December 28, 2021
Video available at: https://youtu.be/XZ575yF3_Xk
Mayor Bill de Blasio: Good morning. Good morning, everybody. Everyone, look, we've been fighting now this whole year to bring our city back. New Yorkers have done an amazing, amazing job. And we know key to our recovery is vaccination. We have been talking about nonstop because it’s the thing that makes a difference. Vaccination is what has allowed the city to keep going. And vaccination is what made, in particular, our schools so strong and so safe. Parents right now want to know what's going to be happening next when schools come back January 3rd, we're going to talk about that today. We start with a reminder that our schools have been extra early safe – bluntly, the safest places to be in New York City, very low levels of COVID. Why? Because it started with making sure every single adult in our schools, everyone was vaccinated. Right now, 96 percent-plus of Department of Education employees, vaccinated. That has been one of the big difference-makers, the gold standard of health and safety measures we put in place. Schools have been safe and schools are where kids need to be. President Biden has been so clear and strong on his message. I agree with him 100 percent. The science is clear, schools need to be open. Everyone that talks about the needs of our kids, their health needs, physical health, mental health, nutrition needs, their social development needs, their academic needs. Schools need to be open. And so, we are moving every day to make sure our schools remain safe. We have been working very closely with the Mayor-elect and his team to make sure everything is in place for January 3rd.
And parents, look, thank you for everything you've done to protect your kids. And thank you to every parent who's gone out and gotten your child vaccinated. But I want to urge the parents, particularly of younger kids, there's still too many kids who are not vaccinated. This is the time to do it. Any parent who's ready, any parent who chooses to, we are making it easier than ever to get vaccinated. And if you want get your child tested, we're making that choice available to you as well, adding more than 40 City-run test sites – 40 City-run test sites more to bring the total to over 160. So, there's plenty of places you can get your child vaccinated. And if you want a test, more and more places you can get a test. Parents, we need you. That's the part you can do. But what we are going to do also – and this is an important announcement today – we're going to double the amount of testing we do every day in our schools. So, right now, we do PCR testing in every school, every week. We're going to double the amount of testing we do in school. Greater sample size in each school, so we get even more accurate, clear results. We're going to include both vaccinated and unvaccinated students. So, two times the tests and including vaccinated and unvaccinated, and, of course, teachers and staff, as well. We're going to do a big push to get more consent form so we can get a bigger and bigger sample of the school. These are the things we're going to do to keep everyone safe. And we know the most important thing is vaccination. We know it works. And, everyone, double down on it. And if you're eligible for that booster, remember, up to Friday, you can get that hundred-dollar incentive.
So, those are some of the things we're going to be doing immediately. But we're also going to be using at-home test kits more and more. And I'm going to talk about that in just a moment, but I want to give a thanks upfront to Governor Hochul, because she announced a major infusion of test kits for our schools. That's going to really help us as we announce a new approach that's going to keep kids safe, but also keep schools open. So, I wanted the Governor to join us, because I wanted to express the appreciation of the people of New York City and my appreciation. These test kits are going to help us fight back this yet another wave COVID. We're going to fight through it, and keep everyone safe, and move forward as a city. My pleasure to bring to you Governor Kathy Hochul.
Governor Kathy Hochul: Thank you, Mayor de Blasio for your partnership and your collaboration from the very beginning to fight this surge. I remember, we sat together, it was that evening, we’d just heard about the very case of Omicron that appeared in New York State and New York City. And that afternoon, we sat together and pledged full cooperation together to let people know that we would be united in our attack on this virus and do everything we can to keep New Yorkers, as well as every New York State resident safe. And to continue that pledge of collaboration, I'm very pleased that we were able to – literally, just a couple days ago – send over 600,000 rapid tests to your Department of Health last week. And we now have five State-run testing sites that'll be launched tomorrow to help amplify your efforts already. And also, hitting people where they go – I mean, the MTA is a great place for us to launch testing sites and we'll be opening five more soon. We have two now. So, those are all coming online and continuing to ramp up, as well as continuing our 37-popup sites and 17 more planned. So, State and City working together, we're going to make sure that there's no shortage of supply, as well as making sure in the case we need ambulances – we just sent 10 more ambulances to New York City as well.
But, as you mentioned, Mayor, it is so important that we get our kids back to school as soon as this winter break is over. We all have such a strong public interest. We saw the failed experiment, despite the very best efforts of incredibly hardworking, passionate teachers who did their very best with remote teaching, and the parents who were just pulling their hair out at kitchen tables, trying to make sure that it worked successfully. Everybody did their part, but we also understand, as you mentioned, schools are safe as a result of our joint mandates. And I have a statewide mask mandate for children in school to make sure they're safe. Our teachers are vaccinated. So, we all have to do our part to continue though to make sure that parents feel comfortable when they send their children back to school on January 3rd. So, from our standpoint, what the State of New York can do to help best is to make sure that there are sufficient testing kits available to be used by the school district. And that is why I've directed our Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Services to provide 2 million tests – 2 million tests to New York City to allow children to stay in school. And I want thank our Department of Homeland Security, and the Port Authority, and DOT, and commissioners of all sorts of agencies. General services [inaudible] they are all being deployed in a statewide effort, but also sending the, first, 2 million tests kits to make sure that they're available to help New York City schools, because of the dense concentration of individuals in the city, the high population, and where we're seeing the rates go right now. So, we are working around the clock to offer our best efforts to work with you. The many calls we've had with your departments, I love the collaboration that's going on between our Departments of Health, something that's been – was missing, but is now in full gear. And all the teacher unions leaders, they've been on calls with us, and the parents, and everyone who are really working closely together to make this happen. I have a call just in a couple of hours with our statewide school superintendents, because they're such critical partners in this effort as well.
And I also appreciate what the administration has been doing. The collaboration you've extended to us, but also to the incoming Mayor-elect Eric Adams. That is what the public wants to see. They don't want any battling – no turf battles here, because we have one common battle to fight, and that is against this variant. And I also want to commend the teachers and the school leaders. They know we're all in this together. They've been asked to do so much, such extraordinary work, and we are forever grateful to them for what they've done in the past and what they're going to do now in this shortened time to make sure we can launch to the next semester with a safe environment for them and the students. So, we're all in this together. I thank them.
But lastly, as you mentioned, Mayor – parents, we could avert all this if every child were vaccinated. We still have time. We literally have hundreds of thousands of kids who have been safely vaccinated already. So, you're not the first – you need to join the ranks of parents who've done the right thing for their children to make sure they're protected. This new variant is affecting children more than the past variants. Before, we always said, don't worry so much, it's not really affecting children. That was a different variant. It is affecting children more, but the ones who are getting severely sick are, so far, only the unvaccinated children. So, that should be the message you need to know right now, that children can be exposed to this, contracted in rare cases, get sick, but only those who are unvaccinated. So, that's why I so look forward to continuing to work with Mayor de Blasio, yourself, for your leadership. Also, incoming Mayor-elect Eric Adams, we've had many conversations. We'll continue getting our – keeping our schools open, continuing our economic recovery for all New Yorkers, as well as our paramount goal of protecting public health. So, I want to thank you for inviting me to participate here. Collective New Year's resolution, let's beat this together. Get vaxxed. Get boosted. Wear a mask. Get tested. And we will get through this together, New Yorkers.
Mayor: Amen. That's a long New Year's resolution, but it's a good one. It's a good one. Governor, thank you. And look, I really want to amplify the point you made. Our kids need to be in school remote learning, I agree with you – noble efforts by educators, school staff, but it's not the same thing. A lot of kids spent a year-and-a-half without ever seeing a classroom. We know as parents how incredibly upsetting that was to their lives, to their development. Let's keep our kids in school. Let's all work together and make work for our kids and our families. We can do it. Governor, thank you for the great collaboration between our teams. And we will beat this together 100 percent. And very Happy New Year to you.
