July 19, 2021
Mayor Bill de Blasio: Good morning, everybody. The Summer of New York City continues. It is going to be an unforgettable summer for a lot of reasons. There are so many things happening this summer that have never happened before, that are going to be once in a lifetime opportunities. Here's something that's never happened before. Restaurant Week is not just one week, it's five weeks now. It's extraordinary. The greatest restaurants in the world, an opportunity for you and me to go out there and experience them. Even if you don't got a lot of money, great, great deals for this Restaurant Week. And all those restaurants that we love that we're really fascinated by, that make this city so great, here's your chance to try some of the ones you haven't yet. Now we know the restaurant community went through so much during the pandemic, but people fought back. These restaurant owners, the employees, they fought back, they kept the businesses going, and now Restaurant Week is going to give them more customers, a whole lot more energy. This is going to be amazing. Over 500 restaurants that are participating across the five boroughs. And that includes takeout and delivery options in a lot of cases. Reservations open now. If you want to find out where these great restaurants are, that are participating, go to nycgo.com/restaurant-week.
And there's great examples of restaurants that are participating, including some amazing restaurants now at the Seaport here in Manhattan, new restaurants that are making that area even more exciting, including Carne Mare, Malibu Farm, and Cobble & Co. And there's another great restaurant there called The Fulton, which I am looking forward to going to very, very much. It is a new restaurant from one of the greatest chefs in the world, Jean-Georges Vongerichten, and Jean-Georges is renowned because he has created in this city and around the world something extraordinary, something that people look forward to. People travel from all over to experience one of his restaurants. He is a New York City success story, he came here with almost nothing in his pocket. Classic immigrant success story, came here in 1986. Now operates 39 restaurants around the world, including 11 here in New York City. He is a New York City hero, and he is with us today to talk about Restaurant Week. My great pleasure to introduce Jean-Georges.
Thank you so much. And I want to just commend you. You have done so much for New York City. Your restaurants have been amazing, part of what makes New York City great. Tourists come here from all over, just to experience the magic of what you have created. So, like so many great New Yorkers, you came here, and you made this place better. And I want to thank you for that on behalf of all New Yorkers and thank you for being a part of Restaurant Week because a lot of people are just waiting to experience what you and your team have created. And this'll be the moment. Thank you so much, Jean-Georges.
Chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten: Thank you, Mayor de Blasio. This is one of the great celebrations of New York, the comeback of New York. Thank you.
Mayor: Amen. Thank you. The comeback of New York City. Exactly right. The Summer of New York City, a Recovery for All of Us, this is what it's all about. Now, we know our recovery, of course, means bringing back our economy, bringing back our jobs, bringing it back to tourists. Restaurant Week is going to help us do all those things. But we also know recovery requires public safety. Recovery will help us achieve more public safety, but to achieve the recovery, we need to keep working on public safety all the time. Saturday evening, I stood shoulder to shoulder in the Bronx with violence interrupters, with community activists and leaders, with Eric Adams, with Vanessa Gibson, leaders who believe in the power of grassroots solutions to violence. We were all united and with a message filled with passion, we have to stop the violence and we're going to have to do it from the ground up.
We absolutely need and value the work of the NYPD, but we also need communities to come forward in the fight against violence. And no one does that than the violence interrupters and so many grassroots organizations that are part of the solution. Look, President Biden has put forward a very bold plan in this area and he actually modeled it on a lot of what we're doing in New York City, policing and community-based solutions to violence. We need both. So, this is what we're going to do to protect our children in particular. And when we were up in the Bronx, we all talked about the children. There were beautiful children there, gathered around, and everyone had the same feeling, we have to protect these children, protect their future. So, I want to thank all of the organizations that joined us, all the violence interrupters. Their work is crucial to our vision of Safe Summer NYC. This vision begins with these community-based solutions to violence, doubling the Cure Violence workforce this summer, a huge investment in recreation, activities, positive cultural activities for young people, giving them positive options. That whole piece is crucial. Of course, when it comes to policing, neighborhood policing and precision policing, which worked and has worked for years and years and is working again. And then the last piece of the plan, getting our courts back. We made a lot of progress. We still need help from the State to get them to 100 percent full strength because that's been the missing link. Do those things and the situation changes. So, this is what we see time and time again, the work of the Cure Violence Movement and the Crisis Management System, the violence interrupters, in the precincts where they are active, shootings continue to go down. It's such important work.
