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Transcript: Mayor de Blasio Holds Media Availability on COVID-19

March 12, 2020

Mayor Bill de Blasio: We have a lot of information to share with you. Obviously, things are moving very, very quickly when it comes to the coronavirus. I'm stating the obvious to everyone here. I don't think for most of us even who have been in public life a long time, we've seen a situation quite like this where we receive extraordinary new information on what now literally feels like an hourly basis. So, we are constantly making adjustments. We're also going to go over the numbers here, which are very sobering. We're seeing intense increases in the number of cases in the city. And I think we have to fully understand this as the shape of things to come.

So, we'll start with saying we're going to be giving regular updates, but expect major changes from day to day because we've now seen a pattern of such extraordinary information coming in. It's forcing very, very different decisions than we would've made typically not only here, obviously, all over the country. But the last 24 hours have been very, very sobering. Literally, yesterday, morning feels like a long time ago. We got a lot of information in the course of the day yesterday. A lot change then. Then, last night, it just seemed like the world turned upside down in the course of just a few hours. So, you know, I think what we are seeing is more and more of a consensus on how to act and everyone is moving as quickly as we can. That said, you're going to see differences, of course, between different parts of the country, what public sector and private sector does. And I'm going to try my best to explain the specific approach we're taking, but, again, it will be evolving literally daily and hourly, and we will update you constantly.

In light of several new developments – obviously the numbers that we now have seen over the last 24 hours here in New York City, what we're seeing nationally and internationally. The reality of community spread that's been with us over these last few days and the close working relationship between the city and state, the decisions that we are making together – and I spoke with Governor Cuomo at length earlier today about a specific set of decisions. And obviously, you heard his announcements earlier today, which he and I discussed in detail and which I agree with fully. In light of all those changing realities, it is time now to declare a state of emergency New York City. And I will explain what that means, the powers that are vested in me, what it will allow us to do going forward. I'll also emphasize that the declaration of state of emergency authorizes the use of the powers, but we will use them as needed. That doesn't mean everything will happen at once. And we're going to try and be very, very careful to give you accurate information about what the city is doing and why. There's already some very inaccurate information out there, which we'll speak to later on. But I want to ask all of you in the news media, if you're hearing things that are being attributed to the City of New York, please ask if it's true or not. We will confirm with you instantly. It's very important that the people of the city know what is really coming from the government and what is not. But now, again, it's time to sign this state of emergency declaration.

[Mayor de Blasio signs State of Emergency Declaration]

And continuing on the conversation with the Governor, again, I fully support, we are in total agreement on his decision related to large gatherings. So, we will be working with the state to enforce that new rule that relates obviously to anything where over 500 people would gather – parades, rallies, concerts, sports events, professional conferences, etcetera. And all of our largest venues will now no longer have gatherings until such time in this crisis as it's acceptable to do so again. And again, I unfortunately suspect that will be a number of months. So, places like Barclays, Madison Square Garden, Radio City will obviously will not be operating. As you heard, for most venues that will begin in five o'clock Friday. For Broadway, as I understand, it begins five o'clock tonight. Also agree with the decision for gatherings of under 500 people – this essentially refers to non-essential, non-workplace related dynamics. And we're talking about events, we're talking about restaurants, we're talking about bars. Gathering places under 500 people will be mandated to have occupancy levels at 50 percent or less of their legal occupancy. That will allow for space between people. That will allow for some effective opening up of those spaces. We understand, obviously – thank you – that some businesses will choose to work with these rules because they can make it work economically or they want to stay open for the long haul. Other businesses, I won't be surprised if they believe that's a situation where they'd rather close temporarily. It will be up to each business, but those are the rules that we will enforce from this point on.

Now, I want to say, and I know the Governor feels same way, these decisions that we're making, and the state and the city working closely together to make these decisions, we don't do any of this lightly. This is difficult stuff because we know it'll have a serious, serious impact on a number of businesses. Just talking about the over 500 people gatherings – I mean, that's – in this city, especially,  a huge number of events, concerts, etcetera, that's really, really painful for the many, many people who work in that field, let alone so many New Yorkers and people all over the country who really look forward to these events, these concerts, these sports events. And it's really going to be a kind of a hole in our lives and it's painful. It's not something we would ever want to do, but it's something we have to do.

I am going to use every power that I have, everything we can find to support people, businesses and working people are going through this, obviously. The state and even more so the federal government have the greatest powers to provide that kind of relief and support. We're going to urge them to do that. But, you know, we understand that this is going to be a huge dislocation for so many people and it's painful. And it's obviously, as we've grappled with this crisis, our greatest concern has been how to balance all these factors and ensure that we could keep a functioning society and protect the elements of our society that are most crucial – our hospital system, our schools, our mass transit, all of this interconnects. And I can certainly say none of us wanted to take this action unless it was 100 percent necessary because the impact it'll have on the whole overall picture and clearly the human impact, which is going to be really extensive. And we talked in recent days about a projection that this crisis could easily be a six-month crisis. We all know it could be longer, but then the recovery from it could take a really extensive amount of time. So, going to this level is not done lightly, but it is the point where it's necessary.

I'm going to give you some other updates. Let me start with the overall numbers and I'll just double back to some other things. And again, these overall numbers are striking and troubling. We now, and even compared to this morning, we've seen a big jump. We now have 95 confirmed cases – that is 42 new since yesterday, so you can see the progression now. We do have just a small important procedural point. We are now going to define our cases as only New York City residents. So, we had some questioning that, rightfully so, the other day, we said we were including one person, the original Westchester lawyer and account. We've taken them out of the count from this point on. This will only be New York City residents. As of noon, and again, this is changing constantly – as of noon, the breakout we had, and I don't think this breakout correlates to the 95, so, forgive me, that this is not fully aligned. But as of noon, by residency, it was 25 people from Manhattan, 24 people from Brooklyn, 17 people from Queens, 10 people from the Bronx, and five people from Staten Island. And we'll try and keep you updated regularly on those borough breakdowns.

We have 29 people now in mandatory quarantine. That number continues to rise. We have 1,784 people in voluntary quarantine. It's a lot of bad news today. There's a lot of troubling news. There is one small piece of good news that we talked about the other day, and I'm not going to be specific to which individual, because we are getting some clearance on that, but we can say at least broadly that the first – we have the first case of someone coming out of mandatory quarantine and able to go back to their normal lives. So, even in the midst of the growth of this, we will see this. We met with employers here in the Blue Room earlier today. I'll talk about that in a moment. We talked about the deep fears about losing members of their workforce and the and the health dangers people face, but also the reminder that people will come through and we'll get back into the workforce and get back to being healthy. We'll talk about that in a moment.

So, a couple of pieces here. I keep giving you some agency updates as they arise. We're very concerned about people's loss of livelihood in the kind of situation we've just described, especially where a number of businesses will be cutting back or shutting down. We're worried about folks having trouble paying the rent. We want to emphasize, if anyone is facing eviction, we want to help them to avoid eviction. If it is a sheer legal matter, we will get them free legal help and people can call 3-1-1 if they need it. For folks who are now in a situation of distress, it will depend of course upon levels and other factors. But if someone is faced with eviction or unable to pay the rent, in some cases we can provide some short-term support through our human resources administration. We'll get you more details on that, but anyone who thinks that they need that help, they can go to And we'll get you more details on that.

We are concerned about people again who have less money because their employment has been compromised, running low on food for their families. Our Department of Social Services is activating emergency food contracts, working with nonprofit organizations, community-based organizations, and increase the amount of available food. We'll have more details on that in the next day or two.

And again, there's nothing that would be more important in terms of providing support and relief for people than federal action. We all understand in a national crisis, the federal government can provide a level of relief that state and local government simply can't. We need the federal government to move immediately with a huge stimulus program and a program of relief for working people – paid sick days, any number of measures that would help people through what could easily be a half year or more. The House of Representatives has put forward a stimulus plan that is very helpful and a very positive step. We need to see action by the House, Senate and the President as quickly as possible.

I want to give updates about our school system. And I'll talk about the school in the Bronx in just a moment. But first, overall, and this is absolutely essential to our strategy and something we are working very, very hard to continue to keep continuity on, I know the state feels the same way, we want our schools to remain open. We intend for our schools to remain open. That said, there are non-essential and non-instructional activities that we will alter. They'll either be moved online if they can be or they will be canceled, depends on each activity. So, that includes PSAL activities, athletic activities, games and practices, assemblies, parent teacher conferences, PTA meetings, and school plays and recitals.

