President and CEO James Patchett, Economic Development Corporation: Good morning, everyone. Mr. Mayor, Commissioners, honored guests, deputy mayor – my boss – I’m honored to kick off today’s event. I’m James Patchett, the President of the New York City Economic Development Corporation. I want to start by talking about the significance of where we are today. Next to me is the Alexandria Center for the Life Sciences. Alexandria symbolizes New York City’s journey to become a life sciences hub. And it’s now home to the new Pandemic Response Lab, or PRL, which is serving a critical purpose in the city’s fight against COVID-19. The lab, which was just opened last week, is dedicated to processing COVID-19 test results for Health + Hospitals in 24 to 48 hours. Every result the lab has been sent so far has been returned to patients within 24 hours. This is a major achievement for New York City, and it’s a testament to our innovation and our creativity. It exemplifies the best of our city. And while we’d love to have you in the lab, for health and safety reasons, we’re hosting the event outside.
From the very beginning of this, it’s been clear that we cannot rely on the federal government or global supply chains to solve our challenges. That’s why we took matters into our own hands. We built over 8.4 million face shields in New York City and 4 million gowns for hospital workers. We manufactured our own bridge ventilators and over half-a-million test kits for New York City. There were days where without those test kits, we would have been unable to serve patients when they came in to be tested. And that’s why we’re taking testing into our own hands too. We have the capability, the talent, and the ingenuity to do it right here in New York City. And as long as we’re living with COVID-19, rapid, accurate testing is absolutely essential to keep our people safe and reopen our economy.
So, in June, we set out to build our own lab and we did it in a matter of weeks. It was a true multi-partner cross-sector collaboration. It was led by my team at EDC with incredible partnership from Health + Hospitals and the Department of Health. It uses a technology licensed from NYU Langone Health. Brooklyn-based Opentrons, a robotics company focused on the life sciences, worked with diagnostic experts from [inaudible] clinical, Health + Hospitals, and the New York City Test and Trace team to launch PRL. The lab is up and running. By the end of this month, it can do 10,000 tests a day. And by November, we will be able to do 20,000 a day. PRL will build the city’s existing capacity and provide faster results dedicated to New York City residents and will provide New Yorkers with good paying jobs. It’s already employing close to a hundred people and we expect it to be to 150 by November. I’m incredibly proud of our team who worked tirelessly to make this lab of possibility. And I’m proud about what this lab says about our city.
Creating lab capacity right here is another example of the creativity and innovation of New York City businesses and institutions that can make the impossible possible. We have proven time and again, that we can do things right here in New York City, and PRL is just one component of the city’s larger strategy to reopen and recover. This pandemic reinforced the direct connection that exists between public health and the economy. Safe reopening through innovations in testing, and a series of policies that directly connect the health of New Yorkers to the health of the city’s economy will create a healthier, stronger, and more inclusive New York City. I’m now pleased to introduce someone that I’ve gotten to know quite well throughout this crisis, someone I’ve spoken to probably a hundred times in the last six months, and, naturally, in these extraordinary times, someone I had not met in-person until 15 minutes ago. And with that, I’m very pleased to introduce Dr. Jay Varma, who brings tremendous expertise to his role. From Ebola to HIV, Dr. Varma has built new public health systems and let epidemic responses here in New York City, as well as in Asia and Africa. I have a deep, deep respect for his work and his vision.
Senior Advisor Dr. Jay Varma: Great. James, thanks for that introduction. And it’s one of those unusual things that we finally get to meet in person. And, of course, it’s an incredible opportunity to meet here at this particular moment, given how important this new facility is – it’s for New York and for our immediate coronavirus response. You know, when reports to the novel coronavirus first emerged in January, I was far away from New York City. I was actually based in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, working at the African Union, working to develop a strategy to prepare the continent for what we knew would be a devastating epidemic. For that strategy, I drew upon lessons that I had learned fighting epidemics from around the world, including, as James mentioned, the Ebola response here in New York City and in West Africa. Some critical questions – how do you train disease detectives to detect a disease early and to trace contacts effectively? How do you keep health care workers safe from being infected in the middle of a dangerous epidemic? The tools we use to protect health are actually the same here in New York City and around the world. The problem is that they’re not evenly distributed. And over nine months into the coronavirus pandemic, we see how much suffering has been here in New York City because of this disease, but we’ve also shown how the city can fight back with public health, with science, and with partnerships. To win that fight here in New York City, we’ve drawn from the vast talent and infrastructure and community engagement, and we’ve built an extended our collaborations with public health leaders in Europe, in Asia, and, in fact, in Africa. We need to continue that work. We all breathe the same air. Viruses don’t need visas to cross borders. And climate change is rapidly accelerating the emergence of new infectious diseases. So, we have the opportunity to share the lessons that New York City has learned with other cities and countries. New York City can partner with academia, with private sector, and with partners both here in the United States and around the world to train public health and health care personnel and to innovate public health practice and to research and develop new solutions.
You know, the critical questions remain that we can help and work together to solve. How do we forecast and model outbreaks similar to what we do with the weather? How do we detect and control outbreaks faster? How do we get diagnostic tests actually into the hands of the people, as opposed to always being restricted to, say, a laboratory or a doctor’s office? And how do we build the next generation of diagnostics, vaccines, and treatments, and make sure that they’re equitably distributed to all? How do we ensure that equity is not just a word we use, but something that actually means something in to the daily health of people? So, New York City is really poised right now to lead and innovate the next generation of public health solutions and to train the next generation of public health leaders here in New York City, nationally, and around the world. We need that for our own health insecurity and for the health and security of everyone around the world.
And so, I just want to close by saying I’ve had the tremendous honor to work, you know, with the team at City Hall and directly for the Mayor since early April. And I have really gotten a chance to see firsthand the commitment to mobilizing every possible resource to strengthen the health response to this crisis. And now, of course, to use those lessons to help New York City [inaudible] more resilient and the rest of the world more resilient.
Thank you, Mr. Mayor.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: Good morning, everybody. You know, listening to Dr. Jay Varma. I’m reminded of a conversation I had with him months ago, where he talked about his experiences in China – in fact, in Hubei Province. And he talked about how diseases that just a few years ago might have stayed contained in a very local area, now in a more globalized world, travel, not just in one province or in one country, but literally to continents all over the world, and that this is a new reality we face, and we need new solutions for this new time. And when you speak with someone of Dr. Varma’s experience, it can be sobering, it can be humbling, but it was also a call to arms that this world has to handle our new reality differently. And we did not ask in New York City to end up being the epicenter of this crisis in this nation and one of the places that was hardest hit in the world, we never wanted that distinction, but it has forged us in fire. It has educated us. It has strengthened us. It has made us particularly well suited to confront this challenge and the challenges that will come to be the place that creates the solutions, to be the place that understands the problem like nowhere else, that understands what it means for every-day people of every background, from every corner of the world, because, in fact, in New York City here in this global city, we have communities from all over the world in one place. And the solutions we create here can save lives everywhere.
So, I want to thank Dr. Varma for having played such a crucial role in our fight against the coronavirus. I want to thank James Patchett and his whole team for the amazing work that they have done constantly innovating, constantly fighting back, creating in New York City what did not exist just a year ago, but drawing upon the strengths that is New York City, drawing upon our extraordinary creativity and drive and energy and talent to create solutions right now that our national government did not provide to us, but that we created for ourselves. And in that is the essence of what we’re going to talk about today, because that shows us our future.
I want to thank everybody at the Alexandria Center, because this is one of the places building the future of New York City. I want to thank John Brennan-Badal and the team at Opentrons. Thank you so much for the extraordinary effort in operating this Pandemic Response Lab. Again, creating from scratch a solution. I can’t tell you how many times talking to national health care leaders, talking to our federal health care leaders, asking them why we couldn’t get more testing, asking them why we couldn’t get faster lab results, why the largest city in the nation wasn’t getting what we needed nor were cities and states anywhere else. And what I heard time and again was a sense of resignation, a cursing the darkness, too many words about what our country couldn’t do instead of what we could do. But here in New York City, we have taken a very different approach. We have focused every day on what we could create, and the people here around me, all of them deserve great credit, and all their teams, because they would not be defeated.
Over these last six, seven months, time and time again, New Yorkers resolved to get the job done, and, in fact did get the job done. So, this is the right place to talk about where we move from here. And I don’t want for a moment to forget what we experienced. It’s unforgettable, very sadly – March, April, one of the worst times in the history of this city. Those we lost – and every single one of us knows people we lost, families who lost loved ones. I don’t want to minimize how bad it has been and how long it will linger with us. The pain of a million lost jobs, the confusion, the fear. I don’t want to ever forget the emptiness of the response from our federal government. I don’t want to ever forget all the times we asked for testing and weren’t giving it, all the times we asked for help and it was ignored. But I’ll tell you something, New York City didn’t back down. And there were heroes everywhere, and every day we should reflect upon those heroes, particularly our health care heroes, because they couldn’t imagine running from the fight. And we saluted them as New Yorkers, and we need to keep saluting them, because they saw us through. But they also exemplified the spirit of New York City for the world to see.
So, we remember that we were the epicenter of this crisis, unquestionably, tragically. And now we note with pride as New Yorkers that we went from being the epicenter of the crisis to becoming the envy of the nation – day after day at one percent positive rate or less – day after day, our economy starting to come back, our schools starting to open. Things that many doubted, they’re happening one after another, because of the resolve of the people of this city. And this is the X-factor – you will not find New Yorkers any place else, but New York City. All of you are the X-factor that made this possible and will make our future greatness possible. The sheer resolve and discipline every single day, doing what it took to protect each other. Those simple acts like wearing a mask and practicing social distancing – times 8 million people, one day, after another, after another has brought us back and will continue to make us stronger.
But now, we look to the future, and we recognize that we are in a transformative moment. Sometimes in the middle of history, it’s hard to see it. But I remember the stories of the Great Depression in my family. I remember every time we gathered for a holiday around the table, inevitably, our elders would talk about that time that, to them, defined their lives, because everything came unglued, and it looked unsurmountable at times. They told the story of New York City in those years and how people banded together and fought back. And now, we look back at the 1930s and understand it was a profound, transformative time that in the pain, despite the pain came, solutions that today still govern us, that today still provide the underpinnings safety and security and decency in our society. That was a pure historic transformative moment. And this is too – we are living in it. I’ve talked to you many times about my father who fought in World War II – and we say the greatest generation, they deserve that title. But now, a new greatest generation must emerge, because we are in that type of fight – a fight for the ages. And I am convinced that the people of New York City have already shown the ability to create that greatest generation again. There’s no question in my mind, we are rising to the moment and we will rise further.
So, today, we lay out the foundations of our recovery agenda. Today, we present a vision that focuses on public health and social justice. These will be the pillars of our future. And here’s what we have learned – public health is economic health. It’s not something we fully understood before this crisis. Let’s be clear, public health is economic health. There is no economic health without public health. And, thank God, we invested in public health long before we ever heard the word coronavirus. Thank God, billions of dollars were invested in Health + Hospitals to make it strong. We did not know why that would be so important in the context of the pandemic, but, thank God, our Health + Hospital system was ready. Thank God we invested in guaranteed health care for all New Yorkers, because we’ve seen in countries all over the world that the strongest and best responses have been where there is a thriving, universal public health system – and our nation still lacks that our foundational problem, but in New York city, we have built our own version. Thank God, we understand there is no health without mental health. This crisis has pointed out as well, mental health challenges loom just as large as physical health challenges. And this city has devoted itself to truly providing mental health for all. Thank God, we have
some of the truly greatest teaching hospitals on the earth. And, thank God, we have a growing life sciences industry, and you see it here at the Alexandria Center. And this is just the beginning, because we are destined to be one of the great life sciences capitals of the world. We can transform New York City into a living laboratory, a place where great innovations occur, great innovations are achieved and put into practice immediately to benefit all people. New Yorkers don’t just believe in theory, we believe in practice, and here we can take ideas and put them into action. And, as we do that, we will create more and more jobs and we will bring our economy back stronger than ever. There are so many industries that have been historically strong in this city, and there are some that have come up stronger in recent years, but there is a potential here that is vast to do good and do well at the same time.
So, let me offer four core principles for this public health vision, this vision of recovery through public health. One, we must continue our momentum and then build further progress in the fight against COVID-19. Two, we must invest in innovation to make us a stronger hub for public health research. Three, we have to create new high-quality jobs that improve the health of our people. And four, we have to focus on historically underserved communities, the places that didn’t get the investment, because we have to right that wrong and recognize that we are truly all in this together and if one community of New York City is not healthy, we all are not healthy. In the coming weeks, we will provide detailed plans to realize this vision. And as you see these plans, there will be an obvious focus on the immediate challenge. We have to overcome COVID for everything else to be possible. And so, we must our COVID testing. We will create a new citywide rapid testing program, and that begins today, kicking off a rapid testing design competition to bring the best ideas forward, because rapid testing will be one of the keys to overcoming this crisis. Quick, reliable testing is what will help get more and more New Yorkers back to work safely. And this lab, with the ability soon to process 20,000 tests a day, will be a key part of that solution. We know after so many painful examples, we know not to wait on our federal government. There is, to this day, still not a full and reliable national testing infrastructure. It does not exist, but here we will create what we must create to protect our people and move us forward.
We must prepare for the day when a vaccine is ready, because the vaccine is step-one, but implementing it, getting it to the people quickly and effectively is the second and necessary step to overcome the coronavirus. And we’ll take lessons from the H1N1 crisis to quickly distribute a COVID-19 vaccine. And we have to understand that the future of New York City and the future of our economy then depends on taking everything we’ve learned and building rapidly upon it. New York City must be a global hub for public health research, for development, and for the practice of new ideas and approaches. We must do it, because we can’t depend on anyone else to do it. We must do it because we have the talent and ability to do it. Here in New York city, we can serve this nation in this world in a way that no other place can. And, in the process, we will establish a new strategic approach to health care that is truly inclusive, because we know, for generations, health care has gone to those who can afford it. And we saw the disparities laid bare in this crisis. And that cannot be, it is not only morally wrong, it will hold us back, it will hold us down. And so, we here – we’ll create new strategies, show our nation, our world, what it means to truly provide health care for all. And we will bring together partners because the talent is already here, right this minute. We’ll bring together partners who may never have worked together, but they will work together now in common cause – doctors and nurses, academic researchers, industry innovators, health care nonprofits, and economic development organizations at the community level. Folks who may have thought their missions were different will now see their mission as one, because health care must reach the people. It’s not good enough if it’s a great idea or it’s only for the few who can afford it. Our vision is great new ideas that reach into every corner of every neighborhood of this city and then can be used all over the world.
We will revolutionize our health care workforce by launching a public health corps. We have seen already in just a few months, what test and trace has been able to achieve. We’ve seen what it means to have public health workers who can go within minutes out into communities and make a difference and educate people and help people and guide them – what a difference it makes. We will build on that example. We’ll take this model and these talented, committed New Yorkers and build something lasting. And that will build the communication and the trust needed to bring every neighborhood into the future of health care, because we’ve also learned powerful lessons about how much information matters, how important it is for people to see what they need to do and believe in it. We’ll create dedicated research and development facilities that not only create cures, but then ensure the cures reach the people – that those cures will be provided on a broad scale and we will deploy those new approaches and then track the impact on communities to ensure they worked for all. And think about what it means then for our future. It means that we will fundamentally change the health outcomes in the communities of this city – that will make us stronger. It means, God forbid, another pandemic arrives on the scene, no city will be more ready than New York City. It means that the models we create will be sought after and people from around the world will come here to learn how to do it.
