Because of how time consuming it is to cover three press conferences a day, I will be skipping the questions on this one. Today New York City Mayor Bill De Blasio joins us live from the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center. Most people know this place as the annual site of the US Open. For many people in the event industry, working the US Open is a yearly tradition. So, I anticipate that, like the Javits Center before it, this one will be another painfully personal location for a lot of us.
BILL DE BLASIO
- Yesterday, the USNS Comfort added 1,000 hospital beds to our city’s fight. Today, we add another iconic location to our cause.
- The USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center (better known as the site of The US Open), will be converted into a field hospital. It will have a 350 bed capacity.
- He says that he knows it’s sad to see a location like this used for this purpose, but it will save lives. We all look forward to seeing tennis played here again, but for now this is an inspiring reminder of New Yorkers working together.
- He knows we are all experiencing grief, but we cannot allow ourselves to be paralyzed by the pain. We have to keep fighting.
- We have lost more public servants. We mourn them, and pray for their families.
- He says this will go on for weeks, and it will be tough. But, we will survive.
- Before the coronavirus, this city had about 20,000 hospital beds in total. In the next week or two, we aim to triple that number.
- 60,000 hospital beds sounds daunting, but look at how fast we have been able to create these field hospitals. We are just going to keep on creating.
- He says that he has not heard a single “no” this week. Every person they have asked to donate space has said yes.
- This facility will specifically serve as the overflow for Elmhurst Hospital.
- PERSONAL NOTE: Speaking as someone who has worked the US Open many, many times, this is another one of those surreal moments that you need some context to fully grasp. The US Open has traditionally been a playground for the rich. All of the celebrities come to see it. One cocktail costs $20. In many ways, it is an iconic symbol of privilege. Yes, you can get affordable tickets to the US Open if you love tennis. But, if you don’t have a sizable budget, you can forget about eating there, drinking there, or buying anything from the shops. New York City public hospitals, on the other hand, tend to be associated with the poor and the working class. They are constantly stressed and overcrowded because there are only 11 public hospitals in New York City vs 160+ private ones. Most people don’t choose to go to a public hospital if they can afford private care, even though our public hospitals are generally good hospitals. Now, in a strange sort of role reversal, all of those front row seats that were once reserved for the elite of our society to watch other millionaires play tennis will look out at our public hospital patients instead. A friend of mine who came down with the virus posted a status on facebook today that said in part “don’t take anything for granted. The world is shifting.” Watching this press conference, it seems an appropriate quote to leave here too.
- Unlike the USNS Comfort and the Javits Center, this facility WILL be taking coronavirus patients.
- It will take three week to fully build out this facility, but they will be able to take their first patients as early as next week.
- We thank the USTA, FEMA, the army corps of engineers, and everyone at the city who helped make this happen.
- A few days ago, we all heard the disturbing news that we have broken the record for the most calls to 911 basically everyday for the last week. The number he gave us last time was 7,000 calls a day. FEMA has thankfully sent us help to deal with that call volume.
- FEMA has given us 250 additional ambulances to help our EMS providers.
- 500 nurses were added to the public hospital system last week, this week an additional 1,500 are coming.
- At the time of the press conference, New York City had a full quarter of all COVID-19 cases in the United States.
- He says again that Sunday, April 5th is when we expect to see a huge increase in the number of cases.
- He has asked the federal government to send more aid, and he is still waiting on an answer.
- But, he says the federal government has been stepping up and doing more for us, and he hopes that they will honor our request.
- Last week we received an additional 2,500 ventilators. We still need more, and we are waiting to hear from the federal government about this too.
- Our total need for ventilators is still 15,000. We need them as soon as possible because our peak may be coming very soon.
- If anyone in this city has a ventilator, we need every single one we have.
- If you have a ventilator that you can donate, please go to http://www.nyc.gov/helpnow
- From this point forward, the state of new york will be pooling resources and distributing them to the hospitals.
- As of yesterday 900 inmates have been released from our jail system. These are people who are at high risk from the virus, and were not considered a threat to society.
- More inmates will be released, and updates will be given as they happen.
- All non essential construction must stop immediately. If you are doing non essential construction, you will be fined and shut down.
- If you had a tax lien on your property and your property was due to be sold by the state, that sale will be postponed until August.
- Alternate side parking will be suspended for an additional two weeks, that means the suspension is currently extended through Tuesday, April 14th.
- They have decided to shut down ten playgrounds that were not complying with the social distancing rules. Those ten playgrounds will be locked up starting tomorrow. If they see non compliance at other parks, those parks will be shut down too.
- An employee at the Amazon warehouse in Staten Island claims that they were fired for bringing up health and safety concerns at work. The city takes this allegation very seriously and has ordered the human rights commission to investigate Amazon immediately. If this allegation is proven to be true, it would be a violation of human rights and the city will take action on it immediately. The Mayor has also ordered a police inspection of the facility to ensure that social distancing is being observed, and the inspections will continue to happen as needed.
- PERSONAL NOTE: I know someone who worked in that warehouse before coronavirus, and their description of the working conditions was awful. They compared the treatment there to slavery, and when news of this human rights violation went public they told me they were not surprised. So, with that in mind, I tend to believe that the employee was telling the truth. JUST MY TWO CENTS.
- Life has become strange and troubling, but we will continue to fight back. New Yorkers are not people who get defeated easily. He says he has faith in New Yorkers, and in New York City. Me too, Bill. Me too.
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