New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio manned the phones at a local helpline call center Wednesday, taking questions from reporters and sharing that, so far, New York City will not be canceling large events — as cities such as San Francisco have.
“We could get there, but we’re not there yet,” de Blasio told reporters while at the call center, reports the New York Post.
But the mayor’s act of public service has been partially overshadowed by his response to a woman who called the helpline asking for coronavirus advice, but instead received false information from the mayor himself.
“No symptoms of any kind?” de Blasio asked the caller, reports the Post. The caller had told the mayor she had just returned from a trip to Italy, the country that has become a coronavirus hot zone and since taken the unprecedented step of quarantining its 60 million citizens.
“If you experience any symptoms at any moment, at that time adjust your approach,” said de Blasio, reports the Post. “The important thing is to really be sensitive that if anything changes at all, stay home immediately.”
According to the CDC’s website, Italy currently holds a level three travel advisory and the department recommends that prospective travelers “avoid all nonessential travel” to the country.
Furthermore, the department has issued specific guidelines to anyone who has traveled to the country in the last two weeks, including a recommendation that people returning “stay home for 14 days from the time you left Italy and practice social distancing.”
In response to the mayor’s botched helpline advice, the Post reached out to de Blasio’s office, which acknowledged that the mayor had given the woman incorrect information and had since reached out to provide the correct guidelines.
“The mayor misspoke,” Freddi Goldstein, a spokesperson for the mayor, told the news agency. “If you return from Italy you should self-quarantine regardless of symptoms. We have made contact with the caller and clarified and the mayor will be issuing a clarification, as well.”
According to NPR, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergies and Infectious Diseases, told a congressional committee Wednesday that Americans should prepare to see an increase in coronavirus cases.
“I can say we will see more cases, and things will get worse than they are right now,” said Fauci, reports the news agency. “How much worse we’ll get will depend on our ability to do two things: to contain the influx of people who are infected coming from the outside, and the ability to contain and mitigate within our own country.”
“The flu has a mortality of 0.1 percent,” Fauci told the committee. “This has a mortality rate of 10 times that. That’s the reason I want to emphasize we have to stay ahead of the game in preventing this.”
The committee hearing Wednesday occurred the same day the World Health Organization declared a global pandemic, the first such declaration since the swine flu breakout in 2009, reports CNBC.
According to the CDC, the swine flu killed approximately 12,469 Americans in the first year and resulted in an estimated 274,000 hospitalizations nationwide.