December 19, 2021
Mayor Bill de Blasio: Good afternoon, everybody. I wanted to give a special update today to all New Yorkers, because, obviously, we’re facing a major challenge with the Omicron variant. This is an urgent situation and we need to act urgently. We are seeing a very substantial rise in the member of cases in a way we haven’t seen previously. Now, I’m going to hasten to add – thank God, what helps us, what protects us, as always, is vaccination. So, I’m going to talk immediately about the things that can make a real impact in addressing Omicron. We take Omicron very seriously. We expect a substantial number of cases and a quickly growing number of cases. But we also know Omicron is different from previous variants in a variety of ways, and that vaccination is key to keeping people safe. There’s a lot more we need to learn about Omicron, we don’t have all the research back yet. So far, it does appear to have a milder impact, and that’s good. And certainly, I want to emphasize, that the vaccinations we use here in this city, in this country – these vaccinations work to lessen the impact of Omicron, to make sure that the outcomes for each New Yorker are better because they are vaccinated. So, clearly a challenge, a new challenge, but one we can meet.
And what’s crucial for all New Yorkers to understand is, New York City is ready. We are ready to fight Omicron. We have extraordinary tools and weapons available to us because, for the last two years, we’ve been fighting COVID. We have better treatments than we’ve ever had. We have one of the highest levels of vaccination anywhere in the country. And we have the ability to get a lot more people vaccinated or to get them boosted very, very quickly. And that’s so crucial to what we need to do in the days ahead. And that’s where every New Yorker that comes in, you can do your part. New York City is ready. We need you to be ready too. We need you to do what you can do to keep yourself and your family and your neighborhood safe. So, it's also important to understand that we expect Omicron to be a fast and temporary phenomenon. We expect these next weeks to see a very, very big surge in a number of cases, more than we've seen previously. And then we expect after a period of time that it will dissipate. That's been so far the pattern we've seen in other places, notably South Africa, where we first saw Omicron’s presence. So, there's a lot more to learn as I said, but right now, based on what we know, we're expecting a fast uptick and then going the other way, the case is starting to come down and we move past Omicron.
We can weather that storm if more and more people get vaccinated, more and more people go get those boosters. This temporary reality demands an urgent immediate step, which is to maximize vaccination. And that's what we're going to focus on today. So, everyone understanding that vaccination makes such a profound impact in this situation, that it is the way that we stay safe. It is the way people talk about how do we make sure our hospitals come through this okay? Get vaccinated. It's the same answer. If you want to make sure our health care system is strong? Get vaccinated that minimizes the chance you'll ever end up in a hospital. Or God forbid you require hospitalization, if you're vaccinated your chance of coming through more quickly and with better outcomes greatly increases. And that puts much less stress on the hospital. And most importantly helps you to get through well. Because of the high level of vaccination, even though we expect a lot of cases, we do not expect to see some of the very painful reality we saw certainly in the spring of 2020, or even last winter. We think the outcomes, what happens to people is going to be very much better this time. But it will be even more true, if we keep intensifying our vaccination effort.
So, the mandates we put in place are absolutely necessary. They will be enforced. We're going to double down on those because they are necessary to fight Omicron and to make sure this is a brief period of time and one that does not leave too many scars on the people of this city. The vaccination mandates are more important than ever given from what we're seeing, given what we're seeing from Omicron on the ground. On Thursday, we also announced a six-point plan to increase testing intensely. Testing is crucial here. We're going to be making more and more testing available all over the five boroughs. We're going to be distributing high quality masks for free all over the five boroughs. We're going to be doing a number of things to encourage people to get those booster shots. You'll be seeing new testing sites. You'll be seeing more at-home test kits made available through community-based organizations. All of these efforts will help to reduce the lines that we're seeing at testing sites, and help to make testing more available to folks who want to make sure they're okay. Or God forbid they have COVID, are ready to do the right thing and quarantine and help stop the spread.
Now, in terms of boosters. This is key. Literally millions of New Yorkers can get booster shots now or will be eligible soon. Everyone who qualifies for boosters should get it immediately. We're doubling down on that effort with a $10 million paid media campaign. And we're going to spread the message. You've seen our doctors. You've seen the City's doctors speaking about this. You're going to see a lot more of them. Because they're going to let people know how important the booster is. It makes a world of difference in fighting Omicron and making sure people get through safely.
We're also going to focus on nursing homes. Our Health Department is coordinating rapid access to booster doses for nursing home residents and employees all over the five boroughs. We're going to focus on kids as well, the five to 11-year-olds. We got to see a lot more vaccination there. Parents, grandparents, guardians, please get your five to 11-year-olds vaccinated. It’s time. We need you to. And to our pediatricians who we all depend on so much, we listen to, I can say, as a parent, we listen to our pediatricians deeply. We want to support you in making sure all your patients get vaccinated. And we're working, an idea we started, the State has now picked up. We're going to double down on it, making sure Medicaid reimburses you whenever you encourage your patients to get vaccinated, encourage parents to get those five to 11-year-olds vaccinated. We want to support our pediatricians in that effort. And that information will be put out starting today.
Also, on the federal front, federal government has done so much to help New York City. I want to thank President Biden, his whole team. They've been very aggressive in supporting the kinds of efforts that we've done here. We need help now, because it's not just about vaccination. Treatment matters, of course. And we need a surge of support in terms of monoclonal antibody treatments. We need more made available from New York City. We need the authorization of the Pfizer antiviral pill to be accelerated. We need, given the amount that's needed in terms of test kits and vaccine, again would urge that the President invoke the defense production act and use every tool that the private sector has and the public sector has to continue to provide supplies here and around the country. We are feeling the Omicron wave, especially hard right now, but we know it's going to be all over the country. This whole country needs to go on a war footing to fight back. It can be defeated. It will be defeated, but having enough vaccine when we need it, having enough test kits when we need it, having enough treatment when we need it is key. And that's what we need the federal government's help with. So, I've outlined the basic approach we'll be taking and some of the immediate steps. I am absolutely confident in this city's ability to fight back with Omicron, overcome it. I'm absolutely confident in the ability of our health system to sustain this new surge. But we're all going to have to work together. And we're all going to have to focus on getting the maximum New Yorkers vaccinated and boosted as quickly as possible.
I want you here now from the man who will be taking over the leadership of this city. And Mayor-elect Eric Adams and I have been talking constantly. We talked yesterday, we talked earlier today. We are working together. Our teams are working together. I want to thank him for every moment, looking for solutions with us, looking for the next thing we need to do, talking about how we can maximally prepare for the right steps that he will then continue once he takes office January 1st. It's been a very powerful transition and one that shows what teamwork and cooperation means. And the Mayor-elect is joining us today to amplify to all New Yorkers what we need to do to get through this. My pleasure to welcome Mayor-elect Eric Adams.
