“Speak the truth. Speak it clearly. Speak it with compassion. Speak it with empathy for what folks are going through,” Mr Obama said.
President Obama also urged the mayors to build strong, reliable teams of experts.
“The more smart people you have around you, and the less embarrassed you are to ask questions, the better your response is going to be,” he said.
Mr Obama also encouraged city leaders to support their most vulnerable residents: “We’re seeing disparities in how people are affected in cities and towns and communities across the country. Look out for the vulnerable.”
He continued: “When you start looking at issues of domestic abuse and you start looking at racial disparities that are popping up in your cities, paying attention to that is the kind of leadership I know all of you aspire to. You have to be intentional about it, and dedicate folks to thinking about those issues.
The former President’s comments come in marked contrast to President Donald Trump whose focus remains on wanting to reopen the economy, despite warnings from experts that doing so would risk a spike in infections and deaths.
President Obama has said that it would not be possible to begin reopening the economy without a “robust system of testing and monitoring — something we have yet to put in place nationwide.”
In his remarks, former mayor Bloomberg highlighted the situation in New York: “We’ve now lost more New Yorkers to this virus than in the terrorist attacks of 9/11 — and the numbers continue to grow. While we’re starting to see ICU admissions stabilise, the city is still losing hundreds of people per day.”
“People need to know that you are understanding what they’re going through — and that it’s hard,” he said to the mayors. “They also need to know that better days are ahead. It won’t be tomorrow, or next week, but things will get better – and they’ll get better specifically because of the sacrifices everyone is making today.”