Transcript: Mayor de Blasio Holds Media Availability | #schoolshooting


July 22, 2021

Mayor Bill de Blasio: Good morning, everybody. Let’s do a wide shot here because look at this. Look at this incredible, incredible representation of the summer of New York City. And this is focused on the Bronx, the borough of the Bronx. Now look, I am literally a child of the 60’s so I can confirm to you, this is psychedelic. Okay. This is very groovy. There’s going to be amazing things happening in the summer of New York City, particularly in the Bronx. That’s one of the things we’re going to be talking about today. But this says it all, summer of New York City getting better all the time.  

Now, why? Why is it possible to have this amazing summer of New York City? Because of vaccination, vaccination has made all the difference. Let me give you the numbers to date, 9,795,576 doses. Astounding and growing every day by thousands and thousands. Here’s some breaking news. We have hit a milestone, a really big milestone. Today 70 percent of New York City adults have received at least one shot of the vaccine. 70 percent of adults. That’s a really big deal. And that explains why we’re able to keep moving forward with our recovery, why the summer of New York City is happening. But it’s also a reminder we’ve got to keep going deeper and deeper and deeper. Overall 50 percent – excuse me, 58 percent. 58 percent of New York City residents overall have received at least one dose. And again, when someone gets one dose, they do come back and get that second dose. It’s growing all the time. This is what’s going to keep us safe. Vaccination, vaccination, vaccination, nothing replaces vaccination.  Now, we got more to do with younger New Yorkers. This is the key. And as we get ready for school, you’re going to see a big push, a blitz to get younger New Yorkers, 12 years old and up vaccinated. I think it’s going to make a huge difference. But if you love New York City, if you love the summer of New York City, if you love everything that’s happening, help make it happen. Get vaccinated.  

Now we have a lot to celebrate. We fought through the worst of COVID, this city, the people of this city did everything right. That’s why we’re closing in on ten million vaccination doses because people went and did it right. Because of our health care heroes, but because of the choices everyday New Yorkers. We’ve got to celebrate the distance we’ve covered. We got to celebrate our recovery. We need to celebrate in the best way New York knows how, gathering together with the arts and culture of this city, which is like no other on Earth. So, you already know there is an absolutely historic concert planned for Central Park next month. It is going to be one of the greatest concerts in the history of New York City. It’s going to be iconic. It’s going to be legendary. One amazing concert you say. Well, that sounds like a lot. And that’s wonderful, but, no, it’s New York City. We’re not satisfied with one concert in one borough. Surely that is not enough. What we need is two major concerts, wait, three major, no, no four – five? Is it possible it could be five? Five boroughs, five amazing concerts? Who would do such a thing? New York City would do such a thing. So, all in Homecoming Week, five iconic, extraordinary concerts. One in each borough, the summer of New York City is going to be truly extraordinary. Unforgettable. Unlike anything you’ve seen, I am issuing a FOMO alert. Unless you want to spend the rest of your life saying, oh my God, I missed it. You should get to New York City in the month of August where amazing things will be happening during Homecoming Week.  

I’ve talked to people who missed Woodstock. My own oldest brother could have gone to Woodstock. He passed it up. He spent the rest of his life telling me, geez, I could’ve gone to Woodstock. Don’t let that FOMO thing happen to you. This is going to be amazing. So, we have been working with amazing folks in the arts and culture world, folks who are legends, who believe in New York City, who want us to come back strong, who want to celebrate New Yorkers for all they’ve done. One of them is with us here. He was there from the beginning, present at the creation of hip hop in the Bronx, of the beginning of something that has swept the nation, swept the world. Hip hop changed the culture and brought out amazing voices, amazing artists. And someone who was a part of it from the beginning and has built it and built it. He also is doing something beautiful for New York City and beautiful for the Bronx, with the creation of the Universal Hip Hop Museum, which is going to take something uniquely New York City and celebrate it to the whole world. So, my pleasure to introduce the President of the Universal Hip Hop Museum Rocky Bucano.  

[…]  

Historic. Now, okay, to our camera folks, you got to get me and Rocky both here, now. Because we’re going to have a little dialogue. Rocky, you’ve been there since the beginning of hip hop, teenage DJ all the way through. You’ve seen great concerts. You’ve seen amazing moments. In your entire life have you ever seen a series of concerts like the ones we’ve just announced?  

President Rocky Bucano, Universal Hip Hop Museum: Not in my entire life. I, you know, we had Woodstock obviously, which was phenomenal and legendary. But the City of New York and the five boroughs where you have one concert back-to-back to back-to-back for a whole week with iconic names, the biggest names in hip hop, has never happened.  

Mayor: Has never happened in the history of New York City. So, everyone Homecoming Week, I am giving you your final formal FOMO warning. I need like flashing lights, like FOMO lights, FOMO alert, FOMO alert, FOMO alert! You’ve been warned. The choice is now yours. It needs like one of those Mission Impossible tapes that, you know, everyone gets sent a little tape recorder and then, you know, after it tells them about the concerts, it self-destructs, something like that. Rocky, this is incredibly exciting. I want to thank you and everyone at the Universal Hip Hop Museum. What you’re doing first of all for the city, by just creating this amazing museum, I was so proud to be with you and Grandmaster Flash, that was a high point for me. One of the greats of all time, to be with you guys at the groundbreaking. But listen, thank you to you and all your colleagues because you are giving New York City a different kind of shot in the arm.  

President Bucano: Absolutely.  

Mayor: The hope and the joy of these concerts is going to lead the way in our recovery and is going to guarantee that the summer of New York City is going to be legendary and unforgettable. Thank you, Rocky. Thank you for all you’re doing.  

President Bucano: Thank you for allowing us to produce it.  

