August 18, 2021
Video available at: https://youtu.be/oXg4WPqqkWQ
Mayor Bill de Blasio: Good morning, everyone. We are in the middle of recovery. New York City is coming back. It's a recovery that's strong. It's a recovery that has to reach every corner of the five boroughs. All New Yorkers have to be a part of this. That's why we say recovery for all of us. It cannot be just about the status quo. We have to get someplace better. And in this crisis, in the pandemic, we felt so much, people went through so much. There was so much lost. There was so much pain. And there was trauma. And we have to address that. The reality is people are suffering right now in the city. There's a mental health challenge, like never before, because of what we've all been through. Now think about the people in your life. Think about what you've been through. Think about your loved ones, your family, your neighbors, your friends. Every single person I've met has someone in their life dealing with a mental health challenge right now. Especially exacerbated by the pandemic. There's also more consciousness and understanding that we have to address mental health out in the open. We have to talk about it. We have to de-stigmatize it. We have to get people, help. We have to tell people it's okay and make it available like never before. So, think about the people in your life. And recognize this is a moral imperative to reach everyone who needs mental health support. The way to do that is to make mental health more available than ever before. To make mental health services and support more accessible, more available, more constant than anything we've ever seen before in the history of the city. And the actions we've taken in the last year, show a new direction. Universal screening for all of our kids going to the school in September. Universal mental health screening to help identify challenges and problems, get kids help, work with their families. Support at vaccination centers.
We know folks getting vaccinated also are going through everything else, making sure right then and there they know they can access support. Crisis calls, making sure that if a family is in crisis, if an individual's in crisis, we send trained professionals out to help them. Civilians, whenever possible. New approach has been really positive. This is a different approach and it's going to allow us to do so much more. So, when we talk about mental health for all, we're taking everything we've learned over the last eight years, and we're taking it to the next level. It's a whole new approach. It's a deeper approach. And we're going to be spreading the word to all New Yorkers, that mental health is available for each and every one of you. I want you to see an ad that we will be showing, to really let people know that help is there for them, it's available 24/7. You're going to see this on TV and you're going to see posters and all sorts of other outreach, so, people know help is there for them. Let's roll the ad so everyone can see it.
[Mental Health For All ad plays:]
So, that message is clear. It's positive. It's embracing. I want you to hear what this means from the person who from day one of this administration has led the charge telling all of us that we could go farther than ever before in helping people with mental health challenges and providing support, providing embrace, ending the stigma, opening the door. Her work has been absolutely consistent throughout and has reached so many New Yorkers and helped them through. And this was before we knew there'd be a pandemic, but now this work is more important than ever. My pleasure to introduce the love of my life and our First Lady Chirlane McCray.
First Lady Chirlane McCray: Thank you, Bill. Good morning, everyone. Today, we're taking another big leap forward to support New Yorkers with the launch of our new Mental Health For All campaign and website, mentalhealthforall.nyc.gov. For the first time ever, New Yorkers will have a one-stop online resource to connect to the mental health support and professional services that are available to them through the city. Now, when I was preparing for today, I couldn't help but think back to the early days of this administration. We hosted town halls, mental health town halls in every borough. And we listened to the concerns that people had and the experiences that they had with the services that were available back then. And we heard from all kinds of New Yorkers. New Yorkers, who bravely shared their struggles with us. And that has shaped all of the work that we've done. I remember the frustration of an older brother who was trying to get proper services for his young adult sister, who was frequently in and out of emergency rooms. And there was a Dominican father who was desperate to help his son recover from substance misuse. There was also an elderly woman growing fearful of her adult son's episodes, but she was unable to find anyone she could talk to about him and about her own needs. These people, their stories, and many others stay with me to this very day.
What was so clear in those rooms and auditoriums and other places all across this city was that there was a huge need that was not getting addressed. Mental health challenges touch everyone in some way. But people did not know where to turn for help. We know mental health challenges are common. They are not signs of weakness or personal failure. They are part of the human condition. And that has never been more apparent than this past year as people have grappled with pain and loss and so much uncertainty, the effects of isolation. We are in the middle of an awakening. People are now talking about – talking openly about mental health in a way they never have before. Conversations that used to happen only in whispers are now happening out loud. And as we come together to write our next chapter, no place in the country is better prepared than New York City to support the mental and physical wellbeing of its citizens. Every program we've created and grown in the past seven years, from NYC Care, to NYC Well, to our mobile crisis teams, they all exist to support you. To give you easier access to care, to help you find support from people who speak your language. And now all of that information is available in one place. This website is a resource that will be maintained and updated regularly. And it will serve New Yorkers beyond this administration. With this website and every program service and resource available through it. We keep building on the promise that we made years ago. Your city will be here for you.
Mayor: Amen. Thank you so much, Chirlane. And everyone, this is something we need. And I want you to hear from two folks that have just tremendous perspective on why it is so important to make mental health services more available than ever. First, he spent so much of his life helping our young people as a teacher, addressing their special needs, addressing kids who had challenges, but helping them and their families to realize a way forward. He really has the heart and soul of a caregiver and a teacher. And now he is also an elected official leading the way in the City Council in the fight to make sure that mental health services become more and more universal. My pleasure to introduce, from the Bronx, Council Member Eric Dinowitz.
