July 26, 2021
Mayor Bill de Blasio: Good morning, everyone. Live from Borough Hall in the Bronx, it's Bronx Week. All week long, City Hall in your Borough in the Bronx. We started a little early yesterday with the amazing Dominican parade here in the Bronx, which was absolutely beautiful and joyous. All week long we're going to be focusing on the people of the Bronx, the issues of the Bronx, things that the city can do to make life better in the Bronx. We'll be talking a lot about issues affecting the whole city, obviously, but with a special focus on the Bronx and here is the message of the week. I’ll use my long wingspan here. Did I do it? There it is. I love the Bronx and I appreciate the Bronx. And we're going to have a great week here in the Bronx with leaders, with people who are doing so much good for the Bronx together.
But now let's talk about the big picture for the whole city, for the Bronx, and all five boroughs in the fight against COVID. First, a good update vaccination doses in New York City since day one, from the beginning, more than 9.8 million vaccination doses and climbing every single day. Officially it is 9,871,371 doses since the very beginning. Here's more good news: 71 percent of all adults in New York City have had at least one dose. 71 percent, better than the national average. And let's talk about our youngest New Yorkers who are eligible for the vaccine. The 12 to 17-year-olds – already, at least 226,000 12 to 17-year-olds have gotten at least one dose. And we're going to be putting a big effort into play to reach many more of them before school begins. So, this is what makes the difference, vaccination, but we all know the Delta variant has thrown us a curveball, and we are really, really focused on fighting the Delta variant. So last week I announced for our frontline health care workers in the public sector, Health + Hospitals, DOH – the COVID safety requirement, simply show proof of vaccination or get tested every single week. And I said, last week, this was only the beginning and we would be climbing up the ladder, more mandates to come well, today is that day.
On September 13th, the entire city workforce will be mandated under the COVID safety mandate to either get vaccinated, which is far preferable or get tested once a week. Let's be clear why this is so important. This is about our recovery. This is about what we need to do to bring back New York City. This is about keeping people safe, this is about making sure our families get through COVID okay, this is about bringing back jobs, you name it. In September, everything's going to come together. September is the pivot point of the recovery. September is when many employers are bringing back a lot of their employees. September is when school starts full strength. September is when people come back from the summer. September is when it will all happen. And so, on September 13th, which is the first full day of school, every single city employee will be expected to be either vaccinate or be tested weekly. This means everybody. This means obviously everyone who works in our schools, our educators and staff. It means the NYPD, the FDNY, it means all city agencies. It means people who work in offices and people work on the frontline. Everyone, because September is when the rubber hits the road, and this is when we have to make the difference. And so, this mandate will be in place. Two groups of city employees will be starting sooner. Of course, we announced already Health + Hospitals and the frontline Department of Health workers, clinical workers, that's next week, August 2nd. The second group, August 16th, 45,000 city employees in congregate and residential settings, in settings where people literally are there living together in close proximity on an ongoing basis. That will be August 16th. So, we're going to keep climbing this ladder and adding additional measures as needed mandates and strong measures, whenever needed to fight the Delta variant. Number one way to fight it is get vaccinated. We're proving it. This is the reason life is as good as it is in New York City right now, because we're above the national average vaccinations, but we need to do more. We're also going to reinforce for all city government workers starting on Monday, reinforcing clearly, if you are unvaccinated and you are a city employee, beginning on Monday, you must either wear a mask indoors at your work site at all times, or if you would prefer not to, you have to immediately go get vaccinated. This is very, very clear. We will have to unfortunately be very tough. If a city government employee does not wear a mask indoors and they are unvaccinated there, unfortunately will have to be consequences because we have to take it seriously. If someone's unvaccinated, unfortunately they pose a threat to themselves, but they also have a greater chance of spreading the disease.
Now, my right message to the private sector is go, as far as you can go right now, do what you can do. Private entities have the right to make a lot of choices. They have a lot of freedom. They can set their own rules. Each private sector employer needs to do what they believe is right, but I would strongly urge a vaccination mandate whenever possible, or as close to it as possible, at minimum requiring all your employees to get vaccinated or to do weekly testing.
Now to help make it easier for folks who have gotten vaccinated and want to be able to show that, or have gotten a negative test and want to be able to show that New York City is, at this point, offering a new tool to help make it easier for New Yorkers. On August 2nd, we will debut the NYC COVID SAFE app. This app is simple and easy to use, allows you to keep track of vaccination or test results and have them available to show any employer or anyone else you'd need to. This is another tool. The NYC COVID SAFE app will give New Yorkers another option. There's the state Excelsior pass. That's valuable too. And of course, there's something as simple as a paper vaccination card. All of these tools matter, everything that helps people to keep track and to be held accountable is a good thing.
With that, I want to turn to our Health Commissioner who has been leading the way, who believes strongly in these aggressive measures. And we'll tell you why they're so important. Our Health Commissioner, Dr. Dave Chokshi.