And while we’re talking about our future, and while we’re talking about health, let us never forget the pervasive unyielding health crisis that is global warming. We will all be involved in that struggle in every corner of the world but, again, we understand that global warming has powerful health ramifications. We understand that we can’t keep our people as safe as they need to be if we don’t fight global warming, and so here in New York City on Governor’s Island, we will create the centerpiece for the global fight against climate change. On our Governor’s Island, where New York City, as we know it today began, you will find the greatest minds, the ideas being generated, the hope being created that we can overcome global warming. We have here New York City so many innovators, so many people who want to create new models that are sustainable, that want to be part of the solution, that want to see a healthy city, that want to fight the larger threats we face. The level of commitment in this crisis has been extraordinary and it will only grow, and we will prepare New Yorkers to fight against the health challenges of tomorrow, whatever those health challenges must be and will be, we will train New Yorkers to fight against those health challenges. We will train New Yorkers to create a greener city and a greener world. What we do here can be the model, and I believe we will be the climate solutions leader, not only of this country, but of the entire world. So, the simple point here is we can do this. We can create something new. We can take what we’ve learned and build upon it. So we will make sure that these partnerships grow. We will make sure that these lab facilities grow, that these innovations come more and more frequently, and we will remember that only works. If it works for everyone, it only works. If every community benefits and I will say for the record, we understand everything is interrelated. We understand that you can’t be healthy if you don’t have quality housing, we understand you can’t pay for medicines if you don’t have a job, we understand that people need green space and places to exercise. We understand that people have to get to work and opportunity with a quality mass transit system that also helps us move away from the American addiction to the automobile, all these pieces interrelated.
But what we have learned in these last seven months is it begins and ends with healthcare. That is the indispensable piece of the equation. So here’s what we know, in conclusion, we know that New York City has a long history of being a beacon to the world. We must be a beacon to the world, again, as we face these new challenges, and that means, again, that core component, New Yorkers rising to the challenge. It means drawing out all the talent that is here, because it is breathtaking. The energy in this place is unsurpassed, and you can feel it if you are someone visiting for a weekend and you can feel it if you’ve lived here, your whole life, the energy is like nowhere else in the world. There will be a rebirth. There will be a renaissance for New York City and anyone who wants to be a part of that, I invite you to the table and this great effort to create solutions that never existed before for the challenges of today and tomorrow. Everyone who wants to be a part of that mission is welcome, and the one thing we know is it must be for everyone. We must see the transformational moment and build every day solutions that reach every person, and finally it bears saying New York City has had many great eras and New York City has had many setbacks. I often quote the truism “it doesn’t matter how many times you’ve been knocked down – it matters how many times you get back up.” So I predict to you today, and not only will New York City get back up, the New York City will go farther than it ever has, and the best is yet to come. Thank you. Few words in Spanish.
[The Mayor speaks in Spanish]
With that. We will turn to our colleagues in the media, Dave. Yeah, I think it’d be good to get the microphone.
Question: Mayor, it’s good to see you. I wanted to ask you, first of all, just the nitty gritty here. I got tested last week at CityMD. It took four days to get the test back, which I was kind of surprised that it took only four days. But if you could just compare what the citywide average is, do we know for most of, you know, the testing that’s going on in other locations? And then compare that to, I think we said sure, 24 hours here, and I did have a second question.
Mayor: Let me – I’ll call up. Whichever of our good doctors wants to speak to the latest numbers. I think Dave – we’ve seen a real skew between the private labs and the public labs. Now this facility here will focus on our Health + Hospitals testing, and that’s been essential for so many communities, and obviously the focal point of a lot of what we’ve done is we’ve been opening schools. The public testing has been pretty good in terms of fast turnaround. The private has really varied the cost according to the national dynamics too much, and this is why I say we still don’t have a coherent national system here. So I do want to keep encouraging all New Yorkers to take advantage of the opportunity at our public testing sites. But which of you, Dr. Katz, you want to speak to public and private how we’re doing.
President and CEO Dr. Mitchell Katz, NYC Health + Hospitals: Thank you. Well the same week that I read an article that in France, it took a week to get the result of any of your PCR tests, all of the Health + Hospital facilities, we’re delivering it within 48 hours, and with this lab, we’re going to soon be at 24 hours be able to turn around the test. So right now, in general, if you go to Bellevue, one block away, 48 hours would be the average time you’d have to wait as the Mayor said. Depending upon where the test is being sent from other centers, we’ve heard four days, five days, six days.
Commissioner Dave Chokshi, Department of Health and Mental Hygiene: And I can just round that out with the citywide numbers. So the majority of tests are coming back within 48 hours. Now that’s citywide across all different testing sites. Three quarters of all tests are coming back within four days and we are seeing for urgent care centers in particular like the CityMD sir, that you went to, it’s generally within four days for urgent care centers.
Question: And my second question along the same issue, how’s this, Mayor, going to help you, do you think, or hope at least with schools, more schools opening, with the school’s opening next week.
Mayor: Dave, look, anything that improves testing improves the willingness of people who get tested. I mean, just think about it. I think there’s been legitimate feeling that folks got discouraged if it took too long for the result to come back, because it’s less pertinent. If it comes back after a longer period of time, and by the way, for all of you have been tested, I’ve been a strong proponent of the easier, less invasive test. The self-swab we call it where they pleasantly run the test around inside your nostril rather than the more elevated test, how we say. So I think literally it’s been a tactic to sort of make the testing simpler, less invasive to make sure everyone knows it’s free, readily available, but it has to come back fast for people to want to do it. So this is an encouragement to people to see those public testing sites coming back in a day to days that is going to encourage, and that’s going to help us continue to open schools, the more people get tested, everything interrelates.
Question: A friend who works in the nursing home industry said there seems to be a discrepancy between the city and state over whether the DOB inspectors have to submit to screenings. The state is requiring that all inspectors in nursing homes submit the screenings, but the DOB inspectors are refusing to, and the chief inspectors told them inspectors are to self-monitor health exempt from onsite health screening on regulator’s not visitors. So what’s happening now is they can’t get any inspections done because the inspectors are refusing to submit the test. Can something be worked out between the State and the City in that regard?
Mayor: I have not heard that previously. I’m concerned, obviously I want see if Dr. Chokshi wants to offer anything. That’s not a problem that’s been raised to me at least, but we’ll look into it right away. We obviously want to keep everyone safe. Doctor you want to add?
Commissioner Chokshi: No, I’m not aware of this specific issue either. What I will say is in general nursing homes, because we know the risk of transmission is so much higher. We have you know, an abundance of caution approach with respect to screening in nursing homes, but we can certainly look into the specific issue with inspectors and find that out.
Question: My second question – it’s for the Commissioner also. Has there been a single documented case in New York or across the country of someone who had antibodies, a significant number of antibodies and then subsequently tested positive again for the crone of ours?
Commissioner Chokshi: Yes. The short answer is yes, there, there are documented cases of re-infection. Essentially someone who was infected some period of time ago, it could be several months ago who recovered and therefore has antibodies and then was subsequently reinfected with the coronavirus. I want to be very clear here. We’re talking about an extraordinarily small number of cases right now, and it’s an area where the science is still emerging for us to understand just how common that phenomenon of re-infection might be.
Question: Any ballpark how many?
Commissioner Chokshi: We’re talking about in the single digits that have been reported thus far.
Question: Thank you, Mayor. First of all, thanks for doing this in person. It’s a nice change of pace from the virtual format. But going back to your vision for the recovery, when you talked about investing in public health infrastructure and creating jobs, because you speak to the funding that would be involved for this, do you see taxpayer dollars involved? And if so, any ballpark figure, like any more specifics?
Mayor: Let me speak to that, and I want to also say I had meant to provide the daily indicators. So just a quick programming note, and then I’ll answer your question. Just want to give everyone the indicators for today on hospital admissions we are at 56 individuals for today – 56 patients with a confirmed COVID positive rate of 9.72. New reported cases on a seven-day average, 320 overall testing in the city, 1.20 percent.
To your question. So a couple of things are going to happen here. One, as the city makes decisions about our investments, our capital funding, we’re going to prioritize these investments in healthcare as the core of our economic development strategy. So we will spark as we have sparked before with life sciences, for example, or a great example from the previous administration with Cornell Technion-Roosevelt Island, we’re going to make investments that spark activity in health innovation, public health. But there’s also a tremendous amount of resources that will be available going forward, because I am convinced the federal government will start to invest deeply in addressing the danger of future pandemics, the academic community, the opportunities for research grants, obviously the private sector, which is looking to deepen its efforts in this area because everyone understands this will be the nexus of our future. So we’ll make smart and targeted investments, but I believe there’s going to be a lot of other resources that will go where the action is, and we have to make this, that place, and James, you want to, where’s James, you want to add?
President Patchett: Since I think you asked also about testing specifically funding for testing. So I will just say just to give you an example, we were, we were paying over a hundred dollars per test for national reference laboratories. This lab we’re paying $28 per test. So we’ve cut the cost by about obviously about 75 percent or more using this lab, and our new rapid testing competition that we launched today. We’re looking for tests that costs between $5 and $10 and can be completed within 15 minutes. So we’re talking about rapidly scaling up testing, using our existing funding for testing, which is a mix of federal and city funding but cutting the cost dramatically, and in this case, by more than 90 percent for rapid testing in here today already by more than 75 percent.
Question: Yeah, I also noticed that didn’t mention crime when you were talking about your vision for the health and economic recovery. Why not incorporate, when you’re talking about public health, public safety, where do you see that fitting in for your vision for the remainder of your term?
Mayor: As I said, we’re going to be putting out specific plans and we’re going to be talking about a lot of things in those plans. We obviously need to regain what we had for years, which has tremendous success fighting back crime at the community level, and we’re only going to do that by working with communities – kind of parallels what I’m saying about healthcare itself. The solution is to work with communities and that’s what neighborhood policing is all about. But again, today is to talk about a bigger structure, a bigger foundation. Over the next weeks, we’re going to be putting forward a number of very specific plans.
Question: For Dr. Katz. since folks in the communities, you enumerated yesterday, gathered for the Jewish holiday over the weekend, do you expect the positivity rate to rise, you know, as we test going forward?
President Katz: So we’re, we’re particularly concerned for those of you who don’t know the Jewish traditions. We’re in a very special time right now between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, there are not a lot of celebrations, right? This is for us Jews, a time of reflection. What we’re particularly concerned about is going into the Sukkot holiday, which is a very different – it’s a festive holiday where people typically meet together to celebrate, and so that’s why we’re going to redouble our efforts in all of the Brooklyn neighborhoods we’re going to be out with our cars and with their megaphones attached with messages in Yiddish and in English, reminding people that we can continue to have our celebrations and our meetings, but we have to, as you are doing, be wearing a mask and as we’re all doing, be socially distant, and if we do those two things, we will be able to. Dr. Chokshi and I with the Mayor are watching very closely the numbers. We look at them every day, sometimes more than once a day. We look at the testing numbers, we look at the case numbers and we’re prepared if we need to take more stringent actions in order to prevent infections and prevent the nightmare that we all experienced in March and April we’ll do so.
Question: And if you lived in one of those neighborhoods and you were inclined to worship, would you intend services indoors?
President Katz: I would attend services indoors, but I would be wearing a mask and I would not be sitting next to someone who wasn’t part of my family, and that’s what we’re asking. We’re not asking that people not celebrate the holiday. We’re asking that people wear masks and we’re asking that people be socially distant.
Question: Yeah. Thank you, Mr. Mayor. I was just wondering, you know, this rapid testing, can you say more about this rapid testing competition and are you considering rapid testing models that are already existing? Like the one that Yale developed? And can you give us, I know you said more detailed plans will be coming in further weeks, but can you say anything more about what this rebirth entails? What’s going on in Governor’s Island? Any specifics that you can provide us would be greatly appreciated.
Mayor: Okay. That’s a little bit sprawling, but let me do my best here and I’ll have James speak to the competition and Claire give you a little more flavor of what’s happening on Governors Island. Remember we talked about Governors Island back in what feels like ancient history, back at the time of the State of the City at the beginning of the year, this is a crucial piece of the vision and again, we’ve got to understand that we need to be the place, this city needs to be the place where that innovation happens. And that’s both, I believe a moral statement, but also a statement of how we achieve our rebirth. So just to summarize it for my colleagues, I think this is where you take New York City’s inherent strengths and the call to action of the moment, and you combine them strategically. The whole world is going to need answers to the health care crisis. The whole world needs answers to the coronavirus crisis, but also how we prepare to stop any pandemic in the future. The whole world needs answers to the crisis of health care disparity. If we are the place where those answers are being created and tested and proven, a huge amount of investment comes our way, a huge amount of jobs are created equally with fighting global warming. If we increasingly are the place creating the solutions, an immense amount of energy, investment, job creation happens here. James, you want to start on the competition?
President Patchett: Morning. So, yeah, we’re putting out a paper on this shortly. The competition is launching today. We have a website that we’ll have today. The – we’re using the model we used for the pandemic response lab, except we’re doing it publicly and open to everyone because – so the approach we used here was, we said that we put out a set of criteria and we said the city was prepared to make a financial commitment to the lab results and that was all we needed to get a substantial amount of interest. We had close to 10 proposals, but this was in – we knew we did it more directly targeted people who we knew were advancing this technology and could do it in New York City. This is at least national and we’d be open to global responses as well. The amount of innovation happening in rapid testing, it’s happening very rapidly.
So we’re open to any response. The goal is test that cost less than $20 [inaudible] sorry, results that can be gotten in less than 20 minutes and test the cost $5 to $10. And so it’s, you know, it’s the city’s commitment to use these at scale. You know, our belief is that this – the most important thing to again, to economic reopening, is testing. Today we’re doing that by using PCR Testing. It still going to take 24 hours realistically to do that at the city’s scale that’s necessary. The thing that bridges to a vaccine is rapid testing at a significant scale. Corporate partners are interested in this. The city itself has interested in this. Every employer wants to have rapid testing, it’s the difference between being able to – knowing if you can go into a restaurant safely or not, and you’re doing it at that speed is essential to economic opening and that’s why this is an open call to innovation anywhere. This includes tests that are – there are a few that are already FDA approved, but there are significant number more that are coming within the next few weeks and we want to look at all of those options and we already have criteria for evaluating them.
Question: For a follow up I want to –
Mayor: Hold on the second part, Claire Newman’s the president and CEO of the Trust for Governors Island. I want her to give you an update on where the vision stands?
President and CEO Claire Newman, Trust For Governors Island: Thank you. As we’ve been talking to collectively about the plan for Governors Island, what we’ve heard loud and clear, and it relates so much to what’s being talked about today is the intersection between the issue of the threat of climate change and public health and economic vitality. And so what we’ve heard is there’s a clear need within the sector to bring together under one roof issues of science, issues of real on the ground solution making, alongside policy and communications so that we can leverage the talent in New York City and everything that the city has already done in the fight against climate change and begin to continue to build the political will to really see these changes implemented. So attracting a cross sector anchor to the island, educational or research, can help to seed a broader cross sector response to the issues, including commercial activity, including advocacy, and most importantly, nesting that all in public engagement and public education.
Question: Yeah, and for my follow-up I wanted to ask about the furloughs. You know, the DOE informed some un – I mean non-unionized teachers that they would have to take a week of furlough. Can you explain who in the DOE is getting those furloughs? Does that – and then can you explain why you think that’s necessary with all that teachers are going through right now? NYPD officers required to take –
Mayor: Again, I’ll make sure to get you a response from our Labor Relations Commissioner Renee Campion to give you the real specifics. But look, overwhelmingly our public work force is unionized and the furloughs do not affect unionized workers. This is all management level, and folks who are not represented by a union. The fact is that we just have to find savings everywhere we can and the furlough is one week of pay that will be spread out over time to lessen the blow, but again the goal here is to find savings – the bigger savings we need, we have to work through with the unions, because that’s where the vast majority of the workers are, but we’ll have Renee give you the breakout.
Question: Mayor, I just wanted to clarify, and I apologize if I heard this date and missed it, when will the lab be ready to do the 24-hour turnaround [inaudible] –
President Katz: It opened last Monday. We are already doing 24 hour turnarounds. Every test that we’ve had at this lab to date has had a 24-hour or less turnaround.
Question: When will the 20,000 tests per day –
President Katz: Oh, I’m sorry. So we’ll have 10,000 by the end of September and by November we’ll have 20,000.