And I will stay on the topic of schools and then double back. This morning, we have a potential – and please, everyone accurately note this, we do not have independent confirmation – we have a potential case of a student at a school contracting this disease, but it is self-confirmed. We do not have a medical provider or a testing agency that has independently verified that. That is not in any way doubting what the individuals are saying, it’s saying that we have to make a series of decisions and we need medical confirmation. We don't have it right now. We hope to have that confirmation in the next hour or two. Two schools – and the Chancellor’s here, and obviously we'll add in the Q & A – and Chancellor, make sure I described properly, if there's anything you need to correct me on, feel free. Two schools in the same building, the Laboratory School of Finance and Technology and South Bronx Prep. This is in the Mott Haven neighborhood in the Bronx. The school is at – or, the two schools are on the building at 360 East 145th Street. Again, this was a decision we made this morning a little after 7:00 am based on decisions – excuse me, based on information that had just come in and it was a tough decision because we did not have that confirmation, but out an abundance of caution determined that it was the right thing to do to close the school to work, to work to get that confirmation. If we were so lucky as to get a negative confirmation, that would be ideal. If we get a positive, it's quite clear the follow through. In the meantime, the full disinfection and cleanliness regimen is placed in the school today. The disease detectives from the Department of Health have been deployed to figure out any close contacts, as we said would be the case in any potential temporary school closure. We have checked the school and we'll keep double checking, but, as of now, there are no children in the school who reach what we call a tier one level of preexisting medical conditions – so, children who would be particularly vulnerable. We're double checking that. But as of this point, we do not have an indication of any children in the school having those particular preexisting conditions.

I want to talk for a moment about two things. The City workforce and then the private sector workforce on the city. We now intend to authorize 10 percent of the city workforce to work from home. The specific details are being determined. So, this is telecommuting. We believe that's a number we can hit in the short term, but it will take some real work. It's not the norm, obviously, for city employment. There's, as is obvious, a huge number of our employees who cannot telecommute, who we need at their posts, but we believe in short order we can have 10 percent telecommute. I am – want to confirm that number. I believe that is 34,000 but I want to check that –

Unknown: 35,000 –

Mayor: 35,000 – thank you, Commissioner. And then of the remaining 90 percent of the workforce, there are 20 percent we intend to put on staggered schedules. Again, understanding a lot of our folks not only play a crucial role but cannot be on staggered schedules, but others can. So, we in short order hope to put 20 percent on staggered work schedules even as they report to their normal work locations. And I wanted that – so, that's 20 percent of the remaining 90 percent – I want that number too – do you know –

Unknown: 70,000 –

Mayor: 70,000 – thank you, Commissioner. So, between those two categories, that's about a 100,000 City workers will either be in telecommuting or on a staggered schedule and getting them as much as possible away from the rush hour.

And again, our message to New York City businesses, as much as humanly possible, please authorize maximum telecommuting and or staggered schedules for your employees. I want to say, it's our impression so far from the information we're getting that business community is really honoring that, a lot of them are acting on that. The meeting we had here which was organized with the help of the New York City partnership and CEOs and business leaders of some of the most prominent businesses in New York City. Just going around the room and going [inaudible] each of them going through, with each of them what they are doing, we saw a very, very high level of adherence to the guidance to institute telecommuting. In fact, in the case of some of the companies, which had the ability, obviously, if it's a technology company, for example, more capacity to do that. We had companies that were literally at 100 percent telecommuting now. Other companies are going to have a much harder time and strike a balance. A great example, one of the great New York City iconic companies, Macy's, the CEO was here. Macy's is in a different situation where a lot of their workers obviously work in physical locations, but they are working with us to maximize any kind of adjustments they can make. So, I want to say I appreciate the high level of cooperation from the business community. I also want to note every business is different. Some can do a lot of – have a lot of flexibility. Others do not. They are all taking it seriously. They're all working with us. We do want to keep reminding any business that's not yet instituted maximum telecommuting and, or staggering or work hours that we need them to. But we, again, are sensitive to the fact that not every business can do that and that we are simultaneously extremely concerned to keep people employed, keep people from running out of their livelihood because that has a huge number of other ramifications. So, we're trying to strike that balance, but very, very pleased with the cooperation we're getting. And we're going to try and work with these businesses on any help they need as they proceed.

Hang on one second. Okay, a couple of other matters. There's been concerned about the special election scheduled for March 24th for borough president of Queens. We are analyzing those concerns but I want to be very, very clear that election will continue as scheduled. We are dealing with an unprecedented challenge, but I think it is a signature of a stable democracy that elections happened when scheduled. So, we very much want that election to happen on time so long as we believe it can happen effectively. However, want to urge all candidates and campaigns to alter their activity. Right now, we're reaching out to each campaign specifically – believe that door to door canvasing should be stopped immediately. And I want to note, and knowing a lot about campaigns over the years, campaigns have many, many ways to still be effective without door to door canvassing or rallies. Clearly, phone banking social media, email updates, digital ads, TV ads, radio ads – there are many, many ways, including some of the most effective ways to get the message out. So, I think it's fair to say, and that campaign that's been going on for a while, that the democratic process can continue here effectively and the campaigns do have other options for getting their message out. We do not need people going door to door canvassing and taking those risks. So, we will move forward. We have a lot to sort out of course about making the voting process as safe and effective as possible. But I do want to say, particularly with early voting, the voting process is being spread out. So, it's almost its own version of social distancing. I can say from the first day early voting I saw this – fewer people are congregating to vote. The voting process and early voting is very fast. And again, preserving our democracy is crucial. We'll talk about it in the Q & A, but we are more comfortable getting this done now than waiting. We have a related challenge, which is a huge challenge and something we really have to think through, which is the Census – was raised in the Q & A the other day. This is going to be a very, very complex matter and we have to see on the federal level there'll be any consideration of altering the Census, delaying it, extending it. But my fear right now is that there will not be any change from Washington and we’ll be put – in many places, we’ll be put in a really, really difficult spot. We're going to have to figure out if that is the case, some way to communicate with people to the maximum. It's almost impossible to engage the Census without some kind of in-person activity, but we can alter the nature of the in-person activity. We've got a lot of important work to do on that. So, that's an area of tremendous concern, going forward.

Last few points and I'll be the only speaker and we will go to Q & A right after my remarks. My colleagues obviously will jump in on the Q & A. There have been questions previously about the homeless. I've said we would come back with a specific update. We have now trained 550 outreach workers through HOMESTAT and the protocol for discussing coronavirus with homeless folks, giving them information, checking on their condition, making sure they get the help if they need it. As of today, and we'll get the exact timeline on this, but we have 764 homeless individuals on the street who had been engaged so far. At this moment, we have no known referrals, so no one that was exhibiting the symptoms or the specific dynamics that led to follow up health care activity. But we'll get more on that day by day.

Want to just say something simple about the President's remarks last night. And I think at this point, it's not worth wasting breath on everything that has happened over the last few weeks and all the missed opportunities. I think we can at least say that last night's remarks indicated that the President is now finally taking the situation seriously. The steps he outlined showed much more connection to reality than a lot of what we heard previously. But he was essentially silent on the single most important action that the federal government could take, certainly from the perspective of New York City, which is to get immediate approval for a huge expansion of our automated testing. This is a tool that would be immensely helpful in addressing all the concern you're hearing from New Yorkers. So many people who want to get tested that we cannot prioritize right now. Businesses that would like to test employees that can't right now because we have to focus on the folks who have the clearer symptoms and the folks who are in the greatest danger and the folks who have a nexus to travel or an existing positive case. We want to do wide-scale testing. We cannot do it without the federal government coming in. There has been talk of localities taking matters into their own hands. I believe that that is what's going to happen if we don't get this federal approval. And I think this is bluntly the last chance. I think if the President United States and the FDA do not give us approval, I don't blame any locality, any company, anyone who just decides to do whatever kind of testing they can at this point. And we will work with all of them.

Finally, I want to say, all of us have been talking to so many New Yorkers over the last days and we've been watching how people are responding to quarantines, how their businesses are following up on guidance, how our public servants are reacting to the crisis. And I'm very, very proud of New Yorkers right now. It's been extraordinary. We're dealing with the absolutely not only unforeseen, something on a level we have never seen in our lives. There is no precedent for this in U.S. history or New York City history. New Yorkers are handling this with tremendous strength and resiliency. People are stepping up, people are looking out for each other and their neighbors. We're going to need a whole lot more of that. It's going to get a lot worse before it gets better. And I want to be clear about that, we will be at this for months and months. This is – I said earlier today, this is a battle we are going into – a long battle. It is the opposite of when you're told don't worry, it'll all be over soon. This will not be over soon. This is going to be a long, long battle. It's going to be a tough battle. We're going to lose some of our fellow New Yorkers – that, unfortunately it is inevitable, but we can fight back. There's a lot we can do to help each other, to support each other, to protect people. We will unquestionably overcome this. It will take time, but we will. The City will prevail in the end and the vast majority of people who are afflicted, thank God, will survive and will fully recover, but it is going to be a long, painful episode. The more that people are informed, the more they follow through on the guidance that we are trying to give them constantly, the more people support each other, the better off we will be. Anyone who needs information can go to or text the word COVID – C-O-V-I-D – to 692-692, or call 3-1-1. Any of those approaches will get you information.

A few words in Spanish and then we'll go to questions –

[Mayor de Blasio speaks in Spanish]

Okay. With that, let us turn to questions. And we'll go from this side to that side. Go ahead.

