August 2, 2021
Video available at: https://youtu.be/gXsPKSyxzdE
Mayor Bill de Blasio: Good morning, everyone. So, every day we focus on recovery. Every day we focus on bringing New York City back. I’ve been out and around these last weeks, you see so much more activity, thank God. Jobs coming back, livelihoods coming back, businesses coming back. We are going to keep focusing on the recovery, we’ve got big challenges, we’re going to talk about them in the next few minutes. We’ve got big challenges, big things we have to address, but the recovery keeps moving forward and we’re going to keep telling people and showing people that New York City is coming back strong. And one of the most important ways we’re going to do that is with Homecoming Week, it is going to be absolutely amazing, memorable, unforgettable. August 14th through 22nd, all five boroughs, concerts, free movie screenings, cultural events, public art, you name it, amazing. Once-in-a-lifetime events, we went over the concerts in all five boroughs, the headliners amazing KRS-One in the Bronx, Raekwon and Ghostface Killah on Staten Island, Big Daddy Kane, and Desiigner in Brooklyn, George Clinton, and the P-Funk All-Stars in Queens, legends. Of course, one of the greatest of all time, Bruce Springsteen and so many other greats in Central Park. This is going to be amazing, and it’s going to be a great sign of New York City’s rebirth.
One update. The Staten Island concert is getting a lot of attention and it’s going to be legendary, especially because of the headliners who are so amazing. So, we are moving location now to Midland Beach. Because there’s so much interest, so much demand, we’re going to move it to a bigger venue. We’re looking forward to that. Now, I want you to hear from one of the performers who’s going to make that event one for the ages. He is Brooklyn born, but Staten Island bred. He is one of the most extraordinary figures ever to come out of Staten Island. He is one of the greatest rappers in the history of hip hop. He is a legend unto himself, and part of the amazing ensemble that changed the face of music, the Wu Tang Clan. It is a tremendous honor to bring forward to you – he is to say the least on his own and amazing artists, platinum recording artist, working on amazing new project called Scarlet Fever. And we are honored to say, coming at you live, right now, Raekwon. Raekwon, so good to have you with us.
Raekwon: Good morning, Mr. Mayor. Good morning.
Mayor: How are you feeling?
Raekwon: Good morning, Mr. Mayor. Good morning. Good morning.
Mayor: It’s good to have you here. How are you feeling today, Raekwon?
Raekwon: Oh, I’m feeling great. I’m feeling great, Mr. Mayor. Thanks for having us. Thank you.
Mayor: Tell me what you’re feeling about this concert.
Raekwon: Oh, I love it. This concert is just, it’s a blessing and it’s a blessing for us and I’m just excited to see all my people and come back outside. I finally get an opportunity to come outside again. And you know, we’ve been through a lot. New York City, we been through a lot and we showed a lot of resilience during this time and we deserve a concert. That’s just going to be absolutely great. I’m excited. Very excited.
Mayor: Well, I got to tell you, your presence is making such a big impact. The buzz out there around you performing, I’m hearing it all over the place and folks are just so excited by it but it also is like, it’s such a great signal, it’s such a great symbol of us coming back. So, I want to thank you on behalf of New York City, because you being a part of this makes it amazingly special.
Raekwon: It’s an honor. It’s definitely an honor.
Mayor: And what do you want to say – one more thing. What do you want to say your fans about this concert?
Raekwon: I just want everybody to come out. You know, it’s going to be a nice event. You know, I’m honored to be headlining with my brother Ghostface Killah and a couple of the other great acts that’s going to be involved, you know, and I’m definitely excited to see the pioneers of Staten Island perform, which is the Force MD’s you know, we grew up with these guys and it’s going to be a dope concert. You know, it’s free. It’s going to be at Midland Beach, you know, shout out everybody, but just of just excited, shout out, you know, Mr. Rocky Bucano and the Universal Hip Hop Museum family, you know, you guys really show a lot of love to the hip hop community. And we just want everybody to come out, have all, you know, it’s serious, you know, five boroughs of hip hop. Let’s do it, baby. Let’s do it for our city, the best city in the world.
Mayor: I couldn’t agree with you more. And thank you. Thank you for doing this and participating. Thank you for shouting out the pioneers who came before you. That shows your heart and soul, and I appreciate you for that. Raekwon, this means a lot to all of us in this whole city and especially the people of Staten Island. Thank you and God bless you, brother.
