, you know, a lot of tests out pending. We’re still seeing a lot of negative tests as I said, as of 10:00 am from day one, we had 258 negative tests. So, you know, we want as much testing as we can get done. One more step and I think we’ll be at the point that will sustain us for a long period of time. Please.
Deputy Mayor Perea-Henze Sorry about that. We are in the hundreds as the Mayor is saying. The commercial labs will increase our capability into thousands, but also please make note of what the Mayor is emphasizing. We still need the FDA to approve the automated version of the testing as soon as possible because that’s what is going to make the difference. That’s what is going to get us to what the speaker is mentioning in South Korea. 10,000 a day.
Mayor: Go ahead.
Question: So, two questions. The first is I know you said you’re looking at double the number of do disease detectives. Can you tell us what that number is or at now and what you would like that number to get to Dr. Barbot?
Commissioner Barbot: Currently we’re at 50.
Question: And you’d like to get it to a hundred?
Commissioner Barbot: Yes.
Mayor: Yeah, and to begin, we might go farther than that soon.
Question: And my second question is, I know you mentioned earlier that the doctor – the doctor, who had travel to Iran, who tested positive. They’re going through separate tests. She and her husband, I guess is that –
Mayor: There’s two, I’m going to use a layman’s term, there’s two checkout tests. So when you’re coming out – you’re a health care professional, these were obviously our first cases, so when you’re a health care professional, you have to take two tests on the outbound that both come back negative. So they’ve taken the first test, we’re waiting for the results, they get a negative, they take a second test, if they get negative, then they’re cleared to go.
Question: And is there a plan I guess to retest some people who maybe had tested negative, especially if they had a long time exposure, like the wife of the Westchester attorney and then [inaudible] coworker, I’m sorry, Westchester attorney’s coworkers. I mean, do you do follow-up tests in case it does show up after?
Mayor: What’s the protocol on that?
Commissioner Barbot: Right now, as I mentioned, we want to align testing with symptoms because that’s going to give you the highest probability of having a test that gives you the best information. There is no indication that once the incubation period is over, there’s any need, and if the – especially if the person’s asymptomatic that you need to do additional testing.
Question: Mr. Mayor, how many actual test kits does the city have available and how many have you actually used at this point?
Mayor: Yeah the kit’s thing, I think – no, not challenging your question, just for clarity – I think that kits is misleading. It is the capacity each kit allows for. So can – who can speak to the total capacity we got from day one and where we’re at vis-à-vis that.
Commissioner Barbot: So each kit contains a thousand tests and we have two kits.
Mayor: So, that would be 2,000.
Commissioner Barbot: Yes.
Mayor: But our daily capacity in the Public Health Lab is physically limited?
Commissioner Barbot: Is physically limited. So currently we can do a samples for 60 people, which is 120 tests. And we are looking to expand that capacity to roughly 100 people a day.
Question: I want to clarify, so you said there’s a slow turnaround for the testing, so how long does it take [inaudible] the automated tests—
Mayor: Automated test is hours. Existing tests or the public labs is days. I think we’re talking about can be three or four days. Way back
Question: [Inaudible] Uber driver who tested positive. Have you guys done any researching on the riders and how they’ve been effected or whether or not they’ve come down with anything? The other question I wanted to ask is – there’s a Pre-K teacher—
Mayor: Wait, actually, I’m sorry. It really helps me if you just stay on one topic at a time, I’m not going to go anywhere. So on the first one, so we’re constantly monitoring and we’re trying to support the drivers and certainly give them good guidance. And one of the things we talked about, this based on the healthcare professionals, that real simple thing of opening the windows is exceedingly helpful. Circulating the air. I don’t think we have a case so far that we believe links to being in a car service as a passenger. So nothing that’s come up that we know of. So in terms of survey, I mean obviously we’re, we’re looking across the entire city for anybody who may have symptoms and needs to be tested, but I don’t think we’re hearing anything particular from the TLC sector – anyone know different than that? No.
