September 8, 2021
Mayor Bill de Blasio: Good morning, everyone. What we've been talking about all year, all of 2021, a recovery for all of us. That means reaching every neighborhood, making sure that folks who have been through so much for the last year and a half with the coronavirus are able to come through strong, helping families, helping people come back and then making it sustainable for the long term. We say a recovery for all of us because we intend to do something better going forward. And it's again, the classic formulation. You heard it from President Biden yesterday, passionately Americans, New Yorkers in the midst of crisis, we band together, we overcome, we build back better. This is not just words. This is a reality. This is a history. This is a fundamental truth. We're going to do that here and now, overcoming the impact of the coronavirus, overcoming the impact of Hurricane Ida. Anything that's thrown at us we will overcome now. The President was passionate yesterday and we really, I just want to say I am so thankful for his visit. It was incredibly heartening to the folks in Queens he met with, but to everyone in this city. The President's here, he's talking about real support for the city right now.
He's also talking about the big picture, the big challenges we faced and he's doing something about it. Extremely visionary, aggressive approach to addressing climate change, to addressing the infrastructure needs we have. We have not seen anything like this in decades. It's incredibly refreshing. So, I want to thank President Biden. He is showing us through his actions that we can build back better, that we can do something different. And that's exactly what we needed at this moment. We talked to families up and down that street in Astoria who are going through a lot, but as you see that beautiful photo, the child holding up the American flag painting he made. This is all about a dream that is New York City and that is America. We met immigrant after immigrant, who came here, talked about their love for this city, love for this country. How all things have become possible being here. Even in the midst of the challenge they were going through and the pain they were going through, they expressed their thankfulness for everything that they had been able to achieve here, everything they had received here.
We want to live in that spirit. So, we're going to continue any place anybody's been hit by the storm and needs help, I want to remind all New Yorkers, call 3-1-1. There's a huge amount of help available. And as we were going door to door, talking to neighbors yesterday, and the other sites I’ve been, constantly reminding people, we're going to help them with every step of this process to get back on their feet. Our public engagement unit is out there. This canvassing operation, this is something that government historically hasn't done, or hasn't done enough of. We're doing this on a big scale. 10,000 doors will be hit by our public engagement unit and by community organizations that we're working with, just like we did in the census. We're going to the most affected areas. We're going to talk directly to people who need help, make sure they're signed up for the benefits they deserve. We're also using a text program, over 185,000 texts have been sent into the most affected areas, reaching neighbors who have been hit the hardest, letting them know of all the services that are available. Obviously, everything being provided is for free. Free water pumping by DEP if anyone still needs that. They've been out and around. Hotel rooms are available for anyone who needs it, especially if they've been through so much, whether they want to stay in a hotel for weeks, or they just want to stay there for a day or two to recover from what they've been through. We have it for them. The Red Cross doing an amazing thing. Debit cards, $515 to immediately replace some of the personal belongings that people need the most. What the Met Council is doing, the one-time payment for rent, for one month's rent. Extraordinary and immediate efforts. Of course, FEMA, $36,000 for each homeowner. We want to process those applications immediately. We want to help people do that and get the money they deserve. And that's before you even discuss the loans and other support that would be available for businesses and for homeowners. If anyone needs food, obviously we distributed hundreds of millions of meals during COVID. The City can move immediately if anyone needs food, all you have to do is call 3-1-1. And as we mentioned yesterday, waving construction filing fees for flood repairs. We want to help people to make the repairs they need, not stand in the way, not cost them additional money.
Also, some of the homeowners yesterday, and they were very honest about having tenants in apartments that still were not fully up to code, those basement apartments we've been talking so much about. I want to emphasize, our Housing Department, HPD will not, will not be issuing fines for those basement apartments. Those unfortunately illegal basement apartments in the areas affected most deeply by Hurricane Ida. We will not be issuing fines for the rest of this year. Our goal is to make sure that folks can get back to those apartments, that they can be made whole, that people have a place to live. We've got a lot of work to do on the basement issue. It is a very, very difficult one, but right now we don't want to put homeowners in a double jeopardy, they’ve just been through a horrible storm. We don't want to hit them with additional fines. We don't want to have a situation where someone who was living in a basement apartment has nowhere to live. We got to get people whole right now, get them to where they were before the storm, and then work to address the bigger problem. And that's going to take City, State and federal government. Because the magnitude is in the many billions of dollars to solve that problem.
Now I want to thank the City agencies from the beginning of this challenge with the hurricane, our first responders did outstanding work, saved many lives, extraordinary work in absolutely extraordinarily painful circumstances. Since then, agencies have been out in force. Department of Buildings has inspected over 2,000 homes that were hit by the storm. Again, the hotel programs had been available. Relatively few, right now it's under 300 people who've taken it up, but it's available to anyone that needs it. The tow truck task force for Emergency Management has moved over 1,400 cars. The City Cleanup Corps has been out there all over the city removing tens of thousands of bags, of damaged items. Small Business Services, helping hundreds and hundreds of businesses. We're seeing a lot of work being done on the ground and we want to finish the mission. Anyone that needs help, you can call 3-1-1. You can go to nyc.gov/Ida. And we're going to help people get back on their feet. We're also going to intervene aggressively if anyone's trying to do wrong by someone who is suffering right now. We're hearing a few reports of price gouging, some homeowners being ripped off by plumbers and other folks who are supposed to be taking care of their needs in the middle of the crisis. This is not a comment on any trade, it’s some individuals who are doing the wrong thing. But anyone who is price gouging, anyone who is taking advantage of a homeowner who's suffering or a small business owner who’s suffering. We're going to get them. And we're going to penalize them. Call 3-1-1 if you have any information or anything like that happening, we want to hear about it. We're going to act immediately.
The other thing I want to mention, incredible cleanup effort. I have over the last eight years, had many an occasion to talk about our Sanitation Department, the men and women of Sanitation who are extraordinary, who don't get the credit they deserve for what they do day to day. Sometimes it gets some credit in the worst of times. I want them to get credit all the time because they keep the city running. After Sandy, their compassion towards people who had lost so much was amazing. They understood how important it was to get the debris out of the way, help people move forward. What they do in snowstorms is legendary. They're at it again now doing something amazing to help everyone back on their feet, clearing massive amounts of debris quickly, nonstop since Thursday morning. I want you to hear about from someone who's doing an extraordinary job leading that agency and a career veteran of our Sanitation Department, Commissioner Ed Grayson.