Mayor: Absolutely. All right, everyone. So, let’s talk a little bit more about the Bronx. We are going to do something that we’ve done before. It was great. It’s time to bring it back, City Hall In Your Borough. When I go out and focus on one borough for a week and my deputy mayors, commissioners all go out, listen to the concerns of community leaders, community members, bring ideas and new initiatives forward, get things done, cut through red tape, make major announcements that are going to help the people of the borough. In this case, we’re starting in the Bronx. No better place to start. We want to focus on the Bronx, a borough with such strength, such pride, such grit. That’s also oftentimes gotten the short end of the stick. And one of the things we focused on throughout the eight years of this administration is fairness for the Bronx. Great, great things we’ve been able to do. One of the great examples recently, the Bronx Plan with our schools to really focus on bringing up the schools of the Bronx. We’ll be talking about that and so much more. So, next week, Monday through Thursday, I will be giving a press conference every morning, a briefing every morning, live from the Bronx. We’ll be talking about issues pertinent to the whole city, but with a Bronx flavor. And the goal is to make sure we are focused on the good people, the working people, the working families of the Bronx, getting to the Bronx and making things happen.  

Now, someone who really believes in the Bronx and he and I have been together a lot even before Bronx week. We’ve been a lot, together with yesterday at Bronx Science, amazing announcement, alumnus of Bronx Science gave $15 million to build a new lab there that is beautiful. Few days ago, we were at the One World Middle School at Edenwald hearing the great proposal from Congressman Bowman, for a Green New Deal for our schools. Great things are happening in the Bronx. And one of the leaders who’s making it happen, he’s a leader in the Bronx, he’s a leader in Albany. He is an up-and-coming presence in this city. My pleasure to introduce Senator Jamaal Bailey.  

[…]  

Thank you so much, Senator. I know you love your borough and we’re going to do great things next week with City Hall In Your Borough. And then amazing concert coming up in August at Orchard Beach. The team here at City Hall has really been thinking about this. And they think that it’s really going to be unfortunate if people don’t get the message about these concerts and then spend the rest of their life regretting that they missed all of them. Because there’s not one, there’s not two, there’s not three, there’s not four. There’s five concerts, something for everybody. So, the team has insisted that I issue a formal executive order, which I’m going to do right now. It’s a FOMO alert! FOMO alert! Okay. I know the camera can’t do it. So, I’ll do it. You know, we got – movement is very important. A visual – Rocky, you know, you can’t nowadays, you can’t just hold something still. It has to move.  

President Bucano: It’s got to have the action.  

Mayor: Action. FOMO alert! This means you. If you miss it and you live a life of regret, it will not be because your city didn’t try to alert you. Okay. Clearest message in the world, FOMO alert. I mean, two words, brief words, clear. Look, they gave different colors too for emphasis, and it looks patriotic. FOMO alert! Serve your city, serve your nation, get to one of these shows and all the other amazing things. It’s not just the concerts. You’re going to hear about a lot more happening during Homecoming Week. And thank you, Rocky. Thank you, Clive Davis. Thank you, Danny Meyer. All the people who came up with this idea, it’s going to be absolutely unforgettable. So, you have now been formally alerted. Thank you, Rocky.  

All right, everyone. We’re going to do indicators in a moment, but first I want to stay on the theme of a recovery for all of us. This is what we have been working on all year. And this is the theme of the year for New York City, a recovery for all of us, every borough, every neighborhood, every New Yorker. Now, when we think about a recovery for all of us, we need to see proof that we’re coming back. And we need to see our economy coming back, jobs coming back. We started a $30 million campaign to bring back the tourists, from the metropolitan area first, and then from the whole country, and ultimately from the world. We are already seeing results. This is really powerful. Here’s a milestone we’ve hit. Weekly hotel demand in New York City has hit the highest levels since before the pandemic. This is very, very important. Months ago, I talked to folks about what would be a measure of the rooms sold, the weekly room sold per week. What should we be shooting for? And they said, well, we’d love to get a half million, but that looks like that’s not going to be possible. Well, guess what? Last week, 481,284 room nights sold in New York City. We’re on the verge of a half million per week and growing all the time. 17,000 more than the week before. This is incredible progress. We are well on our way to reaching the goals that we had and then exceeding them because people are coming back to New York City. They already know between all the cultural activities that are happening, the cultural and artistic activities, the museums that are open, indoor, outdoor activities, sports is back. Restaurants, especially outdoor dining, which has gotten amazing, outdoor dining has gotten amazing attention all over the country. People are coming to New York City just to experience outdoor dining here. All of this is adding up in a very big way.  

And here’s another indicator, Statue of Liberty, when it reopened, very big deal. Guess what? The visits are up big time. Passengers from Battery Park to Liberty Island last week, up 22 percent last week compared to the end of June. Just a few weeks ago, it’s skyrocketing. So, something great is happening. And what it means? More activity, more jobs, more dollars in the pockets of New Yorkers, more recovery. That’s what’s happening, but we got to keep it moving. And the way we keep it moving is vaccination, which is my lead into the indicators. We’re going to be talking next week about the indicators themselves. We’re going to be making some revisions because we’re in a new situation and got to show you new information that’s pertinent. What we see is a kind of tale of two cities at this point. We see these case numbers going up and that’s not good. Thank God we see hospitalization levels still remaining, surprisingly low, very positively low. When I say surprising, not surprising because of strategy, pleasing and very positive to see how low they are. Strategy has worked. The reason they’re low is vaccination. As you heard, 70 percent of all adults in New York City have gotten at least one shot. That’s why hospitalization has remained low. Particularly because so many of our seniors have gotten the shot. And any senior out there who has not yet gotten vaccinated, literally we will send vaccinators to your home. That’s how advanced the effort is now.  

So, here are the indicators. Number one, daily number of people admitted to New York City hospitals for suspected COVID-19. Today’s report is 98 patients. I can turn this page. 23.3 percent confirmed positivity. Hospitalization rate per 100,000, 0.46. New reported cases on a seven-day average, 644. And percentage of people testing positive citywide for COVID-19 on a seven-day rolling average, 2.01 percent.  

This is an area we’re going to be talking about next week, where the positivity is not showing us what it used to because so few people are getting tested now. And we’re getting a more of a skewed result here. What we’re going to be focusing on going forward is going to be hospitalization rate, vaccination rate, cases. Those are the things we’re going to be talking about more and more because that’s what’s telling us most truthfully and clearly what’s going on. But we’ll have more to say on that next week. A few words in Spanish, and I don’t have the exact Spanish version of FOMO alert. Now, if you guys are really quick, you’re going to get it from me. How to say FOMO alert properly in Spanish. I mean, really we should translate it into multiple languages because everyone needs to be warned that if they don’t come here, they’re going to regret it. So, I at least can tell you in Spanish a little bit about this amazing announcement, five homecoming concerts.  