Governor Hochul: Thank you, Mayor.
Mayor: Now, everyone, as we said, we know how important our schools are in every sense to our kids and families. We know how important our schools are to the lives of working families. So, many people, right now, working harder than ever to make ends meet because of everything they've been through with COVID. Parents need their kids in school. And as we've learned more and more during the COVID era, we've found new way is to do things. And our health care team has thought very carefully about how to approach this new reality where so many more people are vaccinated, thank God, and we're getting more people vaccinated every day. Also, Omicron is different. It comes with certain challenges, but we also know that it's different from other variants in ways that, in some ways, make it more manageable. We take all the information we've learned, all the experience we've had, listened to the data and the science, listened to the health care leaders. And now, we've come up with a new approach. And those at-home tests are going to be absolutely crucial. We have been working on this approach. What we needed was the supply. Really appreciate the supply we're getting from the State. We're going to get a supply from the federal government as well. This gives us a new approach. And that approach is called, Stay Safe and Stay Open. This is how we are going to look at schools from this point on, keep them safe and keep them open. So, when I say stay safe and stay open, it literally is in a very, very different way of making sure everyone's safe, adding this on top of everything that worked previously.
So, first of all, it comes with wide distribution of at-home test kits to every classroom. And when there's a positive case in a classroom, every child takes home at-home test kits. Every child who tests negative comes back to school. It's as simple as that. So long as they're asymptomatic and so long as they continue to test negative, they keep coming to school. We make sure that every kid has a test kit. Two will be taken in the course of seven days. And this guarantees more consistency in their education. It guarantees fewer disruptions, which parents have rightfully said have been a tremendous challenge for them. And it works, because here's the fact we now know based on really extensive experience – 98 percent of close contacts – when someone has come in contact with some of the tested positive 98 percent of close contacts don't turn into positive cases themselves. So, the jury has come back. We have a lot of evidence now, it's told us this is the approach that's going to work for the future. I have been working very closely with the Mayor-elect as we've been planning together for January 3rd – for Monday, January 3rd, when schools come back. There has been, I have to say, a seamless transition. I want to thank the Mayor-elect and his extraordinary team. I want to thank my team that have been working night and day closely with them. This is – I hope New Yorkers will get to see this. This has been one of the smoothest and most collaborative and most positive transitions I've ever seen in anywhere, at any level of government. And the credit goes to our Mayor-elect for the spirit he's brought to this. And I'd like to have you hear from him now about how important it is to protect our kids and keep our schools open. My pleasure to introduce Mayor-elect Eric Adams.
Mayor-elect Eric Adams: Thank you so much, Mayor. And know, Mayor, the credit goes to you. Far too many people are not aware of what has been taking place behind the scene of these last few months on how we have moved seamlessly to transition government. That's what makes America great and that's what made America's greatest city great, our ability to have a smooth transition of power and authority. And you have done that. Throughout the holiday weekend, you and I have communicated throughout the night, throughout the mornings, making sure that we were on-page, because COVID is [inaudible] opponent, and it is organized on how it has infected and impacted our city. And if we are not organized, if we are not together and unified, not pulling up ourselves apart by trying to dispute [inaudible] that will send the wrong message to New Yorkers. And you have of your way [inaudible] that we will send right [inaudible] to New Yorkers that we are unified against this formidable threat to our economy and to the people of this city. And so, I thank you. And I thank you for that important model, Stay Safe and Stay Open – not only our schools, but our businesses and our entire city. We spent $11 trillion fighting COVID. It is time for us to realize that this is a resilient city and a resilient country. We must reopen our city and we can do that. And so, you, and the Governor, and I are sending a clear message to New Yorkers and to this entire country that we are together to fight this real battle we have.
Two clear messages we're saying loud and clear, your children are safer in school, the numbers speak for themselves. And we are united to make sure that they will continue to be safe. And I'm a parent. I know what it is. And I think about Jordan and how much I want him to be safe. That's the investment I made in a lifetime. Back in school would ensure our children are in a safe place and in real way. So, let me repeat the facts that the Mayor laid out. The virus positivity rate in City schools is low. That is a fact. Because of precautionary measures in schools, such as masking, and staff vaccinations, fewer than one percent of those exposed to COVID in schools contract the virus. That is such a safe thought to have, our children are going to be safe. And, as he just stated, 98 percent of close contacts in school don't turn into positive cases.
We fight fear [inaudible] what this Mayor has done, and we will continue. Does that mean we should let down our guard? Absolutely not. Cases continue to increase, following the holiday, and we must remain as vigilant as ever. So, we will also [inaudible] in the school – smart decision. This way we could identify those who are impacted by COVID and distribute, as the Governor mentioned, millions of tests to staff and parents to test at-home. This is a new way of thinking. Let's get those test kits at home, so parents can start taking precautionary steps and testing of their family members. At the same time, we will also increase testing capacity citywide to make it easier for young people to get checked and provide free vaccination at sites around this city. We're meeting a surge in the virus with a surge and resources, because testing and vaccinations are how we beat COVID. There is no other greater way of winning this battle and opening our city by testing and vaccination. We saw it with Delta and the now we are seeing it with Omicron, you are most likely to get sick or hospitalized from any COVID variant, including this variant, if you are not that vaccinated. Vaccination prevents serious illness and it prevents hospitalization. Those are the winners that we are looking for. And so, we cannot say it enough – testing and vaccination. And when it comes to school, our young people, it is critical that education is part of their overall development, their mental health, their social skills, and, in some cases, even personal safety. And they are able to learn better when they are in an in-person environment. So, it's a City's job, our job to keep schools safe, and open, and to provide as much testing and vaccine capacity as we can so that we can go do our jobs, live our lives, and make sure our children continue to thrive.
And so, to the Mayor of the City of New York and to the Governor of this State, I cannot tell you enough how I appreciate the collaboration that we have shown during these difficult times. This is what makes us great as a city. We witnessed this during the 9/11 attacks and terrorism and we're seeing it once again, how New York is showing the country how to deal with the crises. COVID is not terrorism, but it has brought terror. And the only way we can come back from this and get our city back open and thriving is for us to unite once again. And I'm ready to do so. And Mayor, again, I cannot thank you enough for the leadership you have shown. Thank you very much.
Mayor: Thank you, my dear friend. And Mayor-elect, I’ve got to tell you, your message is so clear, so sharp to all New Yorkers, and I thank you for that. People are hearing the kind of leadership you're going to provide in the months and years ahead, and we need it. And I want to also us say to you, every single conversation we've had, you always invoke what the data and the science tell us, what the health care leadership tells us. Those are your north stars and I want to thank you for that, because we're in a country right now where there's a whole debate over the value of science, but I know you value it, and it guides your decisions. And I want to thank you for that, and the partnership, and everything we've done today to make sure our kids will be safe. Thank you so much.
Mayor-elect Adams: Thank you
Mayor: Everyone, I want you to hear from a real powerful voice who has been throughout the COVID pandemic, talking about the things we need to do to fight back and looking at it from a global perspective. Again, talk about how we need to be led by the data and the science. Particularly when it comes to our schools and our kids. She is a Chair of Global Health at the University of Edinburgh is my great pleasure to present to you, Dr. Devi Sridhar.
Mayor: Doctor, thank you. It's so important for parents to hear voices like yours leading experts who really have studied this so carefully and the reassurance is so much more powerful when it comes from a voice of expertise like yours. And Doctor, I think just one more thing, you, we all understand parents' hesitation, but the fact that children benefit so much from being in school in so many ways. And, and that we have to factor that into equation. I just wanted to offer if you had any thoughts on that, because you know, sometimes the conversation gets a little one dimensional and what we've tried to think about is keeping kids safe in general, but also everything about their development and their needs. I just wanted to hear if there's anything you'd like to add on that.