Mayor-elect Eric Adams: Good afternoon. Good afternoon, New Yorkers. And really Mayor, I want to thank you just personally, how you have consistently reached out, communicated and coordinated so that we can get through this virus and this pandemic. And I just want to really thank you for just staying focused on COVID and the City's response. These investments and initiatives will save lives and keep New York City safe and reverse the COVID crisis. And make sure that we're able to get our economy up and operating and protect New Yorkers. The Mayor and I are in 100 percent agreement that government must be doing all that it can to stop the COVID surge so that we can protect New Yorkers. And ensure that New York opens again in a prosperous way. And our message to New Yorkers is the same. We are in this together. We must look out for each other. That means getting vaccinated, getting boosted, and getting tested to stop the spread. I took both my shots and I'm encouraging New Yorkers to do the same. We have been through this before. And we beat COVID back and now we must do it again. I know many of you are tired. You really want to return to normalcy. You want the city you love back. And so do I. But the only way we get our city back is to find our resolve once again and face this crisis head on. And we know one thing about New Yorkers. They don't avoid crisis, they conquer it. Again, and again, throughout our history, we have pulled together to pull ourselves out of crisis. And we are going to do it again. This is yet another pivotal moment for us. The personal decisions we make over the next two weeks could determine the success of our city over the next two years.
So, the Mayor and I are here today to tell you that we do everything needed to bring our city back from this crisis. And we will ensure that everything in our power, as the heads of the current administration and the next administration, to give New Yorkers the resources they need to stay healthy and protect each other. And let us be clear about something else. There's no daylight between the Mayor and I on that commitment. He and I, and our teams are speaking every day, going over reports and data, assessing the threat and making plans for action. It has been an unprecedented coordination to have a seamless transition and handoff to make sure we fight this crisis together. There will also be continuity between his administration and mine when the new year begins so that is no confusion or gap in our COVID response when I take office January 1st. The Mayor and I are together on this, just like all of us as New Yorkers are in this together. So, stay safe, stay healthy, and stay educated about the COVID threat. If you're not vaccinated, we cannot say it enough. The data is clear, if you're not vaccinated, get vaccinated. If you're not boosted, get boosted. Get tested regularly. And if we all make this commitment to each other, our city will get through this and continue to thrive. And that is what every New Yorker wants and needs. I believe in the City. I believe in the agencies. And I believe in our ability to come together and resolve this crisis that we are facing. But we are going to get through this together. Again, Mayor, thank you so much for what you have done and what you are continually doing to make sure New Yorkers are safe. Take care.
Mayor: Thank you so much. Thank you, Mayor-elect. Thank you for your leadership. Thank you for the extraordinary coordination. Thank you for the fact that you and I share a common belief. Something that – it may be a little quaint, but we believe in things called data and science. And that makes all the difference. And thank you as always for your friendship as well. We're going to get through this together.
Mayor-elect Adams: Thank you.
Mayor: All right, everybody. We have been blessed even with these challenges, even with the new curve balls that COVID throws us, we've been blessed to have extraordinary health care leadership. And New Yorkers have really come to trust the voices of our health care leaders, because they've seen us through so much and are going to see us through this again. So, I want you to hear an update on the latest on Omicron from the city's doctor, our Health Commissioner Dave Chokshi.
Commissioner Dave Chokshi, Department of Health and Mental Hygiene: Thank you very much, Mr. Mayor. Look, with any respiratory virus we think about exposure, infection, and disease. And the links between them. When it comes to exposure turning into an infection, Omicron has proven to be the fastest, fittest, and most formidable variant of the virus thus far. This is in part due to its ability to evade the immune system, meaning that those who've already had COVID and those who have vaccinated are more likely to be infected with Omicron compared to past variants. But there are steps that we can take to weaken the link between exposure and infection. Wear a high-quality mask, like a KN95, a KF94 or N95, improve ventilation or gather outdoors, and stay home if you feel sick, no matter how mild your symptoms, even just to a scratchy throat or a runny nose.
We can also weaken the link between infection and disease. Many of the steps that the Mayor mentioned are focused on weakening this link and will help protect people from more serious illness. Vaccination remains vital, even against Omicron. I'm going to repeat that. Vaccination remains vital even against Omicron because it can protect you from severe disease. Our level of vaccination built up our seawall ahead of this Omicron wave. Boosters shore up that protection. If you're at least six months out from your Pfizer or Moderna second dose, or two months out from your J&J dose, get your booster right now. The Health Department has also been coordinating rapid access to booster doses for all New York City nursing homes. We're making sure that all long-term care facilities have pharmacy partners to deliver boosters to both residents and staff. If not, we will deploy vaccination teams as we have done in the past. Monoclonal antibody treatments, particularly one known as Sotrovimab, which is already authorized for use, and the antiviral pill Paxlovid, which is under review by the FDA, would also help us to weaken the link between infection and disease. But as the Mayor said, we need our federal partner’s help to get these treatments to New Yorkers now.
On top of all of this, we all must think about what we can do to protect our family, friends, and neighbors who are most vulnerable to serious illness. Remember that even if you are healthy, you can still pass the virus along to someone for whom it could have serious consequences. My Commissioner's Advisory from last week emphasized that older adults and others at higher risk should skip optional activities for at least for the next few weeks. My practical advice is to plan your holidays around your most vulnerable family member, whether it's someone with a weekend immune system or a child too young to be vaccinated.
And speaking of our younger New Yorkers, we are doubling down on our efforts to help pediatricians speak with their patients and their families about vaccinate for five to 11-year-olds. Medicaid will reimburse pediatricians for having consultations with parents and children about getting them vaccinated. This expands a City program that paid doctors to have these important conversations with patients and parents about our lifesaving and effective vaccines. And while over 600,000 children under 18 have received at least one dose, we know there is more work to be done. That's why tomorrow I will be convening local doctors with the American Academy of Pediatrics to emphasize the urgency of our efforts.
So, to briefly summarize the steps that you can take now, get vaccinated and get your booster, wear a quality mask at all times in public, stay home if you're feeling the slightest bit sick and get tested. Finally, I know everyone is feeling some traumatic echoes of our first wave but let me be very clear. We have so many more tools than we did in March 2020. It will undoubtedly be a challenging few weeks, but we will get through this. As a city will bring all of our tools to bear and I'm asking each New Yorker to do so as well. Thank you, sir.
