NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Mayor Bill de Blasio on Tuesday girded New Yorkers for a long, hard fight against the coronavirus.
“I have to be honest about the fact that we do not expect this to go quickly, and I wish we did, but we don’t,” de Blasio said. “But I have to respectfully disagree with [President Donald Trump] when he says, as he said earlier today, that he’s not looking at months for this crisis. I have to say, Mr. President, I wish that was the case for New York City, I hope that’s the case for the other parts of the country, but right now we are looking at months.”
De Blasio had previously said estimates on New York City’s medical supplies lasting to the end of the month did not match the increased rate of infection, and supplies were not expected to last the week.
“We are doing all we can just to get through March right now, particularly in terms of our health care system,” he said. “April will unquestionably be worse than March, and right now, my fear is May could be worse than April. That’s the reality we’re facing. I think the notion that we could be quote-unquote back to normal in April is absolutely inconceivable at this point.”
The number of positive cases in New York City was 15,597 as of Tuesday at 6 p.m., with 192 deaths.
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The breakdown by borough:
- 4,667 in Queens
- 4,407 in Brooklyn
- 3,013 in Manhattan
- 2,505 in the Bronx
- 999 on Staten Island
There are at least 2,850 people hospitalized, and at least 660 of those individuals were in the ICU.
De Blasio said the city’s most urgent, pressing need is ventilators.
“This city must have the ventilators we need,” he said. “They are all over this country. We’ve got to get them here. We have to be the priority for this nation because we’re the epicenter of this crisis.”
“It is something that literally is going to be the difference between life and death for thousands upon thousands of New Yorkers,” he said. “If a ventilator is available for a patient stricken with coronavirus, a patient gasping for breath, fighting for their life, if that ventilator is available exactly when it’s needed, that patient can stay alive so the doctors can do their work. And in many, many cases, that patient will live, and resume their life.”
The mayor noted the need for ventilators was directly tied to the number of New Yorkers who will survive the coronavirus outbreak.
“It’s as plain as this: If a doctor cannot get a ventilator to that patient literally the minute they need it, if too many minutes pass, that patient will suffocate,” said de Blasio. “That patient will die a horrible death and they will be gone forever.”
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De Blasio said 400 ventilators from FEMA were distributed earlier in the day across the state, and that 4,000 more ventilators were on their way to New York state. Half of them will come to New York City in what the mayor called a “race against time.”
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De Blasio said New York City will continue to monitor how people are using the parks and playgrounds, but if people are not following social distancing rules, playgrounds may be shut for the foreseeable future. He said he’ll make that decision by Saturday evening.
De Blasio said New York City would also be closing two sites per borough to traffic in a bid to open up more spaces for people to relax, but that each site will be patrolled by police. Those sites would be announced by Thursday.
De Blasio said he thinks any of the 5,000 people in New York City jails with five underlying conditions or over age 70 shouldn’t be held in the jail system amid the pandemic.
“We have to work through some very intense, complicated legal issues, case by case in the case of those individuals,” de Blasio said. “But that category of people, those in immediate danger because of the specific nature of coronavirus, I strongly believe they all should be released.”
Alternate side parking remains suspended through Tuesday, March 31. It will be reviewed week by week, de Blasio said.
CitiBike also stepped forward, offering all essential workers a free 30-day membership.