Mayor: Doctor, that's, so powerfully said and so clear, and we need clarity in this moment in history. So, thank you for your leadership. Thank you for all you're doing to help people understand the right way forward and your clear voice I think is going to be very, very reassuring to a lot of parents in this city. So, to everyone thank you, to you and everyone at Edinburgh for sharing with us today, a little reassurance for our parents, very much appreciated, Doctor.
Dr Sridhar: Thank you.
Mayor: And I want you to hear from the city's doctor, and I will note as I turn to Dr. Dave, Chokshi that not only is he a parent, he also happens to be married to an educator. So, he, when he thinks about schools, he thinks about it very, very personally, very humanly and he's led by the data and the science, but he always thinks about the human angle as well. My pleasure to introduce our doctor, Dr. Dave Chokshi.
Commissioner Dave Chokshi, Department of Health and Mental Hygiene: Thank you as always, Mr. Mayor. Since September, we've described a dual mission for New York City's children to keep schools safe and to prioritize in person learning for kids. This is perhaps best articulated by the American Academy of Pediatrics, which has said policy considerations for school COVID-19 plans should start with the goal of keeping students safe and physically present. Today's Stay Safe, Stay Open Plan reaffirms that dual mission. As we return to school in the new year, even as we do make some adjustments due to Omicron and as a father myself, let me say that I know parents are concerned about their kids' safety, especially during this Omicron wave. There's simply nothing more important than that. So, to describe the plan further let me start with the science. What we know from our data over the school year is that schools remain among the safest settings in our communities.
An epidemiologic measure known as the secondary attack rate helps us look at how likely it is that a person with COVID-19 in school transmits it to other students or staff. For any case identified in a New York City public school between October to December only one in 120 close contacts developed. COVID-19. That's 0.83 percent. When we compare that to the rate outside of schools, it's about one in seven contacts in a household who developed COVID-19 or over 14 percent. This market reduction in risk makes sense. As Mayor-elect Adams said, it is the result of the layered prevention measures we put in place like vaccination testing, ventilation, distancing, and kids staying home if they're feeling ill. And even if the rates were to become somewhat higher due to Omicron becoming dominant, we estimate that in schools about 98 percent of close contacts do not end developing COVID -19.
So, the Stay Safe, Stay Open plan revolves around more quickly, identifying those cases, the two percent and ensuring that they are isolating while keeping the other 98 percent of kids in school. We will do this by significantly scaling up our testing while adjusting our classroom quarantine policies. As a mayor has said, we will double our surveillance testing overall and include vaccinated individuals in that testing. We will distribute rapid test kits at a mass scale. Both around cases identified in classrooms as well as to staff. And we will encourage wide testing of students and staff ahead of the first day of school through our community sites. Meanwhile, the situation room will shift from its current contact tracing protocols to supporting school leaders with these ramped up testing efforts. Our disease detectives will continue to investigate when there's evidence of widespread in school transmission, like when there is an unusually high number of cases within a classroom or with a sports team.
And we will continue to strengthen our prevention measures at every opportunity. From distributing high quality masks to further improving ventilation with a particular emphasis on vaccination, especially for five- to 11-year-olds, as well as boosters for anyone 16 and older. The bottom line is that schools are not just among the safest places for our kids to be. They're also health promoting environments as Professor Sridhar pointed out. And remote learning is not just detrimental, educationally. It also exacerbates health inequities and has worsened youth mental health. Schools nourish our children's brains and their bodies. That's why we're so committed to keeping them safe and keeping them. Okay. Thank you, Sir.
Mayor: Thank you so much doctor. And now everyone, I want you to hear from a public-school parent because all the healthcare leaders have so much that's important to say, obviously all the public officials, but I want you to hear from a parent what it feels to him about the importance of this action to keep a us safe, keep our kids safe. He's a father of a fourth grader and a fifth grader go to P.S. 304 in the Bronx. He's a soccer coach for his kids. Committed to the community and the school. My pleasure to welcome Fabian Wander.
Mayor: Thank you, Fabian, really powerfully said, and thank you for all you do for the school community, for our kids. And thank you for speaking up on how important it is to keep them in school. Really appreciate you. All right. Now, everyone we've talked obviously about how crucial our schools are for our kids, for our families. Also, crucial to bringing this city back fully and putting the COVID era behind us. Now, I want to shift our focus to another part of our recovery. Now always talk about recovery for all of us. Recovery for all of us means making the city safer and safer. We are the safest big city in America, but we have more to do. And what we've learned over these last eight years is that the best solutions occur at the community level. And this is really a sea change in thinking in terms of public safety. There's been a sea change thinking in policing and in the NYPD, there's been a sea change in terms of understanding across all the five boroughs how important community-based solutions to violence are. How important community leadership is community involvement is this is a new model that must be deepened because it is the future. We understood the beginning of this administration that something was happening that was powerful. We saw the work of the Cure Violence Movement, and it was brought together and formalized as the Crisis Management System in 2014. And that is a historical moment that has really not been fully recognized enough.
We want to, in one of our last press conferences in this administration, talk about this powerful model and how it must grow further in New York City, but also all over this country, because we found that true public safety requires deep community involvement and certainly neighborhood policing, the bond between police in community. But also, true public safety requires community-based solutions. They are absolutely indispensable. And that means investing in efforts at the community level, led by community members with real ownership by the community to find their own solutions. These investments are necessary and we've got to build on them. What violence interrupters do – and I think New Yorkers have some sense of it, but I really hope this becomes more and more of the discussion in this city – what violence interrupters do is incredibly noble. It's very hard work. It's very powerful work and it makes a difference. Deescalating conflicts, stopping islands before it happened, steering young people on positive paths. It was crucial to me that we document this and that we make sure that New Yorkers got to see the fullness of this movement, has grown over time. Our Mayor's Office for Criminal Justice has led the way, providing support and funding for these incredible community solutions. And we wanted to present to New Yorkers what's happening in a compelling way. And a good young man came along and volunteered his time and energy. And as he got to know the work of the violence interrupters, it became a passion for him to make sure or that this vision is shown to the people of this city. So, I say now with tremendous pride, I have the opportunity to introduce this good young man who took it upon himself to capture what this movement is all about. And I am very proud to welcome to our press conference, Dante de Blasio.
Dante de Blasio: Thank you. Yeah, I mean, I had this incredible opportunity over the past few months to speak to violence interrupters. Some of you might not know what that means. Violence interrupters are street outreach workers who do everything from deescalating violence situations – talking about two guys, you know, with knives who might be about start a fight and talking them down, calming them down – you know, and much less dramatic situations as well, offering job services to a young man who might get recruited into a gang, because he needs money, making sure that he has a place, that he has opportunities. And as I spoke with violence interrupters people, like Iesha Sekou, Mike Perry, Erica Ford, you know, I was just so struck by their tenacity in the face of adversity. Every single one of them has either witnessed gun violence, lost a family member to it, lost a friend to it. And yet they still do this incredibly difficult and, at times, dangerous work, because they want to create a safer New York City. And I mean, I was so inspired by their example and it felt necessary to highlight their work through a series of videos, a series of profiles. And I was also really struck by some conversations I had police officers about the work of violence interrupters. They often are able to work together. And I find that many police officers are appreciative of the work of violence interrupters, because they're doing preventative services. They're trying to make sure that acts violence don't occur in the first place, so that police don't have to react to them. And I think the model for that kind of collaboration is – Inspector Terrell Anderson, and who works in the 73rd Precinct, and who we had a chance to make a video on, his whole thing is the Brownsville Safety Alliance, a collaboration between violence interrupters, community-based organizations, and the PD, and they've just done some incredible work in Brownsville.
So, I think we're going to show a very short video next, a bit of a trailer for this series that will briefly explain the concept of violence interrupter and we'll show our subjects. Thank you.