Mayor: Thank you so much, Dave. Appreciate very clear, powerful presentation so people can understand what we're going on. And, as you just said, it'll be a challenging few weeks. We're not here to minimize the extent of the challenge. It will be very challenging, but it is something that we can meet, it’s something we can overcome. We have the tools, but we need everyone to get in the game. Everyone to get vaccinated and boosted. It will make a world of difference for us to get by this and get as quickly.
Now, let me give you the indicators as they are today. And they really point out both what we have going for us and the strength of our defense, but also the challenge we're up against. Administered - excuse me, doses administered to date, we're almost at 13 million, a staggering figure and people are showing up more and more to get those vaccinations and the mandates are having more and more impact and will again in the days ahead as additional mandates come online. So, as of today, 12,960,673 doses. Number two, daily number of people admitted to New York City hospitals for suspected COVID-19 – today's report is 162 patients. Confirmed positively, 44.97 percent. Hospitalization rate now has gone up. Although, interestingly, we still see that number not growing as much as might have been expected. That's a good sign, but it will undoubtedly grow quite a bit. That number right now, 1.69 per 100,000 New Yorkers. And then, here the cases – new reported cases on a seven-day average – astounding growth, this is the area obviously of tremendous concern. But again, we have tools to fight back. We have weapons to fight back. Today's report, 5,731 cases. So, a really, really shocking figure and one that will keep growing undoubtedly. But again, let's use what we have to fight back. Let me give you a few words in Spanish, obviously on the Omicron variant.
[Mayor de Blasio speaks in Spanish]
Mayor: 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 will now begin our Q-and-A. Please, today, keep questions related to on topic only. We're also joined by Dr. Dave Chokshi and by Dr. Ted Long. The first question today goes to Sonia Rincón from 1010 WINS.
Question: Thank you, Mr. Mayor. Good afternoon. Test positivity and new case numbers seem to be higher in more affluent neighborhoods. Is that because of better access to testing more nightlife, more flexibility of the people there to get tested because presumably cases are being recorded with people's home addresses that they provide and not the locations of the testing centers.
Mayor: Well, that's a very thoughtful question. I'm going to turn to Dr. Chokshi because you you've threw out a lot of specific analysis there and he's better positioned to, to answer it. Dr. Chokshi.
Commissioner Chokshi: Thank you, sir and thanks for the thoughtful question. First, yes, just to confirm the way that we report cases and test results is based on home address. So, it accurately depicts what's happening in specific geographies. We are seeing, for example, test positivity and cases higher in Manhattan than in other boroughs. And this reflects a combination of you know, of actual activities of COVID-19, particularly of Omicron. As well as the fact that there are more people seeking and getting testing in those geographies. This is part of the reason that with the leadership of Dr. Long and Test & Trace, we have done a lot to emphasize access to testing in other places, particularly our Task Force on Racial Inclusion and Equity Neighborhoods and partnering with community-based organizations to distribute the rapid self-test kits as well. So, we want to continue broad access to testing, but yes, part of what we're seeing right now is based on who is seeking testing.
Mayor: Thank You. Go ahead, Sonia.
Question: So, I know more test sites are opening up and more access to testing is opening up in the next few days, but the State used to have some really efficient testing centers with PCR tests with the one- or two-day turnaround. Some of those were drive through centers, which is nice when it's cold out. The New York National Guard members were there to staff them. And today I just called the New York State hotline that used to help you find and book those tests. And that's just not an option anymore. I don't know if they are all closed, but certainly many of them are. Should the State be bringing back those test centers in the city? And do you have any indication that it might?
Mayor: Appreciate the question. I'm going to turn to Dr. Long, but just to preface this way. I absolutely respect that the State of New York is trying to deal with tremendous challenges outside New York City much, much higher positivity levels and profound hospital problems in much of the state. So, I want to be clear that, you know, we're all in this together in this state and some parts of our state are hurting very, very bad right now. We welcome, of course, any help we can get from the state. We welcome help from the federal government in terms of additional testing capacity, whether it's fixed sites or, at home tests. But right now, our central focus is on what we can do with what we have, and then very happy to add additional pieces from the state and federal government as they can be made available. Ted long, you want to add?
Executive Director Ted Long, NYC Test & Trace Corps: Yes, sir. Actually, I think you covered all the important points. What we want to do first and foremost here is do everything that we can in New York City to expand testing fast, which is why we're opening new sites and every single borough, we're adding 17 mobile units this week, we're expanding hours. We have our wait time tracker we're hand out home test kits and working with community-based organizations. That's the core of everything we're doing and we've been in regular conversations with the State and they've asked how they can support. So, for example, they're going to be giving us more home tests, which is, again, part of the mainstay as Dr. Chokshi said about how we want to get testing to every community across New York City. So, we're going to continue those regular conversations and move full steam ahead with everything the Mayor said.
Mayor: Thank you, go ahead.
Moderator: The next is Katie from the City.
Question: Hey, good morning, or whatever afternoon, can you hear me?
Mayor: Yes, Katie, how you doing?
Question: Thanks. My question is really just about why it seems to be understanding that there's a backlog and there's a rush, but it seems that these PCR tests that people are getting are taking days to get back, which is creating this sort of, you know, chaos at a lot of these places, long lines, long wait times. Can you explain what's being done by the City to a shorten these lines, get more tests and then increase the speed in which these results are coming back?
Mayor: Yeah, absolutely. I'll start and I'll turn to Dr. Long and Dr. Chokshi. Katie, first of all, what we're doing to relieve some of this pressure is opening up more test sites, new test sites, adding longer hours, existing test sites. We've added to our mobile fleet. So, people can do testing at those buses. We're going to just keep adding and then what we're trying to do is bring in a lot more at home test capacity as well. Again, working closely with the federal government and state government on that. So, it's just more and more and more is part of how you reduce the need for people to go to some of existing sites and spread out the demand. In terms of the time it takes to get the results back. Obviously, there's been a surge in folks wanting to get tested because of Omicron, and that's always going to create some challenges, but let's have the experts speak to that. What we can do to make sure the test results get back quicker. Dr. Long then Dr. Chokshi
Executive Director Long: Yeah, Katie, I really appreciate your question because at the end of the day, New Yorkers are coming out to get tested now to protect their families and protect their communities. And as you know, we want to do everything in our power to help New Yorkers to continue to make that decision so they can have the fast information to protect their families. To get a little perspective to back up for a second. This past week, we did well over 130,000 PCR plus antigen tests on given days. If you look at that in perspective, we've been doing and are continuing to do more per capita testing than almost any other country in the whole world. I think there are only about six that are doing more per capita testing than we are. And we're doing more per capita testing this week than other big cities like Chicago, like Houston, like Phoenix, we're doing almost twice as much per capita testing as Phoenix, but the credit here goes to New Yorkers. They're coming out. So, our goal and our commitment here is to do everything we can to keep this - to build the capacity we need to continue to give fast turnaround times and, and good access to New Yorkers. So, our median lab turnaround time is to remain one day across New York City. But there are some vendors or some entities that do testing that send their tests to different labs. So, one piece of advice I'd have for you, Katie, if you want a fast turnaround time, come to one of my sites come to one of our City run sites. Many of our sites tour will turn a result around for you within 12 to 18 hours and most of them have rapid testing. All 70 of my mobile units have rapid testing, PCR testing and saliva testing. So, you can check nyc.gov/COVIDtest to find one of our current sites. And then this week you're going to be finding even more when we add new fixed sites per borough, all with rapid tests and 17 more mobile units to our arsenal. Thanks, Katie.
