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Transcript: Mayor de Blasio Holds Media Availability

September 20, 2021

Mayor Bill de Blasio: Good morning, everybody, and welcome to Queens. We're here at Queens Borough Hall. We're kicking off City Hall in your borough all week long in Queens. A lot of great stuff that was going to happen here this week to support the people of Queens, and we know after this incredibly tough year-and-a-half Queens was hit really, really hard by the pandemic. We also know the residents of Queens led the comeback and are leading the comeback with extraordinary strength and resiliency. This week, we'll be talking about all the next steps in our recovery, new announcements that are crucial to the future of Queens, and you'll see the spirit and the energy of the people at Queens that are helping the city move forward. No one epitomizes that more than the Borough President of Queens, and I know he's excited about this week and I'm excited to share it with them, my pleasure to introduce Queens Borough President Donovan Richards.
Queens Borough President Donavan Richards: Thank you, Mr. Mayor. And first before we begin, I brought you a little mascot, New York Mets. We hope to continue to try to convert you.
Mayor: Yeah, this is cool. This could do it right there.
Borough President Richards: Well, good morning, Mr. Mayor and welcome to Queens. We are honored to host your administration here at Queens Borough Hall for the latest edition of City Hall in Your Borough series. And just a reminder, Mr. Mayor, not too long ago, we beat your team at the Dragon Boat Festival. So, we are still continuing to –
Mayor: By a dragon’s nose, we've talked about this –
Borough President Richards: Still holding onto those bragging rights, but Queens represents the very best of our city, and we're proud of our diversity, hundreds and hundreds of languages spoken, of course, right here in Queens, and I, of course, have to give it up for the best food in the city right here, whether you're grabbing dumplings in flushing, empanadas in Jackson Heights, or soul food in Jamaica, there's no shortage of culture and delicacies here in the world's borough. So, Mr. Mayor, I hope you are ready to give yourself and work up a really hearty appetite this week, but on a serious note, we have been through a lot here in Queens, as you alluded to. We were the epicenter of the epicenter of the COVID-19 pandemic, and we still have some ZIP codes we are struggling in. I want to push residents in Far Rockaway 11691 to continue to get vaccinated. As of today, we're at about 46.89 percent, so we are seeing those numbers go up from 39 percent. The rest of the ZIP codes, Mr. Mayor, have all hit 50 percent in the Rockaways and that was an area we were struggling in. The epicenter of the epicenter, of course, of the pandemic was certainly a challenge for us. Obviously, we had to have climate change and when Hurricane Ida devastated our borough, your administration was here and continues to work with us. So, I want to thank you on that. And of course we have the humanitarian crisis looming on Rikers island and we have a lot of work to make sure we make that place a better place for the detainees here. 

So, we're still on the path to recovery, Mr. Mayor, and I’d like to personally thank you and your staff for all you done for us thus far and I look forward to working with you to better help our constituents in need. And I just want to end in saying that there's a lot of great things going on in Queens, I want thank your administration, Rachel Loeb, in particular, for working with us on the Jet Blue project to keep jet blue in Queens. I talked about Bartlett Dairy where we're bringing 400 union jobs online in Queens County, and then we were able to give just a few weeks ago, working with EDC over the course of the last few months, nearly, $17.5 million in small business grants to over 700 businesses in Queens County, and I want to thank the Steve and Alexandra Cohen Foundation for that. And of course, we're bringing thousands of affordable housing units online, but our work is not done here as well. So, I want to thank you, Mr. Mayor, in advance for the week we're going to have full of productivity, collaboration, fun, and yes, delicious food, and I look forward to breaking ground on the one 116th precinct in Southeast Queens in a little while with you. So, we'll see you around Borough Hall and the great borough of Queens, and there's no better place on earth than this county. Thank you, Mr. Mayor, for being here.
Mayor: Thank you so much Borough President. Let's see, this is a – I think, okay, it bobbles pretty well. I want to make sure Mr. Met’s doing well. Mr. Met, as you know, has been participating – and Mrs. Met – in many of our vaccination events and our Hometown Heroes' Parade and so many other wonderful things. So, thank you to The Mets. Thank you to you. Borough President, we’re going to have a great week together. A lot of food for sure, looking forward to that. Now it's not only Queen's Week, it is climate week too, and climate justice and the Borough of Queens are absolutely intertwined, and that means we've got to do things differently in the city and in this country, and that begins with abandoning the gas-powered Astoria peaker plant. This is crucial. We have got to move aggressively to renewable energy. We're going to be talking about that a lot this week, major news on this front, big news, we'll be talking about that's going to be great for the future of the city, but it's not just about moving to renewables, we have to cut off our dependency on fossil fuels. So, that plant has to go.

All right, now let's turn to an issue on everyone's mind, last week, the opening of schools, an amazing success. Congratulations to our Chancellor, to all our educators, all our school staff, our parents, our kids, very strong, smooth opening to schools. I saw the joy, the just unbelievable joy, in the faces of kids who hadn't been in a classroom in a year-and-a-half. I saw the relief of parents, I saw teachers who couldn't wait to get back to what they love, being with their kids. First week is under our belt. Really, really pleased with it overall, but we also looked at the week, we asked ourselves, what are things that we can improve upon? What are new approaches that we want to take? The goal is always two crucial things. First and foremost, the health and safety of our kids and our whole school community. Second, maximizing the number of kids in school every day, making sure there's continuity, avoiding disruption, giving our kids a chance to make that comeback that we know we're going to do this year. So, we put together those two goals. We analyze the data from the first week and with our health care team analyze the overall situation with COVID, and we're making some changes now on both testing and quarantine protocols, and these will take effect next week, starting on the 27th. 