Question: Thank you. Since you just mentioned that this is going to get worse, what number of cases or other metrics would trigger a large-scale mass quarantine as we've seen in Italy and China? Could that happen in days?

Mayor: Look, I would say this. I think we can now say as we're on the verge of a hundred cases, I'm very sad to offer this prediction, I think we'll be at a thousand cases next week. We are modeling right now and war-gaming or table-topping, whatever word you want, different scenarios for different actions. We're going to be doing this nonstop. So, I just want to say to everyone here, who’s been extraordinary, I want to thank my colleagues. There's, you know, my colleagues up here are about to go through six months without a day off and they all understand what they just signed up for and they're all extraordinary public servants. We are going to be looking every single day at the numbers, at what we can learn from the rest of the world, at the various efforts to mitigate and decide what it means. I want to be very clear, and this is, again, an area of tremendous agreement with the state, there are three things we want to preserve at all costs – our schools, our mass transit, and, most importantly, our health care system, and all those pieces interconnect. So, right now, we want to try and, in a sense, as we are indicating with the state's actions, with my actions, we’re falling back to the next line of defense. And our goal is to, to the maximum extent possible, protect those three areas no matter what. We will scenario everything, absolutely everything. And we'll look at every model, every situation around the world. But I also want to emphasize, there's no two countries that are the same, this is an absolute fact. If you look at the different countries around the world that had a serious experience with coronavirus, there's no two that have the same exact trajectory. It has a lot to do with when people got information, how much transparency, how they reacted, what kind of health care was available – there's all sorts of factors, but we're going to be constantly drilling for every eventuality.


Question: You had mentioned that it might come to a point where the city is going to move forward with testing and the mass [inaudible] automated testing. It seems like the most capacity is at the private hospitals. So have you been having conversations with the private hospitals to say like, this is kind of where we're at. Are you on board? Is that something that governors have to convince them to do? That seems like the questioning and Deputy Mayor, you're shaking your head no –

Mayor: Yeah, it's that point. It's that point we have – I don't know how many letters calls public please to the FDA. And again – last night would have been the perfect moment for the president to announce the FDA was giving that approval or he was, you know, ordering in what is becoming sort of a wartime situation that that approval be given. It's not, you can't do business as usual, but that, you know, that opportunity came and went and there's no new information today. So again, I think people are going to have to start taking matters in their own hands. We will work with those organizations to figure out the way forward.

Deputy Mayor Raul Perea-Henze, Health and Human Services: Mr. Mayor?

Mayor: Yes, please. Deputy Mayor.

Deputy Mayor Perea-Henze: Just on that point, precisely, I have a daily call with the President of Greater New York Hospital Association, Ken Raske, and we are completely coordinated. We're tracking number of beds available, number of ICU beds, number of all equipment and medical supplies, testing capabilities, and we do that every day – part of the H + H system and the voluntary hospitals.

Mayor: Thank you.

Question: That’s exactly what my question is, which is what is the capacity of the city? Can the city handled 500 cases a day, a thousand hospitalizations a day? At what point does the city get overwhelmed by the event?

Mayor: It's not the – It’s a great question. It's a powerful question, but I want to also make sure we're always clear about if we tried to give you that answer before we've completed the actual modeling and war gaming, we wouldn't be responsible. I can tell you the next milestone is a thousand cases and if you'll follow the very broad dynamic we've seen here and elsewhere of 80 percent are cases are – forgive my nonmedical phraseology – low-level impact. A lot of people don't go to the hospital, overwhelmingly don't go to the hospital can get well at home. 20 percent are more serious. A lot of those will be hospitalizations. Not necessarily all, let's just use that as a working model. So at a thousand cases we're adding 200 more people. Look, we have a huge, huge medical system here in the city. So putting 200 more people in. Yes, of course we can handle that.

And Mitch can speak to that as one of the people runs one of the biggest pieces. But – and as Mitch said so powerfully yesterday, there's a bunch of things that would be retrenched in a crisis that got deeper like ending elective surgeries and all. But it's an excellent question. What is that moment where we start to overtax the system? And I want Mitch to jump in with a reminder to what Mitch said yesterday, that he and other hospitals will create brand new capacity. They'll take a parking lot and put up a tent and turn into an ICU, they will turn a cafeteria into an ICU. I mean, this is again, we're getting into a situation where the only analogy is war, in a wartime dynamic, you turn all sorts of facilities into something else. You mobilize people, you change their roles, you do whatever it takes. Mitch.

President and CEO Mitchell Katz, Health and Hospitals: One of the ways New York City is so lucky is because there is a very strong hospital system and Health + Hospital alone with its 11 hospitals, we are prepared to take literally hundreds of people who are sick. So again, when you go back to what the Mayor has said, that 80 percent of the cases are unlikely to need any hospital care. Only 20 percent of people will be sick, not all of whom will need hospital care. I believe certainly for the foreseeable future we will be fine.

Question: Do you have the ventilators, the respirators, the supportive equipment that you need for this kind of thing?

President Katz: Yes. So Health + Hospitals has a thousand ventilators. We estimate that across the city there are 5,000 ventilators. And again, if you remember that it's only likely 5 percent of people who would actually need ventilators. You get 20 times 5,000. We have a huge amount of capability. Also, remember people will get well, not people will not stay on ventilators. So as somebody – there will be new cases, but as the Mayor has also happily talked about, people do get over this infection and so everybody is not going to be sick at the same time.

Mayor: Rich.

Question: So Mr. Mayor, of the – there is 95 cases now that in the city, right? Do we know how many are in hospital? How many – do we have any sense of condition of the –

Deputy Mayor Perea-Henze: 22 are in hospitals. The rest are at home – isolation. A lot of them doing well.

Question: Mr. Mayor, you talked about an intense increase in cases, perhaps as many as a thousand by next week, we’re talking here about hospital capabilities. What is the point where the city says, you know what maybe you'd like not to get to 2000 and we're going to start to shut things down. We're going to start to shut down schools. And, and why is it that the Governor, who's the person who is shutting down parades and shutting down theaters when you're here in the city? –

Mayor: Again, there's been – again, listen to how this has progressed over just a few days. Governor and I have been talking, our teams have been talking. We truly – all of us believed and believe that we had to be certain before we started what is going to be – a lot of dominoes falling in terms of our society, the impact on people, the impact on people's livelihoods, all sorts of other consequences. And we had to be certain it was the right thing to do. We're all coordinated here, so we now believe these are the right steps to take now.

The danger, and I just disagree with the analysis, it will be an ongoing conversation obviously, but the danger of going to a full shutdown is it will degrade not only people's lives on a host of matters, including their health and safety and other ways. But it's unrealistic in some very powerful ways. For example, where do our children go? And if our children have nowhere to go, then their parents can't go to work. That includes a lot of parents we depend on, first responders, health care professionals, it’s a very slippery slope. If our transit system is not working, how will people get to those health care jobs? We can make some accommodation, but we shouldn't kid ourselves. So there's also – and the doctors can jump in on this very obvious point, there's nothing that says if you do these mass actions, it ends all your problems. The community spread has been established. You have to balance the negative impacts with the positive impacts. So that's what we're trying to do all the time, and the City and the State are coordinated on that.

Question: I appreciate the answer, just a quick follow-up on the issue of testing. You've had doctors interviewed on TV, so they're not, you know, people to shout on. They're putting their names to it.

Mayor: Yep.

Question: A former federal prosecutors saying every flu test has come back negative, but they're not giving me a test for this. What is – Weill Cornell and saying that emergency rooms are overflowing, I'm not there, I can't tell that, but we're – what is going on with respect to testing in this city? Where is the breakdown it seems in communication and action –

Mayor: I think there is a breakdown in understanding and we need to clean that up and clear it up. But I want to caution on the Weill Cornell point. First of all, I appreciate your straightforwardness. You're saying you've heard a report but you can't confirm it. I want to ask everyone please, because there's going to be so much misinformation in these next months, I ask you all, the people are depending on all of you. Please confirm things before you put out there. So for example, we've heard various people alleging that emergency rooms were overflowing. I've turned to Dr. Katz constantly say, what is your emergency room usage? As of yesterday, had only one of his emergency rooms that had any unusual uptick in activity. I mean, normal levels. I turned to the Chancellor a few days ago and said, what's going on with attendance, it was not only the same as the same day a year ago, it was higher.

We’ve got to separate the fact from fiction. So I don't know what's happening at Weill Cornell, the Deputy Mayor will find out right away, and report to you and report to me if they're experiencing a particular challenge. But again, Mitch, you can give today's update, as of yesterday you had one and only one that you thought was experiencing any kind of unusual size of usage –

President Katz: Our system is doing well and I think as the Deputy Mayor when he said 22 cases, I counted five are ours, which again is consistent with what I keep saying, the Health + Hospitals represents about 20 percent of the city's capability, and we're, we are doing well. I can address and agree, and we've talked among ourselves, there are confusing messages out there among physicians, people, right? Health + Hospitals is a government agency. We have an advantage, right? We're constantly able to send out messages. We've talked with the Department of Health and we - hey, here is the latest recommendation and it all gets pasted up and it gets acted on. Right? In medical practice, people have very diverse populations and every doctor is not sitting there waiting for the next report – oh from yesterday. The testing criteria has changed.

