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Transcript: Mayor de Blasio Appears Live on Good Day New York

March 13, 2020

Lori Stokes: New York City now under a state of emergency as the city copes with close to 100 cases of coronavirus and tries to control the spread of the virus.

Rosanna Scotto: There are so many rumors out there. Mayor de Blasio, thank you so much for being here this morning.

Mayor Bill de Blasio: Thank you.

Scotto: I had so many friends texting me. They heard the city is shutting down.

Mayor: No. And we want people to get good information, I'm happy to be here with you to answer questions and make this clear. State of emergency, first of all, gives me a variety of powers to deal with the situation. It does not mean our lives are changing instantly. It means that we will take steps as needed. And Governor Cuomo and I have been constantly communicating. We agree on the core strategy. What he announced yesterday was in conjunction with the City, was the idea that, for example, the large gatherings need to go, the over-500 gatherings need to go, and we want people to have more space if you're at a bar, if you're at a restaurant, if you're at a smaller event, if you're on the subway. We're trying to get people more space and that's what we're doing through these actions. But the city has to keep going. We need people to have their livelihoods. We need folks to show up at work. We need our public servants to be where we need them to be to take care of folks, hospitals, schools, first responders.

Stokes: Let's talk about the schools, Mayor, because we saw with Staten Island, we know in New Rochelle, there's been a lot of talk as to whether or not the school system will shut down here, but you've said it's a slippery slope.

Mayor: It's a very slippery slope and let me speak to that, but, first, just one more point on information we talked about a moment ago. There are a lot of ridiculous rumors yesterday. I don't blame anyone who hears something and they're concerned, but I want to remind all New Yorkers that you can get information directly – call 3-1-1; go online,; or, you can text – excuse me, text the word COVID – C-O-V-I-D – to 692-692. By texting that you'll get regular updates texted to you constantly with the truth. And anyone who wants to know what's going on, these are three sources where you can get up-to-the-minute information. If someone says, as we heard yesterday, all of Manhattan's being quarantined – that was a lie, that was false. These sources will tell you instantly what's really going on.

But to the school question, you're right about the slippery slope. Here's the deal, when kids go to school, it's not just about their education, which I don't want to interrupt. I don't want to see kids miss weeks or months of school. It's where a lot of kids get their meals. A lot of kids who are less advantaged really depend on the school.

Scotto: I didn’t realize that over 700,000 kids in the New York City school system are at poverty level and 100,000 of them are homeless.

Mayor: Well, 100,000 – let me be clear about that. It's not 100,000 are homeless. It's 100,000 are living in a situation that's either a double-up family in an apartment or in some cases even tripled-up, or they're in a shelter. That doesn't make it good, but it's not –

Stokes: Below poverty line –

Mayor: A lot of people below the poverty line, but the point being that number suggests everyone's in a shelter, everyone's on the street – no, it means folks who are less housed, if you will, than they should be, and we have a lot of work to do. But there's a huge number of kids who depend on the schools for their meals. By the way, that was true before coronavirus. We're going to see a lot of challenges because of coronavirus with folks having less pay or less work, you know, less jobs – fewer jobs available. So, the schools are where you get your education, the schools are where kids are safe. A lot of parents, if the school’s not there, the parent can't go to work, especially in a single-parent household. You can't bring your kid to work most places.

Scotto: I know, but what about the teachers? Because some teachers are tweeting me this morning, they are concerned because they were on the front lines as well and wondering what the union is saying to you, right now.

Mayor: We're constantly talking to the union and we all agree on the basic facts here of how this disease operates, if you will. If folks take smart precautions – and the number-one thing is, if you're feeling sick, stay home. Because within a few days, as is true with cold, flu, anything, you're going to know what two or three days of the thing is getting better or it's getting worse. If it's getting worse, you go to a doctor, you get tested for the regular kinds of seasonal diseases before we even talk about coronavirus. But the most important thing is, if you're not feeling well, don't go to work. But if you're feeling okay, here's the thing – for the vast majority of people, first of all, if you even got coronavirus, but you're healthy and you don't have those preexisting conditions, most people will experience it, because 80 percent is the global standard we're seeing right now. We'll experience it as something like cold or flu; 20 percent will have a more serious experience. The vast majority of them will come through it, recover, go back to life. So, we’ve got to be clear about what it is and what it isn't. But here's the last part of the slippery slope, we need our schools open for all the reasons I indicated before and because we have to have our workforce in our schools – excuse me, in our hospitals and our clinics, our first responders. We need them, especially in this moment. They need their kids to be in school so they can show up to work. This is a big part of the equation.

Stokes: Yesterday at your press conference, you were talking about the lack of tests that are available. You talked about how the President, in your words, finally is taking this seriously. You were saying that the federal government isn't giving us enough tests to be able, if someone wants to be, if they believe they have the coronavirus and they want to be tested and maybe municipalities will have to do it independently. So, where do we stand with that?

Mayor: So, Lori, I spoke to the Secretary of Health and Human Services last night, Secretary Azar, and I am more hopeful, both because of the President's remarks and our conversation, that the authorization for the automated testing is coming. We do not have it yet, but I'm more hopeful. That means the ability to do thousands of tests in a day and get results the same day. Now, we still want to prioritize those tests for the folks who need it most. Who are those people? Someone who's been exposed to someone with a confirmed case of coronavirus, someone who has come from one of the affected areas around the world that are experiencing the crisis the most, someone with those preexisting conditions. I want to tell your viewers this – five preexisting conditions, heart disease, lung disease, cancer, diabetes, compromised immune system. Those are the five areas, particularly for people over 50, and even more so over 60, 70, 80, the higher up you go. If you've got one of those conditions, that's who we're most concerned about, particularly in older folks. If you don't have one of those five conditions, overwhelmingly, what we understand from the science is, even if you were to contract it, it will be a manageable situation. We're concerned also – we talked about before – folks who smoke or vape, it makes it harder for your body to deal with.