First of all, we will now go to weekly testing. We'll be testing in elementary, middle, and high school, each school, every week. And then we will change the quarantine approach, and we'll align to the CDC guidance on that. When there is a positive test in a school - excuse me - in a classroom, a positive test in a classroom, the unvaccinated students in that classroom will not have to quarantine if they are masked and three feet distant. That will allow more kids to safely remain in the classroom. So, we've been looking at these two issues over the last few weeks, we looked at it in light of the data from the first week of school, we decided to make both of these changes simultaneously and they do complement each other. Starting the week of the 27th, I want you to hear more about this from our Chancellor who is doing an amazing job leading the school system back, Chancellor Meisha Ross Porter. Chancellor?

Schools Chancellor Meisha Ross Porter: [Inaudible] good morning, I’m here - 

Mayor: There you are, all right. We knew you were out there.

Chancellor Porter: Yes. Good morning. Good morning. But before I begin, I want to thank everyone who made the opening of schools last week an amazing success, and I was in the borough of Queens last Monday visiting schools. It was a wonderful week. I visited over a dozen schools in every borough, and it felt so good to be back. Everywhere I went, I saw happy kids back in caring, welcoming schools. I saw reading, writing, I saw outdoor classrooms and homecoming celebrations. I also saw kids wearing their masks, and students of all ages following social distancing protocols. As an educator, there's nothing more powerful that seeing your students take their, and other students' wellbeing seriously. And as a parent myself, it was reassuring to see the health and safety protocols being followed. As the Mayor said, these are health and safety policies that are thoughtfully been crafted with the help of our medical experts.
And as we've done throughout the pandemic, we'll make changes along the way as needed. Now, that the first week is behind us, we need to look at - we looked at the initial results and we're making important updates that add an additional layer of security and surveillance to our testing policy. While also aligning to the CDC standards for quarantines, which will help keep students safely in their classrooms. On testing, we will begin testing weekly at all, elementary, middle, and high schools. This isn't an increase from our biweekly policy currently in place. 

On quarantines, unvaccinated students who wear masks and three feet distance, will not have to quarantine if there are close contact to positive students. These measures will begin on September 27th, the date that the DOE vaccine mandate goes into effect, which will be an additional layer of protection for our babies, which reminds me if you haven't got your shot, do it. I was at Flushing International High School last week and was so impressed by the seven students I saw getting vaccinated. I also got a chance to meet their student vaccine ambassadors on the campus who’ve been working hard to encourage their classmates to get vaccinated, and about 90 percent of the high school is already vaccinated. And while I'm giving out homework, another reminder to submit your testing consent for your child, you can do it right online using your NYCSA account or hand a paper copy to your school. Thank you, and back to you, Mr. Mayor. 

Mayor: Thank you, Chancellor. Once a teacher, always a teacher, still giving out homework to all of us. Thank you very much. And some good news today now that schools are fully reopened, we're going to reopen something else that's so important to the families of this city, the afterschool programs all over the city run by the City of New York. This is something we brought into being early in the administration to make afterschool much more widely available, particularly for middle school families who need it so importantly. I'm really happy to say that we're bringing back after school in a safe, smart way that's going to help kids to continue to learn and grow even after-school hours. And this is on a big, big scale – 1,081, the City-funded afterschool programs reopening, all of them provided free to the kids in New York City. They are at schools and community centers around the five boroughs – elementary, middle, and high school – Beacon and Cornerstone programs, and so many more. The goal is to reach 150,000 kids this school year with those extended hours. Our afterschool programs are amazing because they involve academic enrichment in addition to arts, culture, recreation, you name it. And in Queens alone, the Borough President will be happy to know, over 200 programs in Queens reopening now, serving well over 25,000 Queens kids. Anyone who wants to sign up your child for afterschool, please go to, or call 800-246-4646.  

Okay. Now, let's talk about what we talk about every single time – how we fight back COVID, how we foster the recovery of this borough, this city, and Queens has been leading the way. I have to say, a lot to be proud of, Borough Present. The borough with the most fully vaccinated people, what do you guess it is, Borough President?  

Borough President Richards: 80 percent?  

Mayor: No – what do you guess what the borough is? 

Borough President Richards: Oh – oh my bad – 

Mayor: Which borough do you guess it is?  

Borough President Richards: Of course, Queens. There's no better place on earth.  

Mayor: Where is the most popular City-run vaccination site?  

Borough President Richards: Queens – 

Mayor: Queens, Citi Field is correct. Queens has over 1.5 million – 1,551,921 fully vaccinated people – amazing. Citi Field – amazing. Thank you again to the Mets. Now, boosters are coming. We're still waiting for the final word. FDA committee voted last week, recommending them for people over 65, in addition to immunocompromised individuals. We are ready. As we talked about last week, New York City is ready to start providing the booster shots the moment we get the clear authorization from the federal government and the ground rules. We've got over 1,900 sites ready. We have a detailed plan to reach seniors in particular, let them know as soon as we know the details. This is a big deal. I think it's going to help us move forward in a big way. Once we know, we're going to hit the ground running. And on the topic of the vaccine, we got some great news this morning, and this is about our youngest kids, this is the piece of so many of us have been waiting for to see progress on – the vaccine for the five- to 11-year-olds. This is the last piece remaining and it will be a big deal. I am guaranteeing you, as soon as it's available, you'll see huge numbers of parents want to get their kids vaccinated.  

