We’re much better off being girded for battle and knowing the truth

By Mayor Bill de Blasio

I want to give everyone an update. This is another day where a lot is going on here in New York City of course, but also in Washington. That will mean a lot for us. I’m going to speak about that in a moment. I want to explain from the beginning how important I think it is to tell you information that I believe is 100 percent accurate, that I believe is crucial for New Yorkers to know, and to tell you information that sometimes will be tough to hear, other times, thank God, will be hopeful and inspiring information that will show just how many people are working hard together to address this crisis, how many people are working together here in the city, but also all the people around the country, and not only rooting for New York City, but are really stepping up to help us out. I’ll tell you those stories and those facts and I’ll tell you the facts when they’re difficult to hear, but important for all New Yorkers to know.

What I’m always going to be careful about is not to tell you something if I am not certain it’s accurate information. A lot of times we’re going to see really fast changing developments, a lot of times we’re going to have information that we do not think is complete because of this ever-changing situation or information that might be inadvertently misleading to New Yorkers instead of giving you the complete picture. My job is to always try and sort that out and do the best I can to level with you about the challenge and what we do about it, but also constantly tell you the good news to, all of the things that are being done to address this challenge.

One thing I believe very, very strongly is to be honest about the timeline here. It’s been a lot of discussion in the last few days. You’ve heard people talk about the hope that we can get back to normal really quickly in this city and in this country. I want to tell you that we should not cling to that false hope. I want to get back to normal as much as anyone. And maybe after a period of time if we saw sustained progress, really, really had evidence of progress, we could have had that conversation. But we’re seeing right now unfortunately, a growing challenge, a growing crisis that’s clearly going to take us into April in a really tough situation and for everything we know now we’re going continue to deal with more and more challenges in April. And I have tried to be honest with everyone to not get into a situation where we let our guard down. We start to have false hopes. I think we’re much better off being girded for battle and knowing the truth. So, I believe that April is going to be tougher than March. And I think at this point May could be tougher than April and people need to be ready for that. But the notion that everything might be fine by Easter, I don’t know where on earth that idea comes from. Certainly, does not apply to anything we’re seeing here in New York City. And again, if that situation ever changes, I will be the first to tell you, I assure you. What we’re seeing right now is huge challenges and intense stress in particular on our hospital capacity, on the men and women who do such amazing work in our healthcare system and clearly on the supplies and equipment that we need to make sure that we can keep moving forward.

We did get some good news in the last few days and that is very, very important to say. Supplies have come in from the federal government, from the state government and elsewhere that have certainly improved our situation this week. That’ll help us get into next week. That is a Ray of light for sure. But we know we’re going to have giant challenges ahead in terms of producing enough hospital space or enough personnel who are trained to help us in this crisis and that ongoing challenge with equipment and supplies. That’s what we’ll be dealing with for weeks and weeks ahead. The painful obligation I have every time I joined with you to tell you the overall numbers. And I will say every single time, these are human beings, these are families represented in these numbers. These are our neighbors. So, in New York City today, as of the official numbers from this morning, the last official count that we have, 17,856 cases, almost 18,000 at this point. Now at this point, we, our cases in New York city constitute about 54 percent – 54 percent of the total in the State of New York, and about 32 percent, almost a third of the cases in the United States of America. And very, very sadly now the death toll from coronavirus New York city has reached to almost 200.

What do we do? It’s what we do every day. We work to make sure that we fight back and we stay ahead of this crisis and that, and we are winning that race against time for as many people as possible. And that starts with ventilators. This is going to be the single most valuable item, the single most valuable piece of equipment in this fight ahead. And we can say compared to last week, we’ve seen real progress. The 400 that came in yesterday from FEMA, the 2,000 we expect by the end of this week on top of that from the federal government, a big step in the right direction, but only one step more. We must receive and we must receive quickly. And that’s what we’re working on every single day. The goal for New York city is 15,000 ventilators. So, the numbers that we have from this week gets us about a sixth of the way there, and that is important, but we got a lot more to do and the sooner we get them, the better.

We still need the federal government to maximize the use of the defense production act. There’s been some major steps forward in the last a day or two. FEMA has certainly been taking a more aggressive role in using the possibilities of defense production act, but nowhere near where we needed to go. And I’ve got to be clear that this is in everyone’s interest everywhere in the United States of America. It’s us today. It will be some other part of the country tomorrow. We need this production to be maximized for everyone’s good. But on top of that, we have to be honest about the fact that even if the production occurs, the only way it will get to us in time on a sustained basis, is if the United States military gets involved much more deeply. I had a second round of conversations yesterday with the Defense Secretary and the Chairman and Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to constantly update them on what we are facing here, to thank them for the supplies, and the troops that we’re starting to get come in from the United States military to play a crucial role. There is some military presence now in New York City, and that’s going to help us a lot. And that’s going to give us everything from the extraordinary talent of our men and women in uniform, the supplies, the equipment, and also a real boost to all of our morale to see heroes from all over this country coming here to help New Yorkers, protect New Yorkers, and save New Yorkers.