To be clear, everyone, this is hard work. What the violence interrupters do takes a lot of bravery. It is work that a lot of times stops something before it ever happens. And it doesn't show up in a statistic. This is something – and we were there together on Saturday night. Eric Adams said, and I agree with him a hundred percent – it's the many times the violence that was stopped, the lives that were saved, the shooting that never happened. You will not see that as a statistic, but you will know the violence interrupters achieved that. So, we've doubled that workforce. We're going to continue to deepen that effort. And we know that with the community, we can turn the tide. Someone who has been a leader, championing the investments in the cure, violence movement, a leader in bringing police and community together. She's a member of the City Council. She served as public safety chair for a number of years and she is about to be the next borough president of the Bronx. My pleasure to introduce Council Member Vanessa Gibson.
Thank you very, very much, Council Member. Thank you for shouting out the groups that do this amazing. We stood with them on Saturday night, what heroes and they deserve the praise. They deserve the appreciation. Thank you. And thank you also for your praise for Saturday Night Lights, a hundred gyms open up around the city on a Saturday night. What a difference that's going to make for our kids. Thank you for your support and for being there every step of the way.
Now, everyone, when it comes to helping our kids, we know that our kids went through so much in COVID. We know it's been a traumatic experience, an incredibly challenging experience for so many kids. We know we want to bring them back in every way. We have a plan to close the COVID achievement gap in our schools. We have a plan to do mental health screening for every child when they come back in September. We're going to have to support our children like never before. And we decided to start right now with Summer Rising, unprecedented, the largest summer program in the history of New York City. 200,000 kids right now, right this moment, enjoying a safe, positive space, academic support, recreation, cultural activities. It's been outstanding. I've talked to parents, and you're going to hear from a parent in a moment, about just how magical it's been to know that this is now a universal right, that if you need a place for your child this summer, there's a place for free in your neighborhood available, positive, safe. It's making a huge difference and it's going to help kids get ready for the fall and be ready to come back to school stronger. 200,000 kids are benefiting right now. And I want everyone to know it's an all-day initiative from 8:00 AM to 6:00 PM, 8:00 AM to 6:00 PM. Any child who needs this opportunity can still get it. And it is 100 percent free.
But Summer Rising, now underway for the last couple of weeks, we are now getting close to the deadline. So, I want to make sure all New Yorkers know, all parents know if you have not yet chosen Summer Rising and you want it for your child you have until midnight tomorrow night. Tuesday, July 20 midnight is the deadline. It's easy to sign up. We welcome as many kids as want to be a part of it. You'd go to nyc.gov/summerrising. I saw the energy of Summer Rising the first day at P. S. 6 in Flatbush, Brooklyn. It was beautiful. I helped to kick off the festivities, of course, with the Cha-Cha Slide, very, very important – everyone, when you have something to celebrate, I mean, you of course have to bring the Cha-Cha Slide into it. But let me tell you, the kids were loving it. The teacher, the parents, everyone was so happy to have everyone back together. A lot of kids had not been in school for a long, long time. So, it's a great warmup to get kids ready for the fall.
Now I want you to hear from a parent. She is a mom of four, and I admire any mom of four. That takes real work. She is from Staten island. She does great work as well in her professional life to help others so she can tell you how important this initiative is to support our kids. My pleasure to introduce Liza Schatzman – I'm sorry, Liza. Liza Schatzman. My apologies, Liza.
Thank you so much, Liza. Thank you so much. First of all, you are a superhero – four kids, and you and your husband each work full-time.
Liza Schatzman: Yes, correct.
Mayor: That is commitment, okay. Thank you for everything you do. And I love what you said, the working parents’ dream. I love that. I love that. And I will tell you, Liza, when we, way back when, started thinking about pre-K originally, it was because for Chirlane and I trying to find a pre-K opportunity for our child and knowing how limited they were and the stress that went with it alone was part of what motivated us to believe this should be something universal. That led to pre-K that led to 3-K. Summer Rising was not something we anticipated. And the pandemic opened our mind to the fact that we had to do something very different this summer. But to hear you talk about it makes me feel even more strongly that this is something we need to do in the future as well. Because when you just said, a parent looking forward to summer, you'd like to look forward to the summer, but I remember the same reality. Where is your child going to go? Are they going to get in? Can you afford it? Can you make the schedules work? And one of the things I've heard from Summer Rising parents is this 8:00 AM to 6:00 PM is actually something that connects with the real world of parents' schedules.
Schatzman: Yes. Not many programs do.
