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Transcript: Mayor de Blasio Appears Live on CNN

August 21, 2021

Anderson Cooper: New York City's been working hard to vaccinate those who’ve been reluctant to get a shot. Tonight's concert was a way to motivate more residents to get vaccinated. Joining me now is the Mayor of New York City, Bill de Blasio. Mayor, thanks so much for being with us. Why have a concert? I mean, a lot of people watching this are obviously going to think it's a fun idea, others will say, is this the best time? There's a hurricane coming and COVID. 

Mayor Bill de Blasio: Anderson, we have to show our strength and resiliency. New Yorkers have been through so much, but New Yorkers fought through it, and did the right thing, and got vaccinated. 75 percent, at least one dose of the vaccine, and what we're doing in this city, we're saying, if you want to be a part of all the great things in life, the concerts, the restaurants, everything, get vaccinated. So, this is a reward, it’s a reward to the essential workers, it's reward to everyday New Yorkers who had done the work, and it's a message really to people all over this country. We can do great things together if we just go out there and get vaccinated. 

Cooper: What are you doing to keep people safe in this? 

Mayor: Outdoors, fully vaccinated, the mask distribution, there's lots of space, it's a big open setup – 

Cooper: People are able to spread out, it looked like people were spreading out blankets and stuff so that they space.  

Mayor: Yeah, there’s space, and look, we really said to people, we want this to be safe, and the most important thing – our doctors have said this absolutely consistently – you want to be safe near COVID – if you want to defeat the Delta variant once and for all, it's all about vaccination, nothing compares. What we're seeing now is as we have concerts like this, and indoor dining is now all vaccination. We're seeing an upsurge in people coming forward. The last two weeks –  

Cooper: [Inaudible] get vaccinated. 

Mayor: Vaccinated. Over a 100,000 each of the last two weeks got vaccinated for the first time. 60 percent of them were people of color. So, there's been real concerns, and legitimately, about disparity with vaccination. When you give people an opportunity to get a positive outcome, and also say, this is what we have to do, and we're providing a $100 incentive for everyone who comes forward. We're seeing a surge of vaccinations and that's great.  

Cooper: So, in order to get into this, you only need one vaccination also for the indoor – return to indoor dining, going to gyms, you also only need one vaccination. Why did you go for that and not fully vaccinated? 

Mayor: As an incentive as that – look, if you say to people, you have to wait a month to go through both shots, some people are going to be put off by that, obviously. I want some instant gratification, honestly, here. I want people to know, you want to go into that restaurant? You want to go into that movie theater, that concert? You can get vaccinated right now, and an hour later, you're having a great time. You'll go - you should go back and get the second shot. The vast majority of New Yorkers go back for their second shot, so we feel confidence about that. But I think the notion of making it positive, what an amazing life there is in this city and people are celebrating, these artists want to show their love for New York City, their faith in New York City, but it's also a message to everyone that simple act of getting vaccinated makes everything else possible. 

Cooper: How do you enforce that? Not here, we see people checking, but there's a lot of business owners - small business owners who say, look, I'm barely getting by as it is, to make me the police officer asked to, you know, check vaccination cards. that's too much.  

Mayor: Look, small businesses have been through a lot. There's no doubt, restaurants, bars, everyone. First of all, what we're saying is for next month, we're going to give people a chance to get used to it, give them some training, give them some support. Also, remember, every business has some version – the one’s we're talking about, restaurants card people for age before serving drinks, bars, you know, you go to a health club, a fitness club, you set, you check in, you show your ID, whatever it is, there's a way to do this for sure. And what we're seeing is a lot of the customers are saying thank you, and a lot of the owners of the businesses are saying thank you because they're not the ones making the decision, the city government said you have to do this, but their customers feel safe now, and their employees are safe. That's what they really are appreciating.  

Cooper: So, you've got school starting in a few weeks. I think more than a million students going back to school, you're not requiring vaccination for kids over 12 to get back to school, why? 

Mayor: We are encouraging it and supporting it. We have over 300,000 kids now in that 12 to 17 range already vaccinated. We're almost a month out from school. We're got heavy, heavy back to school vaccination drive going. We're going to see a lot more kids vaccinated, but look, there's been so much misinformation, and we know a lot of parents still need some help to believe in it and be ready. I don't want to exclude kids from education in the meantime, but what we've said for all our city government employees, they have to be vaccinated or do the weekly test. I've also said, I've said we've been climbing the ladder in terms of mandates and policies, and we will add policies as we need to keep people safe.  