So, Pfizer shared data – very hopeful, very impressive data about their vaccine’s support for five- to 11-year-olds in terms of protecting them from COVID. FDA is looking at the data. We want to see this vaccine in New York City as quickly as possible. So, what I'm calling on the FDA to do is speed your process. We need these by the end of October. Let's give a wonderful Halloween gift, a treat for all kids. Let's do something wonderful, get the vaccine for five- to 11- year-olds authorized by Halloween, so we can start providing the vaccine to kids who need it. This has happening in real-time and it's going to make a huge difference for our families. So, federal government, this is a moment to step up, speed this process for the good of families all over New York City, all over America.  

Now, vaccination is leading the way. Vaccination is helping in Queens, in all five boroughs, everywhere in the city. And we're using our vaccination capacity to reach the whole world this week, because it's United Nations General Assembly Week back in New York City. And you know, we all don't love the traffic, for sure, but what we do love is the fact that people can get back together in-person. It's a very hopeful sign. It's a great moment for New York City. It's one of the things that makes New York City stand out in the entire world, the United Nations. I'll be welcoming President Biden later today, when he arrives. He is doing extraordinary work to move this nation forward. Work that's going to mean so much for New York City, obviously, particularly in the fight against the pandemic and the fight against the climate crisis, but, also, what he's doing on infrastructure, which we're going to benefit from so much – a really important moment on so many levels.  

So, U.N. General Assembly Week, we welcome the United Nations back full strength. Of course, I want to urge all New Yorkers, avoid the area around the United Nations on the east side of Manhattan. It's going to be congested for most of the week. But again, there's a lot of good things happening this week that we're happy to have back. I want to affirm very importantly to all New Yorker, NYPD is looking at the situation very carefully. Tremendous security precautions are in place, working with our federal partners. As of this moment, no credible or specific threats directed against New York City during General Assembly Week.  

I mentioned that we're going to be reaching the whole world with vaccinations. Well, I want to start by applauding Secretary General Gutierrez, for leading the way by calling upon everyone who participates in the general assembly to be vaccinated, putting strong protocols in place. We need to send a message to all the world leaders, including most notably Bolsonaro, from Brazil, that if you intend to come here, you need to be vaccinated. If you don't want to be vaccinated, don't bother coming, because everyone should be safe together. That means everyone needs to be vaccinated. The vast majority of the folks at the United Nations, the vast majority of the member states are doing the right thing. The city is helping. We have a vaccine bus outside the U.N. today. We're happy to vaccinate anybody and everyone to keep this city safe, to keep everybody involved safe. And I want to give a special thank you to the United States Representative to the United Nations, Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield, who has been leading the way. She's really been a powerful voice for vaccination and for making sure the General Assembly is done the right way. She is going to be visiting our vaccine workers this morning, which they're going to really appreciate. And I want to thank the Ambassador for all she does to work with New York City. So, big week ahead, and we're looking forward to a safe week.  

All right, now everybody, we are dealing, as a Donovan Richard, said earlier, the Borough President said earlier, we're dealing with a real challenge on Rikers Island. A lot has been done in the last few weeks to address this. Most importantly, on Friday, a major step forward, something that I've been calling on, and a lot of us have been calling on for the State of New York to do, the Less is More legislation signed into law by the Governor. We thank her for that. That's allowing us to immediately move a number of individuals out of Rikers, that's helping us to make the situation safer and better for everyone, for officers and inmates alike. There's going to be additional movements in the coming days of inmates, moving to State facilities. A lot is going to change. There’s a very aggressive effort in place to ensure that we turn around the situation in Rikers intensely fast, for the good of all. We're getting a lot of help from the NYPD, which I appreciate deeply. We're bringing in additional capacity to help improve safety and security. But, in addition, we're being very, very clear that we have to change the reality on the ground in terms of our workforce. Again, vast majority of our workforce is doing the right thing. Some members of the workforce are doing the wrong thing and letting down their fellow officers by being AWOL. They will be suspended immediately, as dozens have been. I think the message is being sent very clearly. The way to get a situation to improve is for everyone to show up for work, support each other, help make it a safe environment for everyone – that's how we move forward, as we reduce the population there the right way, the safe way. And, very importantly, one of the things that emanated out of COVID and caused so many of the problems and so much of the real pain that officers have gone through with the triple shifts. We've talked about this many times, we intend to end those once and for all in October. We are fixing the staffing situation with both the aggressive moves to get people to come back to work and by adding additional officers and bringing in outside capacity to support them. We know that these efforts together will allow us to end those triple shifts finally.  

But, everyone, look, we need more help from the State going forward. There's a number of people who have been sentenced to State sentences, they need to be moved quickly to the State. The State is being very cooperative. I want to thank everyone at the State government for that, but it has to happen quickly. Of course, we need our justice system to function. We are asking again for 500 cases – there's more than that at Riker's of people who have been there for a very long time awaiting trial. We need to see 500 cases calendared immediately to help move the process of resolving these cases. If someone is able to go free, that's the determination – great. If they need to go to State prison, then that needs to happen. But any way you slice it, we need the justice system to start addressing all of these backlog cases, because this is one of the fundamental problems underlying all the other problems. So, a lot being done, a lot more will be done in the next few days, and we'll have updates throughout the week.  