Thank you so much, Council Member. And again, thank you for everything you've done for this city before you ran for office and what you're doing now. But I really appreciate your point about when we're supporting kids, we're often supporting their parents too. And we're often finding out the parents need help and didn't know where to turn. And this dialogue we're going to have this school year with families about mental health is going to be far exceeding anything we've ever done before in terms of bringing these issues forward and helping people connect to what they need. So, thank you for your support, and we're going to be working closely with you in your district and beyond to make sure that the word spreads about mental health being really available for all. Thank you. Now, everyone, I want you to hear from one of the national leaders and that the really intense effort that we've seen in recent years – a lot of it started right here in New York City, but we're so proud of what we see all over the country. A group of leaders who determined to change the national dialogue about mental health, bring it to the fore, change the whole reality so that we could get people the help they need. And this group of leaders, one of whom is here with us today, has started to see the laws of our nation changed and so many other things. Because they believed we could break a status quo that was absolutely not working and get to a better place. He is the chief executive of one of the leading organizations in the country leading the charge, the National Alliance on Mental Illness, NAMI, my pleasure to introduce Daniel Gillison
Mayor: Daniel, I love it. That is a beautiful proverb, and it says so much about what we have to do with this moment. And I'll use another phrase that we often use here in this city. Turning pain into purpose. So, we've been through a lot of pain in the last year and a half in this country, but what you're doing is turning into purpose. You're making this a moment of change. And you're reaching millions of people through your work. So, to you and everyone at NAMI, thank you so much for all you're doing. Thank you for joining us today.
So, everyone there it is, Mental Health For All. Says it all and an amazing collection of resources available for the people of this city. Now we focused, in particular, several of us talked about our kids. And they have been through so much. We need to support them in so many ways as we go into the new school year. We need to keep them safe. We need to keep them healthy. So, we know in addition to addressing mental health, biggest physical health challenges to overcome, COVID, to overcome the Delta variant. And that is why this moment is crucial. This is a moment each year, I can tell you as a parent, this is the kind of time of year where parents start to stir and focus, getting kids ready for school, going out, shopping. Everything starts to turn towards that moment when school comes back, it's the pivot of the year. So, now we want to take this moment and do an intensive effort over the next month to get our kids vaccinated.
So, back to school becomes vax to school. We want everyone to be thinking about the power of vaccinations to keep everyone in the school, community safe. Our 12-year-olds and up, we're going to reach thousands and thousands of kids and their parents. In fact, as you heard from Dr. Ted Long yesterday, we can have a moment where the entire family gets vaccinated and everyone benefits from our incentive program as well. So, we've launched an intensive back to school vaccination campaign. Already in the past week, over 250,000 calls to parents. Direct calls to have the conversation, to let them know that vaccination could be done in their community or even in their home, it's free. And you get the $100 incentive for every family member who gets vaccinated. We're going to do an ad campaign on top of this, huge ad campaign, eight languages. And we want people to feel this moment. This is the moment for kids to get vaccinated. This is the crucial moment. Right now, 12-year-old and up. Soon, we'll be able to reach younger kids. We believe that'll happen later on this calendar year. So, we need to focus this moment on getting kids vaccinated. You see on your screen, a really wonderful moment up in the Bronx, Dr. Chokshi and Chancellor Meisha Ross Porter, and I, with some young people getting vaccinated. And young people get it. Young people a lot of times are saying to their parents, I want to be safe. I want to fully participate. I need to be vaccinated. So, I want you to see this outreach effort. You're going to feel it over the next month constantly. But I want you to see the ads that will be running in both English and Spanish examples here, getting the word out to all New Yorkers.
[Billy Madison clip plays:]
Okay. That's different.
Okay. You're going to work on your English and your Spanish. Okay. That was just a teaser. Huh? I liked it. It set the stage very nicely. These guys are mischievous over here.
[Vax To School campaign ad plays:]
All right. Now you're going to be seeing those ads. You're going to be seeing all sorts of outreach in communities right down to the grassroots. We are making sure that we reach the kids of this city and that we get everyone ready for school, the right way, starting with vaccination. So, everyone, please spread the word because it's going to make a huge impact, getting our school year off to the right start.
Now, I want to switch to another part of our recovery. Come back of New York City. Amazing things are happening with our Homecoming Week. Absolutely stunning events all over the city. And people are feeling the energy. Last night, amazing, literally legendary night in Staten Island. Wu-Tang Clan back together. The Wu-Tang Clan, we officially declared it Wu-Tang Clan Day yesterday. Amazing energy, love, positive feelings there at that concert. Homecoming Week continues tonight, the premier of Spike Lee's new documentary NYC Epicenters: 9/11 to 2021. That's going to be at Rockefeller Park, Lower Manhattan. Gates open at 6:30. And Rooftop Films screening the New York City premier of Netflix and Marcus A. Clarke's Blood Brothers, Malcolm X and Mohammed Ali, Jackie Robinson Park in Harlem. Also 6:30 beginning. And you can get tickets to any of them, all of these events and information nyc.gov/homecomingweek.
Now tomorrow, Thursday, Brooklyn Army Terminal, major, major concert, incredible lineup. Old school and new school. A reminder that hip hop, it's entire history, it's about New York City. It's from New York City. It's of and by and for New York City, many greats shaped hip hop's history, but few had the impact of our next guest. He is one of the greatest MCs of all time. He is one of the people who built this history with his own creativity, his own brilliance. He is going to be in Brooklyn tomorrow night. And people are pumped up. My great pleasure to introduce him with this key message, ain't no half stepping, he's the Big Daddy Kane. Big Daddy Kane, all yours.