That’s a really positive sign, but we need to go to a much, much higher level and for the good of our nation we need the military to be directly involved in getting supplies all over this country on a really rapid basis, starting with those ventilators. Putting into play their extraordinary medical personnel on much higher level and bringing medical personnel, civilian medical personnel, from all over the country to serve here quickly. And then we will all together turn to support the next part of the country that deals with this challenge after our crisis is over. But I have to be clear, if the military is not mobilized on a higher level, I can’t see a scenario where those supplies, that equipment, those personnel get where they need to go here in New York City in time. The only way we have a guarantee is with the active presence of the United States military.

Now, today in Washington, obviously there’s been a real movement on the stimulus bill, although we are still waiting to confirm exactly what’s going to be happening with it. We have seen a lot of detail come out today. And I have to say that I will talk in a moment about some of the things in the bill that are absolutely crucial for New York City and for the people of New York City and some of the things that went right. But I’ve got to first honestly talk about the thing that didn’t go right and what has to be done to fix it. And that has to be addressed really quickly. Look, here’s the truth. It was the majority leader of the U S Senate, Mitch McConnell, who stood in the way of real aid to New York City and New York state. That is just a fact. We know from all the negotiations that played out in recent days that all the other parties were willing to do more to support direct aid to New York City, direct aid to New York state, to keep our governments functioning at their current level.

Look, we are every single day doing more and more to address COVID-19. We are doing more and more to help people in need and the need keeps expanding all the time. At the same time, of course, our economy has ended up in a very difficult situation and our resources are plummeting. Our revenues plummeting. The, the money that we use to help people is drying up. So, what the most obvious thing in the world would’ve been to say, okay, we know, everyone in the country knows New York City is the epicenter of this crisis. Therefore, the state government, the city government in New York need all the help they can get to keep helping everyday people and to keep afloat everything else that we do. We need every other service of government to work, police and fire, and water, and sanitation, all the things we do. And that gets harder and harder if you have less and less money. So, it should have been one of the easiest no-brainers in the world for the U.S. Senate to include real money for New York City and New York state, in this stimulus bill, and yet it didn’t happen. And we know why, because Mitch McConnell wouldn’t let it happen. I don’t understand how anybody, any public servant could live with themselves if they deprived the cities in the middle of the biggest crisis since the Great Depression, deprived us, deprived our state, of the money we need, giving New York City $1 billion out of $150 billion pool that they provide for the entire Country. But we are one-third of the cases in this country right now, someone do the math down there in Washington, in the Senate, Republican majority, someone do the math. They gave us less than 1 percent of the money that they were giving out to cities and states, and we have a third of the cases in the Nation – that is just immoral.

I’m going to call President Trump. I’ve spoken to President Trump several times about the stimulus bill, about what it means to New York City. I’m going to call President Trump and appeal to him – to intervene or to either fix this bill as it is or to guarantee that there will be another stimulus bill in the coming weeks that will address this problem immediately. I reached out today to Senator Schumer, I reached out to Speaker Pelosi, spoke with both of them and I want to thank them because we all know they were the lead negotiators in achieving all the good in this legislation. The direct money that will be provided to families in need to working people who have lost their jobs, those extended employment benefits, the grants to small businesses. Senator Schumer, Speaker Pelosi made a priority of helping the American people and helping the people in New York City who are suffering and only because of their presence do those items end up in the legislation. I say thank you to them, but I know where the roadblock is on the money, we need to keep this City and the State going. I know it’s Mitch McConnell and I’m going to appeal to President Trump who’s from this city, who understands very personally just what’s at stake here. I’m going to appeal to him to step in and fix this situation on behalf of all Americans and to make sure that all New Yorkers are safe.

I’m going to give you some quick updates on some other issues. We have in our regional enrichment centers for the Department of Education, we are providing – education and childcare for the children of our essential workers. And we’ve said from the beginning that we include those who work in Healthcare, our first responders, transit workers— starting this Friday, we’re going to add to that list— workers in a number of other categories and this is something that can be added to at any point. We’ll make adjustments to the regional enrichment centers on a regular basis as we experience everything happening in this crisis, and we determined the best way to proceed. So, starting on Friday, the children of grocery workers and pharmacy workers, the essential staff at groceries and pharmacies, their children will also qualify for regional enrichment centers. There are staff members at our Department of Health who were not previously covered they will now be covered. Essential staff from Staten Island Ferry and NYC Ferry will join other transit workers in having the ability to bring their children to those regional enrichment centers. Department of Environmental Protection essential staff, the people who made sure we get water, the people who make sure the sewer systems working among other things their children as well, and essential staff from Department of Probation. So that’s an update and all of that will be activated for Friday.

