Transcript: Mayor de Blasio Holds Media Availability | City of New York –

August 31, 2021
Mayor Bill de Blasio: Good morning, everybody. When we started out on our vaccination effort, we called it Vaccine for All, literally said we’re going to make this something that works for every New Yorker, everywhere, every neighborhood, easy, fast, free, all the things that New Yorkers care about, making sure they can get in and out fast, of course, knowing it’s there for everyone for free. We’ve seen amazing things happen, by far the biggest vaccination effort in the entire history of New York City that keeps growing every day and the numbers are impressive and we keep using new approaches. And this weekend, the weekend of faith, a key example, let’s bring all the houses of worship into this effort, a trusted community, voices connecting with their congregants, saying here’s vaccination for you. Here’s a way to make it work that’s easy. Here’s a way to do the right thing for yourself, your family, your community, the houses of worship did an amazing job. This weekend, 2,000 vaccinations at the houses of worship as part of our referral program, 2,000 more people got vaccinated, that means every single one of those folks were able to get a bonus themselves, the $100 incentive, but it also means that every house of worship got a $100 for each person that they convinced to come in and get vaccinated. This is a powerful approach and it’s going to grow and the referral bonus approach, I want to be clear, the beauty of it is the individual is rewarded for coming forward, but whatever the organization is a house of worship, a community group, a business they get a boost too, and a thanks from the city for doing the right thing and helping to get people vaccinated. Lots of great examples around the city, non-profit organizations, houses of worship, businesses, small businesses, community businesses, restaurants that are already participating in the referral bonus program. 
One great example, East Flatbush Village, an amazing community group does great, great work, they have really focused on getting the community vaccinated in the place where we need extra help reaching people, and they’ve already referred over 450 people in the East Flatbush area to get vaccinated. 450 more people are going to be safe, helping to move the city forward, but also thousands of dollars in referral bonus support for East Flatbush Village. Everyone wins in this equation. East Flatbush village does afterschool tutoring for kids, they do really important anti-Violence work in the community, they do youth sports, great work to make the community better, leading the way on vaccination as well. I want you to hear from the Executive Director of East Flatbush Village, who’s done so much to help the community, my pleasure to introduce Eric Waterman. 
Eric, thank you so much. I really want to thank you. You’ve given a great example of what a community group can do. I mean, one community group bringing in well over 400 folks, I’m so happy that’s benefiting the good work you do in general, but I’m particularly happy that we got over 400 more New Yorkers who are vaccinated, and then that means more people hear the story that it worked, that it was easy, there’s going to be a huge multiplier effect here. So, I really want to thank you for what you’re doing for these Flatbush community and for giving a great example to everyone that so many community organizations and other organizations can be a part of this and make a huge impact. Thank you so much for everything you’re doing. 
Now, again, I mentioned it’s not just community-based organizations or how’s the worship. We welcome small businesses. We welcome barbershops and beauty salons. We welcome restaurants. We welcome bodegas. Anyone who wants to be a part of this, encouraging community members to come in and get vaccinated, we want those small businesses to benefit. We want to make sure that the individuals from the community come in and get back safe first and foremost, we want them to benefit from it, but we want the small businesses to benefit as well. Here’s an example, a restaurant in Harlem, Safari, great restaurant serves up wonderful Somali food, and they recognize after everything they’ve been through, the restaurant is hit hard, like so many others by the pandemic. They recognized that they could not only the restaurant back but do something great for the community. In a second, you’re going to hear from Shakib Farah, who with his wife, Mona, doing great work, educating the community about the power of vaccination. So, here’s a community-based business. Customers love it. Community loves it. And here’s another place where people are hearing how important it is to get vaccinated and an opportunity for the restaurant to benefit from the referral bonus program. Everybody wins in this scenario. I want you to hear this great example from the wonderful Safari restaurant in Harlem, Shakib Farrah. Welcome. 
Thank you so much. Shakib and I want to tell you, first of all, give you credit for wearing the t-shirt. You got to always promote a small business, a local restaurant, so I’m glad you’re getting the name out there. I’ve heard great things about the restaurant, I look forward to visiting, but I really want to thank you for giving people a great example of how every community business can help to keep people safe, and I wish you great success going forward.  
All right, now, the referral bonus, great opportunity for our restaurants as part of how we bring them back. But most important thing for restaurants for all of us is to make this city healthy, make this city safe, make sure we defeat COVID once and for all. I’ve been talking a lot lately about the fact that we need to get our focus on ending the COVID era once and for all we can do that, we can do that if enough of us get vaccinated and we can therefore avoid ever having to go back to restrictions, right? Remember when all those restaurants got closed, those businesses got closed. Remember the devastating impact. We can never let that happen again. We first and foremost have to protect people because of their health and wellbeing. We have to save lives, but we also can’t see our businesses destroyed because we didn’t do everything in our power to fight COVID. So that’s why the mandates we put in place are so important. And a Key to NYC is here, is being implemented all over the city. Customers know they’ll be safe when they’re in a restaurant or any indoor entertainment. The folks who work there know they’re safe as well. It’s not easy. There’s real work to be done. That’s why we spent weeks on outreach and education, and that’s why enforcement doesn’t begin until September 13th, but we want to make it as clear as possible. We want to answer questions. We want to work with restaurant owners and other business owners to get it right. One of the things we heard from restaurant owners, as they wanted a simple message that they could put up at the entrance to a restaurant, so everyone understands the rules and they understand that it’s a city rule. It’s not, something made up by each restaurant, it’s universal now. This is the poster that we’re going to have available, and in multiple languages for restaurants in a variety of communities to make clear, dear, this is something everyone has to do for the wellbeing of all of us to keep us moving forward to defeat COVID once and for all.  
