De Blasio Calls For National Enlistment Program For Healthcare Workers

WCBS 880 Newsroom
April 03, 2020 - 6:08 pm

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NEW YORK (WCBS 880) — Mayor Bill de Blasio is calling for a national enlistment program for healthcare workers to handle the expected surge in coronavirus cases.

Noting that New York City needs all the help it can get, the mayor suggested there be a draft-like summons of medical professionals.

“We don’t have the same kind of draft we used to have, but we’re gonna have to create something new, right now, at this moment in history to enlist all available medical personnel from around the country and I mean civilians, anyone with medical training anywhere in the country who can be spared by their city, their town, their state to come to the frontlines,” he said on Thursday.

The mayor continued: “If we’re gonna save every life we can in this state, it means taking health professionals of every kind, with every skill or every training – no matter where they are in their career – and enlisting them in a national service.”

He reiterated the call on Friday during an appearance on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.”

“Unless the military is fully mobilized and we create something we've never had before, which is some kind of national enlistment of medical personnel moved to the most urgent needs in the country constantly, if we don't have that we're going to see hospitals simply unable to handle so many people who could be saved,” the mayor said.

Mayor de Blasio has stressed the need for the country to be operating on a wartime basis in order to fight the coronavirus threat.

He said in New York City, healthcare professionals are “fighting a war against an invisible enemy.”

"America is a place where we look out for each other," de Blasio said. "This is a war with many many fronts and the only possible way of getting through this is through the support of our government." 

The city also sent out an alert to every New Yorkers' phone with a note asking licensed health care workers to help out. 

More than 1,500 people in the five boroughs have died from coronavirus and there’s been over 57,000 confirmed cases of the virus.

Over 10,000 people have been hospitalized and while the city is working to dramatically expand hospital bed capacity by utilizing city dorms and hotels, the mayor said the bed space will mean nothing if there’s not enough personnel.

The mayor is also putting out an urgent call for more ventilators, which he said the city will need between 2,500 and 3,000 of by next week.

"To get through April, May, to get through the worst of it, to save every life that can be saved, we will need 15,000 total ventilators; 15,000 more than we started the month of March with," the mayor said. "We have gotten some ventilators but right now we're struggling to have enough for next week."

The mayor is also authorizing the NYPD, fire department, and sheriff's office to immediately support efforts to acquire ventilators and PPE from private sources in tandem with an order put through by the governor on Friday. Law enfrocement agencies will also help secure and deliver supplies to hospitals with the greatest need.

The Bronx Zoo's parking lot is also now home to a fleet of 250 additional ambulances that arrived this week to help the city's first responders on the front lines of the coronavirus. 

Approximately 500 out-of-state EMTs have also been added to the city's ranks. 

The zoo has been closed since March 16. Zookeepers remain on site to care for the animals. 

The mayor says the city's EMT workers will not be getting a raise just yet days after emergency medical calls surpassed records set on 9/11.

"We want to take care of these workers and support them, of course have their backs, but this is a bigger issue in the labor dynamics of this city. It's not the time to make something up on the fly in the middle of a crisis. We'll figure this out when we get through this crisis," de blasio said on his weekly morning show on wnyc.

About 23 percent of all EMS members were out on medical leave because of the virus or other ailments as of Sunday.  Last week, medical calls were up to around 6,500 per day — hundreds more than the city’s busiest day of the year.

On Monday, the USNS Comfort arrived in the city to ease the burden off city hospitals. The ship is treating non-COVID patients in order to free up hospital space on land. However, a report Friday said the ship is only treating around 20 patients currently.

Meanwhile, the city is still working to help those who are without resources due to lack of work or schooling because of the virus. 

The mayor said beginning Friday, all New Yorkers – both children and adults – will have access to three free meals a day at more than 400 hubs throughout the city run by the Department of Education.

On his WNYC broadcast, the mayor said no one will be turned away and there will be a variety of dietary offers – including vegetarian and halal options.

“You can get breakfast, lunch and dinner. It’s all to go. No one’s sitting down, obviously,” he said. “But, you can go in there and say ‘my family needs food.’ You’ll get breakfast, lunch and dinner for as many people as you indicate you need it for.”

Those in need can go to to find a site near them.

Additionally, coronavirus testing is being made available for all health care workers at city-run hospitals. This comes after many front line doctors and nurses raised concerns that they could have the virus and are unknowingly spreading it to at-risk patients. 

The free testing will roll out in phases over the next month. The tests are available by appointment at any of the city's 11 hospitals and seven health centers. 

Results are expected to return within two days.

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