Mayor: I love that. And Dante, let's, first of all, make clear to all New Yorkers, how are people going to be able to see these videos?
Dante: Yes, these videos can be found at nyc.gov/neighborhoodsafety.
Mayor: Amen. Amen. Well, your perfect segue – thank you, because, in fact, the investments are growing. And this is so important to recognize. And, Dante, thank you. Thank you for what you did here, because we’ve got to get the word out about this. We’ve got to get the word out and making it visual, making it powerful to people is going to help. So, thank you for your good work.
Everyone, the investment in the Crisis Management System, Cure Violence Movement, the violence interrupters – I am telling you, this is some of the best money we will ever spend because it is profound the impact it's being made. And to pick up on Dante's point, it is an impact that grows and grows and grows, because lives get turned around, and those folks become agents of peace as well. So, since the Crisis Management System was established in 2014, the City's invested over $300 million in over 40 community organizations doing this extraordinary work. The focus has been on the precincts with the highest gun violence. So, it's really been targeted to where the need is greatest. Today, I'm very proud to announce that the federal government is recognizing extraordinary work of organizations here in New York City. Some of the organizations that are now going to benefit from federal support as well are here with us today. Today, we're announcing $20 million in funding from the Biden administration. And this was part of a competitive nationwide grant application. New York City is the second jurisdiction in this country to win this award, because of the extraordinary work being done here. Also, the ground breaking work. This is a movement that's growing and evolving. Some of the best and most creative work is happening here in New York City. And that is a credit to all the members of the Crisis Management System, the Cure Violence Movement. Special thanks also to those in the City government for whom this has been a labor of love and they have put their heart and soul into building this in these recent years. Many people should be thanked, but I want to thank our Director of the Mayor's Office of Criminal Justice Marcos Soler, from City Hall, from our team Freya Rigterink, who's done really – I'm sorry, Rigterink – I never get the name right – Rigterink, who has done great, great work building this effort. Eric Cumberbatch has been working with organizations across the community. Jessica Mofield and Tahirah Moore, among many others who have been deeply, deeply committed.
Today, we are also focusing on the formalization, the permanent status of the Office for Neighborhood Safety, which will be on real powerful element in City government, focusing on these solutions in supporting them. So, we are honoring the folks who do the work. We're honoring them with investments. We're honoring them by showing the people of this city what it means, how it works, how powerful it is. And today, we also gathered some of the members of this extraordinary movement to thank them and honor them. You're going to hear from one of the leaders of this movement – one of the originals, one of the earliest leaders of this movement. But here, today, representing a variety of partners – and I want to hasten to add, as I said, we have over 40-plus partners we've invested in. This is just a few of the outstanding groups are represented here today, but it was important to thank some of the groups to be able to thank all of the groups. So, from Bronx Connect-Release the Grip, Tara Brown is here; from Getting Out, Staying Out-Stand Against Violence East Harlem SAVE, Quincy Lassiter; from Operation Hood Coney Island, sponsored by the Jewish Community Council of Coney Island, Tyrin Toresse; and from Man Up! in Brooklyn, A.T. Mitchell. These groups will be benefiting from this new federal funding. And it is so important that that federal support is going to turn into live saved here in the city.
So, first, I want to give my recognition, as Mayor, to the people who make the Crisis Management System work every day. And we're going to present a proclamation to the folks who have come here and really do this amazing work in the community. Everyone, come on up. I want to just say to everyone, thank you from the bottom of my heart for amazing work you do. Too often, you've been unsung heroes. We singing you today. We are singing your praises, giving our appreciation on behalf of the people in New York City. Are you live streaming?
We’ll give you a copy. But to everyone, you're doing priceless work, sacred work, and it's making a huge difference. And please share with all the members of this movement the deep thanks of the people of this city. I have the honor of representing all 8.8 million at this moment in thanking you. And on behalf of the people of this city, declaring today, Crisis Management System, CMS Day, in the City of New York.
Thank you. God bless you all for the work you do. Thank you. And I want everyone to hear from, as I said, one of the originals, one of the founders. You can have the coalition around you. He is the founder and CEO of Man Up!. One of the architects of the New York City Crisis Management System. And I've gotten to know him over the years. This is one of the New Yorkers I've come to have a powerful trust in, because he lives his values, and he has lived the entire experience he's trying to address, and he is doing it with heart and soul, and he is making a huge impact. He is literally saving lives. My pleasure to introduce a very good man, A.T. Mitchell.
Mayor: And you're see more and the whole city's going to see more. And Dante, you've done good.
Dante: Well, thank you.
Mayor: Thank you for spreading the message that needs to be spread and is going to help a lot of people be safe. Everyone, thank you. God bless you. God bless you. Happy and safe New Year.
All right. We’ve got a few more things to do here and they're good things. So, talk about getting at truths and helping people understand things that maybe weren't given the attention they deserved. Well, we made a very solemn promise in 2020, last year, to address in a new way some of the inequalities in our society, particularly the structural ones – structural and institutional racism has plagued this city for generations upon generations. And to do that, we thought it was important to create a brand-new model, a Racial Justice Commission, patterned on some of the commissions around the world after major conflicts, truth and reconciliation commissions. Different models existed. We wanted to create eight one here in this city to look at some of the history and some of the truth that had to be uncovered and addressed formally, officially by the City government, but also acted on, and how we would build new models for the future – a positive vision, because by acknowledging the pain of the past, you can also move past it productively and get to solutions that actually change society and address these underlying structural realities.
I want to give a special thanks to Deputy Mayor Phil Thompson for whom this has been a labor of love, this work, and has done it for decades in different ways, but played a very powerful role with this commission. A special thanks, of course, to the Chair, Jennifer Jones Austin, who has contributed immeasurably to this city in this role and so many others. And the Vice Chair, Henry Garrido, who brought a wealth of wisdom and experience to the process and heart. The commissioners, the folks that I named put their entire heart and soul for months and months, they went out, and listened to people of the city, they looked at the history, they listened to all the ideas. They came up with a clear path. And this was also a charter revision commission. So, the idea was to look at the City's foundational document, the City Charter, and update it, start the process of bringing it into the 21st Century and weeding out the structural racism within. Nine months of public engagement have led to today where the Commission is submitting its ballot proposals that will be on the ballot November 2022. This includes creating a Racial Equity Office for the City of New York. That will look at literally all the work of government, continue to assess where there are gaps in terms equity and where there are changes and new ideas that can be achieved. This is first-in-the-nation and I hope it becomes an example for the whole nation, having this public conversation with an eye to change and solution is incredibly powerful.
This is going to be on the ballot, as I said, in November, coming up – November 2022. I'm going to urge all New Yorkers, pay attention to this. It's going to change this city for the better. Flip that ballot on Election Day in 2022, so you can support the incredible work of this Commission right now. The Chair of the Commission, Jennifer Jones Austin is walking the ballot proposals into the City Clerk's Office, so they will be registered to go on the ballot. The culminating act of the incredible work of this Commission. Jennifer, I cannot thank you enough. You did incredible work – incredible, hard work, groundbreaking work, nation-leading work on this commission. I believe we have a live feed from you from the Clerk's Office. And with great gratitude, I send it over to you, Jennifer Jones Austin.
Mayor: Thank you. We got the message. Thank you. Well done, Jennifer. All right. Now, everybody. As we conclude this press conference, I have the wonderful, wonderful joy of celebrating another great New Yorker. We've been doing this over his last few weeks and it is making me prouder every single day of this city – incredible people that have come out of the city and changed the world in so many ways. I want to talk about someone who – he has changed the world with his incredible skill as an actor, a director. He's changed the world as someone who gave back to this city he loves, and gave back to our first responders. But he also changed my world and my whole team's world, because, when I was starting out, he was one of the people who lent not just a hand, but tremendous support, and kindness, and encouragement, and helped our whole team get here to City Hall and make an impact. And I'll talk about his achievements, but I think something especially fun to do would be to look back to the year 2014, we were getting ready for the Inner Circle Show, which I know our colleagues in the media look forward to coming back live in 2022. It was the first one I was going to do, and I had to get ready, because I'd never done an Inner Circle Show. I had to get ready. I needed a great drama coach. I needed someone who could prepare me for this grand performance and this video you're going to see captures Steve Buscemi, coaching me, preparing me for, hopefully, acting greatness. Let's look at this video.