Mayor: I want to just say Ted, everything you said was clear and helpful. I think just to put a point on it, when you're doing that per capita testing comparison, you're comparing other countries in the world, not against the United States of America, but against the level we have in New York City, which obviously, leads the nation. So, I just want to say for clarification, Ted's comparison is New York City versus the countries in the world that have the highest per capita testing levels. And we favorably compare. Am I getting that right, Ted?
Executive Director Long: That's right, sir.
Mayor: Great. And Dr. Chokshi, you want to add?
Commissioner Chokshi: Just briefly, Dr. Long covered it really well. There are two points that I wanted to underline. The first is just the emphasis on the rapid self-test or rapid home kits, which you'll see, continue to grow over the course of this week and it's for the reason that you're pointing out your question, Katie, which, is it really matters to be able to get one's result as quickly as possible. And then the second thing to emphasize is that, particularly if you are still waiting for your result, but you have symptoms, it is very important to isolate because you should assume in that case that you are infectious that you may, you know, be contagious to others. And so, in those circumstances we strongly advise that people isolate to help us break chains of transmission, particularly given how transmissible Omicron is. Thank you.
Mayor: Thank you. Go ahead, Katie.
Question: Thanks. And my second question I'm not sure, if Mayor-elect Adams is on the call, but I'd like him to chime in here as well.
Mayor: He is not Katie, just so you know, he's not.
Question: Oh, Okay. Okay, sorry. So, as you know, there's no remote work policy for City employees and I've heard from City employees, they didn't use it all across the city. There have been outbreaks in their offices. They haven't been notified. They don't know what to do if they've been exposed, because they actually have to save vacation time for it. What do you say to these workers? And, and what is the, I guess plan, if there are these rapid number of cases, these cases arise saying you have hundreds of thousands of City employees who have been told to go back to their offices and there are concerns about that. What is your message to them? Because I know you've said previously that remote work is not the best, it's best to be in the office, but clearly this is a health issue, if there are cases spreading within, even within the Mayor's Office. So, what would you say to that and what's going to happen, and will they be allowed to take time off that doesn't get penalized as vacation time, if they are exposed in the office to COVID?
Mayor: Well, there's a lot there, Katie. Let me try my best to pull the pieces out. First of all, this is a workforce that's 94 percent vaccinated, and that makes a huge difference here. And we encourage all our City workers, anyone who's eligible to get that booster, get that booster right away. But 94 percent vaccinated to begin with makes the city workforce different than almost any place else in America in terms of its ability to handle this situation well. But, clearly, if there's any situation in an office, we're going to deal with it. And I would just respectfully say, I think there's been a lot of information provided and I'll have Dave talk to this. A lot of information provided constantly to city workers about how to protect themselves and how offices should use all the health and safety measures we put in from the beginning, which have worked very, very well.
We've had – the model we used, the gold standard, was our schools that still have an extraordinarily level low level of COVID in them. We apply those same standards in our City offices. So, if there is any place where there's a problem, of course, there will be measures taken to address it. There'll be contact tracing as always, but I would emphasize while we make decisions about each and everything we need to do because of Omicron, we also really depend on our city workers to serve people at this moment more than ever. And they're doing a great job. We will protect them, but we also need them to protect everyone else. So, Dave, in terms of how we have instructed City agencies and city employees to keep everyone safe and you know, the time off, if someone's sick, obviously we have a paid sick leave policy. So, Dave, you want to speak to the approach we've taken here?
Commissioner Chokshi: Certainly sir, I'll recap the high point. So, in addition to the high levels of vaccination and the ready booster access that the mayor mentioned here are the other most important ones about making all of our city settings as safe as possible. And yes, it is all about layers of safety and you know, multiple types of precautions. We do have a universal mask mandate regardless of vaccination status for all indoor settings. And, of course, that is very helpful. Second is, everything that we do in terms of testing, tracing isolation and quarantine of course, applies to these settings as well. When there are exposures test and trace does the same thing that it does in other settings, which is to make sure that close contacts are notified so that they can appropriately quarantine. And very importantly, anyone who is sick or experiencing symptoms should stay home. And yes, they do have paid leave that facilitates that as well. The final thing is, you know, we're emphasizing and have made upgrades through the Department of Citywide Administrative Services to ventilation in various settings as well. And we know that that helps to curve the spread. So, those are the things that we're doing to try to ensure that these are as safe settings as possible. Thank you, sir.
Mayor: Thank you
Moderator: The next is Elizabeth Kim from Gothamist.
Question: Good afternoon, Mr. Mayor.
Mayor: Hey, Elizabeth. How have you been?
Question: I'm good. So, I just want to clarify something because I believe last week or a few days ago, you said that the City would add five new brick and mortar testing sites as well as more mobile units. I'm wondering, is this announcement today about more testing? Is that on top of what you announced a few days ago? And could we get a firm number on how many more testing sites New Yorkers can anticipate?
Mayor: Yeah. Thank you for the question, Elizabeth. And it is kind of a rolling thunder situation right now. We are adding as we go along and we're, as we get additional capacity, we're going to keep putting it up in different places. So, but thank you for the immediate question. The announcement we made a few days ago on Thursday versus where we are now and where we are overall, Dr. Ted Long, this is all your bailiwick. Can you give us the update?
Executive Director Long: Yeah. Thanks, Elizabeth. So, this is building, this includes what we announced last week that there will be – we said five sites last week. The answer is actually eight. So, by the end of the day, by Tuesday, we're going to eight new fixed testing sites open. It's going to be sites in every borough and we're going to, we said we were going to increase mobile testing and the number I'll put on that increase is going to be at 17 mobile units this week. Past Tuesday, we we're planning to open more new fixed testing sites, but we want to lock them in before I make a commitment before, you know, telling you where they're going to be, but it'll be eight by Tuesday.
Mayor: Thank you. And, Dave, excuse me – Ted, can you give the overall, I don't know if you have this at your fingertips, but now the overall number of fixed sites that the City sponsors and also the overall number of mobile vehicles you have for testing?