Now I want everyone to know, we may clear on this poster, by the way, someone – let’s say someone goes to a restaurant and they didn’t know about the rule, they really want to go to the restaurant and they’re ready to get vaccinated. We’ve done a lot of research. We know the vast majority of unvaccinated people are actually willing to get vaccinated. They just haven’t done it yet. Really want to go to that restaurant? Do you really want to go to that concert? Whatever it may be, here there’s a way you can access the information, the nearest vaccination site. You can literally go to that vaccination site, get your first shot, get your card, come right back, go to that restaurant, go to that movie theater, go to that concert. That’s how flexible this rule is. We just want people to get going on vaccination. We know people get the first shot end up getting the second shot as well. So, the information is there and anybody who wants these posters or wants to get them in other languages, and we’ll be reaching out to small businesses, but also small businesses of course, can go to, as can all New Yorkers to get the facts about this new approach. Remember it’s for indoor dining, indoor entertainment, it’s for indoor fitness, and we in – the guides we’re providing, the information we’re providing today are showing the best practices. We’re showing how to go about if you’re a business, or you know, a gym, whatever it is, the best way to simply check a vaccination card. Now, remember restaurants and bars have planning experience checking IDs. You check in when you go to a fitness center or a gym, there’s lots of history here that we can draw on, but we’re showing real templates so it’s clear how a business can manage this and make it work, and also how to know when there’s a fake vaccination card and what to do about it. And by the way, when there’s a fake vaccination card, that means someone has committed a very serious crime, literally that could lead to prison time for anyone who fraudulently creates a fake vaccination card, that is a major offense. So, we make that clear to business owners and what to do about it. I want you to hear about this new guide and what it’s going to mean helping New York City businesses to protect their customers, their employers, and the entire city, and move us all forward. Someone who’s been fighting all the way through COVID to help small business, our Small Business Services Commissioner Jonnel Doris.  
Commissioner Jonnel Doris, Small Business Services: Thank you, Mr. Mayor. You know, everywhere I go around the city visiting our small businesses, our restaurants, our mom-and-pop shops. You can just feel the city coming alive again this summer, I can see our small businesses coming back. We want that to continue. We need that to continue. And the way to make sure this continues is by safely getting people vaccinated through the Key to NYC Program. The first day, the Key to NYC launched, I visited Ricardo Steak House in East Harlem, one of the 11,800 plus restaurants in our Open Restaurants Program, the atmosphere was full of life and energy. And most importantly customers, they have already had the flyer up. They already began to process and ask and customers if they’re vaccinated or not. And they said something to me, I think that was so important. The manager said to me that this took away the ambiguity of what it is and who’s coming in and what to do, and that need to make their customers and their workers understand the processes that were implemented. They said that it was consistent. They said that it was clear, and everybody understood what was expected. And that is what we’ve done here at SBS, which is walking the corridor or speaking to small businesses, East Harlem, Coney Island, all around the city to hear from them about what we need to do to make sure they fully understand and grasp what is being implemented here. The key to NYC is protecting our workers, our customers, and also our small businesses across the city.  
Our job here at SBS is to keep training them and educated them to make sure that whatever is needed is possible and that we give them the resources to do it. Already we’ve hosted various online trainings. We have 600 plus canvassers out in the field speaking to small businesses now. And I thank our BIDs, our Business Improvement Districts, our chambers [inaudible] Small Business Council, all who are doing this significant outreach and support this mandate that is out there now. And, today, we’re putting in our brand-new industry specific guidance that will further help business owners with the mandate. If you are a restaurant, you’ll be able to look and see exactly what you need to do. If you are a gym, you’ll have specific help on how to put your plan in action. If you’re a movie theater, you’ll find out on how to keep the line moving. Or any business for that matter, we have specific guidance for you. They are free weekly online trainings as well every Wednesday, and trainings also come in in Mandarin and in Spanish. And to help you create your business implementation plan, we’ve created a template that you can quickly and easily fill in, how to put your plan into action, know what to check, how to keep things moving quickly when verifying vaccination cards, all of that and more. Go to to find out all the information you need there. These resources will be available in 13 languages.  
To our small business owners, we are with you every step of the way, providing the necessary resources, and education, incentives for vaccine referrals. We will make this easy as possible. If you have any questions, as we’ve done throughout the pandemic, our team is here to help you with a personal one-on-one support. Just give us a call at 888-SBS-4NYC – 888-SBS-4NYC. Thank you, sir. 
Mayor: Thank you, Commissioner. I love when you remember to give that phone number, thank you very much. So, everyone, throughout the pandemic, we’ve been focusing on the needs of all New Yorkers. But we all, as New Yorkers, we love – we love our restaurants. We love all the parts of the city that make us so special. You know, the restaurants in New York City are part of our personality, part of our heart and soul, part of our energy, part of why people come here from all around the world, but also our restaurants represent all of us. They represent all of our cultures. They represent the dreams of people who thought, maybe I could create something great, and then they do it. So, from the very beginning, I’ve been listening to the voices of restaurant owners, as they’ve talked about what they need to survive. And we’ve tried, every step of the way, starting with outdoor dining and so many other steps to help them through. And, thank God, so many have made it. One of the people who has been there with us every step of the way, literally, every step of the way, and he is offered ideas, critiques – when he likes something, he says it; if he doesn’t like something, he says it. He has been a great advocate for his industry, but he’s been someone who’s worked with us to always find the next step that we could take to keep people safe and protect the employees and the patrons of the restaurant industry and everyone who loves it. He’s been with us every step of the way and I want to say thank you for that. The Executive Director of the New York City Hospitality Alliance, Andrew Rigie.  
