December 16, 2021
Michael Smerconish: With all of that, we welcome Mayor Bill de Blasio to the program. Mayor, what the heck just happened here?
Mayor Bill de Blasio: Omicron happened. This is a whole new animal and we got to be honest about the fact that it's moving very fast and we have to move faster. And honestly, Michael, I really appreciate the humanity and the sort of openness of what you said about what you're thinking. But I'm only going to differ with you on one thing, which is –
Smerconish: Tell me.
Mayor: You know, the folks who aren't getting vaccinated, if we apply mandates forcefully, it actually moves a lot of people. The number of people who are just 100 percent ideologically, dyed in the wool, anti-vax is still very, very small. This city right now, 90 percent of adults, 90 percent of adults have had at least one dose of the vaccine. And there are plenty of people with strong opinions here. There are plenty of people who like Donald Trump here. You know, there's plenty of people who don't want the government to tell them want to do, but the mandates made a difference because people are not going to lose a paycheck over it. You know, they're not going to not be able to go to a restaurant. If you say, here are some clear rules you want to fully participate in society? All you got to do is get vaccinated. The vast majority of people say, okay, I'm in.
Smerconish: You're 11 days away, right? From the most stringent employer mandate in the country.
Smerconish: Which is you've just made the case as to why you're advocating for that. But to play devil's advocate, I could say City employees, teachers, restaurants, gyms were already subject to a mandate of yours. Were they unsuccessful?
Mayor: No, they were. And now we're taking it to the next level because there are hundreds of thousands of businesses that were not part of those previous mandates. A lot of retail, for example, was not covered by that. Barber shops were not covered by that. So, we're going to now reach across the spectrum in the business community, office workers. And we found with restaurants in this city, theaters, it worked, it actually was good for business. The customers knew they were safe. The employees knew they were safe. Business has been booming. We found with our public employees, we're now at 94 percent with our public employees. A lot of drama. There were a lot of people who said, no way I'll do it. Except when we said, Hey, here's your choice. Get vaccinated or you can go on leave without pay. Well, most people don't like to be on leave without pay. And they said, okay, I'll do it. And their families wanted them to do it. And that has made all the difference.
Smerconish: You know that some business groups, I guess I'd cite the Wall Street Journal. Their editorial says you're kicking small business when they can least afford it?
Mayor: COVID is bad for business. The mandates are good for business. COVID is bad for business. I've heard from so many business people, first of all, bluntly have said, please do it for us. If the government does it, then we don't have to be –
Smerconish: The bad guy.
Mayor: Right. We don't have to say to our employees, oh, let me explain this to you. We can just point at that sign on the wall and say, Hey guys, everyone has to do it. A lot of business people said, please make it as universal as possible. So, folks won't go from one industry or another if they're trying to shop for a place with no mandate. I actually think this is what's going to save business. And also what's the worst thing in the world for business? What's going on now in England, Germany, Austria – shutdowns, restrictions. That's what kills business. That's what kills jobs. Mandates are actually going to save us from having a shutdown.
Smerconish: Tom Friedman says the world is flat. That applies to COVID, right? We're like a chain that is as strong only as our weakest link. No matter what Bill de Blasio does in New York City, if middle America isn't doing something different. And what does it matter? It comes here eventually?
Mayor: It does. But what you said before was profoundly true. If someone's vaccinated, particularly if they gotten that booster, they're a hell a lot safer. You're right. They still might get COVID. I might get COVID. You might get COVID. But we're going to live through it. We probably don't end up in a hospital. Which is not only good for you and me, it's good for the whole society. It's good so that our hospital system can treat people in greater need. I believe the more mandates, the more impact. And we've got to be bold about this. Mayors, governors, CEOs bite the bullet. Just do it. Yeah, you're going to have protests. Guess what? It's a global pandemic. Suck it up. You know, go and do it, get it done.
Smerconish: Should there be an exception in your mandate for people who've had it? I know that if they've had monoclonal treatment or if they've had the plasma, they're given a 90-day exception? But should you be more allowing for somebody who says, Hey, I've got the antibodies because I've already fought and won against COVID?
Mayor: Not if you listen to all our doctors. I mean, it's an honest question. I've had this dialogue with a lot of people from the heart. And I know they see some real safety in having had it. There's some truth, but it's not the same as being vaccinated. Our doctors will tell you clearly, if you want the maximum protection, the maximum likelihood you won't get it and you won't transmit it, you got to be vaccinated. And by the way, COVID for God sakes, COVID has taught us a lesson. It changes all the time. So, the reason you want to be extra careful is because you don't know what the next curve ball's going to be. We've got to be honest, mandates work. We've proven it here. United Airlines proved it. You know, a lot of people, public and private sector have proven it. Let's just go do it. And I think it's going to take bluntly, political courage amongst elected officials. And even among CEOs,
Smerconish: There's no testing exception either. I mean, you're hardcore, right?
Smerconish: You don't recognize if someone's had it, nor is there a testing exception to your mandate? How come?
