On Monday, the Blue Room at City Hall seemed a little too close for comfort, so today, Mayor Bill de Blasio held his daily press conference in the sprawling City Council Chamber. There were only a handful of reporters and photographers there, and the chairs had been pre-arranged to keep all the reporters far away from each other.
News is coming at us fast, and changing everyday.
A phrase New Yorkers can expect to hear often in the next several days is “shelter-in-place’.” However, the exact definition of the phrase is up for debate.
The Mayor is advising New Yorkers to “prepare for a shelter-in-place,” sometime in the next 48 hours; however, Governor Andrew Cuomo had said earlier that morning that, “I have no interest whatsoever and no plan whatsoever to quarantine any city.”
When asked if “shelter-in-place” is the same thing as a “quarantine,” the Mayor said that, “as a layman,” he did not consider them to be the same. “Shelter-in-Place” is a “way of life,” the Mayor said, but there was more confusion when, moments later, a fresh release from the Secretary to the Governor Melissa DeRosa read:
“Any blanket quarantine or shelter in place policy would require State action and as the Governor has said, there is no consideration of that for any locality at this time.”
Perhaps New Yorkers will get some clear definitions from both Albany and the City by tomorrow.
- The Mayor does not “assume that the military would be involved.”
- “This is a decision that should be made with the State, it should be made the next 48 hours given the trajectory of this crisis.” – Mayor de Blasio
- “Less essential” businesses and personnel should stay at home and go out only for certain reasons. – Mayor de Blasio
- The Mayor has “not fully” come to the conclusion that shelter-in-place would be the right decision, but City Comptroller Scott Stringer and City Council Speaker Corey Johnson both came out in favor of shelter-in-place.
On COVID-19 Testing:
- The city has partnered with a private company called Bioreference Laboratories to provide COVID 19 testing. They have committed to testing up to 5,000 New Yorkers each day.
- The partnership “cut the time it takes to get a result in half,” according to Dr. Michael Katz, President and Chief Executive Officer of NYC Health + Hospitals
- The test is free. “If they have insurance, we’ll bill the insurance. If they don’t have insurance, they’ll not be charged in any way for their test,” says Dr. Michael Katz.
- “The character of this outbreak is changing and with widespread community transmission[,] New Yorkers are more likely to get COVID-19 from their neighbor than they are from someone who has traveled,” said Commissioner Oxiris Barbot, Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.
- If people have symptoms, STAY HOME. If you do not get better after three or four days, then call your doctor.
On Financial Relief:
- On the federal level, the Trump administration is discussing getting cash into the hands of Americans in the “next two weeks,” according to Steven Mnuchin. The sum mentioned was $1000.
- On the state level, Governor Cuomo announced that “NYers with student debt, medical debt and other state-referred debt will have payments frozen for at least 30 days.”
- The Governor also introduced “a bill guaranteeing job protection & pay for New Yorkers who have been quarantined as a result of novel coronavirus”
- The Department of Investigations notified all City marshals that evictions were suspended “indefinitely.” Read more in The Queens Daily Eagle
- WholeFoods is hiring cyclists in NYC to keep up with deliveries. Read more at StreetsBlog.
- The MTA put out a ridership update, which reported:
- 60% Down on Subways, 49% Down on Buses, 90% Down on Metro-North, 67% Down on LIRR
- Senator Brad Hoylman said that “we need a federal bail out of our transit system. New York can’t survive without it.”
- Alternate Side Parking is suspended from Wednesday, March 18th through Wednesday, March 24th. The situation will then be revisited: according to officials, there are street cleaning and sanitation concerns that will have to be addressed over the next week.
- Everyone, from City Council Speaker Cory Johnson, to filmmakers Josh and Benny Safdi, tweet-shamed the city for not having suspended it sooner.
- I, Alex Brook Lynn, had to sit in my 1987 Cadillac from 11am until 12:30pm this morning, before running down to City Hall for a press conference, which was scheduled for 12:30pm, and then got pushed to 2pm, which then eventually started at 2:27pm. Not that it bothered me.
- The East River Ferries will still continue to serve alcohol and food. “It’s all takeout,” said the Mayor, “so, by definition, it fits that model. And the ferries are still part of how people get around and we’re still keeping our transportation network up.”
- Mayor de Blasio signed an executive order banning all rideshares and “pooling of customers.” The Mayor was quick to point out however that couples may ride together but only if they are “real couples,” and families.
On Criminal Justice:
- 31 US Prosecutors released a statement on deterring the spread of COVID-19 “amongst the 2.3 million adults and children held in prisons, local jails, youth correctional facilities, immigration detention centers, and other forms of confinement.”
- Eric Gonzalez, Brooklyn District Attorney, will not prosecute low-level crimes “that don’t jeopardize public safety,” while the COVID-19 crisis continues.
- The city is already assessing currently incarcerated individuals “case-by-case” to see if anyone can be released. “We don’t have a final decision or final numbers, but that evaluation is happening today,” says the Mayor, who would “like,” a decision in the next 48 hours as to which incarcerated persons will be released.
- There will be new protocols during arrests, in case the arrested person has flu-like symptoms. They will not go to central booking and contact with first responders will be limited. The person will have access to a video conference system to “start the workings of the criminal justice system.” Where these people will be taken is unclear.
- Confirmed cases in NYC (at 3pm): 814
- Confirmed cases in NYC (at 10pm): 923