Commissioner Dave Chokshi, Department of Health and Mental Hygiene: Thank you so much, Mr. Mayor. It's been said that in a crisis, you must look to the helpers, those working on behalf of others, despite so much risk to their own wellbeing. In so many cases over the past 18 months, the helpers have been city staff, whether it's foster care workers, first responders or teachers. We need these individuals to continue to serve and to do so in the safest way possible, which is why we implemented the COVID safety requirement: proof of vaccination, or a weekly negative test starting with health care workers on August 2nd and today, as the Mayor said, we're expanding the requirement to all city staff beginning in September. And for those workers who are in more risky settings, such as foster care shelters or senior centers, this will begin even earlier on, August 16th.
To ensure that our workplaces are as safe as possible we are also fortifying our requirement that unvaccinated city staff wear masks indoors. Only with documented proof of vaccination does one have the option to forego a face covering, except of course in places where they are required for all such as schools, health care facilities, or congregate settings. These new requirements reflect our commitment to each other and to the people whom we serve. To the city's heroic helpers. I would only say, don't wait. The virus is here now. And it's transmitting quickly due to the Delta variant, a particularly aggressive strain of the virus with cases rising rapidly, particularly among the unvaccinated who are at most at risk of severe outcomes. We need stronger medicine to deal with Delta, which is why we're taking these steps today, and we'll continue with robust responses if more steps are needed. In the tug of war between vaccines and the variants, we should continue to bet on vaccines, but now is the time for our whole city to pull together to defeat Delta. Thank you, sir.
Mayor: Thank you so much, Dr. Chokshi. And I want you to hear from a leading national voice, a truly leading national voice in the fight against COVID. We are depending constantly on the medical leaders who see the next steps we have to take. And one of them who has been consistently ahead of the curve, he is the professor of Bioethics at the Department of Population Health, and the founding head of the Division of Medical Ethics at NYU Grossman School of Medicine here in New York City, my pleasure to introduce Dr. Arthur L. Caplan.
Mayor: Thank you so much, Dr. Caplan. Thank you for all you are doing the sound, the alarm and help us move forward as a city and as a nation. And now I want to turn back to Dr. Mitch Katz. I skipped over him by accident, obviously leading the way with Health + Hospitals, which had been the frontline of this fight and are the first city workers who are engaging in this mandate. He understands how important it is to keep his workers safe and how that keeps everyone else safe. Dr. Mitch Katz.
President and CEO Mitchell Katz, NYC Health + Hospitals: Thank you, sir, and thank you for everything you're doing to keep us safe. Health + Hospitals, because we care for those people who are sick, especially the undocumented, the uninsured, the black and brown communities, people who are homeless, we want to be sure that we are providing care that is safe by making sure that everybody is vaccinated or tested weekly. We feel very strongly as health care providers it's our duty to be sure that we are not ourselves spreading the virus. Thank you so much, sir.
Mayor: Thank you, Dr. Katz. And now as Dr. Caplan previewed, one of the most important health care voices in this state, because he has for years been one of the most crucial public leaders, setting progressive public policies for the entire state as Chair of Health Committee of the New York State Assembly. We have worked together often. I think very, very highly of what he has done for this city and this state. My pleasure to introduce Assemblymember Dick Gottfried.
Mayor: Thank you so much, Assembly Member and you, you know, your history and you're absolutely right. There's plenty of precedent for doing this and doing it the right way to save people's lives and protect our whole community.
Now who's not protecting our community. Who's standing in the way – who is a core part of this problem? The people spreading disinformation, and I want to be blunt about this. There are people spreading disinformation purposely for their own profit, for their own fame, for their own political goals. Let's be clear. The folks who are out there lying about vaccinations, lying about COVID, are doing it for their own greedy reasons, not for your health and wellbeing, but for their own aspirations. That's what's going on. It's disgusting. And it has to end. And those who are enabling the disinformation have to stop. We know that the anti-vaccination disinformation has spread like wildfire, and it has cost many people their lives. Let's be clear – those who spread this information are literally killing people. I agree wholeheartedly with the point that President Joe Biden made about the dangers of spreading this information and the fact that anyone who does it is part of the problem. So, listen to this shocking statistic from a report that just came out from the Center for Countering Digital Hate: 65 percent of the disinformation about COVID is spread on social media. That's striking enough, but here's the most striking part, it links back to 12 prolific posters on social media, 12 individuals. They are called the Disinformation Dozen. They are dangerous people who have caused endless harm. Now, these individuals are still at large. They are out there on these platforms at this hour of this day, literally depriving people of their lives by lying to them. It is unacceptable and we have to stop it. So, today New York City is calling on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to de-platform. The Disinformation Dozen. Take away their bully pulpit that is killing people. Stop them now. Kick them off your sites right now completely, immediately. Also, the Department of Health in New York City is officially sending a letter to mark Zuckerberg and Jack Dorsey. The doctors at the Department of Health are saying, stop the spread of the lies, stop the spread of COVID. If you don't stop the lies, then you are complicit in the spread of COVID. It has to end. You have no right to put people's lives in danger. It's just like Assemblyman Dick Gottfried said, we all understand the liberties and freedoms of this country, but we value life. And if someone is standing in the way of human life, if someone is causing people to die, it has to be stopped, and these platforms can do so much about it. We demand they do so immediately.