Question: You guys have gone through all of that, drivers, riders, and checked them out to make sure—
Mayor: No, of course we haven’t gone through all drivers and riders and all that. Again, let’s be clear what I’m saying. The, we have, you know, the city has almost 400,000 employees. The driver sector is huge. We’re not calling each person and checking on them. We’re going the other way around. We’re trying to inform people what they should do if they have symptoms and then what to do if the symptoms are particularly problematic or they have those underlying conditions and the health care system, and Dr. Barbot, I think it would help if you explain, you get a constant flow of information from all elements of the healthcare system. I don’t think we’ve really said that clearly enough to people how that works because that’s the way we see each case. And we have a sense of what’s going on. Could you speak to that?
Mayor: Alright. Hold on. Just let me do this and we’ll come back to that.
Commissioner Barbot: So we do, we, we have close collaboration and contact with all of our hospital partners so that if there are individuals that are of particular concern, we certainly get early alerts from them. And additionally we work very closely with all of our partners in the ambulatory sector. So we have a pretty well knit system whereby providers have access to physicians within the Health Department, through our provider access line to ask us questions about if they have doubts of who they should be testing, if they have results that may be concerning. And that is a system that is available to all physicians.
Mayor: [Inaudible] them, we’ll come back to your question is more the automatic – the mandatory information sharing that physicians have to do in terms of certain cases. The way you get a flow of information, your early detection system. I hope people understand how much information is flowing to you all the time. And if you could make that a little bit clearer, it would help people.
Commissioner Barbot: Certainly. So there are ongoing surveillance systems that we have that are data-driven, where we look at what the influenza trends might be coming from hospitals. We look at what the visit types are through their emergency departments and we can view that on an hourly basis. So we have a fairly good temperature gauge of what may be happening in our emergency departments.
Mayor: So you’re talking also about the individual driver.
Mayor: Right. So what we know about the driver is the family contacts for sure, and we went over that the other day and everyone else is asymptomatic, at least as of the last report we had and they are in quarantine. In terms, again, this was a Nassau driver, so we’re not in a position to track the Nassau contacts. I don’t know what the latest is, if we’ve heard anything from the Nassau Health Department on that, if there’s any news on that, but we can try and get that for you if we don’t have it.
Commissioner Barbot: So my understanding is that we have not identified additional close contacts that would need to be evaluated.
Mayor: Right. And again, being in a car per se would not necessarily be the issue. Now you had another question?
Question: Yeah there was a teacher that teaches Pre-K who sent out a tweet saying that coworkers were being denied tests for the coronavirus. Have you heard about that or?
Mayor: No. And I’d like – look, we would welcome getting that information. We’ll follow up with that teacher right away. But again, if someone was not symptomatic that we’re not doing tests for folks who are not symptomatic. So we, we as much as I want that flow of information directly from people, and a lot of times every-day New Yorkers, everyday public servants will raise a concern that we’re not seeing clearly enough and we need that information. If someone tweeted out, I just want a coronavirus test and are not symptomatic and they’re getting turned away. That’s right. They’re not supposed to just walk up and get a test with no symptoms. So we need to know more about that.
Question: [Inaudible] tweet it said they had shortness of breath and high temperatures.
Mayor: Okay. So we need to know what happened specifically, and then we need that contact so we can follow up. You can just, if you hand that off to Freddie, we’ll follow up and then we’ll get you an answer. Who has not gone? Go ahead.
Question: The [inaudible] health care worker in New Jersey’s most [inaudible] case is now hospitalized—
Mayor: Which one? I’m sorry. You said New Jersey?
Question: He was [inaudible] in New Jersey, asking to be transferred to Mt. Sinai Hospital in New York City. Would you accept his request, what is the protocol?
Mayor: I don’t know the protocol, that’s a great question. What is the protocol?
President Katz: That would go doctor to doctor. Often we do transfer patients, especially if this is somebody who is at a hospital that does not have the capability of Mount Sinai. It would make sense that they would then take on that patient.
Mayor: Anyone not gone?