Raekwon: You too. Thank you. Thank you, Mr. Mayor. Thank you.
Mayor: So, everyone, you want to get tickets. Tickets have gone on sale right now. The first batch you go to nyc.gov, homecoming week. And if you don’t get tickets today, there’s going to be batches of tickets or at least on Tuesday, 7:00 am Wednesday at 9:00 pm. So, it’s going to be absolutely amazing. Be a part of it and all the other great concerts.
Okay, now why are we able to come back one word, vaccination. That’s the whole ball game. So, we’ve been talking about throughout the way New York City is holding firm, moving forward, it’s because of vaccination. Our entire strategy is focused on vaccination. The way forward is vaccination. We have hit a major milestone over the weekend. Very proud of all our colleagues at the Department of Health, and Health + Hospitals, and Test and Trace, and everyone out there who’s been part of this amazing, amazing effort. Over the weekend, we passed the 10 million dose mark in New York City, 10 million and growing. As of today, 10,003,019 vaccinations given in this city doses given in this city. Look, this is a very powerful moment. At one point long ago, it looked like this might be an insurmountable possibility, this might not be reachable, but I want to thank the vaccinators. I want to thank the health care heroes. I want to thank the people who came forward to people in New York City have always made the difference. They came forward. They allowed us to hit this goal, 10 million vaccination doses. And now we’re going to go a lot farther because we’re going to use a lot of tools to push this even farther. We’ll talk about that in a moment. I’ve said we’re going to be climbing the ladder and we’ll have regular announcements and updates. The actions we took already. The mandate we put on city workers already clearly helped to encourage action in other places, including states, cities, federal government, and the $100 incentive that New York City started was picked up immediately by the federal government. That’s great. We want to see these ideas spread. We want to make sure we push people more and more in every good and positive way, every strong and forceful way to vaccination.
So, we know the hundred-dollar incentive is already getting a lot of attention. We saw a pickup immediately at some of our city run sites where you can get that hundred-dollar incentive. We expect a lot more. We want to see the private sector. We’ve seen massive movement in the private sector in the last few days, talked about what Danny Meyer did with a Union Square Hospitality group. You’re seeing major corporations all over the country acting and more and more small businesses acting as well. So, absolutely want to affirm and support all the businesses that are putting whatever type of vaccine mandate in place works for them, for their employees, for their customers, anything and everything they can do, we support.
Now, today we’re taking another step on the vaccine mandates for the City of New York, for our city workers. Effective immediately every single new person hired by the City of New York before they report to work, they must provide proof of vaccination. Every new employee must provide proof of vaccination, or they cannot start their new job period. As a pure vaccine mandate for new employees, we will have, as I said, continued updates, continued announcements, but this is another step as we intensify the vaccination effort. Also today, a very helpful tool. The NYC COVID Safe app launches today. You can find it in Apple and Google app stores. Another easy, straightforward way to show vaccine verification and test results. I urge everyone, get that app. It will make things simpler. In a world in which more and more there’s going to be a reality where if you’re vaccinated, a world of opportunity opens up to you. If you’re not vaccinated, there’s going to be more and more things you can’t do. We say that. I say that to say, go get vaccinated. So, you can fully participate in the life, the city, because that’s where things are going.
Now, let’s be clear. Vaccines are the number one most powerful weapon against COVID by far, but we also clearly believe there’s a place for masks. Everything we do is vaccine centric. The entire strategy is around vaccines, but of course we want to make sure people are using masks in all the right ways. Over the last few days we’ve reviewed the data from the CDC, some of which came in on Friday, the background research we’ve been reviewing the recommendations, we’re updating our mask guidance based on the latest data and science. So, confirming of course that already, before the CDC recommendations, masks were already required, mandated for all new Yorkers on subways, buses, mass transit of all kinds, in hospitals and health care settings, in schools and congregate settings. And already, it was a rule that unvaccinated people had to wear a mask in all public settings, outdoors and indoors. So, what was true before the CDC guidance was the separation between what vaccinated people and unvaccinated people could do was clear and the way that unvaccinated people had additional requirements on in terms of wearing masks was clear. What we’ll be saying today, and you’ll hear from Dr. Chokshi, is we want to strongly recommend that people wear masks in indoor settings, even if you’re vaccinated. Now, this is particularly true, of course, if you might be around anyone unvaccinated, if you don’t know the people you’re around, if you’re not sure if they’re vaccinated or not, or if you know some are un-vaccinated, absolutely crucial to wear a mask even if you are vaccinated, the difference of course is if you’re around fully vaccinated people, that’s a better situation. So, vaccinated people around fully vaccinated people, that’s where it’s an easier situation, but if you’re not sure, and that’s going to be many cases, we want to strongly recommend that people wear those masks indoors, even if vaccinated. Here to give you an update, our Health Commissioner, Dr. Dave Chokshi.