I can tell you that at the Health + Hospital facilities we are following exactly what the Mayor had described that we're not testing people who are well, but we are testing people who have symptoms of fever and cough or fever and shortness of breath. We are testing them first to see if they have a flu or influenza or some other explanation and those who are not. We are sending for COVID testing and we have capability, but I certainly agree with the stories and I've heard them myself of person goes to X physician office, gets told something completely different. As the Mayor said, you can help us by getting out the message of what's true. 

Mayor: And I'm going to go through, hold on –

Commissioner Oxiris Barbot, Department of Health and Mental Hygiene: Let me add to that –

Mayor: Hold on, hold on one sec. We're going to Deputy Mayor wanted to jump in and then the Commissioner, but I'm going to go through the exact prioritization and then who's not getting the tests. I want to be super communicative with you and why that FDA approval or whatever alternative we come up with is the hinge here, the pivot to being able to answer the concerns and make it more widespread, but first Deputy Mayor and then the Commissioner.

Deputy Mayor Perea-Henze: As of this morning in my call with Ken Raske, the only increase in cases in the voluntary hospitals including Weill Cornell is for people who are asymptomatic but worried. Now if you actually see the picture of right now, I don't want to escape this, 95 cases, 22 in hospitals is exactly what the Mayor has been telling all of us, right? 80 percent would be okay, 20 percent go to hospitals and out of that 20 percent, 1 percent will be severe cases in ICUs. So they're spread across all the different levels of services.

Mayor: Go ahead.

Commissioner Barbot: So on the testing issue, I think at the very beginning there was certainly a lot of confusion. Some of it was because of the strict criteria that the CDC had put in place in terms of requiring a certain amount of travel in order to authorize the tests. But as of this Monday, we released the health alert that goes out to thousands of doctors clarifying how it is that they go about ordering from the commercial labs. And we hope that that will start to clarify some of the confusion that there was earlier. And in addition to being able to get the tests from H + H and from the voluntary hospitals, there are places like City MD that is offering the test as well.

Mayor: So just coming back on the overall situation here again, so the history is really important. The point the commissioner made first we were getting a very narrow interpretation from CDC. Then of course we couldn't do our own tests. It was not until, it seems like a century ago, but it was 10 days ago that we first were able to do our own tests. It was Friday, so six days ago that the private labs were doing their own tests. But we need to be clearer and I'll certainly take that on all of us about the prioritization schema, until we get the FDA approval or something, another way to get to automated testing. What we've said is there's hundreds of tests that can be done a day. That is a true statement. It also takes too long. That's another true statement. Turnaround time, even with the private labs, H + H, everyone on the playing field that can do what they can do. We still have tests that we wait three or four days for an individual result. Okay. But at least the tests are moving.

The problem is a lot of people, understandably, they're literally like, I don't have symptoms, I don’t have anything. I'm just scared about coronavirus. I want a coronavirus test. That's nothing wrong with someone feeling that. There are people have very mild, you know, initial symptoms, they want a coronavirus test. There's all sorts of people, I don't blame a single one of them, but with the amount we have, what we said is we have to follow the priorities. So the priorities are folks who have been exposed to someone with coronavirus, confirmed with coronavirus, folks who've come back from one of the impacted travel areas of the world to places where it's obviously prevalent, folks who are older and have those preexisting conditions and are immediately in danger in a way that others are not, and folks who have gone already through symptoms, the BioFire test have come back negative on the BioFire and now the very good chance that they could have coronavirus. Those folks all go to the front line and doctors, if there's anything that needs to be refined in my answer, please refine. But those folks all go to the top of the line. That takes up a lot of what we have. The person who just wants out of an abundant caution to get coronavirus test, we don't have that kind of capacity for.

The folks who were here from the business community earlier raised the point, it was an excellent point, they said if we've got someone in our company who has symptoms and you know, we'd like to rule them out so that we can tell everyone that's okay to keep working, you know, we'd like that ability. That wouldn't be a priority right now. We'd think that is a worthy concern, but we need the more widespread testing to be able to do that.

Question: Mayor, I’m hoping you can explain the executive order, particularly section two, where you say your direct agencies to provide all appropriate and necessary steps to preserve public safety and require all assistance available to protect the security, wellbeing and health of the residents, how is that different from the status quo?

Mayor: Sure, the – and I asked my – I need one document that I left in my office. There's a document from my General Counsel with the delineation of variety of examples of what the emergency - state of emergency entails. So let me get that in front of me to just give you live examples clearly is - the status quo is when, as Mayor, I can direct my agencies to do a whole host of things to protect the health and safety of New Yorkers. But the emergency order allows a much deeper intervention into the daily life.

Question: If I may just follow-up after [inaudible].

Mayor: Yeah, so for example, these are just some of the specific actions that can be taken. I want [inaudible] please. I'm going to be treating everyone with a real respect that I'm going to be very clear when I'm giving you examples. This is – none of these have been activated. They are – when they have been activated, I will indicate it. But this is the range of potential actions that can be involved by executive order under this state of emergency. So there's the ability to establish a curfew. There's the ability to regulate whether vehicles or individuals may enter or leave specific parts of the city. There is the ability to close down public transportation. There's the ability to order hospitals to postpone elective procedures, to ration supplies or impose restrictions on supplies and prices - and price gouging, I should say. The ability to suspend or limit alcohol use, firearms, explosives, flammable material and liquids. The ability to prohibit or restrict people from being on the streets and in public places. One that we've obviously already seen the state acted on and is consistent is the ability to regulate or close public spaces. There is the ability to create or designate emergency shelters, emergency medical shelters, and community based care centers. The ability to limit a maximum building occupancy. These are some of the examples. So they're very extensive capacity.

Question: To follow-up, at what point do you move from containment to mitigation. Are we there yet?

Mayor: We’ve been there.

Question: So the disease detectives have no more work?

Mayor: No, that's not – a good question and no, they do have work to do. In a matter of days it was clear and unfortunately I think the testing I'm not going to bemoan what's already too late. I think – I think if we had had early testing this could have been a very different trajectory. But again, this entire experience we've had with testing is 10 days old. And almost before we got started with it, we found that we were really struggling to maintain a containment stance. Now, you know, we saw community spread on Wednesday or Thursday, really start to establish, we see the growth. There's only the one true cluster I think at this point still that we know of in Westchester, but we still see this growth pattern is very, very troubling. So it's a mitigation mode, but the disease detectives still have real, real value and we want to keep augmenting their ranks because they still allow us case by case to achieve specific things. Anytime you know the pattern of contacts, you can follow up with the folks who most need to be followed up with, and then that helps speed action, follow through on their care, but also helps us to deal with other dynamics like what happens to everyone else who was not affected. So they're still very, very important work.

Question: Are they in touch with all 92 people in their [inaudible]?

Mayor: Let's check on the exact cause obviously this has been –

Question: [Inaudible].

Mayor: Yes, of course. That - wherever possible. Okay, go ahead.

Question: What at point would you, Mr. Mayor, and you, Chancellor Carranza, decide to shut down the schools? Is this option very much on the table at this point? And can you give us an update on the five different cases on Staten Island, you know, one is EMT worker –

Mayor: Right.

Question: Another one we hear from sources as a coach at St. Teresa School that may have been in contact with other students?

Mayor: Yeah. I cannot give you individual updates as we said you're right to point to those examples as – particularly the EMT – as someone who we would pull out and try and give an individual update because the ramifications.

Question: [Inaudible].

Mayor: Right. Well, we talked about that the other day. The point being where we can give some particularly pertinent updates, we will. But the problem is with these numbers, it's going to be harder and harder to do so. So cannot give you anything new beyond what I said the other day about the EMT. I'm not familiar with the situation with the coach. If we have information our City Hall press team will get it to you. But generally speaking in these briefings, unfortunately we've gotten to a point where we can't do much on individual cases.

On the schools, again, we are going to fight tooth and nail to protect our school system for many, many reasons. It is where our children are safe in the day and many parents have no alternative. It's where our kids – a lot of kids get their meals. It is the pivot for a lot of people we need to get to work to get to work that their kids have a place to be. A lot of them have no other choice. They cannot bring kid to work. They do not have a relative can take their kid and you could say, well, why don't we come up with an alternative location? Well, that creates the same exact problem. If a bunch of kids are congregated in a school or a daycare center or whatever it might be, if congregations the issue it would be true anywhere. So we are going to do our damnedest to keep the schools open. We are going to scenario everything, as I said, and I'm going to say it a few more times and I'm going to respect your intelligence that I don't need to say it a hundred times. We are scenario-ing absolutely every potential of what could happen to this city.

Go ahead.

Question: [Inaudible]

Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza: Yeah. There's nothing else to add. The Mayor’s exactly – we were on the same page, exactly what the Mayor said.