Question: So my question for the Mayor, near the end of your speech you talked about anyone who is involved in the future of New York, I welcome you to the table. Correct me if I’m wrong, but it sounded somewhat like an answer to the letter you got from the business leaders who are saying, where’s your vision for the future? You’re saying here, I’ve got a vision for the future, but come to the table and help me build it because we didn’t hear a lot of the specifics today aimed at what they are looking for, which is how do you get folks back to Manhattan? How to do you get Broadway open? How do you get New York City looking like New York City, and you’re saying today, science and health is the future, I’ll have more details soon, but come join me and help flesh this out? Am I’m wrong?
Mayor: Well I’d say it’s a little different but it’s, I think your directionally in the ballpark, we want everyone at the table. And again, this vision is not just about Midtown Manhattan, this vision is not just about the theatres on Broadway, this vision is about five boroughs. It’s about working people. What did we see in this crisis? The crisis affected everyone, and who got hit the hardest? Working people, lower income people, people of color, immigrants, so the notion of elite solutions to non-elite problems is arcane. So I do want to work with everyone, but I want to be honest about – if someone brings a perspective to the table that is just about Midtown, or just about our traditional industries, or just about serving the consumers who have the most money to spend, that’s not going to work. So we’re offering a direction saying, come be a part of this, everyone, but it includes as I said, community based organizations, local economic development organizations. It’s not just the big famous names, it’s everyone.
Question: Just as a quick follow-up to that, but your five boroughs solution in terms of specifics, what is it that we’re sort of waiting to hear? Is it a number of jobs? Is it a construction timeline?
Mayor: All of the above, we want to lay out how we get there. Like every other blueprint in the world, we want to lay out how we get there. To me, you start with a big vision strategy in all great endeavors, and then you put together a blueprint and it gets more and more specific as you go along. So what we’ll give you in the coming weeks is the next steps on how we get there and then we’re going to learn by doing as with everything else. Okay, Katie, and then I’ve got two more and we are done. Go ahead.
Question: Oh, okay. I wanted to ask following up a bit about what Andrew asked about the economic recovery. I know you said it’s not about Midtown, but looking at the people who work in the tourism industry, which has been hit the hardest, whether if it’s at LaGuardia and JFK or if you’re a stagehand or an usher, it’s not the elites, as you say. So does the city have a plan for helping people within this industry, whether they work on Broadway or off Broadway or at an airport or at a hotel? Because again, those are not, as you say, elites living in Midtown, they tend to live in the outer boroughs and they are people of color –
Mayor: 100 percent. But I think the point today is everything depends on health care, that remember, this is both how we overcome the immediate crisis, which then allows us to restore our economy and our lives, but it’s also the future of our economy will be more and more about health care. So yeah, of course we want to bring every sector back and again if Vicki or James wants to add, you’re more than welcome, but I would just frame it this way, these are not mutually exclusive concepts, but direction and strategy have to actually land somewhere. If – and I don’t, again, I never blame you guys for wanting and talk about whatever individual concern you have or constituency you’re concerned about or piece of the equation. That’s normal, that’s healthy. But what I’m trying to get clear is a strategy means a direction. You have to choose a direction and that direction can’t be everything. We believe this direction is what gives us a stronger foundation for the future, it’s also how we come back now. Vicki, you want to add?
Deputy Mayor Vicki Been, Housing and Economic Development: Thanks Katie. So of course we’re concerned about every single sector, and of course, we’re very concerned about the way that this economic crisis in COVID has affected Broadway, have affected our theaters, et cetera. But key to that is exactly the kind of testing, quick testing so that we can use that to make it safe for people to come back to those places. That’s key. And what we’re saying here is these are foundational aspects of every single sector. We’ve got to have the basics of public health in place so that we can bring those sectors back quickly, safely and fairly, right? But that involves a whole range of things, testing, making sure that we’ve got, you know, a plan to disperse the vaccine as soon as it’s available, all of those things. But it also means things like making sure that our streets are clean and all of that. But the key focus is everything’s got to be based on bringing people back safely and that requires investing in public health.
Question: Okay and my second question speaks to the health care equity issue that you talked about. I know Dr. Katz is here. There are parts of the city has been noted multiple times throughout the pandemic that are lacking in hospital space and it’s a serious issue. There was a plan to expand Elmhurst Hospital, it’s now delayed because of COVID. So going into what could be a second wave or something, I mean, are there concrete plans to actually create more space in parts of the city that do not have enough hospital beds aa we saw during COVID?
Mayor: The first thing I want to say is our job is to stop a second wave, stating the obvious that they’re there does not have to be a second wave like we’re seeing in lots of Europe, for example, if we continue to be tight and disciplined and fast to respond to problems. As I bring up Dr. Katz, I’ll say, think that for the right now crisis, it is the ability to expand hospital bed capacity in hospitals as they are. We’re obviously not building new hospitals from scratch, but we can expand rapidly if needed, but our goal is to not end up in that situation.
President Katz: Thank you, Mr. Mayor. Two thoughts, first overwhelmingly the problem with staffing, right? Having enough intensivists, having enough intensive care nurses, having enough respiratory therapists and the second level problem was the equipment. Physical space was never for us the limiting factor. But I think also to your point, we’re opening a COVID center thanks to the Mayor, that’s just blocks away from Elmhurst and that COVID center’s going to have capabilities for advanced radiology, so that people have respiratory issues can be evaluated, testing. So we do see to your point – to the truth of your point – there do need to be more centers, not necessarily inpatient beds, but definitely more places. Also the Mayor challenged us to open NYC Care back up to the entire borough so that everybody is assured that they can have that connection to a primary care doctor, free care, pharmacy late in the night and the weekends. So
Question: That contradicts what you said [inaudible] needed more space [inaudible].
President Katz: No, I think I said in April that it wasn’t going to be space. It was going to be people and equipment, but I understand it’s complicated.
Mayor: Yes, you definitely did say it was about people. People was the biggest part of the problem in April. Go ahead.
Question: So with the lack of tourism, there’s several hotels that are closing and laid off thousands of workers. What are you doing to help that industry? And you have a lot on your plate. Are you designating anyone to help specifically with the revitalization to help these hotels?
Mayor: Well, obviously our Deputy Mayor for Housing and Economic Development, Vicki Been is working with all sectors, in fact has had – I don’t think hundreds is an exaggeration – from the beginning hundreds of meetings and Zooms in one thing or another with the sector councils we put together and with leaders of different industries to discuss what they’re going to need and how we can help. The situation in the hotel industry is very, very painful. But again, I think we see a couple of big strands here. The way back from New York City is through becoming healthier all the time and continuing to build up the things that will bring people here. So the best that we can do for the hotel industry is get ourselves on that strong, healthy footing and continue to create the things that people need to come here to be a part of. In terms of their overall situation, it’s very, very troubling, but we can’t do – as is true with other industries – we can’t do what we would love to do, which would be direct support financially. We can’t do that. That’s beyond our reach. What we can do is try and bring back the bigger picture. Do you want to add Vicki?
Deputy Mayor Been: So, and it’s certainly a multipronged approach, right? We’re trying to get people back out into their neighborhoods, get them into restaurants. Obviously that’s been incredibly successful where we’re telling people, take a staycation, you know, celebrate your anniversary here in our hotels. That kind of thing. We’re working very closely with New York City and Company, which as you know, is doing this All in NYC campaign to try to get people again, out doing the things that we can do as local tourists and looking forward to the time when we can start bringing people from other states and other countries to enjoy all that New York offers.
Question: And then the second question is this is great to do these press conferences in person. Will you be doing them daily moving forward?
Mayor: We’re going to have to see what goes on with the coronavirus and everything else. Just premature to answer that right now. Nolan, you are last for today. Come on up guys – guys I’ve said a limit, and when I say a limit, it’s the limit. Go ahead. I said, we had two more guys, come on.
Question: Mr. Mayor on behalf of my colleagues –
Mayor: All right. If you want to call it here, we can call it here. Guys, we’ve had really clear, consistent rules, either live by them, or if you don’t want to participate, you don’t have to.
Question: Mr. Mayor, we all got on the train. We all took risk when it comes to public health to get here. I mean, it’s just –
Question: These are long standing members of the press corps as am I.
Mayor: Guys look.
Question: I mean –
Mayor: This is your – do you want to ask a question or not?
Question: I really – sure. So on April 26th, you announced a fair recovery task force, a couple of weeks later, you announced a series of committees that were going to develop individual policy proposals. It’s now the end of September, we still don’t have any details about a recovery plan. What have you been doing for the last four months?
Mayor: Again, we have been bringing back our economy in phases, phases one, two, three, four on time, and we stuck with it. We have been bringing back our health situation, which is foundational to everything else and why we are now one of the safest places in the country. We have been bringing back our schools. That’s what we’ve been doing. Go ahead. Can’t hear you. There you go.
Question: To follow up on that point, there have been detailed plans that were developed by the Deputy Mayor, Vicki Been, with the help of Alicia Glen and the former head of City Planning. Carl Weisbrod, there was the Transportation Surface Commission, which came back with a whole host of its own recommendations. They’ve loudly complained. All of those were sidelined. And again, it’s the end of September and you’re saying you have a vision for the revival of the city, but again, there are no details. There is no handout today that I can give back to my [inaudible] that says Mayor de Blasio has punch list of 20 things he would like to do.
Mayor: Nolan, respectfully, as we just said really clearly, here’s the bigger vision. You’re going to see a paper today on some of the specific pieces that are happening immediately. You’re going to see a bigger plan. This is bringing back a city of over 8 million people. It is something that has to be done the right way. So again, we have continued to bring back our city, now we’re talking about a bigger vision. We’re going to lay out specific plans. We’re going to go from there. It’s everything has to keep building. And I think it’s a pretty clear strategy because again, I think what I would urge you to just focus on for a moment is, do you hear a strategic vision of where we need to go? I think it’s a very clear strategic vision of where we need to go, and then over the coming weeks, pieces will get put in place the planks to make it come alive. Thank you.
Question: Separately on the Borough Park outbreak – Mr. Mayor, separately on the Borough Park outbreak. Mr. Mayor, we got on a train, we risked our public health –
.MAYOR DE BLASIO HOLDS MEDIA AVAILABILITY
Mayor Bill de Blasio: Good morning, everybody. I want to give you an update on the efforts that are being made, intense efforts, to address the specific upticks we’re seeing in COVID rates in certain communities in the city. Now, again, this is nine ZIP codes where a huge amount of energy is being focused, both from within the communities by community leaders and institutions, and also all elements of the City government starting with our Health team. And that’s nine ZIP codes, again in a city of 146 ZIP codes. But we need to focus a whole lot of resources and we are in those areas, particularly the Test and Trace Corps, Department of Health, front and center with large a number of personnel right now, we’ll go into those details. What we are finding initially as the more there is communication with members of the community about the importance of wearing masks, the more there’s free mask distribution, and obviously a sense that there are consequences to not wearing masks, the more we are seeing people pick up on that and wear a mask, and that’s going to be part of how we turn the situation around.
Let me go into that. And then you’re going to hear from Dr. Katz, but first I want to talk about our daily indicators as we did yesterday. I think it’s important to give this update upfront and there are some important insights in these indicators. So I wanted you to hear them as we begin. So daily indicator, number one, daily number of people admitted to New York City hospitals for suspected COVID-19, threshold is 200 patients, today’s report 87 with a confirmed positive rate for COVID of just under nine percent. Number two, new reported cases on a seven day average, threshold is 550 cases and today’s report is 354. Number three, percentage of people testing positive citywide for COVID, threshold of five percent. And again, this is the citywide number, today’s report 0.94 percent. And we are now also going to be talking about the seven day rolling average. So you have that perspective, today the seven day rolling average number is 1.46 percent. So, that’s the citywide picture.
This is the first of probably several times I will say today. It is so important for everyone to go out and get tested. We need to get a very clear picture of what is happening around the city. We need to get a very clear picture of what’s happening in these nine key ZIP codes and several others we’re concerned about. The answer as it has been from the beginning, testing, testing, testing. The more people get tested, the better picture we get. We make sure we’re seeing based on a bigger sample size what’s going on. So again, if you have not been tested in a while or never been tested, we need you to go get tested. Obviously, if you have symptoms, we need you to get tested. Free, quick, easier than ever. So this is the key to us addressing this situation as always, the more people get tested the better.
Now let’s talk about the neighborhoods. You see on the slide, the neighborhoods and the current numbers in six of the eight neighborhoods, we do see the numbers continue to go up. We have seen some fluctuation by neighborhood. We know, and we’ve seen it previously in other areas like Sunset Park and Soundview, the numbers can change rapidly in the right direction. So we’re going to keep working daily, hourly to make that change. But right now, in six of the eight neighborhoods, we see unfortunately, an increase. And now the neighborhood of Kew Gardens has surpassed that three percent level. We’re watching carefully. We’re continuing to monitor four additional ZIP codes that are lower, but we want to be very careful because we’ve seen some increases. We want to arrest the problem in those areas as well. And we’ll be continuing to send resources to them as well. That includes Rego Park, Kensington/Windsor Terrace, Brighton Beach/Manhattan Beach/Sheepshead Bay, and Williamsburg.
Now, today we’ll have a number of initiatives today. 400 plus police officers will be out in these communities, providing information, providing free masks, reminding people that they are required to wear masks. And obviously in the case where there is noncompliance, issuing summonses. 400 from the NYPD, 250 compliance officers from other City agencies, and approximately 300 members of the Test and Trace Corps. So almost a thousand City employees will be out in these target ZIP codes doing distribution of masks, information, and when necessary compliance work. Yesterday, team distributed successfully thousands and thousands of masks. We saw good compliance when folks were encountered, when there was a discussion, we saw a very high level of compliance. No summonses were necessary yesterday. We would love to see that continue, but obviously prepared to issue summonses as needed. Sheriff’s Department, also yesterday visited over 130 nonpublic schools to ensure that rules were being followed.
So that’s a key piece of the equation. There’s going to be by the Sheriff and Office of Special Enforcement intensive outreach, going to businesses as they have been over the last few days, going back to businesses where there are instances of noncompliance. A reminder businesses can be fined or shut down. So there’ll be individual work throughout the community, going business by business, hopefully finding good conditions. Where there are not good conditions, if they have not been the problem before, there’ll be a warning. If there has been a problem before, a business can be fined or shut down on the spot. So that effort will continue with those compliance agencies.
And then rapid testing – the rapidly increasing, I should say the amount of testing in the area, 11 mobile testing sites have been moved into the cluster areas, tripling the capacity of the Health Department’s express testing sites. And a new initiative, which Dr. Katz will explain, a positive phrase being used, block parties. These are areas where streets are closed off and a high level of testing can be done in mobile testing units. And we want to encourage community members to come out and participate with that. That amount of testing will continue to be increased daily over the coming days in these neighborhoods. We’re also working with community-based organizations of all kinds to get the word out, multiple languages, let people know how important it is to get tested, how important it is to wear masks and socially distance. We have robocalls being made. We have sound trucks out in communities spreading the message in multiple languages. All of this can help, will help, is helping. Now. It’s also really important to note that community leaders have been extremely helpful in this effort. I want to thank the many, many community leaders. I’ve been on numerous group conference calls and calls with individual leaders of the community over the last week. I know Dr. Katz, Dr. Chokshi, many others have spent a lot of time working with community leaders on the right way to address this challenge. A special thank you to a beloved member of our team, Pinny Ringel, who works here in the Mayor’s Office and has done extraordinary work with the community. I get many thank yous from community members for his tremendous outreach efforts to help people know what they need to know and how to act on it. So a lot of work with community leaders and institutions and tremendous support from those organizations, getting the word out that real action needs to be taken by each and every member of the community to help address this challenge.
A special thank you to elected officials who have stepped up. And there is an op-ed today in the community newspaper Hamodia which I have known for many years and been interviewed by many times. And it’s very clear. It’s a very powerful, straightforward op-ed about the importance of wearing masks, of following the rules, getting tested, so many key messages addressed well and powerfully in this op-ed. So I want to thank State Senator Simcha Felder, Assembly member Simcha Eichenstein, Assembly member Daniel Rosenthal, Council member Chaim Deutsch, and Council member Kalman Yeger. All of whom joined together with a unified voice to say to the community how important it was for everyone to be part of this effort to turn back to this challenge. With that I want you to hear now from the man who’s been leading this effort in so many ways and working so closely with the community. And Dr. Katz I have to tell you, there’s a lot of concern. There’s a lot of need, but on many, many conversations I’ve had with community leaders, they take time to say thank you for your involvement because they know you know the community, you care about the community. It’s very personal and real for you, but also the leadership you’re providing as one of the health care leaders of the city is appreciated by all. So thank you for that. And we welcome your update.
