NYC Can’t Return to Normal Without Wide Testing, Mayor Says

(Bloomberg) -- New York City may be close to seeing a decline in new coronavirus infections, but Mayor Bill de Blasio says a lack of universal testing means it could be summer or fall before the city can start returning to normal.

“This is the crucial need if we’re going to transcend to the next level,” de Blasio said Monday at his daily virus briefing.

The city has a shortage of testing swabs, the mayor said. The city can’t sustain a low level of transmission without a federal commitment to supply millions of testing kits, he said.

The city has had fewer new coronavirus-related hospital and intensive-care unit admissions, de Blasio said, with a citywide drop of 80 admissions on Saturday from the day before and a net drop of 22 public-hospital intensive-care beds. Hundreds a day continue to be admitted to hospitals, and more than 800 remain in public-hospital intensive care, the mayor said.

All the data must move downward over several days to reach a phase of low-level transmission, the mayor said. “If we don’t get it right, or God forbid this disease resurges, we’re going to have to tighten restrictions,” de Blasio said.

Normality, or any semblance, won’t come soon, de Blasio said. Businesses won’t be able to reopen until the city “gets the health-care part of this right,” he said. “That means doing it right for weeks, or a few months and making sure we shut the door on this.”

The city isn’t close to having enough testing kits to contain the virus in the event stay-at-home restrictions achieve a sustained period of low transmission, de Blasio said. A shortage of swabs and other supplies continues to vex the city as it struggles just to maintain enough testing kits to monitor health workers and first responders.

Health officials intend to target a $10 million ad campaign at minority and immigrant communities hit disproportionately by the virus, the mayor said. The outreach in 15 languages will feature subway and print ads in ethnic newspapers, direct mail to households and social-media advisories.

“We have a lot of work to do to address communities of color,” de Blasio said.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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