Mayor: Amen. And you’re at the table right now. I just want to say, we need to see a table – you’re at the table. See, it works. Andrew, thank you. You’ve been a stalwart. And to you and your colleagues, everyone who’s been with us, we appreciate it as we work this through. And look at these guides – I just want to make sure everyone sees – this is the kind of thing you’ll see online for indoor dining, for indoor entertainment, for fitness facilities, specific, detailed plans on how people can make this work effectively and where to go for more information. And that’s crucial – we want to – we, obviously, want to put forward proactively the information that business owners need. We want to make it as easy as possible, but we know there’s going to be a lot of questions. So, we welcome those calls from business owners to work it through. And the team at SBS is ready, willing, and able, including going out to businesses and working with them on the scene to show them the best way to approach this new effort for the good of all.  
Now, I want you hear from a City Council member who has been a strong advocate for small business and a strong advocate for ending the COVID era. And he has supported the Key to the New York City approach and the understanding that we need the right kind of mandates to make sure we never slip backwards. He’s worked with small businesses in the community to make sure this plan comes to fruition for the good of all and he really understands what it’s going to mean when we get this right for the future of New York City. My pleasure to introduce from Manhattan, Council Member Keith Powers. 
Mayor: Yeah. It’s Keith Power’s diet plan. You heard it here first. Thank you, Council Member. All right. So, now, listen, we’ve talked about small businesses. We’ve talked about restaurants, what’s crucial to our recovery, saving our businesses, saving jobs, bringing back the life of this city. And we know that’s going to be a crucial part of our economic recovery, but we also know our recovery is deeper than that. And we have to keep focusing not only on people’s health, fighting COVID, but on public safety as well. All of these pieces go together in a recovery for all of us. So, yesterday, we talked about a profound problem, the fact that our court system is not fully functioning. I want to say it again really clearly, specifically – not fully functioning when so many other parts of our society are fully functioning. Again, for the first six months of this year, when you compare 2019, the first six months of 2019, 405 trial verdicts in New York City. The first six months of 2021, only 18 in New York City. There should not be excuses for that. You know, I would like to hear from the folks who run the courts not their excuses or pointing fingers elsewhere, but just say what they’re going to do to fix it right now. We all, in every party that you’re hearing – private sector, restaurants – open, making it work. We’re bringing back schools, City offices, you name it. There’s so many places where people are back, but our court system is just not functioning and it’s moving at a snail’s pace compared to the rest of the state. So, for that same six-month period, here’s another comparison. In all the rest of New York State, 40 trials per month on average. In New York City courts, only seven trials per month. It makes no sense, considering that so much of the activity is – obviously should be here in the courts in New York City. So much that has to be addressed should be happening here in New York City, but it’s not. So, how do you stop crime if criminals think there will be no consequences? If criminals know there’s not going to be trials, it’s not helpful in the least. And just – you’ll hear later on this week from our NYPD Commissioner what he’s seeing in this situation, but I don’t even think you need an expert to see the common sense of this, that if there’s no trials, there’s no consequences, that doesn’t help us stop crime. That’s a whole reason we have a criminal justice system to begin with. And there’s supposed to be speedy justice, that goes back to the founding of the Republic. And, instead, we see snail’s pace justice and it’s hurting our efforts to keep the city safe.  
I want you to hear from a truly respected national expert. You know, in the last eight years, I’ve been working on issues of public safety with incredible professionals at the NYPD, and mayors around the country, and there’s one name I hear over and over – and it’s real interesting, I hope he appreciates this fact that when folks want to talk about one of the ultimate wise men, one of the people really understands public safety and how to bring police and community together in common cause, they talk about Chuck Wexler. I’ve heard his name, dozens and dozens and dozens of times all around the country. And he understands there is an interconnectedness here. What happens at the community level, what happens with policing, what happens with courts – it all needs to move together. And if one piece of the equation is not working, everything else is affected. I want you to hear from him directly about why it’s so important to get our court system up and running 100 percent, so all crimes are addressed. He is Executive Director of the Police Executive Research Forum, one of the most trusted voices related to public safety in the United States of America. My pleasure to introduce Chuck Wexler. 
Mayor: Thank you so much, Chuck. And beautifully, beautifully explained. And, look, I agree with you, this is about everyone chipping in, and it can be done, but it’s not going to work without the court system. And I think you just put it in powerful perspective. This is a crisis in plain sight and we’ve got to be clear about it. Right now, there should be a lot of energy focused from elected officials, from the media, from everyone to say, how do we fix this? We all need to fix it together, but there’s no way we get back to the levels of safety that we need if we don’t have a functioning court system, it just stands to reason. Chuck, thank you. And I agree with your optimism. We are going to get there. There’s no question. We’ve proven before and you’ve been a big part of it around the country that we can come up with better and better ways to keep people safe. So, thank you. Thank you for the great work you’re doing. 
Okay. Everyone, let’s go to our indicators today. And, again, we start with the doses administered to-date. And I’ve got to tell you, I’m seeing great things out there. We talked about Weekend of Faith, the referral bonus program, the mandates are having an impact, incentives are having an impact. From day-one, 10,678,226 doses and growing all the time. Number-two, daily number of people admitted to New York City hospitals for suspected COVID-19 – today’s report, 126 patients. Confirmed positivity levels, 16.91 percent and a hospitalization rate of 1.31 per 100,000. And number three, new reported cases on a seven-day average – 1,677.  
A few words in Spanish – and I want to go back to making sure that our restaurants come back, that the employees are safe, the customers are safe, everyone together works with the Key to NYC. 
[Mayor de Blasio speaks in Spanish] 
With that, let’s turn to our colleagues in the media and 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 Commissioner Doris, by DCAS Commissioner Lisette Camilo, by Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice Director Marcos Soler, by Dr. Dave Chokshi from Health Department, and by Dr. Mitchell Katz. The first question today, it goes to Juliet from 1010 WINS.  
