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Transcript: Mayor de Blasio Holds Media Availability

August 16, 2021

Mayor Bill de Blasio: Good morning, everybody. It is New York City Homecoming Week.  We have been looking forward to this for quite a while. Amazing, amazing events will be happening all over New York City this week for the people in New York City, to appreciate everything that we have done to fight through COVID, to appreciate each other, to appreciate the greatness of the city. And we're welcoming back all our friends from the tri-state area, from around the country – come experience everything great about New York City. So, Homecoming Week is a celebration of our strength and, what we're focused on, a recovery for all of us, a recovery that reaches every neighborhood, every New Yorker. That's what we're working on every day. To get there we've got to defeat the Delta variant. We all see the challenge. We have one mission now on our pathway to recovery, defeat Delta. It can be done through vaccination. The whole key is vaccination. We keep learning this over and over. We're seeing problems in other parts of the country where folks have not gotten vaccinated, but New Yorkers continue to come out in strong numbers to get vaccinated, and that's going to make all the difference. So, we have a real challenge here, but we know what we can do to fight back. So, we announced a week or two ago, the Key to NYC. And the Key to NYC is an approach that makes clear the power of vaccination. It is the ultimate encouragement to get people vaccinated, to say, there are so many amazing things in this city that you can participate in if you're vaccinated. We want people to enjoy the fullness of the city, but you got to be vaccinated to do it. Since we made that announcement, we see our approach being emulated around the country in New Orleans, San Francisco, other places. New York City, once again leading the way, showing that we can make a difference in fighting Delta through vaccination.  

Now, today I'll be signing an executive order, and this will make very clear the Key to NYC initiative begins tomorrow, Tuesday, August 17th. What we've said is we're going to do, to begin with, a lot of education, help people to understand how it's going to work, get everyone ready for it, and then the specific inspections and enforcement efforts will begin on Monday, September 13th. Look, I am absolutely certain this is going to motivate a lot of people to get vaccinated. It's going to be a reason for people to get vaccinated, particularly young people. And we know how important that is. We know one of the biggest areas of concern is reaching younger New Yorkers, our 20-somethings, 30-somethings who need to be convinced that it's so powerful to be vaccinated. This is going to be one of the ways we do it. We have been out there talking to business owners. We have planned, based on that feedback, a canvassing effort, going literally businesses in every ZIP code over the next three weeks, educating people, helping them understand how it's going to work. We're also providing support for businesses, launching You can get all sorts of information there. You can get information from 3-1-1, from our Small Business Services hotline. Small Business Services is going to be out there talking to businesses, meeting with business organizations, small businesses, BIDs to get them all engaged. We're also going to do a huge advertising campaign to make sure people know how this works and why it's so important. And it's easy. All you have to do is show proof of vaccination. That could be a CDC paper card, that could be an Excelsior Pass, an NYC COVID Safe app. Whatever works, all you got to do is show that proof and have ID as well. And it's straightforward.  

Now we're saying, get at least the first vaccination. Of course, the goal is to get everyone fully vaccinated, but get at least the first vaccination and you'll be able to work or enjoy indoor dining, indoor fitness, indoor entertainment, concerts, movie theaters, etcetera. We know this is going to reach hundreds of thousands of people, convince them it's time. Again, particularly young folks. And we know one of the biggest reasons this has been working is that New Yorkers, we love our arts, our culture, entertainment, restaurants. We love all these things. They're part of who we are. Knowing that the way you connect with these things is through vaccination is going to move people to get vaccinated. So, this is what we're doing now. We're going to use this tool to fight the Delta variant. We're going to watch literally every day, with our health care leadership, what other adjustments we need to make. A lot of other options on the table, but this is the one we're focused on now. We think it’s going to make a big, big impact, and we're going to get out there and educate people. And we're going to remind people that we really want people to take this seriously. Don't fool around with fake vaccination cards. By the way, it's against the law and there are serious penalties for that. Just buy into this because it's going to work for all of us. It's going to make us all safer. And a lot of businesses have said that to us already, that they believe this creates an environment that they can depend on for their customers, for their employees. This is actually going to work for them. I want you to hear from one of the greatest restaurateurs in New York City. He is famous in this city, but he's famous all over the country as well for what he's created, for what he's shown us on television as one of the great chefs of this country, for what he's created with restaurants. I'm very proud to say he's Brooklyn born, and he's done great work everywhere. But his greatest work has been right here in New York City. My pleasure to introduce, Chef David Burke. 