Commissioner Edward Grayson, Department of Sanitation: Good morning. Thank you, Mr. Mayor. Yes. The Department of Sanitation has continued to work through, around the clock helping the residents affected by flooding. Helping them trying to recover. We have crews in every impacted neighborhood in all five boroughs. Key message for today, sir, and to the City, if you have storm debris in your home, you can place it out for collection at any time. I spent the entire weekend at the field and I saw firsthand, devastation, destruction, the despair. I've spoken directly to the residents, Middle Village, Woodside, Bed-Stuy, Jamaica, East Elmhurst, Westerleigh, Mariners Harbor, Throggs Neck, Williamsburg, and Bushwick. And that's just a handful. You know, it's a big list, but we have so many people impacted. And it impacted the city in different ways, in different spots. But we heard their stories of loss. We've heard and saw the irreplaceable keepsakes and documents that they have had to, you know, come to terms with losing. The furniture that they've lost, the memorabilia, the food, and of course their livelihoods. Most sadly is the heartbreaking story of the human loss and those impacted areas where we saw that. The message today for everyone affected by the storm is we are here for you, no matter how long it takes, we will be there. Sanitation workers have so far since the start of the storm, have worked over 42,000 hours on debris removal and storm recovery since Thursday. We've collected at least 9,100 tons of debris throughout last night. And there's still more coming. We will not stop until the job is done. I want to thank our Sanitation workers and I want to thank the local command officers, as well as all the ancillary support staff at DSNY who've been working throughout this effort, who are committed to this effort. They have proven yet again, that they are heroes and that they are there for the people we serve. And to all New Yorkers impacted by this flooding, we are there for you, we will continue to be there for you. And thank you, sir.
Mayor: Thank you so much, Ed. I want to emphasize that stunning number, 9,100 tons of storm debris that's been cleared by Sanitation, helping people to move forward and helping them to overcome this horrible challenge. That's extraordinary, Ed. I just want you to please thank all the men and women who serve under your command because this is an extraordinary contribution of getting people back on their feet. So, thank you very, very much.
Now, yesterday we saw a neighborhood hard hit. I talked to so many of the homeowners, heard about their experiences, heard about their lives, heard about what they had gone through, what it meant to them that the help was coming. And every single person said they were so appreciative to see that the City was out there in force to help them. And we said, we're going to stick with them until each and every one of their concerns and needs is addressed. Someone who was there and has been representing communities throughout Queens that have been hit hard including Corona, including Elmhurst, that really went through so much. And he's been on the ground, helping his constituents nonstop, I want you to hear from Council Member Francisco Moya.
Mayor: Thank you so much, Council Member. Thank you, you've been out there, really appreciate your effort. All right, everyone, we are in the process of helping everyone get back on their feet, but we're also keeping an eye on the weather that's coming. Now, this is abundance of caution. We're seeing a very small report at this moment, but, again, what we're going to be doing from now on is giving people information with a sense that we know how rapidly weather is changing now like nothing we've ever seen before. So, right now, we’ve got rain and thunderstorms this afternoon into tonight. The current forecast is half-an-inch to one inch of rain, with the highest chance of heavy rain around midnight. That, normally, would not be an issue at all. Obviously, we're concerned about folks who were hit that any new water could be a problem. And we're also concerned that we could see more than is projected. So, we want to get people to hear immediately there is some rain coming this afternoon, tonight, particularly again around midnight. We want homeowners and business owners to know that so they can take precautions, but we're also going to have our teams out. DEP will be out in force, cleaning catch basins, focusing, obviously, on any areas that were hit hardest by Ida. DOT crews will be out to work on roadway issues if we see any. Sanitation is already out 24-7, they're staying out 24-7 to resolve everything from the storm. They'll keep an eye on catch basins too. So, any changes that we see in the course of the day we're going to be getting immediate alerts out on.
All right. Now, it's just a few days till something very, very important – one of the most important days of the year, every year – first day of school is a powerful moment for kids, for families. It's something parents look forward to, kids don't always look forward to, but it's an amazingly important day any year. But this year, the first day of school in New York City is going to be one of the most powerful moments since COVID began. This is going to be a moment where we come back, because every single school child is coming back to school on Monday, September 13th. This is going to be one of those game-changer days, one of these days that we'll remember when we turn the corner on COVID. So, right now, we're seeing incredible work and I want to thank our Chancellor and everyone at the DOE for the work they've done. I want to remind everyone, by the end of last year, last school year in June, we saw almost non-existent levels of COVID in our schools, because the health and safety measures were so extraordinary. Literally, the last days of school, 0.03 percent positivity in our schools. We took every conceivable health and safety measure from around the world, used them all, created that gold standard – the masks, the ventilation, the cleaning, you name it – and it worked. And we saw that with Summer Rising as well. Summer Riding, hundreds of thousands of kids. Even with the Delta variant out there, Summer Rising was extraordinarily successful and very, very little disruption, which is a real credit to everyone in our schools and what they do every day right down to the individual school, the staff, the custodians, the principals, the teachers, everyone, and, of course, the leadership of our school system, looking at the whole picture, working with our health colleagues. But now, we have even more, because not only do we have 5.5 million New Yorkers who have had at least one dose of the vaccine, almost two-thirds of our kids 12- to 17-year-old has had at least one dose of the vaccine, but every single adult in the schools will be required to be vaccinated. That's going to make an extraordinary impact. And we're continuing this big push with our Vax to School campaign, and more and more parents, more and more kids come in all the time.
We want you to see how much is being done to prepare our schools again to be the safest place to be in New York City. I want you to see a video that really exemplifies this.
Mayor: So, that video gives you a flavor – just, extraordinary effort being made. And I want to turn to the person who is leading the way. Our Chancellor from the beginning was clear, we're bringing back all our kids, our kids need it, particularly those who have not seen the inside of the classroom for a year-and-a-half, which is absolutely something that has to end, but we have to do it safely. She's been demanding the most rigorous standards for the entire school system, and they're being achieved. I want you to hear directly from our Chancellor Meisha Ross Porter.
Schools Chancellor Meisha Ross Porter: Good morning. And thank you, Mayor de Blasio. We are six days away from the first day of school, and I am so proud to be here alongside my colleagues Kevin Moran, and Rob Williams to talk to what is being done to ensure every building is the gold standard of health and safety this year. Last week, 234 schools across the city took major damage from Hurricane Ida. That damage ranged from a small amount of basement flooding to entire boiler rooms filled to the ceiling with flood water. Without missing a beat, our amazing facilities team were in buildings in partnership with the School Construction Authority and the Office of Emergency Management, assessing damage and immediately beginning the hard work of bringing buildings back online. These dedicated professionals worked around the clock as they have throughout the pandemic and through their Labor Day weekend to ensure that every building is ready to go by the first day of school. As of last night, 228 of the 234 buildings are fully operational and we expect work to be completed on the remaining buildings by Monday. That same energy has been directed at preparing buildings for the return of students since the spring of last year. In every building, in every neighborhood across the city, devoted members of our facilities team are checking every space to ensure it has the ability to bring in fresh air and get rid of old air. They are ensuring that schools are stocked with PPE and signage is available to help direct students. I'm going to let Kevin get into the details, but I want to emphasize that we are ready for this school year. And a team of facilities experts are laser focused at ensuring our schools open with the gold standard of health and safety measures on Monday.
Mayor: With that, Kevin Moran. Kevin Moran is the head of school operations. He's done an absolutely amazing job with his team, really one of the heroes of this effort with an extraordinarily devoted team. He's going to make this very visual to you, all of the different tools that are being brought to bear to keep our kids safe and our whole school team safe as we go into this new school year together. Kevin Moran, take it away.