Question: What’s the city doing in order to dispel fears and handle disinformation spreading in the city’s homeless community?
Mayor: What, I’m sorry, for the last part. Of which community?
Question: About the homeless community?
Mayor: Right. We’ve spoken to this in a number of the press conferences, our outreach teams, which you know, we’re already extensively connecting with the homeless are doing that very systematically and I’m waiting to get numbers back that we can share with you, but with the – there’s an ongoing outreach function. Remember the street homeless is between 3,500 and 4,000 most of whom were in regular touch with through outreach workers. They’re looking for folks who may have symptoms to get them to care, giving them information. If anyone’s in grievous need, of course we can get them to care, whether it’s voluntary or involuntary. But so far I have not heard of any cases or symptoms among the homeless that needed follow through. But we’ll get you more on that as soon as we have it. Okay, anyone who has not gone, just want to try this once. Okay, round two. Go ahead.
Question: Just somewhat related to that, I know you spoke yesterday about your homeless outreach workers, you know, visiting up with the individuals that they know of. Is there anything specific being done to check in on the homeless who are frequently on the subways and related somewhat related state health officials said today that actually the virus can survive on metal and plastic for days, not minutes as your health officials have said, can explain that?
Mayor: Yeah, so two very different questions. On the homeless and subways. It’s the same exact outreach effort that we’ve been doing now for months and it is social services and NYPD and the guidance has been given to everyone. If anyone is symptomatic we want to try and get them obviously immediately to care. I was briefed on the latest information coming in to state. What I am told, and I’m happy to confirm this is that there is a new study that suggests that, that the state is evaluating and we will evaluate too. That is a study that we have not seen previously. It’s one study, we take it obviously every study seriously, but we have to evaluate that and as I understand it, the state is in the process of evaluating that as well. Go ahead.
Question: This is a question for the Mayor and the Speaker, are you allowing your staffers to telecommute?
Mayor: I can say for the city we’re looking at and trying to act quickly on those who can. Now we are different from the private sector, obviously. We have a lot of areas of work in New York City government because we do public service. Bluntly, the private sector is there to make money and God bless them, but they’re – you know, they have more flexibility in some cases than we have, but a very, very high percentage of city employees can only do their work by being out in the field or being at a government facility, but where we can find some space for telecommuting, we’re going to try and do that quickly. That’s the ongoing effort. We’ll know more about that soon.
Speaker Johnson: We’re looking into it. We haven’t started it yet. We’ve been having conversations with DCAS, the city agency that makes decisions for agencies across the city on these types of things, in conjunction with the Mayor’s Office, but we are looking into both telecommuting and also staggering work hours. Those are things that we’re looking at. We don’t have a final plan yet, but the last few days we have been trying to put a plan in place. We tried to look back and see what happened during Hurricane Sandy. What happened during 9-1-1, were there lessons to be learned as it related to government workers and measures that they took? And so, we’re looking at the past to see if there are lessons to be learned that will inform a potential policy that we figure out towards the end of this week, I think.
Question: My assumption, please correct me up if I’m wrong, is that the Council staffers can do work remotely whereas like maybe some City agency workers wouldn’t be able to do that. So, can you speak a little bit to what those roles would be and, like, the reason why, I guess, there’s such a delay?
Speaker Johnson: It’s complicated. So, it’s complicated because when we talk about City Council staff, you have the district office staff who work in the members’ offices who are dealing with primarily constituent and community-driven issues and complaints. And so, a lot of constituents are calling local Council members offices wanting to get information. So, if you didn’t have folks actually at that telephone, you’d need to find a way to redirect those calls in an appropriate way where you’re still being responsive to New Yorkers as their local elected official – that’s number-one. Number-two is, the way we currently track complaints in the Council is through something called CouncilStat, and CouncilStat does not have the ability to be remotely accessed. It can only be accessed from 250 Broadway, the central offices, or the member offices for security reasons. If you have people work from home, you wouldn’t have the ability to have the same access to case files or to log complaints in the same way. That’s different than 250 Broadway where you have the folks that are working in the legislative budget, general counsel, administrative services, land-use divisions who are doing that work every single day. So, we have to take those things into consideration as make a decision like this. And those are some of the things that we’re looking at right now.