Mayor: Not many programs do, right. And so, thank you, thank you for your impassioned testimony. And everyone, again, you've got until midnight, tomorrow night, Tuesday, the 20th. And anyone, child who still wants to be in Summer Rising, we got you. Go to nyc.gov/summerrising, and you can sign up. How much does it cost? It's free, free, free, free. Okay. I wanted to clear that up.
All right. Now, let’s do a few more things. We're going to do our indicators, but first the vaccine update, and again, every single day thousands and thousands of New Yorkers are getting vaccinated. We are closing in on 10 million doses. That's going to be a very, very important milestone for this city. So, as of today, from the very beginning of the vaccination effort, 9,742,526 vaccination doses given. And this is why, as we go into indicators, even though we're seeing a challenge with the Delta variant, this is why we're holding the line, particularly on hospitalization rate. We do have a challenge now. We're going to be talking about it throughout the week. We're going to be talking about the indicators and how we're interpreting them and some new information about the indicators ahead. But the bottom line is vaccination is the reason we're in a very, very different situation than other parts of the country that are suffering and I feel very bad for those places and those people, but New York City residents have stepped up. As of today, 4.5 million fully vaccinated New Yorkers, that is 53.5 percent of our total population. 4.8 million New Yorkers who have gotten at least one dose, and again, we know overwhelmingly they'll be coming back for their second dose. That's about 95 percent of all New Yorkers do come back for their second dose. But more importantly, immediately that first dose is giving some protection, that's 58.1 percent of all New Yorkers who now have gotten at least one dose, all residents, including kids and everyone. So, this is really, really important. We've got a lot of work to do, but this is the reason we have a strong foundation to work from. So, today's indicators, number one, daily number of people admitted to New York City hospitals for suspected COVID-19, today's report 92 patients, confirmed positivity 24.74 percent. Hospitalization rate again, thank God, continues to be in a good place, 0.35 per 100,000. Now, number two, cases, we definitely are seeing cases going up, again, we're going to talk about this throughout the week. The new reported cases on a seven-day average, today’s report 516 cases. And number three, percentage of people testing citywide positive for COVID-19 on a seven-day rolling average, today's report 1.69 percent. Okay, let me just do a few words in Spanish and I'm going to go back to summarizing just for a moment.
[Mayor de Blasio speaks in Spanish]
All parents, one last chance to get into all the good things in Summer Rising. With that, let's turn to our colleagues in the media. Please let me know the name and outlet of each journalist.
Moderator: We will now begin our Q-and-A, as a reminder, we're also joined today by Health Commissioner Dr. Chokshi. The first question today goes to Kala from pics.
Question: Hi, Mayor, de Blasio, I hope you're doing well and enjoying your summer.
Mayor: Indeed, it’s the summer of New York City, Kala, how you doing?
Question: Good, thanks. The UFT confirmed to me this morning that they're actually offering teachers $25 an hour to go door-to-door to talk with parents and kids face-to-face and get them back to the classroom, especially those kids who chose remote learning through most of last year. They told me that the DOE has their own programs besides Summer Rising. Can you tell me what the DOE and the City is doing to outreach with these parents? Because, again, almost 60 percent of kids chose remote learning to end the year with last year.
Mayor: Yes, and very fair question, Kala, but remember, let's do the quick facts. Parents chose that early on, in a lot of cases they did not want to make a change. They got into a rhythm, they wanted to stick with it. But meanwhile, with every passing month, thankfully things got safer and safer, better, and better in our schools. You'll remember the last week of school we gave you the testing numbers, there are almost no cases of COVID in our public schools. So, parents saw that. They've seen all the other changes. They've seen that there's almost 10 million vaccination doses. But to your question, what we're going to do is keep bringing parents in. Chancellor Meisha Ross Porter has made very clear that we're going to have open houses for any parents who want to come in early, see the schools, talk to principals, talk to teachers, let them know that things are good, and things are ready. We are going to do a lot of outreach, and we want to answer their questions. We also, one more point, want to focus on vaccinating kids 12 to 18, have maximum vaccination of those kids in the lead up to school. Go ahead, Kala.
Question: I've also seen a letter from a principal saying if we stick to the three feet rule from the CDC, all students coming back to the classroom will not fit. So, what is the plan? And when will parents a hear a plan on what classrooms will look like?