President and CEO Mitchell Katz, Health + Hospitals: Thank you Mr. Mayor. We’re very pleased that in these neighborhoods yesterday we had more than 350 people on the ground, handing out masks and distributing literature, reminding people of the four core ways that we stay safe. We stay home if we’re sick. We keep physical distance between us and others. We limit indoor gatherings. We wear a face covering and we practice healthy hand hygiene. And that’s to protect ourselves, to protect our parents and our grandparents. As the Mayor has said, testing, testing, testing. And he has told us to do everything possible to increase the amount of testing that’s available so that we have a full picture. And if people are infected, we can safely isolate them and get them the treatment that they need. So the Mayor mentioned the 11 mobile testing sites, rapid testing sites at three Health + Hospitals sites in Queens and Brooklyn. An enhanced capability at two Health Department sites.
But I’m very excited – the Mayor alluded to this as a kid, a block party was the most exciting thing in South Brooklyn. The day of your own block party, which for me was East 19th street between W and X. But of course, because we had bicycles, we had the ability to go to everybody else’s block parties. And we so much enjoyed them. And I think it’s a very positive use of that phrase because now we’re going to do block parties where we’re going to shut down portions of the street and sidewalks and set up large testing tents. We will be able to test up to 500 people in each tent or site. And anyone who gets tested will get their results back in 24 to 48 hours. We’re going to keep announcing additional block party sites so that we can saturate the ZIP codes. They will be supervised by clinical staff who will also be able to offer people self-administered tests. New Yorkers will be able to pick up a test, take a swab on the inside of their nose themselves for 10 seconds, put the swab in a tube, seal it and hand it to somebody who is supervising at the table. They will get the results in 48 hours.
We’re also partnering with our community boards to implement these micro-sites. Each microsite can manage a hundred tests per day. And finally, we are distributing rapid testing machines to trusted providers in the affected neighborhoods. Sir, as you know, I was on the phone last night with a group of physicians who take care of patients in these neighborhoods. And they were saying, get me testing, get me testing. And because of your commitment, I was able to say, we’re going to provide these machines to doctor’s offices so that they can do a rapid point of care. Each machine uses a nasal swab test, delivers results in 20 minutes or less. And these are PCR tests. One of the concerns that the doctors raised are, are you using antigen tests, because we are worried about false positives? And I said, no, these are pure PCR tests. People felt very happy knowing that. The virus is insidious. Many people are asymptomatic and don’t know they’re infected and can spread the disease. Increased testing helps us to identify these people. So Mr. Mayor, thank you for giving us the resources that we need to do the job.
Mayor: Thank you very much. Dr. Katz. Thank you to you and your whole team. Everyone on our health care team is working so hard and working so closely with the community. And again, the message today is go out and get tested, whether you’re in one of these key ZIP codes or any place else in New York City. Get tested, so we can get the full picture of what’s going on and you can get the full picture of what’s happening with your own situation. The testing, again, in this city, results are coming in much faster than they were several weeks back. And it is an easier process than ever, so important. So again, constantly people say, what can I do to help? How can I help New York City? You can help New York City by going out and getting tested today and taking that brief amount of time to make a big difference.
Now, a lot happening in the city today. And another important topic, obviously, as we continue to come back as a city, continue to bring jobs back, continue to bring people back. They’re bringing people their livelihoods back, is the restaurant industry, which has gone through so much and stood so tough through this crisis. Obviously important news, in the last few days, we announced that outdoor dining, our outdoor restaurant initiative Open Restaurant initiative will be made permanent. That our Open Streets initiative and that combination of Open Restaurants and Open Streets will be made permanent. These have been a huge step forward, not just for the restaurant industry and the hundreds of thousands of people who work in it, but for the city as a whole. This is a new approach that will make this a better city. And some people like to allege that New York City is a quote unquote ghost town. I would urge those people to go see the booked solid outdoor dining all over the city. That’s been such a success and I congratulate everyone in the restaurant industry for achieving that and bringing it back all those jobs.
But now this is the first day when you’ll start to have indoor dining again. Now let’s be clear. This is something that was worked on very carefully by the State and the City. And we’ll start at a low level, 25 percent capacity. It’s crucial of course, to bringing back more jobs and helping businesses to survive. But health and safety as always come first. So there will be very clear conditions and restrictions and rules here. And a lot of communication has happened with the restaurant industry to make sure everyone understands that temperature checks must be conducted at the front door for anyone going in for indoor dining. That tables must be spaced six feet apart, and bar tops are not going to be allowed for seating. So there’s clear conditions about the kinds of PPE that must be available for employees. Obviously crucial that information is kept carefully by the restaurants in case there is God forbid, a situation where follow up is needed, that the Test and Trace Corps will have the information needed. So I believe the restaurant industry has heard these messages loud and clear. And of course we will have a lot of information out there over these next days to the industry. And inspectors out going forward.
But the inspection effort is going to focus now on these ZIP codes in Brooklyn and Queens, where we’re seeing the particular uptick. So I want to make that clear today. There’s going to be a very rigorous inspection effort in those ZIP codes. And we’re going to be looking carefully to make sure every restaurant is following the rules. Look if we see the kinds of violations that create problems like employees not wearing a mask or a violation of the 25 percent limit. If a restaurant has more than 25 percent capacity, whether it’s diners or if we see alcohol being consumed at a bar, those are the kinds of things that will lead to immediate summonses. And again, we want to have a situation where everyone follows the rules and no one is penalized. We certainly don’t want to see any restaurants shut down. But we need to be very rigorous everywhere in the city, but particularly in the ZIP codes in Brooklyn Queens where we’re having a problem right now. So you will see Health Department inspectors and other personnel out in those restaurants starting today and tonight. And they’ll be very focused on making sure everyone is following the rules. Also work going on with Small Business Services and other agencies to get the word out. We want to support this industry, but it has to be done safely. And I know as always restaurant owners and employees have questions as we continue to move forward. Anyone who needs information can go to nyc.gov/restaurantopening – I’m sorry, restaurantreopening my apology, nyc.gov/restaurantreopening to get the information you need. It has been a long journey back, but it has been working. The industry has played a crucial role in the rebirth of this city. And we’re going to make sure that continues.
Now, let’s talk about another reopening, school reopening. Again as the Chancellor and I have said more times than I could count, it’s about health and safety. By the way, as you see in that picture, our kids are doing their share. And when the Chancellor and I were at the Island School yesterday on Houston Street, we saw it. We saw it the week before, out in Elmhurst at the Mosaic Pre-K Center. Four-year-olds, five-year-olds, six-year-olds, seven-year-olds, every age, kids wearing their masks and doing it very naturally, honestly. And adults as well and social distancing being respected. We also saw kids really happy to get back in school with the teachers they love, with their friends. And we saw a lot of adults with tears in their eyes too, tears of joy that they could see the kids they love again. And then seeing everyone reunited was really, really powerful. I want to just give you an update on yesterday, a big step forward, because we had as of yesterday 870 schools open in New York City. So we went through the first step with pre K 3-K and District 75 Special Ed schools. Yesterday, K-Five, K-Eight schools. As of this morning, 870 schools open in New York City with in-person learning for the children. Yesterday went very well. We checked, I had meetings at the Department of Education, talked with our labor partners, consistently got the message that things went well and smoothly. Thank you to all our educators and staff. This was a big, big effort. And the folks at Department of Education, including everyone who works at the Tweed Building headquarters, I want to commend you all. This was a tough effort, a big complicated effort, but yesterday we moved forward in a very big way. Now at a level that no other school system in America is, with 870 schools open for in-person learning. But tomorrow we go much farther. middle schools and high schools open at which point tomorrow morning there’ll be 1,600 schools open, 1,600 public school buildings open and serving children and families in New York City. In addition to over 1,000 community-based pre-K and 3-K sites. So a really extraordinary number of schools will be open and ready to serve, and they’re doing it the right way. Thank you to our educators, to our staff, to all the DOE leadership, to our parents, and to our kids. Because you’re all together making this work.
Now, let me give you another update, because, again, it seems like so much is happening at this point. The census – what’s going on? Well, today, was going to be the last day to be counted in New York City. And if you have not been counted today, if you haven’t filled out the form, today’s a good day to do it. But we have a federal district court in California that has overruled a deadline and called for a one-month extension to the original concept. It’s still in the court system. We don’t know what the final disposition will be. We do know that everyone can do something right now, because regardless of what’s happening in the courts, the facts on the ground matter. So, if you haven’t filled out the census, do it right now. It takes all of 10 minutes. Right now, New York City has a 60.8 percent response rate – 60.8 percent. That’s a very impressive number given that this all happened during a pandemic, but we have to get it higher. So, the simple message is while we’re waiting to see what happens in the court system, we’re going to continue to do this work, continue to reach New Yorkers, especially today. Please go online, my2020census.gov or call 844-30 – excuse me, 844-330-2028 – 844-330-2020.
Okay. Now, we’ll do a few words in Spanish –
[Mayor de Blasio speaks in Spanish]
With that, let’s turn to our colleagues in the media. Please let me know the name and outlet of each journalist.
Moderator: Hi all, we’ll now begin our Q-and-A. As a reminder today, we’re joined by Dr. Chokshi, Dr. Katz, Chancellor Carranza, Commissioner Doris at the Department for Small Business Services, and Senior Advisor Dr. Jay Varma. The first question today goes to Andrew from WNBC.
Question: Good morning, everyone. Mayor, I wanted to ask, the UFT has made it known in a letter that if you can’t turn the numbers around in some of these dangerous ZIP codes, they would like key schools – I think as much as 80 of them – as many as 80 of them to be closed while the numbers are this high. I’m wondering, how close are we to that point where you would need to close down schools in these targeted ZIP codes?
Mayor: It’s a good question, but I want to give you a clear answer, Andrew. I’ve obviously talked to our union colleagues. I’m familiar with their concerns, but what we’re doing is making our decisions based on data, based on science. And we have something now that we did not have back in March or April, which is the situation room that is watching every school, every day. We have very precise data on what is happening in each school. We’ll obviously have asked the question, what are we seeing with the schools in those ZIP codes? What are we seeing with members of the school community who work in a school in any part of the city, but live in those ZIP codes? And the answer is the same. In both cases, we are not seeing any unusual uptake among any of them. I will say it again, we have a very unusual situation here where we have an uptick in a discrete set of ZIP codes and we are not seeing an interconnection to our public school system. So, we will watch it very carefully, daily, hourly. And if at any point we determine we need to close an individual school or any number of schools in that area, we will. But, today, based on the facts, it is not warranted. Go ahead, Andrew.
Question: My second question has to do with your new enforcement efforts in the in these ZIP codes. You mentioned this morning, I believe you said 400 NYPD officers will be part of this mix. Yesterday, Governor Cuomo pointed again to the fact that so many NYPD officers don’t wear their masks themselves. I’m wondering if this point you find that perhaps some of the reticence on mask wearing from the fact that New Yorkers see poor modeling from their own police officers who are out on patrol, not wearing masks day after day.
Mayor: Obviously, I’ve had this conversation with Commissioner Shea, and I know he’s sent very clear instructions repeatedly to men and women of the NYPD. And from my observation, going around the city, the vast majority are, in fact, wearing masks. But I think the answer is simple, our officers should be held to the same standard as all citizens, all public servants, unless there is a good reason, like stopping to drink water or having to do something in which a mask interferes with them doing their job. Our officers should be wearing their mask. If they don’t, there should be penalties, it’s as simple as that. And the NYPD has the tools to implement those penalties and they should. I don’t want to see that happen, I would just prefer all our officers to follow through on these instructions that the Commissioner has given. But if anyone doesn’t, there should be penalties.
Moderator: Next step is Reuvain from Hamodia.
Question: Good morning, Mr. Mayor.
Mayor: I’m giving you – I’m giving you a promotion today, Reuvain. I’m going to help Hamodia have more subscriptions –
Question: Thank you. Thank you. I actually – 30 seconds ago, H + H tested texted me that my COVID test was negative.
Question: Thanks. I wanted to ask, you mentioned that the – these hundreds of people that are going into the neighborhoods, part of what they’re doing is to provide information and combating disinformation, but you didn’t elaborate on that. So, I’m wondering if you or the doctors can elaborate on what sort of disinformation these people are combating.
Mayor: Yeah. I’ll turn to Dr. Katz with this simple point – I think throughout this crisis – now, seven months – you have heard all over the city all over the country, people saying, oh, you don’t need to wear a mask; or, oh, COVID is a hoax. And I think Dr. Katz got a very personal and inappropriate example of that, what he experienced last Friday. And I’m sorry, he experienced that. He did not deserve that. But we’ve heard that everywhere and then we have to combat that with just the pure scientific facts. Dr. Katz?
President Katz: Thank you, sir, for the opportunity. The most common and most pernicious misconception I’ve heard is that the virus has changed, that it’s not as lethal as it used to be. And that is not at all true. What we do know is that because we’ve been much more successful at protecting people in nursing homes, we have not had the number of sick people who very disabled. So, the COVID cases are somewhat younger, but, as sadly occurred with my father in law who died, he was 72. COVID was not any gentler than it was in March and April to him. And so, we have to keep reminding people, the virus has not changed. The epidemiology is a little different with younger people being infected, so that the numbers do not look as bad. But even young people have succumb to this virus. A second one I hear a lot is herd immunity, that we don’t need to wear masks because we have herd immunity. There’s no neighborhood that has herd immunity. And so, people definitely on need to wear a mask. And then finally, I’ve heard that the tests are not accurate. And I think actually what that is, is confusion about the different types of tests. The PCR tests that we’re offering at all our sites, whether it’s Rapid PCR or whether it’s a PCR, people are getting in 24 to 48 hours, the results of – those are accurate tests and people should believe the results. I’m glad your test was negative. And I’m also pleased that you got it – you got the result by text. That would have been an unimaginable thing for Health + Hospitals to accomplish three years ago. So, I’m very glad that not only you got the result, but you got it in a modern way.
Mayor: Excellent. Thank you. Go ahead, Reuvain.
Question: Yeah. Thanks. The test was at the park there last Friday, by the way. My other question was about the testing rates. I know that in many of these ZIP codes, there are very high antibody rates. And I’m wondering if that’s leading to fewer tests? Are people with antibodies less likely to test? And is that somehow affecting the positive test results?
Mayor: I’ll start as the layman and turned to Dr. Katz and Dr. Chokshi. Look, I think the truth is, there’s a huge percentage of New Yorkers in every neighborhood who have never been tested. And it is a very good question, I appreciate the question, whether if there’s a high percentage of people who have tested positive for antibodies, they’re not going back and getting tested – that would be understandable, but, remember, we don’t have all the facts on this disease and simply having tested positive at some point in the past is not a reason to never get tested again. Dr. Katz and Dr. Choksi can elaborate on that. I would go to the simple point, Reuvain, that there are so many people who have never been tested once or haven’t been tested in a long time. So, I think there’s plenty of people to reach out to, to help us get a clearer picture. And what I’m saying to everyone in these ZIP codes and to everyone in the whole city is, help us get the truth. The more people get tested, the better picture we’ll have. There is nothing to be afraid of in getting tested. It only helps us get to the truth more quickly and not just see a small number people and get a misimpression from that, but get the biggest cross section of the community possible. Dr. Katz?
President Katz: The Mayor has said it right. The groups we really want to go for testing are people who’ve never been tested or haven’t been tested in a long time. People who had documented COVID infections within the last two to three months, that is a group of people where if they’re currently asymptomatic it’s not helpful to us for them to get tested. But the vast majority of people who have never been tested or have not recently been tested, they haven’t had COVID, those are the people we want to go out and get tested.
Mayor: Dr. Chokshi, do you want to add?