All right, we're going to go to our indicators in a moment, as you see the indicators, you're going to see again the troubling increase in cases because the Delta variant and thank God, you're going to see some news that continues to be strong about hospitalization because of the high level of vaccination. But this is going to be a fight to keep the vaccinations moving more than the variant. But before we go to that, I want to talk about Bronx Week. I'm thrilled to be here in the Bronx. We're going to have an amazing week. We have our beautiful Bronx psychedelic backdrop, and it's going to be a week listening to people, the Bronx, bringing solutions to the Bronx, celebrating the Bronx, a borough that often has not gotten the respect it deserves a borough of so much beauty of so much strength today. I'm going up to the Bronx Commons at Melrose. This amazing new development that we'll be cutting the ribbon on, not just some affordable housing, 100 percent affordable, over 300 apartments that Bronxites will be able to live in for generations to come, fully affordable. This is the kind of thing we'll be celebrating, the progress of the Bronx. The amazing work that's being done on affordable housing as so many other fronts tomorrow, we're going to have our resource fairs, kind of like office hours or 3-1-1 in person, people come meet with say government leaders from across the agencies. I'll be there talking to a lot of Bronxites. We'll have our mobile vaccination van out, our voter registration tables, everything to get people the information they need, get them answers, listen to their concerns. We do this every City Hall in your Borough week. It's always one of the highlights and I'm looking forward to it.
To tell you why Bronx Week matters and why the Bronx matters and why we need to be in the Bronx, paying attention to the people of the Bronx, a strong, strong voice for the Bronx, he always has been. And now he does that not only here in the Bronx, but in the halls of Washington. My honor to introduce Representative – Congressmember Ritchie Torres.
Mayor: Beautifully said, Congressmember, and you're right without the people of the Bronx, New York City would never have made it through COVID. So, this is a place to honor and respect, and that's what this week will be all about. And someone else who loves his borough, born and raised, and now a powerful voice for the Bronx in Albany. My pleasure to introduce State Senator Jamaal Bailey.
Mayor: Thank you so much, Senator and Senator, I want to defend your right to alternative baseball fan choices, okay? That's just something I'm an expert in. You have a right to support whatever team you like. Okay, I just want to say that. We're all this together, brother. All right. I'll see you along the way this week.
I’m going to indicators, but there's one more thing I want to say, and it's sad news because we've lost someone great. but it's a life worth celebrating, Bob Moses. One of the legendary pioneers of the Civil Rights Movement and so appropriate that we're here in the Bronx because he was a high school teacher right here in the Bronx. And he left that job, serving young people to take on an even bigger fight, to fight for voting rights in the south, and he became one of the pioneers, one of the strategists who had a huge impact on the Civil Rights Movement and brought up a generation of leaders with them. So, Bob Moses did it the right way all along. He has so many people who learned from him. And we're going to keep his memory alive. We're lowering flags to half-staff here in New York City in his honor, but also because there's still a fight going on for voting rights. And I think it's sad that as we say goodbye to such a great American, we have to say that his work must continue because voting rights are under assault again, but we're going to remember his mission and we're going to carry it on. God bless you, Bob Moses.
All right, everyone, the indicators, and we'll be talking throughout this week and the weeks ahead again, we're going to be making some changes with the indicators because of the information we're getting now. We're going to be focusing more and more on vaccination levels on case numbers and hospitalization rate. Those are the crucial, crucial areas. So, we'll be making those alterations, we'll talk about that in the days ahead, but let's give you today's report. First of all, daily number of people admitted to New York City hospitals for suspected COVID-19, today’s report is 92 patients, confirmed positivity: 21.65 percent, hospitalization rate per 100,000: 0.55. So again, we've seen some movement there. It's still a very good rate, but we're watching that very carefully. Here's something we're obviously concerned about. Number two, new reported cases on a seven-day average today's report: 837 cases. And number three, percentage of people testing city-wide positive for COVID-19, today's report on a seven-day rolling average: 2.35 percent. Let me say a few words quickly in Spanish, on the mandate to ensure that our employees get vaccinated or tested.
With that. Let's turn to our colleagues in the media. Please let me know the name and outlet of each journalist.
Moderator: We'll now begin our Q and A. As a reminder, we're joined today by Health Commissioner Dr. Chokshi, by Health + Hospitals CEO, Dr. Mitchell Katz, but DOITT Commissioner Jesse Tisch, and by Labor Relations Commissioner Renee Campion. First question today goes to Jenn Peltz from the AP.