Question: Hey. Good morning, Mr. Mayor.  
Mayor: Hey, Juliet. How have you been? 
Question: I’m okay, thank you. So, given that you’re looking at these protocols and you’re going to use these protocols for business, I was wondering would you do something similar for City employees as they return to work this September? 
Mayor: Juliet, I want to make sure I understand your question so I want you to restate. I mean, obviously, we have a wide variety of health and safety protocols in place for City employees. So, I want to make sure I understand what you’re asking. 
Question: Yeah. I was wondering if these are going to be sort of mandated protocols for people when they come back to work in City jobs. Will there be protocols to look at or check for vaccination? Check for masks? For testing? 
Mayor: Yeah. Different pieces there, Juliet. Right now, as you know, we have for health care workers a State vaccination mandate. For Department of Education employees, we have a City mandate. First, on the 13th it’s vaccination or tests, but then, on the 27th, it goes to vaccination only. We’re going to also on the 13th implement for all City workers, the vaccination or test standard. In addition, of course, depending on the work site, but indoors schools, hospitals, masks all the time in places where people are coming in contact with the public; indoors, masks. Variety of protocols, cleaning, you name it. But that’s something we’re doing across all City agencies, of course. Go ahead, Juliet. 
Question: Okay. Thank you. Also, what are the plans – given, you know, there are terrorist attacks in Afghanistan – what preparations have you made to protect the city in the event that there is any indication of any sort of upgraded, you know, alert here? And given that the anniversary of 9/11 is approaching.  
Mayor: We take that very, very seriously, Juliet. Right now, first of all, to emphasize, despite the very painful things happening in Afghanistan, there are no specific and credible threats against New York City right now. And that’s crucial. We’re watching all the time. But, of course, we’re hyper-aware that the 20th anniversary of that horrible day, 9/11 is coming soon. And NYPD has been preparing intensely and we’re working with all of our partners in the Joint Terrorism Task Force. We’ll have more to say on that as we get a little bit closer, but, rest assured, very intensive preparations are being made. But, most importantly, no specific and credible threats directed at New York City at this moment. 
Moderator: Next is Dana from the New York Times. 
Question: Hi, Mr. Mayor. Quick question. Why – you know, has the City given any consideration to requiring childcare workers who work with kids under two to get vaccinated? 
Mayor: Yeah. We are looking at a wide variety of employees of different types, different parts of the City workforce in general, meaning private and public. We’ve been moving the mandates so far that we thought were absolutely essential, but we continue to look at that. And, as I’ve said, we’ve been climbing the ladder. So, we’re looking and we’ll have more to say soon. Go ahead, Dana. 
Question: Thanks. Yeah. I mean, I ask for, I guess, the obvious reason, which is that children under two can’t wear masks. I mean, is there a reason why public school teachers are being required, but not daycare workers? 
Mayor: Well, again, very different settings. Obviously, very different size settings. A lot of daycare settings are much smaller. But, again, I will just say it this way, and I’ll turn to Dr. Chokshi, because his agency has a lot to do with regulating childcare facilities. We, again, are looking systematically sector by sector. We take it seriously, of course. We need everyone to be safe and we want to figure out the right approach for each one. Dr. Chokshi, do you want to add? 
Commissioner Dave Chokshi, Department of Health and Mental Hygiene: Thank you, sir. That’s exactly right. We are looking at this systematically. We’re particularly looking at settings where we want to protect people, particularly younger people who are not eligible to get vaccinated yet. That’s why as the Mayor said, you know, we’ve started with schools. But we do have a range of other settings where additional requirements may come into play in the future. Thank you.
Moderator: The next is Michael Gartland from the Daily News.
Question: Good morning.
Mayor: Hey Michael, how you been?
Question: Good. How are you doing?
Mayor: Hanging in, brother.
Question: I see you taking a page out of Jimmy Oddo’s handbook with your poster today.
Mayor: Yeah. But look, Michael, hold on. My poster is very clean, neat. You can read it. Jimmy’s poster was the, you know, the scribblings of a mad genius. Okay. I didn’t know – I was looking at that thing for a while. I was like, what is he trying to tell us here? Continue.
Question: I’ve got a couple of questions. You know, you talked about vaccine incentives, both for individuals and restaurants, houses of worship. As I’m sure, you’re probably aware we had a story that ran Saturday about how the Reverend Kevin McCall basically putting out there that he’s giving vaccination exemptions as an enticement for people outside of his church. And as well as, you know, exemptions to people in his congregation. And I was wondering, you know, how prevalent is this? Is the City witnessing a lot of this sort of thing and you know, what should you do? What should the City be doing to push back on this? What are you doing to push back on it?
Mayor: Yeah, we are not – I’ll turn to Dr. Katz and Dr. Chokshi for their insights, but I’ll tell you from what I’ve seen, now a year and a half watching this crisis and acting on this crisis. I have not seen that. I know Reverend McCall, I respect him. I appreciate him. I was very saddened to see that. I think that’s a mistake. I think it should stop. Those, quote unquote, exemptions are not going to be honored. They’re just, that’s not the way to do things. And so I think people should recognize so important to get vaccinated leaders of veritably, every faith tradition have stepped forward, encouraged vaccination. You heard on Thursday, we had the Cardinal here and Reverend A.R. Bernard and Rabbi Potasnik. And so many faith leaders across the whole spectrum have been hosting vaccination events. So, we just got to focus on getting people vaccinated and you know, making sure people understand that’s the only way to be safe. In terms of if we’ve seen much of this, Dr. Katz or Dr. Chokshi, you want to add?