Commissioner Dave Chokshi, Department of Health and Mental Hygiene: Thank you so much, Mr. Mayor. Over the past year, staff from the Health Department, Health + Hospitals, and New York’s entire health infrastructure worked shoulder to shoulder with agencies across the city, from Housing, to Parks, to Sanitation on our Vaccine for All campaign. Collectively, we rolled up our own and our fellow residents’ sleeves to get vaccinated so we can bring New York City back. And I’m so proud, Mr. Mayor, that we met that 10 million dose milestone, even though we’re going to keep going. The responsibility that we shouldered is also a legacy for new employees that entails inspiration, but also obligation. We serve New Yorkers, and nothing is more important than their health. This is why new employees joining city service must now be vaccinated against COVID. As we’ve said, every activity is safer once you’re vaccinated. While vaccination may be “for the win,” we need to keep putting points on the board against the virus, and that’s where masks come in.
Today, I’m making a strong recommendation that everyone, regardless of vaccination status, wear a mask in public indoor settings. This is based on our review of the latest scientific evidence showing that the Delta variant of the coronavirus can spread even more easily than was previously thought. Even though I have been fully vaccinated, I will be wearing a mask in public indoor settings in part because I’m the parent of a young child who is not yet eligible for vaccination. And I want to take care to protect her. Most vital, as the Mayor said is for people who are not yet fully vaccinated to wear face coverings, anytime they’re outside of their own home and masks offer an important layer of protection for those who are immunocompromised or otherwise at higher risk, even if fully vaccinated, remember our guidance to wear a face covering that fits snugly against the sides of your face, and if you are at higher risk, particularly in the context of the Delta variant, it is reasonable to double mask or wear a higher grade mask like a KN-95 or a KF-94. At this stage in the pandemic, our public health actions boiled down to three categories in order of priority. First and foremost is to get as many unvaccinated people vaccinated as quickly as possible. Second is for unvaccinated people to take the precautions that we know help interrupt the spread of the virus. Masking yes, but also distancing and getting tested regularly. And the third is for vaccinated people to also take some precautions, particularly when community transmission is at higher levels. Our mask guidance will help with both the second and third actions described. They are and have been a vital part of our defense against the virus. And the vaccines are the closest thing that we have to a knockout punch. Thank you, Mr. Mayor.
Mayor: Thank you so much, Dr. Chokshi and everyone. We want to emphasize vaccination, vaccination, vaccination. That is the ballgame, and now I want to speak to parents about the fact that here’s a chance, right now, if you want to get the maximum protection for your kids, it’s a great time to go get them vaccinated. If they’re in that 12-year-old or 17 or 18-year-old range. So, if you get your kids vaccinated this week, and then get the second vaccination on a timely basis, that gives you time ahead of school, starting to be a hundred percent sure your kids are fully vaccinated. Now, I want to emphasize to all parents, this is the best week. Go out there and get your vaccinated now, if they haven’t already. We told you about the fact that somewhere well over 200,000 young people in the 12- to 17-year-old-range had been vaccinated already. We expect a big uptick in that as school comes on. This is the best time to go get vaccinated, to go get your kid vaccinated. But if you don’t do it now, anytime is a good time to get vaccinated, because, from the very first dose, you’re giving your child protection. So, we want to encourage people – start now. But we’re going to keep pushing all the way up to the beginning of school and beyond to get kids vaccinated. We’re launching a massive back-to-school vaccination campaign, starting with a $1.3 million ad campaign that will launch today on all forms of media. And we’re going to have mobile vaccination sites where kids are, at school shopping sites – back-to-school shopping sites, at Summer Rising sites. We’ll be adding many of them. We’ll be adding sites, mobile vaccination sites, at Public School Athletic League pre-season practices, at Saturday Night Lights gyms, you name it. Here to tell you all about it, our Schools Chancellor Meisha Ross Porter.