Executive Director Long: Yeah. So, when we add these eight by Tuesday, the city will have over 30 fixed sites and it'll have the 87, actually it'll be 93 mobile units because we also have six special units we're going to build, they'll bring in here. So yeah, above 30 fixed sites and 93 mobile units.
Mayor: Right. And then just clarifying beyond which there is the Health and Hospitals facilities.
Executive Director Long: Yeah. The above 30 includes the Health and Hospitals facilities. But when we add more later this week, it'll probably, Elizabeth, we'll get back to you. I don't want to make an over commitment to you right now. But we're going to add as much as we can this week, but it'll be eight new ones by Tuesday.
Mayor: Thank you. Go ahead, Elizabeth.
Question: My second question is about Dr. Chokshi’s advice to older adults and those who are immunocompromised to skip optional events. I'm wondering about younger children who can't get vaccinated, those under five who go to preschool or daycare, would you advise those parents to keep those children out of school as we're heading to the holidays? And also, the same goes for maybe optional holiday parties at offices?
Mayor: Well, for two very different questions or good questions, but let me start. And then the doctors go in. On the first on childcare, no, I would not tell parents to change what they're doing. Just like with schools. There's been very extensive efforts to keep childcare safe. And in fact, when you're in an organized setting with immense health and safety measures in place, it is actually the safest place for a child to be. So no, we, we believe it's also very important, obviously for everything else, a child needs and we got to remember, and we went through this so many times when we brought back school last September, when we brought it back the September before that, kids being in school is very important for their health and wellbeing, their physical health, their mental health, their nutrition, they get their development. And we brought school back the last two Septembers while dealing with in many ways, much greater challenges than what we're seeing here. This is going to be, as we said, a tough and challenging few weeks Elizabeth, but the impact in many ways is going to be less. And so, we can't forget the lessons that we learned in the previous situations where sticking to making sure kids got to these positive places, these safe places was exactly the right thing to do. It's still exactly the right thing to do in terms of just one other point that what Dr. Chokshi said, for folks who are most vulnerable for the oldest New Yorkers, for folks with preexisting serious conditions, you know, to, to recognize that it is an optional event, and they don't need to be at it, you know, be careful if it's optional, it's probably smart to skip it for a period of some weeks. This is going to be a pretty temporary reality based on everything we're seeing now. But if you're not in those two categories, it's obviously a very different situation. Dr. Chokshi you want to add?
Commissioner Chokshi: Yes. Thank you, sir. And I agree on both counts. On the first Elizabeth, I will answer not just as a Health Commissioner, but as the father of a child who's under five. And the answer is, you know, I will not keep her out of daycare, meaning she will continue you going to daycare. And I advise all parents you know, to continue sending their, their children to school, including pre-K and 3-K, for the reasons that the Mayor has mentioned. We have layers of safety. We have precautions in place that do help us to curb the spread and not just from the educational perspective, but from the health perspective, we know that those environments are fundamentally important for children to be in. So that's on the first question on the second question, you know, with to the activities that we're advising older adults and others who are at higher risk to be more cautious about these are optional activities. And there are a range of ways that one can reduce their risk. Certainly, if you were planning to go to something where, you know, there was a crowded setting and you're someone with a weakened immune system, the level of risk in our community has changed. And so that's what we're advising people to make sure that they take that into account as they make their individual decisions.
There are also a number of things that we can do to help mitigate risk. Whether it's moving gatherings outdoors or having them virtually or just making sure that people are following precautions, like wearing masks distancing where possible improving ventilation, you know, in certain cases. And so that's what my commissioner's advisory from last week said. And that's what we're reiterating today.
Mayor: Yes. And, and Dave, some of that's sometime as easy as opening a door, a window and letting, letting outside air in. actually one of many things, but something that actually helps quite a bit go ahead.
Moderator: Next is Jimmy Vielkind from the Wall Street Journal.
Mayor: Jimmy, can you hear us?
Question: Yes. Can you hear me?
Mayor: There you go. How are you doing?
Question: Every day's a blessing. Thank you. You just said that you know, if it's an optional event, it's smart to skip it for a period of two weeks. I know that lots of entities, including your own office are canceling parties. I'm wondering what are your plans for the New Year's Eve celebration, which gathers lots and lots of people, granted a in an outdoor space, given all that you've just said about this variance ability to infect people who are vaccinated?
Mayor: Yeah. And Jimmy, I want to be, going to answer the question. It's an important question, but just really emphasizing what we said was for folks who are 65 and older, or folks who have serious preexisting conditions to be my mindful about those optional events and think carefully about them. That was a very important qualifier there. I want to put front and center to your question about New Year's Eve. So, we've been in touch with Times Square Alliance. We're going to make a decision before Christmas. We're certainly looking at the new challenge we're facing, but again this an all-vaccination event and it is outdoors. And those are two very, very important favorable factors. We're, we're also considering that there's other ways we could approach it, even with the current the current rules that could help to make it even stronger. So, there's a discussion going on. We will have a final decision on what we can do ahead of Christmas, for sure. And, and we're working very, very closely with the folks who sponsor to event to figure out what's the right way to proceed. Go ahead, Jimmy.
Question: Just as a follow up, I know there's been a focus of your Administration, as well as the State to revive the economy, to get people back to the office. Many employers are sort of telling people, go remote, stay remote. What is your response to that? And, and to sort of businesses that are, are choosing that option at this point, again, given what you've just articulated about the ability of Omicron to spread through vaccination?
Mayor: Look, first of all, Jimmy, I want to respect each business's own choice. Some believe that it is absolutely crucial to be in person, some have decided to go remote or have stayed remote. I want to respect them all. What I recognize fully is this is going to be a temporary reality. I've been over this with our Healthcare leadership, you know, in great detail. We expect this to be a matter of weeks, and then we're going to see it start to dissipate. That's based on what we know now, but it will be a tough, you know, a tough few weeks for sure, a challenging few weeks. So, I think whatever an employer decides, I respect it. But to your underlying question about recovery. We will get through this and then our recovery will resume full force. And the way to facilitate that recovery is vaccination. Which is why I now only believe in I'm doubling down on the vaccine mandates. We need them more than ever, and they are the way we're going to bring those jobs back. We're going to create a dynamic where people can come back to the office, and we can really revive our economy. We need them more than ever. They have proven to work every single time.
Moderator: The next day is Mara Gay from the New York Times.
Question: Hi, Mr. Mayor. How are you?
Mayor: Good, Mara. How have you been?
