July 21, 2021
Mika Brzezinski: In an effort to increase the vaccination rate, New York City will now be requiring all health care workers at city hospitals to be vaccinated or get tested on a weekly basis and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio joins us now. I guess my first question is, you were hesitant to do this in the past, what changed?
Mayor Bill de Blasio: Mika, we're watching the Delta variant and the impact it's having, and it's time for a change. It's time for a new approach. I'm proud of the fact of New York City 9.7 million vaccinations have been given. That's about 58 percent of our population that has gotten at least one dose. That's really good. And there are still people, 10, 20,000 every day coming in and getting vaccinated. So, the vaccination efforts continued deeply, but the difference is the Delta variant. It's virulent. It's strong. It's making an impact. So, it's time to do something different. What we're doing is mandate for the folks who work in our public hospitals and clinics, they need to be safe, the people they serve need to be safe. So, we're saying, get vaccinated, or get tested once every week. It's a fair choice. I think what's going to happen, Mika, is a lot of folks are going to say, okay, now it's time to get vaccinated. A lot of folks have been ready. We know this. A lot of folks who've been, yeah, hesitant, but still ready, and now it's going to be that moment, or after they get tested for a while, they might say, you know what? It might be just easier to go and get vaccinated.
Brzezinski: Not sure if I'm nitpicking here, but why not just get vaccinated or don't come to work? Because if you get tested every week, you risk exposing people if you test positive.
Mayor: Look, we want to keep moving this in phases as much as possible, getting more and more people acclimated to vaccination. There's been so much misinformation, and this is the underlying reality. Unlike any time in our history before, and this angers me, people have been lied to consistently. You know, when we were growing up, if you said you had to get a vaccination to go to school, no one would've blinked, and a lot of lives were saved. So, the notion now that people for their own political aims are spreading misinformation and too many people are believing it in an era where there's so much pain and distrust out there, this is what we have to fight back. So, we've done voluntary to a fairly well – I mean 9.7 million doses. We've given amazing incentives. You know, you could have gotten vaccinated under the blue whale at the Museum of Natural History, you name it, we came up with every bell and whistle and that's been great, but it's time for something more focused. It's time to say, okay, starting with our health care workers, here's a very fair choice. And again, I think it will move a lot of people to get vaccinated and others over time, but at minimum, we will be sending a message constantly, its time, its time, its time, and we'll have a good sense if there is any problem we have to address.
Willie Geist: Mayor de Blasio, good morning, as you know well, Los Angeles County put back into effect a mask mandate indoors regardless of vaccination status, that was seen as a big step back when things had been moving in the right direction. How close are you in New York City to implementing something similar?
Mayor: We're not there now, Willie, it's a good question, but I'll tell you, I mean, overall, in the city, I'm very pleased to say our hospitalization rate remains very low. The recovery of the city is very strong. You can see it. I call it the Summer of New York City. Amazing things are happening out there, so much cultural activity, restaurants, you name it, and thank God, even with the Delta variant, very few hospitalizations. We're going to look at, of course, any and all options, we're going to be led by the data that we see and the science. But let me tell you right now, I appreciate why some talk about mask mandate, but here's what frustrates me. That's not what the impact is. Our health care leaders in New York City say this very clearly, that might be marginally helpful, not something to take off the table, but the impact is vaccination. It's like, you know, why are we using the thing that is only a marginal impact when you go for the main event? You can still – why the side show, instead of the main event? We could right now in this country reach tens of millions of people. And let me just talk to you about health care workers for a moment, there are 22 million health care workers in the United States, and we think about 50 percent of them are not vaccinated. So, what New York City is doing today I hope will create momentum for both public and private health care, to go reach those millions and millions of health care workers right now, and let's get them vaccinated, and then keep going from there, because the only way we're going to stop the Delta variant is vaccination. Masks might be helpful on the margins, vaccination is the only answer.
Jonathan Lemire: Mr. Mayor, before you were on Dr. Osterholm came on and said that children should be almost put in a bubble effect because he's concerned the Delta variant makes them far more ill than previous strains of the coronavirus. So, obviously with school looming in a month and a half or so, I wanted to ask you about that. You've committed right to five day in-person school? Nothing has changed there. Will there also be a remote option for parents to opt-out, or you saying, hey, look, you have to have your kids in the classroom this fall?
Mayor: We need our kids in school. I'm a parent, Jonathan, our kids have been through so much. I mean, it's – we have not even begun to take stock, as a nation, of the trauma our children have experienced and the loss in every sense, including the learning loss. I feel for the kids, I talked to kids, I talked to parents, you know, they just want so much to be able to get it back together, get back on track. Also, in schools, and our health care leaders say these kids get physical health care, mental health care, regular nutrition, the fact that so many kids have been disconnected from that as unacceptable. So, we're coming back, all our kids together, but with an extraordinary series of health and safety measures, which kept COVID levels very, very low in New York City public schools when we didn't have any vaccination. What we're going to do is do a blitz to get kids vaccinated who are eligible 12 and up, again, against the backdrop of almost 10 million vaccination doses overall in the city right now, whole different ballgame than where we were last year. So, we want our kids back in school.
Mike Barnicle: Mr. Mayor, you're absolutely right. Kids all over this country have been through a lot, loss of education, loss of an element of the future over the past year and a half. So, they're all going back to school in New York City in September. My question to you is, given the fact that they have been through a lot, why don't we make mandatory vaccinations for teachers mandatory in order to not let them put through kids through a virus?
Mayor: First of all, Mike, I'm looking at you there with that great fireplace backdrop. I feel like voting for you. I mean, you should just run for something, man. You look very trustable. I'm going to do that voiceover, Mike Barnicle is the solution. You know something like that, I'm there for you, man.
Doesn't he look - he looks presidential to me, but it - America would never be the same, I guarantee you, America would never be the same.
Barnicle: That's for sure.
Mayor: Mike, look, I think this is something we do piece by piece, but this is the wave of the future in my view. This idea of you get vaccinated or you get tested very constantly. Now, our educators and school staff were getting tested regularly all last year, by the way, all the unions agreed to that in New York City. So, the notion of regular testing we have already, and we're going to need that going forward, obviously. When you say vaccinate or get tested, that's a very fair deal. I think that's something we can apply in many, many areas. Over time, we got to see what works, and I do think people are going to respond. If, thankfully, people get vaccinated and Delta variant is pushed back, that's a good news story. If people don't get vaccinated and Delta grows, I think a lot of people will come to the conclusion rightfully that we might have to be more aggressive, but what we're trying to do today is say, let's start with the most obvious piece of the equation, health care, 22 million health care workers in America, 600,000 in this city alone, 1.2 million in the State of New York, and only 50 percent on average vaccinated. Let's right there go to work, and then from there we can take additional steps.
Brzezinski: New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, thank you very much. You had me until you talked about Barnicle being presidential.
Mayor: Yeah, I got a little crazy there Mika, I got a little crazy. I think he should stick to what he's doing now. He's good at it.
Brzezinski: He’s perfect. Thank you for your efforts to keep New York City safe.