Chancellor Meisha Ross Porter: Thank you, Mayor de Blasio. And I’m really excited to be here this morning to talk about this. You know, in a little over a month, we are welcoming all of our students and staff back to our public schools – an important moment after the last year-and-a-half of this pandemic. This moment is made possible by the effective and safe vaccines that are protecting our communities. Without a doubt, these vaccines are our passport out of this pandemic and towards the promise of our new normal. Before schools open on September 13th, we have some homework for all of our students who are eligible to get the vaccine – get vaccinated. Like all [inaudible] can’t just give homework without providing all the information and support needed to complete the assignment, which is why we are partnering with the Department of Health for an all-out vaccination campaign, from Summer Rising sites, to shopping malls, to pre-season athletic conditioning, we are bringing easily accessible vaccines to our eligible young people.
Speaking as a parent, nothing is more important to me than the health and safety of my children. And I know all New York City parents share this feeling, which is why we are partnering with parents to get our young people vaccinated. First, we will be calling every New York City family to make sure that they know their vaccination options, and to offer fast, easy at-home vaccination. That’s right, no needs to schedule an entire outing. We will provide vaccines in the safety of your home. Secondly, our fantastic PTA’s are eligible through the City’s vaccine referral program to earn $100 for every person they refer for their first shot. We want to work with our valued, trusted parent leaders to spread the word about getting vaccinated this fall and help them raise some money to support our schools. PTA leaders can go to nyc.gov/vaccinereferralbonus to sign up as a referral partner. Additionally, PTA’s putting on return-to-school events this fall can partner with the Department of Health to host a mobile vaccination site at their events this full. Vaccines add an incredible, effective layer of safety and security as we open schools this fall, but they are not our only safety measure. A vaccine sits alongside universal mask usage, fully operational ventilation, regular testing, and other measures to continue to keep our schools the safest places. So, now, you all have your homework – get vaccinated, if you are eligible. Your assignment’s due on September 13th, our first day of school, our homecoming back. Thank you, Mr. Mayor.
Mayor: Spoken like a true teacher. We all have our homework. Thank you, Chancellor. And everyone, everyone’s looking forward to school coming back full strength. The best thing everyone could do, go out and get vaccinated. In advance that, we’re going to make it really, really easy, even bring it to your home if you need. So, that’s going to be the focus.
Now, for this city to keep moving forward – we’re really looking forward to next month – school coming back, so many people coming back to work, the city is going to recover strong – it’s all about vaccination. But there’s another area we’re focused on greatly, and that is safety. We need to make sure – as I’ve always said, public safety helps support recovery, but recovery also depends on public safety. They all go together. Recovery equals public safety, safety equals a recovery. So, the fact is we, every single day, are watching the facts and making adjustments. NYPD precision policing, moving our assets around where they’re needed most, doing the intense work to get to the folks, doing the violence and getting them off the streets and working more and more with communities. That work, you heard a lot about last week in the Bronx. You’re going to hear about it more later this week. Commissioner Shea and I are going to present an update from the month of July, and we’re going to see some real progress, but that doesn’t mean we don’t have huge challenges. We still do. So, this last Saturday light – excuse me, Saturday night – we saw a painful example of 10 people – 10 people shot in the 115th Precinct in Queens. Now, that is very troubling. Whether the detectives are telling us already is, it’s gang-related. And we know so much of the problem is gangs. Last week, in the Bronx, we talked about gang takedowns – this is a crucial tool. You’re going to be hearing a lot more about gang takedowns. We need to get many violent individuals off the streets simultaneously. We’ll be saying more about that in the course this week, but this is going to be the focus going forward. We know we’re making progress. We’re going to need more gang takedowns, more gun arrests, more with community. Gangs are the problem and this is where the focus is going to be. Also, using community-based leaders and community-based activists to change the reality on the ground. So, we know that there’s been a lot of pain in the 115th Precinct. We’re going to have mobile trauma units out there with translators to address the concerns and the feelings and the trauma that people have been through. These organizations will include Street Corner Resources, LIFE Camp, and Brownsville Think Tank Matters – all organizations that have done amazing work, addressing trauma, and working to stop retaliation, ending the cycle of violence. There’ll be out there in a big way in that precinct to help move things forward.