Commissioner Dave Chokshi, Department of Health and Mental Hygiene: Yes, sir. I’ll add briefly, but first let me say thank you to Reuvain for what you have done to combat the disinformation that we’re seeing as well. And it very much relates to your good question about who should get tested. I agree with the points that the Mayor and Dr. Katz have made. What I would emphasize is that because we are we are not seeing any evidence of herd immunity in these neighborhoods, that means, unfortunately, there are still so many people who are susceptible to the virus and those are the ones that we want to get tested, because, let’s focus on the facts, we are seeing an increase in cases among those susceptible people. So, hence all of our focus and efforts around ensuring that testing is as widespread and available as possible.
Mayor: Thank you.
Moderator: Next up is Juan from NY1.
Question: Good morning, Mr. Mayor. How are you?
Mayor: Good. How are you doing?
Question: Very good. Thank you. I want to ask you about the ballot situation that we have in Brooklyn, right? The Governor wants the Board of Elections to just send out new envelopes, not new ballots to voters who got the wrong ones. Do you think that’s the best way to remedy this situation? And can you think – what do you think about the Governor getting into this fight?
Mayor: Look, the Board of Elections – I wish that the Board of Elections was a City agency. You know, I have mayoral control of education and so many other key parts of the City government where we can make sure there’s actually accountability and that we serve people here. The Board of Elections, the City government does not control, and it’s incredibly frustrating, because they make so many mistakes and they’re so unresponsive to the people, and it’s a very political organization, not a government organization, and it is responsible only to the State of New York. So, obviously, it’s not wrong for State officials to issue their opinions. I would ask the State, all the State leaders to change the Board of Elections once and for all, to just create an entirely different structure. Either make it a mayoral agency so we can properly administer elections or come up with some other kind of model where it’s modern and professional. But what we have now is not working and the State has not acted to change that, and that is why we have the problem year after year. It is the State’s responsibility to fix the Board of Elections, period. As to the specific question about the ballots – look, there’s more than one way, I’m sure, to solve the problem, but what we need to make sure is that people have the accurate ballot for their community, for their neighborhood, for the people they should have a choice to vote for, and they know where to send it back and everything makes sense. Whatever will get that done, I want to see it happen quickly, and I’d like to see the maximum communication. If it were a City agency and I controlled it, I would not only say send out new ballots and new clear instructions, I would have follow-up phone calls to make sure people received them and they confirmed they got them, and if they had any questions, we answered them. There should be a very hands-on approach here. I never seen that from the Board of Elections. That’s what we need now. Go ahead.
Question: And, Mr. Mayor, are you planning on going out and dining indoors today or any time this week?
Mayor: So, what I’m going to do, for sure, in the coming days is continue, as I have, to enjoy outdoor dining first while the weather’s still good. I have had great experiences, starting with Melba’s up in Harlem, and I was up at Mario’s on Arthur Avenue, which was fantastic – hundred-year-old restaurant. So, my outdoor dining experiences have been amazing. I’m going to keep doing that for the foreseeable future. And then, of course, shift to indoor when the outdoor isn’t as prevalent because of the weather. So, important thing – and I’d say to all New Yorkers, if you have the resources, please get out there and support our restaurant industry today, whether it’s outdoor or indoor, get out there and support our restaurant industry.
Moderator: Next up is Katie from the Wall Street Journal.
Question: Hey, good morning, everyone. I have a question – an education-related question for you, Mr. Mayor, and the Chancellor. I’ve heard from parents who say that despite their children having IEP’s, that mandate speech and other related services, their schools have told them that they just don’t have those teachers. So, I’m curious if you want to speak about how prevalent this is across the city given the fact that this is a vital service – I don’t think you’ll argue with me on that – and why the DOE is not providing it?
Mayor: I’m glad you raised it. And I’m not only not going to argue with you, Katie, to your great credit, you’ve raised these issues constantly and I appreciate you being a champion for the families who need this support. They’ve gone through a lot before the pandemic and it’s even been harder for them during the pandemic. So, the Chancellor will have the details, but, I want to affirm, we have to get it right for each and every one of these families, even with all the challenges we are facing. Chancellor?
Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza: Yeah. So, Katie, first and foremost, any family should be communication with their school community, so whether that’s a principal or it’s a specific coordinator by IEP services, they should be doing that as we speak. If you can share any information specifically about any of those families, we’ll make sure that we are in touch with them ASAP. They are part of the highest priority of students that we know have been disproportionately affected due to remote learning. So, we’re doing everything we can to make sure that they have the services, and, especially if they’ve chosen in-person, that they have those in-person services as well. So, again, as the Mayor and I have talked about where we are we starting this massive system, so it’s taking a little bit of time to get all the pieces in the right place. But we want to make sure that the students that need the most support get it as soon as possible.
Mayor: Thank you. Go ahead, Katie.
Question: And my second question is about mask compliance in neighborhoods, particularly the nine higher ZIP’s. How do you guys calculate this? I don’t know if there’s – there’s not the data on it. It seems purely anecdotal when you know, Dr. Katz and others say that they’ve seen better mask compliance. Is there like a way that you quantify this? Do you count? Do you do like a ticker where you spent a few hours? Could you explain?
Mayor: I’ll start and turn to Dr. Katz. It is exactly based on City officials being out and keeping track of what they are seeing and the interactions they have. And, again, today we’re going to have almost a thousand City employees out in these target neighborhoods to make sure we are providing that support. Go ahead, Dr. Katz.
President Katz: So, yes, it’s people actually watch – they station themselves, two observers at a corner, they watch people go by and the raw numbers do show improvement. I’ll give you a minute to plug wearing your mask correctly. So that was – I noticed an interesting thing that the observers not only are get data on, are people wearing masks, but are they wearing it correctly? Which is two different problems. People who are not – who are wearing the mask, but are not wearing it correctly, they’re trying, but obviously they don’t know the goal is that the mask needs to cover your mouth and nose. And contrary to the belief of some New Yorkers, you actually can talk on a cell phone while wearing your mask. I have talked to the Mayor many times wearing my mask on the cell phone. So, please, now that we’ve convinced people to wear a mask, it does need to cover your nose, and, yes, you can speak on the telephone while wearing it.
Mayor: I will affirm Dr. Katz’s point. I’ve talked to Dr. Katz many times on the cell phone while wearing a mask. It absolutely can be done and it really needs to be done for everyone’s health and wellbeing.
Moderator: Next up is Julia from the New York Post.
Question: Hey, good morning, Mr. Mayor. How are you doing?
Mayor: Good morning, Julia. How are you?
Question: Good. Just following up on Andrew’s question. You’re going to kind of wait until the weather gets cooler to dine indoors. Are you concerned about the message that signals to other New Yorkers and the help that the industry needs right now, getting back to its feet, if you’re not willing to do it?
Mayor: No, I didn’t say not willing and I’m not concerned about the message. I’m saying I personally just prefer outdoor dining, and so long as it’s available, I would always choose it. I think there’s lots of people who are going to love the opportunity to dine indoors and they’ll have that opportunity. So, the important thing is that the restaurant industry is coming back, coming back strong, that folks who have the means – and a lot of people don’t right now, but, thank God, many people do – should go out there and support restaurant workers and restaurant owners. And if you prefer outdoors, go outdoors. If you prefer indoors, go indoors. Go ahead.
Question: There’s a video of a large gathering on a street in Borough Park last night, without any social distancing and it appears very little mask wearing. Are you and the health officials on the call aware of the incident and was there any enforcement?
Mayor: I am not. I’ll turn to my colleagues, but what we will do in any case like that is follow back to who was involved, how can we reach those people? Or, if we expect any recurrence, to make sure we have personnel out to address it in advance. But, doctors, any sense of this?
President Katz: No –
Mayor: Okay. We’ll look into that and make sure our team follows up with you with a further detail.
Moderator: Next up we have Jillian from WBAI.
Question: Hey, Mr. Mayor, how are you?
Mayor: I’m good, Jillian, but we have a problem with your innovation here. We have a little confusion, a little confusion at the federal level.
Question: I’m digging the question marks. So, I want you to know the first question is being asked, in all due respect, the State just froze pay raises for a third time and you’ve extended the City’s furlough to include managerial and non-represented employees. Going a step further, you have a history of awarding your staff lucrative raises as well as hiring more special assistants. Between 2016 and 2019, three of four years amounted to cumulative raises of more than $2 million alone. And the number of special assistants has increased by more than a hundred percent since you took office. These raises are usually awarded at the end of the fiscal year, which just ended in June. Given the City’s financial situation and the prospect of mass layoffs, can you say with certainty, no raises will be given within the next year and will you be reducing the number of special assistants, many of whom earn more than $100,00 a year?
Mayor: So, Jillian, let me try and address that, different pieces you’re raising there. The State has an entirely different structure than we do in terms of the way they freeze pay raises. They have different labor rules than we have. Those kinds of things in terms of the vast majority of our workers would, of course, have to be done through collective bargaining. In terms of the Mayor’s Office, as I announced, I think it was last week or the week before, not only are we doing the five-day furloughs for me and all other appropriate Mayor’s Office personnel, but the budget of the Mayor’s Office has gone down now 12 percent since the June budget, meaning from last year to this year, down 12 percent, and we’re going to continue to find savings. So, what we have done is actually reduced the number of jobs here overall. There’s no raises being given that I know of. There’s no plan to give raises. There are people who take on new, entirely different jobs, and that’s a different matter when you go into an entirely new job, but no, there’s no plan to give raises at all. Go ahead.
Question: Thanks. Thank you. You were asked a rather incomplete question last week about the development and if Democrats were being too anti-development when, in fact, I think most of us, you know, party affiliation tends to be irrelevant in such matters. In your response, you cited three projects the City is still pursuing, but you didn’t talk about a very controversial rezoning proposal for the Crown Heights area surrounding the Brooklyn Botanic Garden. While there’s much to ask about this project, my main question today has to do with the fact in 1991 – so during your mentor’s, David Dinkins, administration, the City conducted an analysis and an EIS, including shadow study, determining the area must have height limits to protect the garden and that more than 12 stories and will be detrimental with shadows cast over it and the City put into place height restrictions. So, what has changed since the Dinkins administration concluded the garden would be at risk by nearby development because the private project, the City and DCP currently support, includes at least a 39-story building to which your own Parks Department objected in December in a 13-page memo?
Mayor: Well, you have done your research. I need to do a little more of my research on what a City Planning is thinking about that specifically. Look, I think it’s quite clear that the work that was done almost 30 years ago was for that moment in history. And we’re in a very different moment in history where I would have – can tell you having been in this building in 1991, if you told me the City would grow from that time to now a million or more people, and that we would have the kind of huge crushing need for affordable housing that developed over those decades, and the kind of plus the rising cost of living and property values, I would not have believed you in 1991. If you told me that we would get upwards of 8.6 million people and that the cost of renting an apartment would go so high, I just would not have believed you. So, I would say that the assumptions then versus the assumptions now are very different. And the position we’ve taken all along is where development benefits the larger community in terms of affordable housing and other needs, that’s where we’re open to it and where it doesn’t, we’re not. The cases you’re talking about that – there’s a couple of different issues around the botanical garden. Those are private applications. Those are not City-sponsored, but I will look into the specifics and see what the latest is and have an update for you.
The bigger point I want to make to close this piece out is on the issue of development, we will support pro-community development. This is what I’ve been saying since long before I was mayor. We will drive a hard bargain with all developers. We’re going to demand community benefits, demand maximum affordable housing, demand local hiring. Right now, it can only be done voluntarily. If the legislation we want to pass in Albany passes, it could become a requirement of development. So, for everyone out there who thinks developers are getting away with too much, go help us pass this law in Albany so we can require hiring of local community residents in development, hiring of public housing residents, folks who really need that support. We need the legal tools to do it, and it could happen with a stroke of a pen in Albany in a matter of weeks. So, what I want to see going forward is that the City continues to have a very high bar on what development we will support and what we won’t. And when we don’t see developers being generous enough and working with communities, we’re just going to walk away from that. And when we do see developers working with communities, we’re going to embrace it. I was at One Vanderbilt a couple of weeks ago, an exemplary model because $220 million of private money went into fixing the subway system around Grand Central Station. That’s the kind of development we can embrace, but it’s really up to developers to come forward in that spirit of serving the surrounding community, if they want to get the support of the City government.
Moderator: Next up, we have Michael from the Daily News.
Question: Good morning, Mr. Mayor.
Mayor: Good morning, Michael. How are you?
Question: I’m good. Thanks. So, I wanted to check in on the situation with the layoffs we were talking about a few weeks back. Where is the City on that? I know you’ve been talking to labor leaders. You know, I think the deadline that was given a few weeks back was October 1st, which is tomorrow. So, where do things stand now with that? Have there been any breakthroughs? I know early retirement was one you’ve been talking about, borrowing from the State quite a bit. Could you just kind of tell us where things are now and what needs to happen moving forward?
Mayor: Michael, so, we’re having very productive conversations with labor. I’m not going to speak about breakthroughs until they break through, but when we get something, of course, we’re going to tell you right away, but very productive, very specific and substantive conversations with our labor partners, a lot of help from labor pushing the State Legislature to act on long-term borrowing. And we’re seeing that that is having a real impact. So, we continue to focus on that effort. Early retirement, clearly something we want to be part of the package, a lot of details to work through, but we see a lot of good possibility there. So long as there is continued progress, so long as we continue to see movement toward the goal, that’s where we’re going to put the energy, and it’s not about tomorrow or any other day. It’s about if we can get this done in a positive way, I’ve said from day one, I do not want to turn to layoffs if there’s a better option. And right now, I think we still have the possibility of a better option. Go ahead.
Question: So, based on that, do you not feel like there’s kind of a time parameter fixed to layoffs at this point?
Mayor: Michael, it’s a fair question, but let me put in perspective. Everything can be adjusted according to what the real possibilities are. Look, let’s start with the stimulus. As I said to all of you, for months, I thought it was essentially a given. I have more recently felt it was essentially not a given until next year. Now in the last, you know, 48, 72 hours suddenly dialogue is happening again in Washington. Who knows? Long-term borrowing, again, we’re hearing more and more support for that in Albany. That changes everything. I said that from the very beginning, we’ve tried to achieve that back in June. There never would have been any layoffs if we had gotten that back in June or any talk of layoffs. But what’s important here is so long as there are more productive options available and more positive options available, we’re going to pursue them. If at some point it’s quite clear that none of these things is happening, no stimulus, no borrowing, no labor savings, nothing, then we will have to move forward layoffs with an adjusted figure. But that’s just a hypothetical. We’ll – let’s see if these, I think very promising options, play out in our favor for all of us. That would be what’s best for the people in New York City and all the people work for this city.
Moderator: For our last question, we’ll go to Abu from Bangla Patrika.
Question: Hello, Mayor. How are you?
Mayor: Good, Abu. How are you?
Question: Good. Thank you so much. My question is, there’s a report came that the – because last time when, you know, because of the COVID in New York City hospitals have occurred and a second round of surge came [inaudible] how prepared you are to handle the situation?
Mayor: Well, Abu, give me a little more there, when you – help me understand what you mean about how prepared are we. Abu?
Question: Yes, there’s a report, which is the, because of the finances, financial situation of New York City hospitals, if second surge came, it will be a big problem because of the financial crisis, city financial crisis. So, are you prepared if anything happened like a second surge, then the city can handle the hospitals?
Mayor: Yes. The answer is, yes. Look, we are in a very different position than most places in this country and even around the world. It’s a sad reality and Dr. Varma may want to weigh in because he and I have talked about this many times. Places that have much stronger national health care systems than we do in this country managed to, unfortunately, allow the disease back in the door by making, I think, some of the wrong decisions about what to reopen and how to reopen and when to reopen it. We have been very conservative. So, even though we’re dealing with a problem in certain ZIP codes, we also have immense resources we can throw at that problem and help to contain that problem. As you see, right now, again, today’s indicators, today’s testing number for the whole city, 0.94 percent, our seven-day rolling average, 1.46 percent. There are places all over this country, all over the world that would love to have those numbers. So, this is about containing the problem and not allowing that larger surge.