President and CEO Mitchell Katz, NYC Health + Hospitals: Yes, Mr. Mayor, I think you’ve covered the important points. We haven’t seen people bringing letters, but I just want to make sure everyone understands that no one can grant you a religious exemption. Religious exemptions are based on someone’s personal, sincerely held beliefs. They’re not based – no one can give you an exemption. But we have not seen these letters. Thank you, sir.
Mayor: Thank you. Go ahead, Dr. Chokshi. You want to add?
Commissioner Chokshi: The only thing that I’ll add, sir, is that we have seen countless examples of faith leaders stepping up to support our vaccination efforts. They do it out of care and concern for you know, people who have been a part of their community for years and decades. And that’s been vitally important. We’ve seen it not just in the Weekend of Faith as the Mayor mentioned this past weekend, but over the last several months. It helps people to worship more safely. And as we’ve been saying, vaccination makes every activity safer. So, we’ve been very pleased with that partnership with faith leaders and we’ll continue to deepen it in the weeks ahead.
Question: Thank you. Go ahead, Michael. Thank you guys. On courts, I’m wondering if you think, should OCA be calling in New Yorkers for jury duty given, you know, spikes in wherever related Delta cases? And you know, you mentioned helping out with facilities yesterday and I believe last night, I mean, how exactly would the City address that the court issue facilities wise? I mean, do you have kind of specifics you can give us on that?
Mayor: Yep. I’ll start. And I want to on the facilities question, turn to our Commissioner for Citywide Administrative Services, Lisette Camilo in just a moment. And then on the question of how important it is to have courts functioning and the impact, I’ll turn to our Director of the Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice, Marcos Soler, also in a moment, but let me frame it. We got to address safety and health across the board. If criminals suffer no consequences, then there’s a safety problem. So, we have to have a functioning court system. If I said to you, well, why don’t you know, why don’t the police stay home or firefighters stay home or EMS stay home, or, you know, go on, go on with all the parts of our society. Why doesn’t everyone stay home because of COVID? Well, no, the answer is not that. The answer is to fight back. The answer is to get people vaccinated. The answer is depending on the setting, to wear masks, to do the proper ventilation and cleaning. It’s not to give up. It is to figure out how to make it work. And juries come together just like all other people in workplaces come together. We need juries for a functioning system. So, there’s something strange. There’s almost like a suspension of belief going on here that somehow the court system has created this fiction that they could be allowed not to function while everyone else has to function. And I don’t buy it. They need to function too. They should do it safely and we’ll help them. And we’ve been making that offer for over a year now. In terms of the facilities themselves, I want you to hear from Lisette Camilo and I want to summarize. We provide vaccination assistance, free masks, air purifiers, plexiglass barriers, deep cleaning, you name it, for the buildings that are our buildings and Lisette that can speak to you about that ongoing effort to make sure courts are safe. And the fact that we welcome any additional requests that we can address. The State has responsibility for the courts, obviously. But we’ll work with them in every way possible to address concerns. The only thing we won’t accept is not having trials. Failure’s not an option here. That’s my message to the court system. Commissioner Lisette, Camilo, talk about the efforts that have been made to help keep everyone safe.
Commissioner Lisette Camilo, Department of Citywide Administrative Services: Thank you, Mr. Mayor, happy to. And like you said, we work very closely and we talk to OCA every day, our teams, in order to fulfill any requests that they may have regarding their facilities. But since the beginning of the pandemic, CAS assessed every single HVAC system in every single building. We’ve upgraded the outdoor air intake and installed the highest rated filters that the HVAC systems could withstand. We routinely replaced the filters to ensure that we have really a good clean filter to address any air quality issues. But we really rely on OCA to tell us what additional things they need for us to do. We are happy to assist them. We work with them on the purchase of portable air filtrations, and we routinely work with them to install plexiglass barriers wherever they dictate they are there. They have to tell us what their operations need and we will wherever we can, go in and meet those needs particularly on the facility, maintenance wise.
Mayor: Thank you so much, Commissioner. And I want to turn again to Director Marcos Soler to talk about, again, why it’s so important. Why is just not having jury trials is not an option if we’re going to fight crime and keep people safe. Marcos Soler.
Director Marcos Soler, Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice: Thank you, Mr. Mayor. I think what is important is for [inaudible] and can deter and incapacitate those individuals, those small number of individuals who are drivers of gun violence. And right now we don’t have that because we don’t have – we don’t have enough appearances. We don’t have enough pre-trial hearings. We don’t have enough motions. We don’t have enough pleas as you have indicated. All those numbers are down by 40, 50 percent. And as a result of that, we don’t have trials. And it’s absolutely important to have a system that can deter and incapacitate those individuals who pose the highest risk to our communities.
Mayor: Thank you, Marcos. And look, I want to just broaden the point. We also – it’s not just the worst crimes. Of course, that’s our first concern. We don’t want any criminality or lawlessness to go unaddressed. So, the point is what worked so well from 2014 through 2019 was neighborhood policing, working with a functioning court system. And we proved for six years, we could drive down crime consistently and deepen the cooperation between NYPD and community. But that required a court system that created consequences for a range of crimes. We needed anyone considering making, doing something illegal that, to know that there would be consequences. When there were functioning consequences, it helped us keep everyone safe and stop crimes of all kinds. We’ve got to recreate that now. We’re recreating all the other parts of our society. We’ve got to do that right now with our court system. Go ahead.
Moderator: The next is Emily from NY1.
Question: Hi, Mr. Mayor. Could you please tell me what you know about a cargo building at JFK Airport being readied for the processing of Afghan refugees as they arrive here in this area?
Mayor: Emily, thank you for the question. Our Emergency Management Office was asked to work with federal and State officials on a contingency plan and to prepare a building just in case. What we’re hearing right now, and of course, all of the decision-making will be made by the federal government. All the key decisions will be made by the federal government. That they have not yet made a decision on whether they do need that building or whether there’s going to be activity at JFK. But they asked us to get it ready just in case. And of course, we’re cooperating with the federal effort. Go ahead, Emily.