Okay. We’re now going to go to our indicators, but, before we do, just an update on the indicators themselves. I’ve been saying now over these last days to expect changes in the approach on the indicators. Everything has changed because of vaccination, first and foremost. We’re now at 10 million doses, an amazing number – that’s changed the whole paradigm. So, what we’re going to be looking at now is a different approach. The thresholds are no longer pertinent. They are not part of the strategic decision-making any longer, because of the high level of vaccination. So, we’ll be removing thresholds from the daily reports. What we’ll be focused on, the doses of vaccination given, the case numbers, and the hospitalization rate. What is also less valuable now is the positivity level for a variety of reasons. As I’ve talked about in the last few days, we will be phasing this out as part of our morning presentations. After this week, we won’t be talking about it anymore, but it will be remaining on the Department of Health website. Everything’s going to be based on the data and the science, and those facts – the focus on doses, cases, hospitalization, that’s how we’re going to be making decisions and that’s what we want to focus everyone’s attention on, going forward. Let’s give you the update now on the indicators as they are now. Number one, daily number of people that moved to New York City hospitals for suspected COVID-19 – today’s report, 98 patients. Confirmed positively, 40.78 percent. Hospitalization rate per 100,000 people, 0.71. Number two, new reported cases on a seven-day average – today’s report, 1,190 cases. And number three, percentage of people testing city-wide positive for COVID-19 – today’s report, seven-day rolling average, 3.05 percent. That’s the item in the indicators that you won’t see in these presentations after this week. A few words in Spanish – I want go back on vaccinations and masks and how important it is to address this crisis the right way.
[Mayor de Blasio speaks in Spanish]
With that, we turn to our colleagues in the media. Please let me know the name and outlet of each journalist.
Moderator: We’ll now begin our Q-and-A. As a reminder, we’re joined today by Dr. Chokshi, by Dr. Katz, by Chancellor Porter, and by the Executive Director of Citywide Events Dan Gross. First question today, it goes to Derick Waller from WABC.
Question: Hi. Good morning, Mr. Mayor. How are you?
Mayor: Good, Derick. How have you been?
Question: Doing great. I just wanted to ask, because, obviously, Governor Cuomo had a press conference just before you did and he said that local government should follow the CDC mask guidance. I know that you’re strongly recommending that vaccinated people wear a mask indoors, but why not mandate it?
Mayor: Derick, we focused on the research, first and foremost. We wanted to look at what the CDC had put together and determine what made sense based on that. Everything we’re doing is based on data and science, but it’s also based on strategy. The overwhelming strategic thrust is vaccination. So, we thought the right mix was to heavily focus on vaccination to continue to climb the ladder, put more and more vaccine requirements in place, and to give a very clear message to all New Yorkers strongly recommending mask usage, regardless of vaccination status. We thought that was the right balance. We still want to respect the fact that vaccination does – can give you different opportunities and rights than unvaccinated people. And that – setting that clear message, that clear separation is crucial to where we’re going strategically. So, that’s how we set the balance. Go ahead, Derick.
Question: And this question may be for Dr. Chokshi, but I did want to ask this, this recommendation from the CDC that vaccinated people should wear masks indoors – can he explain why that’s important? Because I feel like it’s not to protect other vaccinated people, this is because the vaccinated people can spread the virus and that could mean really bad things for the unvaccinated, isn’t that right? Basically, vaccinated people are being asked to mask up to protect the people who have not been vaccinated? Is that correct?
Mayor: Derick, I’ll turn to Dr. Chokshi, but, just a reminder, if you look at the actual CDC guidance certainly raising the concern about the spread to vaccinate people, but also making very clear – night and day reality. If you’re vaccinated, your chances of contracting the disease are much less and, obviously, tremendously better outcomes if, God forbid, you did contract COVID. So, looking at that guidance, it makes clear there still is a profound difference in trends, immiscibility, if you will, among vaccinated and unvaccinated. Go ahead, Chokshi.
Commissioner Chokshi: Thank you so much, sir. Yes, this is an important question. We reviewed not just the CDC guidance, but the underlying science that drove the revisions to that guidance. It’s broke down into some clinical data, as well as some real-world data – you know, epidemiologic investigations that led to the updates. And what they showed – the headline is what they showed is that Delta spreads even more easily than we had thought. It is very important to keep in mind that the vast majority of transmission, both in New York City as well as across the United States is due to people who remain unvaccinated. But the data also did show that it is possible for vaccinated people to spread the virus. And so, that is what led to the recommendation for everyone to wear a mask in public indoor settings. But the important parts for us to seize onto is that, number one, the most important public health intervention that we have against the coronavirus is vaccination. And number two, particularly while we are seeing a community spread, it’s important for all of us to take additional precautions. Thank you.
