New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio addressed the city and the nation on Tuesday afternoon, reporting that the city was in possession of a new batch of viral testing kits capable of detecting the deadly Wuhan coronavirus. In NYC, the nation's most populous city, the virus has been especially potent with 814 confirmed cases thus far, including seven deaths.
De Blasio minced no words about the limited number of daily tests available, saying New Yorkers already hospitilized, otherwise compromised, and exibihitng the most severe symptoms would be tested before others. The "highly prioritized" testing, de Blasio said, was not recommended at this time for otherwise healthy, non-elderly people with mild symptoms. For people with mild symptoms not in immediate danger, he said, just stay home in self-quarantine.
The mayor stopped short of declaring a "Shelter in place" for New York, which would require residents to stay indoors with minimal exceptions including purchasing food and medication. "There are tremendously substantial challenges that would have to be met," the mayor said of the possibility of restricting the mobility of citizens. "Right now, with so many New Yorkers losing employment, losing paychecks ... a 'Shelter in place' begs a lot of questions." De Blasio also said that the city should brace for the reality of an order to stay home vowing to deliver a decision within 48 hours.
Efforts to encourage social distancing in New York have already been applied, including a mandate that restaurants be available for pick up and delivery only as well as a closure of all bars that do not serve food. Delivery of alcohol from restaurants has been temporarily permitted in light of the pandemic.
New York City public schools were also closed on Monday until at least April 20 after much deliberation and concern about childcare for working parents. De Blasio said on Sunday that with the closures, the city must put a plan in place that will provide childcare to those working in the healthcare and first responders. So far, the city has implemented a plan to provide meals from the closed schools.
De Blasio also called on the federal government to offer assistance as the city of over 9 million people grinds to a stand still. "We will need, quickly, support from the federal government," he said, also calling on Congress to mobilize the armed forces. De Blasio recalled the financial crisis of 2008, the Great Depression, and the Spanish Flu epidemic of 1918 as comparable crises, suggesting that financial support needed should evoke elements of the The New Deal of the 1930s.
The Democratic mayor, who ran a brief, unsuccessful presidential campaign in 2019, also criticized the government for bailing out banks during the housing and financial fallout of 2008. If the government could give money for such bailouts, de Blasio levied, certainly they could give money to New Yorkers losing income because of the Wuhan virus pandemic.
De Blasio also issued an executive order applied to for-hire vehicles that banned pooling of customers. Made in agreement with Uber and Lyft, the order prevents rideshare companies from picking up multiple fares, a common money saving measure, in an effort to protect the health of the drivers and riders.