Mayor: Go ahead, Jeff.

Question: A question for you, Mayor, and then to follow up on Dr. Katz's comments on testing. I heard you mention a six month timeline at least three times. What historical lessons have you learned from the Spanish Flu in 1918 in terms of social distancing, in the extent that you're using it now?

Commissioner Barbot: So I think the most important thing to note is that when we put social distancing in place, it is to slow the spread and to reduce the potential harm to people who may be at highest risk for bad outcomes.

Mayor: But is there – I think the question was more about the history.

Commissioner Barbot: So the lesson learned is putting in place the kind of measures that the Mayor is announcing, is a way to help slow the spread and reduce the harm to New Yorkers.

Question: And Dr. Katz, you mentioned testing. Is there any guidance that you want to offer to families about whether or not they should be giving their children medicine before they get to the clinic? Because as I understand it, personal experience, a doctor told me that unless the child is experiencing a fever in the office, that's one of the criteria for getting the test?

President Katz: No, that's not accurate. No good clinician would require that a child be forced to have a fever in order for it to be recorded. We believe when parents say my child has a fever and then I gave them some acetaminophen and it went away. We understand.

Mayor: Okay, just finishing this side first round. Okay. Going over here. Yes.

Question: There have been some calls to all the eviction proceedings in the city. I just want to know if the city going to step in to stop – I don’t know if the Deputy Mayor wants to discuss that because there are seven people who are facing eviction and things will only get progressively worse as the virus continues.

Mayor: Yeah, and I talked about and obviously the Deputy Mayor will add, but you know, we are clearly, for anyone that needs the legal help, we're going to do that for some people – we can't necessarily do it for everyone. But for some people who need the financial help, we can help. It is a very good question which we can follow up on and get back to you about other more extensive actions that we could legally take. But, Deputy Mayor, do you want to speak to that?

Deputy Mayor Laura Anglin, Operations: Yeah, we are in discussions with the court system about what we could do under different kinds of authority, where we have the capacity to stop anything we have, for example, NYCHA is not executing any warrants of eviction right now. We are a really ramping up and making sure that we are providing lawyers where we can provide lawyers to tenants. And as the Mayor said, we have some assistance available for people on under certain circumstances.

Question: In terms of some of the rumors floating around about a city shut down, of those natures. Have you had any sort of just even conversations with the Governor about how that would actually play out if necessary? Talked about gaming out these exercises. Have you had any conversations with the Governor and the secondly—

Mayor: Can I just stay on that and you'll definitely get the next one. So again, what I want to make the ground rules since we will be doing a lot of briefings and then when we're not doing a briefing, our press office will be putting out a lot of information regularly. Obviously we'll put out information on Twitter, et cetera. If we don't say it, please don't assume it because  there has been misinformation out there and if anyone, you know, it's not coming from our mouths, my mouth or these folks or our official Press Office or Twitter feed, don't believe it. But ask us and we'll give you a quick answer. The understanding I have, some of the stuff that we've seen out there today is really, really wrong. Really off base. My impression is some of it came from either leaked information or extrapolated information from scenario planning, not from actual decision making. The scenarios – I've been to a number of these different types of events. You know for example, NYPD does scenarios all the time where they talk about, you know, 10 different sites where there's an active shooter simultaneously, for example, if there was a terror attack, something like that. It's not real. It didn't happen. They're planning for the unexpected. They're trying to see what their capacity is. So we're going to run a number of scenarios, but no one should mistake those scenarios for something that's actually happening or being authorized, first of all.

To your question about the Governor, absolutely. We all are constantly comparing notes on the different things that we might do. There's been a high level of agreement, step-by-step. Everything that's been announced, City and State, has been talked about in advance. All the major actions and there's been a high level of agreement. The going forward scenarios, first we need to, I'm sure the state is doing the same. We need to feel that we've perfected them and believe in the projections and the right approach. That's part of why you do the exercises to test them. You're sort of pressure testing different scenarios. And then we're going to absolutely compare and see if we're all on the same page about how we would handle things. But it is very much a one day at a time, one hour at a time in terms of taking a newer information, making adjustments while simultaneously running scenarios that are really about weeks ahead and what we would do at that point.

Go ahead and get other part.

Question: Up to this point. You’ve talked to New Yorkers about remaining calm, optimistic, and today, you know, obviously your tone is a little different [inaudible] announcing something very serious. Do you – how do you feel, have you struck the right tone, the right balance up until this point, where now you're announcing this state of emergency?

Mayor: Sure. It's – this is, we're dealing with a great unknown here and we all understand that. My strong view is that people do really well when they're told the truth. They do really well when they're given the opportunity to be a part of the solution. And I certainly feel that strongly about New Yorkers. They don't want anything but the best blunt information we have. But you know, they also don't scare easily and they, you know, they don't want a panic. That's my view. And I don't think, I don't think panic is the right thing for any leader to do. I think based on the information that we've had over the last few days, tried to really be clear that this thing was ramping up and we were making adjustments. But I'm very, very concerned, as I've said before, that there is a bad scenario where folks in leadership ended up creating an atmosphere of panic, ended up creating an atmosphere where everyone went too far in terms of some of the steps that could be taken and therefore created huge unintended consequences and hasten the day when that last line of defense wouldn't work. And I think that's, again, this is, everyone has their own analysis, but this is mine. Protecting our ability to do the most basic stuff is absolutely crucial here. And that's not going to happen if people believe that the only choice is to panic. Right? So I think New Yorkers have received ever-changing information very, very well. I think we've sort of tried to do it in sequence as we knew things and they've, they've taken it in and made adjustments. They're going to make a lot more adjustments, but it is the strangest thing to deal with an ever-changing diet and is the ultimate moving target, you know, we don't have no day is like the previous day and that's extremely challenging. Okay.

Question: Mr. Mayor, I have two questions. The first, I just wanted to get a little bit more further clarification on the state of the testing, and I think there's a little confusion because there's swabbing on the front end and then there's the analysis on the backend. I'm talking about the backend testing. The Governor today actually said there is a shortage as far as that concern and I don't believe that that's something you have—

Mayor: I want to make sure we're speaking the same language. When you say the backhand, what do you mean?

Question: The analysis of the samples.

Mayor: Like the actual getting the results.

Question: Yes.

Mayor: Okay.

Question: Yeah. So I guess I'm just wondering is that what is determining the priority list? I guess? Are you limiting the criteria because at the moment you don't have the capacity to analyze every sale?

Mayor: I’ll try and start really, really top level. And then my colleagues will jump in.  I don't want to mistake the delay in the results from the ability to get results. I mean it's perverse that you have to wait three or four days, but they do come in constantly and that's why you're seeing the numbers grow and grow. So I think with a capacity of, again, everyone will update and confirm this, but you know, we've said originally we could do dozens a day and then that advanced to a hundreds a day. But when you listen to all those priority areas that require support, that takes up the capacity quickly and understandable why a lot of people might ideally like a test but don't have those particular needs. Couldn't get one right away. I don't love it and no one loves it, but that's I end. At least there's a logic to it, you know? But I don't think it's about how long it takes for the results to get back. It's about how many physical tests you can do in a day versus what you could do if you have the automation. So that's my attempt as a layman.

Commissioner Barbot: And to build on that from a public health point of view, now that we have commercial testing available through hospitals, through ambulatory facilities like CityMD, the public health lab is prioritizing testing healthcare workers who may have been exposed, testing individuals who may be in critical condition and really reserving that capacity for the, for the sickest.

Deputy Mayor Perea-Hense: If I may also, you probably know the governor also approve 28 more labs to get started on fast approval for more testing, which we hope in the next 10 days will yield about 5,000 tests a day. I owe the Mayor the specific amount from those 5,000 that are going to be for the city itself, but we believe very, very slowly – but this is ramping up. So to your point we're going to have more capability to do more analysis.

Question: [Inaudible] one understanding is are you limiting in the criteria because you know you currently don't have the capacity to test all those all of those analyses at the moment or—

Deputy Mayor Perea-Hense: If I may, I think we are doing the criteria because those are the people who need it the most. Regardless of the amount of testing that we would have, those people will still have the priority lining that you heard.

Question: Just one other quick question. Is the Wall Street trading for going to be closed?

Mayor: Yeah, the CEO of the Stock Exchange was here for our meeting earlier and we are adamantly devoted to keeping the market going. That's absolutely crucial for not only the city, for the whole nation, and we talked about how to do that and how to do it with you know, the most minimal staffing necessary. So I believe there's a way to keep things moving smart and a safe way.

Question: I just wanted a little more clarification on the eviction question. You guys said that you were staying all evictions in NYCHA and you are working with the courts currently to what – help people who are having convictions from the private sector and have you guys considered at all putting moratorium on evictions altogether or at least forced evictions both in private and public?

Mayor: So I'll start and then pass to the Deputy Mayor again. We are exploring right now, under a state of emergency, how the state of emergency powers affect that particular equation. So we're, we want to do everything we can do, but we have to make sure we're on firm legal ground on that one. Do you want to add?

