A light dinging sound, that could be heard in the background, represented another person joining the Telephone Town Hall.
Brooklyn’s 42nd District Assemblymember Rodneyse Bichotte (D-Flatbush, Ditmas Park) joined forces with City Councilmember Farah Louis (Flatbush, East Flatbush, Midwood, Marine Park, Flatlands, Kensington) to bring the public an hour-long conference call with several health and city commissioners last night.
The aim was to not only quickly update their constituents on the city and state’s developments during the coronavirus pandemic, but also answer questions that were submitted beforehand.
“I would personally like to thank today’s panelists and presenters that carved out time in their schedules to share information,” began Louis.
The speakers, ranging from MTA to health experts and officials, were invited to answer the people’s questions.
“In New York City there’s a community-wide transmission, which means the source of people’s infection is not known,” said Dr. Jennifer Rosen, the Unit Chief of Vaccine-Preventable Disease Surveillance at the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DHMH). “Everybody should act as if they’ve been exposed regardless of whether or not they’ve had contact with somebody who’s had a lab-confirmed test.”
She recounted some of the things heard steadily in the media such as symptoms of the virus and underlying health conditions for people at risk. She addressed the back and forth over a supposed chloroquine ‘cure’ circulated by President Donald Trump during a press conference that spread like wildfire in the news recently.
“There’s no approved treatment or vaccine at this time although studies are underway in the U.S, China, and elsewhere. However, the earliest a vaccine would be available would be 12 months from now,” said Dr. Rosen.
Since there is no treatment, Rosen’s main advice was cleanliness and to stay at home. She said requests for unnecessary testing cuts into resources and supplies reserved for hospitalized or the infected with severe cases. She said if you feel sick, stay at home and administer home treatments first. Going to a medical office while sick, unless necessary, potentially exposes more people to the coronavirus.
She also noted that routine use of masks isn’t recommended if you’re not sick.
SUNY Downstate Medical Center President Dr. Wayne J. Riley spoke in the same vein as dispelling rumors that have cropped up on social media platforms.
Social media memes implying Black, Caribbean, or African people and descendants are somehow immune to the virus, while hilarious, are completely untrue, he said.
“Anybody can get the coronavirus and test positive,” said Dr. Riley. There are both foreign and domestic cases affecting different races, classes, creeds and several age groups, including people in their 20s, 30s and 40s. Not to mention Kevin Durant and other Brooklyn Nets basketball players that just tested positive for the virus.
“We have not seen such a pathogenic, virulent, infectious disease in the United States since 1918,” said Dr. Riley, referring to the devastating H1N1 pandemic, also known as the ‘Spanish Flu’. The CDC estimated that about 500 million people became infected with this influenza, resulting in about 50 million deaths worldwide.
He reiterated some of the advice that Dr. Rosen had given earlier in the call, adding that surfaces that you touch often are important to disinfect. “The dirtiest thing you touch is your phone,” said Dr. Riley.
“We’ve doubled down, and in some cases, tripled down on our cleanings,” said New York City Interim President Sarah Feinberg. “All of the places where customers are likely to touch, railings, turnstiles, benches. If you’re likely to touch it we’re disinfecting it every single night.”
Feinberg said ridership may have fallen to 71 percent for trains and 60 percent for buses, but diligent MTA workers have been keeping everything running. She said that as far as Access-A-Ride goes they will continue service but no longer do shared rides.
“Thank you everyone for joining,” said Bichotte as she gave her general updates on state business.
Here are her quick updates as of Thursday, March 19 about 7 p.m.
- Out of New York State’s 4,152 cases, the city has 3,615 confirmed cases with 22 deaths so far. Brooklyn being the largest borough in the city makes up the biggest portion of those cases with 1,030.
- Officials convened in Albany to take an emergency vote on paid sick leave, and moved up the deadline for petitioning for elections. The deadline is now tomorrow March 20 as opposed to mid-April, after which the Board of Elections will effectively be shutting down.
- Since March 18, the Department of Motor Vehicles will be taking appointments only.
- She also mentioned Governor Andrew Cuomo’s announcement about the Department of Financial Services issuing a 90-day mortgage relief to homeowners.
The call-in its entirety was recorded and should be available on the city officials’ websites with the warning that some information will be outdated with how fast things are developing.