Thank you. And David – first of all, I want to say to everyone, Restaurant Week, this is the longest, best Restaurant Week we've ever had in the history of New York City. Another week to go. David's exactly right. Take full advantage of these amazing deals. Get to some of the places you've always wanted to go. But David, thank you. You are – you're truly a leader in the hospitality sector. And what you're saying to people is, this makes sense for the safety of all and the security of all everyone, knowing what the ground rules are. And thank you, and we really appreciate everything you're doing, employing so many New Yorkers, and giving an amazing experience to so many New Yorkers. 

Chef David Burke: Thank you. It's great to be here.  

Mayor: Excellent. Thank you, David.  

Now, everyone hearing one of our great chefs believe in this, that's a powerful message for sure. I want you to also hear from our Health Commissioner because he understands how important it is to get everyone vaccinated, why this is a kind of approach that can make a huge difference. He understands that the Key to NYC is a difference maker as a strategy, but also, he's going to give us an update on new guidance from the CDC related to third vaccine doses. We all know with COVID, there's always new information, always new developments, our job is to keep New Yorkers informed, provide guidance, provide support. Here to give you an update, our Health Commissioner, Dr. Dave Chokshi. 

Commissioner Dave Chokshi, Department of Health and Mental Hygiene: Thank you so much, Mr. Mayor. First, I'm so proud that under your leadership, New York City is leading the country once again in our COVID response with the Key to NYC. Vaccination is the key to ending the pandemic. And that's why the vaccine is now the Key to NYC. This will benefit, as you just heard, not just patrons, but also staff like the restaurant employees and the theater workers whom I've taken care of as patients. 

Now, a brief update on our vaccination guidance. Late last week, the FDA and CDC recommended that people with certain immunocompromising conditions get the third dose of COVID vaccine. This follows studies that showed a lower immune response after two doses of an mRNA vaccine, that's Pfizer or Moderna, in some people who are moderately to severely immunocompromised, such as someone who's received a kidney transplant. The good news is that some of these individuals were shown to have a robust response to a third dose. The types of conditions covered in the update include active treatment for cancer, organ transplant recipients who are taking immunosuppressive therapy, people who've received a stem cell transplant in the past two years, or people with advanced or untreated HIV. For other health conditions like diabetes or heart disease we do not recommend a third dose at this time.  

Other New Yorkers may also be asking, what about me, should I get a third dose, will I need one in the future? The simple answer is that right now you do not. But scientists are working around the clock to learn more about how vaccines can best protect us, particularly in the context of the Delta variant. The virus and our scientific understanding of how to beat it change quickly and so we must be ready to adapt as well. For New Yorkers who are immunocompromised, now that means keeping up with your course of vaccinations and getting a third dose as soon as possible. Go to to learn more about which medical conditions qualify and how to make an appointment for your third dose. And of course, please speak with your doctor if you have any additional questions. Finally, one last reminder for all of us, mask up in public indoor settings, regardless of your vaccination status. Let's mask up and, most importantly, vax up to keep our city healthy. Thank you, sir.  

Mayor: Thank you so much, Dave. And everyone, we're going to keep fighting the Delta variant and we will prevail. There's no question in my mind. You just see New Yorkers responding to the challenge as we have throughout this crisis and coming out, getting vaccinated, making an impact. We're going to keep fighting back. And so that's why we also are focused on our recovery. We're focused on our comeback. We're focused on celebrating the strength of New Yorkers and the way we have fought through.  

I want to talk about Homecoming Week. We have a couple of special guests here I want you to hear from. First, let's talk about the concert, starting with the concert in the Bronx. This is going to be a big moment celebrating the culture of the Bronx, celebrating the amazing historic contribution of the Bronx when it comes to hip-hop. Remember the whole world was changed by the creativity that came out of the Bronx that led to hip-hop, that changed the face of music. This concert is going to be amazing. It's on Orchard Beach. So, as we know, bucket hats recommended. There I am modeling for you. And the first thousand attendees at each of our four It's Time for Hip-Hop in New York City concerts, get this t-shirt. And this t-shirt says it all – creativity, hope, unity, resilience. This is New York City – and subway-themed back of the shirt too. So, these are going to be amazing, amazing concerts. We want to celebrate – we were in the Bronx two weeks ago for a week of activities in the Bronx, it was a really special moment. And we're so honored that the first concert is going to be in the Bronx. And it's going to say so much to the people of the city about our comeback. I want to hear from one of the performers who's going to be part of this concert. He is a beloved favorite of our own Deputy Mayor Melanie Hartzog, and he is known for this phrase – sometimes he rhymes slow, sometimes he rhymes quick. A great honor to have with us, Greg Nice of Nice & Smooth. 


Well, you guys have made such an impact and I'll tell you when we had our week in the Bronx, whenever I mentioned the lineup, and we talked about what you guys had done, people just – just this warm smile came over people's faces, and just a real appreciation. So, I didn't know your first video was Orchard Beach. So, this is really a homecoming for you. 