Question: Mr. Mayor, do you – what is your administration’s commitment to any incoming refugees whether they have family here or not? And do you support a lifting of the refugee cap at the federal level?
Mayor: Emily, we are a city of immigrants and we’re a city of refugees. Of course, we will provide a welcome to those who need our support. And we assume that will be true all over the country. And you know, the entire country will work together with the coordination of the federal government to ensure that you know, many different places participate for the good of all. I don’t know enough about the cap situation. I do know that folks who have been through this horrible experience in Afghanistan and particularly those who worked with the United States, deserve to be protected. And New York City will certainly play a role and do our fair share.
Moderator: The next is Matt Chayes from Newsday.
Question: Hey, good morning, Mr. Mayor. How are you?
Mayor: Good, Matt. How you been?
Question: Been all right. Thank you for asking. This question is for Dr. Chokshi. A study released six days ago out of Israel shows that immunity from virus induced infection is far superior to that of vaccines. What would you need to learn before those previously infected and those whose tests show high levels of antibodies be able to enjoy the same privileges as those who are vaccinated? Is there anything you can learn?
Mayor: Dr. Chokshi? And if Dr. Katz wants to join in as well, go ahead.
Commissioner Chokshi: Thank you, sir. And thanks Matt, for this question. I am familiar with this study that you’re mentioning. The study was released as a pre-print and is not yet peer reviewed. But it is an important contribution to the scientific literature. It does not, however, change our strong recommendation that even people who have been previously infected get vaccinated. And that’s because the science is very clear that getting vaccinated affords stronger protection, gives you stronger levels of immunity against the coronavirus, which is particularly important in the context of the Delta variant. Thank you.
Mayor: Dr. Katz, want to add anything?
President Katz: Yeah. I just want to support Dr. Chokshi’s view that yes, we recognize people have had infection with COVID and that likely affords them some immunity. But why not strengthen that immunity through vaccination? We think that that’s a much more successful strategy. Thank you, sir.
Mayor: Thank you. Go ahead, Matt.
Question: Okay. Pre-prints and non-peer reviewed studies have been cited by you guys at these news conferences before. And the question was, what would you need to learn, not what your current recommendations are. But I have another question, which is why won’t you release data about reinfections in a manner just as forthcoming and comprehensive and transparent as you were releasing vaccine effectiveness data? I’ve asked you this a bunch of times and the questions have been not responded to.
Mayor: Yeah, Matt. I’m confused by the question, honestly, because we had a whole discussion, I think it was last week, about what we’re seeing with re-infection and we gave live numbers. I’ll turn to the doctors again. We want that information to be out there. We know it’s a reality. It still pales in comparison to what’s happening with unvaccinated folks. But I feel your angst over this, but I really think we are trying to be transparent. If there’s anything more we can be doing, I’m happy for us to do it. Dr. Chokshi, Dr. Katz, you want to speak to this?
Commissioner Chokshi: Thank you, sir. And yes, I believe Matt is asking you know, specifically about people who are getting reinfected who have not been vaccinated and essentially, you know, what the rates of that are? There is some data about this from around the world. It is something that we are tracking in New York City as well. And Matt, I believe my team has shared some of that data with you, but we’ll be happy to follow up for any more detailed information. These are things that are nuanced to study and that we have to make sure we bring the right analytic approaches to. In part because the fact that someone has a repeat positive test, does not always mean that they have been reinfected given some of the subtleties with respect to testing. So, this is something that we’re happy to follow up with you on if you want further information. Thank you.
Mayor: Thank you.
Moderator: The next is James Ford from PIX 11.
Question: Great. Thanks for taking my question.
Mayor: How are you today, James?
Question: Very well. Thank you for asking. I hope you’re well as well.
Mayor: Thank you. Yes. What’s going on?
Question: All right. City Council Education Committee Chair Mark Treyger has now said that both Health Commissioner Chokshi and Schools Chancellor Porter will testify tomorrow at his committee hearing on the schools opening plan. He also said there are still many lingering questions about reopening that he wants answered in the hearing, including how to know which students need to quarantine, what remote options, if any, there are for students generally, and for those who have to quarantine. Will you and Commissioner Chokshi provide us with some answers to these questions? And what do you anticipate will come out of the hearing, please?
Mayor: Thank you for the question, James. I’ll turn to Dr. Chokshi, but I’ll tell you this. I listened carefully to what you just laid out. I believe all of that was covered in our discussion last week when we laid out the guidebook for parents. We talked about what were the exceptions, for example, medically frail students, students who are immunocompromised, where there can be instruction provided a different way. We talked about the standard for quarantining but remember that’s a different standard at this time because any adult or student who is vaccinated will not have to quarantine unless they’re symptomatic. So, we went over all that it’s been printed, it’s out there, parents have it. Happy to see Dr. Chokshi and Chancellor Meisha Ross Porter go over that again at the hearing, but we really feel we’ve answered a very, very broad range of questions. We all said there was a few things we’re still working on, particularly with our labor partners. But I expect the hearing to be, you know, a lot of strong questions that are coming from parents and communities, and we’re ready to answer them. I think it’ll help get more information out there. Dr. Chokshi, you want to add?  
Commissioner Chokshi: Thank you, sir. No, nothing to add in terms of that question. I’m also looking forward to the hearing. I know that there are several questions. We’ll go over the information that we have released and answer any other questions that are forthcoming. Thank you.   
Mayor: Thank you. Go ahead, James.   