[Mayor de Blasio speaks in Spanish]  

Is like a long version of FOMO alert. Okay. We’re going to keep working on it. Maybe we need a different language each day? Hey, FOMO alert each day. Different languages. Yes, right. Thank you, Angelene – very inclusive. We are the world. Okay. With that, let’s turn to our colleagues in the media and please let me know the name and outlet of each journalist.  

Moderator: Good morning. We will now begin our Q-and-A. As a reminder, we are joined by Health Commissioner Dr. Dave Chokshi, Dr. Andrew Wallach, Ambulatory Care Chief Medical Officer of New York City Health + Hospitals, and Dan Gross, Executive Director of Citywide Events. Our first question today goes to Andrew Siff from NBC.  

Question: Good morning, Mr. Mayor. Good morning, FOMO alert –  

Mayor: Andrew, you’ve picked up on immediately. You are a trend-watcher, aren’t you?  

Question: Yes. The subliminal advertising of your placard made its way into the question base here. But turning to a serious topic, which is your new vaccine policy, which you announced yesterday. I’m wondering if your health team can weigh in on the weekly testing as an alternative there. Is there not a risk that it really, if it’s really going to prevent the spread of Delta among the un-vaccinated, shouldn’t the testing be every three or four days, shouldn’t it be even more regular so you eliminate that possibility?  

Mayor: Yeah. Fair question. I’ll turn to Dr. Chokshi and Dr. Wallach in a moment, but, Andrew, I want to say, I said other day we’re climbing the ladder. This is a first step. And this is a step to begin, I think, what’s going to be a bigger effort – public sector, private sector, not just New York, all over the country. This is the shape of things to come. We have got to get people vaccinated. We’ve got to be more aggressive. I think this is a good first step. That’s a lot of testing – even just once a week is a lot of testing. But we’re going to be looking to make whatever changes we need. A simple goal, we’re going to stop the Delta variant. You know, again, 70 percent of adults have had at least one vaccine dose. That’s why New York City is alive and vibrant right now. We’re doubling down on vaccination. So, testing is going to play a role, but the real goal here is to show people how smart it would be to get vaccinated so you don’t need to be tested all the time. Dr. Chokshi, then Dr. Wallach –  

Commissioner Dave Chokshi, Department of Health and Mental Hygiene: Thank you, sir. And yes, weekly testing is quite frequent. But we have to remember that for people who are unvaccinated, that’s part of a suite of interventions to help keep themselves as well as others around them safe. And so, people who are undergoing that weekly testing will have to continue, of course, to wear masks, physically distance, and do the other things that we know up to protect themselves and others. But remember, the key point of this policy is to encourage as many people to get vaccinated as possible and that frequency of testing we think will have the effect of convincing some who have not yet gotten vaccinated to get vaccinated.   

Mayor: Thank you. Dr. Wallach, do you want to add? Dr. Wallach?  

Chief Andrew Wallach, Ambulatory Care, Health + Hospitals: Good morning, Mr. Mayor. Thank you.  

Mayor: There you go. How are you doing?  

Chief Wallach: Sorry for that. Good morning. Yes, I would just add that – remember, that the weekly testing does not exist in a vacuum. As Dr. Chokshi said, we are also continuing to use mask at our health care facilities. And, equally important, is that all of our health care workers will also be monitoring for signs and symptoms or evidence of COVID-19. So, it is a part of an overall strategy. Thank you.   

Mayor: Amen. Go ahead, Andrew.   

Question: An MTA official told me the other day that the messaging from City Hall, perhaps unintentionally, is communicating to people that COVID is over – the parade, the concerts, Summer of New York, everybody get out, lose the masks. Well, at the same time, you’re imposing the strictest yet policy with regard to vaccines. So, how do you reconcile what seems to be contradictory messaging to the people of New York?  

Mayor: I appreciate your editorial comment, my brother, but I want to be very clear – it’s really clear, consistent, positive messaging. You want freedom? Get vaccinated. Remember, we fought for the freedom to vaccinate. Well, I want to now flip the equation on its head. If you want freedom in your life, get vaccinated. If you want the Summer of New York City, get vaccinated. Thank God, we’ve gotten almost 10 million doses. Thank God, almost 70 percent of New York City adults have had at least one dose. That is why things are going as well as are going. That’s why we’re recovering. That’s why we can celebrate. And obviously, a lot of these activities we’re talking about are outdoor activities and we all know how much better things are outdoors. But the bottom line is, get vaccinated. As we climb that ladder and we get a stronger and stronger in our effort with vaccination, it is the thing that allows us to recover. So, the two go together. I want to thank New Yorkers and reward the good behavior of New Yorkers that got vaccinated by continuing to recover, open up, do more and more. But the message also is, if you want more of that, get vaccinated.  

Moderator: Our next question goes to James Ford from PIX 11.  

Question: And good morning, Mr. Mayor, and everyone on the call. I will say it, it is a beautiful day in New York.  

Mayor: It is a beautiful day. And James, you’re such a fine journalist. You know, the other day you were – have to use the baseball term – you were in the eighth hole. You now have been brought up to the coveted number-two spot, which is where – you know, he baseball theory, the single best hitter should be in the number-two spot, some belief. You know, so I just want to give you that compliment today.   

Question: Thank you for the compliment. I hope my bosses are listening. I do appreciate it. But, seriously, let’s ask this first question. You’re probably aware that New Orleans Mayor has issued an indoor mask recommendation for that city, joining Las Vegas, San Francisco, and others. It’s not a mandate, like the one implemented in Los Angeles County, but it’s an advisory. What would it take to have something like that? Like an advisory, perhaps, issued here in New York City?  