Okay. Let me turn now, as we do every day, to our indicators, starting with a very good number. We've seen really good numbers on vaccination in recent days, high numbers, clearly connected to both the incentives and the mandates. As of today, 11,243,542 doses in New York City have been administered. The big-picture reality – amazing. We're now almost to 81 percent of adults in New York City who have had a first dose. We're almost to 62 percent of New York City residents fully vaccinated, all residents fully vaccinated. Almost at 71 percent with our 12- to 17- year-olds, at least one dose. And, as I mentioned, we could see as early as next month five- to 11-year-olds eligible, and that would be a game-changer. So, a lot happening that's going to help us beat back COVID. So, number-one, that's the doses. Number-two, daily of number of people admitted to New York City hospitals for suspected COVID-19 – today's report, 133 patients. Confirmed positivity level, 26.9 percent. Hospitalization rate per 100,000 – 1.12. And that is a number we watch very closely that's a good number today. And, finally, number three, new reported cases on a seven-day average – today’s report, 1,512 cases.  

Finally, few words in Spanish, and it's on my favorite topic, vaccination, and one of my other favorite topics, the Borough of Queens. 

[Mayor de Blasio speaks in Spanish] 

With that, let's turn to our colleagues in the media and please let me know the name and outlet of each journalist. 

Moderator: We'll now begin our Q-and-A. As a reminder at we're joined today by Borough President Richards, by Chancellor Porter, by Dr. Chokshi, by Dr. Katz, by Susan Haskell, the Deputy Commissioner for Youth Services at DYCD, by DOC Commissioner Vinnie Schiraldi, and by MOCJ Director at Marcos Soler. The first question today goes to Katie Honan from the City. 

Question: Hey. Happy Queens Week, Mayor de Blasio. How are you? 

Mayor: I'm doing great, Katie. Happy Queens Week, I assume we will see you out there? 

Question: You’ve got to say where you're at. You didn't say you're going to be there until just now – we’ve got to, you know, grab lunch or something. We’ve got to – when you're on the borough. 

Mayor: Don't worry, we figure you're quick. You know, as soon as you hear it, you'll be there instantly. 

Question: Speaking of Queens, on a more – much more serious topic. The damage from Hurricane Ida – obviously, so many people died in Queens. There was severe flooding. The Mayor's Management report on Friday showed that there was way fewer sewer backups resolved last year and sewer cleanup [inaudible] the Department of Environmental Protection than in previous years. I just wanted to ask you why, considering we know that that is a major contributor to flooded streets? 

Mayor: Yeah. Katie, I would say that one of the things we’re working on right now is how to make adjustments to address the issues with the sewers. But I’ve got to be clear, I've talked to Commissioner Sapienza about this quite a bit. What happened with Ida was absolutely terrifying in terms of the amount of water that fell in a short period of time, far beyond anything either projected or ever experienced. And even with perfectly functioning sewers, it was going to overwhelm the sewer system. We talked about this a week or two ago, the sewer system is not built – entire City sewer system is not built for that level of water. So, we have to look in the eye the things that it will take to adjust to the new climate reality. And we're talking about a huge, huge sum of money and many, many years, but we've got to get to work on it, particularly with the help of the federal government with the infrastructure bill. In the meantime, our Task Force on Extreme Weather is working on what we can do that would be most effective in the short-term to at least have some impact in the light of this kind of extreme weather. So, we certainly will be doing more in the way of addressing some of the particular sewer problems. But in terms of the bigger solution, I believe it's going to take a massive, massive investment. And, as we talked about a couple of weeks back, I think our best bet in the short-term is going to be a different approach to projecting, and warning, and evacuating. Go ahead, Katie. 

Question: Thank you. And I guess speaking of that, of the Mayor's Management Report, I know that there were a lot of – you highlighted some of the highlights last week, but there were a lot of issues, whether it's not building any express bus lanes over the past fiscal year and other issues. Do you kind of, do you still blame COVID for a lot of this, or as you reflecting on your last year as Mayor with some regrets about some of the issues that really are out in plain view in the data in that report?

Mayor: Yeah, Katie, it's always a mix. There are things I look at and say that I should have done better, or the team should have done better or just missed opportunities sometimes. But I think overwhelmingly you're seeing in a lot of that data, the impact of COVID, there's no question. A huge amount of construction got thrown off, capital spending. That was a known fact. And we had to make those choices initially with very little sense of where things were going and a lot of fear that they were going to be really, really horrible. But what I appreciate is the turnaround has been really quick as well. And a lot of big projects are back on track now, and they're going to move quick and that's what matters.

Borough President Donovan. Mr. Mayor –

Mayor: Please, Borough President.

Borough President Donovan: On the catch base, the storm sewers. When I was in the Council, obviously I served in the capacity as the Chairman of the Environmental Protection Committee before my good friend Costa Constantinides. And we had actually pushed the DEP and passed the bill which mandated them to do yearly cleanups of the storm sewers. And I really urge the Council to go back and look at that legislation again. I think it was sunset last year sometime. So, we can get DEP back on cleaning these storm sewers on a yearly cycle rather than a three or four year cycle they used to.