Chief Schools Operations Officer Kevin Moran, Department of Education: Thank you, Mayor de Blasio. And thank you, Chancellor Meisha Porter. My name is Kevin Moran. I am the Chief Schools Operation Officer for the Department of Education, and I oversee over 1,400 school buildings that comprise our city system. Every day, I visit schools across the city and I meet with parents, I meet with educators, and I meet with school staff, and they all have one question – is my building safe? I'm here to tell you today that, yes, our buildings are safe and for all staff and we're ready for opening. And we have a plan for this fall for each school within our system. In a moment, you'll hear from Robert Williams, our maintenance planner from the Bronx, to talk a little bit more about what this work specifically means to him as he goes to work every day in the communities in which he serves.
I'm going to walk you through our multi-layered approach to prevent the spread of COVID-19, all following in a full alignment with the CDC guidance. Every layer works together. And if one layer is not possible, like masking during lunch, then other layers pick up the slack to keep people safe. Each layer is very much important, but no layer carries the entire burden of keeping our kids safe. First, we know that ventilation, the ability to bring in fresh air and exhaust old air, is one of our best tools to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Last year, we had all of our buildings citywide inspected by independent third-party engineers and those results were then posted online, as you heard in the video.
We work daily with all of our independent professionals and our facilities teams and labor partners to be sure that we're prepared for the first day of school. We make needed repairs to our buildings to keep them safe and we continue to maintain those buildings at the highest of standards. Ventilation is provided through natural causes, through natural means through windows, machines, or combination of both methods. If a building was designed to provide fresh air through windows, we are ensuring those windows are open and provide the necessary amount of airflow. The buildings in this category are mostly our older buildings that were specifically built in response to previous pandemics and have large windows meant to bring in large amounts of air. If a building was designed to provide fresh air through machines, our teams are making sure those are running at the highest level. We installed MERV 13’s, much like you'll see here, and MERV 14 filters in our HVAC units. And the majority of our air conditioners actually have these items installed most recently that fit in all the air conditioners. And I'd like to thank the Mayor for his unprecedent investment in air conditioning in our instructional spaces, to which all will be completed by the end of this year.
Making sure windows and machines create the right ventilation at the beginning of school year is a major part of a multi-layered approach to health and safety. We need to also to rigorously inspect these classrooms to make sure they continue to function throughout the school year. We arm every custodian with advices to check. And you can see the CO2 reader is one that every custodian citywide has to, one, test temperatures in their spaces, but also the CO2 to make sure that the air is being exhausted as students occupy this space. Custodians are also provided with anemometers. This is something that our custodians use to actually monitor and assess cubic feet per minute air exchanges. They actually give custodians a read on the air exchanges in every classroom citywide. So, we work in partnership with our custodians and our principals to ensure – and our teachers, to make sure every class has proper ventilation. And if there's a reason that it is not functioning properly, we take the room offline and we make sure that we investigate and make repairs to that system.
Our facility staff has nearly two years of experience now keeping our buildings safe during the pandemic. They are maintaining deep cleaning techniques that put in place last year and utilize electrostatic sprayers, much that you see here. We have a large backpack electrostatic sprayer. This is commonly used in our large spaces, hallways, all the corridors, stairwells, cafeteria spaces, etcetera, the smaller handheld electrostatic sprayers is popular for smaller spaces and actually on our school buses, because there's tighter areas in our school buses. They continue to make sure all high touch surfaces are cleaned and every room is disinfected on a nightly basis. No school leader will have to go without worrying about providing PPE for their students and staff, much of which you see here. Every school will have a full 30-day supply on hand at all times. This includes masks for our smallest learners, much like we have here, and extra protective equipment for educators who are in close contact with students who cannot tolerate a mask at this time. And so, that would include additional face shields that you'll see here, KN-95 masks that you'll see there, vinyl gloves if necessary. And we make sure that our incredible nurses are staffed and they have a complete assortment, including N-95 masks.
Last year, when the supplies were in huge demand nationwide, we made sure every school was prepared for every student and we'll continue to provide that level of supplies to every school this year. I want to take a moment to thank our facility staff. When you think back to April 2020, we were not sure if our schools would reopen in a matter of weeks, months, or even later. While the city was hunkering down, our facilities teams continued to report to schools to prepare them to welcome back every student at a moment's notice. Last August, they moved mountains to prepare every building for the return of every single student and staff member – all 1 million. They never gave up. They never stopped working. And they're at work right now, making sure our schools are ready to bring back students safely on September 13th. Thank you, sir.
Mayor: Thank you so much, Kevin – amazing report. And you can see, everyone, everything is being done to protect our kids and our school staffs, no expenses being spared, whatever it takes. I want you to hear from one more person who's on the frontline of this. He's been a real hero in this effort and his story is powerful. Robert Williams had COVID himself back in March 2020. He went through so much. He fought through it, thank God, but he knows the impact of COVID. He felt it. He experienced it. And he wants to make sure that we protect every child, every staff member. He manages maintenance for all of the Bronx schools. It is a personal mission for him to keep everyone safe. I want you to hear now from Robert Williams.
Borough Maintenance Planner Robert Williams, Department of Education: Thank you, Mayor de Blasio, and Chancellor Meisha Porter, and Kevin. My name is Robert Williams. I'm a maintenance planner with the division of school facilities serving in the Bronx. And my care is every single Department of Education building in the Bronx. I want to briefly talk about the work that my team has done in the Bronx, work that I know is being done citywide, and in every borough. When the COVID-19 pandemic hit our city last year, we never left these buildings. The only thing that changed for us – the only thing that changed for us was that the city had less cars on the road, so we got to work a little quicker.
This was a scary time. I, myself, got COVID-19 and so did a lot of my staff. We were all operating in a world without information, but the one thing I knew was that we needed to make sure our buildings were ready for the return of the young people at any given moment. As soon as the CDC started providing guidance regarding ventilation and safety measures, my team started inspecting buildings and making enhancements. My team took small, but powerful actions, like opening windows that have been still sealed for years for various reasons. They also looked at schools like Lehman High School and identified major building wide repairs that needed to be made to make it fully operational. We also spent over $5 million in enhancing Lehman High School not only just in the ventilation, but just in the construction of the school. Whether the ventilation is being provided through windows or machines, we made sure rooms were safe for all young people. My commitment is what drove me. It was a focus on making every building in the Bronx safe enough that I would feel comfortable even enough for my own children to go there.
The work we did was confirmed by independent inspections and [inaudible]. We all know that things break, so our teams are laser focused on maintaining that high standard no matter what it takes. After all those inspections, and adults, and experts, the thing that truly validated our work was the sight of young people and their smiling faces, being able to return and into our buildings. A school with our children is just another random building. We do this work solely from our heart and for the children. This was a team effort. Every member of the Bronx team came to work every day. We looked over every inch of every building and prepared to welcome back every single student. All of this work and measures mentioned by Kevin, by the Chancellor, and by the Mayor, in addition to the great work [inaudible] we do this every single day of every school year to keep the building safe and create quality spaces for the city's young people to receive an excellent education.