Question: Can you just describe the process of when people who have been in quarantine and they’re getting checked up on or having the tests, I mean, does the Department of Health – is there a protective measure that goes into that?
Mayor: You mean the mandatory?
Question: The mandatory, yeah.
Mayor: So just – I’ll start and then to the Commissioner. So, the mandatory is a daily phone call and then the spot checks several times a week – and that spot check is in person.
Commissioner Barbot: Right, the spot checks are in person and we talked to the individual through the door.
Question: And the second question is [inaudible] that’s coming into the West side of Manhattan on Sunday, you know, let’s say a New York City resident gets off, is there any kind of checking to make sure, okay, you have a 100.4 or higher fever, you live in Brooklyn – but how they get home – you know, is there a concern of maybe someone says, I want to take the seven train home and [inaudible] been a concern that someone who may have it and who hasn’t been tested –
Mayor: Yeah, it’s a very good question. I think, you know, we are – this is sort of uncharted territory to us, greeting cruise ships. So, I think we’re going to have to figure out the right way to do that. Obviously, anyone who needed medical care, you know, we have ambulances, but I think that’s a very good question. If we got someone who it’s appropriate for them to go home and isolate, we want to make sure they get home safely. Obviously, we’d like that to be as simple a procedure as possible. Maybe we – something we can do to facilitate that, but it’s literally brand new, something we’re dealing with today. So, unless you have another answer, I think we will get back with more detail tomorrow.
Commissioner Barbot: Yeah, I would say that we collaborate with the CDC and along with EMS to see if we need to transport anybody. So, we’ll be playing, I think, for right now, a coordinating role along with CDC. More details to follow.
Question: [Inaudible] Mr. Mayor and Mr. Speaker. You know, today, you decided to cancel your State of the City speech, which attracts several hundred people you mentioned, and you guys still aren’t – or, the Mayor still isn’t saying whether he wants to cancel the St. Patrick’s parade, which brings about 2.1 million people. Why did you decide to cancel, you know, your State of the City speech, and what do you personally think? Do you think the Sr. Patrick’s Parade should be canceled?
Speaker Johnson: I’m not in the position to say that about the parade at this point, because, again, as you’ve heard from the Governor and the Mayor, the health commissioners and the top staff who are working with the Governor and the Mayor make these decisions on a day-to-day basis, given the most current information that they have, and we want to be honest with New Yorkers and say that we understand the fear and concern that are out there, but we don’t want to induce panic by making rushed decisions way ahead of time. The Mayor and the Governor and their teams continue to talk and I’ll let the Mayor answer that question on when would be the appropriate time to actually figure that out. As it relates to my State of the City, my State of the City is not a, sort of, necessary event. It’s not something that has to happen on a certain day.
I’ve been excited about it and I’ve been working on it for a long time. I’ve been practicing the speech. I’ve been doing a tremendous amount of work in the last many weeks and months, but it’s not really about that. It’s about in this situation that we’re in right now for events that are not entirely necessary that can be postponed, especially when I was going to have, I think, a significant number of people coming that have many of the underlying health issues that you’ve heard about every single day. And I didn’t want to cut those people out of the event and I didn’t want to in any way endanger them by having them come to the event. So, out of an abundance of precaution, and talking to some of the people who are at this table here, we made the decision to do this and I hope that at some point we can have it in the future, but it’s out of an abundance of caution and on larger wide-scale events that you’re talking about, public events like the St. Patrick’s Day Parade, again, I want to hand it off to the Mayor. He is looking at this information every single day to make determinations like that.