Deputy Mayor Anglin: We have suspended the execution of any warrants of eviction in NYCHA, except in very limited circumstances involving criminal activity in a NYCHA apartment.

Question: So to follow-up, is the city preparing for possibility in the increase of homelessness because of the evictions?

Mayor: It's a fair question. I think right now, given that we are taking the actions we're taking my hope is that would not be the case, and obviously, God forbid that happened to anyone we do have right to shelter in this city, we would find a way to accommodate them. But I think to your question, our, our goal here is to not only avert the kinds of evictions that would happen because people are losing their livelihood in this crisis, but actually frees up evictions as much as humanly possible, even ones that would have been proceeding regardless of this crisis. So hopefully we can stay ahead of it.

Question: I mean, you're talking about six months, you really have an idea of how long this is going to impact us?

Mayor: I'm confused by your question. We said our projection today is six months. What are you trying to say?

Question: I’m saying, where'd you come up with that calculation?

Mayor: It's, there's no one on earth who can give you a perfect number. This is based on and I'll let Dr. Barbot who's the author of the number and who I've been praising for it because I think it's real talk. I think it's being honest with New Yorkers about the duration came up with the number, I think I feel like three or four days ago based on, we started talking, we started in our strategic meetings saying let's talk, analyzing what we know and went around the room talking to people about what are you seeing, what would you put as your initial estimate? And Dr. Barbot very quickly said six months based on the growth pattern we're seeing and the time it would take to really come down off it. I mean what, what would be the end? The end would be when people are getting well and there's very few new cases and you know, life can start to resume normal. I think it could be six months. Obviously it could be more, but it's a lot that has to play out. Before we will get to that point.

Commissioner Barbot: And to add to that would say part of it is based on the experience we had during H1N1, which was the last time the world saw a pandemic as well as what we're learning from what's happening in China and other countries. And I just want to remind us that this is a novel virus, which means that none of us has ever been exposed to it and no one has immunity to it. And so while we go through that process, you know, to go back to something that the Mayor said earlier, 80% of us are going to hopefully have a very mild course. While 20% of us may have to have higher level of treatment either by going to a doctor or potentially going into a hospital. But the, the rationale for this taking that long, and again, it's our best estimate, is the fact that none of us have ever been exposed to it before.

Mayor: Way back

Question: Mr. Mayor, regarding the large group gatherings. I have two questions. One you said Madison Square Garden and Barclay Center could be closed for months?

Mayor: Yep.

Question: How long [inaudible]?

Mayor: This is for, you know, over 500 people. So they're never going to have an event in those places under 500 people. And we are estimating, this is our estimate. We're not putting, you know, this is not a binding commitment, but we're saying our estimate is this will go through September at six months. I think that's the right way to think about it right now.

Question: [Inaudible] for six months?]

Mayor: I do and I feel horrible for them. I mean, they're very, very important places in the city and lots of people work there and lots of people depend on what they do, but that's just the reality right now.

Question: The other question is, we're getting – Ubers are calling us concerned about weddings. The weekend is fast approaching, most weddings are under 500 people. What is the advice of the Health Department to people who may be attending a celebration like this young people all ages, what do they do?

Commissioner Barbot: So our recommendation would be the same as we would give individuals who are having those questions about work, about school. And it goes back to the really fundamental, if you are sick with fever and a cough or fever or shortness of breath, don't go. If you are an individual who is, who has one of the chronic underlying illnesses that we're most concerned about – heart disease, cancer, diabetes, immunocompromised, and chronic lung disease, then I would think twice. And especially if you're over 50, I would think twice about going.

Mayor: Let me, let me be the non-doctor and just say I would go a step further than the think twice. Just common sense from my point of view. And I know a wedding is a crucial, priceless, beautiful moment. So no one wants to miss it. But I'd say if you're someone with those preexisting conditions, and particularly if you're over 50, if you go to such a wedding, you should really keep your distance from people. You can be there and experience it, but try not to be too close to people is what I would argue just to be – an abundance of caution. It's painful, but I think it's better than taking a risk right now. And obviously, you know, if you're talking about gatherings of under 500 people, we're still saying we want those halls, those banquet halls, wherever it is to keep their capacity to 50 percent of what their legal limit is. So it's very sad if anyone has to change their guest list or their plan or do something different. But this is all about protecting people, protecting the couple themselves, protecting everyone there and people going to have to make those adjustments. Okay. Who has not gone? We're doing the first rounds of just reminding everyone. The ground rule is if you've gone hold back and we'll see, we can get to some others on a second round.

Question: Mr. Mayor, two questions if I may, because DCPI kept one up to you. You've talked about the importance of the frontline employees. What is the NYPD doing to assure that its officers are staying healthy?

Mayor: We can get you details of how each agency is doing that. But look, overall I'd say everyone is getting a lot of information from all of you and then from the guidance from their departments about the basics of staying healthy, including one of the most basic things, which is if you are feeling ill, stay home, it's really profoundly important. And what we know about, and NYPD officers are incredibly devoted to their job and they're going to, you know, always show up to protect other people. But we want them to be mindful. If they're not feeling well, stay back. You know, it only takes a few days in – I think it'd be really, really helpful to give people the truth of – from the second you start to feel not well to when you can determine you're actually starting to get better or you got a bigger problem on your hands, whatever that is. How many days do you think that is typically when we're talking about these kinds of symptoms?

Commissioner Barbot: Usually what the trajectory is, people will become symptomatic as early as two days from being exposed.

Mayor: Not even saying coronavirus. I'm saying just generally the cold, flu, et cetera thing, I just, how long—

Commissioner Barbot: Three days.

Mayor: Right? So that's, I mean at the point being we're not, for folks to know if they're getting well of whatever is going on or to not getting well is a very small number of days and we just want people to exercise that caution.

Question: I spoke to your former Health Commissioner this morning, Dr. Mary Bassett. She said that she was very worried that it doesn't look like New York City has prepared. Her predecessor Tom Friedan shared the same concerns. I'm just wondering if you feel like, you know, late yesterday you weren't even saying that they should cancel the St. Patrick’s Day Parade. Did you wait long too long to enact these serious measures at all?

Mayor: We have been, every day, every hour, assessing and making decisions. Look, you're a very intelligent person. The parade was canceled well before it happened. We were all working to be very, very careful about that decision. This, this parade has gone on since before the United States of America was a country, not a minor matter, an outdoor event, different from an indoor event. But the more we looked at it, the less comfortable we got given everything we're seeing. I don't blame anyone in the world for being really careful about that decision. But the parade, you know, the cancellation of the parade had to happen in time for people to not show up. So there was time on the clock. The same with the half marathon. We're all very conscious of that clock. You guys, and I don't mean disrespect, you guys are a little more energetic about reporting on this thing or that thing. We are watching a whole bunch of elements and really quite aware of what it means to cancel something and when the actual event is, as long as the cancellation happens, inappropriate timeline. So we're perfectly comfortable that those decisions were made the right way in the right time. The bigger decisions have been really open with you all. There is a real price to pay and we try to balance that price because what we see is a lot of danger in overreach and trying to strike that balance. And we think at this point – and the state and the city got to the same conclusion on the same timeline, that this was the time to now take it to the next level and then we can escalate that very rapidly if we need to. I don't know what are – both of those are folks – Mary worked for me for a number of years; Tom is someone I know for a long time – they both know how to reach me. If they have something to want to say, they're more than welcome to call. Oxiris was Mary's deputy – more than welcome to offer their concerns. I don't know what they're talking about and I don't know if they understand the details of what we're doing or what we've been doing all of these weeks. So, we're very confident that we're taking every step instantly when is needed to be taken.

Question: [Inaudible]

Mayor: The actual need to take specific actions. You know, when the Governor and I talked and we got to the point of feeling that we were going to do the kinds of things that would take that kind of intervention, even though the State was going to go out with its actions first, it's quite clear we're now in that vein where we're going to be limiting events and taking very physical actions. Until we were sure that, it was not time to declare it because I didn't need to use those specific powers. Now, it's time.

Question: [Inaudible]

[Chancellor Carranza speaks in Spanish]

Mayor: Okay, we're going to finish this one. I want to get my ground rule check here –

Question: [Inaudible]

Mayor: Hold on. I see you. Last call on anyone for round one who has not yet gone, and then on round two we're going to do a few, we're not going to be able to do forever.

Question: [Inaudible] I guess, first of all, out of the 2,000 tests the city got from CDC, how many are now left?

Commissioner Barbot: We'll have to get back to you with that exact number.

Question: [Inaudible]

Commissioner Barbot: I don’t.

Question: And on the RNA extraction kit component of the tests, can you say which manufacturers have not been able to send the extraction kits to labs that are developing the tests?

Mayor: Wow, this is getting deep, dude.


And I was going to say, if this is your natural knowledge, we need to know more about you, why you know this.

Question: [Inaudible] is there a timeframe on how long it will take until they can meet the demands?