Big Daddy Kane: Hey, how you doing?
Mayor: Feeling good. How are you?
Big Daddy Kane: I'm great. I'm great. I'm great. I'm looking forward to, you know, putting on a great show tomorrow.
Mayor: Tell us what this means to you to have all these amazing people coming together to celebrate our city?
I think that was perfect. I think you said it beautifully. And I agree with you. And this – what we're doing this Homecoming Week, showing people the energy, the vibrancy, but also the creativity. I want to thank you because we are having artists from each borough performing in their own borough and reminding people, just the richness of talent. So, I want to say one more thing as your fellow Brooklynite, talk to me about what Brooklyn has contributed to hip hop and to music in our time?
Well, I think we can also agree. New York City, greatest city in the world. And Brooklyn, center of the universe. Would you agree with those statements?
Big Daddy Kane: Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely.
Mayor: I can't thank you enough. Listen, your presence, people are so excited that you're going to be there tomorrow night and you're doing something beautiful for Brooklyn. You're doing something beautiful for New York City. I want to thank you. And it's an honor. Thank you, Big Daddy Kane. This means so much to all of us.
Big Daddy Kane: Thank you so much for having me.
Mayor: We'll see you soon. All right, everybody. So, a lot going on. And I got to tell you, it's so impressive. The amount of love, the amount of passion that's being put into bringing this city back. But I want to talk about another topic now, and it's a tough one because we've got a lot of love and passion for our neighbors down in Haiti, who are going through so much and for the community here that is going through so much. There's an outpouring of love, we're seeing these last few days. An outpouring of support, New Yorkers who want to help, yesterday we talked about the amazing effort the NYPD is putting together to collect humanitarian relief for Haiti. Reminding all New Yorkers who want to help the people of Haiti. And they keep going through so much in these last day. You can donate your support through the Mayor's Fund, nyc.gov/fund. But we have a new approach. We want to encourage City workers across the board, hundreds of thousands of City employees to get into the game and support this vital effort to help the Haitian people by making a donation through payroll deduction. We've done this in some other crisis before. It's a crucial tool. It's provided a lot of help. We're going to start this up on Friday for any employee who wants to participate. I want to give credit where credit is due. The idea to do this now on behalf of the people of Haiti came from our Public Advocate. I want to thank him. He's always looking out and looking for where we can do better. And I want to give him a chance to speak about why this is so important to support the people of Haiti and our community here. My pleasure to introduce Public Advocate Jumaane Williams.
Thank you so much. Listen, Public Advocate, I really appreciate you putting this idea forward immediately. We're acting on it right now. Again, starting Friday, I'm going to sign-up. I encourage all city employees, let's help the people in Haiti. They've been through so much and there's a community here in this city that we need, and we support in so many ways, but I want to thank you for leading the charge on this.
All right, thank you. So, everybody, so much going on and challenges for sure, and every day we're talking about things we have to overcome, and there's a lot of things thrown at us like the Delta variant here and the horrible challenges people in Haiti are experiencing, but there's also a lot of examples of progress, a lot of examples of forward motion. Even the midst of the challenges and New Yorkers always deserve credit, find a way to move forward. I have big Daddy Kane's words ringing in my ear about the nature of New Yorkers and how we've overcome so much. Well, right now there's some good news. We've got a new report out and it talks about one of the most vital elements of New York City life and our economy, which is film and TV. This has been one of the things that has defined New York City to the world is that so many powerful works of art are created here and portray our life, and is part of what bonds, literally people all over the world, to New York City. It’s also a huge part of our economy. So many creative folks, so many people who work to make this industry what it is. For a long time, the industry suffered, and then we saw some great efforts over the last years to bring this industry to its fullest possibilities. And the report has pointed out that we are now at an all-time – right before COVID, we were an all-time high with the film and TV industry, $82 billion in total economic output, staggering figure, for one industry, $82 billion and over $18 billion in wages. So, the question a lot of people, of course, said, well, the pandemic threw everything off. What's going to happen? Will it come back? You want to know there's a recovery underway, you want some proof, here's some proof, 34 film projects right now filming in New York City this month. 34 happening right now and more coming all the time. It's unbelievable.
This comeback is making a world of difference and the beauty of these shows that are produced here, that portray our life, it makes me very proud as a New Yorker and one of my favorites, I happened to be over on the set watching, and I got to go there a few months back in April and saw the total determination of the cast and crew to bring back the show, which is now going into its second season tonight. And if you saw the first season, you are a devotee as I am, as Chirlane is, of course, you may have guessed by now, we are discussing Awkwafina is Nora from Queens. Amazing, amazing show captures, life of the city. It's a joyous show. It's a funny show. It's a pointed show. It's amazing. One of the stars is with us today. He has done amazing work in this show and on so many other great productions on screen and on the stage, famous for his work in Law and Order, which you can definitely see, anytime you turn on a television, you can find Law and Order. But won a Tony – legendarily won a Tony for his work in M. Butterfly, and he plays Nora's, I think wise, sometimes confused, but always honest and real and heartfelt dad in this amazing show. I'm a fan of his, I'm a fan of the whole cast, and I thank them for what they do for New York City. My pleasure to introduce BD Wong.