Mayor: Because testing only allows you to find out if someone's got it, it doesn't help you stop it. We looked at the models in Europe, they were much looser. I said, if there's only one thing that we know works, it is vaccination. Let's go all the way. Now, right now, 90 percent, as I said, 90 percent of New Yorkers have had at least one dose. And even though we've seen a big increase lately, our hospitals are doing very, very well. That's not true in the rest of a lot of this country and the rest, even the state, it's not true. Our hospital system is strong. We thank God, at very few deaths because the more people who are vaccinated, the more people are going to make it through. It's as simple as that. Now I can tell you something, if we didn't put these mandates in place, I'll give you sheer, simple math. It’s 60 percent of our adults were vaccinated in the middle of August when we started the mandates. It's 90 percent now. United States of America is about 60 percent fully vaccinated. New York City's over 70 percent fully vaccinated. All residents.
Smerconish: You're doing all of this on your way out the door. How many days left? 16?
Smerconish: Eric Adams, he can undo all of this if he chooses to?
Mayor: Well, Eric Adams has said something really clear. He's going to follow the leadership and the advice of the health care leaders. And they are clear as a bell. You know, every tool, distancing is good. Masks are good, but there's something that rises above all the other tools. It is vaccination.
Smerconish: And you're off to run for governor?
Mayor: I am going be continuing in public service, for sure. And I am going to be going around the State of New York, talking about the things we need to change in this state.
Smerconish: Should you be doing better in the first of the surveys, given that everybody knows who you are? You've got the name ID.
Mayor: I do have name ID, and I've governed through an incredibly tough period. And I hope whatever the political future, I hope people ultimately say that a lot of these decisions like the mandates, were the right thing to do. But I understand we're all going through a lot right now. I'm not going to judge anything about public opinion or politics in the middle of what is once again, a live pandemic. My job is to keep New Yorkers safe. The politics will take care of itself later.
Smerconish: Mayor, I like to respond to social media in real time.
Smerconish: All right. Will you join me?
Mayor: Of course.
Smerconish: Let's see what's come in. I think this is to you. Smerconish, if what you were saying and the New York City Mayor, why is there going to be a New Year's celebration in as many days, even as you have said that you are expecting to get COVID, even though you're fully vaccinated? Why is there going to be a big celebration if this is the state of affairs?
Mayor: Well, we made the decision a few weeks back when things were much better. But we said vaccinated people only.
Mayor: And outdoors.
Smerconish: How do you enforce that?
Mayor: We're – literally every ID is going to be checked.
Smerconish: A million people?
Mayor: Sure. We're working with our partner, the Times Square Alliance. And everyone's been told for weeks and weeks, don't even show up in Times Square unless you're vaccinated. Now we're going to reassess constantly with the new information. We're going to follow the data and the science. Right now, it's on. You know, we'll make a decision as we go, get closer as to what should finally happen.
Smerconish: One more. Let's see what it is. The virus won. It's over, the virus won. No longer makes sense to think we'll beat the virus with more transmissible, but less lethal strains. It's endemic. We should start to treat it like the flu, or we could continue to freak out with every news release. But into any of that?
Mayor: I agree, don't freak out. I agree one day it can and should be like the flu. And the flu, you know, the flu takes some lives. The flu's not nothing. But the flu can be controlled. We all get our flu shots and life goes on. I do believe that's ultimately what's going to happen with COVID. That's what our doctors say, our leadership here. But I'll tell you something. I would disagree on one level. Focus on the way to get to that point. Endemic does not need to mean paralyzing. Endemic does not need to mean it dominates our lives. Right now, COVID is dominating our lives. I want to put COVID in the background. The flu, you didn't wake up two years ago and say, oh my God, I'm so worried about the flu. Right? You went down to the pharmacy, you got a flu shot.
Smerconish: People want to lead their lives.
Mayor: And they can again.
Smerconish: You know, I feel it here in New York City. By the way, I'm from Philadelphia. So, it's not like I live in a rural area. But I feel it in every block that I walk in New York City. But if I were in the middle part of the country with you, I don't think we'd see masks. I don't think we'd be showing our vax cards anywhere. So, I come back to that point where, unless everybody's on the same page in the country, we're kind of screwed.
Mayor: You know how you get on the same page? People have to lead. So look, I believe with enough leadership, enough mandates, we're going to get a hell of a lot more people vaccinated. The more people vaccinated, the more we actually make the transition to a time when COVID is in the background, not the foreground. And we know these mandates work. And we know people respond -- look, human beings are pretty predictable. If you say your paycheck depends on it, or your ability to enjoy life and go do the things you want to do, people will make the practical decision overwhelmingly. And they'll go get vaccinated. But we aren't pushing hard enough. We got to go farther.
Smerconish: Mayor, thanks for being here. Really appreciate it. Thanks for responding to the social media as well.
Smerconish: What are your thoughts? Tweet me at @smerconish or go to my Facebook page. I'll continue to read responses throughout the course of the program. We've already dealt exactly with what we've got. Be sure you go to the website as well, answer tonight's survey. Quickly for you, should the definition of fully vaccinated include a booster?
Mayor: We are looking at that right now.
Smerconish: Because yours doesn't, right?
Mayor: Not yet. But I think that will be the way of the future. We're discussing it right now with our health care team. And I can tell you this much, we have 1.5 million people boosted already in New York City. We need everyone to get there. And if this is part of how we get there, then that might be a good piece of the strategy.
Smerconish: I'm taking that as a yes.
Mayor: We're getting there.