Mayor de Blasio, it's my pleasure. I'm here today to tell you that every building in the Bronx is ready to welcome every student back on September 13th.
Mayor: Thank you so much, Robert. Robert, I really appreciate – I can hear the passion in your voice and your commitment. And thank you. Thank you to all the folks who work under your leadership. Every adult is doing everything to support our kids. That's what we see happening in our schools. And so, I want to say, I'm so proud of everyone at Department of Education. I'm proud of their commitment to our kids. And we're ready for opening day of school on Monday, but we do need help from the federal government. I want to talk about this now. This is the area where – one last piece that would make a world of difference. I told you when it comes to the 12-year-olds to 17-year-olds, almost two-thirds have been vaccinated already and school has not yet begun. And we're going to get a lot more kids in the coming days, but we need help with those younger kids – the five- to 11-year-olds. Look, the federal government – I know this is a priority, but it needs to be the highest priority. I'm calling upon the FDA, set a timeline, set a goal that we all can hear. Parents need to hear this. And we need to hold everyone accountable to getting this vaccine ready. Of course, doing it safely, doing it the right way, but it needs to be a matter of supreme priority, because this is the last piece – we get our five- to 11-year-olds vaccinated and we have everything that we need. I want you to hear about why this is so important and from someone who distinguished herself during the COVID crisis. I really appreciate this about her, she did not need to go back out and help people on the frontline as a medical professional. She's a member of the State Assembly. She had plenty to do in that job, but she chose to go out and serve people directly on the front line, and then went right back, and made sure that legislation was passed to protect working people in the midst of the COVID crisis – really, really admirable work. And she's going to tell you how important it is to speed this vaccination for our youngest New Yorkers. My pleasure introduce Assembly Member Karines Reyes.
Mayor: Thank you so much. And I think you're going to have a lot of company on that line the first day that the new vaccine for the five- to 11-year-olds is out. I think you're going to see parents all over the city immediately bringing their kids to get it, but we need it to come here as quickly as possible. Thank you for your advocacy, Assembly Member. Very much appreciate it.
All right. Now, we've talked about a lot already, but I want to talk about public safety. Yesterday, you heard a fantastic report from Commissioner Shea and Chief Harrison about extraordinary impacts being made, turning the tide on public safety. We’ve got a lot more work to do, but one of the things Commissioner Shea focused on was gang takedowns and how crucial they are. It's a small number of people do the violence, we're going to get each and every one of them. I'm going to give you just a very broad initial read on something. You're going to get the details on later on today, but in Harlem and Upper Manhattan, a major gang take down, it's going to be announced the details later on today. Dozens of members of a gang who did multiple acts of violence. I want to thank the NYPD. I want to thank the Manhattan District Attorney. These gang takedowns are making a world of difference and they're coming more and more frequently. So, this is very, very important for how we turn the tide, move this city forward, move a whole recovery. We're going to see takedown after takedown. We’ll need the court system to help us then, follow through and bring the consequences. But a great credit to NYPD and Manhattan DA's office for this effort.
But now, we talk about safety – we're also working very, very hard right now to make sure that the days ahead are safe in this city as we look forward to a very somber moment, the 20th anniversary of 9/11. The minute you say 9/11, for so many of us, we immediate remember not only where we were when we heard what had happened, but we remember the people in our lives who are lost. I remember the people I knew and the families I know who lost people. And it's 20 years later, but we still feel it so intensely. And this wound will never entirely heal, but we need to keep everyone safe. That's how we pay honor to all we lost to keep them safe, keep their families safe, keep this city safe now. We have a major anniversary coming up and the eyes of the world will be on New York City, which means we have to take extraordinary precautions to protect all New Yorkers. I want to say the most important thing upfront – as of this moment, there is no specific and credible threat directed at New York City. We have an extraordinary counter-terrorism capacity. We are watching all the time. We're going to have deployments all over New York City in the days ahead and particularly on 9/11, not just at Ground Zero, but all over New York City. And we are watching, because we know the ways of the terrorists. We understand this anniversary is going to be on their minds too. We've seen some attacks recently around the world that are worrisome, which is why we monitor all the time. You're going to hear from the leaders of our counter-terrorism effort about the preparations being made. I want to make one point in particular – Ground Zero not just on Saturday, but every day is not a place for any visitor or any resident of the city to ever use a drone. Some people ostensibly innocently have had drones and used them in that area to take photos – unacceptable, not going to be tolerated, they're going to be confiscated. That's not a place – it’s too sensitive and too much has happened. So, I just want to make that very clear to everyone.
But now, I want you to hear about the specific precautions and preparations that are being taken and the vigilance that's underway. First from our Chief of Counterterrorism, doing extraordinary work, continuing this tradition of the NYPD over the last 20 years. My pleasure to introduce Chief Martine Matarasso.
Chief of Counterterrorism Martine Matarasso, NYPD: Thank you, Mr. Mayor. 20 years after the attacks on September 11th, the NYPD is much better equipped, trained, and prepared to prevent a terrorist attack in this city. Working alongside our intelligence bureau, the Port Authority and our federal, State, local, and private partners, we have developed a robust security overlay for the upcoming ceremony, marking the 20th anniversary of the September 11th attacks. There will be measures in and around the World Trade Center site that the public will see and there will be many that they won't. This plan has been in development for many months and it couldn't have happened without the seamless coordination between all agencies and organizations. We will be using all of our counter-terrorism resources to ensure a safe event. These include explosive detection canines, heavy weapons teams, explosive detection instruments, license plate readers, radiological and chemical sensors, and countless cameras. Magnetometers will be used to screen every person that enters the Plaza. Our bomb squad will vet the World Trade Center site prior to the event and will remain for the duration. The Joint Terrorism Task Force will investigate any threats prior and during the ceremony. We will have plainclothes officers around the perimeter of the site to locate any suspicious people or activity. We will also have the counter drone detection teams that will mitigate if necessary. But, as the Mayor stated – please, it's a reminder, it is illegal to fly a drone anywhere in New York City. The operator could face criminal and civil penalties and the drone would be confiscated. So, we please ask you, don't do it.
We are able to devote these resources while still securing locations around the city that could potentially be a target. Our daily counter-terrorism deployment will not be affected by what we have deployed at the World Trade Center ceremony. These various layers of security are the result of and a shining example of the tireless work of the men and women of the NYPD. We are confident that the ceremony will be safe and secure, and we will continue to keep our promise to never forget all those lost on that tragic day. And please remember, if you see something, say something to a local law enforcement officer or call 1-888-NYC-SAFE. Thank you.
Mayor: Thank you. I now want you all to hear from someone who has been not only a leader here in the city, but a global leader in the fight against terror. He's managed our counterterrorism operation for a years now effectively against multiple threats. So much I could say, because I've been shoulder-to-shoulder with him for these last eight years, but the record speaks for itself. And a lot of credit I give to you and your team, Deputy Commissioner for Intelligence and Counterterrorism John Miller.
