Media questioning of NYC Mayor on the Speed of his Response and Action
This posting has been placed up not as a representation of our own views on NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio’s course of actions, but in light of his appearance today on CNN’s State of the Union with Jake Tapper. The reporter brings up a question on the speed of his COVID-19 Emergency response in NYC.
Keep in mind that the Mayor was resistant to the thought of closing New York City’s schools for some time yet, at some point, reached the urge and need to close down our city. He experienced both resistance and acceptance on different fronts to his thoughts and convictions; from teachers, parents, business owners and other government officials. On this page you’ll not merely find a snippet from his conversation with Jake Tapper but, as well, quotes and details from the days leading up to the present.
March 29 : Mayor de Blasio with Jake Tapper
Tapper: So, let’s talk about the way that you’ve handled the response in New York City. I want you to take a listen to yourself and your message to New Yorkers – these are three different clips. One’s from January, one’s from February, and one’s from early this month.
Mayor: It’s important. Just go about your lives. Continue living as you have.
New Yorkers should go about our lives. Continue doing what we do.
This should not stop you from going about your life. Should not stop you from going to Chinatown and going out to eat.
We want people still to go on about their lives. We want people to rest assured that a lot is being done to protect them.
Tapper: That last clip was from March 13th, just about two weeks ago. In retrospect is that message, at least in part, to blame for how rapidly the virus has spread across the city?
Mayor: You know, Jake, we should not be focusing, in my view, on anything looking back on any level of government right now. This is just about how we save lives going forward. We all were working, everybody was working with the information we had and trying of course to avoid panic and at that point for all of us trying to keep, not only protect lives but keep the economy and the livelihoods together, keep ensuring that people had money to pay for food and medicine. I mean this was a very different world just a short time ago. But the bottom line is, none of us have time to look backwards. I’m trying to figure out how we get through to Sunday, next Sunday, and then what we do the week after that. And that’s the only thing we should be talking about in this country. And by the way, any other place in this country that thinks this is just going to pass them by and it’s going to be a nonissue – it’s in all 50 states now.
And what we’re all learning at the front line is this moves very, very fast in a way none of us have ever experienced in our lives. So, the focus has to be on getting the personnel, the ventilators, the supplies, where they need to be, and then when each region of the country starts to see that improvement the way Dr. Fauci just described to you. When you actually see the case-loads go down and you actually have the testing to know what’s going on, then send those personnel, send those ventilators to the next place that needs it most. That’s what we’re going to have to do. And I think the military is the only part of our nation that can actually organize and engineer such a massive effort.
Tapper: So, Mr. Mayor, you say you don’t think you should look backwards, but you’ve criticized President Trump for “actions that are far, far behind the curve”. I mean, Mr. Mayor, weren’t your actions in this outbreak also far, far behind the curve?
Mayor: Jake, I, in real time, said – and this was weeks and weeks ago as it was happening, that we were not being given the testing we needed. I think the big historical point here that will be looked back on is, if this country had had the testing when we needed it, this could have been a very different reality. But there’s no time to go back over that. There’s only time to focus on getting through the next week and the week after that. I mean, you could ask all the questions you want, they’re fair. But I think the time to deal with these questions is after this war is over, because literally here in New York City, it feels like a war-time environment. I am talking to doctors, nurses, front line public health leaders, they’re literally trying to figure out what’s going to happen just days from now and they’re watching an escalation, Jake, that we’ve never seen in our lives. The only comparison is to a hundred years ago, the Spanish influenza pandemic. The only comparison in terms of our economy in our lives is to the Great Depression. None of us have ever experienced this. We’ve got to focus on today, tomorrow, next week if we’re going to get through this.
Related items from the past weeks , listed for the sake of drawing a perspective. Keep in mind how this is not a detailed record of every single statement by the administration or interaction thereof. Please keep in mind how the sharp increases in cases reported are a reflection of the ability to do mass testing and are, in turn, a true reflection of all actual cases considering how many New Yorkers might be staying home and recuperating without having ever been tested..
February 29 NYC Stats
First Case of Coronavirus
March 8 NYC Stats
14 Cases of Coronavirus
March 11 NYC Stats
53 Cases of Coronavirus
March 12: Individual School Closures
On March 12, two schools (located within the same building) in the Bronx were closed due to a student’s self confirmed positive case of Novel Coronavirus.
