De Blasio Calls For Military Aid As NYC COVID-19 Cases Rise Rapidly

By WCBS Newsradio 880

NEW YORK (WCBS 880) — New York Mayor Bill de Blasio on Wednesday called again for military intervention amid the coronavirus outbreak.

In an interview with WCBS 880’s Steve Scott and Michael Wallace, the mayor said President Donald Trump should “fully activate” the United States military to assist in flattening the curve of infection.

"All military assets that are not involved internationally in protecting us overseas should be immediately deployed to the parts of the country where the need is greatest. The military has amazing medical capacity – logistical capacity – I mean, we’re running out of some basic supplies now that we need to guarantee for when this really gets bad in the weeks ahead," the mayor said.

He also called on New Yorkers to be prepared for intense efforts in the coming weeks.

“This is gonna be a war effort and most New Yorkers haven't experienced what this city and this country is like in a full scale war,” de Blasio said. “Everyone is gonna have to work together to overcome the crisis.”

Mayor de Blasio confirmed 11 people have died in the city and there are currently 1,871 confirmed cases. He predicted last week that the city would have over 1,000 confirmed cases.

“This is tough news to hear because these numbers just keep growing and I want to tell all your listeners, I mean, that to some extent this is because we have much, much more testing availability,” he said. “And we finally have gotten the U.S. federal support but it’s nowhere near were we need it to be.”

On Tuesday, the mayor warned residents of a possible shelter-in-place order but, noted on WCBS 880 that it doesn’t seem likely if Gov. Andrew Cuomo is not on board with the decision.

While speaking to Jake Tapper on CNN on Tuesday, Cuomo said such an order cannot be in effect in one part of the state and not in another.

"I'm a New York City boy, born and raised if you can't tell, and we're very good at getting around the rules. You say shelter in place if you stay in New York City, I'll go stay with my sister in Westchester, right? I'll go stay with a buddy in the neighboring suburb of Nassau," he said. "So I don't think you can really do a policy like that just in one part of the state. So I don't think it works."

Cuomo said only the state government can issue that type of order. 

"As a matter of fact, I'm going so far that I don't even think you can do a state-wide policy," Cuomo adds.

He reiterated those remarks Wednesday at a news conference saying, "The rumors and how they spread and 'I'm going to be quarantined, I'm going to be locked out, they're not going to allow me to leave my house I better stock up on groceries' — that's not going to happen," Cuomo insisted. 

Mayor de Blasio seemed to understand the move was a state decision and clarified what he was trying to accomplish with a shelter-in-place order by pointing to San Francisco.

“I should have said this more clearly yesterday, so I wanna make it clear now: the model I'm looking at is what's going on in San Francisco right now,” de Blasio said. “San Francisco has said to people: ‘stay home.’ But, they're not making it optional. They're saying, ‘stay home, only essential work happens.’”

De Blasio says he is in contact with the governor and the two are having a “productive conversation.” They will speak more about a possible shelter-in-place order over the next day or so, but notes that New Yorkers seem to be abiding by the optional recommendations.

He assured residents that a people would not be ordered to stay in their homes and borders would not be shut if the order was enacted.

“It is not as draconian I think, as some people may have started to assume, and I do not see any context for closing borders and things like that are closing bridges. What I see is the need to really tighten up and try and continue to knock down the speed with which this epidemic is emerging.”

Meanwhile, the city continues to scramble to create new hospital space as the virus is expected to peak in about 45 days. There is some relief heading our way, as President Trump has deployed a medical ship to New York, which will treat patients that are not infected by COVID-19 to free up space in the city's medical centers. 

Mayor de Blasio applauded the move, saying it was desperately needed.

Earlier in the day, Brooklyn Councilman Steven Levin told MSNBC that “no vacancy” signs will be going up on city hospitals by early April – meaning the city needs to free up space now.

“You will see a piece of paper go up on their emergency department on some of our major hospitals saying, 'no more vacancies, we can't take you,' and that is exactly when you will start to see a surge in cases of critical cases,” he said.

Levin and Council Speaker Corey Johnson say Madison Square Garden and the Javits Center could serve as mass quarantine centers for less severe cases. A similar approach was taken in Wuhan, China.

Mayor de Blasio agrees that large venues such as those can definitely be used for makeshift medical facilities.

He’s also called on retired medical personnel to step up and offer their help to support the efforts against the coronavirus pandemic.