New York City has become an epicenter in the COVID-19 pandemic, with local officials now tallying 17,856 confirmed cases and 199 deaths across all boroughs. Mayor Bill de Blasio warned that this number is expected to significantly increase within the upcoming months, as about half of all NYC residents—approximately 4 million individuals—are projected to contract the disease at some point during the crisis.
"We don't even know, truly, when it first asserted here in the city. There could've been people who had it before we even knew it was here," he said during a City Hall press briefing (48:28). "So what we do know, based on a lot of different projections ... It's a fair bet to say that half of all New Yorkers, and maybe more than half, will end up contracting this disease. And that's worrisome, very deeply worrisome, for all of us, but we have to start with the truth."
It's a unsettling prediction, no doubt, but the mayor stressed that the vast majority of these projected cases will likely be mild.
"We have to start with the truth ... As much as we're dealing with a lot of painful realities—a lot of fear—one way to think of this that is a little more hopeful is a certain number of people will not [contract the disease]," he continued. "And that may be 50 percent or 45 percent or 40 percent, whatever it is, a certain number of New Yorkers will not contract this disease this season. And of the ones who do, 80 percent will have a very limited experience. But for that other 20 percent, we have a lot of work to do to protect them."
Dr. Oxiris Barbot reiterated de Blasio's warning, saying it is likely that about 50 percent of New Yorkers will be infected with coronavirus by the time the pandemic runs its course, which is predicted to be sometime around September.
"But it could also be much higher [than 50 percent], so that's why we've been so focused on slowing the spread of this pandemic, because we don't all of those people to be seeking health care at the same time," Dr. Barbot, who is NYC's commissioner of Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, said. "The measures that we're putting into place—in terms of closing schools, in terms of telling New Yorkers to stay home—is our best chance at slowing that spread."
NYC: I need you to stay home.— Commissioner Oxiris Barbot (@NYCHealthCommr) March 21, 2020
It is our civic responsibility to make sure we do all we can to stave off this #COVID19 pandemic, and that means staying home.
It doesn't matter if you have a test or not, because what your doctor will ask you to do will be the same: #StayHomeNYC. pic.twitter.com/KpdwQuyg1e
According to New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, those social distancing measures appear to be quite effective, as virus-related hospitalizations have declined over the last several days. Market Watch reports the number of hospitalizations were doubling every two days as of Sunday, but are now doubling nearly every five days.
"The evidence suggests that the density control measures may be working," Cuomo said during a Wednesday press briefing, as reported by Market Watch. "We’re still on the way up the mountain ... In Westchester we have dramatically slowed what was an exponential increase."