Flashback: De Blasio, NY Commissioner Told People to Gather in Groups When Coronavirus Outbreak Started


New York City’s Mayor Bill de Blasio and Health Commissioner Oxiris Barbot once had different advice for New Yorkers.

As the coronavirus battered Wuhan, China, and spread to other areas overseas in January, one positive case was confirmed in Washington state. However, that one case didn’t receive an alarming response.

In fact, at the time, de Blasio and Barbot encouraged New Yorkers to go on with their lives and take the same precautions they would take for the flu.

“We are encouraging New Yorkers to go about their everyday lives and suggest practicing everyday precautions that we do through the flu season,” Barbot said on Jan. 26.

She added that those “who had recently traveled from Wuhan were not being urged to self-quarantine or avoid large public gatherings.”

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The following week, Barbot, again offered reassurance to New Yorkers. She tweeted her advice to local citizens encouraging them not to alter their holiday plans.

De Blasio also echoed similar sentiments. He opted to make his stance on the disease known on Feb. 2.

“People should be very clear about what this disease is and what it isn’t, and New Yorkers, I always say, are not intimidated easily. New Yorkers should go about our lives, continue doing what we do. … We understand some things about this disease. As I said, others are still unclear. But what is clear is the only way you get it is with substantial contact with someone who already has it. You don’t get it from a surface. You don’t get it from glancing or very temporary contact based on what we know now.”

In February, the concept of “social distancing” was introduced but also led to people being labeled as racists.

Despite the ongoing controversy surrounding social distancing and the growing spread of the virus, de Blasio promoted socializing until March —just weeks before the virus imploded in New York.

“Since I’m encouraging New Yorkers to go on with your lives [and] get out on the town despite Coronavirus, I thought I would offer some suggestions,” de Blasio tweeted on March 2. “Here’s the first: thru Thurs 3/5 go see ‘The Traitor’ [Film at Lincoln Center]. If ‘The Wire’ was a true story [and] set in Italy, it would be this film.”

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Even by March 11, de Blasio still offered information along the same lines. During a press conference, he said, “If you’re not sick, you should be going about your life.”

But just four days later, the coronavirus led to the closure of all schools in New York.

Health officials and advisors to de Blasio reportedly threatened to resign as a result of him not heeding their warnings.

Now, de Blasio is working to combat the rapid spread of the virus and flatten the curve. As of Saturday morning, the state of New York had more than 40,000 positive coronavirus cases.

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