Mayor: One of the all-time greatest, Steve, amongst your many dramatic achievements. This guy, I have to say – and this is the whole truth – we live in the same neighborhood in Brooklyn. I knocked on his door one day when I was running for City Council, and I didn't realize it was him until he was standing in front of me. And that began, in the most wonderful ways, a friendship. And I got to know Steve as a human being. Famous guy, yes, but I got to know him as a human being and a member of our neighborhood. And I got to know his story. And he started out as someone who just was looking for a way forward in New York City, became a firefighter, Engine Company 55, serving Little Italy in the 1980s. And his incredible talent emerged and he became just one of the great actors of our time, an incredible storyteller. And you could think of him for the extraordinary comedic work he's done. You could think of him for Boardwalk Empire and so many other – talk about range, dude. But I have been moved by not only the friendship that I've experienced, but the love he feels for so many of people in the city and, particularly, for our first responders. After 9/11, he was there for people, felt a tremendous bond to our firefighters, in particular. After Sandy, we walked together in Breezy Point, the devastation after Hurricane Sandy. You were there for that community. Steve, no matter what you do, how famous you've become, you always come back to your love for this place and your love for the people who serve us. And I’ve got to tell you, your heart, your soul, your feet are on the ground, always. It has moved me every single time. And this is one of the last things I get to do as Mayor, but it's sort of – talk about for full circle. It was so special the day I knocked on that door in 2001, here we are, 20 years later, brother. It's been a long road for both of us, but I can't thank you enough for what you've done for this city. And it is my tremendous honor on behalf of the people of the city to present you to the Key to New York City.
Mayor: All right. We'll finish up our work at hand here, but I always find after we have the chance to honor someone it's so moving and kind of feels funny to go back to things like our indicators, but let's go back to our indicators anyway. They still tell us so much about where we're at and what's going on. So, first of all, doses administered to-date – again, people keep coming up, get those boosters everyone. You have until Friday to get that hundred-dollar incentive. People are showing up, 13,127,187 doses to-date. Second, daily number of people admitted to New York City hospitals for suspected COVID-19 – today's report, 332 patients. Confirmed positively levels, 61.41 percent. Hospitalization rate per 100,000 people, 4.76 – very high and, yet, thank God, because of all the actions have been taken, all the vaccination, our hospitals are handling the situation well. And new reported cases, seven-day average, a figure we could never have imagined – we’re getting through it, because people took the right precautions, 20,200 cases, just a staggering number, but one that hopefully will be very, very brief.
A few words in Spanish, and this is about keeping our schools safe and the new measures we announced today.
[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 will now begin our Q-and-A. As a reminder, today, we're joined by Deputy Mayor Phil Thompson; Marcos Soler, MOCJ Director; Chancellor Meisha Porter; Dr. Dave Chokshi, Health Commissioner; Dr. Mitch Katz, President and CEO of New York City Health + Hospitals; and Dr. Ted Long, Executive Director of New York City Test and Trace. With that, we will go to our first question from Andrew from NBC.
Question: Good morning, Mr. Mayor.
Mayor: Hey, Andrew. How are you doing, brother?
Question: Good. Thanks. You must be feeling something with only four days on the job. So, I'd like to ask about the school testing. And our understanding is that no children will be tested by the City or the schools before they come back, which is something that Brad Lander and Jumaane Williams have called for. You said that that was a noble idea, but it just wasn't possible. So, you're saying there was no consideration or effort to try and set up some kind of mass testing this weekend so kids can get tested before they come back to school?
Mayor: Our health care leadership, our education leadership, everyone looked at this, Andrew. We really came to the conclusion the approach we're taking that we announced today is the right way to go. Schools have been incredibly safe. We want a smooth return to school. We want our kids in school. We want to make sure they're safe. We think this approach is the right way to do it. Go ahead, Andrew.
Question: Have you discussed and are you concerned that by limiting capacity in Times Square and by essentially saying mandatory masks, mandatory vax, only 15,000 – limit, limit, limit – that perhaps, unwittingly, you're driving people to celebrate indoors, which is the most fertile for Omicron to spread in the first place. How concerned are you that by scaling back Times Square, you're leading to bigger indoor gatherings?
Mayor: Andrew, it's a fair question. And look, I think we have a couple of different things we are taking to account here. We're doing something that the eyes of the world are on and that is so important to this city that symbolizes us. We want to do it the very best way, and this is the right way to do it. We've had a lot of consultation with our health care leadership, with the Times Square Alliance, figuring out what's that right balance point. This is a way of doing it that we're absolutely certain is safe and secure. We obviously want anyone who's not attending to remember the basics. Dr. Chokshi has spoken about them so many times – that, you know, if you're going to celebrate, celebrate outdoors if you can; social distancing; masks; but also, especially vaccination. And those who are vaccinated, particularly those who get those boosters have a very high level of protection. So, I think this is the right way to do this event, but it's – we know lots of people are going to be celebrating in other places, but the right way to do it, I think, we've made really clear to folks. And again, anyone who hasn't gotten that booster, go get it now. Take advantage of the incentive up through the end of Friday.
Moderator: Next we have Dave from ABC.
Question: Hi, Mayor. How are you?
Mayor: Good, Dave. How do you feel?
Question: Hey. I'm fine. I just wanted to ask – and I hope this doesn't as one of my two questions, but the Mayor-elect, he is not there now –
Mayor: No, he is not on at this point. So, does not count as a question.
Question: Okay. We'll hear from him at 1:30. Okay. So, my question is about, you know, we don't see Michael Mulgrew there, and it kind of begs the question as to where the schools really are the safest place for children to be. When you look at a couple of weeks ago, when he had the grave concern about tests not coming back in an expedient manner, and also that there were dozen and dozens of schools that had not been tested, he said, in a couple of weeks. So, while it's good to go from, you know, 40,000 to 80,000 kids that are going to be tested each week, it, kind of, begs the question, is this really going to happen?
Mayor: Oh, absolutely. And there's been incredible consistency in testing. I'll turn to Dr. Chokshi and Dr. Long, because I want to just be really clear about this. The testing has happened constantly. The results have been incredibly consistent. We made sure that the schools were literally the safest place in this city. And we believe these additional measures are going to help us continue that and deepen that. So, yes, of course, it's going to happen. And I want to give credit to our health care leadership and our education leadership and the folks in the situation room. Folks said it couldn't be done. A lot of people said it couldn't be done, but it was. They brought back school. September, 2020, brought back school – September 2021, full strength, made it safe, made it incredibly safe. Let's look at that history. These folks really produce for all of us. Dr. Chokshi, then Dr. Long.
Commissioner Chokshi: Thank you very much, sir. And Dr. Long will speak to the Herculean efforts of Test and Trace in schools. But I'll just say briefly, to start, Dave, remember that there are three layers of testing that we provide to help keep our school communities safer. The first is what you're referring to, which is the PCR testing that is done for surveillance purposes. And the announced today is that that will be doubled in the new school year. The second is all of the community testing sites that we do as a city. Overall, our capacity is about 150,000 tests per day, and we've – I've spoken about, we will continue to ramp that up over the coming days. That's very important to keep in mind, because our staff and students, everyone who's part of a school community also has access to that community testing as well. And the third piece is what we are really adding – a massive scale with the beginning of this new school year, which is rapid at-home testing. The supply for that, as you know, has been constrained in prior weeks, but we're moving heaven and earth and working with State partners and federal partners to get that supply to be able to bring them to bear, particularly to support schools. With that, I'll hand it over to Dr. Long.