Deputy Commissioner of Intelligence and Counterterrorism John Miller, NYPD: Thank you, Mr. Mayor. As you stated, but it's worth restating for the third time, there is no specific credible threat to 9/11 or the events around it. But as you're also aware, sir, because you sat through your threat briefing yesterday, we are treating this as an elevated threat environment. So, absent specific information why, here's why – we've seen the call to action this year be louder and better organized from terrorist groups than we have seen in prior years. That is probably because this 9/11 remembrance marks the 20th anniversary, but it also comes at the same time as the fall of a U.S. supported government in Afghanistan, the return of the Taliban, and other factors that are stirring those conversations. We have noted in our observations over those platforms more than a dozen significant propaganda releases, many of them are geared towards English language audiences, two-thirds of them coming from Qaeda, which has suffered, along with ISIS, significant losses in terms of territory and commanding control over recent years. So, we are – we are paying attention to that drum beat. We've seen the Al Qaeda magazine, Wolves of Manhattan, which is named for the 9/11 hijackers, come out with a new issue. We've seen the inspire guide, another terrorist publication circulating. We've seen a trailer for an Al-Qaeda film that is supposed to come out soon. So, we take note of all of that and factor that into our threat assessment and plans.
Accompanying that, as the Mayor pointed out with the call to action, has been action. We've seen three significant terrorist events around the world, obviously the attack on the airport in Afghanistan, another attack involving a knife and multiple victims in Auckland. But one closer to home in Plano, Texas. We look at each one of these to examine what propaganda was the driver, who was the person behind it, and we are always scanning our environment. Those incidents aren't linked in any way, except for the common thread of people acting individually on ISIS propaganda. So, starting from the premise of no specific credible threat, we operate – and that's Chief Matarasso, Martine and her people, Chief Tom Galati and the Intelligence Bureau and his team. We operate on the idea that there is a threat out there and that we have to continuously hunt for that before the event, during the event, after the event, and not just at the event, but around the city. As Martine pointed out, our counterterrorism deployment around these days will not just be at the 9/11 Plaza, at the U.S. Open where we have a very layered counterterrorism deployment, but around the city, because around this time of year, of course, we pull out all the stops. And we've stepped it up this year not because of specific information about something in New York, but because we want people to see it, we want people to know they're safe, we want people to know that we're here and that we're protecting that event in this very important time of remembrance. Mr. Mayor –
Mayor: Thank you, John. Really appreciate the thoroughness that everyone at the NYPD is utilizing. This is literally a case of not taking anything for granted and being ready for everything. So, expect, again, a lot of presence in these coming days to keep us all safe.
All right, let's do what we do every day and talk about the indicators. And the first item I go over always is the doses administered. We're coming up now on 11 million doses. It's extraordinary – 10,901,787 doses administered of the vaccine to-date. The numbers have been very strong in recent days and we expect a continued uptick as mandates come into play as kids are coming back to school. So, that number is going to keep growing and keep us safe. Number two, daily number of people admitted to New York City hospitals for suspected COVID-19. Today’s report is 98 patients. Confirmed positivity level, 15.45 percent. Hospitalization rate per 100,000 New Yorkers is 1.25. Finally, number three, new reported cases on a seven-day average – today's report, 1,327 cases. I’m going to say a few words in Spanish, I want to go back to schools opening up Monday and all safety measures in place for our kids and our staff.
[Mayor de Blasio speaks in Spanish]
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 Chancellor Porter, by Kevin Moran, the Head of School Operations for the Department of Education, by Martine Materasso, the Chief of Counterterrorism, by John Miller, Deputy Commissioner of Intelligence Counterterrorism, by Commissioner Grayson, Commissioner Scrivani, Commissioner Doris, Commissioner Sapienza, by Dr. Dave Chokshi, and by Dr. Mitchell Katz. First question today goes to Marla from WCBS 880.
Question: Good morning, Mr. Mayor.
Mayor: Good morning, Marla. How are you doing?
Question: Good, how are you?
Mayor: I'm all right. We've got a lot going on as you can see.
Question: Yes, very busy press conference, but you didn't mention anything about the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, and I hear that it's going to take place this year?
Mayor: Well, obviously, we had a lot of other more immediate things, but we're very hopeful. We're working with Macy's that we can do this the full way, the right way, which I think will be a great moment for the comeback of this city. So, we'll get more and more details out as it gets closer, but that's looking like a good news situation. Go ahead, Marla.
Question: Okay, and more urgently, as you said, school begins in six days for 1.1 million students. Can you speak – I know you spoke a lot about, we learned a lot about what's being done to keep the schools clean and disinfected, but can you speak about COVID testing in the public schools? Will it be as rigorous as it was last year and what should parents and students expect?
Mayor: Yeah, it's going to be a consistent approach across the entire school system, every school on a biweekly basis. We can increase that anywhere we need to at any time, but we also have to pay attention to what's different from last year. The level of vaccination is night and day. We went into last school year, there was no vaccine, and then for much of the school year very few people had gotten it. We're now at a situation 5.5 million New Yorkers have gotten at least one dose, two thirds of the kids in the eligible range. It is night and day from where we were. So, we have the situation room up and running, we have regular testing every school, we can increase testing anytime we need, and in combination with the most important thing, which is vaccination, we're confident this is the way to keep our kids and our staff safe. Would you like to – well, would one of you’d like to add?
Chief Schools Operations Officer Moran: Well, I'd just like to add further some of the items that will keep kids safe and staff safe, and the buildings are inclusive of this electrostatic sprayer, custodians will walk through the building and definitely sanitize every space. They have the handhelds that I referenced before, we have these air purifiers, not only one, but two. The difference last year is you know, we had one purifier, we doubled down an additional air purifier in our classrooms, and we also have them for the larger spaces. In addition to our cafeteria is we'll have these purifiers in spaces make the kids are safe – make sure kids are safe and staff, but also exhaust there's improving ventilation. So, we're taking every step necessary to make sure we improve that indoor environment.
Mayor: Kevin has now learned how to visualize and make her make visuals situation. Let's hold up the monitors to and explain again – hold over here, the handhelds, of what our staff uses to monitor the air quality. Explain that one more time.
Chief Schools Operations Officer Moran: So, this year what's critical –
Mayor: Hold them up high. Come on, we're going to get you used to TV here, Kevin. There you go. Look at it, he’s getting it next to his face, that's good. Meisha, takeover. Takeover Meisha.
Chief Schools Operations Officer Moran: So, the CO2 readers is brought into a space to assess how many particles per million of CO2 is present in the room, and so we want to actively monitor that. If we see a rising over a thousand particles per million, we realize that we should actually check the systems and make sure they're exhausting the air that students exhale. So, this is a real good reader, custodians use it daily, and when we see it change seasons, want to make sure the temperature of our spaces stay at room temperature. So, we want to use that. The anemometer, while not included in the CDC guidance, we went a step further. The CDC guidance says make sure you have the presence of functional ventilation, so we use these tools to assess. The anemometer is probably our most critical tool and actually putting it towards an exhaust fan or an intake and measures the actual CFM coming into a space. It's critical then to then put into a formula, and I'm not a generation X-er, but there's an app for that.
