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With plenty of ventilators on-hand, Mayor de Blasio turns efforts to boosted community testing

Photo by Ed Reed/Mayoral Photography Office

In a crisis that has only shown that New York City does not have enough supplies to deal with an epidemic, Mayor Bill de Blasio said Sunday that the city is set with ventilators for at least the next week.

But when it comes to providing enough tests to isolate cases before they infect others, the mayor said not nearly enough has been done.

On Easter Sunday, de Blasio said increased testing would be made available in the communities hardest hit by COVID-19 through existing NYC Health & Hospital facilities in each borough. These tests will be launched later in the week.

For the first time during the crisis, de Blasio said a shortage of ventilators will not be an issue for the coming week. Providing personal protective equipment for those administering the tests will be another issue which the testing plan will be dependent on in the coming days.

“We see clear disparity in the impact, who has been hit hardest; communities of color, lower income communities, immigrant communities, folks who are already vulnerable already because they haven’t had the healthcare they’ve needed throughout their life,” de Blasio said. “By the end of next week, we will have created community testing sites, and these are targeted to where they will have the biggest impact.”

NYC Health & Hospital locations in East New York, Morrisania, Harlem, Jamaica and the Vanderbilt Clinic in Staten Island will provide testing to those most vulnerable in these communities, the mayor said. De Blasio said he will be asking the federal government for the supplies to administer 110,000 tests throughout the five boroughs.

About 25,000 of those test kits would go to NYC Health & Hospitals to address their current needs, according to de Blasio.

All New Yorkers were advised to were face covers in public last week and now the mayor is instructing all city workers, starting tomorrow, to do the same. Governor Andrew Cuomo issued a similar executive order on Sunday; every employer of essential workers must provide a cloth or mask of some kind to employees, he said in his own press conference Sunday.

Then de Blasio turned to the elephant in the room — the kerfuffle over his announcement Saturday that New York City schools would be closed for the remainder of the 2019-20 school year. Cuomo had said afterward that the decision was merely de Blasio’s “opinion,” and that he had only been informed of it prior to his April 11 press conference.

On Sunday, de Blasio explained it was a decision his administration had settled upon just the night before.

“When it comes to a decision like this – I know [Chancellor Richard Carranza] feels the same way – our job is to protect the children of New York City… and it’s our job is to make sure that we beat back the coronavirus once and for all. It’s abundantly clear that in order to do that we need to keep our schools closed for the remainder of the school year,” de Blasio said.

Cuomo said Sunday all schools will remain closed while the pandemic crisis persists. But the decision to reopen will be decided on a tristate level, considering the relationship schools have to commerce in the region.

“I’m not prepared to say what we will be doing in June,” Cuomo said. “If you say the schools are closed through June, you’re effectively say the businesses will be closed through June.”

While Cuomo hopes localities in the state, as well as New Jersey and Connecticut, would agree to the plan, he insisted there would be no choice but to get on the same page for them.

During the governor’s press conference, he reported numbers of hospitalizations and discharges that was representative of the curve hitting an apex as a plateau. While this was good news, he said, the terrible news of not only increased ICU admissions and intubations were up but that deaths continue in the 700s per day.

There were 758 deaths in the state since yesterday pushing the sum closer to 10,000, the administration reported.

Cuomo’s statements on ventilators were as optimistic as de Blasio’s on the ventilator front; New York will not be facing a shortage going forward in the short term.

This story first appeared on amny.com.

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