Mayor: Thank you.
Moderator: Next is Andrew Siff from WNBC.
Question: Good morning, Mr. Mayor, and everyone on the call. Can you hear me?
Mayor: Yes, Andrew. How are you doing today?
Question: Good, thanks for asking. I wanted to circle back as well to the question you faced about why mask mandates are only – or rather, why it’s only a mask recommendation as opposed to a mandate? Is it a concern on your part that at this point there just simply wouldn’t be the compliance? And that also it would require an enforcement that you really wouldn’t necessarily have the resources to commit to?
Mayor: Andrew, certainly, you know, playing out how enforcement work has to be a part of any discussion. But I think, first of all, recognize the CDC recommended and we are recommending. So, we’re tracking the exact language from the CDC, just as New Jersey and Connecticut have done. I think that’s exactly where we need to be right now. I think the biggest consideration was the interplay with vaccination. What we want to focus everyone’s attention on is vaccination. We want to make clear mask-wearing is not a substitute for vaccination. And if you do get vaccinated, and you’re around fully vaccinated people, you still have more freedom than folks who are not vaccinated. So, it’s really strategic. It’s about keeping the focus on vaccination. Go ahead, Andrew.
Question: Okay. And my second question – and I apologize if this has been asked before, but I didn’t think so – the Governor this morning recommended, or urged, or asked that the City mandate vaccines at the public hospitals just as he has done at the State hospitals. So, will you make it mandatory for all health care workers at the City hospitals to be vaccinated? And if not, why not?
Mayor: Andrew, we are looking at every possible option. We’ve been, as I’ve said, over the last week or two, climbing the ladder, including today’s announcement that for all City employees they must be vaccinated – any new City employee before they start work, must be fully vaccinated – or, excuse me, must be vaccinated – must be vaccinated, at least one dose, or they cannot start employment. We have a variety of options on the table. We’ll be making additional announcements. So, we’re certainly going to look at all options at this point.
Moderator: Next is Courtney Gross from NY1.
Question: Hi, Mr. Mayor, how are you?
Mayor: Good, Courtney, how you been?
Question: I’m good. Thank you. So, I want to swing back to the Cuomo recommendation because I’m curious if you had any conversations with him about this announcement this morning, before you made it. He seemed to preempt you by having his 9:30 press conference before you and putting out this recommendation that he wants cities to abide by the CDC recommendation. So, I’m curious if you’ve had conversations with him and what your general reaction is to him saying cities should abide by the CDC guide.
Mayor: No conversation. You know, we’re going to look at all the different inputs. We’re going to listen to the different viewpoints, but most importantly, we’re going to be led by the data and the science. Go ahead, Courtney.
Question: And then on the phasing out of the percent positivity metric, why is that happening? I think we’re all so used to using that number for – basically to show how much COVID cases we have. So, why is that no longer relevant?
Mayor: I’ll bring Dr. Katz in as well as Dr. Chokshi. Look, we’ve looked at this a lot. The fact is, first of all, many fewer people are getting tested. And it’s creating some skew in the outcomes because fewer people are getting tested and more likely people who think that they may have a problem. So, we’re not getting as clean a cross-section of the community. But second, it’s just not going to be how we strategically make decisions. What the doctors have been absolutely unanimous on is the fact that this triad of cases, hospitalization, vaccination rate is really where the strategic information is that will govern decision. That’s what we want to present to the people, so that as we’re making decisions, we’re tracking along with the people what we’re doing, why we’re doing it. Dr. Katz then Dr. Chokshi.
President and CEO Mitchell Katz, Health + Hospitals: Sir, I think you’ve included all of the very important points on this. I think you’ve said it very well. Thank you.
Mayor: That was pithy. Well done, Mitch. Dr. Chokshi.
Commissioner Chokshi: Yes, I agree. You know, the primary reason for this shift is that as testing patterns change in the context of vaccination that does change the denominator for the test positivity measure. However, although it’s a little bit less valuable, we will continue tracking it and following it, that’s why it will be updated regularly on the Health Department’s website. But as the Mayor said, you know, we have to stay nimble and swift as we keep up with the coronavirus itself. And so, keeping our focus on cases, hospitalizations, and vaccination doses – those are the key measures that we want the entire city to be focused on.
Mayor: Thank you.