Stokes: That can be any age.

Mayor: It can be any age. We have younger people with no preexisting conditions, but who are smokers or vapers and it's clearly making their experience with the disease worse. We're saying to people, it's not easy to qui, I know, but this is a very important time to quit if you can. If you call 3-1-1 or you go online to there are lots of ways that we help people.

Scotto: So, as a native New Yorker, I never thought that the city that never sleeps is. Do you think that you're ahead of the curve, compare it to China and Italy – Italy, where they're basically on lockdown and two weeks from being in the peak of this crisis.

Mayor: Rosanna, let's really understand what's going on with New Yorkers, because this is – there's no tougher, more resilient people in the world. And New Yorkers are voting with their feet, they're showing up for work, let's be really clear. Our first responders, showing up, doing their jobs and we appreciate them. We love them for that. In our hospitals, folks are showing up doing their jobs. In fact, our emergency rooms are not seeing that much unusual activity both in the public side and in our voluntary hospitals as well. Schools, continuing – school attendance last week was the same it was the same week last year. So, we are seeing a lot of consistency. New Yorkers do not scare easily.

Scotto: I know, but are we ahead of the curve of Italy and China?

Mayor: Night and day, night and day. China for weeks and weeks denied the existence of something that was already becoming a massive crisis. They lost all that time that they needed. That's why we're all in this situation. Italy – before Italy even turned around, they went from a few cases to a huge number of cases. They were absolutely unable to keep up with the dynamic. Here's the comparison, just using New York City – on January 24th I said in a press conference at our Office of Emergency Management, it's not a question if, but when. We will get it and we are in full preparation. First case was March 1st. For those five weeks, our entire health care system, all of our first responder system, everything got ready. Today, there's 95 cases. We take that very seriously. But our health care system is the finest in the nation. Right here, we have more great hospitals, more great health care workers. We have capacity no place else could ever dream of. We've got – I've said it's going to be a long battle. So this is – nothing I'm saying is to minimize the danger. People are going to suffer. We’re going to lose some people, there's no question. I say that with pain. But the truth is also, New Yorkers can handle it and the city is better than any place else on earth. And the fact is it will be a long battle. We predict six months –

Scotto: Six months – with these kind of draconian measures?

Mayor: Not necessarily – six months until we are able to say that the crisis is receding. It does not mean the same measures will be there throughout, but I want to say – long battle, but a battle we will come through and on the other end the vast majority of people will recover fully and life will go on in this city.

Stokes: And you said next week though you predict 1,000 cases.

Mayor: I do and I want to be –

Stokes: And you think we have the staff, we have the support, we have the space if, God forbid, it starts to –

Mayor: And let me tell you the math, because it's important to understand that. I want to be sober and clear with New Yorkers about what we're seeing. I think that could be the number next week. We don't have a crystal ball, but I think the trajectory says that. So, if you take what we're seeing absolutely consistently, Lori – 80 percent had very mild experiences, so much so, Lori, that the medical advice is to go home, even with a designation, even knowing you have contracted it. If you don't have those preexisting conditions and you're not older, go home, take the precautions, the self-quarantine, do what you would normally do to treat such a situation like cold or flu, and come out the other side normal. That's what actually is happening. We're seeing that with the early cases. We're seeing people now – we have the first person who came out of quarantine is going back to their normal life. That's going to start to happen more and more, but for the more serious cases, that's about 20 percent, a number of them will be hospitalized. Not necessarily all, but a number will be, some will need very intensive support, but if you take that thousand, that's 200 people who would have to get some kind of hospital support. Given the vast size of our hospital system, yes, we can handle that.

We can handle a lot more than that. If it gets to the point where we have to take extraordinary measures, our CEO of our Health + Hospitals system made very clear, he can expand ICU capacity greatly. They can set up a brand new ICU in their hospitals and around their hospitals. They could literally build them big and put them in tents if they have to. This is a known approach also, all elective surgery, all optional health care activities would be suspended. All those doctors, nurses, all that staff would be put onto this. So I'm not belittling, it's going to take a lot of adjustment and sacrifice and challenge, but everyone is in a ready position and we have more – we just have more health care available than any place else in America and the best trained physicians and nurses. We can handle it, but it will be tough.

Scotto: Thank you so much for coming on and separating fact from rumor because there's so many out there.

Mayor: Right.

Scotto: Thank you.

Mayor: Please. Anyone again –

Stokes: The three ways that people can reach out again, Mayor?

Mayor: 3-1-1, okay, or text the word ‘COVID’ to 692-692. The folks who have done that – and there are tens of thousands of New Yorkers who are getting constant updates sent to them, but if you have questions or you hear those rumors, which you’ll here, just go and check out one of those sources and you'll get the truth.

Scotto: Thank you so much, Mayor. We’re going to talk to the Schools Commissioner, Chancellor, coming up –

Mayor: Yep –

Scotto: Chancellor Carranza.

Stokes: Pat Foye, as well, from the MTA.

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