Mayor: Again, you know, we've spoken to this. The – first of all, that three-foot rule is there now, we will make it work, period. We can make that work in our schools. I am not going to be surprised, as I've said many times, school's almost two months away if the CDC changes or relaxes that guidance between now and the opening of school. So, the bottom line to parents is to understand kids will be in classrooms that are safe with all those health and safety measures we've used previously. And again, Kala, it's good, it's right for people to ask a lot of questions, but sometimes it's also important to acknowledge the facts on the ground. We proved that our gold standard of health and safety measures worked. You saw it with your own eyes. We intensely limited COVID in our schools. We made our schools safe. We're going to be doing the exact same things again in an atmosphere where a huge number of people have now been vaccinated, a much, much better environment than what we had to deal with last year. So, it will work, if the three-foot rules in effect, we can make it work with the three-foot rule, but again, I would not be surprised if it's changed between now and then.
Moderator: The next is David Rodriguez from Telemundo.
Question: Good morning, Mayor. Buenos días.
Mayor: Buenos días
Question: Buenos días. My question today is due to the challenge with Delta variant, do you expect for any executive order to enforce mandatory wearing indoors and outdoors in New York City?
Mayor: No. Simple answer, no. I'll speak to it, and I'll have Dr. Dave Chokshi speak to as well, David. Right now, we've got, again, 4.8 million New Yorkers who have had at least one vaccine dose. That number grows thousands and thousands of people every day. That's the ballgame. That's where we make the impact. The thing that actually stops COVID. Not the thing that, you know, masks have value unquestionably, but masks are not going at the root of the problem, vaccination is, so we do not intend a mask mandate. We do intend to double down on vaccination. We'll be speaking about this throughout the week and beyond new approaches to vaccination because this is where we make the difference. Dr. Chokshi.
Commissioner Dave Chokshi, Department of Health and Mental Hygiene: Thank you very much, Mr. Mayor. Thanks for this important question. Look, the Delta variant is concerning as we've talked about, you know, in previous days and weeks. It now it makes up about 69 percent of the cases that we're sequencing. But our concern is primarily for people who remain unvaccinated, which is why the single most important thing that we can do to keep individuals as well as our communities, our city safe, is to get as many people vaccinated as possible. I do also want to clarify that there are some settings where the mask mandate, particularly indoors remains in effect. This includes public transit, it includes schools and other high-risk settings, like our congregate settings and in health care facilities, and in those places, we do want people to continue wearing their masks regardless of their vaccination status. But as the Mayor has said, the key to our – getting out of this pandemic is vaccination.
Mayor: Thank you. Go ahead, David.
Question: Question – I know that everyone is enjoying the summer here in New York City. So many people are waiting for maybe more concert that should be happening in August. So, do you have any more information about participants, about artists are – will be joining these big concerts? Thank you. Gracias.
Mayor: De nada. David, what I can tell you is this, we're going to have more information shortly, very shortly, hopefully a matter of days about the lineup, the final lineup for the concert and how people can get to be a part of it and see this amazing concert. You've heard some of the initial acts. They're amazing. There's a lot more coming. That's all I can say. It's going to be one of the most memorable concerts in the history of New York City. I don't have any fear of contradiction. It is going to be one of the most amazing concerts ever, and it's because all these artists want to celebrate New York City and want to be part of the comeback. So, stay tuned, much more to come, not just about the big concert in Central Park, but a lot of other key activities around the five boroughs for Homecoming Week. A lot more to be announced very soon.
Moderator: The next is Chris Sommerfeldt from the Daily News.
Question: Hi, Mr. Mayor, how you doing?
Mayor: Hey, Chris, how are you doing?
Question: I'm good. I wanted to circle back a little bit to the last question you were just asked about mask mandates. Council Member Mark Levine, who was on your brief thing last week, says he's planning to ask the Department of Health to reinstate indoor mask mandates, even for non-vaccinated individuals, because of this spike in infection rates. I just – I understand you don't think it's inappropriate to reinstate a mask mandate, but what's your response to concerns from Council Member Levine and others who agree with that point of view?
Mayor: I think very highly of Council Member Levine, and we've worked very closely together. I think he would say the same thing I'm about to say, but the ultimate voice is Dr. Dave Chokshi who you're going to hear in just a moment. And so, look, mask mandates a certain point before we had vaccination made a lot of sense. They still make sense as Dr. Chokshi said in certain settings and any private entity of course still has the right to decide what works for them. But Chris, I honestly think we would be doing a disservice if instead of saying let's address the actual problem, and we do believe there's other ways we can do that, and we'll talk about let's address the problem by getting more people vaccinated and going right at it and knocking down this variant. You know, a mask doesn't arrest the progress of the variant, vaccination does. So, we're going to go where the real impact is. That's the bottom line. Dr. Chokshi you want to add?