Thank you. I love your passion for this place. I really do, and your heartfelt – you know, it means a lot to all of us that you and all your colleagues said, we got to keep going.
BD Wong: Yes.
Mayor: And I know where I know where I'm going to be at 10:00 pm tonight. I’ll be watching. I’m like – Chirlane and I keep – we kept getting the day wrong. We're like, is it this week? Is it tomorrow? And like, it's finally here. I want to tell you, I love what you do. I love the whole cast, the episode about grandma's origins in China – is one of the greatest comedic works I have seen in years.
BD Wong: Oh, yes, it was very wonderful.
Mayor: Wasn’t it amazing?
BD Wong: One that I wasn't in. I was very jealous not to be in, and we have a little bit, a few of those tricks up our sleeve this season, and so I look forward to hearing your reaction to the stuff that we have going on. I actually directed one of the episodes this season –
Mayor: Oh wow.
BD Wong: And that was a really great opportunity for me as well –
BD Wong: Some of the stuff that we have there mirrors some of the stuff we did in the first season. So, we're looking forward to hearing what you guys think of it.
Mayor: Thank you, BD. And thank you, everyone, all your colleagues, and listen, everybody, I'm going to give you a tip. If you have not seen this show, go binge watch the first season and then start watching tonight the second season. Unbelievable. Thank you. Thank you, BD.
BD Wong: Thank you. Yes.
Mayor: All right. So, we covered a lot of ground today. And again, we've got challenges, but we've also got really powerful things that New Yorkers are doing. I love what BD said about the commitment of the actors, the crew, everyone to keep producing these amazing works of art for the people that city in this whole nation.
Well, we also, every single day are seeing extraordinary work to keep us all safe, and we got some breaking news from earlier this morning and real credit to the NYPD, to Manhattan North, to the DA's Office, Cy Vance, and all his colleagues in the Manhattan DA's Office, a major gang take down in Manhattan North. The Chico gang, which has been responsible for multiple shootings in East Harlem, months and months of patient, careful work went into taking a number of criminals off the streets and this is so important. You'll get all the details in the coming hours. This is so important because what we know, NYPD always makes clear, is a very small number of people who do the violence in the city, and every time we take down a gang would change the situation fundamentally for this city and particularly for the neighborhood, and we're going to keep doing this incessantly. We're getting some real cooperation from prosecutors. We're getting cooperation from courts. We want to keep seeing the court system open up more and more, but we've definitely seen improvement, but major gang take down and another step forward to making this city as it has been for years and years, continuing our role as the safest big city in America.
Okay, now I'm going to go to indicators, and first and most important, and we said the things we're going to be looking at vaccination, hospitalization cases. So, most important, we continue to make progress on vaccination, doses administered to date, 10,368,161, and that number is going to keep jumping up as we apply it more and more new tools to make sure that people get vaccinated. Number two, daily number of people admitted to New York City hospitals for suspected COVID-19, today's report 168 patients, confirmed positivity level 36.16 percent. Hospitalization rate per 100,000, 1.36. And then new reported cases on a seven-day average, today’s report, 1,647 cases. A few words in Spanish, going back to where we started on mental health, an issue that is of concern to every community in this city, and we're going to do a lot to get the word out to everyone.
[Mayor de Blasio speaks in Spanish]
With that, let's turn to our colleagues in the media. Please let me know the name outlet of each journalist.
Moderator: Good morning. We will now begin our Q-and-A. As a reminder, we are joined by Dr. Ted Long, the Executive Director of the Test and Trace Corps, and Health Commissioner, Dr. Dave Chokshi. Our first question for today goes to James Ford from PIX 11.
Question: Right off the bat, and I appreciate that and speaking of bat –
Mayor: You're the spark plug – James, you’re the spark plug today.
Question: And, you know, we had a few of those with the Yankees in their double header against some other team yesterday –
Mayor: I don’t want to talk about that, next outlet, please.
Question: Yes, but more relevant, serious stuff, if I may. You've mentioned yesterday 100,000 new vaccinations last week, and now that the Key to NYC pass is implemented, do we have any preliminary information on what effect it's having on vaccination numbers? I will say anecdotally, by the way, we were at a mobile vaccination site yesterday where demand for shots was nonstop, and literally all day they were giving shots. But what does the bigger picture look like?
Mayor: I'll turn to Dr. Long - Ted Long can tell you what he's seeing. We're definitely seeing what you just saw. People have been reporting at sites where previously it was sort of people were coming up in, you know, waves, but not nonstop. We're seeing lines again, and this is great. We – this is one occasion, New Yorkers don't love lines, but this is one case where I'm really happy to see lines, lines of people waiting to be vaccinated. That's fantastic. And we're moving them along quickly, and everyone knows that, you know, getting the shot is quick and easy. So, definitely we're seeing an impact. I think James, it’s fair to say that each of these measures is building on each other and it will take some time to get to the full impact, but the incentive is having an impact. The public employee mandates are having impact. And, you know, it's just the beginning of Key to NYC, but I think it's going to have more and more impact over the weeks to come. But with that, Dr. Ted Long, any initial readings you can give us on what you're seeing?
