July 30, 2021
Poppy Harlow: Welcome back. President Biden has announced new incentives to get more Americans vaccinated. That comes on the heels of the CDC recommending indoor masking even for fully vaccinated people in areas seeing spikes. Right here in New York City COVID cases are up. The daily average, over the past seven days, is double where it was a month ago and the community level of transmission in the city is “substantial.” New York City's Health Commissioner says about three-fourths of the COVID cases here are the Delta variant. Let's talk about all of this with New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio. Mr. Mayor, good morning. And thank you for your time.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: Good morning, Poppy.
Harlow: So, you just announced an incentive, a hundred bucks cash for people who decide to get a first dose of the vaccine at this point. Hopefully it works and gets a lot more people vaccinated. I do want your response though to some concern. For example, a resident of Brownsville, Brooklyn, Dionne Grayman, told the New York Times, look, this is a shortcut and it doesn't address the root causes of vaccine hesitancy. As you know, Brownsville is an area where they're facing a lot of that challenge. What do you say to those who share her concern?
Mayor: It's a legitimate concern and that's why for months, we've had health professionals out in communities and trusted messengers, clergy, community leaders, talking to people, but there's a huge amount of misinformation out there as well. Let's be blunt, unlike any other time in American history, a massive amount of very cynical misinformation. Folks for their own gain, bluntly, telling people vaccines don't work when you can see with your own eyes, 165 million Americans got vaccinated. That's the only reason that we're doing as well as we are as a country right now. So, it's all about vaccination. Poppy, here's the bottom line, the incentive's going to draw people. I'm proud of having announced something that I think is now getting a lot of attention and will be picked up around the country, a hundred-dollar incentive. That's going to be the deal breaker. That's going to move a lot of people – or, deal maker – to move a lot of people to come in, get vaccinated. But the other thing is mandates. What I announced last week, where our public employees – and this has now been spreading like wildfire around the country – we need mandates, public sector, private sector. We need mandates because the hesitancy is honest and real in so many cases, but it doesn't solve the problem to just, you know, look at the hesitancy, observe it, admire it as opposed to address it and mandates are one of the ways to address it.
Harlow: Okay. So, you're – you have the option of requiring/mandating masks indoors for everyone. But you haven't done that yet. You're waiting until Monday and that's got even, you know, some folks on your City Council pretty concerned saying, you need to act on this right now. Why are you waiting until Monday to make that decision?
Mayor: First of all, the whole ball game is vaccination. And that's part of what is crucial to me here, as we announce the approach to mask, is not to lose the forest for the trees. The main event is vaccination. Masks can be helpful. We're going to delineate to New Yorkers the best way to use masks. They don't change the basic reality. Vaccination does. So, what we want to make sure is that everything we do supports vaccination, focuses people on vaccination, doesn't distract from vaccination, or undermine vaccination. It's kind of amazing, Poppy. We're staring the solution in the face as a nation, and yet we're not going aggressively enough at it. That's why mandates to me are the answer in so many cases.
Harlow: I hear you, but we can do two things at once, right? We can do hard things. And as you know, Mark Levine, who chairs the New York City Council Health Committee, called you waiting on another indoor mask mandate, outrageous, saying, one of the lessons we learned from the pandemic is you have to act fast. Is he wrong?
Mayor: We are acting – listen, we're acting fast on the thing that makes a difference. That's why we put a mandate in place for vaccination of public employees. That's why we created the hundred-dollar incentive to get people vaccinated. That's why I called on the private sector in this city to implement vaccine mandates. And guess what? Danny Meyer, one of the most important entrepreneurs in New York City, just announced yesterday, for his establishment, his restaurant, employees and customers have to be vaccinated if they want to dine or work indoors. That's what we have to do –
Harlow: He did –
Mayor: So, we will address masks. We will, but we have to make sure everything we do supports vaccination. Yeah, you can do more than one thing, but you better make sure the two things support each other, especially the most important piece, which is by far vaccination.
Harlow: Okay. You brought up Danny Meyer. He was on the show with me yesterday. Listen to what he told me.
Danny Meyer: When we know that we care deeply about hygiene in every other respect of our restaurants, and we know so much about the science of what's happening with the Delta variant, especially for people who have not been vaccinated, why in the world would we just stand by and not take action right now?
Harlow: Again, he's leading the way, just like he did with banning smoking in his restaurants all the way back in 1990 before the City did. But you applaud his move. Should we take this to mean, Mayor, that you are going to try to move to have all restaurants in New York City do the same to mandate vaccinations?
Mayor: Look, at this point, Poppy, given everything we're learning about the Delta variant, all options are on the table. I keep saying we're climbing the ladder in terms of more and more mandates, tougher and tougher measures to make sure that people are vaccinated. What's going to happen, bluntly, is that folks who are vaccinated are going to be able to experience all the things that they love in the life of this city, in this country. And folks who are not vaccinated are going to find that too many things that they want to do, they can't do unless they are vaccinated. That has to be the reality because people will respond to that. We all understand human nature, especially younger people who are the group that are most unvaccinated. If they can't do the things they want to do, they will find their way to vaccination.
Harlow: Do you have the power – and forgive me if, I don't know this, I'm genuinely interested – do you have the power to mandate vaccination in all restaurants like a liquor license, like a restaurant can't sell liquor if they don't have a liquor license. Could you do that, or the City Council?
Mayor: The Health Department, which in – especially in emergency situations like this has very real powers, can put out a variety of rules. Just as you said earlier, there was issues with smoking in the past. Any kind of public health issue can be addressed. And we're looking at all those options, but listen, it comes down to something very human. We want people to understand this is what saves their lives. This is what saves the lives of their loved ones. But we've tried incentives for months and months. We tried being communicative and open and compassionate and all that was good, but we need something also tough at this point. Incentives, yes, a hundred dollars per person, great deal. But we need mandates. We've got to show people this is the only way forward to get vaccinated. And if you don't get around to getting vaccinated, you're going to miss out on a lot of things that matter in life.
Harlow: Two very quick, final questions. One, schools, as a parent I'm asking you, are you still 100 percent sure that New York City schools open 100 percent in person this fall?
Mayor: Yes. Our kids have been through too much. If they don't get back to the classroom, they're going to miss out on so much educationally, emotionally, humanly. Yes, every child is coming back to the classroom.
Harlow: Amen. Finally, the concert, big Homecoming Week coming up here in New York City. It is in the middle of August. Everyone's looking forward to it, but you're going to – it's gathering a lot of people. I mean, CNN is going to air it live. It's going to be huge, filling Central Park. I just wonder, I mean, we just saw St. Louis cancel their welcome back concert. What do you think, Mayor? Is it on the table to cancel it given what's happening?
Mayor: No, we just announced an incredible lineup for Central Park and for each of the five boroughs. And everyone who attends has to be vaccinated. So, we're sending that message clearly. You want to have a once in a lifetime opportunity, go get vaccinated. Even if they've gotten the first dose, people can attend the concert. So, we're saying it's still time to get vaccinated, but it's – clearly, you want to be rewarded for good behavior, you want an opportunity to see the concert of a lifetime, go get vaccinated.
Harlow: Mayor Bill de Blasio. Thank you. And good luck in all these efforts for the people of New York City.
Mayor: Thank you.