Mayor: Dr. Long?
Executive Director Ted Long, NYC Test and Trace: Thank you, Dr. Chokshi. Yeah. And Dave, I appreciate the question, because our surveillance program in our schools has been one of the critical layers of protection. We've proven that our schools are one of the safest places to be, and actually are safer than being in our communities. We're opening up 40 new testing sites across New York City this week, bringing our total City-run sites to more than 160 sites to make it as easy and accessible as ever for New Yorkers to get tested. And yes, we will be doubling the number of tests we're doing every week in our school surveillance program. And, on top of that, bringing in millions of at-home tests to make sure our schools stay as safe as possible. Thank you.
Mayor: Thank you. Go ahead, Dave.
Question: So, my second question about the at-home test kits and how this will work when there is a child who tests positive in a classroom, then all of the kids in that classroom will get an at-home kit. I love kids, but they do have a tendency to lose things when they go home. So, is it incumbent upon the children to take these kids back? Trusting that they're going do that and that the parents will see to it also?
Mayor: That's a fair question, Dave. I mean, obviously, you know, we want to make sure every parent gets what they need. And, you know, I will say as someone who was a New York City public school parent, I do think kids are pretty good about bringing home in their backpack, whatever is given to them by the school, but we'll make them available to parents. They want to come to the school. And obviously we can do that in other ways as well. I think the good news is we're going to have a supply now that's going to give us that freedom to do this in various ways. So, we're going to work with every school community, and I'll turn to the Chancellor because she can weigh in on this. We want to make sure every school community is communicating with parents that when they need those kits and for any reason there's a problem, we're going to work with them to get it. Remember, I think one of the things, Dave, that's gotten a little left out here in the whole dialogue is school communities are very, very engaged places. Principals, assistant principals parent coordinators, teachers, they're talking to parents all the time and there's anything that needs to be clarified or resolved, there's lots of ways to engage parents to get that done. Chancellor, you want to weigh in on that?
Schools Chancellor Porter: Sure. I agree with you, 100 percent. School communities are going to make sure families know that a test kit is coming home. If it's going home in a backpack. But we'll also make them available. Those lines are communication a way open. And I say, don't underestimate our young people. They know how important this moment is. They know how important testing is. And even our youngest learners, our three-year-olds, our four-year-olds, our five-year-olds, our second graders, third greatest our youngest learners know how important this moment is. And so, I'm confident those test kits will get home will be used appropriately. And if we need to work more directly with parents, we will.
Mayor: Amen. Go ahead.
Moderator: Next, we have Steve from WCBS 88.
Question: Hello, Mr. Mayor. How are you today?
Mayor: Good, Steve, how have you been?
Question: I am well. Wanted to ask first about consent forms. I know you mentioned towards the time that you're-there's an effort to try and get more of them in here. So, I wanted to see what that effort's going to look like. What is going to be tried now that didn't work the first time and, and if there's any thought to asking parents to opt out of testing, instead of opting in as incoming Comptroller Lander is suggesting.
Mayor: Well, two very different questions. I think first of all, on the consent forms, we've actually seen, you know, a very substantial number of parents agree to the testing. And I think now that we're going to include the vaccinated kids, I think that number's going to jump up. A lot of those parents I think are going to be absolutely willing to have their kids tested. So, I think we're going to have plenty of consent forms given what we need. But I think this approach -I'll turn to Dr. Chokshi. I think this approach that we've created here is it's straightforward. It's clear, it's a way to maximize keeping kids in school and doing it safely. I mean, there's lots of, lots of ideas out there. I appreciate all the elected officials who are putting forward ideas, but I want to give credit to both the educators on our team, the Chancellor and all the educators and the healthcare leadership. So many of whom are with us today. They put their minds together and they say, what's going to work both from a data and science perspective, a health perspective, a education, you know, perspective. What's going to bring all these things together in a clear, straightforward plan. They came up with this and I think it is the best way to proceed. Dr. Chokshi do you want to weigh in?
Commissioner Chokshi: Thank you, sir. Just briefly to say that you know, this change to be able to incorporate vaccinated students in our surveillance testing was a marriage of what you talked about essentially the-you know, the evolving science as we're seeing Omicron and how transmissible it is along with what our colleagues at DOE, the Chancellor and all of her staff were hearing from parents in terms of wanting to ensure that there was a broader group of kids who were able to get tested. And so that's why, you know, we have made this adjustment in how the PCR testing in schools will occur going forward. It is I think a very reasonable point that we need to maximize consents. And I know our colleagues at the Department of Education have worked very hard on that over the last several months. And we have a chance to redouble those efforts and get as many consents back as possible ahead of bringing kids back to school. Thank
Mayor: Thank you. Go ahead, Steve.
Question: Thanks very much. And I was also struck by something Dr. Chokshi said earlier about the changing focus of the Situation Room here going from contact tracing to only looking at widespread outbreaks here. Is that an indication that some amount of cases and maybe limited spread inevitable here and that things got somewhat overwhelmed in the Situation Room over the past couple weeks?
Mayor: Well, no, I actually think it is a recognition of what we're experiencing with Omicron. Because we did not know what its nature would be fully in New York City. The experience we've had till we actually in the middle of it. And what we're finding is something that has been fast and intense, but obviously thank God to date more mild than we feared. And we're very happy about that. And also, you see everything changing, I'll bring Dr. Chokshi again, I-the- Steve, look at the CDC the way they've re-estimated now the isolation period, the quarantine period. I think the science is evolving and the strategies are evolving with the science, with the data. And that's what has happened here. Dr. Chokshi, do you want to add?
Commissioner Chokshi: Yes, that's exactly right, sir. And Steve, I would say that the-of the characterization of the changes to the Situation Room is not correct in the way that you described. The situation Room will continue to play a number of important functions beyond that role of monitoring for widespread transmission. It will continue to answer questions from school leaders, for example, will support school communication. For example, the letters to families that the Department of Education and school leaders have to send out, it will also keep track of all of our summary data, including the surveillance testing results that we do and track citywide statistics. So, New York City was the first jurisdiction in the entire country to come up with the idea of a situation room. It's part of how we brought back schools last year, last fall.
And so, it remains a core of our approach, but as the Mayor has said, what we are trying to do is actually to be even more swift with respect to identifying cases, that's what bringing to bear more testing and the rapid test kits allows us to do. And to actually get kids who are in the same classroom, as other cases tested more quickly because from a public health perspective, identifying cases and getting them to isolate as soon as possible is even more important in the era Omicron. So, to sum up the Situation Room is evolving because the virus has evolved, and these changes allow us to move even more quickly and curbing the spread of COVID in our schools.
Moderator: Next, we have Julia from the New York Post.
Question: Hi, Mr. Mayor, we confirmed that Mayor-elect Adams and Governor Hochul are gone, right?
Mayor: Yes, we did.
Question: Okay. Just a housekeeping thing. I'm sure everybody on the briefing would appreciate if either you have it now or could send us where that 98 percent statistic comes from, it's quite compelling.
Mayor: Yeah, we will have the Department of Health get that to you, Julia.
Question: Thanks so much. And then for yourself and for the Chancellor, how much is this driven the new school quarantine policy driven by the long-term impact of larger systemwide shutdowns and what would that be on the city and parents maybe pulling their kids out once and for all given the disruptions that you talked about?