Executive Director Ted Long, NYC Test and Trace Corps.: Yes. Thank you, sir. So, anecdotally, we're definitely seeing people coming out in droves, whether it's our mobile units at restaurants, whether it's our at home vax program, or other locations now. And I think, what I would say in terms of the statistics to show this, today for the first time, 75 percent of all adults in New York City have received at least one dose of the vaccine. It's obviously the highest number we've reached, but we just reached that number today, showing that we're already seeing an uptick in terms of the overall numbers across New York City.
Mayor: That's excellent. Go ahead, James.
Question: Thanks for that. Can you - this is a for my colleague Henry Rosoff – can you elaborate further on your conversation with Lieutenant Governor Hochul, maybe some specifics about issues like crime, about the Key to NYC Pass, congestion pricing, some specifics, if you will?
Mayor: Yeah. James, first of all, very positive meeting, very productive meeting. You know, we know each other a long time, again, we haven't worked super closely together, but there's a good relationship going back for years now. We talked especially about fighting the Delta variant and about building a recovery. That was the number one topic, and you know, a good open dialogue on the different approaches and what makes sense to do. And I really appreciated it, you know, we spent, I think an hour or more, and it was just a good, healthy, sane – emphasizing the word sane – conversation, which I truly appreciated.
Moderator: As a programming note, we are joined by Dr. Jay Varma, Senior Advisor on Public Health. Our next question goes to Jeff Mays from the New York times.
Question: Hey, good morning, Mr. Mayor.
Mayor: Hey Jeff, how you been?
Question: Good, good, thank you. I have a couple of questions, the first one is a lawsuit that was filed by restaurant owners against your vaccine executive order. They are arguing that as unfair because certain businesses such as hair salons and other establishments where people spend long periods of time, such as churches, are not targeted. So, I'm wondering if you feel confident that the executive order will hold up in court? And what's your response to these restaurant owners that, you know, your executive order is unfairly targeting them and not other indoor locations?
Mayor: Jeff, the minute we talk about lawsuits, you're not going to be surprised if I say I'm going to keep my comments limited. I've had the conversation with the law department, tremendous confidence that we're in a very strong legal position. We're in a global pandemic still. The decisions that have been taken, have been taken with the leadership of our health officials who have been fighting this battle from the beginning. And we know we must get more people vaccinated and strategically focusing on the ways to get more people vaccinated – particularly focusing on young people where there's been a real gap – so we can stop the spread of the Delta variant is mission critical. It is about public health and safety. Absolutely certain, this is a way we will achieve those goals, do it in a smart way, a fair way – based on the data and the science. Go ahead, Jeff.
Question: Thank you. Today, Comptroller Scott Stringer released a report that said the City was basically unprepared for the pandemic. He said the City lacked an operational plan – you delayed operational planning for an outbreak. You didn't manage the PPE well – there were expired stockpiles of PPE and that, you know the City was not armed – was not prepared to protect residents against COVID-19. I know you probably haven't seen the report yet, but I'm wondering what you think about those criticisms from the Comptroller's Office about the City's response to the pandemic?
Mayor: Well, one, I have not seen the report – two, I want to express my respect for the people who did the work, our health care heroes, our first responders – the folks who got all those PPE from all over the world, the folks who created out of thin air, literally created production lines here in the city for PPE, for ventilators. The – you know, couple of things are clear to me: there's no way to fully understand a global pandemic until you're in it. And second of all, none of us anticipated anywhere, anything like this, and we needed federal leadership that wasn't there, but that the people in public service who made things happen and made sure that care was there for people and then put together, you know, Test and Trace Corps, put together the biggest vaccination effort in history of New York City. I think there's a lot that says this city responded very powerfully.
Moderator: Our next question goes to Marla Diamond from WCBS 880.
Question: Good morning, Mr. Mayor, and everybody on the call. Can you tell us if the city is negotiating mandatory vaccinations for teachers? Are you negotiating with the UFT on that? And is there a possibility that eligible students will need to show proof of vaccination to start school?
Mayor: Marla, we do not anticipate students having to show proof. We obviously want to know who is vaccinated. We want to encourage everyone who's not vaccinated to get vaccinated. We do not anticipate having to provide proof. We've had conversations – negotiation is not the right word. We've had conversations with the unions representing our school staff of all kinds on the different ways to keep schools safe. But there's nothing that's been decided beyond what we've announced publicly. And if we have anything new to say, obviously we're going to be talking about. Go ahead, Marla.
Question: Mayor, I know you spoke about the fact that having to show proof of vaccination at restaurants and other indoor venues has improved vaccination, but do you have a breakdown of how many New York City school children eligible for the vaccine have gotten vaccinated through your efforts on this last push before the start of school.
Mayor: We know right now, and I don't want to parse it. It's a very fair question, Marla – I just don't have it by public school kids versus kids in other schools, but I do have it by age for the city. So right now, we're over 56 percent of our 12 to 17-year-olds have gotten at least one dose. That's almost 300,000 kids. And as you saw yesterday with the Chancellor and our Health Commissioner, you know, literally every day, more and more kids, families, of course, coming forward a lot very enthusiastically wanting this. And as Ted Long pointed out, you know, we're literally making it a family thing, vaccinating whole families together, everyone enjoying the incentive, each family member getting that $100 incentive. But the good news in this number, over 56 percent, is remembering that this has been over a much briefer timeframe than vaccination was available for adults. And yet it's a strong number and it's growing regularly. So, I think you're going to see a real push – we're going to do it, but I think you're going to see parents just naturally keying into the fact that it's time to get their kids vaccinated. And I expect that number to go up very, very substantially.