Commissioner Chokshi: Yes, sir. Thank you, and look, let me just start with the reality that the more that COVID circulates it is true that there was more risk for any given individual person, but as we've talked about before, that risk is highest for people who remain unvaccinated. This is why we need them in particular to continue following precautions, and it remains our strong advice for anyone who is unvaccinated to continue wearing masks, to continue physical distancing and to get tested regularly. That remains just as important because even though we were recommending that several months ago, it is actually a more dangerous time right now to be un-vaccinated given how contagious that Delta variant is. Beyond that, as I said earlier, the mask mandates that are in places that are shared, you know, indoor spaces like subways and buses and schools, particularly where there are a large number of unvaccinated people, that remains very important, you know, and is a cornerstone of our approach. The final thing that I will say is that it is certainly reasonable for some people who are fully vaccinated, if they choose to, to continue wearing masks. This is more important indoors compared to outdoors, and there are some specific reasons why it may be the case that someone who is fully vaccinated wants to continue wearing the mask and taking additional precautions. It could be that they're immunocompromised or otherwise, you know, at higher risk of severe outcomes from COVID-19 illness. It may be that they're living with someone who is unvaccinated because they are not yet eligible to be vaccinated, and in those cases, we support the decision for individuals to continue wearing their mask. The bottom line is for us to get to the other side of the pandemic, what we have all been hoping for, the key to that remains vaccination.
Mayor: Thank you. Go ahead, Chris.
Question: Thank you. On, on another topic, opening arguments are starting today in Gwen Carr’s lawsuit against you, Mr. Mayor, and the NYDP in the death of Eric Garner. Today's hearing is focused on which witnesses are appropriate to call. I was wondering you think it would be appropriate for you to be called as a witness, and would you be willing to testify if called.
Mayor: Again, you know, because it's a litigation matter, Chris, I'm not going to go into any detail. Law Department should really handle that question. We're talking about a very painful moment in our city's history and for the Garner family. We've done a lot to try to change things profoundly since then, and I'm really looking forward to us being able to move forward, learn the powerful lessons and act on them. I think we did, particularly with the retraining of the entire police force in de-escalation efforts. There's always more to do, but we're very, very committed to constantly making change and reform in policing. That's where my focus is going to be.
Moderator: The next is Chloe Li from Gothamist.
Question: Hi, good morning. How are you?
Mayor: Good, Chloe, how you been?
Question: I'm good. One moment. So, the question I have is just in terms of related to Council Member Levine’s statements. New York now ranks in the top 10 amongst states in terms of the growth of COVID cases, specifically that the case rate is up to 167 percent in past two weeks. Do you just have any comments on that trend? And do you think that maybe Governor Cuomo could be doing more related to that? That's it.
Mayor: Thank you very much. Chloe. Look, and again I’ll turn to Dr. Chokshi. The bottom line is vaccination is the answer. I think we've got a very substantial number of people who are willing to be vaccinated, who we've got to reach in different ways. We also have people that just need to hear a very forceful message about how important it is. Why you are literally – you are making people safer, in your own family, your own community, you get vaccinated, and if you don't get vaccinated, you're actually running a risk for yourself and your family. And we've got to make that plainer than ever before. That is the solution. And it's – Chloe, it's a little eerie that we have a solution, you know, there's so many things in society where we have a problem, we don't know a solution for, we actually have solutions right here. It's available. It's free. Anywhere you turn, you can get vaccinated. We've got to use every tool in the tool case to get everyone vaccinated. To me, that is the ultimate solution here. Dr. Chokshi want to add?
Commissioner Chokshi: Thank you, sir. And thank you, Chloe for this question. To answer it, yes, I am concerned about the increase in cases that we're seeing in New York City that appears to be propelled by the Delta variant, as we've mentioned. But as the Mayor has said, so much of the suffering that is associated with COVID-19, particularly the severe outcomes, needing oxygen, having to visit the hospital, being in intensive care and requiring a breathing tube. And, of course, the worst outcome, the death of people, whom we are close to, whom we love – all of these are more avoidable than they have ever been during this pandemic, because of vaccination. And so, what we have to do is ensure that every single person who is eligible for the vaccine not just has the opportunity to get vaccinated, but it's strongly encouraged to take that step. That's how we are going to minimize the suffering that we have all been, you know, born witness to, too much over the last 18 months. And that's what we can do together as a city.