Question: Good morning, Mr. Mayor, how are you?
Mayor: Good, Jenn, how you been?
Question: Good, thank you. I wanted to ask, do you know the rate of vaccination among the city workforce as a whole or any components of it even, other than the workers we discussed last week?
Mayor: Yeah, I will turn to Dr. Chokshi, but with a big asterix, that we have information, but I don't think we would call it complete because so many people have gone as individuals to get vaccinated, not just through the drives, sponsored for example, in their workplaces. So, we have some information but not as complete as what we would like to have, what we do know about the city as a whole, and that tells us a lot about our workforce as well. Right now, 4.9 million New Yorkers have had at least one dose. So, that's 59 percent of the entire city's population. We know that among adults it's 4.7 million. So, that's 71 percent of adults. These are good signs, obviously, overall, but we know we've got a lot more to do in terms of the City workforce. And I'll turn to Dr. Chokshi, again. We'll give you what we can now, and then continue to put together more information as we go along.
Commissioner Chokshi: Thank you, sir. And yes, we can follow up with the specific numbers that we do have. In general, the City workforce has trended along with the patterns that we're seeing for New York City adults as a whole. And, as the Mayor has said, that rate of vaccination among all adults in New York City is 71 percent with at least one dose. But regardless of the current vaccination rate for the City workforce, we do have to acknowledge that there's variation, you know, for different agencies, for different settings, and part of the goal of the COVID safety requirement is to lift all boats by getting everyone to a higher standard and increasing vaccination rates, particularly where they may be lagging.
Mayor: Thank you. Go ahead, Jen.
Question: Thanks. And, secondly, turning to the announcement you made about ensuring that unvaccinated City workers are masked in the workplace. How exactly do you foresee enforcing that? And what consequences will there be if people don't do that or get vaccinated?
Mayor: I'm going to turn to our Labor Relations Commissioner Renee Campion, but, Jen, let me make real clear that we're just not going to tolerate unvaccinated City employees doing the wrong thing. So, let's be blunt – if you're a City employee and you're unvaccinated, you must wear a mask indoors at work. We will not tolerate any decision to do otherwise, because this is about protecting people's health and wellbeing. If someone is not wearing their mask, they will be removed from the workplace. So, let's get the details from our Commissioner of Labor Relations Renee Campion.
Commissioner Renee Campion, Office of Labor Relations: Good morning, Mayor. You can hear me okay?
Mayor: Yes, indeed.
Commissioner Campion: Great. Thank you. So, simply it's the requirement that the Mayor has laid out is – it's actually – it will be a job requirement. We will expect employees to comply, as the Mayor has said. We will continue to have conversations with the unions. We've already started some of those conversations. If employees refuse to comply, they just can't be at work. And, in fact, they will not be paid. This is the general sense of the process and it will vary by agency.
Mayor: Thank you very much. Go ahead.
Moderator: The next is Emma from the New York Times.
Question: Hi. Good morning, Mayor. I'm curious, what can you do about private employers? I spoke to Kathy Wylde, and she said it's hard for them to require a vaccine on their own and they really need a federal mandate. So, what specifically, you know, are you encouraging private employers to do?
Mayor: Emma, we are climbing the ladder, as we've said, and we're going to be looking for each next step as appropriate. So far, the Delta variant is certainly giving us evidence that we’ve got to keep climbing that ladder. Right now, what we're saying is we're leading by example. And a lot of times, private sector employers say that's what they need – show us that the City is doing it first and that makes it easier for us to do it. And, clearly, there are employers who are and will set their own standards. But I think the better and clearer the federal guidelines and other guidelines become, the easier it will be. So, I think there are definitely employers right now ready to act and who will take heart from our announcement. Others may need to see more, but this is going to be, I think, a constant series of actions over the coming weeks to deal with this challenge. Go ahead, Emma.
Question: And then, I was wondering, are you seeing any promising signs that vaccination rates are starting to go up or level off here? I know Council Member Mark Levine was saying that it looks like the vax rates have stabilized. What do you think so far in terms of the Delta variant?
Mayor: I'll turn to Dr. Chokshi, but say what we're seeing for sure is continued vaccination. This is the good news – that people are coming in every single day. Again, a typical day is between 10,000 and 20,000 people. This is going to increase that number, I don't have any doubt. So, what I'd say, Emma, is, you're going to see an increase because of these mandates. You're going to see an increase, because of the intense vaccination drive we're going to start soon in the lead up to school. And I think as Delta clearly poses a threat, a lot of people are seeing that, and it's changing their mind. I think we're seeing that all around the country. So, I am hopeful that this will lead to some intensification. Dr. Chokshi, do you want to speak to where we stand now?
