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Chef and Humanitarian José Andrés and Mike Bloomberg Address More Than 350 City Leaders at Eighth Virtual Convening to Support Local COVID-19 Response

Weekly Convening for Mayors and City Leaders is Part of Ongoing Collaboration Between Bloomberg Philanthropies, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and the Bloomberg Harvard City Leadership Initiative

New York, NY – More than 350 participants from over 220 cities around the world, including mayors, local leaders, and members of response teams, joined Bloomberg Philanthropies’ eighth virtual COVID-19 Local Response Initiative convening yesterday where chef and humanitarian José Andrés, founder of World Central Kitchen, and Michael Bloomberg addressed some of the challenges associated with the pandemic.

Joined by moderator Jorrit de Jong, Faculty Director, Bloomberg Harvard City Leadership Initiative; Professor Linda J. Bilmes, a leading expert on budgetary and public financial issues with the Harvard Kennedy School, and former U.S. Assistant Secretary of Commerce; Dr. Jennifer Nuzzo, Senior Scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, Associate Professor in the Johns Hopkins Department of Environmental Health and Engineering and  the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health Department of Epidemiology; and Dr. Joshua M. Sharfstein, MD, the Vice Dean for Public Health Practice and Community Engagement for the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and director of the Bloomberg American Health Initiative, Mr. Andrés and Mr. Bloomberg highlighted the ongoing role mayors have in leading the response to the crisis.

“This is the time to be bold, to be the leaders of America. We know that the big issues, they are going to have to be solved at the local level and nobody knows what’s happening on the ground better than you,” Andrés told the mayors at the beginning of the convening. “All of a sudden food has become a national security issue. If we invest in solutions one plate of food at the time, we can make sure that everywhere in America, in every city, nobody will go through the hardship of not knowing where their next meal may come from.”

“Restaurants right now across America are shut down for many weeks. Restaurants are the DNA and the essence of who we are as a nation. Our communities thrive on small businesses, and cities, especially, thrive through their restaurants,” added Andrés, who recently partnered with members of Congress to introduce the FEED Act, a bill that would allow the federal government to pay the cost of state-run initiatives to contract restaurants to feed vulnerable populations. “World Central Kitchen has helped put more than 1,000 restaurants back to work in the process of feeding communities all across the country. They are taking care of hunger problems at the local level. We can feed hospitals, senior centers, public housing, the homeless – and in the process bring back jobs and support small farmers and producers.”

Over the past two months, Bloomberg Philanthropies has brought together world leaders to share insights, advice, and inspiration with the local officials on the frontlines of the pandemic. Previous convenings featured President Bill Clinton, President George W. Bush, President Barack Obama, Bill Gates, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, and Maryland Governor Larry Hogan. President Clinton highlighted the important role mayors play in sharing accurate, actionable information with residents. President Bush told mayors that in historic times like this, it is important to keep three things top of mind: Truth, empathy, and especially hope. President Obama reinforced the importance of speaking clearly, and with compassion, to avoid misinformation in the current environment, when so many are making sacrifices.

“One of the things that we’ve said from the start is it is so important to remain flexible – not just in your actions, but also in your thinking, and your planning. Unfortunately, some governors and other leaders seem determined to proceed with their pre-set plan, even if the old plans don’t make any sense given current conditions,” said Michael Bloomberg, Founder of Bloomberg Philanthropies and Bloomberg LP, former three-term mayor of New York City. “With some governors moving ahead to reopen their states anyway, the number of daily deaths nationwide is now expected to double by the end of the month. That’s a pretty grim scenario, and it’s a reminder that we’re not at the end of this crisis – we are really still right in the middle of it.”

Bloomberg stressed the importance of local leaders to be cautious in trying to reopen their economies too quickly. “As public officials, it’s your job to help set a pace that will allow us to get to the finish line. I know we all want to get there as fast as we can – but going too fast is going to mean a lot more deaths and we really don’t want that. One of the best things we can do to speed up the pace, however, is to invest in the public health tools that can allow us to identify and isolate the virus – and that includes both testing and contact tracing.”

Linda Bilmes from Harvard stressed to mayors to not only continue to think of ways to protect their populations now, but also think about how to help when the crisis ends. “While the pandemic may cause financial shockwaves worse than you’ve previously experienced, don’t doubt your power to make your city a better place on the other side of this crisis.”

Bloomberg Philanthropies launched the COVID-19 Local Response Initiative in March to help cities combat the devastating impact of coronavirus on the wellbeing of residents and local economies. Working with the Bloomberg Harvard City Leadership Initiative and the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, the network provides mayors with the most up-to-date information on the virus from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and crisis management support from experts from Harvard Kennedy School, Harvard Business School, and other schools across Harvard  to help them act quickly, efficiently, and reliably for the benefit of their citizens. Learn more about Bloomberg Philanthropies’ additional COVID-19 Response Initiatives here.

The Bloomberg Harvard City Leadership Initiative, which provides leadership and management training to mayors worldwide, designs each session to provide mayors and other local leaders with the latest facts from public health experts and crisis leadership essentials, from communicating during a crisis to building resiliency and working across sectors.

The COVID-19 pandemic represents the nation’s first 50 state disaster that will spare no community. Bloomberg Philanthropies is tapping into a wide range of partners to generate a robust set of support and resources to help local leaders combat the coronavirus and protect the social and economic wellbeing of cities.

Since launching, hundreds of city leaders have joined the virtual convening each week. The aim of the program is to provide cities with the tools to understand, respond and manage a dynamic public health crisis, they will be better prepared to slow the spread of coronavirus in the United States and protect their residents.

About Bloomberg Philanthropies
Bloomberg Philanthropies invests in more than 570 cities and over 160 countries around the world to ensure better, longer lives for the greatest number of people. The organization focuses on five key areas for creating lasting change: the Arts, Education, Environment, Government Innovation, and Public Health. Bloomberg Philanthropies encompasses all of Michael R. Bloomberg’s giving, including his foundation and personal philanthropy as well as Bloomberg Associates, a pro bono consultancy that works in cities around the world. In 2019, Bloomberg Philanthropies distributed $3.3 billion. For more information, please visit or follow us on FacebookInstagramYouTube and Twitter.