July 12, 2021
Mayor Bill de Blasio: Good morning, everybody. Well, the Summer of New York City continues and last week, amazing things. We had the Macy's 4th of July fireworks. We had the incredible parade saluting our hometown heroes. And the Summer of New York City is amazing because it's big events and special things, but also spontaneous things happen. And look at what happened yesterday with the celebration for Italy in their amazing victory in the European Cup. I want to tell you as a proud Italian-American, I am so proud of this Italian team. There were celebrations all over New York City, Arthur Avenue, up in the Bronx, Bay Ridge, Bensonhurst in Brooklyn, Greenwich Village. People came out to celebrate this beautiful victory. And I got to tell you, there's something of a metaphor here because this Italian national team, they were in really tough shape a few years ago, but like New York City, here's your metaphor, down, but never out, they rebuilt, they recreated, they came up with a new approach and found their way to victory. And that's going to be the story of New York City. A special shout out to the Italian goalkeeper, Gianluigi – excuse me, Gianluigi Donnarumma. Donnarumma, the goalkeeper for the Italian team. Amazing effort. Forza Donnarumma. Forza Azzurri. Amazing victory. And the people in New York City got to enjoy it with celebrations all over the city. And this is what the Summer of New York City is all about.
And the reason we are able to celebrate the Summer of New York City is because of vaccinations. The vaccination effort keeps growing, as of now 9,616,298 doses. Well on our way to 10 million doses soon, and we've used incentives as a crucial part of this. A lot of people have gotten great prizes because they chose to get vaccinated. We want to keep that going. The big prizes, some of them that have been very, very popular, we're going to continue to the end of July. So, if you're into some of these particular prizes, the $2,500 cash prize, I know that one's very popular, the staycation weekends, we're going to be running those for the next few weeks and this is your opportunity. If you have not yet gotten vaccinated, get into the game so you can get these amazing prizes. If you're 18 years old or older, you can enter the contest. Now, you have to get your first dose at a City-run site by 9:00 AM on August 1st to win one of those prizes. Then we're going to phase those out, but we're going to keep the other great prizes after August 1st. And those will continue at City-run sites – Citi Bike memberships, free NYC Ferry rides, NYCFC tickets, Coney Island tickets, great opportunities. And then beyond that, the referral initiative that we've been doing with grassroots organizations, with community organizations, houses of worship, very, very popular, that's going to be incredibly helpful because it brings money back into the community for everyone who gets vaccinated through those efforts. Anybody who wants to participate in that bonus referral effort, you can go to nyc.gov/vaccineincentives.
Okay, now, community efforts are where it's at. That's true with vaccination. That's true with keeping us safe as well. So, a wonderful community effort was launched this weekend. It's called Saturday Night Lights. This is part of how we build public safety from the grassroots up. Saturday Night Lights is a key part of our Safe Summer NYC plan. And the idea is to get young people a positive alternative. So, NYPD, Department of Youth and Community Development, local partners, altogether, opening 100 gyms citywide on Saturday nights to help kids have a safe place to be, a quality place to be, a warm, inviting place to be, obviously someplace free for them to be. It builds a connection between our police officers and our kids, because our officers are there for our kids. This is the focus on helping youth, that Commissioner Shea’s been talking so much about. It's a way to proactively keep people safe. Saturday Night Lights, a wonderful initiative. We've put $5 million into our Recovery Budget to make sure this could happen, and to have, in all five boroughs, gyms open on Saturday nights, 100 gyms. Police officers will be there playing with the kids – middle school kids, high school kids. And this is how you build trust, you build relationships, you build a sense of everyone's in it together. This is a really exciting initiative that I think has got to make a big impact this summer.
And continue on the theme of amazing things that are going to happen this summer, unprecedented things that are going to happen this summer. Another reason why New Yorkers are going to have an amazing summer and anyone who's not from New York City needs to come here this summer. Restaurant Week, launching next week in a new, amazing form, not just one week, five weeks, five weeks of Restaurant Week with great discounts, great specials from Monday, July 19th to Sunday, August 22nd. I want to thank NYC & Company. This is an amazing initiative. 500 restaurants participating across all five boroughs. This is going to be amazing. Think about restaurants you've always wanted to go to, here's the opportunity to experience them. And it's a wonderful, super Restaurant Week that is going to be really inviting, again, for New Yorkers, a special opportunity to come out and celebrate for folks who are not from here. This is the moment to be here. This is the Summer of New York City. We've gotten so much energy around this idea. I want to thank everyone in the restaurant community who's a part of it, but also in the City Council, really extraordinary efforts. I want to give the City Council a lot of credit. They really focused on how to bring our restaurant community back. With their help we've been able to do amazing things like Open Restaurants, Open Streets, cut red tape, make it easier. One of the Council members who's led the way, and boy does he have a lot of restaurants in his district, my pleasure to introduce Council Member Keith Powers.