But if, God forbid, we saw something bigger across the city, we already have put tremendous resources into Health + Hospitals to strengthen them for whatever is ahead, Department of Health, Test and Trace Corps. These will be the spending priority under any scenario if we had to confront those challenges. But Dr. Varma, just jump in on the point that the difference between the approach this City, and to the credit of the State, the State have taken versus what we’ve seen in other places that unfortunately led to resurgence.
Senior Advisor Varma: Great. Yeah. Thank you very much for the question. I think what’s really been critical in New York is first of all an all-of-government approach. You see all of the health agencies, all the agencies that have any intersection with health really working in concert to take this problem seriously. So, that’s number one. Number two is you see a commitment to continuously driving disease down. You know, a number of other jurisdictions both in the United States and other parts of the world have essentially said, well, you know, we’re just going to have to live with a fairly high level of virus, there’s no other way to get through this. The reality is the fastest way to restart your economy is to control the virus. And what you’ve seen in New York City, up until fairly recently, was very low levels of virus because of all the interventions that have been taken. And the third, of course, is the combination of that sort of all-of-government approach, a commitment to continuously driving cases down. It’s only possible when you have tremendous partnership with the average person on the street, as well as all of the community groups. And I think the tremendous unified messaging that you get from government, from community leaders about the importance of social physical distancing, of wearing masks, of limiting gatherings, all of those combined together, I think they really put us in a position that really rivals many of the large cities that you see in Asia that have also done a tremendous success at this disease.
Mayor: Thank you very much. Go ahead, Abu.
Question: Yeah. Second question is, you know, since today, the indoor dining opening and then the [inaudible] and also, they’re scared, some communities, the community as well, that what could happen because there is a, some the owners and some people they’re reckless. Can you please specify besides the shutdown if someone breaks the rules, shut down the restaurant or any other store – what is the exact, what is the specific, you know, action the City will take if someone breaks the law?
Mayor: I’ll start and Dr. Choksi can speak to this as well, obviously because the Health Department plays a crucial role here. Look, the general approach we’ve taken throughout the crisis, because, unfortunately it is a health care crisis and an economic crisis simultaneously, is we never want to fine people, if we can find a way around it to achieve the same goal without the fine. We never want to shut down a business if we can get the issue resolved without shutting down the business. This is something the City is very sensitive on. I can’t speak for the federal government or the State government. I can say the City believes the best outcome is to solve the problem, not take money away from restaurant owners and restaurant workers or shut down a business that may not survive if it’s shut down. But that said, with the challenge we’re facing now in these key ZIP codes, we have to take a very strong approach. So, there has been lots of education to the restaurant community of what they need to do. We expect a lot of compliance today. I think people are very sensitive to the realities and very willing to comply. If we find noncompliance, we’re going to have to be aggressive both terms of fines where appropriate, or even if we had to get to a shutdown, we would go in that direction. But the goal is to avoid that if we can solve the problem and ensure it stays solved. So, that’s my preface, Dr. Choksi on the specific approach –
Commissioner Chokshi: Absolutely. And as the Mayor has emphasized, when it comes to indoor dining and other aspects of reopening, our focus is absolutely on health and safety. Health and safety for the entire city, but also for the specific setting that we’re talking about. And when it comes to indoor dining, you know, I have to say as a doctor who has taken care of many patients who are restaurant workers and cooks and other people who will be spending time in those settings, that is very important for us to think both about the health of people who will be going to restaurants, but also the people who are working in them. And so, the many layers of safety that are part of the inspections and the enforcement that we’ll be doing are critical to safeguard that health. That involves making sure that we focus on the capacity limits, so 25 percent of normal capacity, ensuring that there’s adequate distancing between the tables within the restaurant, making sure that there’s robust signage so people know exactly what their responsibilities are when they’re there, a cleaning log for every restaurant as well, as well as symptom screening, both for workers and temperature checks for people who are going to dining establishments. So, all of these things taken together will help us reduce the risk for indoor dining.
Mayor: Thank you, Commissioner. And, everyone, as we close, look, here’s the bottom line. I like to be repetitive when it’s a good and important message. Please get tested today. That is the message. Wherever you are, whoever you are, wherever you live, please get tested. This is how we beat back the disease previously. Remember we were the epicenter and we fought back, and testing was crucial. We have a problem now, we’re going to overcome the problem. I have no doubt we will beat it back, but we need everyone to go out there and get tested. I’ll tell you something, it’s a simple way to think about it, more testing equals more truth. We get the real picture of what’s happening, and it helps us address it. So, again, a thank you to all the community leaders in these ZIP codes, in these communities that are dealing with this challenge, thank you to all the leaders who are stepping up and sending a message that tells people how to stay safe, how to protect their families, how to protect our community. Wear those masks, practice that distancing, get tested. And that’s how we will come back and beat this back once again. I have no doubt about this city’s ability to overcome because we have shown it time and time again. Thank you, everybody.
MAYOR DE BLASIO HOLDS MEDIA AVAILABILITY
Mayor Bill de Blasio: Well, good morning, everybody. And this morning, congratulations are in order. As the principal of the One World Middle School said to all of us in the Bronx this morning – we did it. We did it. You did it. New York City did it. This is an absolutely amazing moment, fighting back this pandemic. And this morning, 1,600 New York City public schools opened, kids coming to school for the first time since March. And it was a joyous moment in the Bronx this morning, the energy was amazing. The kids, ready to be back in school with their teachers they love, with their friends, parents so happy to see their kids back in school. So, relieved. The teachers, the educators, the staff, incredible joy at seeing kids again, at being ready to be there to help our kids move forward. We did it, New York City, and everyone should be proud of this moment. This is an example of what makes New York City great. We did something that other cities around this country could only dream of because we have fought back this pandemic so well for so long, because we had the will and the focus to bring back our public schools for the good of our kids, our families, and all of New York City. This is a key moment in our rebirth. And a lot of people said it couldn’t be done and it was tough, but we did it and we did it together. So, congratulations to everyone.
This morning, amazing Principal Patricia Wynn, who founded the school 10 years ago, she said she was up at 3:00 AM because she was so excited and so happy to welcome kids back. And she kept telling everyone they should be proud of what they achieved by getting us to this day. And then as I was leaving the school, she turned to me very purposely, and she said, thank you, now keep us open, please. And that is the crucial message that I want everyone to focus on, that we’re going to work every single day to take this achievement and build on it, to make our schools better all the time, to keep strengthening everything we’re doing for our kids and families, and to stay open all the way through. That is the mission. We’ve got a lot to do. And we have to constantly work at addressing the health challenges around us, but we have achieved something remarkable today and now we will build upon it. And I want to tell you, a beautiful moment with the young woman who is an ambassador, they call them ambassadors of the school, each grade has a group of ambassadors who greet visitors coming to the school. A young woman named Farhana, an eighth grade ambassador, she greeted me, she had a little speech she gave about what the first day of school meant to her and her classmates. And the most important thing she said to me is, we are so excited to be here together again. That is the spirit of what we’re seeing this morning in schools all over New York City.
Now, as I said, 1,600 public schools open, over 1,000 community-based pre-K and 3-K sites open, all receiving kids today. In the course this week, as many as half-a-million kids will go through the door of a New York City public school program. And that is something that speaks volumes. And I want to turn to the Chancellor now and say, this victory was won on the ground in every single school and every single pre-K and 3-K center by the educators, by the staff who were working all summer to make this happen, by the parents and the students who kept the faith. But I want to thank the Chancellor and your whole team – and we’ve spent a lot of time together the last few weeks at the war room at the Tweed Courthouse headquarters of the Department of Education. And I will tell you, the Chancellor and his team have not gotten a lot of sleep these last weeks. They – if you send them an email at midnight, you get a response at midnight, you send them an email at seven in the morning, you get a response at seven in the morning. They have been on it seven days a week. And this achievement is something you, Chancellor, and your whole team should be very proud of. We’ve got a long way to go and a lot more to do, but this is a crucial moment. Chancellor, please give us an update on what you’re seeing today and where we’re going.
Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza: Thank you, Mr. Mayor, and good morning, everybody. Happy first day of school, times three. So, we have a lot to celebrate today. As the Mayor said, congratulations to our teachers, our principals, paras, school nutrition workers, school safety agents, and most assuredly our school custodians who have done everything in their power to make sure that schools are open safely and securely and with good sanitation and safety protocols. As of this morning, schools in every grade have opened their doors for children across the city. There’s magic that happens in a classroom when you see an adult in the classroom with children, and it’s been so uplifting. It’s all worth it, all the sleepless nights are worth it. Classrooms and school buildings are buzzing again. And for the first time since March, students are in those schools eager to learn, and dedicated educators are ready to teach. This is a monumental milestone for our city. I want to thank everybody. And I’ve just mentioned everybody that I want to thank, but I want to thank parents as well, because you have made it possible for us to reach this point. I also want to thank the incredible and tireless staff in our schools and our central and borough offices who have worked literally night and day throughout the summer, and some of whom stepped up and out of their traditional day to day roles to support schools at this moment. Many of them are in schools today, supporting schools and making sure they have the adults necessary to make sure students have a good experience. This wasn’t easy, no one knew the challenges that this disease would bring and the grief and sadness that we’ve all had to grapple with. But finally, our students, despite so many challenges and obstacles, proved that they can persevere and take learning to new heights.
I also want to thank my fellow New Yorkers. We are the only major school district in the entire country to safely reopen our schools for in-person learning. Now think about that for a minute. The largest, most complex school system in America is the only one that has opened their doors for in-person learning. This is a testament to my fellow New Yorkers and following the medical advice to make it possible for us to do this. I want to emphasize how crucial physically being in school is for our families. I’ve shared before the stories of children and some of whom haven’t had a stable environment at home but have that in their school homes. This is critically important, especially for our most vulnerable children. A school community is sometimes the steadiest part of their lives and we have the people and the resources that they can rely on. These were the children that the Mayor and I were constantly thinking about while school buildings were closed. And I know that our educators and administrators were too. They’ve told me about their stories and what they hoped for their children. Seeing the faces of our children light up when they’re reunited with their peers and their teachers and the principal, was a joyous experience that should serve as a reminder to all of us why this past week has been so important and why our hard work has been worth it.
As I said earlier this week, despite all that’s new about this school year, one thing never changes, the health and safety of our students and staff and the academic excellence for every student remain our highest priority. It’s not going to be perfect right at the beginning, but we will continue to perfect and get better and build capacity as we go. Day one will not look like week one, will not look like month one or first semester. We’re going to continue to get better. Our custodial staff has never been busier and our educators in the classrooms had been trained to enforce the strictest health and safety protocols. And I’m glad to report that in every school that I have visited this week – I have unannounced visits – I have seen students with their masks fully on, nose, mouth, full face, and keeping them on. And I’ve seen educators educate students as to why it’s important and reminding them that this is what they do to not only protect themselves but protect their fellow friends and humans in the classroom. We’re keeping a very close eye on our indicators and won’t hesitate to take quick action where necessary.
So, I want to end my remarks this morning with a message of gratitude. This was and is a colossal undertaking and it wouldn’t be possible without every single staff member, every family, and all New Yorkers. As our principal, Principal Wynn, asked us today and asked the Mayor, implored the Mayor, keep us open. We can only do that with your continued cooperation and help. We wouldn’t be here today without you and I want to say once again, thank you. And for the last time this school year, happy first day,
Mayor: It’s even better the third time, right Richard? Everyone, I want to note quickly – Richard made a point – it’s been amazing seeing the consistency with which the students are wearing masks. Obviously, the teachers and staff as well. And the students this morning, I was watching as they were going in the door, at the One World Middle School and having a mask that just seemed natural to them at this point, getting the temperature check, just doing the elbow bumping. Kids are so adaptable, and it’s been amazing to see how they’ve gone with it, because what they cared about was getting in the door, seeing their teachers, seeing their friends, feeling a little bit more like life was getting back to normal, the energy of being in school. And a lot of the kids said that they were tired of being cooped up at home. They wanted to get away from a screen. They wanted to see actual friends and teachers and human beings. And it makes all the difference in the world. And the energy of the teachers is astounding. And it communicates immediately to the students how important they are, how valuable they are, how much potential they have. That’s why, among so many other reasons, it was so important to get our kids back in school. But yes, congratulations to everyone. Special shout out to everyone at School Facilities and School Construction Authority, all the folks who’ve done amazing work to make sure the PPE were there. All the custodial teams in the schools who are doing great work, keeping the schools clean and ready. A Herculean effort, but you can see across the system, it is working. Thank you to the school bus drivers. Thank you to the school safety agents, to the crossing guards, to the folks that work in food services. Everyone is contributing to this amazing victory today. And our educators, thank you for sticking with it and thank you for the joy and the passion you bring to this work.
So, now let’s get on with moving forward. And one of the things we need to do to move forward is make sure that we have rigorous and consistent testing for the coronavirus in our schools every month. So, a reminder to all parents, please fill out the forums authorizing the tests at the school for your kids on a monthly basis. This is going to allow us to keep a constant eye on what’s happening at each school and make sure we can keep everyone safe. So, we need all families involved. If you have any questions you can talk to the school and we will get you the answers you need in whatever language you need it in. But those consent forms have been sent home. We are going to start testing next week. And again, a reminder to parents, and I’m saying this as a parent, there’s going to be real questions understandably. Is it free? Yes, it’s free. Is it quick and easy for your child? Yes, it will be at the school building or right near the school building. Is it going to be that long instrument that goes up your nose? No, it’s the new version. That’s basically like the equivalent of a QTIP going around your nostril. It’s simple. It is not invasive. It’s quick. It takes literally seconds. And then your child goes on their way. You get the results for your child and we all get to know what’s going on and make sure we’re moving forward safely. So, please, parent, fill out those forms. Let’s get them back right away.
Okay, now that’s tremendous good news. And it’s the most important news of the day, but we also have to obviously deal with the challenges we’re facing now in 10 ZIP codes around the city. And these are real challenges and we’re taking them head on, we’ll go over the indicators and what’s happening on the ground in these communities. Ten ZIP codes, where we have a clear problem. We have a group of other ZIP codes where we have concern, again against the backdrop of 146 ZIP codes total in the city and overwhelmingly the rest of the city is doing very, very well and the numbers show it, but we’ve got real work to do so let’s go over these indicators. First, number one, daily number of people admitted to New York City hospitals for suspected COVID-19, that threshold is 200 patients, today’s report is 75 patients with a confirmed positive rate for COVID of 22 percent. Number two, new reported cases on a seven-day average, threshold is 550 cases, today’s report is 394. Number three, percentage of people testing positive for COVID-19, threshold is five percent, today’s report is 1.59 percent for the day. But again, now we’re also talking about the seven-day rolling average, which is even more crucial. 1.52 percent for the seven-day rolling average.
Now, everyone, what we need to do again is a number of measures we’re going to act on in the communities most affected, but the message to people in those communities, the message to all New Yorkers is, get tested. We need the best possible look at what is happening in every part of New York City. We know we got this far by people going out and getting tested. And by being quick to act when we saw a problem, as we had some weeks ago in Sunset Park in Brooklyn and Soundview in the Bronx, anytime we’ve seen on the issue, we go at it, attack it, address it, and turn it around, but it all keys in on the need for people to get tested. So, if you have not gotten tested lately or never gotten tested, please, wherever you live in New York City, get tested today. Fast, easy, free. If you live in one of these affected ZIP codes, imperative – if you haven’t been tested, go get tested. It will help us understand exactly what’s going on and how to address it. So, let’s talk about the clusters we’re seeing in Brooklyn and Queens – largely Southern Brooklyn, Central Queens, and obviously part of the Rockaways, Far Rockaway area. These are the areas where the positivity rate above three percent. Yesterday, another ZIP code, Fresh Meadows, Hillcrest surpassed three percent in Queens. So, we’re now at 10 ZIP codes. We have been watching carefully, some other ZIP codes – Williamsburg in Brooklyn, had been low. We have seen an increase, but not yet over three percent. We’re watching that carefully, a lot of action on the ground in Williamsburg to address that.