Mayor: There you go.
Chief Schools Operations Officer Moran: There's the length, there’s the width, there's the height, and then it's a CFM and you put it in your app, and it actually tells you, you have five air exchanges per hour, you have 10 air exchanges. We went to a local high school nearby at Seward Park and we're getting 20 air exchanges an hour. So, that is well an exceedance of any standard [inaudible] put out there as well as we did Murry Bergtraum recently, we saw them kicking over 19 in our stairwells. We saw them, you know, up very high in one instance, pulling open a door, it was a hundred air exchanges in an hour, which is really, really, really high. So, in those spaces too we’re factoring in, but all of these tools, all these – this is probably one of the ones we're most excited about because this was new product that was created just for our air conditioners to make sure we have an extra layer in the summer months while running our air conditioners, this [inaudible], this is a MERV 13 filter, just like the MERV 13 filters that we sourced early in the pandemic for our larger HVAC systems. So, we definitely have a multi-layered approach. One to make sure we have everything sourced and the city has been wonderful making sure we have supply chain uninterrupted, and my thanks go out to SCA, the School Construction Authority, and the DCAS team to make sure we have what we needed but getting these level of details is real important too, to provide parents with a level of transparency and trust that we're doing things.
Mayor: Yeah. And can everyone hear him okay? Is he mic’d? Okay, go ahead, Kevin. There you go. Kevin, you're getting better at this as you go along.
Chief Schools Operations Officer Moran: Yeah, I appreciate that.
Mayor: Learn by doing
Chief Schools Operations Officer Moran: Is this on? All right. So, this actually is a response to our larger areas, and we looked at the state guidance and we looked at the CDC guidance and it talked about relying on the layered approach to health and safety. And so, when a student demasks to break for lunch and to eat, we make sure that we bring in additional layers. This air purifier is – it's able to purify 3,000 square feet, which is a very large space. In some instances, we'll bring in two. And we also in a window environment, we put in the upper sash exhausters that also increase our air exchanges per hour, and the CFM off those are very much notable in the change in the increase and how we turn the air over. We use that exclusively in some of our schools that were having issues potentially getting to three feet, but we wanted to make sure that they had all those layered approaches in environments where they're actually taking their masks off.
Mayor: Excellent. Thank you, Kevin. Thank you, Chancellor. Okay, let's continue.
Moderator: The next is Elizabeth Kim from Gothamist.
Question: Good morning, Mr. Mayor.
Mayor: Elizabeth, how you been?
Question: I’m good. My question is could you give us the latest update on the City's negotiations with the teacher's union over the medical accommodations – medical and religious exemptions that some staffers say they want?
Mayor: Yes, absolutely, Elizabeth. Those negotiations continue. We recognize there are definitely, in a few cases and it's pretty rare where someone medically cannot be vaccinated, but where that is confirmed by a process to make sure that, you know, all the information is accurate, if someone cannot be vaccinated, of course there's grounds for a valid, medical exemption. Equally, and in very few cases we expect, but there are narrow and specific grounds for religious exemption. Those will be honored. There'll be a process to confirm them, but they will be honored. Those folks will continue to work for us in some capacity, in some location, we got to work that through, but those cases will be honored, but again, expect them to be very rare. Go ahead, Elizabeth.
Question: Secondly, our education reporter, she's hearing from families who say they're just not ready to send their children to school because they're afraid of the Delta variant. What's going to happen to parents who decide just to keep their kids at home without signing-up for, you know, home instruction, will they be disenrolled? Is there any risk of ACS contacting them about absenteeism?
Mayor: Really important question. I'm going to start, and I'll turn to the Chancellor. We've talked about this in detail. But Elizabeth, look, again, I understand there's a lot of fear still, a lot of very honest concern, there's also, sadly, a lot of misinformation out there. The message that I want to give and I'm going to get Dr. Chokshi into this as well, is how important it is to have our children back in school, particularly the kids who have not been back for a year and a half. It's just not acceptable for them to be out. So, we're saying to all parents, bring your kids back, look at everything that's being done to keep them safe. This is going to be the safest place for them to be literally, and we know this, Dr. Chokshi will speak to this, I'm actually going to have him go ahead of the Chancellor, and then she'll speak to your very specific question. We know that being out in the community during the day is much less safe than being in a school with all these protections, all this cleaning, all this ventilation. So, I say to all parents, as someone, myself, was a public school parent, best place for your kids to be as in school. If in the beginning of the school year, a parent's not ready, we're going to keep talking to them, we're going to keep trying to convince them. If that goes on for a while, then that's a different scenario the Chancellor will speak to. But I do think you'll see a small number of parents who would take a little bit of wait and see at first, and then we'll bring in their kid pretty quickly after the beginning of this school year. But I think the vast majority are going to show up on day one and are ready. Again, why it matters so much from a health perspective to get kids back to school, Dr. Chokshi, please let people hear what you think on that topic.
Commissioner Dave Chokshi, Department of Health and Mental Hygiene: Yes, sir. Thank you so much. And thanks Elizabeth for this crucially important question. Where I stand is in lockstep with the American Academy of Pediatrics, which has said in its guidance on school reopening that all considerations for school COVID-19 plans should start with a goal of keeping students safe and physically present in school. So, let's just take both halves of that. The first part of it, the goal of keeping students safe. As the Mayor has said, and as the Chancellor and Mr. Moran went through, the Department of Education has put in place this layered approach to mitigating the effects of COVID-19 in schools to make them the safest place that the children can be in because of the fact that we have widespread vaccination protecting people, because we have all of the interventions related to ventilation, universal mask use, testing as appropriate, as well as the simpler things that sometimes we don't emphasize, but making sure that kids are staying home, if they're feeling ill and doing all of these things in concert because we know that each individually is important, but together they are the foundation of our approach to safety. And then the second half is about the importance of in-person learning, of actually being physically present in school. And you've heard about this for me before, as a doctor, this is important to me not just for educational reasons, but because we know it's so important for the long-term physical and mental health of our kids not just for next week, not even for the entire school year, but over their life course. We know that that is going to be crucially important to their development and their health. Thank you.
Mayor: Amen. Chancellor, about what happens after a few weeks in if a parent hasn't gotten their kid to school.
Chancellor Porter: So, what we've never disagreed on is that in-person learning is the best learning for all of our students. And so, we're looking forward to having our principals and our school communities and the social workers that we've added to our communities to work very closely with families to get our children back in school. And ACS is our partner, and ACS is very clear that their goal is the same as ours, and that is to help get our babies into school. The only time the ACS will intervene is if there is a clear intent to keep a child from being educated, period, which is a very different thing to deprive a child of an education, but we want to work with our families because we recognize what families have been through. And so, with all of the supports and the multi-layers of protection that we have in place, we believe that we can work together with families to get babies back in school.
Moderator: The next is Christina Veiga from Chalkbeat.