I look forward to being out there with you, Council Member. And I think you're going to be doing a whole lot of dining out for the next few weeks, and supporting your local businesses. Thank you very, very much. Thank you for supporting this initiative. And everyone, to get involved in this super Restaurant Week, mega Restaurant Week, here's your opportunity. Reservations open today. Yes, reservations open today – nycgo.com/restaurantweek is where you can go for more information.
Alright, let's go over our indicators for the day, and we're going to continue to analyze the indicators. Publicly, what we're seeing is, again, some greater number of cases and positivity, but we also see the thing we care about the most, thank God, hospitalizations staying very low and people not being put in dangerous results. So, let's go over the indicators. Number one, daily number of people admitted to New York City hospitals for suspected COVID-19 – today's report is 78 patients, confirmed positivity level of 6.10 percent. Hospitalization rate per 100,000, 0.28. Number two, new reported cases on a seven-day average – today's report, 328 cases. And number three, percentage of people testing city-wide positive for COVID-19 – today's report on a seven-day rolling average, 1.27 percent. Let me say a few words in Spanish, and I'm going back to the Saturday Night Lights initiatives to help our young people.
[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: Good morning. We will now begin our Q-and-A. As a reminder, we are joined by Health Commissioner Dr. Dave Chokshi and Dr. Jay Varma, Senior Advisor on Public Health. Our first question for today goes to Andrew Siff from NBC.
Question: Good morning. How's that connection today, Mayor?
Mayor: Andrew, you sound mellifluous, poetic –
Question: Good to hear. As you know Eric Adams is at the White House today talking about gun violence. From our understanding, one of the things that he's pushing is sort of a Joint Terrorism Task Force style federal approach to getting guns off the street. I'm wondering what you think of that approach and whether you think a federal response is needed, even in the confines of places like New York City.
Mayor: I think the notion of deepening the connection between federal anti-gun efforts and local efforts is absolutely right on. We had the local leadership of the ATF here a few weeks back talking about efforts that are happening right now, very close coordination between ATF and NYPD in that same vein. So, this is definitely what we want to see more and more of. We need as much federal help as possible outside the boundaries in New York City to stop the flow of guns into New York City. I think within the boundaries of the city, we're doing pretty well in terms of the increase in gun arrests, obviously. And the crucial thing we need is to stop the flow of guns coming in. Go ahead, Andrew.
Question: [inaudible] over to COVID. I did ask about this last week, but we continue to see the increasing COVID cases in non-vaccinated areas across the country. The city itself does have pockets that are far below the citywide average. And you've talked before about using the mobile unit and that it's available door to door. But do you reach a point where that's not enough? Do you have to take even more aggressive action? Is there any way to take a more – stricter measures in some of the communities before this really spreads to a more alarming level?
Mayor: I'll turn to Dr. Chokshi and Dr. Varma. I'll start by saying, look, right now, the good news is, you know, 9.6 million doses given and growing all the time. So, we need to keep doing what's working and just keep building it out. Clearly one of the things that's necessary is that deepening of the grassroots efforts. Like you said, the mobile vans, the buses, working with community organizations. There's still a lot more we can get done that way. And I think what we are also seeing, really thankfully, is that all the effort that was put in before is the reason why the hospitalization rate has gone lower and lower. That's really the number one thing that, you know, all of this vaccination has worked, but we're watching the data really carefully and we'll certainly continue to look at different options of what we got to do to respond to the situation as it develops. Dr. Chokshi then Dr. Varma.
Commissioner Dave Chokshi, Department of Health and Mental Hygiene: Thank you, Mr. Mayor. And, look, Andrew, as we've said before, the spread of the Delta variant means that it is perhaps the most dangerous time to be unvaccinated. And that's why we have ensured that our vaccination efforts are proceeding with as much urgency as possible to be able to extend the protection of vaccination to as many people as we can. We're seeing, for example, in Staten Island the percent positivity and the case numbers have increased in recent days and weeks. And that's because we have unvaccinated individuals, particularly younger people, who remain unvaccinated. And so, we have to take the steps that we've described, that the Mayor has talked about over the last few weeks. That's not just the mobile vaccination, working with our community partners, both community-based organizations, as well as primary care providers and pediatricians but lowering every single barrier to vaccination. For example, our in-home vaccination program is now available to anyone who is eligible for the vaccine, and you'll see an even more concerted push around ensuring that younger people get vaccinated over the course of the rest of the summer. But my message is to convey a clear sense of urgency that we have to make sure as many people are as protected as possible in the next few weeks.