Commissioner Chokshi: Yes, sir. Thank you. And the data shows that some of the decrease in the vaccination rate that we had seen in recent weeks has stabilized. That means that more people are coming out to get vaccinated each day. And what we want to do is to keep that steady rate, but, as the Mayor said, we want to push that as high as possible. And there are a number of factors that are contributing to this. First is, there is reason for concern, as you know, with the Delta variant, and we think that that is affecting people's decision-making who have been waiting for the right time to get the vaccine. Our clear message is, that time is now. In addition, some of the steps that we're taking, starting with the City workforce, as we announced today, will also propel more people to get vaccinated in the coming days. We want to keep this impetus and this encouragement growing so that those numbers increase at a higher rate. And, as the Mayor has announced previously, we'll have a particular focus on vaccinating adolescents in the weeks ahead.
Mayor: Thank you. Go ahead.
Moderator: The next is Elizabeth Kim from Gothamist.
Question: Hi, Mayor.
Mayor: Hey, Elizabeth. How are you doing?
Question: I wanted to ask you if you could tell us a little bit more about the app and is it doing the same thing that the states Excelsior app is doing? Is it doing something different? Who would you like to see using this app other than City agencies and employees?
Mayor: So, I'll start and I'll turn to our Information Technology Commissioner Jesse Tisch, and then, obviously, if Dr. Chokshi wants to add. Look, we want to see people use this – we believe will offer another option and allow for some other information to be available easily. We think it's easy to use, which will be something people really appreciate. And the goal is since now more and more you're going to see mandates, people are going to need to have the information available more easily. We think this'll be a great tool for those who need to show that information. Commissioner Tisch, do you want to add to that?
Commissioner Jessica Tisch, Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications: Sure. Thank you, Mr. Mayor. Elizabeth, the New York City COVID Safe app allows you to upload and present your vaccination card, or, alternatively, your weekly test results for the unvaccinated. The test results expire in the app after seven days to meet the Mayor's weekly mandate for testing of unvaccinated City employees and the contracted staff. Importantly, Elizabeth, from a privacy perspective, all the data that is uploaded into the app lives on a person's device. So, it lives on their phone. It doesn't get sent anywhere. We built the app for both the iOS and Android phones, and the app will be available in the Google and the Apple app stores. We built the app in its first instance to help operationalize the COVID safety mandate for City employees and contracted staff, but because the app will be publicly available in the app stores and the local employer or business or venue that adopts the City's vaccination or weekly testing regimen can choose to use it for their employees or their patrons. In that way, I think you can really look at it as part of the Mayor's call to action. We're planning to have the apps available for download by the August 2nd deadline, when the first tranche of City employees become subject to the mandate. And we have chosen to go this route to manage the mandate for hundreds of thousands of City workers, because other options like Excelsior Pass, which you mentioned, do not specifically accommodate the Mayor's weekly testing mandate at this time, or, for example, people who are tested or vaccinated outside of New York.
Mayor: Thank you very much, Commissioner. And, Elizabeth, I’m going to turn to Dr. Chokshi to add, but I want to say, look, there's more than one good way for people to keep track of information and provide information. The Excelsior Pass is great, it definitely offers an important service. If that's what people want to use or that's what works best for them, that's great. A paper card – a paper vaccination card, a lot of us have them in our wallets. Those are great too, they really work. So, we welcome any and all. We wanted to offer something that we thought would help add capacity, make it simple for people, but we're happy to see people keep tracking information whichever way makes best sense for them. Dr. Chokshi, you want to add?
Commissioner Chokshi: Yes, sir. Thank you. And just to build on that point, this really reflects that there are multiple paths, but a common destination. And that common destination is around safety. This is why it's called the COVID Safe App, which will certainly help us to implement the COVID safety requirement for the City workforce. But, as Commissioner Tisch has also mentioned, this is something that will help the private sector – anyone who wants to implement something similar, to do so. And we strongly urge other institutions, other organizations to consider it as well.
Mayor: Thank you. Go ahead, Elizabeth.
Question: So, just as a follow-up, would you be in favor of restaurants, maybe concert, or theaters using this app as a way to screen people who are coming to their – you know, to indoor activities, for example?
Mayor: Yeah, absolutely, Elizabeth. Whether they use the NYC App, whether they use Excelsior Pass, whether they use the paper vaccination card, I think this is the shape of things to come. People have to take responsibility at this moment. And, you know, again, remember the history here – for months and months, we made vaccination available to all for free, hundreds of locations. Then, we added incentives. We made it possible for anyone to get an answer to any concern they have. And what I said last week, I feel – the purely voluntary phase is ending. It's now time to add additional tools. We want to see that in the private sector as well. We want to be more and more clear about the fact that if folks want to fully participate in the life of this amazing city, they need to get vaccinated.
Moderator: The next is Courtney Gross from NY1.
Mayor: Courtney, we can't hear you try again.
Mayor: Nope, Nope, not coming through. We'll go to the next person. We'll come back to you, Courtney.
Moderator: We'll come back to Courtney. The next is – the next is Michael Gartland from the Daily News.
Question: Good morning.
Mayor: Hey, Michael. How are you doing today?