Mayor: Yeah. And I want to commend the Borough President for that. That is one of the directions that we expect to act on quickly. Again, the task force is looking at that with other issues. I think that would help. But I, again, I think it's important, kind of real talk, that wouldn't have saved us from what we experienced with Ida. It is just a really good thing to do. And as we now are in stronger fiscal and other situations, you know, back on our feet, I agree with the Borough President, that's an important direction. And we'll have more to say on that in the next week or so.

Moderator: The next is Lisa Rozner from WCBS.

Question: Hi, Mayor. How are you?

Mayor: Good, Lisa. How you been?

Question: Good. Thanks for asking. A question about Rikers. So, what is the latest on the release of the parolees? How many of the 191 that were approved have actually been released? And is the man who unfortunately died, was he one of the ones that was supposed to be released?

Mayor: Lisa, our understanding right now, thank you for the question, is that he was not on that list. But we are investigating everything related to that tragedy. It's horrible. We want to know what happened here and why. As Commissioner Schiraldi said, our initial understanding is, it was natural causes, and that the health response was quick. But we need a full investigation to understand. The, but again, my initial information is he was not on that list from the State. To your question on the numbers. So far 161 have been released fully. Most of the others have a outstanding warrant of a different type, either from another jurisdiction or a different type of charge pending. Those are all being looked at. Obviously, anyone with an outstanding warrant, that has to be addressed. So, they will not be released until that is appropriately addressed, but 161 are out so far. Go ahead, Lisa.

Question: And then – thank you. And then attorneys and the courts say the backlog is also due to detainees not being transported to court or to meetings with their attorneys because of the staff shortages. So, how is that specific issue being addressed?

Mayor: Really important question. Look, understanding that everything very, very tragically got set in motion by COVID, because of all the disruption and the amount of time staff had to work and all the things that created the underlying problems. Now, what we're doing is a combination of bringing in additional support for the vast majority of officers who are doing the right thing. We're providing a variety of ways of helping them and supporting them in their job. We're also being clear on those who are not showing up, that they will suffer consequences, very intense consequences. And if they don't want to suffer those consequences, they have to show up for work and do their job immediately. All of those efforts we believe, will stabilize the staffing situation, get us away from the triples that have been the underlying problem. Allow us therefore, to have enough staffing to do those transports consistently. We're also bringing in the NYPD and outside contractors to help take additional pieces that will relieve pressure on the Correction officers and allow them to do other jobs. So, this piece I believe gets addressed with all the other things we're doing to stabilize the staffing situation.

Moderator: The next is Andrew Siff from WNBC.

Question: Good morning, Mr. Mayor, and everyone on the call. Mayor, you talked about the goal to get kids five to 11 vaccinated by Halloween. I was wondering if we could get your health team to weigh in on how realistic that may be? From what I understand, Pfizer would present their results to the FDA by the end of this month. And how ambitious would that be for the FDA to make a ruling in time for Halloween to essentially be effective? And connected with that, you wouldn't have fully vaccinated kids until late into November or December. If your Health team could sort of weigh in on what a realistic timeline might be?

Mayor: I'll turn to Dr. Chokshi and Dr. Katz, but a reminder, Andrew, obviously even a first shot provides some real protection. But secondly, this is a global pandemic. So, calling upon the federal government to prioritize providing the shots for our youngest kids and really move heaven and Earth – there is not just one way to do things. The review process needs to be thorough. But what we're saying is throw everything you got at it because we need these shots now. And I do think getting them ready for Halloween is now a realistic goal. But I want you to hear from Dr. Chokshi and Dr. Katz.

Commissioner Dave Chokshi, Department of Health and Mental Hygiene: Thank you, sir. And thanks Andrew, for this question. What we heard this morning is certainly good news. It's very promising that Pfizer does have the data to be able to submit an official application to the federal government, to the FDA. We're hearing by the end of September, as you mentioned. At that point I do believe that the FDA has to deal with this with a tremendous sense of urgency both because of what the Mayor said, this is an important step in continuing to combat the pandemic. And also in a more, you know human way, this is the question that I get so commonly from parents who are worried, from people who want to make sure that the benefits of vaccination extend to their kids. So, I do hope that that the FDA brings to bear all of the resources to do of course, a comprehensive, you know, thorough view on safety and effectiveness of the vaccine, so that we can actually begin to administer it as soon as possible. At that point the Pfizer vaccine even for this age group, it would be two doses. It's a smaller dose compared to what's being administered to 12 years old and older, but it would be two doses, spaced three weeks apart. And then one would be considered fully vaccinated two weeks after the second dose. Thank you.

Mayor: Dr. Katz, you want to add?

President and CEO Mitchell Katz, NYC Health + Hospitals: I would add that, remember that this, the vaccine itself has already been approved for older ages. And millions and millions of people, including teenagers have received it already. And that we're not talking about a different species, we're just talking about humans, somewhat younger for which they've adjusted the dose. So, you would expect an approval to be much faster than if this were a new drug and had not already been tried. I also wouldn't be surprised if it turns out the children develop immunity faster. Just in general, the body is well set up when you're young for developing immunity more so than for the older people. So, I'm hopeful that we can have it by Halloween. Thank you.

Mayor: Thank you very much. Go ahead, Andrew.