Moderator: The next is Marla Diamond from WCBS 880.
Question: Good morning, Mr. Mayor, and everybody else on the call. I had a question about schools since you do have the Chancellor present. Last week, two City Council members proposed a bill to reduce class size over the next three years. But what about this year? As students go back to school and you are preparing to have everybody back in school, what do you do about oversubscribed classrooms, and there are a lot of them in the city, where children must be spaced out by three feet?
Mayor: Well, I think there’s a couple of different things going on here, Marla. I’ll speak really quickly and turn to the Chancellor. The addressing class size sometimes means fewer kids in a classroom sometimes means more teachers in the classroom. So, one of the things that’s in the budget is a focus on putting additional teachers in classrooms at our youngest grades in schools that need it most particularly to help us intensify our literacy efforts. But in terms of physical space, the message to all schools is use space, use whatever space you need in different ways to make sure we can provide the right kind of spacing and safety. And we saw schools do a great job with that before last year. And I’m certain there’ll be able to do it again. Chancellor. Is the Chancellor there?
Chancellor Porter: Yes, I’m here.
Mayor: There you go.
Chancellor Porter: Chancellor here. So, first of all, we are continuing to follow the gold standard around health and safety and our classes are already capped based on the spacing requirements. And we continue to do that work. We continue to work with schools to develop strategic programs so that we can do what we know, which is most important at this moment, and that is to get all of our students back, get them in school, and get them in school safely. We’re also excited about the Fair Student Funding, getting every school to 100 percent, which is part of our strategy around reducing class size. And like the Mayor said, part of it is about being intentional about numbers. And part of it is about providing additional resources to schools. And so, we’re excited to have been able to do that this year.
Mayor: Go ahead, Marla.
Question: On the street homeless story that appeared today in the Times. I wanted to know why there’s a push to move the street homeless to shelters. It goes against the CDC recommendations. They don’t want to displace people unless they’re being moved to individual housing. So, why this push? You know, I understand that you want to make the streets a little nicer for the people who are visiting, but if their health is at risk, why are you pushing these people into congregate shelters?
Mayor: Yeah. Marla, I’m happy to look at documents with you, but that is not my read of anything we’ve seen from the CDC. We are focused on protecting homeless folks. First of all, the worst place for someone homeless to be is on the street. And as our doctors always like to remind us, we’re looking at a variety of health challenges, physical and mental health. It’s not just about COVID. So, we do not want a homeless person on the streets. That’s is not a healthy environment. Second, we want to get everyone vaccinated and we’re doing a tremendous outreach effort, both on the streets and in shelter. So, mobile actions on the streets, and then in shelter our health care teams are going to be in there constantly getting people vaccinated. So, the goal here clearly is, get people off the streets for a variety of reasons, for their own health and wellbeing for everyone’s sake and get everyone vaccinated.
Moderator: The next is Emma Fitzsimmons from the New York Times.
Question: Hi, good morning, Mayor. I understand you’re saying this is the best option right now on masking, but would you consider a full mask mandate in the future and what would prompt that?
Mayor: Yeah, Emma, all options are on the table. Right now, again, what I want to make sure we do is focus entirely on vaccination because the victory is staring us in the face. I mean, this is what’s so frustrating. I know people are feeling this all around the country. We could put this problem to bed if everyone will get vaccinated, certainly in terms of the worst impacts. If everyone was vaccinated COVID would exist, but it would do very little harm in the scheme of things. We want to focus on vaccination, vaccination, vaccination. We want to make very clear the separation between all the good things, all the opportunity, all the positives that will be available to people who are vaccinated versus an increasingly more limited world for folks who are unvaccinated. So, that’s the strategic thrust. In that context, the mask recommendation made a lot of sense. But we’re not taking any tool off the table going forward, depending on what the data and science tells us. Go ahead, Emma.
Question: Next, I had a politics question. So, you were out playing volleyball on Friday, and you appear to be enjoying the job lately. Maybe you’ll miss being in elected office come January. Are you ruling out running for governor next year?
Mayor: Emma, I haven’t ruled in or ruled out anything. I have not made any decisions about the future. As you can tell, right now my singular focus is on beating back COVID and getting the city to a full recovery. At some point I got to figure out what I’m doing. Obviously, I care deeply about the people of this city and I care deeply about public service, but I have not made any decisions about the future.
Moderator: The next is Michael Garland from the Daily News.
Question: Good morning, Mr. Mayor.