Mayor: Exactly right. And so, let’s just separate this into two concepts. Any organization, any business that is holding an event and makes a decision that they want to cancel the event for their own reasons, that’s their right. But the question of the City’s decision based on every – I agree with what the Speaker just said – every piece information we take in daily, hourly, all the work we’re doing with the State, et cetera. We are not canceling any events until and unless we say we’re canceling them, it’s as simple as that. So, it’s not – with real respect, your question suggested indecision. There’s no indecision. We’re not canceling events – that’s today, at this hour. If at any point we decide to cancel some events, we’ll tell you and we’ll tell you why. If we cancel others, we’ll tell you, we’ll tell you why. But based on the information we have, we are not canceling events.
Anyone who has not gone in round two? Go ahead –
Question: I have a couple of questions. The first one was about the CUNY system. I know a lot of universities around the country are reacting [inaudible] at what point would you do something differently?
Mayor: We don’t control the CUNY system, the State does. And again, we respect the State – is making a variety of decisions. We’re working closely with them but they obviously have the right to make their own decisions. I would say with the private universities, we certainly want to make sure they are consulting with public health officials as they’re making their deliberations. The fact is – and we’ve seen different things from different universities – most of them seem to be filing a pattern of they’re actually keeping a lot of activities going, dorms open, etcetera, but going to distance learning because they feel they can do that easily. But the CUNY decision would have to be made by the State.
Mayor: I don’t think we have all those details now. And again, that’s part of the reality of more and more cases and we’re catching up on the profiles. That one’s obviously high profile, so we’ll make it a point to come back for the next briefing with the details on where that stands and the tracing of that case. Back there –
Mayor: There’s no hostility. I don’t understand that. And if there’s any – again, a lot of you in the media who are talking to people who have concerns, we want to know who those – not in a negative way, you can do it very discreetly – we need to know who is misinformed or has a concern or needs help or needs information. If you’ll flow them through to our press office, we’ll follow up. There’s no hostility – if a senior center wants to have people masks, that’s their choice in a free country. We’re not advising it –
Commissioner Barbot: Right.
Mayor: We don’t believe – where we believe the masks are necessary are for folks who are constantly working with people in a health care setting, for example, on folks who are already sick to protect them from spreading. But it is a free country, if someone wants to wear a mask because it makes them feel better that’s alright. Doctors, am I saying anything wrong here?
Commissioner Barbot: Nope, I agree.
President Katz: And people do wear masks on regular days before this.
Mayor: Yes, this is not the first time.
President Katz: So, if it makes someone feel better, we’re not [inaudible].
Mayor: That’s great. And there’s no – there’s not going to be any hostility. There’s not going to be any negative consequences.
Speaker Johnson: Can I just say one thing, Mr. Mayor? I mean, if you’re talking about hostility from the public, if you’re talking about hostility from New Yorkers, then we have said at every single press conference over and over and over again, and there have been some incidences that have been put on social media of New Yorkers being attacked, discriminated against because they are Asian and wearing a mask in public. What you’re hearing, I think, from the Mayor is, there’s no hostility from anyone in government for them making those decisions. But for New Yorkers that may be discriminating against people, the Mayor will saying it, the Governor will keep saying it, the Health Commissioner will keep saying it, I will keep saying it – unacceptable, cut it out, you’re making the situation worse in New York City by inciting more fear. We need to treat each other with respect. We need to take the precautions, but that does not mean discriminating at someone because they are Asian. It does not mean discriminate against someone because they may be Jewish. No discrimination. Let’s go by the facts. Let’s not go by fear. Let’s go by science. No hostility towards anyone in New York City. It doesn’t help anyone.
Mayor: Exactly. I want to thank the Speaker because he’s been outspoken on this point and I appreciate it. Look, discrimination is illegal in New York City. Let’s just go back to the beginning. A number of us have gone out into Asian communities to show solidarity, to remind people to keep going to communities and shop and participate in the life of the community. I’m going to keep doing that. You will see me out in the community more. But discrimination is illegal, it’s immoral, and for any discrimination that violates our human rights laws, there will be consequences. For anything that constitutes a hate crime, there will be an NYPD investigation. So, I’ve heard people – I know people are very, very fearful and concerned in Asian communities in general, and particularly in the Chinese community. My message is abundantly clear – New York City stands with you. If there’s any instance of a hate crime or discrimination we need it reported immediately. You can call 3-1-1 in terms of any discrimination. You can call the NYPD, obviously, or go to a police precinct, whatever makes sense. We want to get all of those reports so we can follow up to ensure there are consequences against the perpetrators.