Mayor: Thank you. Chloe, did you have a follow-up?
Question: No, I’m okay. Thank you.
Mayor: Okay. Thank you.
Moderator: The next is Nolan from the Post.
Question: Hey. Good morning, everybody.
Mayor: Hey, Nolan. How have you been?
Question: I’m all right, Mr. Mayor. How are you?
Mayor: Good, good.
Question: You keep talking about the importance of getting people vaccinated and that you believe the more people who get vaccinated, the more familiar people become with it, the more willing everyone will be to do so. It's hard to think of a group of people who would be more familiar with the vaccination and the vaccination – and what it means than staffers at City hospitals, nearly one-third of whom remain unvaccinated. So, is it time for a vaccine mandate at the very least for hospital workers?
Mayor: Nolan, look, it's obviously a fair question. We're continuing in dialogue with hospital workers and their representatives. We're talking about the best way to get things done. I understand that some of the people – Dr. Katz has spoken to this – some of the folks who have been closest to the challenge feel, for variety of reasons, you know, they made it through, they don't need vaccination. I think it's obviously objectively true that people do need vaccination, even if they did make it through. We've got to find a way to get that done. So, those conversations are going on right now and, you know, I'm very hopeful we're going find a resolution. Go ahead, Nolan.
Question: So, what does that resolution look like to you? And if I just might sort of follow up on sort of the thread of this – if doctors remain hesitant, because they made it through it, and many of us have made it through it, whether or not we'd gotten shots or not get shots – gotten shots – what is the ceiling for vaccination in the city then?
Mayor: I'm sorry, when you say the ceiling, how do you mean?
Question: Yeah. So, the ceiling is like – like, do you guys have a best guess for what the best outcome looks like sans a mandate? What percentage of the population you expect to ultimately agree to get it without a mandate?
Mayor: All right. I'll give you my overview real quick and then Dr. Chokshi can give you something more erudite. But, look, I don't think that answer is available now for very simple reason – COVID has been an ever-changing story. And, right now – so, again, you've got 4.8 million people, as of today, who have come forward, gotten vaccinated – 4.8 million. That number grows daily. I think people are going to be thinking more, seeing the Delta variant, seeing the impact. You're going to see a lot of people who have been a little bit slow, a little bit hesitant, now feeling more urgency. You've heard Dr. Chokshi and Dr. Katz talk about their own patients. And they both see patients still who get to that moment – like, okay, now it's time. 150 million people have had the vaccination here in this country, I think that's a huge reassurance to a lot of people that wasn't there in the beginning. So, I don't think there's an – I mean, your question is an earnest and important question, but I don't think there's like an artificial ceiling. I think you're going to see a lot of people think, and then think again. A lot of people who may have been originally resistant, get more open. We've got to begin with, right this minute, hundreds of thousands more people we could vaccinate today who I think are ready. We've just got to make that connection. And then we go from there. I think the other big X-factors is our kids. First, the ones who are qualified, I think you're going to see a surge of vaccinations before school begins. And second, we've got kids from birth to 11 who are going to be able to be vaccinated at some point, possibly even this year. That's going to open up a whole new world for us, hundreds of thousands of more New Yorkers who can be vaccinated. So, I think we’ve got a lot to work with. Dr. Chokshi, do you want to add?
Commissioner Chokshi: Yes, sir. Thank you. And look, Nolan, here are the facts as I see them – over 96 percent of doctors across the United States have gotten vaccinated. We know this from good national data that's being tracked. On the other hand, over 98 percent of people who have been hospitalized or died as a result of COVID-19 this year in New York City are not fully vaccinated. So, the choice is clear. You know, particularly doctors, because we have studied the science, we've seen the suffering that COVID-19 can cause – that is the motivation with respect to getting vaccinated. And our job, all the efforts that you've heard about is to extend that protection to as many people as possible. So, I agree with the Mayor that, you know, our goal is to push the number as high as it possibly can go, because that means that more New Yorkers will be protected.
Mayor: Thank you. Go ahead.
Moderator: The next is Samantha Liebman from 1010 WINS.
Question: Hi, Mr. Mayor. How are you this morning?
Mayor: Good, Samantha. How have you been?