Question: All right, thank you both for the response. And then on behalf of my colleague, Nicole Johnson, she asked that – she asked this question. We continue to see gun violence happening sometimes in broad daylight and affecting more innocent bystanders, including an 81-year-old shot on the Upper West Side. We keep hearing some similar answers from the administration, as far as what’s being done. Do you think it’s time to reevaluate the approach to help stop shootings that we’ve been seeing in the city?  
Mayor: James, I appreciate the question. Look, even a single shooting is not acceptable to me obviously. And every time – I get the reports constantly – every time anyone is harmed whether, God forbid, there’s violence between gangs and there’s intended targets, that’s horrible, and that means young people’s lives are destroyed, both the victim and the shooter. And we all feel a special pain, I do, whenever it’s an innocent bystander. We don’t accept any of this. Now in a few days, we’re going to lay out the latest information of what we’ve seen in the month of August, and, of course, June and July before that. And we’ve got a lot of work to do, James, and until there are no shootings, we have work to do, but you’re going to see that there’s been consistent progress in terms of gun arrests, consistent progress in terms of reducing shootings. We got a long way to go to fix everything that got broken because of COVID and everything that was unleashed, but we’re making substantial progress and with amazing support from communities from violence interrupters, and community groups, and so many others. We’re going to go over all of that. But I want to reiterate if we really want to solve the problem, we need a functioning court system. We have a lot to do at the City level. The NYPD has a lot to do. It’s on all of us to keep fixing this problem and we are fixing it, but we cannot get the full results we need without a fully functioning court system. And again, James, I would say to all of you who, to your great credit, pursue important stories with great vigor and look under every stone, it’s staring us in the face. One part of our criminal justice system is not functioning. Everybody else is. We’ve got to fix it.  
Moderator: We have time for two more for today. The next is Henry from Bloomberg.  
Mayor: Henry, you out there? Henry? Henry?   
Moderator: We’ll move on from Henry. The next is Amanda from Politico.  
Question: Good morning, Mr. Mayor, how are you?   
Mayor: Hey, Amanda, how you been?  
Question: Good. Thanks.   
Mayor: Are you – have you gotten over your volleyball injuries?  
Question: I have a new softball injury, but you know how it goes [inaudible] –  
Mayor: Yeah, it’s one or the other for me.  
Question: Well, thank you for asking. I wanted to talk to you a little bit more about these vaccine mandates for health care workers, particularly for Health + Hospitals. So, there’s been a little confusion among health care workers in terms of meeting either their system’s deadline or the State deadline. And I’ve talked to nurses who said, they’re concerned about what happens if, you know, let’s say five percent of the workforce is asked to leave because they’re not getting vaccinated, what does that look like with staff shortages that exist already? And so, I was hoping for you to kind of give me your thoughts on those concerns and whether or not you’re hoping to mitigate that with additional hiring and then also I’d love to hear from Dr. Katz as well.  
Mayor: Yeah. And I’ll start, I’ll turn to Dr. Katz for sure. Amanda, we talked about this as we were preparing our own mandate, which of course was vaccine or test. And then the State made a decision, which I certainly support, to do an across-the-board vaccine mandate for frontline health workers. That was very important. It was the right thing to do in part because it created universality. So, folks who want to work in the field – and now it’s not a matter of, you know, leaving one employer going to another, it’s expected everywhere. We also find that a lot of people, when really at that moment of choice, do decide it’s the practical and smart thing to do to get vaccinated. So, the actual incidents of people threatening to leave has been much less than I think some of the initial projections. We don’t take it lightly and we’re certainly preparing if there are some departures. But I feel that the vast majority of our health care workers who are not yet vaccinated are going to get vaccinated, are going to stay, you know, at their post, helping people. They’re there for a cause that they believe in. And I think we’re going to find that this is going to be something we can navigate well. Dr. Katz.  
President Katz: Yes, sir. I totally agree with your assessment. My staff are incredibly dedicated people who choose a mission every day to take care of other people. And I think that they will want to get vaccinated, as you say. Because it’s a statewide mandate people would literally have to leave the health care field. It’s not a question that they would leave Health + Hospitals and join another health care system. They would have to completely leave the field. And we’ve found even with our current vaccine or testing strategy that when people understand they may be initially reluctant, but they ultimately go forward and get vaccinated or testing. We’ve seen a major increase in our vaccination rates since we instituted the Vax-or-Test mandate. And then finally, we’ve already instituted this requirement for new employees thanks to you, sir. You remember when you announced for all new employees of Health + Hospitals as well as for our contractors. That’s already in place and we have not seen any inability to bring in new staff or contractors despite having a vaccine mandate in those cases. Thank you, sir.  
Mayor: Thank you. Go ahead, Amanda.   
Question: Thank you. And Dr. Katz, I’d love to follow up. Do you have initial projections of how many health care workers in your system you would expect to leave considering the new mandate? And if so, is hiring a priority to make sure that staffing levels are, you know, I guess at the level that they are right now?  
Mayor: As we turn to Dr. Katz, what I’d say, Amanda, just to frame it is, we went through extraordinary challenges last year and we saw tremendous agility at Health + Hospitals finding additional staffing when the question was just the need to intensely increase the amount of staffing because of the cases that were growing and growing. This is a much – from everything I can see a much lesser challenge, thank God. And certainly, I know H+H has the capacity to find additional staff when needed in normal times. But Dr. Katz, to the extent you want to offer any framing here of what you’re expecting and your ability to fill in any of the roles you need to, how do you want to – how do you want to frame that for Amanda?  