Question: Hi, thanks for taking my question. I want to go back to testing. I was hoping you could explain why the city has designed the program the way it has? CDC recommends weekly testing and when students head back to school, teachers actually won't need to be vaccinated until September 27th and that's just one dose. So, can you explain why biweekly and how quickly is this going to start? The other thing that we've heard concerns about is that it's not mandatory for students, so how can you be sure you're going to have the participation you need?
Mayor: Yeah, we're quite convinced, Christina, from what we saw last year, that we'll have an ample sample at any given point that we need for any school community. We've looked at this, we've looked at the numbers. We really feel very confident about that. The reason we feel good about the level of testing, it's going to be absolutely consistent, it's going to be every school, it's going to be regularly. We can add more whenever we need, but again, unlike so much of the rest of the country, I can't say this strongly enough, 5.5 million New Yorkers have already had one dose of this vaccine. Two thirds of the 12 to seven-year-olds, almost two-thirds already. We’re in a night and day situation with so much of the rest of the country, and we did the highest standard of health and safety in our schools that any place in America has done, and it worked, again, before there was even vaccine. So, we've made adjustments, we've added new elements, again, additional air purifiers, a huge amount more vaccination, and the mandates that will be coming in very quickly and having a big effect. But we believe the right amount of testing is what we've put forward. But if we see any place where we think we need to do more, we can do that literally on a few hours’ notice. Go ahead, Christina.
Question: Okay, my other question is regarding the negotiations with UFT, is there an agreement for what will happen to teachers who don't have an exemption and aren't vaccinated by the 27th?
Mayor: Look, we're still in those negotiations, they've been intense. We're obviously hoping to resolve things. We're in a process right now, an arbitration process. I don't want to in any way, get ahead of that. Our goal is to settle these issues and move forward. But not every single one has been settled yet, and we obviously have to do that very, very quickly.
Moderator: The next is Paul from the Staten Island Advance.
Question: Hey, good morning, Mr. Mayor, how are you doing?
Mayor: Good, Paul. How’ve you been?
Question: I’m well, sir. Thank you. Regarding the vaccine mandate for DOE staff, what percentage of DOE staff remain unvaccinated and what sort of challenges is the DOE expecting regarding staffing?
Mayor: I'm going to turn to the Chancellor, and I don't know if Dr. Chokshi has additional information. I do want to say, Paul, we're getting more and more information in all the time. As more and more employees are reporting their vaccination status, and obviously a lot of people are getting vaccinated right now. So, it's an ever-changing situation, but in terms of the latest information we have, Chancellor.
Chancellor Porter: Sure. So, 72 percent of our teachers have been vaccinated, 61 percent of students 12 to 17 have been vaccinated with at least one dose, and so we're confident that our faculty members, our staff members are going to get that first dose. Even before the 27th, we've seen our numbers continue to increase, and we know that it's important for us to build a bubble of protection around our students.
Mayor: Okay, go ahead, Paul.
Question: Thank you so much for that, and we got a complaint from someone who is trying to get a marriage license about challenges at the bureau. I just wanted to – I saw they closed the walk-in visits August 23rd. So, I just wanted to get a sense of you know, where the City stands right now and what your knowledge of the situation is regarding the Marriage Bureau.
Mayor: Okay. We will get back on this. The City Clerk Office runs the Marriage Bureau. I'm a little frustrated hearing that because they should be at full strength. It's not something run directly by the Mayor's Office, but we're going to go engage them immediately. It's really important, and as we bring this city back fully that people have the access, they need to the Marriage Bureau. So, Paul, thank you for raising that, and this one's been a nagging problem – I want to say to my friends at the Clerk's Office and the Marriage Bureau, come on, guys, everyone else is coming back full strength. We got to do this, but we will follow up and get you an update, Paul, immediately.
Moderator: Next is Michael Gartland from the Daily News.
Question: Good morning, Mr. Mayor.
Mayor: Hey, Michael, how are you doing?
Question: I’m good. How are you?
Mayor: Fighting the fight, brother.
Question: Oh, okay. Good, good. I've got a couple of questions from our education reporter, Michael Elsen-Rooney. First one is you've talked about how New York City has a gold standard of safety measures in school, but the City is proposing to do 20 times less school COVID testing than LA’s school system, which is testing all students and staff each week regardless of vaccination status. So, why not increase the level of school COVID testing, if you want to do everything possible to keep kids safe and build trust?
Mayor: Michael, I respect our colleagues in LA. We've had a radically different vision of them from day one. They were not open last year, we were. They are continuing to remote education. We believe that's a huge mistake for our kids. So, respect them. Everyone's got to make their own choices. New York City has the most rigorous health and safety model in the country. We proved it last year with schools, we proved it with Summer Rising. We're sticking with what has worked. We're going to have plenty of testing. Again, testing pales in comparison to vaccination and all the other measures that we've put in place, which are now amplified intensely from even where they were in June. So, this is what we're going to do, and we'd see any reason that we need to make adjustments. We can make them very, very quickly. Go ahead, Michael.
Question: Thanks for that, Mr. Mayor. The other question we have here is about how, you know, some other countries are giving kids rapid tests after they were exposed to a COVID case in school, and if they test negative, they can avoid quarantines. Is that an approach the city's considering?
Mayor: I'll have Dr. Chokshi go over the approach we're taking now. I want to emphasize again, for adults and students who are vaccinated, they are not going to be quarantining unless they're symptomatic. It's a very different reality. That's a lot of people in our school system, thank God, who are not going to have to deal with quarantine in the vast majority of cases, even when we have quarantines, and again, we are pushing hard to get that last group of kids vaccinated. I'm really hopeful. That's going to be starting in the next – just in the next couple of months, and I guarantee you, when that starts, there's going to be a huge number of parents who get their kids vaccinated quickly. But in terms of how we're dealing with the standards now, and what role rapid tests would play, Dr. Chokshi.
Commissioner Chokshi: Thank you very much, sir. Yes, we are. Using testing to shorten the duration of quarantine in some cases, particularly when you have an unvaccinated child who has an exposure, meaning they meet the definition of being a close contact – they can test on day five and then if the test is negative, then it shortens the duration of their quarantine from 10 days to seven days. So, that's one way in which we are ensuring that we're using testing to minimize disruption with respect to in-person learning which is one of our key goals as has been mentioned. In terms of the rapid testing that you're mentioning. You know, we are following the evidence on this. There are some other places around the world around the country that are testing these approaches we have to understand precisely how they will work in balancing the considerations of interrupting the spread of COVID while maximizing in-person learning. So, we'll continue to follow that and as always adjust our approaches as warranted by scientific updates. Thank you.
Mayor: Thank you.
Moderator: The next is Julia from the Post.
Question: Hey, Mr. Mayor, how are you doing?
Mayor: Doing good, Julia, how are you today?
Question: I'm pretty good. I have another DOE question, but a bit of a different topic. I'm wondering if you think that the city school investigators should have looked into a complaint that your former Chancellor Carranza uses his powerful position to favor pals given that we now know he left his wife for an administrator he brought from Houston to New York for a six-figure job at the DOE?