Question: [Inaudible] one of the plans to replenish that [inaudible]?
Commissioner Barbot: So, we will put in an order to the CDC. The one thing I will say is that with the increasing capacity of the commercial labs, you know, we are looking forward to having, as was said earlier, the capacity to do thousands of tests across the city.
Commissioner Barbot: I think it’s other companies that are also providing reagents. And so, I think all of us together. You know, initially we had thought that the CDC test was going be ready to go at a particular time and they had internal technical issues. You know, and so I’m sort of hedging my bets to be totally honest because it’s not something that we control definitively, but we are certainly looking forward to receiving the next batch when we need it.
Mayor: And I think it just – I’m sorry to follow the question, just a prompt here. Look, at when we started out – again, remember, as recently as a week ago, Monday we didn’t have any of this stuff and that was really, really problematic. Having it first be our public health lab, then expanding to the private labs, that was great, but the vast majority of the capacity is the private labs. We’re working well with them. Again, the automation will be a whole much better situation. But I think, Commissioner, it’s right to say, so long as between the public health lab, H + H, and the private labs, there’s always capacity to do testing. It’s fine either way, right? I mean, we can work with any and all of those pieces.
Commissioner Barbot: Exactly.
Commissioner Barbot: No, they’re still having their own test.
President Katz: H + H alone has a thousand ventilators. And so, we represent about 20 percent of the inpatient volume. So, I would times it by five to have a rough estimate of what’s available in the city itself.
Mayor: He just said that. He said, you can assume that since there are 20 percent of the health care system, just assume parity – 5,000 would be a good rough working number. We can check that. I would assume the voluntaries have at least as much resources that you have proportionally.
President Katz: Yes, absolutely.
Mayor: We can verify, but I think 5,000 is a good working number now.
Mayor: I just want to start and then pass to the Commissioner, saying, remember New York State – you know, we are a big part in New York State, obviously, 8.6 million people, but there’s even more people outside in New York City in New York State, and the Wadsworth Lab plays a crucial role for the whole rest of the state. But go ahead.
Commissioner Barbot: Yeah, I mean, is your question if we have our own kits or if we share kits? I don’t understand your question.
Commissioner Barbot: Well, we have our independent kits and we can order independently from the CDC.
Mayor: Okay. We’re going to finish up. Let’s go this way through these last few.
Question: [Inaudible] St. Patrick’s again [inaudible] from your office – did anyone of your office [inaudible] today [inaudible] –
Mayor: I’m sorry, I heard NYPD and OEM –
Question: Has your office met with NYPD [inaudible] –
Mayor: OEM – she is right there. Right there is OEM, but go on – what’s the question about NYPD?
Mayor: Let me just start and pass to you. Again, that NYPD is always going to look at the broader security concerns around St. Patrick’s – logistics, et cetera, safety. This is, you know, the new fact – but that’s every single year. The new factor here is on the health side of the equation, so we’ll certainly be well coordinated, but that decision is going to be with the health care professionals, ultimately.
Commissioner Criswell: Yeah. The only thing that I’ll add is, you know, we have representatives from all City agencies working in task forces every day at the Emergency Operations Center, looking at not just the St. Patrick’s parade, but a variety of other things. And so, we’re continually looking, working with the Health Department to determine what decisions we need to make.
Mayor: Okay. Final round over. I’ve got one, two, three, four and that’ll be it. Go ahead.
Question: Michael Bloomberg launched a coronavirus response network for mayors. Will you be joining that?
Mayor: I don’t know anything about it, but I’m happy to work with all my fellow mayors. I’ve been working with the U.S. Conference of Mayors, have been in regular touch with them. I think we’re doing a conference call with mayors around the country on Friday. But if there’s something else that will help us, we’re happy to work with everyone.