President Katz: Thank you, sir. And as you say, last year in March when we were under such dire conditions due to the explosion of COVID cases, Health + Hospitals added 7,000 new employees who worked at least one day. So, we know that if we have to, we will. We are a system that is always creating contingency plans because we recognize there are natural disasters, there are man-made disasters. Sometimes we have to bulk up staffing. Sometimes we have to ask people to do different jobs and be flexible in order to take care of people. I believe when all is said and done, there will be a small number of people who will not wish to get vaccinated but that we will be able to compensate for that small number of employees leaving us. Thank you, sir.   
Mayor: Thank you. Go ahead.  
Moderator: Last question for today, it goes to Reuvain from Hamodia.  
Question: Good morning. I just wanted to follow up on the question earlier about reinfection. So, the doctors said that the recommendation is still to get the vaccine, even if you’ve had a prior infection because the vaccine gives you additional immunity. Well, first of all, it’s not a recommendation, it’s a mandate, but the fact is that even if the vaccine gives you additional immunity, if there are certain rights that are being given to New Yorkers who have the vaccine, that the vaccine alone is enough to give you these rights, like going to concerts with the Mayor in Central Park, then if the immunity from reinfection is even greater than that, why should that alone not be enough?  
Mayor: Alright, I’ll turn to the doctors. But here’s what I think is the commonsense answer. It’s a very fair question, Reuvain, and I appreciate the question, but I think the commonsense answer is this, we’re fighting an extraordinarily dangerous foe, and we found the vaccine is the difference maker, and it was based on a lot of research all over the world. And we’ve seen it with our own eyes. If we had not had a huge number of vaccinations in this country, Lord knows where we’d be right now and how horrible the situation is. So, we’ve seen with our own eyes the impact it makes. It doesn’t mean you can’t have more than one strategy, but we’re absolutely convinced that vaccination is a necessary part of any strategy. It’s been proven on the ground all over the country. With that, Dr. Chokshi, Dr. Katz.  
Commissioner Chokshi: Thank you, sir. I would just add that, you know, that there’s just a basic choice here if someone has had prior infection with COVID and that’s whether or not to get vaccinated. And if you just boil it down into that choice, it is very clear that getting vaccinated does confer additional protection. It strengthens your immunity. There is a study from the CDC that showed that people who are unvaccinated, who have had prior infection are twice as likely to get reinfected compared to people who had prior infection but got vaccinated. So, this is the basis of our recommendation. It’s really both to protect the individual as well as for the broad population benefits that we know that widespread vaccination can confer. And I’ll just add on a personal note. I faced this choice myself with respect to having been infected previously and I made the decision to get vaccinated, to protect myself and to protect my loved ones. Thank you.   
Mayor: Thank you. Dr. Katz, do you want to add? Dr. Katz –   
President Katz: Nothing to add, sir –   
Mayor: All right, go ahead, Reuvain.  
President Katz: Nothing to add, sir. Thank you.  
Mayor: Thank you. Go ahead, Reuvain.  
Question: Yeah. So, Dr. Chokshi, no one’s doubting that getting the vaccine in addition to a prior infection is better than just the prior infection. I, myself, made the same choice you did. I was infected previously, and I got vaccinated. But again, I’m sorry, my question was not answered. If the vaccine immunity – if the City has decided that vaccine immunity alone is enough to be granted these rights like eating at restaurants or going to concerts, and if immunity from re-infection alone is better than vaccine immunity, as an Israel study has shown, then why should the prior infection alone not be enough to get these rights?  
Mayor: Well, again, I’m going to just challenge this on a commonsense level and then let Dr. Katz and Dr. Chokshi speak to it. You’ve got a study and we value each study, but I’ve learned enough in the last year-and-a-half to say it takes more than a single study to determine all the policies we’re going to make. We have global evidence of the impact of vaccination. It’s not conjecture. It’s not a single study. It’s not a new development. It’s proven on the ground. We’re not moving off that. We’re doing the thing that we know works. And again, I really do respect the question, but I also want to go back to why we’re doing what we’re doing. We have to save lives. We know the vaccine has saved countless lives. We have to avoid letting the Delta variant gain more steam. We know the vaccine is helping us do that, and we need to avoid falling back to restrictions. And clearly you see the life of the city right now, that’s because of vaccination. Any natural immunity, that’s great, but we didn’t have vaccination before. And we saw the ability of COVID to come back. Once we instituted massive vaccination, we’ve seen our ability to hold the line and bring our city back. I think we’ve seen it with our own eyes. It’s more powerful, bluntly, than any single study. Dr. Katz and then Dr. Chokshi.  
President Katz: I agree. And I would again say, I don’t see what the argument is for not getting vaccinated if you have prior infection. Both you have gotten it and Dr. Chokshi has gotten it. And I – that’s what I recommend for my patients who’ve previously had COVID. We should all want maximum immunity from this awful virus. Thank you.   
Mayor: Dr. Chokshi –  
Commissioner Chokshi: Nothing to add, sir. Thank you.  
Mayor: As we conclude, I just want to put a point on it. It’s not just – I do appreciate the question again. The question is framed almost from a personal level. I’m going back to the needs of all New Yorkers, 8.8 million people. We can’t simply say, oh, let’s do either-or and let’s make it something where we don’t do everything possible when it comes to the number one tool, which is vaccination. It is proven to be the number one way to fight back. So, to me, it would be a massive mistake to pull our punch. Just when we are gaining ground, we’re fighting back the Delta variant. Why would we step back from that? We’re making stunning progress. The city is showing when you have a high level of vaccination, everything else is possible. And we’re seeing the horrible tragedies in other parts of the country. And I’m sure there are people that are good people saying, hey, we can go without vaccination. Well, guess what? Look at the parts of the country, where there are low levels of vaccination, look up the horrible things happening to people there. And those are places where lives are being lost and they are running the risk of falling back into all those restrictions. We can’t let that happen here. So, as per usual, the answer is, everyone, if you’re not yet vaccinated, no better day than today. Thank you.  
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