Mayor: James, fair question. We’re going to obviously keep all options on the table, going forward. I want to say a couple of things then turn to Dr. Chokshi. What a strange world, James. We would not be having this discussion at all, we would not even be saying anything about mask advisories if everyone just got vaccinated. This ball game would be over. So, there’s some kind of strange mental gymnastics happening in America, where we justify somehow vast numbers of people being unvaccinated. And we go through all sorts of hoops trying to compensate for it, rather than just buckling down and dealing with the issue in front of us. People need to get vaccinated, period. Nothing will do what vaccination will do. And we’re kidding ourselves. It’s almost like, you know where we’re in suspended animation here. Are we really going to let ourselves fall back to where we were? Do you really want to see the world shut down again? I mean, let’s get serious. People have to get vaccinated. So, that’s my central point. But we will look at any and all options, going forward. But if people went and got vaccinated, we wouldn’t have to discuss any of these other things. The second point is, there’s a lot of areas where people are mandated to wear masks, and that’s good policy. Schools, mandated to wear masks indoors. Subways, hospitals – mandate required. And that’s right. And then, for so many other New Yorkers, we’re saying to anyone unvaccinated, you should have a mask on all the time. If you’re un-vaccinated, you’re unfortunately posing a risk to everyone around you, including the people you love, if you’re on vaccinated. So, Dr. Chokshi will now remind everyone of all the existing mask mandates and guidance. Go ahead, Dr. Chokshi.  

Commissioner Chokshi: Okay. Thank you, sir. You’ve covered all the high points, so I’ll just elaborate a bit. And the key point is that we do have strong recommendations for masking amidst all of the other tools that we have to beat back COVID, particularly with the Delta variant. The most important tool that we have is vaccination and we have to keep our square focus on increasing vaccination rates, even beyond the 70 percent milestone that the Mayor mentioned earlier. With respect to understanding, you know, where masks are important – look, our recommendation has been very clear, it’s particularly important in shared indoor spaces, particularly when there are a significant number of unvaccinated individuals or where vaccination status is unknown. That’s why we do have mask mandates in place on public transit, like subways and buses, in schools, in congregate settings, in health care facilities for everyone.  

And beyond that, we also strongly, strongly recommend – if you are unvaccinated, this is perhaps the most dangerous time for you in terms of risk of COVID, so it is extremely important, if you’re unvaccinated, to stay masked up and to make sure you’re following all of the other guidance that we relied upon before there were vaccines – that means physical distancing, getting tested regularly, making sure you’re in well-ventilated spaces, keeping your hands clean. That is particularly important for anyone who remains unvaccinated. And then, run, don’t walk, to get your vaccine.   

Mayor: Run, don’t walk. I love when you say that, Dave. Go ahead, James.  

Question: Thank you. Thank you. A related second question – Mayor, you’ve said that you don’t see the need for a masks mandate, because hospitalization rates are low, which they are, but that low rate does continue to rise, including today. It is increasing. Can you talk about that increase and how decisions regarding masking and maybe any other related health decisions regarding COVID might be affected if that hospitalization rate – albeit low, but if that rate continues to rise even at these small incremental levels. How might that change administration recommendations?  

Mayor: Very good question, James. Thank you. And I’m going to start and frame it, and I want to hear from Dr. Chokshi and Dr. Wallach. I think the way to think about it is this – when we have meetings with our health care team, the central focus is on saving lives and avoiding the worst harm to people. And we want to get rid of COVID entirely, that would be a beautiful thing one day. But we all believe that, eventually, COVID will be sort of in the backdrop, like the flu, for example. It still can have a very negative effect for a small number of people, but for most people it’s not a major factor in their lives. That’s where we want to. But, right now, the question is, can we save lives? Can we keep people from being hospitalized? Can we keep them from the most serious damage? And that’s what we see, that because of the high, high level of adult vaccination – and the most vulnerable people are seniors, and they are particularly high level of vaccination – the outcomes from COVID have been very, very different in New York City. We got there just in time, reaching those high levels of vaccination, but we have to keep doubling down. So, this hospitalization rate right now, for example, is quite low. And, thank God, the situation is absolutely sustainable, but we’re going to watch the hospitalization rate, watch the case rate, watch the vaccination rate. Those three things are going to determine our decisions, going forward. Any and all options are always kept on the table. We’re led by the data and the science. But in terms of helping you understand how different things are when almost 10 million vaccination doses have been given – this is where I want the doctors to just speak as doctors, speak as clinicians here – what you see different in the people coming into the hospitals, or the number of people coming into the hospitals, or your experience with your own patients since we’ve achieved a very high level of vaccination. Dr. Chokshi, then Dr. Wallach.  

Commissioner Chokshi: Thank you, sir. And that’s exactly the right frame that we have to keep in mind. With respect to hospitalizations, people who are in intensive care units and, of course, the most tragic outcome that we wish to avoid, people dying from COVID-19, which has happened too frequently in New York City among our, our neighbors, our family members over the last 18 months – those severe outcomes are now – almost all cases of preventable suffering because of the vaccines. What we’re seeing in our hospitals – and Dr. Wallach should speak about this for Health + Hospitals specifically – but what we’re seeing across all New York City hospitals is that the vast majority of people who are getting admitted are people who are unvaccinated at this time. So, that is why you see our focus on vaccination to try to curb and prevent as much of that avoidable suffering as possible. One note on the on the numbers, we are seeing cases increase and, as has been mentioned, the hospitalization rate is relatively low. But we have seen some increases in the in the recent days. If cases continue to go up, we will see hospitalizations go up as well, usually that lags by a few days to a couple of weeks. And so, this makes it very important for us to take the steps that we need to, to interrupt the spread of the virus, because we know of that link between cases and hospitalizations. And the number-one thing that can both interrupt the spread and prevent those most severe outcomes is vaccination.   

Mayor: Thank you. And Dr. Wallach, from the perspective of Health + Hospitals, again, I think painting the picture for people what the high level of vaccination has achieved, because we’ve got to keep explaining to people why vaccination makes a difference. Can you give us a sense of what you guys are seeing now versus what you used to see?  

Chief Wallach: Thank you, Mr. Mayor. So, indeed our overall hospitalization rate remain incredibly low around New York City Health + Hospitals. And the reason that these rates are low is because of vaccines clearly. This has been the game-changer for us. We now have beds available, should we need them. But the overall rates are low, because people are going out and getting vaccinated. When we do look at the individuals who are currently in our system, because of COVID, as Dr. Chokshi alluded to, is almost exclusively in those individuals who have not yet been vaccinated to-date. This is really becoming a disease of two separate populations, those have been vaccinated and those who have not. And so, we really encourage everybody to continue to get back to get vaccinated if you have not. The science and the real-world experience is incredibly clear. The vaccines are safe and they are highly effective. This has changed our experience unbelievably so at New York City Health + Hospitals. Thank you.   