Mayor: Hey, Michael, how you doing?
Question: I’m good. How are you?
Mayor: Hanging in, brother.
Question: I got a question about the requirement you have for new City employees coming in to get vaccinated. How many people do you anticipate that is in the coming months? I mean, you know, is it a significant amount, negligible amount of people were talking about?
Mayor: I certainly would not say [inaudible]. I mean, we – our whole City government is almost 400,000 people and there’s always turnover. So, it’s – you know, we’ll get you the exact numbers, but before long it’s hundreds then thousands of people. But it’s another, both tangible act and another statement about the fact that we are climbing the ladder of more and more mandates. Go ahead, Michael.
Question: Thanks, Mr. Mayor, and with this $100 incentive you rolled out last week, has the City set goals on that. I mean, what kind of turnaround, what kind of numbers are you looking for on a daily, weekly basis? And I mean, how many people have taken advantage of that so far since you announced it?
Mayor: So, we’ll get you the updated numbers on how many people have taken advantage. We know there was a clear uptick over the last few days and think that that incentive is a part of it, but I also want to emphasize, Michael, it’s incentive on the one hand and it’s growing mandates on the other hand. The mandates that the City has created for our own workforce which are clearly helping to lead the way for the private sector. You see more and more private sector companies setting mandates for their employees or even their customers. This is the shape of things to come. So, I think the two pieces will go together. In terms of specific goals, we don’t have anything to announce today, but we want to try and certainly model out the impact that all of these things together can have to really increase our vaccination levels. So, it’s great to be at 10 million doses. We certainly want to go a lot farther, but I think it will be the incentive and the mandates working together.
Moderator: We have time for two more for today. The next is Juliet from 1010 WINS.
Question: Hey, Mr. Mayor, how are you?
Mayor: I’m doing great. Juliet. How are you today?
Question: I’m good. Thank you. I wanted to go back to the indicators. Since you’re changing them are there new, let’s say, cutoff benchmarks where you would take a different kind of action at a certain level and what would they be?
Mayor: Juliet, great minds think alike. We had a lengthy call on Saturday discussing this exact issue with our health care leadership and other key leadership of the administration. And the answer is that we don’t have, if you will, a magical negative number that we’re trying to stay below. What we are focused on is maximizing vaccination. That is the ballgame. And what we’re seeing is as we keep pushing vaccination, it is having a profound impact. Even with the very powerful negative reality of the Delta variant, we still see a very low rate of hospitalization, we also see hospitals handling the cases they have very well, much better than in the past. They learned a lot. They’ve made a lot of adjustments. So, we’re watching the human impact, Juliet. And what we see is vaccination is the difference maker. Our whole goal here is to keep moving the thing that we know will make an impact, and we think the tools we’re using now are going to make a very big impact. So, we do not work from a threshold system anymore because we’re in an entirely different strategic reality with 10 million doses under our belt and a lot more to come. Go ahead, Juliet.
Question: Okay. Thank you. You know, I also wanted to ask about the weekend shooting in the Bronx. I know you made reference to that, but this isn’t the first time that motorbikes are being used in drive-by shootings or [inaudible] vehicles. And I was wondering, is there a way that you can address or regulate or ban their use?
Mayor: That’s a tricky one. Juliet, I’d have to have folks get back to you, including the legal issues there. You know, there are certain types of vehicles that are banned in New York City. Others are legal. I think the more profound issue is to create the right kind of ground rules for the use of those vehicles that help inhibit any criminal activity. We saw that previously with some of the scooters and putting certain rules in place that helped us last year. We’re going to keep looking at that. So, always on the table, different requirements, we can put in place different ways that we work with companies. But I really think in the end, the number one thing is just what we’re doing. Precision policing, proactive policing, gang takedowns. So much of the violence is gang related. That’s why you’ll hear this week a lot more about going at those gangs, getting those gun arrests done. That’s where the real action is.
And with that, as we conclude today, everybody, look, we – again, our recovery moving forward, but a lot more to do. Real challenges to take on, but we’re proving once again, New York City can take on those challenges, including the amazing news, 10 million vaccination doses. But the way to celebrate that news is to make sure that everyone in your life is vaccinated. If you’re a parent, that your kids are vaccinated ahead of school, if they’re 12 years and older. Let’s get this right. This is a watershed moment. And we have the tools in our hand to make a difference. Go get vaccinated. Thank you, everyone.