Question: I was curious if Health and Hospitals cause any capacity for telemedicine, considering the current of the virus outbreak? Like, are there any plans in the works to have telehealth services to people who then you could kind of screen [inaudible] saying you might have coronavirus why don’t you come on and then we’re prepared for it?
President Katz: Yeah, so we actually have pretty good telemedicine, especially when you realize that in most cases for symptom review a regular telephone would work just fine. You don’t generally need to see the person. So, we would mostly do voice, but we do have the ability to do a full telephonic evaluation.
President Katz: Well, obviously, the phone is fully available. The telephonic right now is more limited.
Mayor: No, you said the phone and the telephonic –
President Katz: I’m sorry, the video is more –
Mayor: The video is more limited. The phone is very available. Okay. Who had last two? One –
Question: I wanted to get some clarity on, you mentioned that you’re not testing people who are asymptomatic and self-quarantined – are you not doing that because there’s not enough tests available? And another – my last question is, are you guys planning to do like a borough breakdown of coronavirus cases at any point?
Mayor: So, we were simply trying to get information out in aggregate over time. I’m sure we can do a borough breakdown as well. So, if you guys will follow up on that. On the – I think, Dr. Barbot, it would be helpful to just clarify again, we’re going to have asymptomatic people who remain asymptomatic and if someone is asymptomatic through the entire reality, you know, that says a lot obviously. And our central concern is symptomatic people where – that’s where the concern is about spreading the disease and obviously their own health needs because they’re symptomatic. So, I think helping people understand why it is not our priority to test the asymptomatic – capacity is an issue, but it’s much more about prioritization. We want to get to the folks who need the help first and not do a lot of extraneous testing compared to those in need.
Commissioner Barbot: Yes, Mr. Mayor. So, the priority is those individuals that are at greatest risk, so over 50 and have one of the five chronic underlying diseases that we mentioned – additionally, individuals who may be very sick and hospitalized. We are not recommending – we will not test asymptomatic people because they are not the ones that are responsible for spreading the illness.
Question: So, it has nothing to do with the fact that you guys don’t have enough tests?
Mayor: It has to do with prioritizing the people we should be focused on. And again, we started with a very limited testing supply. We’re now getting more and more. If we get the authorization on the automated, we’ll have an abundant supply of testing, which is really what we want. But this is about testing the people who need to be tested. We don’t want a situation where everyone in New York City says, I just want a coronavirus test despite the fact I show no symptoms whatsoever, have no nexus to travel, no nothing. It’s much more pinpoint than that. And again, against the city of 8.6 million people, the numbers still remain very limited. We want to focus on the people who have a need.
Question: Two questions on the kids. You said you have – the number of kids you currently have. Does that mean your capacity as a thousand people to test? Is that accurate? And then, what’s the order of priority for you guys? Is it more CDC tests? The automated tests –
Mayor: The automated. The automated is whole ballgame. That takes you from – that guarantees you’re getting to thousands a day and quick turnaround. We need those two things.
Question: And then finally, Mr. Mayor, have you canceled any of your political travels on behalf –
Mayor: I have no political travel, so there’s nothing to cancel.
Question: You haven’t canceled any plans to go –
Mayor: I literally – listen to the actual answer. I had none scheduled, so there was none to cancel.
Okay, everybody we’ll have more for you tomorrow. Thank you.
Question: Mayor, could you try to do these on time? I know it’s like –
Mayor: We can’t until we’re ready. If there’s constant – it’s a fair question, but this is literally ever evolving. We’re not coming out until we can answer every one of your questions. So, we – again guys, we’re estimating the best start time, but, as you saw, the Governor’s press conference brought out a lot of information right ahead. We can only do what we can only do. I’ll ask Freddi to be conservative – the one time I’ll ask you to be conservative in your timing, because we obviously don’t want you waiting for no reason. But if we are getting breaking information and details, the last thing we want to do is come out and we can’t answer your questions.