Cooper: Can you see a time when city employees, it's a mandatory vaccination? Because as you know, weekly to test once a week, you know, it's better than nothing, but it's not ideal, obviously.

Mayor: No, but it is also something that's a real challenge for a lot of people to have to do that every single weekend. If they don't do it, there are penalties –  

Cooper: The idea of being inconvenient and therefore they get vaccinated.  

Mayor: A lot of them are now saying, I'm just going to go ahead and get vaccinated. But look, we need our kids back in school, I’m adamant about this, we’re not having remote as we had last year, we saw the tremendous limitations of remote for our kids, for their – not just educationally, for their social and emotional wellbeing, for their physical wellbeing, our kids all are coming back to school. But we've set a gold standard of health and safety protocols in our schools. It worked. Last year was incredibly safe in New York City public schools, safer than almost any place else in the city. Now we've got 5.2 million New Yorkers, at least one dose, and 300,000 kids in that 12 to 17 range, I'm confident this is going to be a safe setting because we are putting all these measures in place at once.  

Cooper: Let's talk about the storm Henri. It’s a French storm.  

Mayor: Yeah, I was going to say –  

Cooper: It’s different this time. But what are you expecting for New York City? Obviously, it's supposed to make landfall on Sunday, not exactly clear, you know, you can never predict exactly where it's going to make landfall.  

Mayor: Yeah, right after this, I'm going to hold a press conference to tell the people in New York City, first of all, be very, very careful tomorrow. I want people off the streets, staying home, staying safe, heavy winds, heavy rain in New York City. It's going to be a lot worse in some other places like eastern Long Island. I'm really concerned for our friends and neighbors there, but in New York City, I think wind and rain are the first issues of concern. Some of the coastal areas we're concerned about flooding. Last, we're hearing, this'll be late night tonight before we see anything, but we're going to get ready and have a variety of measures in place to protect people. And the number one thing, look, the good news about New Yorkers is they really hear these messages and act on them. That's why, you know, 75 percent of adults have gotten at least one dose of vaccine. Well, I'm telling all New Yorkers stay home tomorrow, stay out of harm’s way. 

Cooper: What do you hope folks around the country watching this concert or around the world watching this concert, would take away from it? Besides being entertained, what does it say about New York City? 

Mayor: That New York City is back, that we are strong and resilient, that New Yorkers, the heart, and soul New Yorkers, that's why we came through this crisis. And all of these amazing artists, it is arguably the greatest lineups since Woodstock. It really – I mean, it's an unbelievable lineup. They're all doing it because they love New York City, and they want to help New York City come back and they believe in New York City. And to everyone out there, come visit us, come join us. It's going to be because of all that vaccination, one of the safest places to be in America, Broadway's coming back full strength, everything you love about New York City open, ready for you. 

Cooper: We were talking about this before we went on air, all those people who, you know, we're talking during – you know, there were articles written about the death of the city, New York City. This is certainly to me, as a lifelong New Yorker, is a reminder of part of what makes New York, New York. I mean that there's not a lot of other cities that could pull off something like this with this kind of a lineup of people, and you know, 80 percent of it is free for people who want to come.  

Mayor: And that's a New York value too, Anderson. We wanted it to be for everyday people. We didn't want this to be something just for those who happened to have done very well. Vast majority of these tickets are for everyday people to appreciate and celebrate their city. But what it says is, yes, we can do things here that the whole world looks at with appreciation and admiration, and what we're saying to folks is believe in this place. Yeah, there were doubting Thomases, in the beginning of COVID a lot of voices that didn't understand that history you just referred to, but plenty of people, New Yorkers and from around the country stood up and said, don't bet against New York City. This is not only the nation's largest city, this is the heart and soul of this country in so many ways. This city represents everything in America, every kind of American, people from all over the world and that's the glue, that's the glue, that somehow all of humanity gathered in one place to make something stronger, greater than the sum of the parts. That's what we're celebrating today, and New York City is back, and New York City is going to go to higher heights after COVID. 

Cooper: Mayor Bill de Blasio. Appreciate it. Thank you very much. 

Mayor: Thank you, Anderson.  

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