In an interview that aired on Friday, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio (D) suggested health professionals only came to a consensus about people’s ability to transmit coronavirus without exhibiting symptoms in recent days.
De Blasio’s claim, made during an interview with New York public radio host Brian Lehrer, echoed a similar claim from Georgia Governor Brian Kemp (R), who has been widely criticized this week for saying his administration only recently learned that the virus can be spread asymptomatically.
While Robert Redfield, director for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, did say this week that the agency found more evidence proving asymptomatic spread, he and several other public health officials have been warning Americans for months that the evidence already obtained suggested this was the case.
In February, Redfield told CNN, “There’s been good communication with our colleagues to confirm asymptomatic infection, to confirm asymptomatic transmission.”
On Friday, Lehrer asked de Blasio why New York City is now recommending all residents wear a mask in public, in accordance with new CDC guidelines, after first telling residents masks were only necessary for people who already have the virus to avoid spreading it.
“So we have, you know, a renowned health department here in New York City,” de Blasio began. “Only in the last really 48 hours or so do they feel they’ve seen evidence around the world ― particularly a new study coming out of Singapore ― that shows more evidence that this disease can be spread by asymptomatic people,” he added, citing a CDC report released April 1.
When Lehrer pressed de Blasio, asking the about the months of guidance from health professionals about the potential for asymptomatic spread, the mayor said the new evidence swayed his administration.
“The fact is I’ve been at so many press conferences where our top doctors for New York City addressed this and they said, ‘We just didn’t have evidence from all the global medical community that was studying this issue.’
“There was suspicion, but there was not evidence,” de Blasio claimed.
The mayor had previously downplayed the ability of coronavirus to spread without symptoms. On March 11, while fielding calls at a government call center, he told a woman who had recently returned from Italy that she wouldn’t need to self-isolate. His office later called the woman back and told her that the CDC had, in fact, recommended people returning from Italy self-isolate.
During a press conference that same day, de Blasio told New Yorkers, “If you’re not sick, you should be going about your life.” The advice came at a time when some public officials around the country were already urging Americans to practice social distancing.
Speaking of the disease during a March 15 interview, de Blasio said, “Public health folks say it appears that transmission is when people are symptomatic.” The mayor’s claim came one month after the CDC director told CNN the disease was likely being spread asymptomatically, as well.
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