Mayor: Thank you. Go ahead.  

Moderator: Our next question goes to Chris from the Daily News.  

Mayor: Chris? Chris? We’ve got Chris, or not? Are you on mute?   

Question: Can you hear me?  

Mayor: There you go.   

Question: Okay. All right. Perfect. Thanks for taking the question. I wanted to ask, I understand you’re excited for Homecoming Week and, you know, sending the message of the FOMO alerts and whatnot, but isn’t it a potentially dangerous message to urge people to swarm to New York City when, as Dr. Chokshi said this – we’re having a Delta-driven up ticking infections. Isn’t it dangerous to have the huge amounts of people come to the city amidst all of this?  

Mayor: Not if they’re vaccinated. And, in the end, we are – again, this is where – if people think the solution – I am honestly answering your question, Chris – if they think the solution is, everyone go home and not participate in recovery, and allow ourselves to slip backwards into the world we were in – yeah, if that’s an option people want, I want to see that they have their head examined. I mean, this is crazy. Get vaccinated. It’s just – it’s time for a very aggressive, assertive approach. People need to get vaccinated so we can keep building – thank God, save lives, protect people, build the recovery, bring back jobs, bring back people’s lives. So, we’re not going to cower. We’re going to go address the problem and what we should do more and more is, you know, find every way to get people vaccinated, find ever way to reward people who get vaccinated and thank people who get vaccinated and keep moving forward, not run away and retreat. Go ahead, Chris. 

Question: Thank you. On another topic, the Justice Department’s anti-gun trafficking initiative launched today and as you’re probably familiar with one of the strike forces has been deployed to New York City. But what can you say about what this is going to mean for New Yorkers? Are we going to see these strike forces on the streets or what can we expect? 

Mayor: It’s a really helpful step. It’s not – from everything I’ve heard, and my team has heard in the conversations with the federal government, it’s not like a vast amount of personnel that makes a difference. What makes a difference is a coordination of the federal government with local authorities to stop the flow of guns. That’s what we need. Federal authorities don’t patrol the streets. That’s an American truth for, you know, generations and generations, but what the federal government can do a lot more of is destroy this horrible cycle of illegal guns going into American cities. And that’s exactly what this effort has meant to achieve. So, more coordination, more information, more disruption of the flow of guns coming into the city and other cities tremendously helpful, and we welcome it. 

Moderator: Our next question goes to Bob Hennelly from the Chief Leader. 

Question: Thanks for taking the call, Mr. Mayor. One of the things that I’m hearing over and over again is the idea that people that have been exposed in the uniform services to coronavirus, and as you know, thousands of them were sidelined in the Police, Fire, EMS, and firefighters – that they retain an immunity, and that these antibodies are sufficient that they indeed do not need to take whatever risks which we may consider [inaudible] taking the vaccine. Could your subject matter experts address that? 

Mayor: This is in the category of give me a bleeping break. When did everyone get a medical degree? Yeah, I’m sick of everyone armchair saying that they know more than the doctors. With all due respect, it’s a free country. People have an entitlement to their opinion but give me a break. Listen to the doctors who have been protecting you and saving the lives of your family and your community. They’re telling you with one voice, get vaccinated. So, could we stop the amateurishness, you know, like this is just got to end. It’s got to end. It was fine for a while for people to hang back and they wanted more information and they wanted to see how it went. I think we have a pretty good sample size, 150 million people got vaccinated. What, do you need more to be convinced? So, Dr. Chokshi, I will restrain myself. Dr. Chokshi, someone says I have the antibodies, I don’t need to be vaccinated. Dr. Chokshi. Let me ask you a question. Where did you go to medical school, Dr. Chokshi? 

Commissioner Chokshi: Sir, I went to the University of Pennsylvania. 

Mayor: Right, and then where did you do your residency? 

Commissioner Chokshi: At Harvard, sir. 

Mayor: Okay, I think you know a little bit about medicine. Dr. Chokshi, are antibodies enough? 

Commissioner Chokshi: No. Our clear message is even if you have been previously infected with COVID, you should get vaccinated once you have recovered. The reason for this is that we know that vaccination strengthens the protection that you will receive, and it may further extend that duration of your immunity as well. This is particularly important with the Delta variant because we know that mounting a stronger immune response gives you more protection against the Delta variant and some of the other variants that are emerging. So, this actually adds emphasis to that message, which is if you’ve been previously infected, you should still get vaccinated. I’ll just add on a personal note, sir. I’m someone who has add COVID-19 myself in the past. And it was an easy decision for me to get vaccinated. Once I had recovered, it keeps me more protected. It helps me keep my patients more protected and it keeps my family members, particularly those who are not eligible for vaccination yet, my young daughter, it helps to keep her protected as well. 

Mayor: Amen. Go ahead, Bob. 

Question: I think you were shooting with a messenger a little bit there, Mr. Mayor. We’ve known each other a long time – 

Mayor: Oh no. Bob, that wasn’t directed at you that was directed at anyone – 

Question:  Well, it was kind of – I guess – I’d be taking the seminar of “we want to meet people where they are.” That didn’t feel like that. My second question – 

Mayor: No, Bob. Bob. One, not directed at you. Two, real respect for our public servants, you know, I feel that. But meeting people where they’re were was great for seven months of nonstop information and incentive, and we’ll come to your doorstep and everything else. Let’s get real. People had every chance to do it the nice way. Now it’s time to be more assertive, because anyone who doesn’t get vaccinated is putting other people in danger. I’m not saying they’re bad people. I’m just saying a fact – they’re putting other people in danger. It’s got to end. Go ahead, Bob. 