Mayor: Thank you. Dr. Varma.
Senior Advisor Jay Varma: Yeah. Thank you very much, Andrew, for the question. And to really emphasize what the Mayor has said and Dr. Chokshi has said, we know that vaccines are incredibly effective, but we also know that this new strain of the virus is particularly contagious. And so, for that percentage of the population that remains unvaccinated, they are at very high risk of getting infected and potentially having these severe complications. So, everything that the Commissioner has talked about in terms of increasing access is going to be critically important. But we also need everybody out there, everybody who's listening, whether you're a part of the media, whether you have family members or everybody else, to really spread the message just as actively as you can, because you know, we at the City level have done absolutely everything possible at this point to try to make them accessible and make information. But there's not – it doesn't mean you can't continue to try harder and continue to do more. And part of that is going to be really the sort of one-to-one mobilization that people can do because we've seen what's happening in other parts of the world where this spreads very rapidly among unvaccinated people. And we really do need to do everything we can to increase our levels so that we are much more well-protected.
Mayor: Thank you. Go ahead.
Moderator: Our next question goes to Allison from PIX11.
Question: Good morning, Mr. Mayor, how are you?
Mayor: Hey, Allison, how you doing?
Question: Pretty good. Thank you. So, I'm sure you're aware of the motion filed by the Legal Aid Society regarding the move of homeless New Yorkers from hotels back to shelters, arguing that their rights have been violated, especially if they have illness or disability. You know, there's not expected to be a ruling until tomorrow, but I want to ask a few questions and has every move been halted until Tuesday? And your thoughts on the argument, people who have respiratory issues, other sort of health issues, are really at risk when they go back to congregate shelters due to the Delta variant. So, your thoughts on that and where the City is right now in this moving process.
Mayor: Allison, I'll be just very broad because obviously any matter litigation I have to speak very carefully about. Look, there's a temporary pause while we're waiting to get to tomorrow's procedure, court procedure. But the bottom line is that everything we've been doing has been done based on State and federal guidance, close constant consultation with our health care team about what makes sense to do, and obviously accommodations being granted to people in particular need. And that's been the approach all along. Go ahead, Allison.
Question: Have there been – has there been outreach or will there be further outreach in vaccinating this population once they are moved to congregate shelters? Will you put that extra effort in there?
Mayor: Absolutely. There has been, there continues to be, there will be. We want to get everyone vaccinated and ongoing vaccination efforts for folks who happen to be homeless in shelter or not in shelter is definitely a priority.
Moderator: Our next question goes to Emma from the New York Times.
Question: Hi, good morning, Mayor. So, with Eric Adams at the White House today, I'm curious, why didn't you go and were you invited?
Mayor: I think the White House put together a group of people that they wanted to talk to about this issue. And I think it makes sense that Eric brings a particular perspective from 20-plus years as a police officer. So, I think it's great that he is there, and I want them to listen to his voice. I think he has an amazing perspective on the things we need to do going forward. Go ahead, Emma.
Question: Thank you. Also over the weekend, Adams was on some of the big TV shows and he said he agreed with L. A. urging residents to wear masks indoors, and that it was better to err on the side of caution and that he still wears a mask indoors in crowded settings sometimes. So, what do you think of that?
Mayor: We're going to be – I mean, I certainly respect to anyone who says they want to act out of an abundance of caution. I appreciate that, but right now we're basing everything we're doing on the data. We are watching the trends constantly, but from what we have heard from the CDC, from what we've seen in our own experience, the current guidance makes a lot of sense. And remember, that guidance comes with clear, specific instructions around, for example, being in a school setting, being in a hospital setting, on mass transit. So, there are definitely places indoors where we want to see people be careful. But overall, I think the current guidance makes sense.
Moderator: Our next question goes to Michael Gartland from the Daily News.
Question: Morning, Mr. Mayor.
Mayor: Good morning, Michael, how you doing?