Moderator: Our next question goes to Elizabeth Kim from Gothamist.
Question: Hi, Mayor de Blasio.
Mayor: Hey Elizabeth, how’ve you been?
Question: I'm good. I wanted to follow up on Marla's question about making vaccinations mandatory for teachers. We know that Chicago and LA have done it, and I know you've just said that nothing has been decided with your discussions with the UFT, but can you say what your position is on it? Would you like to see vaccinations mandatory for teachers before the start of the school year?
Mayor: Elizabeth, I appreciate the question. It's certainly a very fair question. I don't tend to just opine. I work with people both in the government and partners outside to get to what I think is the right decision. Then I'll talk about the decision. What I know I want is the maximum number of people in our schools, kids and adults alike, vaccinated. Figuring the best way to get there is what we're working on right now. And obviously we'll have a lot more to say on that soon. But I will say a very encouraged by the level of parent focus on getting kids vaccinated. I'm very encouraged about what we're seeing amongst the staff, the educators, and all staff really healthy vaccination numbers and growing, and a lot of support from the unions involved, encouraging their members to get vaccinated. So good trajectory now, and we'll have more to say on, you know, whatever else we might do going forward. Go ahead, Elizabeth.
Question: So, you were asked about this yesterday, but US health officials officially recommended that all Americans get the COVID boosters. And I was wondering if you, or Dr. Chokshi could talk about whether that formal announcement has kind of changed any specific plans about the rollout and what the city is planning to do. Does the city have enough doses to start giving out booster shots and how soon would they do it?
Mayor: Yeah, excellent questions. And I don't think we have Dr. Chokshi right now. We have Dr. Long and Dr. Varma. So, I'll turn to them. We have been stockpiling vaccine knowing that this was likely that we'd have the announcement on booster shots. My understanding and the doctors will confirm it is that the authorization is to begin on September 20th. So, we have a lot of vaccine right now. We'll be getting a lot more between now and September 20th. Definitely we have the vaccine – both the vaccine and the ability to deliver it – we've done that on a high level. We'll be able to do that again to talk about how that will happen. And if you have any of the numbers handy on how much we have in a stock, first Dr. Long, then Dr. Varma.
Executive Director Long: Sure. Thank you, sir. So, let's talk right now, we have at least 750,000 doses of vaccine, and we have an ability to order more daily and weekly. So now that we have the guidance from the Biden administration and we're looking forward to learning more from them as well, we have the ability as we've done throughout to order more vaccines so that we can enable ourselves to have the capacity to deliver it to as many people as we can, starting when it becomes eligible on September 20th. I really do want to emphasize something the mayor said, which is really important though, which is that we learned a lot in terms of the vaccine effort. We have such a strong infrastructure now that we didn't have before. We have more than 30 mobile units going around the city every day, we have an at-home vaccination program. I don't think any other cities have that. So, our ability to really move really, really fast, we'll start ordering the vaccine now for sure, but our ability to deliver it fast to New Yorkers – we're in a very strong place to be able to do that. So, we're going to be ready for September 20th, for sure.
Mayor: Thank you. Dr. Varma.
Senior Advisor Varma: To add onto what Ted has said. I think, you know, New York City's performance and the ability to deliver vaccines is really unparalleled. And I know there’s sort of public discourse about is there a choice between having extra doses for you know, a third dose for people who've already been vaccinated, versus first doses people don't have them. And I think here in New York City, we have the privilege to say that that's not a choice. That's not going be a problem. You can give extra doses, you know, the third dose to people and you can get first doses into the arms that people have had had them before without any challenge. And so I think we're all ready and set to go as soon as we get the guidance and as soon as the date starts for us to go ahead.
Mayor: Thank you very much.
Moderator: Our next question goes to Bob Hennelly from the Chief Leader.
Question: Thanks very much for taking the call. The issue of trust in the government is central to the challenge of convincing essential workers to get vaccinated. But trust, as I think you know, is a two-way street. Bureaucracies, even well-intentioned ones, make mistakes. You may remember at the start of the pandemic that workers in the subway were wearing masks because they read the Financial Times and were aware of the global pandemic at the time – managers threatened to write them up because a mask was not part of their uniform, and the concern that it might scare passengers. I asked you about that in the Blue Room, and you aligned yourself with the CDC guidance at the time, which is that masks should be rationed for those who were sick and clinical care staff. Nurses' unions warned that the CDC guidance to reuse any of the N-95 masks would lead to their death and the spread the virus. Both things happened. Scroll forward in May, the CDC unilaterally roll back the universal mask mandate for the vaccinated, the same frontline unions warned that was a major error because so many communities had fewer than 40 percent of the residents vaccinated. They warned the CDC guidance put essential workers at risk, and that it would help accelerate the spread of the virus. Both things happened. Shouldn't policy makers consult workers in unions before they make decisions of such gravity, like lifting the mask guidance? And didn't that move in May give us a false sense of progress?