Question: So, my second question according to NYCOSH, a respected non-profit worker safety labor-supported group, 250,000 essential workers experienced COVID and were sidelined by it. Another 150,000 asymptomatic exposures, which worker comp attorneys say means they should really file a claim because – and your experts would know better than I – there is a risk that’s been identified that even an asymptomatic exposure down the line could have negative health consequences during your working life. Do your experts think more knowledge or more information needs to be put out there about the asymptomatic, which does not get much press? 

Mayor: Bob, you put that in the context of worker compensation, which is obviously an incredibly important value if you will, in this city and state that we need to protect working people. But I also want to be careful, I’m not going to comment on how something like that should affect people’s decisions on worker compensation or how we should structure worker compensation around that. I don’t want to do that on the fly. 

In terms of the concept of asymptomatic exposure and what it could mean again, very broadly. Dr. Chokshi, anything you want to say to that? 

Commissioner Chokshi: Sir, as you said, you know, I don’t think we can comment on anything related to the workers’ compensation angle of it. I’m a bit confused, I’ll admit, in terms of the phrase “asymptomatic exposure” – is it about asymptomatic infection or exposures that do not result in infection? 

Mayor: So, to me, I think you’re – respectfully, you’re answering your own question, because something that does not result in infection – if it results in an infection, results in infection, then that is COVID. If it doesn’t result in infection, the doctor, I’m just saying on a commonsense level, then it obviously is not the same impact. I think I’m on firm ground. 

Commissioner Chokshi: Yes. Exactly, and so in terms of – if it’s an asymptomatic infection, we are still understanding what the long-term effects of asymptomatic COVID-19 infection may be. But if it is an exposure that does not result in infection then that is, that would be a safe circumstance. 

Mayor: Thank you. 

Moderator: Our next question goes to Mike Sacks from FOX 5. 

Question: Hey, Mr. Mayor. You spoke about how hotel bookings and landmark visits keep climbing. Back in May you proposed making it easy for tourists to get vaccinated while they’re here at sites like Times Square in the High Line as a way to boost tourism here in the city, and to do its part once doses did become abundant and widely available. Now, do we know how many people have come from outside the U S to get vaccinated here in New York City? Even what countries they’ve come from? Has the City been keeping stats on that? And either way, is there a specific protocol international visitors must follow to get vaccinated here in New York City? 

Mayor: That’s a great question, Mike, I appreciate it. What I was really referring to first and foremost was domestic tourism. So, I’m going to present what I understand to be the protocol. And then Dr. Chokshi can clarify further. If you’re an American citizen, you come to New York City, of course we want to vaccinate you if you’re not vaccinated, that’s in everybody’s interest – we’re one country. If someone’s here as our visitor, we want to vaccinate them. We’re happy to vaccinate them. From the moment they get vaccinated, there’s some protection and it obviously helps us in the bigger fight against COVID. For people visiting from other countries. There are legal issues and protocols that are different if they’re citizens of other countries, and we of course will follow any of those legal protocols. Dr. Chokshi you want to add anything to clarify that? 

Commissioner Chokshi: No, sir. That’s exactly right. We do track on our Health Department website, the numbers of people who were vaccinated were New York City residents, and those who are non-New York City, but we don’t, you know, further distinguish. But the vast majority of non-New York City people who’ve been vaccinated in our city are from the United States. The one other thing that I always have to mention when we talk about this, sir, is that it’s very important to recognize that because we have some fellow New Yorkers who are undocumented that means we do not, you know, verify citizenship status as a matter of ensuring that undocumented immigrants are also vaccinated because they are our fellow New Yorkers. This is very important. This is part of our protocols and we have to get the message out that we will vaccinate all New Yorkers, regardless of immigration status, regardless of whether or not you have health insurance. 

Mayor: That’s a very good point, Dave, and I appreciate it because I was trying to clarify, and I think you said it better. A New Yorker’s a New Yorker. I think we – the New York City government has been really, really clear, and the people of New York City have been really clear – a New Yorker is a New Yorker – someone who lives here regardless of documentation status, they’re part of our community. Of course, we want them vaccinated. Go ahead, Mike. 

Question: Yeah, I just want to follow up, we have some reporting where international visitors have come specifically to get vaccinated here in the city. Do you have any thoughts on that and what to say about that? For people who are considering coming to the city? I mean, vaccines aren’t limited, and there’s some reporting that federal government has been sending stories of vaccines abroad. I mean, is it a good thing for people to come here to the city to take advantage of what we have for global vaccination rates? 

Mayor: Yeah, Mike, I don’t, I mean, from what I’ve seen, and this is just truly impressionistic, I have not seen or heard a lot of evidence of any appreciable number of people coming here. We just – that’s not been something that’s been presented to me. If someone, for example, and we know there are people around the world who have a relationship with New York City Hospitals, those tend to be people with substantial means, who come here for healthcare. If they go to one of the hospitals that they’re connected to and they get vaccinated I’m assuming there’s a legal, appropriate protocol for that. But in terms of something on a larger level, I’m not seeing it. I think where we should put our focus right now is ensuring that people in this city, in the metropolitan area get maximally vaccinated. And if someone comes from another part of our country to visit us, it’s really in our interest to get them vaccinated. I think that’s, that’s where the vast majority of people – we aren’t seeing obviously as much international travel, that’s quite clear. The folks who are visiting overwhelmingly are from the United States and we really want to make sure they get vaccinated. 

Moderator: The question goes to Julia Marsh from the New York Post. 

Question: Hi, Mr. Mayor, a couple of questions. Actually, one that just came to me on Twitter from a local mom. She’s wondering if any of those people who are hospitalized who are unvaccinated recently are under the age of 12? 

Mayor: I’ll have Dr. Wallach and Dr. Chokshi speak to that. One update just for you, Julia, again, always thinking members of the media who point out specific things for us to follow up on. We had some very strong and effective enforcement on some of the vendor issues in Fordham Road yesterday, which will be ongoing. So, thank you very much for raising that. Dr. Wallach and Dr. Chokshi anything you want to say to Julia’s question? 

Chief Wallach: Yep. Good morning. Thank you for the question. We are not seeing significant hospitalizations for those under the age of 12 at New York City Health + Hospitals to date. 

Mayor: Thank you. Dr. Chokshi, you want to add? 