Question: Fine, doing well. Thanks. so many of the city test sites appear to be run at this point by private contractors. Many of the sites I can say from firsthand experience and from others, do not appear to be sufficiently staffed. Many have also opened late, closed significantly early, or even at times, shut down without warning for lunch. Folks online have been told, lengthening these wait times across the city, what is being done to supervise these sites, expand their capacity and improve them?
Mayor: Well, I appreciate that question a lot. And, and Mara, one of the things I've said, you know, as we've done briefings throughout the COVID era is that you and your colleagues in the media have often raised to us things that need to be addressed. Things that haven't been as clear to the command structure as we're dealing with this challenge. And anytime someone says, look, there's a, there's a gap in something we're doing, I say, thank you for raising it so we can fix it. I certainly don't understand any site that closes for lunch. That makes no sense to me. I found that, you know, a little shocking right there. now, how many it is that are having these problems. I want to get a clear answer from Dr. Long as best he knows, but more importantly any place that's not opening on time, any place that's closing early, any place that's closing for lunch, that's not acceptable. And if they are working under a contract, they've got to do better. Or we got to replace them with another contractor. Because people need to get this testing. We are expanding the sites because we need, we need more and more testing. So, if some of the sites we have now are not doing their job, we have to hold them accountable. So, Dr. Long, what do you say to the specific examples that Mara raised?
Executive Director Long: Yeah. Well, first though, sir, I totally agree with everything you said. Mara, at the end of the day, I really appreciate the feedback. If there are any of our sites where there's been a delay in opening or whether there's been a lack of clarity about people going to lunch and what that means for testing, it's really helpful to let us know. I mean, at my sites, my T2 sites, we operate them through health and hospitals, same thing for our hospitals, same thing for our Goth Community Health centers. So, for those sites we're in charge. We set the hours and we post our wait times on the test and trace websites. You can always see, you know, if there's two different places you're looking to go, there might be a 30-minute wait at another, an hour wait at another, and you can make a decision based on that. Then, for lines at all of our sites, again, that I operate as well, we're going to be, this week, handing out home test kits at any line where there's more than a 30-minute wait just to make – because people are busy and people are making the sacrifice to come out in their busy schedules, to come and get tested. And I don't want anybody to ever leave at the handed. In my mind, testing – there's no wrong door. New Yorkers are making the decision to get tested. I want to help them. So, that's something that you can count on this week, between the home test gets being handed out to help with lines and the wait-time tracker. If there are any of our – there are a lot of vendors in New York City, not all of them fall under Test and Trace. But if there are any under us – and there were a couple, to acknowledge your point, of late starts this morning. I was aware of that and we’re going to correct that, moving forward. There was some staff members then unfortunately fell ill, with is something that we're seeing with Omicron. And, therefore, we have to quickly adapt and react. And we were able to open those sites as soon as we were able this morning. But if you have any other feedback for us, moving forward, we want to get this right for New Yorkers, or if there's anything we need to differently, always let us know. We exist to serve. And that's why we're going to be building our capacity this week through more mobile units, more fixed sites. If there’s anything you think we can do differently or any feedback you have, always passed it along. And thank you.
Mayor: Ted, let's make some policy on the fly here before Mara's follow up. We, obviously, given – we've seen this challenge before – we've been through it before where the very people we depend on themselves might get sick. We should establish, if you don't have it already, Ted, a reserve squad of personnel who could be deployed early in the morning to any sites that don't have all their full complemented personnel, because, obviously, this is something – again, it will only be a matter of weeks, it looks like, but this is something we're going to experience a lot. We should have a reserve ready to put into play very quickly and systematically. So, Ted, I know you know how to do that. Let's do that now.
Executive Director Long: And actually what we do now is – Mara, you're welcome to join us for any of these visits if you want, Mara – but we save some of our mobile units and deploy them based on needs. So, we do have – that's how we were able to solve for any last-minute unforeseen changes too. So, we will keep doing that. But, you know, as the Mayor said, keep the feedback coming. We are here to get it right for New Yorkers. We're testing at higher levels than we have ever in the past, more than most other countries per capita, more than most other big cities. But we want to meet New Yorkers where they are. So, thank you.
Mayor: Thank you. Go ahead, Mara.
Question: Thanks. I mean, one quick suggestion on that is, just like we have supervisors who roam around for crossing guards – that would probably be helpful here, because there is absolutely no City presence at many of these sites that are HHC sites being run by private contractors. My other question is, what is being done to communicate to high-risk New Yorkers, or New Yorkers who feel like they may be becoming seriously ill with COVID, what options are available for treatment that didn't exist in spring of 2020? I'm aware that we have monoclonal antibody treatments, Regeneron, other options, and yet it seems concerning to me that that is not always obvious how to access those things and when to access them, despite the very large population of New Yorkers who may be at risk.
Mayor: No, that's an important point. And I think the health care community has, obviously, a very keen sense and is all already – you're seeing the huge difference in the hospitals of the ability to handle COVID cases – a much more agile response than we were able to mount originally, because there's much better sense of treatments, more treatments available, much better outcomes. So, the health care community clearly has brought all these tools to bear. But helping New Yorkers to understand the treatments that are available and certainly making sure if someone is starting to have more serious – you know, serious impact from the disease that they get quickly to where the care is needed. So, Dr. Chokshi, why don't you speak to, sort of, what our tools are right now and we are working with people who feel that their situation is getting more serious, what we are doing to make sure they get to the care they need promptly.
Commissioner Chokshi: Thank you so much, sir. And, Mara, I really appreciate the question, which is a very intense focus of ours right now. What I heard was two parts to what you're interested in. Number one, our communication. And then, number two, the treatment itself. So, the first part of it, we communicate on at least three levels. First, is with the general public not just through briefings like this one and, of course, working with media and journalists, but also sending out messages through, you know, text messages as well as our public service announcements. That's all on the public side. With respect to providers, particularly health care providers, my department is in constant touch and particularly over the last several days has held a number of informational meetings, as well as blasted out quite a bit of information about how things are shifting and changing with Omicron. And then, the third level is with community-based organizations. I'm really proud to say that we have a very robust network of over 100 CBO’s that we work with that help us to get the word out and that are also important distribution channels for things like higher-quality masks, as well as the rapid at-home test kits that we announced just a few days ago. With respect to treatment as a focus within that – yes, we do want to make sure that everyone is aware that there are treatments available. I will acknowledge there are some open scientific questions about how well some of the treatments work against Omicron, but there is one monoclonal antibody treatment in particular known as Sotrovimab, which is what the Mayor and I mentioned, which we need additional supply from the federal government so that we can utilize our robust distribution channels to get them to New Yorkers.
