NYC Plans Pandemic Response Center as Positivity Rate Tops 5%

New York City plans to partner with private companies to create an institute devoted to predicting and responding to future pandemics, Mayor Bill de Blasio said.

His announcement came as new reported cases reached a weekly average of 1,962 and the citywide infection rate hit 5.19% -- the highest levels since May for both.

The city will request proposals from drug and biotech companies, hospitals and other public health centers for a Pandemic Response Institute. The institute will be housed at its Alexandria Center for Life Science on Manhattan’s east side. The center worked with companies to spur inventions of locally made ventilators and protective equipment in the spring, when Covid-19 hospitalizations averaged more than 1,600 a day.

The city’s latest data showed 174 hospitalized with Covid-19 symptoms as of Tuesday, a number the mayor described as “a serious increase.” During the summer and fall, admissions totaled fewer than 50 a day. Despite the rising numbers, the mayor said the city’s private and public hospitals remain well within their capacity to handle such increases.

“It’s quite clear at this point that this second wave unfortunately is right upon us,” de Blasio said during a Thursday news briefing. “Even though that number has gone up, it’s still a very different reality in our hospitals than what we experienced in the spring. The ability of our hospitals to deal with patients is greatly improved.”

Promoting the city’s recovery from its darkest days in March and April, when deaths from the virus exceeded 500 a day, the mayor said the Pandemic Response Institute would provide worldwide research on outbreak detection and management. The institute is part of an economic development strategy to increase public and private investment in the life sciences, taking advantage of millions of dollars in grants from private foundations and government.

The mayor plans to select a long-term partner for the project by mid-2021 and begin operations by year’s end, which would mark the end of his two terms in office.

“This is a very important part of our future, it’s going to be the leading edge of New York City becoming the public health capital of the world,” de Blasio said. “We need to be one of the places that receives those resources because we’re best positioned to act.”

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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