Question: I'm doing great. I wanted to ask you about a story we ran in the paper today about the conditions in courts and, you know, DCAS and BOC, NYPD, and ACS have some responsibilities as far as keeping up conditions. And, you know, we found, you know, situations with ventilation systems that haven't been upgraded, situations where, you know, kids who are being held, you know, are packed in pretty tightly and I wanted to find out what is the city doing to alleviate these conditions as far as, you know, making it better?
Mayor: Yeah, Michael, I want to make sure I heard you clearly. Did you say in courts?
Mayor: Yeah, I did not see your story. I apologize. Well, look obviously anything involving the courts, that's the Office of Court Administration and the State, we'll constantly work with them if there are issues to be addressed. I want to see what those issues are and how we can do that, but ultimately, we would need them to cooperate to make those kinds of changes. Go ahead, Michael.
Question: Thanks. I – you know, I just want to push back on that a little bit. My understanding is that DCAS has some responsibility as far as maintenance with these buildings. So, you know, what – again, what is the city doing about that? I get that, you know, courts fonder OCA, but as far as maintenance and, you know, maybe I'm wrong here, but my understanding is DCAS maintains 55 court buildings in the city.
Mayor: Yeah, it's a mix to the best of my understanding between some city owned properties, some state-owned properties, and again, I don't know the specifics. I'm sorry, I haven't read it, so I can't give you a better answer, but we will immediately look into this, and we'll get you an answer later on today.
Moderator: Our next question goes to Henry from Bloomberg.
Question: Hello, Mr. Mayor. It's good to talk to you again.
Mayor: Hey, how you doing, Henry?
Question: I’m good. I want to get back to the subject of the stubborn numbers on infection rates. In Staten Island, the positivity rate in some of these communities is five percent or so. The vaccination rates continue to be under 40 percent. I just heard Dr. Varma say that everything is being done. Everything possible is being done. Is that really the case? I mean, isn't there something else that can be done to increase the numbers of people who are getting vaccinated in light of the Delta variant? I mean this way.
Mayor: We're always – I mean, I appreciate the spirit of your question, Henry. We're never going to stop looking for new approaches. We're trying a lot of different things, as you heard Dr. Chokshi say, in home vaccination for anyone now, which is extraordinary. I think that will help. I think the referral bonuses will help because we'll get a community-based organizations and houses of worship involved, that started, and I think that's promising. I do think greater focus on mobile vaccination efforts and less on the specific standing sites is going to help given what we're seeing. But the numbers, you know, look the overall numbers right now, 4.4 million New Yorkers fully vaccinated, 4.8 million have received at least one dose. And again, in New York City, that means almost all will get their second dose. So, it keeps growing and it manifests – the fact that so many people are vaccinated manifest, thank God, in this very low hospitalization rate, and that's a fact. That's what the data's telling us. But I do appreciate your point. We got to keep innovating. We got to keep looking for every opportunity. I think we're going to have a particular opportunity around younger folks in the lead up to school. I think a lot of parents are going to want to get their young people vaccinated, so that's going to be something we'll focus on a lot with pediatricians, but we got to keep looking for every new strategy that works. Go ahead, Henry.
Question: That's all I've got, Mr. Mayor, have a good day.
Mayor: All right, man, take care.
Moderator: Our next question goes to Kevin from AM New York.
Question: Hey, Mr. Mayor, how are you doing today?
Mayor: Good, Kevin, how you been?
Question: Doing well. I wanted to follow up once again on the BQE repairs, has the Commissioner, Hank Gutman, presented you with any plans yet? And if so, you know, what's holding up and moving forward on this project?
Mayor: We're going to definitely have something soon. We – obviously, the last couple of weeks were consumed with finishing the city budget and that's where our energy was going, and we had some major things last week that we were focused on including the school's announcement and then Summer Rising Initiative. But this is coming soon. We are, as you know, Kevin, very, very focused on protecting the BQE for the immediate years ahead and coming up with a vision for the longer term. So, I'm glad you keep asking and we will definitely have an updated report soon.
Question: Okay, my second question is about the Fair Fares Program. I haven't really heard that mentioned in the budget. Was that also restored? I know there was a $65 million cut last year. Was that fully restored? And when will Fair Fare offices reopen from the COVID closures?
Mayor: Yeah, Kevin, I'll check on the reopening. We want – that effort, obviously, has been very successful. It's going to be pertinent again, as people are coming back to the subways more and more. It was funded – I'll get you the exact dollar figure, but it was funded. We're obviously going to expect to see uptake intensify as we go month by month. It's been slow for a while, but we do expect it to come back and we'll address the funding as we go along according to need. But this is a great thing and I think one of the things that's going to be there for people, another incentive for folks with fewer resources to come back to the subways and we want to see everyone, you know, get back to as much normal as possible.