If anyone has a question specifically on monoclonal antibody treatment, we encourage you to call 212-COVID-19, so that you can gain access both the clinical advice as well as the therapy itself. And Test and Trace, also as part of its script when it's reaching out to people, will mention the availability of monoclonal antibody treatment and help people get linked up to that care. The final thing that I'll say is that we are anticipating and planning for the oral antiviral that I mentioned, particularly Paxlovid, which we think will also make a big difference in terms of preventing severe disease. We need the FDA to move with [inaudible] on that and actually have it supplied and delivered to New York City, so that we can get it to help prevent the severe outcomes that we care the most about. Thank you.
Mayor: Thank you, Dave.
Moderator: The next is Kevin Duggan from AM New York.
Question: Hey, Mayor. How are you today?
Mayor: Good, Kevin. How have you been?
Question: Doing well. Thanks for taking my question. I'm piggybacking a little bit off of what's been said already about the fixed sites. There was report last week that the City had closed down 20 since around mid-November. And with these new ones, you won't be it back up to the number of around 54, I think it was, of fixed sites, especially City-run sites as opposed to contracted out sites. Do you plan to open any more City-run sites? And I don't mean like, you know, with some private partner, but just like a rec center or whatever. Do you plan to open any more of those in the coming weeks? And if not, why not?
Mayor: Kevin, we're going to just be building constantly here on both vaccination and testing. So, I'll let Dr. Long speak to a few of the specifics, but the bottom line is, for a period of time, we saw much less demand – much, much less demand before Omicron. And we moved to more of a mobile approach, because that seemed to be reaching a more people. Obviously, we're in a different reality. This has been – the two years of COVID have just been, you know, a constant set of changes. So, in a different reality, we adjust. We're going to get a lot of centers back up and running or certainly choose where we think the most impact will be. It might be a different location than one of the places previously. We're going to use mobile a lot as well. We do need to keep, you know, two core functions going – more and more vaccination and more and more testing simultaneously. So, it's not static in the least. It's something that will keep growing to meet the demand. Dr. Long, you want to speak to that?
Executive Director Long: Yeah, no, I appreciate the question. So, in terms of whether we've close sites and removed access to testing for people across New York City in those areas, I have to say, I don't think that's true. What we've done in some situations, like Brooklyn Army Terminal or Bathgate, is we've taken what was formerly testing sites and we've made them into vaccine sites. And we had mobile testing units outside of those sites for as long as people wanted to come and get to tested there. Or, at another example, we had a site where it was important to build a school there. So, we felt like it was the right thing to let SCA go ahead and continue to build that school and we have multiple mobile units there still there today, right outside. So, for you as a person in that community, you have uninterrupted testing access that's never changed. Some of the other sites, we shift the location. So, it's not a fair comparison to say we've closed 20 sites. In fact, we're doing more testing at our sites in totality than we ever have before now. And that includes our mobile fleet as well. So, as the Mayor said, you know, looking big picture in New York City, we're doing a lot of testing, more per capita in almost any other country in the world. More than the big cities like Chicago, Phoenix, and Houston. [Inaudible] much per capita as Phoenix. But we want to do more. And I think one of the ways that we do testing beyond just the numbers and beyond just an individual fixed building is we want to bring testing equitably into our communities. And that's why we want to think about things like arming our community-based organizations, the trusted messengers of our communities with home tests. So, it's not just that we want to all look at the number of overall tests being done, but are they being done equitably. And in New York City, I can confidently say, yes, we have ways to ensure that tests are done equitably that many of the places across the world don't have. And that's why I'm proud of what we're doing with testing in New York City, but we're going to build more and more. And if there's any feedback, you're hearing about an area that needs more testing, as I said, pass it along to us. We exist to serve. And we always welcome that feedback. So, thank you.
Mayor: Thank you. Go ahead, Kevin.
Question: Thanks for that. I guess just to kind of drill down on the specifics, I imagine this one is for Ted Long – you know, are there any sites planned currently to open that are City-run sites, as opposed to contractors? You know, any more fixed sites [inaudible] those coming down the line, especially with these upcoming five or eight sites?
Mayor: Yeah. And let me just say, prefacing, Kevin – fair and important question. Ted, I want to keep you brief here, because any details we can get afterwards, but I think that the central point about clarifying which are going to be new City-run sites versus run by contractors. But also, I'm saying to you, Kevin, that should not be a distinction that causes any qualitative difference. So, if we're having a problem with any contractors, that's – we have to hold them accountable. We have to make sure the service is just as good. But so, the narrow question, Ted, how many new city – specifically, City-run sites versus contractor-run sites?
Executive Director Long: Yeah. So, the sites that we're planning to open that I said on Monday and Tuesday, are vendor-run sites. And we we'll get back as we open new sites to break it down, if it's helpful, Kevin, about how they're being run, city versus contractor. But I think the Mayor said the important point, which is that we want to provide testing equitably in all of our neighborhoods, and a lot of that is through vendors that we oversee. And it's our responsibility then to make sure that our vendors are always delivering. At the end of the day, what matters is the people in New York City get good quality care in every community with no exception across the city. And that's what we're going to continue to focus on. So, thank you.
Mayor: And, Kevin, we'll get you that list. Our team will get you the specific list, so you have it. Go ahead.
Moderator: We have time for two more for today. The next is Gloria, from NY1.
Question: Good afternoon, Mr. Mayor. Can you hear me?
Mayor: Yeah, Gloria. How are you doing?
Question: Good. Thank you. Mr. Mayor, we're live on NY1 and I'm sensing there's a lot of confusion about what is taking the city so long in order to scale up the testing sites in a way that the City had been clearly able to fix you're out in the past. We're seeing a lot of reported wait times, not just at Urgent Cares, but also at the City sites – over two-and-a-half hours people are waiting at the City sites. And also, the mobile vans that you guys are talking about, those are obviously – the capacity is not as much as you would find at a City site. So, is this a budget problem? Is this – what is taking so long to scale up? And if you could also talk out home testing, that hasn't been really discussed. Pharmacies are all sold out. Many of them are very expensive. What is the City doing to make sure that New Yorkers can have more access to these home tests?
Mayor: Yeah, Gloria, so we are going to be getting a lot more home tests and making them available. One of the things we announced on Thursday was an intense effort to get home tests out through non-profit organizations in communities across the city. That's a half million home tests right there. We're working right now with the federal government on a major resupply of home tests. Obviously, everything has kicked up in the last few days in an absolutely extraordinary manner. So, your question is a sincere one, but I want to give you a sincere answer. The world changed in a very unexpected way in just a matter of days and the city's making the adjustments, getting more supplies, we have a demand for testing, unlike anything we've seen before, because we have a surge in cases, unlike anything we've seen before. But we will quickly be able to make adjustments. It is not a budget question. So, glad you asked that. No, it's not a budget question. It's just about getting the testing capacity, getting the testing kits, getting the personnel what they need, setting up sites. This is a brand-new reality, but the good news is the city has been through so many versions of COVID challenges before that we can adjust rapidly, and what we'll do starting tomorrow is give a clearer picture of what we anticipate over the next week and more in terms of additional testing coming online. Go ahead, Gloria.