Question: I'm doing all right. I was wondering if folks on the panel could talk about [inaudible] I think this is best directed at the legal underpinnings here. You know, what are the legal underpinnings that support this?
Mayor: Michael, just clarify your question. I'm sorry.
Question: The mandate. I mean, I'm sure there are legal underpinnings. I was just wondering if you could go into detail about, you know, what law supports this? What laws support this? You know, I'm not questioning the fact that there are laws supporting it, but I was wondering if there are specifics that you guys could point to kind of give us a little more detail.
Mayor: I'll start and I'll turn to our Labor Relations Commissioner Renee Campion. This is our right as an employer. It is about protecting the workforce, their health and safety, and the people they serve. So, this falls within the rubric of employer's rights to manage their workplace in the vein of health and safety. Renee, would you like to add?
Commissioner Campion: Yes, sir. Thank you, Mayor. So, as the Mayor said, it is a requirement. We do have the, the authority and the right to require employees to comply. We expect the employees to comply. As we said before, if they're not at work, if they can't be at work, because they refuse to comply, they will be on leave without pay. So, to the extent that – that it is our right to do it, we are giving people, obviously, the two options, which are the vaccination and-or the – with proof – and also the weekly testing. So, they do have a choice. The employees do have a choice.
Mayor: Go ahead, Michael.
Question: Thank you. My next question is about, you know, some comments your former Health Commissioner Dr. Barbot made about bringing folks back to homeless shelters. And I mean, she's basically saying this could threaten the health of thousands of homeless people. Could you respond to that? You know, what she's what she's saying.
Mayor: Sure, and I'll turn to Dr. Chokshi. Look, we've had this conversation over months, and the whole point was to make sure that we could protect people's health and safety, while also serving them, getting them the help they needed, because folks who are homeless have a number of challenges that have to be addressed, other physical health challenges, mental health challenges, in some cases, most importantly, the need to get to better housing. And we needed to do that in the right way, and, obviously, made that decision in careful consultation with our health care leadership. And we have been persistently making vaccination available to all people who are in any of our facilities and we will continue to do so. So, we're convinced that is the right approach. Dr. Chokshi, do you want to add?
Commissioner Chokshi: Thanks for the question, Michael. And the Mayor has charged us with making every setting as safe as is possible. The key to that, as you've heard from us consistently, and as the Mayor just said, is vaccination. It is the single most important and effective intervention that we can bring to bear with respect to interrupting the spread of COVID and particularly preventing severe outcomes related to COVID-19. And that's why the Department of Homeless Services has labored over several months to ensure that vaccination is readily accessible and available. I'll just connect it to today's announcement as well. It's part of the reason that the COVID safety requirement applies to staff in shelters and other congregate settings, and part of the reason that that implementation is even sooner than the rest of the city workforce. Thank you, sir.
Mayor: Thank you.
Moderator: The next is Bob Hennelly from the Chief Leader.
Question: Thanks for taking my call. President Biden has said we have a pandemic among the unvaccinated. But, on Sunday, Dr. Fauci pointed out, what's going on is, as long as we let the virus roam among the unvaccinated, we risked the proliferation of variants, something we have already seen. Could your subject matter experts expand on this?
Mayor: I don't – did you get that? Okay, Dave Chokshi – I couldn't follow the full question, but Dave Chokshi can. So, that's all that matters. Dr. Chokshi.
Commissioner Chokshi: Thank you, sir. And thanks for this important question, Bob. Just to restate it briefly, the fact that we have continued spread of COVID-19 contributes to new variants of the virus emerging over time as well. And it's one of the reasons that this is not just a pandemic for people who remain unvaccinated, but also may prolong the pandemic because additional variants will emerge. That is all true and epidemiologically sound. But when it comes to what we can actually do about it the answer remains simple and consistent. And that is getting as many people vaccinated as quickly as possible. This will help us to interrupt the spread in the here and now, but it will also over the long term, help us to mitigate the development of new and potentially even more dangerous variants.
Mayor: Thank you very much. Go ahead, Bob.
Question: Yes. Also, if we could get a sense of what I've heard is that actually, even if you're vaccinated, it's conceivable that you could become a carrier of the virus and so spread it on? And if your subject matter experts could offer some background on that, because that that's been getting some play?
Mayor: I'm going to start as the non-subject matter expert and then turn to Dr. Katz and Dr. Chokshi. But I want to be really clear – what has been extraordinary, Bob is the impact of vaccination. Considering that two years ago, we never heard of COVID and then the vaccination had to be put together in record time, which is actually one of the greatest achievements in recent human history. What's amazing is how much good the vaccination does, how much it protects people who are vaccinated, how much it reduces the spread. So, this is actually a very good news story, even if there are some examples that people cite of imperfections overwhelmingly the vaccination – excuse me, the vaccine has performed at an extraordinarily high level. But to your specific question, Dr. Katz, then Dr. Chokshi.
