November 2, 2021
John Berman: More than 2,000 New York City firefighters calling in sick as a COVID vaccine mandate for City employees went into effect yesterday. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio joins me now. Mr. Mayor, we had a fire department union chief on a short time ago, who said these firefighters have to get doctors sign off on this so this was no organized labor sickout. What do you say to that?
Mayor Bill de Blasio: It seems awfully convenient, John. You see so many more people calling in sick than normal. I don't like what I'm seeing, our Fire Commissioner doesn't like what he's seeing, and it's not right. If you're not sick, get to work, protect your fellow New Yorkers, be there for your fellow firefighters, stop playing this game. Look, here's the news as of this morning, John, 92 percent of the City workforce is now vaccinated as a result of this mandate. The vast majority of our City employees and the vast majority of our firefighters are doing the right thing. But the ones who are playing a game of they're going to have to suffer some consequences, because this is unacceptable.
Berman: What's the current rate of firefighters who are not vaccinated?
Mayor: Right now, we're at about 77 percent with firefighters vaccinated. We also have a number of firefighters that have requested a medical or religious exemption. They'll continue to work while that's being looked at. And then when the decision is made, either you get an exemption or you got to get vaccinated. Once you're at that mandate point it's, get vaccinated or lose your paycheck. It's very straightforward. And again, 92 percent of the workforce has done the right thing. And this is a real example, John – and I say this to every mayor in America, every governor, every CEO of a company in America, please put mandates in place, put vaccine mandates into effect. It works. People respond to them. People respond to the deadline, and this is what's going to make us safe. You got to do it so that we can actually end the COVID era.
Berman: This union chief, Jim McCarthy, told us you only gave firefighters eight days. Why only eight days from the announcement when Corrections officers have until the end of the year.
Mayor: You know, John, about 10 months ago, we were fighting with the State in New York. I was leading the charge for the freedom to vaccinate because firefighters wanted to get vaccinated, and the State wasn't letting them. It's been 10 months that the vaccines have been available. We tried voluntary approaches. We tried incentives. It wasn't moving enough. Since we put this mandate into place, October 20, 24,000 more City employees have gotten vaccinated in just about 10 days. So, there's the proof in the pudding. The vaccination mandates work. If people weren't moving, we had to move through this tool. We had to use a tool that would actually get people vaccinated. There was plenty of time for folks to do it on their own. But look, the people in New York City – let me give you an amazing figure, 86 percent of adults in New York City have had at least one dose of the vaccine. The people have spoken. They believe in these mandates. They want to see the folks they pay [inaudible], the folks that they pay the paycheck for, they want to see them get vaccinated so we can all be safe.
Berman: It's Election Day in New York City, where your successor will be elected today, which leads me to my next question, which is what about you and your future? What's next for you? Have you filed papers to run for governor of New York State?
Mayor: John, I filed papers for a State committee. It's not a gubernatorial committee at this point. It's a committee, New Yorkers for a Fair Future. I'm going to focus on the issues of this state and this city and where we need to go going forward. You know what's happened in New York State the last few years. Unfortunately, a lot of corruption, a lot of scandal, a governor who resigned in disgrace. There's a lot that needs to be fixed in the State of New York. And I'm proud of what I've done in New York City – you know, pre-K for all our kids, lots of more affordable housing, a lot of police reform, and now a tough stance on COVID that helped us become one of the safest places in this country in terms of fighting COVID. I want to keep serving the people of this city and this state.
Berman: It sounds like you're running.
Mayor: Draw your own conclusions, John.
Berman: You're not, not running.
Mayor: That’s – I like that. Use the double negative. That always works. But there's a lot to do. There's a lot to do. You know, this state, we've been through a lot with COVID, but also, it's a state that needs a lot of work. New York State was the leader of this country in so many ways in the past. There's some areas we’ve fallen behind. There's some real work to be done. But look at this vaccine mandate, New York City's leading the way. We're showing it can be done.
Berman: Mayor Bill de Blasio. Appreciate you being with us. Thank you.
Mayor: Thank you, John.