Commissioner Barbot: We'll have to get back to you on the details of the manufacturers.

Question: Is the city considering using sort of rudimentary testing procedures like the ones China resorted to, like mobile CT scans and fever scans, if the CDC approved testing and it doesn't come through in time?

Commissioner Barbot: We haven't discussed that, but I think, right now, given all the conversation about testing capacity, we could start the conversations, but it hasn't been a primary part of the conversations that we've had.

Mayor: Yeah, I think, look, that's a good question. And I'd say there is a – I'll give you my own imperfect mathematical equation – there's a direct correlation between the unwillingness of the federal government to approve the automated testing. The fact that we really are running out of time here, have been running out of time, and we have to find any and all creative solutions. So, that specific option has not been fully vetted by us, but we're going to look at a lot of different ways to proceed if we don't have anywhere near the testing capacity we should have, we’ve got to be as creative as we can be.

Question: Will the same thing go for – there's alternative tests and not FDA approved [inaudible]

Commissioner Barbot: Again, we'll have to get back to you on that detail.

Mayor: Everything's being looked at. Okay, who has not gone at all. Okay. We're going to start at this side again. Let's see if we can do not too many and we'll try and be quick. Go ahead.

Question: What was the closure or the restriction on [inaudible] enforced?

Mayor: As anything would be enforced. I mean we'll figure out the departments, but the natural ones that think about – the Police Department, Fire Department, Buildings, Health – we’ve got to sort it out, obviously, it's a few hours old, but there will be an enforcement mechanisms. There's fines involved. We'll be very vigorous.

Question: [Inaudible] what advice would you give New Yorkers who are considering going on dates?


Mayor: Okay, you've got range. Okay.


Mayor: I do not know the answer on disinfecting Citi Bikes. I don't know if anyone else knows. We will get back to you, it's a good question. We'll get back to you on that one. Look, this is kind of – it's a fun question, but it's also a real question. It gets to the heart of the matter. I think it is dangerous to stop living life. You know, this is a crisis, but it is a crisis that will one day end and, you know, we're going to lose some people and that's horrible, but the vast majority of people even who are affected are going to live and recover and then a whole lot of people will not be affected. I mean, every nation in the world that is still a factual matter. It does not – every single human being gets it and we understand the real numbers around what happens to those who do. So, we’ve got to keep living life. People, you know, cannot get to a point of hopelessness. I do think it's fine to have a social life, but you got to exercise some smart rules, right? If you're sick, don't go on a date. If the date is sick, don't go on the date. People should probably over communicate about things like that, right? Hi, are you sick today? And I do – look, I think people are being, in the scheme of things, you know, we're all humans, we're not perfect, but people have been pretty damn responsible. They understand this is serious stuff. So, the other thing is, you know, with a date, you know, you might keep a little more distance than you might have before, right? That's okay. I saw one thing the other day that said a date didn't end that great and they did not kiss each other on the cheek or anything at the end of the day. I think it was wise, especially if it didn't go well. But people are going to – people are still going be people. How do we be smart about it, right? That's the way I would say it.

Okay. Yes?

Question: I'm wondering, are the disease detectives maxing out on their capacity to keep up with these cases and track [inaudible]?

Mayor: We're doubling the number as we speak and we're going to keep augmenting.

Question: Is the city keeping track of how many people you guys have turned away from testing? If not, why?

Mayor: We don't – I mean, again, why don't you – the vast majority of the health work that's done in New York City is not us. So, I want you to just be careful with your question when you say that you guys – it's doctors, doctor offices, clinics, Urgent Care, private hospitals, nonprofits, none of that is us. Then there’s Health + Hospitals, that's actually us.

President Katz: In someone's record we would. Any patient who comes in, we open up a record and we would document what we recommended for that patient.

Question: Do you have a number or estimate?

President Katz: No, I don't.

Question: And also, is City Hall planning to close?

Mayor: No.

Question: [Inaudible] gatherings of 500 or less [inaudible] how does the city plan to handle Times Square, Bryant Park in the spring time when the weather warms up?

Mayor: Sure. So, let me start as the layman and then the experts will jump in. I mean, outdoor and indoor is different. We're still trying to understand this disease. But, you know, define – it's I think a definitional matter that outdoor and indoor is different. You know, circulating air makes a difference.

Question: [Inaudible]

Mayor: No question. No question. I mean, it's a very fair question, but I'm saying – I just want to start by saying we would take a different view of anything outdoor. But you're right that we have to try and figure out without the kind of – indoor is defined, right? If you got a venue, you know how big it is, it has entrances. It's like, you know, you can actually enforce that. Outdoors all over the city, that is a much more challenging matter. Although, you're right, there are some places that'll focal point. We got to figure that one out. That's – to me, that's like a real higher-level challenge. But I do think, again, I don't know many situations where people have gotten most of two months of nonstop warnings. And if that wasn't enough, the last few days probably have really done it for a lot of people. So, I do think there's a consciousness when we see it manifesting in people's activities and behavior to be more careful and to do some things differently. We’ve got to think about what we can do about outdoor venues like that. But I do think the people themselves are already acting in many ways.

Y'all want to add? Anyone?

Commissioner Barbot: I think you got it.

Deputy Mayor Perea-Henze: You just had it all.

Question: Just to the scientists on board here. Is there any indication that a change in temperature upward is going to in any way mitigate the spread of this disease?

Mayor: I'm sorry, Mr. President, what did you say?


That was my homage to Trump saying it'll go away when the weather got warm. Go ahead.

Commissioner Barbot: We have had conversations with scientists in different institutions and given the fact that this is a novel virus that we've never seen before, it's hard to predict what temperature will do – ambient temperature will do with it. I should really say seasonal changes, not ambient temperatures, cause that might mean something different. So, there's no way to know, you know, what's going to happen when the spring comes, when the summer comes. We can't predict whether it's going to behave like influenza does – that typically it's got a very defined you know, September to March, April kind of trajectory.

Question: To the Mayor and the medical doctors, there have been a couple of articles in the past few days about Italy, for example, being overwhelmed, the health system, and today the Washington Post wrote about Iran building mass graves. How [inaudible] are you guys keeping up with these, sort of, international developments? And when you read something like that, it freaked me out. But how do you guys deal with that. Do you plan more? You know, how do you react to those sort of horrible –

Mayor: I'll start and my colleagues can jump. I mean, they're really, really troubling. I've read in particular number of accounts what's going on in Italy, including first person accounts – doctors and patients and all. It's very, very troubling. Now, I cannot emphasize enough, that they started so far behind. I mean, China started even farther behind because there was mass governmental denial of the obvious, but Italy just – you know, it was already established by the time they even had a sense that there was something to pay attention to. I mean that's my layman's interpretation. You know they were in full-blown crisis before they even braced for impact. As opposed to the United States, which, in general, and certainly at the state and local level has been preparing for this in a lot of ways and warning people. Again, January 24th was our first press conference on this – first case was March 1st. I mean, that's real, real different than Italy. I think Iran was the same thing. Iran went from no indication of anything to, like, a giant problem in a matter of days. They were not ready. Also, not transparent. South Korea that started in a particular religious institution and blew up, and I just don't think there's a parallel to – we had the benefit of seeing everyone's experienced, all of us, in getting ready. I also think that just objectively we have a much stronger health care system, not standing as to problems – we just do – and this city, especially, in this country. All that should give us a little more hope. But to your question, yeah, it's sobering as all hell when you read those reports and no one should take it lightly. And that's where I said to you guys, and I'm not happy to tell you, but, you know, if I can see a thousand cases by next week, you know, of course we are worried about where that takes us and how we deal with it. And that's why we're going to be planning for anything and everything.

Commissioner Barbot: Just to add to what the Mayor said, we have staff who, part of their job in this response is to make sure that they stay up to date with the scientific literature, because this is, as we've been saying, every day we're learning something new and we look at studies that are released. Additionally, we talk to scientists at the World Health Organization. We talk to public health practitioners in other cities to learn from what they're experiencing so we can integrate that into the longstanding plans that we've had. And so, you know, part of this – part of the role of public health is to anticipate a number of different potential scenarios and put measures in place that will help address the spread in the immediate period and in a situation like this, then, over time, reduce the speed of the spread and reduce the potential harm to those New Yorkers who are most vulnerable.

Question: [Inaudible]

Mayor: I would say a couple of things. And again, the doctors will jump in. I appreciate the question. I understand the question. Obviously, we're all humans. It was something happening in your neighborhood, you’d want to know. On the other hand, when we’re saying communities spread, just the assumption should be this is something that's going to reach into every corner of the city whether we like it or not. And I don't think it's particularly productive, meaning I don't know what you'd do with that information. I don't know how you change your life for what you think, unless there’s a – excuse me, an indication of a cluster. That's something we absolutely will talk about. We do not have that at this point. So, as you saw, from those numbers we’re spreading out over at 8.6 million people you know, 95 cases. So, what I would – what I would say to you, you can be guaranteed of is, if we see something actionable, if we see something that tells people something or that explains something that is strategic, if you will, like obviously with Westchester, knowing there was a cluster led to a whole lot of decisions and actions and people need to understand that we would do that in a heartbeat. But I think in terms of saying, oh, you know, we've got – let me do a real life example – you know, if the Brooklyn number is 24 for a borough of a 2.6 million people, you know, if I told you there – I'm not saying this is real, but I said though there's one in this neighborhood, one in another, two in that – I don't think it tells you much, but I think a cluster would.