Question: Okay. Thank you. I guess my next question is more, if you could speak to New Yorkers and if the health officials could speak to them, I think people are feeling a lot of confusion and a lot of whiplash, the holidays are around the corner. People are trying to decide, do I still travel for the holidays? Do I still have my family over while also balancing this feeling of, you know, feeling like this is just a reality, and this is how we're going to have to live. What should people be doing to make those decisions? Should they only go to a party if they test beforehand? Should they only hang out with vaccinated people? Should they only do it outdoors? What is your advice to New Yorkers, especially so many that are trying to figure out whether or not they should travel, whether or not they should gather over the next couple of days?
Mayor: Well, I appreciate that question a lot and I'll start and I'll turn to Dr. Chokshi in a second. Look, Gloria. I want to start by saying, from everything that I've heard from our health care leadership, again, this is a very temporary phenomenon. It's going to be a challenging one, but a temporary one. And there's a big difference if you're someone who is vulnerable versus someone who is less vulnerable, and that's really important to put a point on, if you're over 65, if you are someone with serious preexisting conditions, we're certainly urging you to take extra precautions for what will be probably only a matter of weeks. It makes sense, take those precautions, but if you're not in those categories, you obviously have some more options. The bottom line though is vaccination what is the center of this discussion. If you are vaccinated, and particularly if you've been able to get the booster shot, your level of protection is much higher than what we've seen at any point in the entire COVID reality. So, you're right about the whiplash. It's a good word to use, Gloria, people have been through so much, but it's also important to not fight yesterday as war. It's important to not think we are back in the spring of 2020, or even the winter of 2020 going into 2021. We're an entirely different reality because this is a very highly vaccinated city where people have much more protection than ever before. So, Omicron’s very transmissible, but Omicron appears so far at least to be more mild. The answer is get vaccinated, get that booster, that's the core of it. In terms of travel decisions and everything else, I think and Dr. Chokshi will I think join in here, it begins with the vulnerability level of the person involved. If you're a more vulnerable person, be more cautious, especially because we're talking about limited period of time. We certainly want people to see loved ones. It's been a long time in many cases, but think about who's most vulnerable and work from there. If you happen to be in one of the less vulnerable categories, more options, but the people have the most options, the people who have the most freedom are the people who are the most vaccinated and that's what we want to keep emphasizing. Dr. Chokshi.
Commissioner Chokshi: Thank you so much, sir. And Gloria, first, I just want to acknowledge that people are feeling so much pandemic fatigue right now. I get it, and particularly around the holidays after what has already been a tough year, you know, people are looking forward to getting together with their loved ones, celebrating, experiencing the joy of the season, and just having a chance to, you know, to be with the people that you love. So, I understand that. But as a doctor, I have to say, you know, even though we're all experiencing pandemic fatigue, this virus is not tired of us, and so we do have to take that into account. The single most important piece of advice I can give, and the Mayor said it already, is plan around the most vulnerable member of your family in terms of how you're thinking about these next few weeks. So, an older adult, someone who has an underlying health condition, a child who's not yet eligible to be vaccinated. We have to keep them in mind when we think about activities over the next few weeks, and particularly if you are vulnerable, you know, we should avoid crowded settings, particularly indoors, especially with people who may not be vaccinated or consistently wear masks or wear ventilation, maybe poor. We do want people to take that into account because with Omicron, the overall level of risk has changed in a matter of the last few days. With all of that said, look, there are things that we can do to shape our destiny, to protect people, and it boils down to this, get vaccinated, get your booster dose, if you haven't already take the precautions that we know work, wear a mask, move any activities outdoors that you can or crack open a window or a door to help with ventilation and distance where possible. If we bring all of this together, then I do think that we can now navigate these next few weeks as safely as possible. Thank you.
Mayor: Thank you.
Moderator: Last question for today goes to Sam Raskin from The Post.
Question: Hi, Mr. Mayor. Moments ago, Mayor-elect Eric Adams said that there is, “no daylight between the Mayor and I”, when it comes to COVID-19 policies. Do you take that to mean that he will enforce your private employer vaccine mandate given that he has not taken a clear position or definitive position on whether he will enforce it? [Inaudible] concerns from business leaders over it, and you have not said if the Mayor – the Mayor-elect has committed to you to enforce the vaccine mandate. So, has he committed to you to enforce that, given that he's saying there's no daylight?
Mayor: Thank you for the question, Sam. I'll always let him speak for himself. I think his words say a lot and his devotion to following the data, following the science, listening to health care leadership, which he has said repeatedly, and he has lived out those words. I think that says a lot too. Again, I'll let him speak to it. I will speak to it myself in my view that when we announced this set of mandates, including the one that will start on the 27th for the private sector, we knew Omicron would be a factor. But I said at the time it's beyond Omicron, it's also Delta, it's the winter months, it's the gatherings. There's a lot of reasons why we put that in place. We have now seen that – unfortunately that prediction has come true even more than expected in terms of Omicron, and the mandates are more important than ever. Go ahead, Sam.
Question: Next question is from a colleague Nolan Hicks, why did it take the city through three weeks to bring back more hours for testing after Omicron was discovered?
Mayor: Well, Sam, because we had seen a huge decline in testing demand, and even though Omicron initially appeared to be a new piece of the equation, we did not know how it would affect us. We only had experience from other places, we didn't know what the timeline would be. We did not know what the impact would be. So, as soon as we started to see what really would be the result, we have been ramping up testing, and we'll be ramping up a whole lot more. There is a lot – you heard Ted say it – a lot of testing happening here in New York City, more than almost any place else, there'll be a whole lot more behind it. But I think everyone has been surprised by the sheer intensity of Omicron, I mean our health care leaders as well. We saw a slow beginning and now a sudden upturn, we're going to meet it and we're going to find all the tools we need to address it.
And everyone, as we conclude, that's the key point. This city, every time we've been thrown new challenges, we find a way to fight back and we find a way to overcome the challenges. We will again, but I'm going to keep saying to you, we need you. We need all New Yorkers to be a part of it. If you haven't gotten vaccinated, get vaccinated yourself. If your youngest children haven't gotten vaccinated, we need them to now. If you haven't gotten a booster and you qualify, go get it today, right now. That's how we defeat Omicron, put these next challenging weeks behind us, and move forward with the recovery for all of us. Thank you, everybody.###