March 12: Mayor declares a State of Emergency in NYC
Mayor: And obviously, you heard his announcements earlier today, which he and I discussed in detail and which I agree with fully. In light of all those changing realities, it is time now to declare a state of emergency New York City. And I will explain what that means, the powers that are vested in me, what it will allow us to do going forward. I’ll also emphasize that the declaration of state of emergency authorizes the use of the powers, but we will use them as needed.
March 12: Mayor appears on CNN’s New Day with John Berman
John Berman: As of this morning, California, Oregon, Washington State have now banned gatherings of more than 250 people because of the coronavirus pandemic, concerts, meetings, sporting events, you name it. What does that mean for America’s biggest city, the heart and culture of major events in the United States? I of course, am talking about New York City. Joining me now is the New York City mayor, Mayor Bill de Blasio. Mr. Mayor thank you very much for being with us this morning. First of all, can you give us an update on number of cases and the situation here in the city?
Mayor Bill de Blasio: We have 62 cases right now in the city. Obviously this is a very, very serious situation and I remind you against the back drop of 8.6 million people. But it has been growing steadily. And we are going to have to make a lot of changes in our lives. But you know, John we cannot overdo, that’s the balance we have to strike. I am believer that we have to be careful not to destroy peoples’ livelihoods, not to destroy the opportunity for our kids to be in a safe place, learning every day in school. And yet we are going to have to introduce more and more restrictions which we certainly are going to be doing in New York City, today and tomorrow. We are going to have to do more restrictions in this environment.
March 13: Department of Education Reaction
Department of Education would cancel extracurricular activities such as athletic games and practices, school-wide assemblies, school plays, and recitals as well as field trips and other items.
March 14 NYC Stats
185 Cases of Coronavirus
March 14: The mayor talks with Joy Reid of MSNBC.
Reid: Let’s talk about schools. New York City is unique among a lot of cities and a lot of states around the country that are not closing. Why not close the schools? The argument to close them is that it would protect those young people, the kids and the teachers and the maintenance workers and everyone from community transmission. And that there are ways that you could set up feeding, making sure people get food, making sure kids get lunch. Why keep the schools open?
Mayor: Okay, first, I don’t believe we’re unique. I think a lot of cities and states are grappling this right now because here’s the problem. First of all, we are worried about a cascading effect where if we close schools, watch out what happens with mass transit? How do you keep your hospital system and your health care going? These all interrelate. You’re not going to have a functioning health care system if the folks in the medical field, the doctors, the nurses, the techs, everyone has to stay home with their kids. You’re not going to have a functioning medical system if no one can get to work. So, we have these three pillars, schools, mass transit and health care system. We’re trying to hold a line with that. It does not rule out at some point we feel we have to close schools, but right now we think that has to be held together.
March 14 (first death from COVID-19 announced)
Statement by Commissioner Oxiris Barbot, Department of Health and Mental Hygiene during a press conference:
So, as the Mayor said, today we are announcing our first death related to COVID-19 and it’s a difficult moment for the City and especially for the individual’s family and our hearts go out to this family. And we are committed to providing them ongoing support during this painful time. I think it’s an opportunity for us to be clear that with this outbreak we should not be surprised if we see additional deaths. I think it’s a reality that we have to be clear with New Yorkers about that all of our efforts clearly are directed at ensuring that we minimize harm to New Yorkers, especially those that have these chronic underlying illnesses, but that we can’t predict the behavior of the virus in all individuals. And so that’s why it’s incumbent on all New Yorkers to change our behavior so that when we say, don’t go to work if you’re sick, don’t send your kids to school if they’re sick, it has implications beyond the individual, beyond the individual’s family, beyond the individual’s community. It has implications for all of us.
March 15 NYC Stats
269 Cases of Coronavirus
March 15 : Mayor talks with Brianna Keilar on CNN’s State of the Union
Keilar: You say you’re going to fight tooth and nail to keep New York City schools open so that kids who rely on free and reduced lunches and meals will not go hungry and so the parents won’t have to miss work to watch their kids. Attendance, as you know, is down significantly. Some teachers are actually calling for a mass sick-out. More schools are closing by the day nationwide. It seems likely that you may not be able to well to do this for much longer. Is that what you believe at this point in time?
Mayor: Brianna, it is literally a day-by-day reality. I listened carefully to Governor DeWine, and I think what he said is one of the truths – that if our school system does shut down at any point, even though we would try to keep that – if it happened, we’d try and keep it brief – my blunt fear is, if the school shut down, they will be done for the year, done for the school year, maybe even for the calendar year. So, I’m very reticent to shut down schools for a variety of reasons, not just that that’s where a lot of kids get their only good meals, where they get adult supervision, especially teenagers who otherwise would be out on the streets – there’s health and safety ramifications to that. Those first responders, those health care workers who depend on the schools so they can get to work, and we need those workers desperately – a lot of factors here. But, Brianna, it is literally a day-by-day reality. If we can keep our schools going, we will. If at any point we feel it doesn’t make sense, we’ll make a move.