Does anyone want to add, or – go ahead.

Deputy Mayor Perea-Henze: If I may. I think there is another piece that the Mayor has spoken about before many times, it hasn't come up now, and that is we need your help with the stigma that this is generating. We hear of real serious consequences of people that have been singled out over the course of the past weeks. We are as transparent as we can be. The Mayor has been very forthcoming, but now we need your help in protecting those people because frankly we're changing their lives.

Question: [Inaudible]

Chancellor Carranza: Yes, absolutely. And we've identified all of our medically fragile students, all of our fragile students. And if they are participating in any kind of those programs, we've actually already stopped those internships.

Question: [Inaudible]

Chancellor Carranza: That's been in effect for at least the last 48 hours, but we can get some more verification for you.

Mayor: And we need to make sure every school is fully cognizant.

Question: I wanted to ask you about the school closures, a couple aspects of it we're trying to get clarity on. One is just kind of the timing between the fact that it looks like the DOE or whoever was notified by the student's family, that the student –

Mayor: Wait, wait, wait, are we talking about the Bronx?

Question: The Bronx, yeah. The student or their family notified officials before the city got the results from the state?

Mayor: No, no. I want to – I'll jump in because I know some of this. We don't have the confirmation from the state, that's why I said to you potential – very, very important. We don't have – we’ve got a self-report, which we were going to honor in the first instance – better safe than sorry – you know, abundance of caution. But we need to get that confirmation from the health authorities, from a medical source to determine the next course of action.

Question: [Inaudible] there appears to be a directive to school not to report cases directly to the Department of Health. And we just wanted to understand that, but because perhaps –

Mayor: Where are you getting that? I'm sorry.

Question: I believe there was a memo distributed to schools.

Mayor: I have not heard that.

Commissioner Barbot: We get the results directly from the labs that run the test. And so, there's no need to do that double reporting.

Question: Right. But in this case, for example, you did close the school because you learned from the student, and I guess if you're waiting for the state lab, doesn't that create some delay?

Mayor: Yeah, there's a real issue here and this gets back to the automated testing. It really does. It's a very fair question. If we had the automated testing, if you had thousands per day results in hours. That's what we need. We're fighting a war here without enough ammunition. So the - we did not have 7:00 – 7:30 this morning when I was informed and made the decision, we did not have the benefit of the confirmation from a medical professional, or from, you know, the State. So we had to work with imperfect information. You're absolutely right. Will this be a repetitive pattern is something we'd be very, very concerned about. But, you know, I want to believe one way or another, we're going to find a way to get to that automated testing and then that will change the entire equation.

Question: Right, but in the interim, does it make sense for schools to have a directive to not report cases or suspect the cases to the Health Department? If I'm understanding that –

Chancellor Carranza: There is no directive. There's guidance that we've given schools and as the Mayor has talked about with increasing numbers of people that are now coming out, what we don't want to do is inundate the Department of Health with all of these kinds of cases. We have ongoing, daily, almost hourly contact with the Department of Health. We have designated people that we work with. So for us to funnel that information to the Department of Health is much more structured. We're trying to put structure into place then having random array of people calling the Department of Health and then using their very limited resources to have people try to figure out is that valid or not. In this particular case, we had a trusted reporter. It was apparent that we said it sounds credible. A student, and as the Mayor has said, imperfect circumstances. And again, I think this really would bespeaks to the notion that we want to err on the side of caution and abundance of caution as we work through some of these imperfections.

Mayor: But I think the underlying point to your question is a very fair one. Even though I want to believe the automated testing will solve it and solve it soon, there is still a reality that we have to figure out how to get that information from the second it comes into our possession, to the right people to make the analysis. I don't think every report will be created equal – Uh huh. Okay. I don't think every report will be created equal. I think we're going to get information from people that some cases we may build verify much quicker, sometimes slower. I think, you know, we're going to have times where the timing will be different where we have more time to double check before we have to make the decision. So but you're – I think it's very fair to say, and we'll work on this wherever a report comes up, no matter how informal, we need it quickly, and we need, you know, all the pertinent people who need to analyze it to get it. Way back.

Question: If the Governor said this morning in New York State, the test was free, does that mean free, free? Or does that mean no copay free? Or does that mean we'll bill you later free. And also what are we doing to assuage the fears undocumented persons [inaudible]?

Mayor: Sure, we've said in many of these press conferences, I'll say it again, no one who is undocumented will be asked their documentation status. We don't do that as a City of New York. Health + Hospitals doesn't do that. We already last year said to undocumented New Yorkers, we're guaranteeing health care without any question about documentation status and to all New Yorkers that we want people to make sure they have health care, if they cannot afford it we're going to work with them. We're either going to help them get insurance getting NYC Care, pay what they can pay, but we're going to get them health care.

But on the issue of the test, look, anyone who has insurance and doctors, I think this is self-evident, if you have insurance, the test is covered by insurance.

President Katz: Correct.

Mayor: If you have no insurance, no nothing, we're going to make sure you got the test for free. On copays, I think there was an action on copays by the State, but I don't know. Does anyone know that one?

President Kat: I believe you're correct. They waive copays.

Mayor: We can check that. I think they waive - the State created a rule to waive copays, but you can check that.

Question: So if there’s no insurance than it is entirely free without that for New York.

Mayor: Correct.

Question: Mr. Mayor, or maybe not for you, but for Dr. Barbot, what is your advice to public school parents who have one of those serious underlying conditions and yet their kids are going to school?

Mayor: You mean the child has the underlying condition?

Question: No, the parent. A parent at home has an underlying condition and the kids going to school and potentially contracting coronavirus. What is the advice for those parents at home? Should they try to isolate from their kids? What are the best practices here?

Commissioner Barbot: So I think the most important thing is for parents to be vigilant about potential symptoms in their children. Cough, fever, cough, shortness of breath, and to have a low threshold for reaching out to their pediatricians to assess what could be accounting for those symptoms. At this point in time, I wouldn't recommend parents isolate themselves from their kids. I think at this point in time we need parents to spend more time with their kids. I'm sure that a lot of children out there are feeling anxious about what they may be hearing or seeing on TV, and we want to take this opportunity to remind parents that there are resources for them to share accurate information with their children and to assure them that there are things that we all can do to keep each other healthy.

Question: And then you said, you're not sure how many tests that he has right now. I think Politico reported 500. Is that not accurate? [Inaudible] well, I'm sorry, you don't have a more exact number on the current amount of tests?

Commissioner Barbot: So, we're running tests all day, so I don't have the latest figure –
Question: [Inaudible] capacity.

Mayor: You mean per day?

Question: No. How many tests could you do if you needed to do – if a thousand people [inaudible]

Commissioner Barbot: Oh, so, we can do 60 a day. And we –

Mayor: And that’s a Public Health Lab –

Commissioner Barbot: The public – just the Public Health Lab and we are working to increase that to somewhere between a 100 and 120 per day. And then that adds to the capacity of the commercial labs where we anticipate that they can do thousands per day.

Mayor: Okay. We're the end of the line.

Question: Yeah, I wanted ask about some proposals kind of circulating in the Council. Brad Lander and Ritchie Torres are sort of forwarding a proposal in which you would order the NYPD to stop making low level arrests for violations or misdemeanor. The idea of being prevent the potential spread of the virus in jails, courts, and precincts. The other idea was to order the courts to consider releasing anyone in pretrial detention who's over 60, same justification. Have you thought of measures like that? Is that something that we could expect potentially under the emergency order?

Mayor: No, that's not on – let me first say, just let me break this into pieces. Is that something we're planning on right now? No. Is it something that's sort of a front burner issue we're adjudicating right now? No. Is perfectly fair things to talk about? The second one you know, there an argument obviously if there's a health specific danger, that's a very real issue. So we should talk about if we want to put any criteria in place around the health of an inmate, but in addition to what we have right now, but the first one, it, my immediate response, I'd be happy to talk to them about it, but my immediate response is no. That this is exactly an example of the fact that we cannot think coronavirus is the only thing happening in our lives and in our city right now.

You know, our police officers still have to fight crime every day. There's not like, there's some timeout the criminals take because of coronavirus. You know, people still need a livelihood, right? I mean, you go down the list. Children still need an education. Does that - the entire society has not gone from, there is no – we didn't even know what coronavirus was to now the only thing we can do is coronavirus. We just have to strike some balance. So I would not want to see the NYPD not arresting someone who deserves to be arrested because of coronavirus. That doesn't follow to me.

Okay. Everyone, thanks very much. We'll have more tomorrow.

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