Question: You mentioned, and your Chancellor mentioned the new policy with regard to children not having to quarantine if there is a confirmed case in their classroom. That starts next week. But as of right now, if I understand your schools website correctly, there are 77 classroom closures. Is it correct to assume that the children in those classrooms are now quarantining? So, there may be hundreds or a little more than a thousand kids who are currently quarantining as we speak?

Mayor: There's definitely – no. Absolutely right to assume we're working under the current policy. And we want to make sure going forward that we, again focus health and safety first, but also match that with a desire to keep the maximum number of kids in school. So, we looked at what we were seeing initially. We looked at the data again, talked through different scenarios. Both these ideas, as I mentioned, have been on the table, to go to the CDC guidance on quarantine and to go to the weekly testing. We're doing them in combination. But yes, there's a number of kids out of school right now. And again, our goal is to avoid that whenever possible so as long as we can do it safely.

Moderator: The next is Ari Feldman from NY1.

Question: Good morning. How's it going? Can everyone hear me?

Mayor: Yeah, Ari. How are you today?

Question: I'm doing well. How are you?

Mayor: I'm in Queens so I'm cool.

Question: Great. That's where my mom's from. So, the first question is on Rikers talking about the transfer of detainees last week. The Governor authorized 200 detainees. Those were all people who have served a majority of their sentences and are serving less than a year. Why won't you use your powers under 6A to release people instead of sending them to prisons that are far away, they're upstate, and makes it hard for their families or people from their communities to go visit them?

Mayor: It really depends on the specific cases, Ari. We're looking at all options. But what we're talking about here is in cases where people need to serve their sentence, ensuring it's done in a way that makes sense, not in our jails if there's an alternative. But also remember a lot of what we're talking here, less is more, is avoiding both folks being in jail on a technical parole violation to begin with. Which doesn't make sense. And also stopping new folks from coming in on a technical parole violation. And then the other piece of the equation is those who are already sentenced to State sentences but had not yet been moved. So, there's several moving parts. But we will look at that scenario, but only in cases where we believe it's absolutely safe to do. Go ahead, Ari.

Question: Thanks. And a question on schools for these new policies. Is the City going to start this policy with the assumption that all students are keeping three feet of distance? Because we've seen plenty of footage from students, much closer in hallways and even in the art classroom that Chancellor Porter visited on Friday, students were sitting right next to each other at shared tables. It's not a three feet distance. Will students in those kinds of seating arrangements have to quarantine?

Mayor: So, I'll turn to the doctors, but I want to emphasize, passing in a hallway, remember people are masked. This has been one of the things that's been really positive and impressive about the kids and the adults in our school system, that masking, which was originally considered a huge challenge, people have taken to and stuck to. And it's really been a difference maker. It's part of why the New York City public schools have been one of the safest places to be in the city. So, if you're masked and you're moving by someone in a hallway that does not constitute close contact. In terms of classrooms, you make an important point and I'll let the doctors speak to it, that we obviously intend to keep to the maximum extent possible, to that three feet standard. The bottom line here though, is we've seen from the CDC guidance, the value of masking and distance, both play a role, and the is to not send a child home who is not symptomatic, unless there's a very specific reason. Dr. Chokshi, Dr. Katz, you want to speak to that?

Commissioner Chokshi: Thank you, sir. I'll just contextualize briefly. As the Mayor and the Chancellor have both mentioned, we have the twin goal, first keeping kids safe. Second, keeping kids in school, learning in-person as much as possible. And the changes that we announced this morning have to be taken into context of the overall approach which is the layers of safety that you've heard us talk about before. Two of those layers will be strengthened as of next week. The first is with respect to vaccination because our vaccine mandate will go into effect as of next Monday. And then the second, is the fact that we're moving to weekly testing. This is what allows us to bring a scalpel to our quarantine policy, aligning it with CDC guidance. And making sure that it is truly only those children who are at highest risk of exposure to someone who is identified as a confirmed case in the classroom. And those are kids who are either within three feet or unmasked. And that has to happen for a sufficient duration of time for that to be considered a close contact and for that child to quarantine. So, taken together, this allows us to strike the balance of both keeping kids safe while ensuring that kids remain in school when it is safe for them to do so. 

Mayor: Thank you. Dr. Katz.  

President and CEO Mitchell Katz, NYC Health + Hospitals: I would just add these will all be individualized decisions made in the context of cases, but just because one group of children are together and closer than three feet doesn't mean that they are exposed to the case. So, we would look at where the case was and determine who were the other children who were at risk. But in every case, it will be an individualized decision made in the best interest of the child.  

Mayor: And I want to say, Dr. Katz, thank you for your leadership and Ted Long, everyone at Test and Trace because Test and Trace, working with Situation Room, play a crucial role in keeping our kids, and the adults in our schools as well, safe. And as you pointed out, there's very specific standards, very specific investigations. That worked very powerfully last school year and over summer with Summer Rising. And we're doing the same thing again this year.   

Moderator: The next is Emma Fitzsimmons from the New York Times.  

Question: Hi, good morning, Mayor. I'm wondering with the good news about the Pfizer vaccines for kids, are you reconsidering requiring vaccines this school year?  

Mayor: You mean in terms of kids?  

Question: Yeah, for students. Yeah.  