Question: Good. Thank you. So, I actually have a friend who works for HHC and she is just not convinced about getting the vaccine. She listens to Tik Tok for her information. I mean, is there – you know, there's some people – she's not a frontline worker. So, is there an effort to maybe reach out to some of the workers who are not frontline workers to try to educate them and get them the right information?
Mayor: Yes, absolutely. And you know Dr. Katz isn’t here to speak about those specific efforts, but Dr. Chokshi, I'm sure, can speak about our ongoing efforts to reach folks who work in the health care field. Look, Samantha, you raise a really good point. There's folks getting information from all over and sometimes listen to a voice that might be very informed or might not be. We've got to – we just have to keep pounding away, getting the best information to people, having a conversation. A lot of people need a conversation, not just have information, like, sent at them, but to really sit in a room and talk to someone, which is what we're trying to do more and more – particularly someone they know and respect – and that really makes a difference. We are going to win the battle against COVID literally one New Yorker at time, but we're committed to doing that. Dr. Chokshi, do you want to speak about ways of educating folks who work in the health care field, including folks that work in the offices, and clinics, in the hospitals, etcetera.
Commissioner Chokshi: Certainly, sir. Thank you. And just building off of what you described, the approach is very similar to the one that, you know, that I take, that many clinicians take in the exam room – it starts with listening to people, understanding their values, their preferences, their prior experiences with the health care system, which, in too many cases, has been a negative and, you know, colors there whether or not they want to accept an intervention, a treatment. But it goes from listening to those one-on-one conversations that the Mayor has described. And sometimes these have to occur over time. That's why we've spent the last several months really facilitating, you know, lifting up people who can serve as ambassadors, or I know at Health + Hospitals, they’re called vaccine champions – you know, people who can work through those [inaudible] conversations to get to, you know, people changing their minds with respect to vaccination. Ultimately, people have to find their own reasons, but there are so many reasons – to protect oneself, to protect your loved ones, particularly people who can't get vaccinated, because they're not eligible yet, like younger children. And, in the health care field, obviously, it's about protecting one's patients as well. So, we are seeing each day more and more people choosing to get vaccinated. As the Mayor has said, the Delta variant means that there is even greater motivation to do that. And health care workers in many ways have been at the vanguard of this, but we have more work to do there, and the methods that I described will help us continue to achieve progress with respect to health care workers.
Mayor: Thank you very much. Go ahead, Samantha.
Question: So, my other question is about this four-year-old that was hit by a dirt bike yesterday. You know, the NYPD said they were cracking down on dirt bikes and ATVs. And the Council, there is a proposal to increase fines. What else can be done to curb the use of illegal ATVs and dirt bikes? And, mind you, this wasn't on the street, but rather in a parking lot. But still, a four-year-old is in critical condition.
Mayor: It's a real serious issue. And, you know, my heart goes out as a parent to that family, and we're hoping and praying for the best for that four-year-old. Samantha, look, this is something does not belong in New York City. It's the law, but it's also common sense – they just don't belong in New York City. NYPD has been very aggressive. Years ago, confiscated a huge number of them and crushed them to make a point. They did that again a few months ago. They'll keep doing that. We need community members to help us find where they're being kept so we can get them, seize them. If one's out there, it's immediately illegal. It's just not allowed in New York City. And we will destroy them, literally, and send a message to people. I do agree with increasing the fines too. I think people just need to understand there's going to be lots of consequences here. So, I would absolutely support efforts to increase the fines. I think if we keep doing all those things, it's going to make a real difference.
Moderator: We have time for two more for today. The next is Reuven Blau from the City.
Question: Hi, Mr. Mayor. Thanks for taking my question.
Mayor: How are you doing, Reuven?
Question: Good, good. How are you?
Mayor: Good man.
Question: So, 89 NYCHA playgrounds – more than one out of 10 citywide – are currently closed to the public, because they're just unsafe. And we actually showed an expert some pictures of some of the ones that are actually still open and he suggested that they're so badly dated and in bad shape that they should literally just be buried at sea. And also, many of the spots that have been closed just don't even have public deadlines for completion. So, my question is that, when you ran for office, you pledged to close the tale of two cities gap, but the playground issue in NYCHA has actually just gotten worse since you've been in office. Can you talk about that a little bit?
