Chair Levine’s Opening Statement at NYCC Coronavirus Oversite Hearing at the Committees on Health and Hospitals

Chair Levine’s Opening Statement at  The Committees on Health and Hospitals - March 5, 2020

Oversight: New York City’s preparedness for Coronavirus/COVID-19

Good afternoon everyone. I am Council Member Mark Levine, Chair of the Committee on Health. I’d like to thank my colleagues, Speaker Johnson and Council Member Rivera, for chairing this hearing with me today. 

I want to thank the array of administration officials who have joined us today, and I particularly want to single out the health department.

To successfully battle any public health crisis--certainly one on the scale of coronavirus and COVID19--it is critical that the public be armed with accurate information from trustworthy sources.

And thus the goal of this hearing is to focus on the facts, on the science, to highlight the City’s preparedness, to dispel misinformation, and to quell unwarranted fears that can lead to needless, and even harmful, actions by the public.

So some facts:

  • 80% of those who contract COVID-19 will in fact experience only light symptoms, roughly akin to a cold, and not requiring medical treatment.
  • On the other extreme, 14 experienced severe disease and approximately 5% of patients will become critically ill, likely requiring hospitalization, with fatalities in some smaller portion of cases. The majority of those most seriously affected are older individuals--in fact children are the least vulnerable age group. And many of those with the most serious medical repercussions from COVID-19 have pre-existing medical conditions such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, hepatitis B, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), chronic kidney diseases, and cancer

More facts:

  • There is no recommendation at this time--repeat no recommendation at this time--for New Yorkers to limit their travel within the City, to avoid public gatherings and public transportation, or to change anything about where they obtain their food or how they prepare it.
  • And there is no need--and no excuse--for avoiding any neighborhood in this city, in particular Chinatown and other Asian communities, which are now struggling in the face of a crippling economic blow brought on by the unfounded shunning of their businesses by the public.
  • There is no recommendation for anyone to wear a mask if they are not sick, or have not been instructed to do so by a medical provider.  Nor, however, should anyone be targeted for harassment if they do choose to wear a mask.
  • And given that the confirmed cases in New York so far have been concentrated in the Jewish community, in a pre-existing climate of rising anti-Semitism, we must fiercely oppose any further attempt to scapegoat or stigmatize Jewish New Yorkers.  

This hearing is about helping New Yorkers understand the roles we all have to play in getting through this crisis. It is about understanding the steps our health department and other City agencies are taking to protect New Yorkers and to prepare for a more serious turn in this crisis.  It’s about ensuring we have adequate resources and plans in place should the most serious scenarios come to pass.

I firmly believe our city government is up to this challenge.  I know our city is up to this challenge. And I very much look forward to the discussion ahead.

And now turn I’ll it over to Council Member Carlina Rivera, Chair of the Committee on Hospitals.

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