Mayor: Not at this time. No. We still believe – I believe fundamentally the goal is to get our kids in school for the foreseeable future. The best way to do that is to welcome all kids while constantly working to improve the levels of vaccination. Now we're over 70 percent of first dose with the 12- to 17-year-olds. So, that's really, really promising. And I think you're going to see a huge uptick in the five- to 11-year-olds when the vaccine is authorized. But I do not want to see kids excluded. I want to invite kids in and then constantly work to get them vaccinated. Go ahead, Emma.  

Question: Also, I was wondering, you know, early voting starts a month from now in the mayor's race. And Curtis Sliwa has argued that he's receiving less attention than Joe Lhota or Nicole Malliotakis. I'm curious, you know, if you think that's true and whether he has any chance of winning.  

Mayor: I believe, objectively, he does not. But, you know, we have elections for a purpose. It's not until the people have spoken. And I think previous opponents brought a certain amount of substance to the table and that gave them a little more validity, but in the end, I think people of this city are ready to embrace Eric Adams. And I think he's the right choice.   

Moderator: The next is Marla Diamond from WCBS 880.  

Question: Good morning, Mayor, and everyone else on the call. Also, with regard to the schools, can you give us more details on the entire closure of P.S. 79 in East Harlem? How many cases were identified there? Were they all staff members or were some of them students? And do you know if those staff members were vaccinated?  

Mayor: I'm going to see what Dr. Katz knows from Test and Trace and what the Chancellor knows, and then I might add on top of that. But Dr. Katz, do you have the facts on that school in particular? Or else we'll go to the Chancellor.  

President Katz: Sorry, sir. I don't have the facts on that particular case.   

Mayor: Okay. Chancellor, do you want to speak to it?  

Chancellor Porter: Yeah, we don't have the specific numbers of teachers and students, but just want to make clear that we're making health and safety our top priority. And we worked really closely with the Situation Room to shift the school to remote learning. Luckily our educators have already set up our Google Classrooms and our students have devices, so we were already ready to go.  

Mayor: Yeah. And Marla, look, we're going to – we'll get you fuller details. I think it's fair to say – and I don't know if Dave has anything to add as well – that typically when it's among adults, we're seeing cases in those who are still not yet vaccinated, but we'll get you the facts on this particular case. Go ahead, Marla.  

Question: Okay. And, just saying that I asked that because your policy now is vaccination or proof of a negative test, and the full vaccine mandate doesn't go into effect until the 27th, I believe. But I'm also wondering if you're still standing steadfast on no remote option – we spoke to a lot of parents outside P. S. 79, who say, you know, to avoid disruption, especially in the schools, the grade schools where kids can't get vaccinated, there should be some sort of remote option at least until those kids can get vaccinated or until the Delta variant is not such a threat.  

Mayor: Marla, I really appreciate the question. I'm going to turn to the Chancellor, but just with this framing. The Chancellor and I fundamentally believe that our kids need to be in school. That's why there is not a broad remote option in place, but when an entire school is closed for those 10 days, we can reach those kids differently because the entire school staff is home as well. So, Chancellor, speak about how that is handled with a full school closure, how you create continuity and instruction.  

Chancellor Porter: Sure, definitely. You know, we learned a lot in the pandemic. You know, we shifted immediately, the system, and learned a lot over the time. And so, before we even started the school year, we had our classrooms and our teachers set up Google Classroom, because we knew that this was part of our story that getting back to in-person learning also meant that, you know, there would be remote days. Our snow days are going to be remote. So, we made sure that every school was set up and ready to shift immediately. And remember we got over 500,000 devices into the hands of our students. And so, we were ready to shift. And as the Mayor said, you know – and I think you know, the doctors will agree – what we know is that the best learning that happens is in-person between students and teachers. And we also know that a greater health issue that we are concerned about is ensuring that our students get back into the classrooms and back socialized that way. And so, we were ready to shift. P. S. 79 did a great job shifting. We look forward to making adjustments to decrease the number of times that we have to shift, but we also know that we're ready.  

Mayor: Thank you very much.   

Moderator: We have time for two more for today. The next is Christina Veiga from Chalkbeat.  

Question: Hi, Mayor, thanks for taking my question. I was hoping that you and Chancellor Porter and perhaps the public health officials on the call can speak a little more specifically about why you're making the changes to testing and quarantine. What information or experiences did you see throughout the first week that did this?  

Mayor: Yeah, Christina, this is a conversation that's been going on for several weeks. But we wanted to see what happened in the first week of school, came to the conclusion that to achieve both our goals – health and safety first, and then keeping the maximum number of kids in school the right way – that these two actions together would actually improve our overall situation. We saw very good attendance the first week. We saw relatively few disruptions. But we saw enough quarantining that we thought this is something we want to get ahead of and make sure that only those who really need the quarantine are quarantining. Chancellor or Dr. Katz, Dr. Chokshi – anyone want to add? That means I covered it. Go ahead, Christina.  

Question: The new policy also raises a number of new questions for us. First of all, what's going to happen at lunch when students are unmasked? The CDC policy says that students can stay in class as long as they've been properly masked. And it also raises the question of what kind of instruction are elementary school students, who are quarantining, going to get. It seems like it might be more difficult if, you know, only part of a class is quarantining and the rest are allowed to stay in person. Who is going to teach those students in each setting?  