Mayor: Well, Bob, big, sprawling, important question. Yeah, I would just note, first of all, there's just a constant dialogue going on with many of our unions. There's a respectful – just day to day, people are talking about a lot of different things, including what's going on, on the ground, hearing people's different views, their sense of what makes sense, what doesn't. This is just something we do constantly. I think with COVID, oftentimes the scientific community and the health care community struggled to understand what was the ultimate truth, because it was a new disease. So, we have to listen to the thoughts of working people, and we have to listen to – when it comes to business, the business community, we do, but the ultimate decisions have to be made on the data and the science, and what's going to get us where we need to go, which is obviously to have the maximum number of people vaccinated.
But I would – if what you're saying is it's been hard for people to trust because sometimes the situation has changed, I do appreciate that, but I also want to be fair to all the health care community and the scientific community. They've been grappling with an ever-changing situation and a lot of unknowns. They also deserve tremendous credit for having created a vaccine in a timeframe we've never seen before that has saved so many lives and turn the situation around. So I, you could be distrustful if you want to be, but you can also be trustful and say, well, that's a stunning achievement. That same scientific and medical community did that for all of us. Go ahead, Bob.
Question: Yeah. In terms of the question of coherence and guidance, we're into this for a long period of time now – the West Indian American Day parade put out a notice that they're going to postpone their parade, I guess, until 2022. In the same city of New York, you're doing the Homecoming concert. It seems to me that there is – again, your experts talked about this. This seems a little incoherent to a layperson. And would you suggest to people wear masks at the Homecoming concerts?
Mayor: I understand the question, obviously, Bob. First of all, every organization had to make its own choice. And we respect the choices. Some organizations have said they want to have their events again, some want to do a modified version, some are postponing it to 2022. There's not one way of doing things. When it comes to the concerts – they are outdoors, they are for vaccinated folks only. We are definitely encouraging mask use. But I really want to emphasize the whole key here is vaccination. The entire – if everyone were vaccinated right now, we would be having a very, very different discussion. So, our goal with everything is to support vaccination – this is the strategy – support, vaccination, encourage vaccination, reward vaccination, and show people we can keep moving forward. People move, in my opinion, based on, you know, the hope that something can move forward. And by showing people that we’re getting more and more people vaccinated and it's making us safer and safer, that's the way forward.
Moderator: Our next question goes to Julia Marsh from the New York Post.
Question: Mr. Mayor. Good morning. How are you?
Mayor: Good, Julia, how you been?
Question: Good. I looked over this new Mental Health for All website. I haven't read the whole thing yet, but I'm wondering what this new program does for seriously and violently mentally ill New Yorkers. We had a shocking incident in Lower Manhattan over the weekend where a person was randomly attacked by a man with a hatchet and in a Chase bank ATM at 5:30 PM. Obviously, there's a serious mental illness problem there. So, what programs or resources are going toward that issue?
Mayor: Well, clearly, as I mentioned earlier, the crisis calls approach is part of that, the mobile teams, which were increased in the last budget. We do have some real serious issues to address. There's no question, Julia. It is a very, very small percentage. And I want to emphasize this. I don't want any – I’m not saying this about you, but just a general public discourse. We should never stereotype folks with mental health challenges as being violent. The vast, vast majority – you know, about one in five Americans has a mental health challenge. Very, very few have a violence problem, but we do have a number of initiatives aimed at addressing the folks with the most serious mental illness and ensuring that if we need those crisis teams, we have more of them available than ever before. But the vast majority of what we have here is for the vast majority of New Yorkers who need it, especially after what everyone's gone through with the trauma of this pandemic. Go ahead, Julia.
Question: Yesterday, Governor Cuomo filed for his $50,000-a-year pension. Do you believe he should be able to collect a pension at this point?
Mayor: I struggled to see why that's okay. You know, I mean there's going to be more proceedings, obviously, by prosecutors. There's a lot more that has to be addressed. He needs to be held accountable. The people who aided and abetted him need to be held accountable. So, maybe those actions will settle some of these issues, but let's face it, you know, had he not resigned, he was going to be impeached. So, I don't know how you get to get a pension as part of that.
Moderator: We have time for two more questions today. Our next question goes to Jeff from City & State New York.
Question: Hey, Mayor, can you hear me?
Mayor: Yes. How you doing?
Question: I’m all right, thanks. Look, you made a big push to get white collar City workers back in their offices back in May, I think it was. Employees of the City Council never returned. And I'm hearing that members of some member’s staff aren't even allowed back in 250 Broadway at all. Does that feel like a slap in the face from the City Council and from Speaker Johnson? Have you talked to Speaker Johnson about bringing those employees back to the office?
Mayor: Jeff, the honest truth, I saw some reporting the other day. This has not been one of the primary issues I've been focused on, is the truth. I don't think it makes sense. I think people should come back. You know, these work environments are very safe, and we need to do the best work we can do for the people. And this is the thing with public servants, our job is to help people through this and onto our recovery, and that's best done in person. Go ahead, Jeff.
Moderator: I don't know if I've seen any updates lately. You know, we've seen a lot of private companies delaying returning to offices. Have you slowed the timeline for, like, a full return for white collar City workers or what's the status of City workers in the offices?
Mayor: Everything, you know, has proceeded on pace. I mean, it – again, the key is vaccination. I'm not trying to be, you know, redundant for the sake of it. I'm trying to get to the essence of your question. Getting people vaccinated – and we clearly put a mandate on our City workers, you know, vaccination or test, which is helping to encourage more and more vaccination. The incentives are helping to encourage more and more vaccination, the indoor dining, entertainment, etcetera, Key to NYC is encouraging more vaccination. We've got workplaces where everyone is vaccinated. That's what we want to become more and more the norm. And that's what's going to keep everyone safe, but the best way for us to do that is for people to be at their work, doing their job and getting vaccinated.