Mayor: Well, it's an important question, Julia, but I'm happy to tell you, that's not a factor we have, have not seen parents turning away because of the different challenges. In fact, what we've seen in my experience, and I'll turn to the chancellor as well, is that parents came to appreciate their schools more than ever. They're always demographic changes. There's always different evolutions in how many kids are enrolled in school in any given year. But now that the striking thing to me has been people are probably more bonded with their local school than ever at this point, but the continuity of the kids' education, that's a factor for sure. That's something we cared about a lot, making sure that we - our kids could be in school, particularly as we continue to overcome what happened in the last two years and the growing recognition of ways, we could do it safely, as we keep learning more. And again, this was led by our healthcare leaders who said, this is a way we can do things now that matches what we now know, not what we knew a year or two ago, but what we know now. As to keeping the schools consistent and how important that is for the kids’ experience and the parents’ experience, Chancellor, you want to add?
Schools Chancellor Porter: Absolutely. I mean, we've said, and we've known all along that the best learning happens in person between students and teachers. Having great partners like Dr. Chokshi, who understands that from the health side and the academic side because of his life is also equally important. Then and you heard from Fabian, you heard from a parent, who talked about how important it was for him and what he saw when he got his children back in school. And so, while folks were initially worried about what it would mean, we all knew it was best. And every day that we work, we work to make sure that we can keep our students in school and in classrooms. And that's what remains important.
Mayor: Amen. Julia, go ahead.
Question: Switching topics a bit still on COVID with you know, the Key to NYC, the new rules for kids starting yesterday, we spoke to several foreign tourists who were denied entry to eateries because their kids hadn't been vaccinated, including a family from Costa Rico, where it's not available for that age group. You know, they said when they booked their trips months ago, they, you know, this policy wasn't in effect and several restaurants who turned away, you know, dozens of customers and were unhappy about the economic impact. So can you just speak to those frustrations and, and what, if anything, did the City do to reach out to, you know, foreign travelers and, and let them know about this?
Mayor: You know, our team at NYC & Company that does the tourism promotion, you know, and our Health Department folks, who are working with them we can get you more information on that. But what I'd say is, even though I always appreciate any concern, if folks from the restaurant community have a concern, if some of our visitors have a concern, I obviously appreciate that deeply, that we want to be responsive in every way. But in the end, the number one job is to protect people. And we have had this vaccine mandate for our indoor dining entertainment and fitness now for months and months. So for anyone to be able to meet that mandate, they had to be vaccinated. That's been very, very well publicized by saying that now it's time to make sure people have gotten that second dose. Obviously the vast, vast majority of people in this city who have been vaccinated have had the second dose, a lot of people are able to get it right now. So, we expect for the people we serve, city residents and including folks in the metropolitan area, where overwhelmingly folks have gotten their second dose. It does not disrupt their ability to take advantage of everything covered by Key NYC. For our foreign visitors, we've, you know, made very, very clear that vaccination is part of being able to experience the Broadway community, part of being able to experience indoor dining and for anyone who wants to get vaccinated, we will do happily what we can to help them. But the big picture here is it's about the safety of all New Yorkers and about our recovery. And this was the right thing to do for that.
Moderator: Next we have Gwynne from WNYC.
Question: Hey, can you hear me, Mr. Mayor?
Mayor: Yeah. Gwynne, how you doing?
Question: I'm doing good. Thanks for taking my question. I just wanted to clarify is this – does this testing and at-home test kits include 3-K and pre-K students and staff, this increase? And we're trying to understand in terms of the opt-in test rate, we haven't received any new data from your office for several months, we had it at less than 25 percent students and staff opting in. We know that you were required to release more data on this, so can you give us an update on what those opt-in numbers look like? If you've said that the numbers are going to be very good. Thank you.
Mayor: Yeah, and I – Gwynne, thank you for the question, and if we have it – if Dr. Chokshi or – excuse me - Chancellor Porter have it available right now, we'll give you the latest, if not, our team will get to you later on today. We've never had a problem getting the number of kids and adults tested we needed too, we just haven't, and again, what so striking is that the consistency of the results over months and months and months, and when we are thinking about testing every week as it's been done in so many schools in a vast school system, and the results are almost entirely consistent week after week after week, that tells you something , that’s just science. So, we feel very good about what we've done before. I have been handed a note, this is what's in, so approximately 330,000 consent forms are in, but remember those – there was not a request made to parents of vaccinated kids. So, now, we will ask them, and again, I expect that community of parents to be very responsive and we'll see those numbers go up a lot. Pre-K, 3-K, I'll ask Dr. Chokshi or Dr. Long. I had not heard of any difference in the approaches or anything different with pre-K or 3-K. Dr. Chokshi? Dr. Long?
Executive Director Long: No difference, sir.
Mayor: No difference.
Executive Director: We're doubling our current surveillance program.
Mayor: Same approach across all grade levels. Thank you. Go ahead, Gwynne
Question: Oh, sorry. So, I'm sorry, you said 330 consent forms – 333,000, excuse me. Are those all opt-in or those do those include the negative opt-out test forms as well?
Mayor: My understanding those are 330,000 that are willing to have their kids tested. Again, that's before we've now turned to the parents of the vaccinated kids, which I think is going to lead that number to go up quite a bit.
Moderator: Okay, next we have Katie from The City.
Question: Hey, good morning, Mayor - good afternoon yet? I'm sorry. I've lost track of time. Good morning, Mayor de Blasio. How are you?
Mayor: Good, how are you doing Katie?
Question: I’m, you know, I'm good. I'm good. My question is actually for Dr. Chokshi, I see him pacing over there, yesterday my colleague Maya Kaufman at Crain’s specifically asked about remarks he made to Department of Health staffers about his efforts to get a teleworking policy. I guess he spoke with
people, either you at City Hall or other people. So I wanted to get his take on what he said, and I guess what he feels could be an effective telework policy, especially as there are reported cluster cases and other issues in in City Agency offices.
Mayor: Well, again, I'll turn to Dr. Chokshi, but I want to just frame this again. When we say reported cluster cases, I'd just be a little careful with that. Test and Trace has been looking very carefully where there's something generated in a site versus the widespread existence Omicron that we know is happening all over the city, so I want to be careful with that term. But in terms of remote work, I've said different discussion when you're talking about workforce that's 94 percent vaccinated, and different discussion when you're talking about folks who serve all of us and we need serving all of us in the highest, best way while we're still fighting off COVID. So I, sometimes I think a comparison is made sort of private sector, public sector. I don't think that's a fair comparison. Public sector, folks, public employees are here to serve everyone, we need them. We've also made sure that their level of vaccinations far beyond what we see almost anywhere else, and that has framed our thinking on all this. Dr. Chokshi.
Commissioner Chokshi: Thank you so much, sir. And yes, just to underline the point that you may, which is that we are seeing significant levels of community transmission, of course, and that's what is the primary driver of the increase in cases in recent weeks with the advent of the Omicron variant. And Katie with respect to your question, you know, the, the policies about work, including remote work or hybrid work, are set by the Mayor and the Department of Citywide Administrative Services. Certainly, you know, as always, I provide my best public health guidance in formulating those policies. And that is why we have been able to make places as safe as possible with our vaccine requirement, with universal masking in place across city agencies, with emphasizing the importance of ventilation and distancing when possible, so those are all layers of mitigation that do help to make in-person, you know, office work as safe as possible. The last thing that I'll say, which, you know, I've shared with my team as well, is that we are public servants. The city is relying upon us, and I think about all of the school staff who are going in person each day, I think about all of the health care workers who are showing up at hospitals each day, and we do as public servants have a responsibility to continue serving the city to the best of our ability. Thank you.
Mayor: Thank you. Go ahead, Katie.
Question: Thanks. I don't think Dr. Chokshi answered my question. I asked specifically about what he told Department of Health staffers at a town hall as reported by Maya Kaufman at Crain’s, but I'll move on. I don't know he'll answer that. My question, I guess it pivots to something differently Mayor de Blasio, and it's looking ahead to your future. I know you've been very coy and cute about being vague about what's happening next, but I just think, I know you hate hypothetical questions, but I heard you answer one on Morning Joe, so I'll give it a shot. Let's say, hypothetically, you run for Governor and it's not successful, you know, in any – in some kind of crazy universe, you run and it's not successful. What have you put any thought until like a plan B, what you might do next? You're going to write a book, host a radio show, be an adjunct professor, I'm just kind of curious what you think could be next if you don't end up running for Governor.