So, we all have to buckle down at this point in those 10 ZIP codes and go hard at this challenge. Now we have six others we’re monitoring carefully because we’ve seen some increases – Crown Heights, Bedford-Stuyvesant, Clinton Hill, Fort Greene, these are all Brooklyn now, Kensington and Windsor Terrace, Brighton Beach, Manhattan Beach, Sheepshead Bay. And then in Queens, Rego Park and Hillcrest, Jamaica Estates, Jamaica Hills. These ZIP codes, we’re keeping a close eye on and sending more support into, but again, the same message for people who live in these ZIP codes, go out and get tested right away. Obviously, follow all the basics, the face mask, the social distancing. We need that. Now on the ground in the 10 ZIP codes right now, 1,000 City personnel who have been out there doing education efforts, free masks distribution, inspections, a huge amount of masks distributed, schools were visited, nonpublic schools were visited, businesses were inspected – 130 warnings issued yesterday, 16 violations. So, again, the warnings, if not heeded, lead to violations and can also lead to the closure of a school or business. But we are seeing, thankfully, overwhelmingly, a growth in compliance. We’re seeing more and more masks usage. We’re seeing more and more adherence to the rules, but still not enough so we have to keep pushing further. And you will see these thousand City personnel out again today aggressively. And it’s going to be very, very clear, every opportunity has been given for people to follow the rules as they’ve been laid out, anyone not following them now, subject to fine, any business, not following now, subject to closure. This is what you’ll see more and more today and tomorrow as we continue to deepen these efforts.
I think by now, it is clear for anyone who was resting on the assumption there was herd immunity, there has not been herd immunity in New York City. We have to treat this seriously. We have to address it. Now that being said, we have something very positive. In addition to the fact that more and more people clearly are adhering to the rules, much more mask usage over the last few days, and we see it increasing all the time, for example. Testing expansion is also key. The mobile units, the mobile – the popup testing areas we talked about yesterday, the testing machines being brought into the community and given to neighborhood health providers, now well over a thousand new tests per day being provided. We’re going to know a lot more in the next 24 hours from all of that. But the testing levels, the capacity for testing in the community will be growing greatly over the next few days. It is imperative that community leaders, community institutions, and everyday New Yorkers heed the call and go out and get tested and send the message of how important it is to get tested.
With that, I want to turn to Dr. Katz, who’s been leading the way and working so closely with community leaders and, again, emphasizing how much support and cooperation he’s gotten from community leaders in getting these messages out. And Dr. Katz will now update us on this expanded outreach and testing effort – Dr. Katz.
President and CEO Mitchell Katz, NYC Health + Hospitals: Thanks, Mr. Mayor. And as you say, we’ve been incredibly happy with the changes we’ve seen in behavior. A major, major increase in the number of people wearing masks. And I want to thank the community for hearing our plea and for responding so responsibly. We still have some work to do. Usage is not yet where we need it to be. And people have to remember to include their full mouth and nose in their mask the way our children do. As the Chancellor was saying, our children can do it. We can all make sure that we have our masks on correctly. I do want to remind people that masks are needed both outdoors and indoors, especially in places of business. So many stores in our city, our small stores, there’s not a lot of room. It’s important that people have the masks so that we don’t infect each other, or the people who work there. Wear a mask when shopping for groceries, at the department store or picking up take-out. It protects the workers and other customers.
This Friday begins the celebration of Sukkot. It’s a very important holiday in my tradition. It’s a time when, typically, we want to spend with both our family and other families. Fortunately, the sukkah itself is typically outside. There’s no roof because part of the celebration is being able to be directly under the stars, but it’s very important that if families are coming together to enjoy being in the sukkah, that they are not huddled in one part of the sukkah together. When my family of four eats with other families, it’s always outside and it’s the four of us on one end, a big space and the other family at the other end. And it does not prevent us from having a great time. It’s good to be near the people who are part of your own pod, but it’s good to keep a distance from people who are not part of your own family. We can still enjoy each other’s company. We can still tell stories together. We can listen to music. We don’t have to be all in one spot. We can wear a mask whenever we’re not eating. If we do those things, we’ll be able to still enjoy our festival without risk of infecting anyone.
Our teams are out there distributing masks, palm cards, and sanitizers. You’ll find them in the Borough Park Library and Fort Hamilton, out in the Rockaways. And several other places. Our 11 mobile testing sites have been busy, continue to test hundreds of New Yorkers every day. We started our first block party yesterday, and I expect it to get busier as the neighborhood learns about it. At full capacity, we’ll be able to test 500 people a day. And when all six sites are up and running, we’ll be able to test 3,000 people a day. I thank all the community groups who are working with us that are distributing face coverings and giving people the necessary literature. We know that neighbors and peers are credible managers messengers and we are grateful for their help in spreading the word to community members. We’re going to keep taking all these actions. I again, thank the Mayor for giving us the resources to do this so that we can protect all New Yorkers. Thank you.
Mayor: Thank you very much, Mitch. And thank you again for your leadership and all the efforts of everyone at Health + Hospitals, Test and Trace, Department of Health, everyone who’s out there getting the testing done and getting the word out to the community. And thank you again to all the community leaders who are helping us do it. All right, one more update on another topic. And this is again, crucial to New York City and our future for the next decade, the census. So, we had a major victory yesterday, the ninth circuit court, the federal court in California affirmed that the census count should continue into October. So we’ve had now two federal court decisions in favor of going back to the original deadline at the end of October, the courts are being consistent. President Trump is still trying to block this action. We expect him to try and appeal further to the Supreme Court.
So in the meantime there is obviously a question we all have of what’s going to be the final disposition of the census? But what we’re doing now is we’re not letting up. We are continuing to do outreach, particularly in areas where the response rate has been too low in Brooklyn and Queens, there will be continued outreach efforts at least through Monday. The phone banking, the street efforts. We still have an opportunity to drive our number up and ensure New York City gets its fair share of representation and federal resources. And we’re going to need that more than ever. So right now, as of the end of yesterday, our self-response rate was 60.9 percent, which is now an even lower gap between us and the nation. The gap between us and the national average rate is 5.6 percent. That is a lot less than it was in 2010 and even earlier this year. That gap is crucial. Because remember the results are comparative. The better you do against the national average, the more resources you get. So we’ve done well, especially in the context of the pandemic. And I thank all New Yorkers who have been part of it and the census team, but we still have more to do. And while the window appears to be reopening, let’s go through it. So if you haven’t filled out your census form, please do it right away. If you get a knock on the door about the census, answer it, it is crucial for this city. If you want to help us get the word out that people can still fill out their census form, you can sign up to phone bank at nyc.gov/censuscalls. So we are racing the clock now. We still have an opportunity to go farther. Let’s take every moment we have and make sure New York City gets counted. Okay. A few words in Spanish –
[Mayor de Blasio speaks in Spanish:]
With that, we turned to our colleagues in the media. Please let me know the name and outlet of each journalist.
Moderator: We will not begin our Q and A. As a reminder, we’re joined today by Chancellor Carranza, Dr. Katz, Dr. Chokshi and Census Director Julie Menin. First question today goes to Kala from PIX.
Question: Good morning to everyone on the call and congratulations on 1,600 schools. Today’s an exciting day. It’s nice to see the city like this. So after the UFT spoke this morning, they said that they were considering taking the city to court. And I want to know if you’re considering shutting down schools in those ten zip codes that we talked about earlier by Monday, if the numbers do not improve?
Mayor: Kala thank you, first of all, I can hear in your voice, that you’re feeling the excitement of this day. And I thank you for that. Kala look, we are monitoring constantly what is happening in each and every school. And so it’s not about big numbers. It’s about what’s specifically happening each school determines how we approach each school. So this is why we have the situation room. And I’ll give you a live example here. The situation room is looking at every positive test case we get in our entire school system. They are looking at it from the perspective of where a teacher or a staff member or a student lives, their home address, what their work address is, school address. And we’re seeing no indication of any upsurge in those ten zip codes inside the public schools. I keep saying there appears to be a real separation between what’s happening in the neighborhoods versus what’s happening in the public schools. They really do have a different constituency. The other thing that’s crucial to note is we are constantly testing at the schools in those zip codes, and we’ve been working with the unions on this. And so for example the unions wanted to see us test at some schools in one of those zip codes in that area. We went to FDR High School. We went to P.S. 164, between those two locations, 178 members of those school communities were tested. 178. Out of that 178 only one came back positive. So that’s astoundingly low. So we’re going to watch the situation very, very carefully. Now the bigger question of course, is what happens in these communities overall in the coming days? And what does it mean for all of us? We’re watching and the decision will be made based on the facts of whether we need to do a fuller shutdown in those communities. But so far again, we see a real separation between what’s happening in some of those neighborhoods and what’s happening in the public schools nearby. Go ahead, Kala.
Question: Okay. And then, you know, I’ve been on this call every day since we started this journey on reopening schools. And you’ve always said, there’s nothing like in-person learning. But my question is what’s the point of these students going back to the classroom to be taught by teachers who were actually virtual? So they’re still staring at a computer, but inside a classroom. After speaking with the CSA I thought the number of teachers needed was already supposed to be sorted out. So what happened and why aren’t there enough teachers?
Mayor: Kala I’ll start and I’ll turn to the Chancellor. Overwhelmingly what you’re seeing in our schools today, 1,600 schools around New York City, is adults teaching kids in-person and supporting them in lots of other ways as well. There’s a whole lot of individual support being given on the educational level, let alone the mental health support and the physical health support. The food programs, so many things that happen in a school community. The situations where a child is looking at a screen while in a school building or not the majority by any stretch of imagination, but even when they occur, they still occur under the supervision of an adult who’s there to help them and support them. It’s an entirely different situation than a child alone at home, looking at a screen or with a parent who’s doing their best to try and help, but is distracted by having to work at the same time. Or doesn’t happen to speak the same language or whatever it may be. So the presence of educators and caring adults has a really magical impact, no matter what the specific situation of what’s going on in that classroom at that moment. Chancellor?
Chancellor Carranza: Well, just to add to what the Mayor said, I think it’s really important to be clear about the learning modalities that are taking place. Fully remote means fully remote. Student is somewhere, whether it’s home or some other environment not with the direct supervision or the direct assistance of an educator or an adult, an educator in a building. What is happening in, as the Mayor mentioned in some very minimal circumstances is that as we continue to build our teacher pool, our substitute teacher pool, as we continue to bring people in that are educators, to be able to man classrooms there are circumstances where students will have a virtual experience in the school building. Now the power of that is very much what the Mayor said. There are services and supports that happen in school buildings that are just not possible outside of school buildings, the guidance counseling, the social workers, the socialization that students have. It’s even very important to recognize the trauma that not only students, but adults have had and undergone since March, as we’ve dealt with this crisis. The mere fact of being together, being able to process – this morning, the Mayor and I were able to see a classroom where the teacher was taking students through a social emotional learning protocol, where they were talking about how do they feel coming back to the school building? They hadn’t been there since March. What are they thinking? Where are they on a chart? That ability to be able to have those kinds of experiences are uniquely experiences that students have within a school building. The instruction, the learning, the learning modality is but one of many facets of what makes an education an education. So as the Mayor and I have continued to say, we will continue to build our capacity. We will continue to build that experience for students as we go forward.
Mayor: Yeah and Kala to your other point about staffing. I’m going to say it again. We are dealing with an absolutely unprecedented situation, three types of learning happening simultaneously, biggest school system in the nation by far, in the middle of a pandemic. This is an extraordinary balancing act. And I’ve said, I think what had to happen months ago was resetting the entire personnel process and breaking out of the way it had been done in the past and doing it an entirely different way. We learned that lesson the hard way, but what we’ve been able to do with a lot of great work by folks at the Department of Education is rebound, get a lot more staff into play, get the schools up and running. Over these next weeks we’re going to make a lot of adjustments to get the staffing levels to be exactly what we need them to be and the right people in the right places. As always happens at the beginning of the school year. And I’ve talked to the union leaders about this as has Richard. It takes weeks in a normal school year for all the staffing realities to sort out. It will take weeks here too. But we’re up and running. When everything is said and done and everyone is in their final assignments, at that point, we’ll give an update on exactly how many additional staff were needed for this extraordinary situation. But what our educators and staff prove today is they could get the largest school system in the country up and running. You’re seeing it with your own eyes and we’ll keep making those adjustments to make it better literally every week.
Moderator: A quick programming note, we’re also joined today by Dr. Long and Senior Advisor Dr. Jay Varma. The next question goes to Henry from Bloomberg.
Question: Hello, Mr. Mayor, how are you doing?
Mayor: Good Henry. How are you?
Question: I’m okay. You know, I spoke to Avi Greenstein in Borough Park Rabbi, who is the Executive Director of the Borough Park Jewish Community Council because they’re having a mask giveaway and it’s being done completely by themselves with a donor who paid for 400,000 masks to be given away. And he says he’s had no contact with any senior official in your administration. And he is a little perplexed by it and a little bit angry about it. Because this is the Community Council. They have the contacts and the community. And after all that I’ve heard about you reaching out to the community, I was really surprised to hear him express this bewilderment about how there has been no contact with his organization.
Question: And yes. So can you explain, here’s the question –
Mayor: I get the question. Henry, I have sat in the offices of the Borough Park Jewish Community Council, many times over the years. This is an area I represented in the City Council. I know the organization well, I’ve supported the organization in many ways. One of my top aides who has been working with the community constantly, Pinny Ringel lives within walking distance of that organization and has been in communication with them, has invited them on the conference calls we’ve been having with our Health leadership. We’ll get you the chapter and verse. I don’t know why the organization keeps claiming they haven’t been engaged when they have been engaged. But I will tell you any community organization that wants to be part of the many, many ways that we’re communicating from especially our Health officials and with Dr. Katz leading the way. They’re all welcome at the table and they have been welcome at the table. So we’ll go double – redouble that invitation to that organization again today. Go ahead.
Question: Well then you’re, you’re basically calling him a liar, but he’s –
Mayor: Henry, don’t put words in my mouth respectfully. I’m saying there has been outreach. We asked the question when this was raised previously, and again, the liaison to the community who lives in Borough Park, affirmed that he had personally outreached and invited them into the calls when we were having. I don’t know what else to tell you. So if you need to see the email exchanges, we’ll get it to you. Go ahead.
Question: He said that if you would, if you had informed him that Dr. Katz would be in the neighborhood to have that news conference in which he was insulted and humiliated, he might’ve been able to intervene and stop that situation from happening.
Mayor: Henry again, we would welcome it. We would welcome his involvement.
Question: The communication is definitely failing to one degree or another.
Mayor: Henry, respectfully, I’m going to challenge you. I really don’t think that’s fair. You talked to one person.
Question: Challenge him.
Mayor: I know – you talked to one person and Dr. Katz will now talk about his experience, dealing with dozens and dozens of community leaders and organizations. And people have been welcomed and embraced and appreciated. And they’ve been very appreciative of Dr. Katz’s role and everyone else’s role trying to work together to get them information. Go ahead, Dr. Katz
President Katz: Well, again, I’d say, you know, one of the great things about my community is the tremendous diversity in every way, including opinion. And we will reach out again. I have been on the phone with so many different leaders, but again, Borough Park is a place where there are hundreds of synagogues, right? People may think of the Jewish community as being one thing, but we are not. And so if there are people who feel left out for whatever reason, we’re happy to redouble our efforts as the Mayor has said.
Mayor: Okay, go ahead.
Question: The next is Matt Chayes from Newsday.
Question: Okay. Good morning. Thanks for taking my call. I appreciate it. And Mr. Mayor, can you tell me why you’ve used the Sheriff for duties like quarantine enforcement and not the NYPD?
Mayor: You know, the Sheriff’s Office has done an incredible job. They really have. And they obviously did not have the responsibility Matt for day to day law enforcement at the neighborhood level that the NYPD does have. But they have been great about swinging into special assignments. And it’s really been a good division of labor. And it’s obviously been working. Go ahead.
Question: My second question is how many NYPD officers have been fined for failing to wear a mask? And yesterday you said, this is a quote, the NYPD has the tools to implement those penalties, referring to them not wearing a mask, and they should. What precisely is the internal penalty? And if you don’t know, do you want to know?