Moderator: Our last question for today goes to Abu from Bangla Patrika.
Question: Hello, Mayor, how are you?
Mayor: Good, Abu. How you been?
Question: Good, good. Thank you so much. I'd like to know, the parents who are not comfortable to send their kids in their school and they prefer to have the distance learning because of the Delta variant. What would be the decision of the City, if someone would not be comfortable to send their kids to the school?
Mayor: You know, Abu, first of all, what we really want – any parents got the concern, we want them to come visit the school before school starts. Chancellor Meisha Ross Porter has talked about this. We want a very welcome environment where parents can come in, if their kids haven't been to school in a while, come see all the precautions, all the health and safety measures. That gold standard of health and safety measures is literally the strongest in the world, which is why you'll remember at the end of June, COVID was almost non-existent in our schools. It is no – there's no question our kids are safest in school. I'm going to have Dr. Varma speak to this because he speaks passionately about this. So, Abu, we want parents to see what's going on. We want them to have a dialogue with their principal, their teachers, if they have real concerns or questions. We want them to get their kids vaccinated. I think the more that those things happen, the more you're going to see parents decide it does make sense. And their kids need to be in school for so many reasons. So, that's the approach we're taking. If a parent chooses to not have their child in school, you know, they could do that, but that's not what we're doing. We're creating a system for everyone to come to school and be safe. Dr. Varma, would you speak to why we have confidence that the safest place for our kids to be is in school?
Senior Advisor Varma: Great. Thank you very much, Abu. And thank you, Mr. Mayor, for the question. As the Mayor has said, you know, we – there were a couple of really important points to consider. First is the success that we had last year with in-person schooling. You know, clearly we know a lot of families chose last year, not to have their kids attend in person school. But for those who did we were able to keep rates of transmission among children and among staff at some of the lowest levels there are in the city. And we documented that through extensive analysis of testing data from the schools and testing data outside the schools. Of course, things are going to be different this year. The virus has changed. It has become a bit more dangerous in terms of being able to transmit more readily from one person to the other. At the same time, we have a very strong level of defense, which is vaccinations. And while vaccines aren't available to everybody who is in the school we know that they are available obviously to everybody 12 and above. And last year in our analysis we found that the majority of infections that were introduced into schools and resulted in transmission were first introduced by adults. So, I think that by really, you know, pushing as hard as we can on vaccination for those who are eligible we're going to be able to keep our schools safe for kids there. On top of that, of course, we have also added in additional measures. We had strong ventilation last year. We're doubling down on that as well, too. We had a strong testing program last year that will continue this year. And of course, as the Mayor has announced previously, there will be a universal mask mandate. It doesn't matter if you're vaccinated or not. So, we certainly understand and empathize with parents who worry about the risk associated with their kids. This is a risk we all worry about, myself as a parent. But we also know that the strongest way to get protected is to be vaccinated. And we also know that the health benefits that come from being in school, not just COVID, but mental health, emotional health – all kids benefit tremendously from all of those things. So, we would really want to make sure we get that message out and do everything we can to alleviate parents’ very appropriate concerns about this issue.
Mayor: Thank you very much, Jay. Go ahead. Abu.
Question: As you mentioned yesterday about the public places where the vaccine is mandated, I'm the witness of many places like last week I went to a place in Queens called Planet Fitness, and I found that all the people that are getting in no one asked even mask or a vaccination card, nothing, you know, so what exactly is the City doing? Are you imposing some kind of rules or –
Mayor: So, Abu, you know, we only started this yesterday for the initial implementation. So, let's be clear. What we said is, as of yesterday the Key to NYC is in effect for a variety of indoor locations. And we're taken about a month to educate New Yorkers about it, educate business owners and their employees, support them, show them the way to do this. I think, you know, it's a straightforward approach. I really urge everyone to get the COVID Safe app, the NYC app, which you just put your ID and your vaccination proof there, and you can just show it anytime to folks. It's real, simple, and quick. And I think we're going to see over the weeks, the vast, vast majority of businesses are going to figure out how to do this. And we'll support them every step of the way. If there's any needs, we've said, we’ll send out folks from the city to go over the protocols, but you certainly would not have seen it before yesterday. I expect a lot of businesses are doing it right, right now. We know there were some businesses that really relished and supported this and wanted to do this, wanted the backup from the City to be able to create a safe environment for the employees and for their customers. Others, it may take a little time for them to get used to it, but they've got, you know, the month. And then the week of September 13th, we'll start inspections and enforcement. But if history tells us something from earlier in the pandemic, the vast, vast majority of these establishments are going to get it and implement it right the first time. And New Yorkers – I've talked, a lot of people who say, ‘hey, if I'm going to a restaurant or I'm going to a movie theater, I want to feel safe, I want the freedom of knowing that everyone there is vaccinated,’ and that's what we're achieving.
So, everyone, this is how we move forward. I'll say it again. If you haven't gotten vaccinated literally, we will come to your door, we'll come to your home, we'll vaccinate any members of the family who are ready to be vaccinated, and everyone gets $100 incentive each. It does not get better than that. Thank you, everyone.