Mayor: Just public service. I'll just leave you with that. Public service, it's been my life. It's what I believe in. It's what I'm going to keep doing.
Moderator: We have time for two more for today. Next we have Paul from the Staten island Advance.
Question: Hey, good morning, Mr. Mayor, how you are doing?
Mayor: Good, Paul, how are you doing?
Question: I'm well, sir, thank you. For you and the health professionals on the call regarding take home tests, how concerned are you with the variables these tests present, human error or people trying to game the test?
Mayor: That's a powerful question, Paul, I appreciate it. And I'll turn to my colleagues in a second. I'll – want to get Dr. Katz into the discussion too because we haven't heard his voice, yet and he is a voice of wisdom. Look, I think that we should see the tests as one of many tools. The fact is the overall reality is that our kids are better off in school for – you heard all the doctors talk about that today and other days and the Chancellor, our kids are better off in school in general and the school environment is incredibly safe. So, these are two huge, huge foundational facts. Then when you talk out the way of making sure things are being handled, you have the in-school PCR testing, and then you have whatever parents do in terms of their own additional PCR testing, which a lot of parents are doing with their kids, and then you have the test kits, which I think the vast more majority of parents are going to use effectively. So I do think it has to be put into context, but in terms of your very fair points, you know, what if someone doesn't use them properly, doesn't understand them, or has other, you know, approaches, Dr. Katz, what would you say that?
President and CEO Mitchell Katz, NYC Health + Hospitals: Well thank you very much, sir, for asking, and I do think it's a good question. The test kits, I've certainly done them myself, they're not, you know, super easy, but with the instructions, they are entirely doable. You have to read the instructions but if you read the instructions, you will get it right, and New Yorkers are a smart and savvy group and I believe in them. Beyond that, in terms of gaming the test, that seems very improbable to me because whether you are an adult or you are a parent, the test has meaning if you are kid, you know, tests positive, I don't think you want to send that kid to school. I can't imagine parents wanting to send their positive kid to school knowing that their kid could infect others and the same with adults getting the test kits. So, our experience has been very positive. New Yorkers have been using their tests very responsibly and we think that it's a very important part of our layers of protection. Thank you, sir.
Mayor: Thank you. Go ahead, Paul.
Question: Thank you very much for that. And regarding city run testing sites, I understand we're adding more, but review yesterday found only three out of 10 were open to children under four. So, specifically, what's being done to ensure testing availability for those youngest New Yorkers who are still unable to be vaccinated?
Mayor: I'll turn to Dr. Katz and Dr. Long. It's very important, very important point that, obviously, parents of the youngest kids are concerned and need the option to test the kids if they want to. But let's frame it, first of all, from the advice perspective. Dr. Katz, if a parent of a younger, you know, when the youngest kids wants to get that kid tested, what do you advise in general?
President Katz: Come to a Health and Hospital site. I understand the issue. Many of these test sites, you know, are not used to handling little children. They're not used to squirming toddlers, but we are at Health + Hospitals, and we will turn no child away and frankly we have the fastest turnaround time for getting that result. So, I think if you're an adult, there are a variety of settings that you can go to and you should choose the one nearest to you, and with the shortest line. I think if you have a young child under five, bring them to a Health + Hospitals facilities, we're used to taking care of little children. Thank you, sir.
Mayor: Thank you. And Dr. Long, in terms of the range of options for parents, anything you want to say about that?
Executive Director Long: I want to double down on what Dr. Katz said. We would love to see your children. I brought my son who was less than two years old when I got him tested the first time to a Health + Hospital site. We do an amazing job. Please come to see us. We'd love to take care of your children. And with respect to pre-K and 3-K, just wanted to clarify my comment from a minute ago. This is actually a good time. We want to see your kids in pre-K and 3-K at our hospital sites too to give them the best experience. Our surveillance program currently is for elementary and high schools and that we're going to be doubling effective January 3rd. So, for pre-K and 3-K students, definitely bring them to us. We would like to see them.
Mayor: Clarifying with you Dr. Long, elementary, middle, high school that’s – those are all the levels. So, basically from K to 12 is where we will be doing the doubling of the amount of tests. I'm saying it right?
Executive Director Long: Right, sir.
Mayor: Okay, great. Thank you.
Moderator: Our last question for today goes to Erin from Politico.
Question: Hi, Mr. Mayor. I wanted to ask about some of the details of this school testing coming back after a negative test. Can you just clarify – so they're given the at home test, do they have to submit some kind of proof? Do you physically bring in your little card with the negative line on it? Or do you just take people's word for it if they say that tested negative? How does that aspect work?
Mayor: Dr. Chokshi, do you want to cover that one?
Commissioner Chokshi: Certainly, sir. And the brief answer is that it will be an attestation, you know, either by the child if they're old enough or by the parent, and we will fold that into the health screening process that already exists. You know, each day when a child is coming to school. So, basically if a child is given a rapid test kit, they have to use it as is described, have the two negative tests within seven days and of course remain asymptomatic and all of that will be ascertained based on the health screening process.
Mayor: Thank you. Go ahead, Erin.
Question: Okay, thanks. And then I wanted to ask both you and the doctors, the CDC cut down the recommended isolation period to five days. I'm wondering, you know, there's been some controversy about this among public health experts. Some saying it's not enough, or that a negative test should be required, wanted to get your thoughts on the policy, as well as, you know, what New Yorkers should be doing and whether this will affect – how this will affect, you know, policies for city workforce and so on?
Mayor: Well, thank you, it’s a really important, Erin. Thank you for it. I'll start and turn to Dr. Katz first. I think the CDC, and first of all, under President Biden, the CDC has been tremendously helpful to New York City. We had a very rocky experience previously, but in the previous administration, but with President Biden, the CDC has been clear, strong voice guiding us with the latest data, latest science, tremendously helpful. I think the decision it made makes sense, and it responsive to everything we've learned about COVID, to the nature of Omicron, to the fact that we have to keep our recovery moving forward, all of these things. And so I think it, it was very much the right decision and we'll work with it. But now for a doctor's perspective, Dr. Katz.
President Katz: Thank you, sir, and I too support what the CDC has done. What they're focused on is the question of when is a person infectious, that's the most important issue in terms of deciding isolation, and what the data show is the persons are most infectious right before they become symptomatic, and for a few you days after they become symptomatic. And then by later on in the course they are not anymore highly transmissible. There are still possibilities of transmission beyond the five days, and that's why the guidance is paired with a strict have to wear a high quality mask because it's not a zero proposition, but I feel very comfortable if people isolate for five days, are completely asymptomatic, which is another thing that people have to realize. The guidance is not that you have a running nose and you're coughing, but it's five days, so you are free to go out. The guidance is that if you are completely asymptomatic and that's because we know that when people are asymptomatic, they are less likely to be shedding virus. So, it's five days, you're asymptomatic, and you are still wearing a high quality mask to protect others. And with, with those provisions, I feel very comfortable with the CDC guidance. Thank you, sir.
Mayor: Thank you, and thanks to all our doctors for always helping the people of this city to understand how we make it through together. And I'll just finish by saying, New Yorkers, you've done an amazing job. You have listened to the doctors, you've acted in a way that's really made the city proud. Let's do it again. Get out there, get that vaccine if you haven't already, get your young person vaccinated, but especially take advantage of that booster incentive. We have an incredible opportunity through Friday – through the end of Friday, get that booster. It is proven to be incredibly effective against Omicron and this is part of how we move New York City forward and achieve the recovery for all of us. Thank you, everybody.