Mayor: Yes, I do. There’s obviously a range of disciplinary penalties that can be used by the NYPD. For this particular offense. We’ll get to that right away. It’s simple. And I appreciate the question, Matt, because it’s just, again, these are the folks who enforce the law. They also have to live up to the law and people need to see them living up to the law. So I want us to get those numbers out of how many people have been panelized. Not because I take joy in it. I don’t. I’d love it if not a single officer have to be penalized. And there are going to be times, as I’ve said, we’re officers literally have to have a mask off, particularly if they’re eating or drinking, and there could be other legitimate reasons. But if there’s not a legitimate reason, they should have a mask on like everybody else. If they don’t, there should be a penalty and you should see the results. So we’ll get that to you.
Moderator: The next is Yehudit it from Borough Park 24 News.
Question: Oh, hi. Hi, good morning. I just want to say at first that I love the block party idea, which really puts a positive spin on a difficult situation. But I just wanted to ask of course New York City’s Test and Trace Corps is doing its best to stop the spread of COVID and we really appreciate everything the City is doing. However, I’ve just heard that some New Yorkers who have tested positive for COVID-19 with all of its terrible and uncomfortable symptoms, sometimes feel bombarded by Health inspectors from the Test and Trace Corps who they report sometimes visit their homes multiple times in one day. And sometimes make as many as eight calls to them. And I was just wondering, first of all, are these home visits safe? And also, are so many of them necessary? Like for instance, could they, could the information be gathered via email or text?
Mayor: Let me start and turn to Dr. Katz. So, I think it’s a very good question. The goal here, of course, is, if someone tests positive, to make sure that they can safely separate and they have all the support they need. It is important, by definition, to, one, check-in, make people know that they can ask questions, get help if they need it for free; second, to make sure people are honoring the quarantine. And that is obviously the law of this state. Sometimes, if we’re not reaching someone by phone, a home visit makes a lot of sense to find out what’s going on. And then, of course, it has to be done safely with distancing, with masks usage, etcetera. But keeping the quarantine is a crucial part of the equation and it helps to save lives. I hear your point, there has to be a balance, and if people feel it’s too much, we have to make sure that that isn’t happening where it isn’t necessary. If no one’s responding, that’s when there is extra outreach. Dr. Katz?
President Katz: Thanks very much for the feedback. I think the Mayor has said it well. We want to make sure that people have the resources they need in order to quarantine. If they’re positive, we want to make sure that they have the medicines they need so that they don’t have to go out to the pharmacy. We do want to check on them, especially if they’re not answering telephone, to be sure that they are quarantining. But I’ll take the feedback back and look to see whether or not there have been cases where there were multiple people coming to be sure that there’s not a problem with communication among the different members of the staff.
Mayor: Go ahead.
Question: And then my second question is the Jewish community really appreciates all the extra protection over the high holidays that police provided. And I’m wondering now, as Dr. Katz mentioned that people are going to be eating and sleeping outside their homes for about a week and they might feel vulnerable in New York City to crime. I was wondering if the police are aware that people are going to be outside sometimes all night, and if there’s going to be any expert police protection?
Mayor: I think it’s a great question. I think – and we’ll double check this for sure, but historically the NYPD in those precincts is very aware of the time of year for the community and the importance of helping the community to feel safe and secure. I appreciate you pointing out that people really do feel that positive presence at the key moments of the year and the holiest times of the year. And that’s been a good tradition, we will continue that. So, I’ll make sure that precincts know to be extra aware and extra visible in support of the community. But what I’ve heard throughout the high holidays is a lot of appreciation of NYPD’s presence to protect the community. Go ahead.
Moderator: The next is Erin from Politico.
Question: Good morning, Mr. Mayor. My first question is with regard to schools. So, now that the middle schools and the high schools are actually open, how many additional teachers have you in fact hired to staff these now open schools?
Mayor: As I said, Erin, we’re going to tote that up and get you that number when everything is complete. Like I said, I’ve talked to Chancellor and his team, and even the unions acknowledge that it takes weeks typically in the beginning of a normal school year, without a pandemic, to sort out all the staffing, to get everyone finally in place. There’s some movement around between schools, some extra people come in, this is all very normal. This is now made obviously more challenging by three different types of learning simultaneously. So, now that we have started across the board, which everyone should be very proud of, we’re now going to be making those adjustments over the next few weeks. We’ll get to a final lockdown roster for every school. And then we’ll be able to tell you what we had to add from the summer to make this happen. But the bottom line is, we’ve been able to get the staffing we need and get it where it is needed and kudos to everyone in the DOE for making that happen. Go ahead, Erin.
Question: Okay. I have a question with regards to these clusters. I’m just wondering, when you look at the increased overall and the City’s infection rates, is that entirely explained about what’s going on in these cluster neighborhoods? Or, beyond those neighborhoods, is there also, you know, some degree of an uptick being seen citywide?
Mayor: I’ll start and I’ll turn to Dr. Varma and Dr. Chokshi. Look, what we’re seeing is broadly two different realities – 10 ZIP codes that are having a real serious challenge that we’re addressing intensely with the community. And then, the other ZIP codes of the city overwhelmingly are not having that reality, continue to have a very low level. We want to keep it that way. So, again, I want everyone in the ZIP codes that are not affected to keep their guard up, continue with the mask wearing and social distancing, continue to get tested while we apply intensive tools to this area. But I do think it’s two distinct realities so far. Go ahead, Dr. Varma.
Senior Advisor Varma: Yeah. Thank you very much. We are definitely seeing, as the Mayor has reported, an increase in the number of positive cases, that’s primarily being driven by the neighborhoods that we’ve identified, both the high priority ZIP codes, as well as the other areas of concern around there. As people know, during the period before this recent increase in cases, we had somewhere around 200, 250 new cases every day, and that number has increased considerably. We continue to work vigorously throughout the city to keep those case numbers down as well, because, obviously, we are quite concerned that even if the problem is primarily occurring in selected areas of the city, we’re all connected. We all breathe the same air. We do business with each other. We see each other in other places. So, we have to maintain vigilance everywhere we are.
Mayor: Dr. Chokshi?
Commissioner Chokshi: The only thing that I would add is that when we looked at the numbers, the 10 neighborhoods that are of greatest concern represent 27.5 percent of the new cases over the past two weeks citywide, while they represent about seven-and-a-half percent of the of the overall population of the city. So, primarily, it is concentrated in the areas of greatest concern. But, as Dr. Varma has said, we want to bring this concerted focus to those areas to prevent further spread across the city.
Mayor: Thank you.
Moderator: The next is Sydney from Staten Island Advance.
Question: Hey, Mr. Mayor. At this point, do you and the Chancellor know how many schools will have students returned for in-person learning, but taught by a teacher remotely who isn’t in the classroom listening – who isn’t in the classroom, and, you know, they’re listening to them on a device like what’s going on at Tottenville High School, at Wagner High School on Staten Island? And will this in-person virtual setup be norm for certain schools for the rest of the year?
Mayor: Basically, the answer is no, Sydney. This is something we continue to work on as we bring in more staffing. I’m not saying it won’t ever happen, as needed, but I want to be very clear – the goal is to keep staffing up to help every school get to the point that, you know, can do the maximum in-person learning directly with educators. When they do need to turn to a virtual approach, even with the kids in school, we’re making the point that there’s still a lot of adult support educationally and otherwise being provided to those kids in the school. But the goal is to keep providing the staffing, keep increasing the amount of in-person learning, keep increasing also on the remote side the amount of synchronous learning. All this will build up over the coming weeks. Chancellor?
Chancellor Carranza: Just to add – only to add to what the Mayor said, that these are the exceptions, not the rule. And, again, schools have differing circumstances. So, I actually applaud the principals in their ingenuity and creativity and making sure students are going to have instruction and that it’s content specific instruction that’s high quality. Again, as we continue to build our teacher pool you’re going to see even in those situations where that’ll be mitigated. But this is not what we want. This is not going to be the standard. And, again, this is the first day and it will look very different as we go forward.
Mayor: Go ahead.
Question: Yeah, you didn’t say how many roughly you think are, you know, doing this type of setup. Can you answer that?
Mayor: Chancellor, if you have that at your fingertips, otherwise we’ll get that back to you.
Chancellor Carranza: No, again, this is the first day, so we’re working with our superintendents to gather all kinds of information, including the innovative models that are being used across the city. So, we will have more to say about this later.
Moderator: We have time for two more for today. The next is Reuven Blau from The City.
Question: Hi, Mr. Mayor. Thanks for taking the time to talk to me, I really appreciate it [inaudible] take our questions.
Mayor: Thank you, Reuven. How are you doing today?
Question: I’m good. How are you?
Mayor: Good. Thank you. Good day.
Question: I’ve got a little bit of a longer question and I hope you can take patience to listen to this one. I’m not sure if you’re familiar with John Burns – was under investigation – a question about John Burns, and I just want to list a couple of facts before, sort of, asking the question. He was under investigation for months when he was reappointed for a five-year – a second five-year term at OATH. The investigation concluded that he had harassed a female staffer, oversaw a toxic work environment, and tried then tried to retaliate against the woman for filing the complaint against him, but he was never suspended and continued [inaudible] his full salary and his disciplinary trial was moved to the NYPD trial room, but was never put on the Department’s public schedule. And then your – you know, the press shop ignored questions about the trial that was upcoming for several weeks when I was asking them about it. So, my question is, first of all, what message does this send to other women who work for the city? And also, why was he given preferential treatment?
Mayor: Rueven, I do not know the details of the case and so I can’t speak to the many specifics you’re putting forward. What I know is that anyone who acts inappropriately needs to feel the consequences and there needs to be consistency in the approach. So, I can’t comment on the specifics. We can certainly get back to you on that. I want to make sure that if anyone does something wrong, there are consequences and that it’s handled right and consistently – that’s always what we’re trying to do. But let me get details on this one for you so I can give you a better answer. Go ahead.
Question: Okay. I appreciate that. And just to sort of follow up on the same question, who’s – I mean, is there somebody in the administration that I should follow up with when you say, you know, that you’re going to get details and follow through? And also, I’m just concerned, like, just wondering why there was sort of this coverup. I mean, obviously he’s somebody who you’ve known for a long time and people are saying that they think that it’s because of your close affiliation with him that he was given this preferential treatment.
Mayor: Again, you’re using – and you have every right to, but I want to call out words that are, you know, value judgements or editorial comments that I don’t know the facts of and I can’t affirm. We don’t believe we would not allow a “coverup.” There’s no “preferential treatment.” I don’t believe in those things and my team doesn’t believe in them and we don’t allow it. These issues are governed over by the Law Department and the counsel’s office, and they are rigorous and they treat these situations very seriously and they’re very focused on ensuring there are consequences for anyone that does anything wrong, and then it’s all quite divulged on a regular basis. So, I just don’t agree with your characterization broadly, but, again, we will get you the specifics. The folks who have the details are the Law Department and the counsel’s office.
Moderator: Last question for today goes to Christina Vega from Chalkbeat.
Question: Hi, Mayor. Thanks for taking my question, this is for you and the Chancellor. Typically, schools release attendance data daily. We haven’t seen any so far for this week. Anecdotally at the schools that we’ve shown up to we’ve seen fewer kids than expected. So, are you worried about attendance? When will we see numbers? And is it possible that parents aren’t filling out remote-only forms, but not showing up?
Mayor: Okay. I’m not worried, Christina – and I’ll turn to the Chancellor, but I just want to give my personal frame – not worried, because we’re in the middle of an absolutely extraordinary moment. And again, I want us to separate business as usual and a normal school year from opening the largest school system in the country in the middle of a pandemic – it’s two different realities. So, what we’re going to see here – we have been seeing is, getting the attendance information, making sure it’s accurate, getting it out is slower than it’s been in normal situations. We’ve obviously got multiple levels of attendance that has to be taken between in-person, blended at home, full remote. It’s a much more complicated reality. We want to get these numbers right. It’s going to take more time than usual. So, I’m not worried, because I think everything will sort out over the next few weeks. I think it is natural – as a parent myself, it’s natural that some parents are waiting and seeing they want to watch how the first days go before they make a final decision of what to do. I also think it will be natural – I’ve talked to a bunch of parents who, as they’ve seen these first stages of schools, are starting to say, so when do we get to opt back in if we want to? And I think that’s going to be a big discussion towards the end of this month as parents have that opportunity for their kids to come back in. So, what we all have to have in my view is a little bit of sense of kind of the organic reality – parents will watch for the coming days and weeks and then make more decisions. And I think you’ll see the attendance keep growing as people see consistent success with the schools. Go ahead, Chancellor.
Chancellor Carranza: I think, Mr. Mayor, you hit the nail on the head. Again, we have multiple models that are being implemented this year. So, that means programming and then setting up the attendance taking, there are multiple tracks, as we know. So, all of that requires a change in how we gather our attendance. But we’ll have much more accurate figures to report in the coming days.
Mayor: Go ahead, Christina.
Question: My second question is, you keep saying that you’re monitoring closely the coronavirus cases and whether there are any links to schools. So, I’m wondering if you’ve found any evidence of transmission happening within any school communities. And the city has said that schools will be shut down if there are – apart from reaching the three percent seven-day rolling average, if there are outbreaks – recurrent outbreaks within schools, but I don’t know that there’s been any data publicly released about any possible cases of those. So, have you traced any outbreaks and how will the public know? Or, will this data be shared publicly?
Mayor: Yeah. The data will be shared and I’ll get an update on the, you know, how that’s going to be done. But here’s the bottom line, what we’ve seen – and the situation room has been very productive. Again, it’s DOE, it’s Health Department, Health + Hospitals, Test and Trace, great leadership from our Buildings Commissioner Melanie La Rocca, and her team. We’re just getting constant updates from them on what they’re seeing and, typically, we’re finding a fairly low number of cases, again, with a school system that’s going to have up to 500,000 kids in-person this week, and well over 100,000 teachers and staff in the buildings. We’re seeing relatively few cases each day. We have seen some cases where a classroom had to be quarantined, a pod had to be taken out for two weeks, but relatively few. We’ve seen a decent number of cases – and get you exact number – where a building had to be closed for 24 hours and then they’ve consistently come back up and running. So, we’ll get you the update on where we stand. The only situation in the whole time now since the situation room has been up, which I believe started just about two weeks ago – the only situation where we have a school where there were two cases that were not related that lead to a longer shutdown just happened the last 24 hours. It’s the JFK program, it is a District 75 special education school in Queens. It has 262 students in their blended learning program and 88 staff. So, that school, as of today, is shut down for two weeks. That’s the only one the entire time that has experienced that. And what’s going to happen, I think, in a case like this, is what we’ve been telling people all along – those two weeks, kids, of course, will get instruction remotely. Then the school will be back up. Everyone who was quarantined will come right back and we’ll continue with the next 10 months of the school year. So, we’re going to – or, nine months of school year. So, we’re going to continue to use that approach. It’s very precise. And the situation room has really proven to be a great methodology and tremendously helpful. Please, Chancellor.
Chancellor Carranza: Also, Christina, there is a positive cases map that is live on our website and it has all the active cases and closures in real time. So, you can find that on our district website.
Mayor: Thank you very much, Chancellor. Well, everybody, as we conclude today, first of all, just a programming note to remind you, we will have our next press conference again on Monday. In the meantime, and every day, look, New Yorkers have proven we can fight against any situation, we can overcome any situation. Now, we have tremendous good news today with the opening of all our schools, and that is an achievement every single one of you contributed to and should be proud of. And we have a challenge, but New Yorkers are not scared of challenges. We have 10 ZIP codes where we have a distinct problem, another six where we’re concerned. We’re going to throw everything we’ve got at those areas to turn it around. The crucial point is to keep moving the city forward, to keep doing what has worked, to ensure that as we reopen, as we restart, that we sustain it. And we’ve all known there’ll be ups and downs along the way, but, again, it’s how we fight those challenges together – that’s what really matters. So, if we do everything we’re capable of, we’ll be able to keep our schools open our businesses open and keep the city moving forward. I know that’s what all New Yorkers want. I hear it all the time. I believe that they truly are willing to do what it takes. So, let’s pull together and work again as the team we have been that brought this city back before and let’s continue this progress. Thank you, everybody.
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