President Katz: Yes. Thank you, Mr. Mayor. It's very clear that vaccination decreases the chance that somebody can transmit. So, it is not an absolute. People who are vaccinated can still transmit if they get COVID, but it's markedly reduced. So, it's another reason why people need to get vaccinated. Thank you, sir.
Mayor: Thank you. Dr. Chokshi?
Commissioner Chokshi: And I'll just add that anytime we talk about so-called breakthrough cases, we actually have to distinguish between breakthrough infections and breakthrough disease. The reason is the one that Dr. Katz mentioned. We do know that all of the authorized vaccines currently in use here in New York City offer strong protection against particularly the severe outcomes related to COVID-19. Another thing that is sometimes commonly misunderstood is that you know, one way that I've heard it described is vaccines are not bug zappers. They work by revving up your immunity. That means that even someone who is fully vaccinated, may you know, get infected with the virus, but the whole point of the vaccines is to enable that person to successfully fight it off, so that they can avoid those severe outcomes like requiring oxygen or requiring hospitalization, that we foremost want to avoid. Thank you.
Mayor: Thank you. Go ahead.
Moderator: We'll go back to Courtney Gross from NY1.
Question: Hi, can you hear me now?
Mayor: Yes, indeed. Courtney. How are you doing?
Question: Okay. Good. Thank you. I'm glad you can hear me. So, I want to go back to the conversation or just get a little bit more detail on the conversations you may have had with unions so far. What have those conversations been like in response to this mandate and have any of them balked at the idea?
Mayor: I'll turn to Dr. Katz and Commissioner Campion. But saying, look, we've had a number of conversations. I certainly am not going to speak for the unions and there's more unions we need to talk to. But we're doing this out of a sense of urgency. We're giving people lead time, so there's time to get ready. There's time to have more conversation. There's time for people to get vaccinated in advance if they want to avoid weekly testing. But I think more and more here and around the country, there's a recognition that we need to move to stronger measures. And I think a lot of folks in labor understand that in one form or another. Dr. Katz, then Commissioner Campion.
President Katz: From the perspective of Health + Hospitals, our unions have been phenomenal partners. They understand that we have a moral responsibility to keep our patients safe. Their workers give their lives to keep people alive, to protect them. And they have fully endorsed our policy of requiring vaccination or weekly testing. And I'm very proud to work with them and to say that. Thank you, sir.
Mayor: Thank you. Commissioner Campion?
Commissioner Campion: Yes. Yes. Mayor. I would just add – thank you, that we have started conversations with the unions. They are positive and we'll continue to have more conversations as the weeks go on. Thank you very much. Go ahead, Courtney.
Question: And then sort of a follow up on that. Do we know which agencies have the lowest vaccination rate and which agencies have the highest vaccination rate? I know there's been some reporting that the NYPD has a pretty low vaccination rate.
Mayor: I'll see if Commissioner Chokshi can do any chapter and verse for you? I will say, you know, on an area where we've been very pleased, for example, has been the Department of Education. That's been a strong suit. But there's definitely variations by agency. As Dr. Katz will attest, and I want him to attest. There's been movement over time too, even before the mandate. So, first I’d like Dr. Katz to talk about how much has changed within Health + Hospitals. Because I think it's indicative of the fact that more and more people will turn to vaccination. And then Dr. Chokshi can talk about any of the variations among agencies that he has details on. Dr. Katz? Dr. Katz? We have him or not? Great lead in, yes or no? Do not. Okay. Well, it would have been a great answer and a great story, but Dr. Chokshi’s going to do great too.
Commissioner Chokshi: Thank you, sir. We will follow up with the specific information that we have by agency. What I can tell you is for my own agency, the Health Department, I'm proud that we've been outpacing the City's average with respect to percent of our workforce with at least one dose, which is greater than the 71 percent that I mentioned earlier. But it also highlights that even for agencies that are at the upper end of the spectrum like ours, we are not going to stop. We actually have to push those numbers still higher because that's what it's going to take for the Delta variant. So, regardless of where an agency is along the spectrum, we are all going to move forward to get to even higher vaccination rates.
Mayor: Thank you very much. Go ahead.
Moderator: The next – oh, sorry, We have time for two more for today. The next is Julia Marsh from the Post.
Question: Hey, thanks, Mr. Mayor. Obviously, this is a very important topic, but I'm going to switch to something else. I'm looking for your reaction to a proposal by the Nightlife Advisory Board to make drinking in public space and dancing anywhere in the city regulated, but not prohibited?
Mayor: I have to see the details. I have not seen them. But I can say dancing – we used to have cabaret laws that were arcane. We fixed that to allow for dancing in more places. I smile on dancing. I don't smile on drinking in public places. I think there needs to be some really clear laws and standards. And I think what we have now is pretty much the right way to go. Go ahead, Julia.