Commissioner Chokshi: Just to add, sir, we know that hospitalization rates for those under 12 are quite low but they’re not zero. We have certainly seen hospitalizations of younger children as a result of COVID-19 over the last several months. What this highlights is that we all have an obligation and a responsibility to protect, especially those who are not yet eligible to get vaccinated. Kids do not have the ability to get vaccinated yet, and that means that everyone around them can take a very important step to protect them by getting vaccinated themselves. 

Mayor: Thank you. Go ahead, Julia. 

Question: Thanks. Switching topics, Mr. Mayor. This is on behalf of my colleague Nolan Hicks who had a story about assemblywoman Latrice Walker, who chairs the committee that oversees the board of elections. She has four close associates and family members who currently work for the agency, including her child’s father. I’m wondering how the BOE can be reformed if lawmakers tasked with oversight have such a vested interest in the current setup? 

Mayor: Yeah, Julia, I haven’t seen any of those stories you’re referring to, but I can tell you the big picture. The Board of Elections cannot be mended. It must be ended. We need, unfortunately, tragically, it will require a state constitutional amendment. But it, I don’t know how many final straws we need around here. It doesn’t work. It’s a relic of Tammany Hall. It’s broken. It will always be broken. It should be replaced with a modern, efficient agency. It could be a Mayoral agency, it could be – there’s any number of ways to do this, that would work, but it cannot be partisan. And we watched around the country, really impressive work last year. You know, one of the biggest turnouts in a long, long time and boards of elections did an incredible job around the country without this albatross around their neck that is a partisan system, but to make it no longer partisan will unfortunately require a state constitutional amendment. We should move forward aggressively with that. This is idiotic. Idiotic. It is wrong. It’s broken. It’s not going to get better. 

In the meantime, the legislature should pass legislation to empower the executive director, at least make it somewhat more efficient and modern while we’re getting the bigger fix, but broken, broken, broken, needs to go.  

Moderator: We have time for two more questions today. The next question goes to Rob at AM New York.   

Question: Hello, Mr. Mayor, how are you doing?  

Mayor: I’m good, Rob, how you been?  

Question: I’ve been very well, thank you. So, I’m going back to COVID-19 vaccines in the mandates, it was reported through NBC, I think that the NYPD administered the COVID vaccines to 43 percent of its force, both uniform and civilian personnel. This is after the pandemic ravished the Department last year, some 11,000 of its members wound up being infected. The NYPD says it’s working to educate its members on the vaccine and encourage them to get it, but in light of the city mandate now for city health care workers, do you think it’s time for the NYPD to do the same with its employees?   

Mayor: Rob, look, one NYPD put together a fantastic vaccination effort, and when we fought for the freedom to vaccinate, because you will remember insanely the State of New York would not allow us to vaccinate first responders, we won that right, working, thank God, with mayors and county executives around the whole State of New York, won that right. NYPD put together an amazing vaccination effort, very effective, very fast, I commend them for that. Now, I’d say NYPD and every other agency everyone’s got to do better, everyone’s got to do better. We got to go farther and we’re going to look at a variety of ways to do that. So, yesterday was an important first step. We’ll be talking about the next steps in the days ahead. Go ahead, Rob.  

Question: Okay. Just one second. You know, and I don’t want to like further, you know, get ire up about the situation, but just to follow up on what The Chief reporter had said, in the statement  the NYPD provided, and we have a copy of it, it notes that, “upwards of 11,000 members of the NYPD have been infected with COVID-19 and statistically have a far lower likelihood of re-contracting the disease”, which seems to counter what you and the team and the Health Commissioner have said. Does that, that just seem to do with the disservice to the effort, no?  

Mayor: It’s a fair point. I haven’t seen what you’re referring to. I want to. Look, for a long time, we talked about antibodies and the reality that they brought in there is some truth that there’s an impact, but pales in comparison to vaccination. I also want to remember things that were talked about a year ago or even six months ago are not particularly pertinent at this moment when vaccination is widely available for free, in fact, we’ll come to your doorstep if you need. Before widespread vaccination, that’s one thing, but when you have vaccination available to anybody, everybody, all the time, anywhere, it’s time for people to get vaccinated. So, I’m glad you raised that. I’m going to ask Dr. Chokshi to follow up with the NYPD and look at those materials and make sure they’re updated, because there has to be one message it’s time for everyone to get vaccinated.  

Moderator: Our last question for today goes to Henry Goldman from Bloomberg.  

Question: Hello, Mr. Mayor, how are you doing?  

Mayor: Hey, Henry, how are you doing today?  

Question: I’m doing well, thank you. Well, I’ve got a bunch of questions I’m going to have to limit them to two, here’s the first one, positivity increasing the two percent first time since May 8th. Is there any effort at contact tracing being done in the City of New York these days?   

Mayor: Sure, and let me just say again, we increasingly believe the positively number is not telling us enough. It is skewed now. It is not –it’s based on a lot fewer tests than it used to be. Most obviously, you know, massive testing was being done in the schools and we’re not doing the same thing for Summer Rising. We’re seeing fewer tests, more tests, definitionally by people who have a concern going to get tested rather than a cross section of the population. So, that number is less and less pertinent, we’re going be talking about how we want to interpret going forward. Case numbers, perfectly pertinent, hospitalization is the single most important, vaccination is the solution, those are the three things we’re going to be looking at. We’ll talk about that in the coming days, how we want to interpret this more clearly to the public. So that’s the sort of the big frame. Dr. Chokshi, you want to jump in here on Henry’s question?  

Commissioner Chokshi: Yes, sir. Thank you. I’ll reiterate test positivity is particularly challenging to compare now to prior points in the pandemic for the reason that the Mayor has said because of changes in testing patterns, which do affect the denominator. However, we can look at case numbers and case numbers are increasing, and so that is an indication of greater spread of the coronavirus at this time, which as we’ve mentioned appears to primarily be driven by the Delta variant. We’re seeing that in New York City and it’s also being observed across the United States where the Delta variant constitutes about 83 percent of samples that are being sequenced around the country.   

With respect to contact tracing, the short answer is, yes, absolutely. We continue to contact trace every single case that we are aware of. We have the largest test trace apparatus in the entire country, and so we’re able to follow up on those very quickly upon receiving the test result. Our contact tracing data indicates that household transmission, smaller social gatherings, and particularly travel are some of the reasons that, you know, they’re contributing to the greater spread of the coronavirus. The ultimate solutions are the same as what we’ve discussed earlier, and the key remains vaccination.  