March 15: Mayor Announces School closure
Mayor: Let’s get our team in in here. Okay. So, everyone knows on Thursday, I declared a state of emergency in New York City. At the time, I said this situation was going to get more difficult. It is quite clear – thank you – it is quite clear that this crisis is growing intensely. I spent much of the day with our public health team going over a variety of projections, going over information from the experiences of other parts of the world and details of what we’ve seen here in New York City. I am very, very concerned that we see a rapid spread of this disease and it is time to take more dramatic measures and I will tell you that the issue that’s been on everyone’s mind is our public schools. I was a public-school parent for the entire education of my children, pre-K through 12th grade for both of them. I know just how much our parents depend on our public schools. I know right now there are so many parents who do not necessarily have any other place for their children. There are so many parents who depend on our schools for meals for their children. There’s so many public servants we depend on, our first responders, transit workers, health care workers who need their kids to be in school. So, for everyone who is wondering why this has been such a difficult decision, it’s because I know the full cost of shutting our schools, I know all of the negative ramifications of this decision and it’s very painful. It’s going to be very difficult for a lot of families.
And so, this is a decision that I have taken with no joy whatsoever, with a lot of pain, honestly, because it’s something I could not in a million years have imagined having to do. But we are dealing with a challenge and a crisis that we have never seen in our lifetimes and is only just begun. So, I regret to have to announce that as of tomorrow, our public schools will be closed. In other words, to all parents who are hearing this now, there was no school tomorrow and we will be suspending our public schools until after the spring vacation. And I’m going to say this very precisely. We will make a first attempt to restart our schools on Monday, April 20th but I have to be honest that we’re dealing with a lot of unknowns and a lot of challenges and we understand how difficult it will be to achieve that goal. But just so everyone has something to organize their thinking around. Our first attempt to reopen the public schools would be on Monday, April 20th. I have been very honest about the fact that there is a real possibility that by closing our schools now we may not have the opportunity to reopen them in this full school year. So, we may actually have to go out for the whole school year, which is just extraordinarily painful for our kids, for our parents, for our educators, for so many people. And the notion of a school year being disrupted in this fashion, I have no words for how horrible it is, but it has become necessary.
March 17 NYC Stats
269 Cases of Coronavirus
March 17: Mayor states that New Yorkers should be prepared for a possible ‘Shelter in Place’ order to come within 48 hours
Now, I want to talk about a question that’s on everybody’s mind, and that is the issue of shelter in place. This is a reality that is being talked about because this crisis continues to grow. We are all deeply concerned about the direction and the trajectory even as we get new information daily and hourly and we’re trying to better understand the specific trajectory. It’s quite clear this is a fast-growing crisis. In my view, I think the right guidance to give all New Yorkers is, even though a decision has not yet been made by the City or by the State, I think New Yorkers should be prepared right now for the possibility of a shelter in place order. It has not happened yet, but it is definitely a possibility at this point. I believe that decisions should be made in the next 48 hours and it’s a very, very difficult decision.
March 17: Governor Cuomo rejects the notion of a Shelter in Place
March 19 NYC Stats
3,954 Cases of Coronavirus
March 19-22: Non Essential Services Banned from Operating Beyond Home
Governor Cuomo’s Executive Order on cutting to 75% of workforce for non-essential businesses, originally set at 50%. Later this would be adjusted to 100% meaning no non-essential businesses would be allowed to stay open. All to begin on March 22.
March 21 NYC Stats
3,954 Cases of Coronavirus
March 21: FEMA Declares New York State a Major Disaster Allowing Access to Over 42 Billion Dollars in Funds
March 24 NYC Stats
15,597 Cases of Coronavirus
March 24: Mayor announces a Pilot Program which open two streets per borough to pedestrian traffic. To begin soon. Dates and locations announced later in the week indicates it would run from March 27 to March 30
March 25 NYC Stats
20,011 Cases of Coronavirus
March 25: Mayor announces the Removal of Basketball Hoops from 80 courts out of about 1700 in the city
Threatens to close Playgrounds if enough people are found to not be in compliance with social distancing rules.
March 29 NYC Stats