Question: So, we're – you're in the Bronx. So, back to that topic. Last week, a group of business leaders from the Third Avenue BID sent you a letter that I know your team is working on, asking for a quote, tangible action driven plan to assist in addressing what they called damning concerns. Some of the issues are three to five overdoses in the district daily, gangs extorting local small business, illegal vending, drug dealing, prostitution, and homelessness. So, any ideas for how you're going to help that area tackle these issues?
Mayor: This is why we have Bronx Week to laser focus on the needs of particular communities. Those are valid concerns. We're going to address them. On the vending, you and I have talked about it. Civilians go first. When that doesn't work, we bring in the NYPD to back them up. We are dealing aggressively with drug usage issues. We've put a lot more resources into outreach by Health + Hospitals and the Department of Health. I think that is already making a market difference as we're applying those teams. We're going to address each of those issues systematically. I've taken them to heart. We will fix those issues. We can and we will.
Moderator: Last question for today goes to Henry from Bloomberg.
Question: Hello, Mr. Mayor. How are you doing today?
Mayor: Good, Henry. How you been?
Question: I'm good. I'm good. Thank you. I guess you are happy about the Red Sox miraculous comeback yesterday?
Mayor: I think I'm in the wrong setting to comment. So, I'm going to show – I'm not going to smile broadly. I'm going to be very respectful.
Question: All right. Well, that was a trick question. And you handled it quite deftly. Let me ask you this, Henry Garrido has said that before you mandate testing and the vaccinations, specifically mentions testing, you need to negotiate with the unions. Have you done any negotiation or talks with the unions before announcing this? And what do you think of his statement?
Mayor: I think very, very highly of Henry Garrido. We have worked closely on, you know, literally dozens and dozens of issues. I think when it comes to the health and safety of our workers in the middle of a global pandemic, we have the right as employers to take urgent action to protect people's health, to protect their lives. Again, we've been talking to a number of unions. We'll be talking to more as we phase this in. But on this specific question of – subject of collective bargaining or not, I'll turn to Labor Relations Commissioner Renee Campion.
Commissioner Campion: Thank you, Mayor. Thanks, Henry. The regarding – the answers regarding your question about having the right to negotiate. We have the right to negotiate with our unions. We will be speaking to our unions and talking to them. Under the New York City collective bargaining law, we do have to negotiate the safety and impact with unions of these policies. So, we will be doing that. But again, we, it is – we are making, it is a requirement of the employees and we do have the right to do that.
Mayor: Thanks very much. Go ahead, Henry.
Question: All right. Thank you. I have sort of a compound question here, but they're related. On this policy, why not go all the way and require vaccines 100 percent or ask people to work from home rather than testing once a week? And on this testing, how does it work? Is it instant or rapid testing? Are people going to have to wait for a negative test before they go into work? How is it going to work practically?
Mayor: I'll turn to Dr. Chokshi in a moment who can give you some of the flavor of that. But the bottom line is we need to get people vaccinated. I respect the question. It's an important question, Henry. But I want to be clear. So much of the dialogue is about everything but getting people vaccinated. And this is a product I think of a lot of different trends, including the disinformation campaigns I talked about earlier. But also, I feel strongly that it was one thing to start with a heavy voluntary focus in the beginning and then incentive focus. But it's quite clear, the Delta variant has changed the game. So, now it's time to focus on one thing and one thing only. Vaccination. No more excuses, no more delays. Vaccination. We did not want to say to people, oh, you know, work from home so you don't have to get vaccinated. Well, that means they're just putting their families in danger and their surrounding community in danger. That's not a solution. Also working from home is not a solution per se. What we've learned in this entire experience is that our employees being in their workplaces means they're doing better work, they're serving the public better, they're working together better. We found that out in many, many instances. So, our goal here is simple. Make it maximally easy for people to get vaccinated and create an atmosphere where there's clearly consequences if you don't get vaccinated. Because vaccination is the only answer at this point. As to, again, some of the mechanics around testing, et cetera, Dr. Chokshi you want to add?
Commissioner Chokshi: Thank you, sir. Yes. With respect to implementation of the COVID Safety Requirement, first, the Mayor made the most important point. Which is if you get vaccinated, you're done. That's all that's required to fulfill the COVID Safety Requirement. If you choose the weekly testing option, then of course it means that you do have to get tested each week. You have to demonstrate the negative result. Generally, this will be via molecular testing, whether rapid or otherwise. But the most important thing is that you provide that documentation of the negative result on a weekly basis. It doesn't have to be on a particular day each week. It can be any day of the week, as long as it is provided successively each week to fulfill the COVID Safety Requirement. Thank you.
Mayor: Thank you. And as per usual, Dave Chokshi breaks it on down for you live from the Bronx, get vaccinated and you're done. One and done. It's simple. It's easy. It will make you safe. It will make your family safe. There are places to get vaccinated all over this city for free right now. Go get vaccinated. And to the people of the Bronx, looking forward to a great week with you. Thanks, everybody.