NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – Mayor Bill de Blasio says the city’s fight against coronavirus is showing some signs of hope, but the economic battle is just beginning.

“I want to make sure no one stops practicing social distancing and shelter in place. We must continue those strategies if we’re going to protect lives,” the mayor said Tuesday morning. “But I can say in the last couple of days, something is starting to change. We don’t know if it will be sustained, but it is meaningful now.

“We projected to you even on Sunday that we had seen a little bit of progress in terms of when we were going to need ventilators. We’ve seen more progress now,” he added. “That means the number of people showing up in our hospitals who need a ventilator – that situation has improved a bit in recent days.”

CORONAVIRUS PANDEMIC

The mayor said he was encouraged by the latest ventilator numbers, but troubled by another figure: unemployment.

“The number is staggering. The initial projection is at least half a million New Yorkers are either out of work or soon will be,” he said. “That is the kind of level of unemployment and economic distress – the only comparison you can make for that – is the Great Depression.”

He was asked why the city hasn’t released COVID-19 victims’ ethnicities and whether the pandemic is worsening inequalities. He said he plans to release that data later this week.

“What it will show, and I’ve already spoke to this from the maps that the health department has put out, this is clearly tracking health disparities in general. I’ve said that before, I’m going to say it again, I cannot be more blunt,” he added. “This disease is affecting people disproportionately in lower income communities, in communities that have had more health problems historically, and in communities of color. The extent of that disparity we’re still trying to fully understand.”

CORONAVIRUS: NY Health Dept. | NY Call 1-(888)-364-3065 | NYC Health Dept. | NYC Call 311, Text COVID to 692692 | NJ COVID-19 Info Hub | NJ Call 1-(800)-222-1222 or 211, Text NJCOVID to 898211 | CT Health Dept. | CT Call 211 | Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

De Blasio delivered his daily briefing from PS1 on the Lower East Side, where 3,100 grab-and-go meals were distributed in the past week. He said 2.6 million have been handed out at 434 sites over the past three weeks.

“We will not let any New Yorker go hungry, literately. We will not let any New Yorker go hungry,” he said. “We have been planning from the beginning of this crisis to address the hunger problem.”

He asked newly appointed Food Czar Kathryn Garcia to come up with “a system that we’ve never had to have in decades in this city, but a system to feed people on a mass scale, if it came to that.”

In addition to grab-and-go meals, the city is also delivering meals to seniors and others who can’t leave their homes. For more information call 311, text “food” or “comida” to 877 877 or visit nyc.gov/getfood.

PHOTO GALLERY: A Look Inside NYC’s Viral ‘Warzone’

The mayor thanked LavAzza Coffee for donating 60,000 bags of coffee for hospital workers, the “Health Care Heroes” campaign for contributing 300,000 packages of food and supplies for their families, New York Road Runners for donating 20,000 pairs of gloves and 10,000 meals, and other Good Samaritans who are volunteering to help.

“These folks are working so hard under such adverse circumstances, they often don’t even have time to go outside for even a few minutes, they don’t have time to go to the deli like they used to at the hospital or the cafeteria,” he said. “They need help in every way they can get it, and we want food to get to them. So many people are responding in communities all over New York City and getting food to hospitals, helping our health care workers directly.”

He also thanked Oregon and California for sharing their ventilators with New York and the national stockpile.

“There is something happening all over this country, where people are pouring out their hearts to New York, they’re standing with us. People all over the world are standing with us,” he said. “We’re in a fight but we will not lose this fight, we will prevail. And I have great faith that with all the help we’re getting, we’re going to see this through together.”

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