VIDEO: NYC Council Member: Coronavirus closure decisions weigh ‘major costs’ against public health risks

From CNBC's Squawk Box

New York City Councilman Mark Levine told CNBC on Wednesday that city officials have to consider the ripple effects of any mandatory closures due to the coronavirus. 

“Because every one of these actions has a real cost, it has to be taken by weighing the pros and cons and a real sober assessment of risk,” Levine said on “Squawk Box.” 

Levine, who chairs the council’s health committee, said a hypothetical school closure demonstrates the complexities at hand. 



“All of these decisions have major costs. If we close the schools, hundreds of thousands of kids will have nowhere to get lunch and breakfast,” Levine said. “Parents will be home providing child care, unable to go to work.” 

Levine’s comments came one day after Mayor Bill de Blasio said new cases of the coronavirus in the city were “coming in so intensely.” 

As of Tuesday afternoon, de Blasio said almost 2,000 city residents were in voluntary isolation while 30 people were in mandatory quarantine. 

Levine said the city may soon offer a general recommendation for all residents to avoid large public events. 

More than 120,000 cases of the coronavirus have been confirmed across the globe, including more than 1,000 in the United States. New York state has more than 170 confirmed cases, the second most in the U.S., behind Washington state.

Levine said the spread of the coronavirus in New York City, which as of Wednesday morning has 46 confirmed cases, is “beyond the point where we can contain individual cases, where we can track down patients and trace all their contacts.” 

“It’s out their in the general population. That’s what we call community spread,” he said.

The economic impact of the coronavirus for the city is “going to be massive,” Levine said. The city relies heavily on tourism, which has declined, and widespread telecommuting policies means less money will be spent at restaurants, Levine said. 

The consequences for small businesses are already being felt in some neighborhoods, Levine said.

“We’ve talked to businesses with revenue down 70% in places like Chinatown. Many are already closing. It’s heartbreaking,” he added. “That was drive by prejudice in an early stage of this crisis when there really was no risk.” 

But the risk of closure for small businesses is real, Levine said. The city has started to offer zero-interest loans to some of them, provided they meet certain requirements.

Some, including CNBC’s Jim Cramer, have called for the federal government to also take steps to assist small and medium-sized businesses at a national level. 

President Donald Trump plans to meet on Wednesday with Wall Street executives to discuss an economic response to the coronavirus fallout. Trump, in a Tuesday meeting with Republican lawmakers on Capitol Hill, pitched a 0% payroll tax rate for employers and employees that would last through the rest of this year, a White House official told CNBC.

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