Mayor: That is old news. I have very intense faith in the investigatory apparatus that they go after everything as they see fit, and that chancellor's gone. We have a new chancellor now. Go ahead.
Question: Okay, thanks. You said that DOB has investigated or sent inspectors to 2,000 homes for property damage from the storm. If neither dwellers of basement apartments nor the homeowners are being penalized for them, what's kind of the practical result of those inspections?
Mayor: To figure out what can be done to immediately make the home habitable. We – look, we've got a much bigger issue to work on, which will take billions of dollars to address the basement apartments. But for now, we just got to make sure that the damage, if there was damage from a storm, that it’s addressed properly. That folks can get back into those apartments for the immediate term, and that homeowners are not put in a double jeopardy where they're hit by a storm and then hit by fines as well. This is a bigger issue we have to resolve, but the one thing we do not want to do is burden people in the meantime, or create an environment where tenants have to wonder they're about to be put out because of these fines. So, that's the balance we're striking.
Moderator: We have time for two more for today. The next is Abu from Bangla Patrika.
Question: Hello, Mayor. How are you?
Mayor: Good, Abu. How’ve you been?
Question: Good, thank you so much. My question is about the way New York City is monitoring the terrorism. So [inaudible] used to be monitoring by all the [inaudible] institutions. So, now what is the change? And do you have any message for the Muslim community when the September 11th date is coming?
Mayor: Yes, I appreciate that question. Abu. My message is we deeply respect the Muslim community of this city, a crucial part of who we are as New York City, hundreds and hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers, a huge presence of members of the NYPD as well, and there were big mistakes made years ago in terms of how the NYPD approached that community. I want to say that Deputy Commissioner Miller is one of the people who fixed those mistakes, and what we're trying to do now is consistently show respect and embrace. A lot of Muslims lost their life in the twin towers, like so many other New Yorkers. So, we're moving forward together. That is my message. Go ahead, Abu.
Question: Okay. So, the second question is, is there any suggestion for the parents who are raising their kids in the Muslim community Mr. Miller, here because he's an expert on it, does he have any suggestions on how they can observe their young kids?
Mayor: Abu, are you saying how to ma address the issues going on in the world with our kids? Is that what you're saying in effect?
Mayor: I think I'm going to start, and I'll turn to the Commissioner. I think it's the same way. All parents of all faiths need to continually listen to children, listen to their fears and frustrations. If they are getting information that's pushing them in the wrong direction – look, we deal with many, many unfortunately negative influences of all kinds. You can talk about terrorism, but you can talk about gangs. You can talk about many other challenges that young people are exposed to. I think parents have to listen. They need to be attentive as best possible to what's going on in their kid's life, and if they need help, seek help, if it's a mental health issue or something where a parent doesn't know how to handle a child's emotional situation, any parent can call 8-8-8-NYC-Well any hour, any day, any language for free. Our schools are going to be providing a tremendous amount of support for kids. We're doing mental health screening for all kids coming in the door. But if it's not a mental health issue, it's a different kind of issue. The whole thing is communication and seeking help if a parent doesn't know how to deal with the situation. And Commissioner I think if you have any advice to parents, if they think a young person might be experiencing negative influences, we welcome your thoughts on that.
Commissioner Miller: So, I think our experience has been, and we've done an awful lot of outreach to the Muslim community between our Community Affairs team under Chief Jeff Maddrey, between the Police Commissioner's visits and my visits to multiple mosques to redefine our relationship with that community. Abu, to focus on, to zero in on your question this is about how parents should help to guard and protect their children. We think of Muslims in this context, as first, Americans –they are citizens of this country like everyone else – and then second, New Yorkers. So, that means that their kids as they themselves will face all the problems that any other family faces here. That means what are your kids doing online? What influences are they getting from the neighborhood? So, what do people worry about with their kids in cities? They worry about online activities. They worry about gangs. They worry about drugs. They worry about having the right friends. That's no different for Muslim New Yorkers, to the extent, and we talked about this earlier, that there are groups that are targeting Muslim youth for radicalization. That is an experience which has widened out exponentially, with white supremacist groups targeting youths for radicalization, with neo-Nazi groups. We've seen an explosion of that kind of online thing. So, the advice for Muslims in New York is the same advice for everyone else, which is know your kids, be involved with your kids, but particularly be involved with what they're doing online, have access to their phones, have access to their logs, and make sure you protect them as we all protect our kids. Amen.
Moderator: Last question for today goes to Henry from Bloomberg.
Question: Mr. Mayor, how are you doing today?
Mayor: Good Henry. How are you doing?
Question: I'm doing pretty well. Thank you. The 72 percent rate of teachers being vaccinated. Are you satisfied with that number?
Mayor: No, we're going to get that number, by definition, to a hundred percent with the mandate. I also think, again, we are continuing to get information in Henry. I think that number is likely higher and we're going to get more and more information each day, and as teachers are preparing to come back, a lot of them are moving quickly to get vaccinated now, but everyone knows the mandates coming, and that's going to resolve it fully. Go ahead, Henry.
Question: Now, on the students who are vaccinated, I think I heard two different numbers. I think the Chancellor said 61 percent, and you said 65 percent of the kids are vaccinated—
Mayor: I’m going to go to arbitration.
Chancellor Porter: The Mayor’s right.
Mayor: Well, that's a good start, but well, I want to be careful because there's so many numbers floating around. Let's turn to the Health Commissioner. The number I have, Commissioner Chokshi you're going to confirm: 12 to 17-year-olds, at least one dose 339,244 people, young people, and the percentage 65.2 percent. Commissioner, is that right or wrong?
Commissioner Chokshi: Yes, sir. That's correct. We're at 65 percent.
Mayor: Amen. Right on the boundary of two-thirds. Henry, go ahead.
Question: Isn’t it problematic that kids – that you don't know who is vaccinated in these schools and who isn't. There's, you know, there's no registry, so wouldn't it be important to know who is vaccinated?
Mayor: I'll turn to the Chancellor. I think in the school community for a variety of reasons, that information will be available, including remember that if there is a situation, wherever, even in a single classroom, quarantine is needed, it will be determined differently according to whether someone is vaccinated or not. But Chancellor in terms of how we're using the portal and other approaches and the communication with parents about their kids' situation. Why don't you speak to that?
Chancellor Porter: So, we are collecting information in our DOE portal from both our faculty members and our students on their vaccination rates, and so that is open now. We've had students, and families, and teachers already uploading their vaccination status, which is why, you know, we actually do believe our numbers are higher than those listed, because we're getting information every single day.
Mayor: Well said. So, as we conclude today, everybody, a lot of material today, a lot going on. I want to thank everybody who has been a part of this press conference, because it's really an attribute to New York City and the people who devote their lives to New York City, whether it's fighting terrorism, fighting crime, educating our kids, keeping them safe, everything that's being done out in communities to help people directly. It's a lot, there's a lot going on, but I always, as a New Yorker, take pride in the people who work on our behalf, and what they do every day and the way they go the extra mile, and I think a lot of that is on display in this last hour or so, and it's something New Yorkers should be very, very proud of. Thank you, everybody.