Moderator: We have time for two more questions today. The next question goes to Julia from the New York Post.
Question: Hi, good morning, Mr. Mayor.
Mayor: Hey, Julia, how are you doing?
Question: Good. I wonder if you agree with DOC Commissioner Schiraldi that there's, “very low morale within the department”, which is driving out correction officers, and if so, what needs to be done to fix it?
Mayor: Julia, look, it's a tough job and it's been a tough time for the Correction Department, and we've really tried to address a number of the concerns that officers have. Very good news has been that we've been able to close down yet another building at Riker's and therefore not need as many officers to cover the inmates we have and also the court system finally coming back to life more. We need to see much more than we're seeing now, but at least it started. And so, people who are deemed appropriate to go to a state prison are now being moved out of our city jails. So, we see some reasons for progress that I think are going to help a lot, but there's real issues to be addressed, and we got to keep addressing them for sure. Go ahead, Julia.
Question: And then just a follow up on Emma and Andrew's questions about Eric Adams meeting at the White House today. I mean, he's being included with two other local leaders who are actual mayors and he's joining them even though he isn't even, you know, the mayor-elect at this point. Do you feel at all slighted not to have been asked?
Mayor: No. He – look, he’s someone who spent over 20 years as a police officer and he has, I think, some great ideas about how to protect people while continuing reform. I think it's great that they want to hear his ideas. He's the Borough President of Brooklyn, you know, one of the biggest counties in the whole country. Of course, it makes sense for him to be there.
Moderator: Our last question for today goes to Chloe from Gothamist.
Question: Hi, good morning. How are you?
Mayor: Hey, Chloe, how are you doing today?
Question: Hello. My question is regarding the new CDC guidance for schools, specifically masks not being necessary for un-vaccinated students and kids keeping three feet apart, but not if those recommendations keeps kids out of schools, and I wanted to know what is your response and the city's response to that?
Mayor: Yeah, I will start, and I'll turn to Dr. Chokshi. Look, we've been constantly working with the CDC, but we also, in this case have been very careful given everything the city has been through. So, I'm absolutely confident based on this guidance and everything else we've seen that we'll be able to get all our kids back into school in September, but for now sticking with the idea that, you know, wearing the masks is a smart thing to do in schools. We'll keep assessing as we go along. But I think for now it still makes sense. Dr. Chokshi?
Commissioner Chokshi: Thank you, sir. Not much to add to what you've said. What I will say is that the CDC guidance mirrors the layered approach to prevention of COVID-19 that has worked in our schools thus far. And the key in that layered approach is to use all the tools that we have in our toolbox, and so we're going to be reviewing the new guidance carefully, discussing it with our colleagues at the Department of Education, and coming out with additional information for parents and students in the weeks ahead.
Mayor: Thank you. Go ahead, Chloe.
Question: Yes, my follow up is just around when will guidance be released for parents and students? And what are conversations like right now?
Mayor: Wait, say that again, Chloe, just speak up a little more. I couldn't hear that well.
Question: Yeah, no worries. My question was just when will guidance be released for parents and students? And what are conversations like right now around this topic?
Mayor: Well, as we get closer to school, we'll certainly update the families of this city, but, you know, I think the guidance that we've given to date has been very, very clear. Everyone's coming back in September. A lot of safety precautions being taken. Look, we had a gold standard of health and safety precautions that worked. You know, by the end of the school year positivity in the schools was almost non-existent, which is just beautiful. So, we're going to keep a lot of those same pieces in place, and we'll give people updated guidance when we get, you know, a few weeks out from school. But I think folks can anticipate right now is every child in school. There'll be a lot of communication before school and once it begins. For now, assume we're wearing masks, but that could change as we get closer. But we'll be driven by, you know, the data we see and, and the science as always. The good news is, and it's really something I hope will get its, you know, due attention over time, that our educators, our school staff, our health care folks, parents, kids, everyone participated this amazing effort to make schools safe and it worked. And there were a lot of Doubting Thomases in the beginning, but it really worked. Hundreds of thousands of kids went to school and stayed safe and I'm absolutely convinced we can do this really, really well in September and welcome everyone back, and that is going to be crucial to bring in the whole city back. And with that, thank you everyone.