I want also to talk to you about the activities out in our communities to make sure social distancing is being enforced, I want to thank New Yorkers. Overwhelming, I’ve talked to Police Commissioner constantly gotten statistics from numerous agencies I’ve gotten counts on how many inspections are done. What came from a number of encounters, thousands and thousands of encounters with every-day New Yorkers, meeting our enforcement agents, and the results are the same every single time. Overwhelmingly, New Yorkers are paying attention to social distancing rules they understand how serious it is, they understand it’s about their health and their family’s health and our whole City. So, overwhelmingly, we are seeing New Yorkers follow the rules. We do have some issues though, and we’re going to be very open and honest about those issues when we have them. And that specific problem we’ve seen is in some parks, not all, some parks when it comes to basketball courts and every one of us who loves basketball and I’m one of them loves to go out and court and play a pickup game – or play with your family on the court. I want to differentiate in fact what’s acceptable and what’s not on a basketball court in the age of coronavirus. If you’re a kid or adult who just wants to shoot hoops yourself, single, solitary, you can do that. Make sure you’re socially distanced from the people around you. If you’re a family that people live under the same roof and you want to play with each other on the basketball court, that’s fine. But what’s not fine anymore is any kind of basketball game between people who do not live under the same roof, because, let’s face it, it’s a contact sport, people are going to get close together, it creates a danger. It does not mean social distancing, so here’s what we’re going to do. I’ve heard back from the Parks Department and the NYPD that they have found 80 locations – 80 courts around the city out of about 1,700 that, after repeated attempts to make sure everyone there understood what social distancing was, they did not get the response they wanted. And so, in those 80 locations, we’re going to remove the basketball hoops and make it impossible, sadly, for people to play basketball there. That’s what we have to do right now at those 80 locations. The courts will still be there for folks who want to do any other kind of recreation and we’ll be enforcing that. But there will not be any basketball games because there will not be any basketball hoops. And as I said, there’s about 1,700 locations total so that means about 1,600 more courts that we can leave intact, if people follow the rules. People don’t follow the rules, we’ll take the hoops down there. And if we have to end up closing off basketball courts across the board, we’ll do it, if we have to. I don’t want to do it. I want to see if we can get it right. I want to give people maximum options, but you’d got to follow the rules to matter of everyone’s safety.

I also want to give you an update this’ll be a daily reality until we get to the point that we believe all this work has been done in terms of our jail population. A lot of work is going on right now to ensure that any inmates who should be brought out of our jail system because of health issues or concerns will be any inmates who can be directly acted on by the City of New York and not pose a specific serious threat to community. But we want to make sure that those who can be released are, there will be some, as I said yesterday who will not be released because they do pose a threat or because for example, they’ve committed an offense related to domestic violence or sexual offenses and we’re going to have to work with other agencies, district attorneys and the State to determine what would happen with a number of other inmates.

But as for the total today, by tonight 200 inmates will have been released, there will be more releases tomorrow— and we will give you that update as it occurs. By way of closing, I’ll say a special thank you to folks who have been out there educating their fellow New Yorkers working with them. I gave you the example of one of the few things we’ve had a problem with those very specific basketball courts, but as you saw, that’s not many out of the grand total in this City. But overwhelmingly what I’ve heard back from the Parks Department and NYPD is again, that cooperation from New Yorkers. I want to thank all of our park’s workers and a special thank you to our park’s enforcement patrol workers for all you do every day, but especially during this crisis. Thank you for educating people about social distancing. Thank you for enforcing a special thank you to all of the men and women at the NYPD who have become really experts in describing social distancing and enforcing it over the last few days and they’ve been doing a fantastic job. So, thank you to all the men and women at the NYPD, and to all the six other agencies that are out there doing this work. This, again, is how we keep our parks and playgrounds going. And thank you, it’s making a big, big difference.

And look, I will conclude before I say a few words in Spanish and then we’ll open up to questions. I’ll conclude by saying just a point to everyone about this new reality we are living in – it is very easy to feel alone in a situation like this. But you really – even if you feel it, even if you feel the confusion and the uncertainty, I guarantee you you’re not alone. First of all, there are millions of us all feeling a lot of the same things. Second of all, there are literally hundreds of thousands of good people working every single day to protect you. Whether it’s our first responders, our health care workers, our transit workers, and all those other essential workers, folks at the grocery stores and the pharmacies I mentioned earlier – so many people who are making it their business to get out there and help you live your life and protect you and your family. So, you may feel alone sometimes, but I guarantee you you’re not. There are a lot of heroes out there who are going to help us save lives, and that’s what we do here in New York City, that’s a New York City tradition. Even in the toughest times, New Yorkers step up – in fact, a lot of people would say it’s in crisis, in a moment like this. And New Yorkers are not at their very best and no one wishes for a time like this, but we’ve seen time and time again just how good New Yorkers can be even when our backs are against the wall. So, I just want to reassure everyone, you are definitely not alone and we will all get through this together.