With New York City bracing for the peak of the coronavirus outbreak to potentially hit in as soon as a week, Mayor Bill de Blasio (D) issued an urgent call to federal officials, including President Trump, as well as regular city dwellers to step up with help, and fast.
“We have a quarter of all coronavirus cases in America,” de Blasio said Tuesday afternoon from the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Queens, where courts have been turned into a makeshift hospital for coronavirus patients. “This coming Sunday, April 5, is a demarcation line. This is when we must be prepared for what we expect is a huge increase.”
De Blasio said he’s requested 1,000 nurses, 300 respiratory therapists and 150 doctors from the ranks of both reserve and deployed military personnel to boost caregiving capacity when the wave of new cases hits. He said the federal government has already supplied 2,500 ventilators, a crucial resource during the pandemic, but that the city needs a total of 15,000 in short order.
“I have reiterated that need and that request … and I’m waiting on an answer from the White House,” de Blasio said. He thanked the federal government for showing “a much more vigorous approach in recent weeks,” but stressed that the window to shore up resources before the outbreak’s apex in the city was small.
“We know April is going to be very tough,” he said.
De Blasio promised to send any ventilators received from the federal government to wherever in the country they’re most needed once the crisis in New York is contained.
The mayor also called on oral surgeons, plastic surgeons and veterinarians to offer up their devices as well.
“If you’ve got a ventilator in your office, in your operating room, we need it now,” he said. “This is a war effort. Everyone needs to contribute. You’ll get them back when this is over.”
De Blasio confirmed several other efforts to slow the growth rate of new cases, including the release of 900 jail detainees held at Rikers Island — largely those eligible due to their low-level offense or underlying conditions that create a greater health risk. He said he expected more releases to follow, but the number was not immediately unclear. De Blasio also halted all nonessential, non-emergency construction and postponed tax lien sales for several months.
Amid reports that an Amazon warehouse worker in Staten Island who organized a strike Monday was fired, de Blasio said the city’s commission on human rights would open an investigation immediately (Amazon told CNBC the worker was fired for violating social distancing guidelines). The sheriff’s office is inspecting the warehouse to ensure Amazon is complying with social distancing orders. (Amazon chief executive Jeff Bezos also owns The Washington Post.)