Mayor: Okay. Two very different questions. On the lunch issue, I don't think this changes that fundamentally. We can have the Chancellor and the doctors speak to that. But on the question of instruction, I certainly understand your point, but I would flip it around. What we have at the middle and high school level, because so many kids are vaccinated and we see those numbers going up all the time, is when there is a case in a classroom, the vaccinated kids who are not symptomatic, will stay in school. And that is the optimal situation. And for the kids who do have to go home, hopefully they are very few, we will provide alternative instruction. I think this helps us mirror the same reality at the elementary school level – minimize the unnecessary quarantining, keep those kids in school where they're being taught the best and most effective way, and we'll continue to provide alternative instruction for any kids who need to go home. So, speaking to that and the lunch issue, I'll mix and match starting with the Chancellor and then the doctors can weigh in.  

Chancellor Porter: Here I am. So, first of all, you know, to your point, it is so important that our school communities remain whole when possible. And I think to your point of, you know, allowing vaccinated students to stay in school allows for the continuity of in-person and in-person instruction. On lunch we remain to be in accordance with the CDC guidelines. And our school and staff are working very closely with Test and Trace. The Situation Room is working closely on cases in classrooms. And so, we're confident that this will allow us to keep more students in classrooms and ensure the continuity of instruction for all students.  

Mayor: Thank you. Doctors, do you want to add – particularly on the lunch issue? Go ahead –   

Commissioner Chokshi: Yeah, just add briefly on the lunch question. As the Chancellor said, you know, there are additional safeguards that are being put into place, particularly when children are unmasked, including at lunchtime. And because of that, you know, the ways in which exposures are categorized by our contact tracers will depend on both the proximity and the duration of contact. So, they're often very specific circumstances that have to be discerned but, you know, based on our guidance and the CDC guidance people will be appropriately quarantined when there is that risk of exposure.  

Mayor: Dr. Katz, anything you want to add?  

President Katz: I just want to summarize again, that all decisions are made in the best interest of the child, taking into account all of the circumstances. Thank you, sir.   

Mayor: Thank you. Okay, go ahead.   

Moderator: Last question for today, it goes to the Julia Marsh from the Post.  

Question: Hey, good morning, Mr. Mayor. Can you hear me?   

Mayor: Yes, Julia, how are you doing today?  

Question: Good. Another Mayor's Management Report question. It showed that the NYPD arrested just 13 drivers for striking pedestrians with their cars, despite recording almost 1,800 such collisions. Also, the number of speeding and failure to yield summonses issued by cops dropped by more than 27 percent and more than 63 percent respectively. In terms of Vision Zero, you've said that the State and feds need to do more to help implement it. But what about your own police department’s lax enforcement? And you mentioned to Katie that there were some shortcomings that you and your team take responsibility for. What are those?  

Mayor: I don't have a list in front of me right now, Julia, but this is something, as I look at things all day long, I talked to the key members of my team where I think we haven't measured up, or I think a decision I made didn't make sense and we need to reassess. Whatever it is, we work on it all the time. I'll try and get a list together for you at some point, but let me go to the question about Vision Zero. For the six years before COVID, we know that very aggressive enforcement by the NYPD played a crucial role, on failure to yield on speeding, it was a crucial element of Vision Zero. We also know that everything in terms of enforcement got disrupted profoundly by COVID because the NYPD was called to a variety of other crucial tasks, because there was a long period of time where the strength of the department was reduced because of COVID. Many, many other challenges. So, we need to reorient to get us back to the strong levels of enforcement that we had before. But I would be very clear, NYPD was pulled in a variety of directions, trying to deal with a global pandemic. That's one of the examples of the Mayor's Management Report I don't think is because anyone didn't do their job, it was because of the circumstance of COVID. But I do expect as we come out of COVID to see those enforcement levels intensify again. Go ahead, Julia.  

Question: Thanks. Now, back to schools. I'm wondering if the unvaccinated teacher rate has changed much beyond the 74 percent, and if you know how many people have sought medical and religious exemptions. The reason this is important because that's potentially 15,000 teachers, and if the number hasn't moved much, how will you absorb the absences?  

Mayor: Seeing – I'll turn to the Chancellor, after I speak. But Julia, we're seeing very few – in the scheme of things, very few applications for those exemptions so far. I think the numbers on overall vaccination are growing constantly, both because we're getting reports in of people vaccinated, we didn't have previously, and people are going and getting vaccinated. We are not seeing something that would have a profound impact on the teaching core numbers for next Monday. That's what I'm seeing so far, but go ahead, Chancellor. Why don't you add?  

Chancellor Porter: Yeah​, we currently have over 78 percent of our employees vaccinated. We gave out over 3,000 vaccines to students and staff on campus over the first few days of school. So, we're excited about that. And we think we're moving in the right direction. You know, we hired 5,200 new teachers, larger than we've hired in past years. And so, we feel confident we will be staffed.  

Mayor: Thank you very much. And, everybody, look as we begin this week in Queens, which is going to be wonderful, again, kudos to the people of Queens. Literally Queens has led the way on the vaccination effort. The most vaccinated borough, amazing effort on the ground. Thank you to all the vaccinators, thank you to everyone who went out there and helped make sure that people got vaccinated. And again, you're going to see these numbers go up in the coming days in Queens and everywhere, because a lot of the mandates that will take effect next Monday, the 27th. So, this is how we recover – vaccination, vaccination, vaccination. And it's working, and we're particularly excited by the possibility that our youngest New Yorkers could be ready to get vaccinated as early as next month. Let's all hope and pray that happens as quick as that for the good of all. Thank you, everybody.  



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