Mayor: It's a real important issue. I'm glad you raised it and I thank you for raising it. The bottom line is we’ve got to do better and NYCHA’s got to do better. Look, we all understand that during the year-plus of COVID a lot got put on hold. We understand that, there was a lot of work that would have happened otherwise that really would have helped that had to wait because we had to freeze a huge number of projects. But the bottom line is, we need these playgrounds fixed. We've made a huge amount of investments through our Parks Department in communities that didn't get their fair share. So, talk about addressing the tale of two cities – we had a whole equity vision for parks, which led to a lot of money going where it was needed most and providing much better parks in communities that need it. But we’ve got to do that in NYCHA too. Obviously, in recent weeks, you've seen the new basketball courts that have been unveiled in NYCHA developments. It's been a great effort, working with the NYPD and charitable foundations. But we’ve got to just keep doing more. So, I'm glad you raised the playgrounds. I'm going to be following up with NYCHA. We need a systematic effort to make them good, make them positive for our kids. And we need a plan – a plan, a timeline, the whole nine yards. A lot of improvements have happened in NYCHA on the most urgent issues. Obviously, the health and safety issues in the buildings have been where we've had to put our number-one focus. NYCHA’s proven that when you give them resources, they can make something happen. But we’ve got to get this to happen now. Go ahead, Reuven.
Question: Just following up on that – you know, you talk about a plan, what would that plan look like? How soon would you put something out? And also, the federal guidelines indicate that any playground that is dated beyond 1991, needs to be just totally revamped, because the structures are unsafe. Are you willing to say now that any playground in the NYCHA houses, you know, passed 1991 needs to be just totally overhauled?
Mayor: It's a fair question, but I need to get all the facts from NYCHA, including about the federal law. And what I want is a plan that says, okay, here are the playgrounds that need work, here's the timeline, here's the resources and how we'll apply them. I want to make sure in our time here in these next months that we nailed down a plan to address this issue once and for all.
Moderator: Last question for today, it goes to Andrew Siff from WNBC.
Question: Mayor, good morning. And everyone on the call, I hope you can hear me okay.
Mayor: Hey, Andrew. How are you doing today?
Question: Good. I was wondering what do you think of the American Association of Pediatrics strongly recommending masking for all students to [inaudible] this fall and whether that comes across to people who just watched the parade you threw for frontline workers and Summer of New York, and 4th of July, and everything's over, and now they hear masks this fall, they hear Councilman Levine saying we want to mask mandate. Are New Yorkers getting two sets of messages here?
Mayor: No, absolutely not. From day-one, we said kids will wear of masks in schools for the whole school year we just had. We said for months and months, kids will be wearing masks in the new school year. It's indoors. It's a lot of people together. Outdoors versus indoors – Andrew, you've been covering this story nonstop – night and day. As Dr Chokshi said, there is still going to be a focus on indoor settings where you need a mask, schools, hospitals, various settings, that just make sense and always have. So no, there's no contradiction there at all. Go ahead, Andrew.
Question: On the issue of – we know that this has been characterized as a pandemic of the unvaccinated at this point, but I wonder the degree to which – and maybe Dr. Chokshi can address this – how closely are we watching the so-called breakthrough cases? And are we seeing an uptake in the number of fully vaccinated people who are testing positive?
Mayor: As I turn to Dr. Chokshi, because this question has been a very fair question, it's been asked a number of times, and Dr. Chokshi and other health care leaders have said consistently, no, we're not seeing a major problem there at all. We're seeing a humongous problem with unvaccinated people. Dr. Chokshi?
Commissioner Chokshi: Thank you, Mr. Mayor. And that's right, the Delta variant, as we've said, presents the greatest risk for people who are unvaccinated. We do know from data around the world and in the United States, to some degree, that there is a slightly higher rate of breakthrough infections associated with the Delta variant as well. However, it's very important to distinguish breakthrough infections from breakthrough disease. The outcomes that we most care about, particularly hospitalization and death, the evidence thus far, the science indicates that all of the authorized vaccines that are currently in use in the United States continue to offer a strong protection not just against the Delta variant, but all of the variants that are currently circulating in New York City.
Mayor: Yeah. And that's the bottom line, Andrew. As we conclude today, the vaccine beyond our wildest dreams has had a profound impact saving lives, keeping people from the worst impacts. If you're vaccinated, you are safer, period. If you're not vaccinated, you are vulnerable. The breakthrough case has been few, but also, as Dr. Chokshi said, with minimal impact. This is as clear as it could be. Bottom line, anyone out there, if you're not yet vaccinated, or anyone in your life is not yet vaccinated, we need you to do this now. It is free. It is everywhere. Get vaccinated and help us move forward. Thank you, everybody.