Mayor: And Dr. Wallach you’ve played a crucial role in building up Test and Trace Corps, and we know, and now we have evidence from studies and analyses, including the recent Yale study that the vaccination effort, the test and trace effort, all these things made a huge difference. Talk about the current work being done by Test and Trace.  

Chief Wallach: Yeah, absolutely. Thank you, sir. Indeed. The New York City Test and Trace Corps remains incredibly active and working at full steam as Dr. Chokshi alluded to, any positive case here in New York City gets outreach and in fact we is intakes of those cases to understand who their contacts are. And in fact, we have recently expanded not only to trace the contacts, of now the contacts of the contacts. So, we’re, taking it to a next level in order to really contain and make sure anybody that potentially is exposed gets into quarantine, gets tested, defer, or prevent any spread, especially with the Delta virus being the predominant strain here in New York City. So, we are very confident in our apparatus through New York Test and Trace trays that this is yet another tool to help further mitigate any further spread for folks who are testing positive. Thank you.   

Mayor: Go ahead,   

Question: I would just like to comment if you will, that positivity has never been a foolproof measure, and when the denominator was large, it tended to under-report the concentration of infection in the city. So, you know, it’s always been one measure and it’s perplexing to me to see that now it’s just being scrapped, now almost two years into this – 

Mayor: Henry, I always welcome your editorialization, but I would say this, it’s not being scrapped, but it isn’t as important or as clear as it once was to us because we have a whole different ball game with vaccination, that is the single most important point. The world we used to know is when we didn’t have vaccination, and thank God we still managed with, for example, the efforts in the schools to keep so many people safe. Vaccination changes the ball game. The hospitalization rate we truly believe is the most important indicator in terms of human impact. We’re still going to, of course, put out information on positivity. We’re simply saying it’s not telling us as much as we felt it used to, and we think these other measures tell us more. And that’s what we’re going to focus on. Go ahead, Henry.  

Question: Okay. I just those other measures have always told us more. Well, let me ask you this, the Black participation rate and vaccination in this city still is below 50 percent, it’s many places below 40 percent. This is how do you – how do you break through this? You know, these, a lot of these voters are your voting base, and yet the performance is still below the average citywide in terms of demography. Is there – how do you respond to this?   

Mayor: That’s a huge and important question. I’ll start, and then I’ll welcome comments from Dr. Walloch and Dr. Chokshi. First it is not too glass half full to say, we’ve come a long, long way. When we talk about the numbers, these are just facts, 70 percent of New York City adults have had at least one dose, 58 percent of our total population, at least one dose. That’s an indication that this extraordinary cross section of New Yorkers has participated. When we started out, we were nowhere near that level of acceptance, and we all know it when we started out, there was huge percentage of people across many different backgrounds who weren’t willing to come forward and more and more people have, again, a typical day is 10, 15, 20,000, you know, vaccinations nowadays. That’s a lot of vaccinations. So, we do see constant improvement. We do see more and more buy in from community leaders, community organizations, houses of worship, that I think are really going to help us continue to move forward.  

But also, as we do these new approaches, which have, again, just begun, more to come, for example, with our health care workers, now, everyone knows there’s a very, very strong presence in the health care community of people of African descent. So, as you create a new system where people even have to get vaccinated or tested weekly, which I think is going to legitimately cause a lot of people to ultimately make the choice to get vaccinated, that’s going to have a big impact on the numbers in the community and a spillover effect, because it’s going to say to family members and community members, now it’s time. It’s going to create more urgency. Also, what we’re doing now, I think is going to help the private sector, and obviously people of all backgrounds working in the private sector, but it’s going to have a helpful impact as more and more specific decisions made, mandates are put in place by the private sector as well. All of this has got to add up, it’s going to have to be intense patient work, but it’s going to add up. Dr. Wallach then Dr. Choksi, you want to speak to that?  

Chief Wallach: Yes, I thank you, sir. So, I would just say indeed we recognize that there is definitely hesitancy in particular groups of individuals here in New York City, and that just makes us need to work even harder to make sure we speak with these individuals, understand where their hesitancy is coming from, and be able to show them the evidence, the medicine, the science behind the efficacy and the importance of these vaccines. So, we have taken several approaches at New York City Health + Hospitals, we have been doing focus groups, we have done one-on-one encounters with patients and staff members who’ve not been vaccinate, we creatively call the Vaccine Ambassadors Program, and then literally every single encounter that I have with my patients, that’s the first thing that we discussed during our visits. And again, trying to get to the reason or the rationale or the concern that the individual patient has, because again, we want to reassure individuals of the science and the safety and the importance of getting vaccines presented to protect themselves, their loved ones, and, of course, their community, the great City of New York.  

Mayor: Amen, Dr. Chokshi, you want to add?  

Commissioner Chokshi: Yes. Thank you, sir. And first, you know, let’s acknowledge that the differences in the vaccination rates reflect historical and current effects of structural racism. That has to be a part of our understanding in order to move forward with the approaches that both the mayor and Dr. Wallach have described. We also have to acknowledge that in a City that is as richly diverse as a New York is, that the community of Black New Yorkers is not monolithic. This requires, you know, very grassroots on the ground efforts with different communities in different places. So, for example, we’ve had particularly intensive work that we’ve undertaken with Caribbean New Yorkers in Brooklyn, partnering with community-based organizations, partnering with faith leaders, to ensure that people are hearing about the vaccine, not just from us not just from government, but from a trusted sources within their own neighborhoods. The last thing that I’ll say is that as you’ve heard, we’ve also really focused on working with community providers, that means family doctors, pediatricians, others who are already turned to for routine health care needs, and we’ve had a particular focus on those community providers who serve black indigenous and people of color. And so, we’ll be continuing to ramp up those efforts and link them with the blitz that the Mayor has mentioned with respect to younger New Yorkers in the weeks ahead.  

Mayor: Perfectly said, and the bottom line is, get vaccinated and get the people in your life vaccinated. Thank you, everybody.  

 

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