Greg Nice: Oh yeah, we were on Orchard Beach for two days and we went on Channel 31, WNYU with Ralph McDaniels, the early days of Video Music Box. When we announced that we were going to be on Orchard Beach this weekend, everybody come out – hundreds and hundreds of people came out all the way to today [inaudible] of the young ladies I've seen on the street, they go, we were in the video, I’d be like, you're a grandmother now.  


Mayor: Wait, what year was that, Greg?  

Nice: That was 1991. 

Mayor: Well, you're having your 30th anniversary reunion with Orchard Beach there. So, that's going to be an amazing moment. And listen, thank you. These concerts are going to say so much about New York City coming back. Thank you for being a part of it. All right –  

Nice: This is awesome. I appreciate you [inaudible] you're going down in history as the mayor with all the funk. 

Mayor: There you go – 

Nice: You’re going down [inaudible] all the funk, baby. 

Mayor: That is the highest honor I will ever receive. 

Nice: [Inaudible] Yes, I can't wait to see you. New York is going to be on fire this week, all week it’s on fire. The Bronx is going to be on fire, Staten Island on fire, Queens on fire, Brooklyn is on fire, and money-making Manhattan is on fire. 


Mayor: You covered it all. Greg, thank you. We'll see you tonight and thank you so much for being a part of this. 

Nice: All right. We’re getting ready to get on the highway and make it back to New York City. 

Mayor: Drive safe.  

Nice: Have a nice day everyone – 

Mayor: Take care. Homecoming Week, five amazing concerts. But there's also a huge film component to this week that's going to be extraordinary. Rooftop films, we talked about this a little few days ago, screening films in all five boroughs. But something very special is going to happen this week as well. One of the greatest – and I'm going to embarrass him a little bit here – one of the greatest filmmakers of all time, not just from New York city, but any place else. I talked to him some months ago and he told me that he was coming out with a work that really would define New York City's resiliency and heart and soul through crises. And he was looking at the parallel between 9/11 and COVID. And it's very striking to think about, this one place having been put through so much in just a few decades, but what we found out about New Yorkers, what we found out about our heart and soul – and I got to tell you, when people used to talk about New York City's days being numbered, I always said they just didn't understand New Yorkers. But someone who understands us and has chronicled our life like no one else has, he's chronicled the life in New York City love letter after love letter, tough, cold eye at the same time about our strengths and our weaknesses. And as my wife, Chirlane, likes to say, no one has captured African-American culture better than our guest today. And he will be premiering on Wednesday night at Rockefeller Center two chapters of New York City Epicenters 9/11 to 2021½. What a joy to have with us one of the greatest of all New Yorkers, ladies and gentlemen, Spike Lee. 


Mayor: As a filmmaker, what does it mean to you to do something this sprawling as it just – what did this mean to you as part of your art? 

Spike Lee: This is a – you know, a lot of people forget, you know, I'm also a documentary filmmaker and so – and you're a sports fan. So, I mean like the 49er’s West Coast offense, like, I got ground game and I could throw, too. But it means a lot to me because this is – New Yorkers are my people, from Harlem to Howard Beach. My people. Bed-Stuy, do or die, Fort Greene, even got to include Staten Island.  

Mayor: Alright. One love –  

Lee: One love, one love. And then, so – I'm getting New Yorkers to tell their story, to tell the story, many eyewitness accounts of what happened to the towers, and even today where people lost loved ones because of this COVID. So, I hope people – it’s HBO and HBO Max, and it's about us. And I hope that America could learn – New Yorkers know what we're about, but I’m hopeful not just the United States, but the rest of the world understands what makes New York City the special place it is.  

One real quick thing. We have a lot of clips, movie clips in the film. And one of my favorite films is Casablanca. And there's a clip where they got the guy, he’s a Nazi, and he's telling Humphrey Bogart, you know, we're coming over, you know, we're taking over. And Humphrey Bogart says, there's some parts of America – no, look, he says, there's some parts of New York City, I don't think even the Nazis would go to –  


Mayor: I advise you to avoid – or something like that. 


Lee: So, it is an act of love. It's an act of love, Mayor. 

Mayor: I love it. I love it. Everybody. As Spike said, what he has created, absolutely unbelievable, and it's about us and it's a time to appreciate who we are. If you find anyone who says New York City is over, tell them, turn around and go the other way because this place, this place is a beacon to the world and we are as strong as ever, in some ways stronger than ever. And we understand ourselves and see ourselves – 

Lee: And let’s be honest there were some New Yorkers that were – former America’s mayor, I know, and then the former president so we cannot overlook the fact that they’re from here too. You know, you got to be honest.  

Mayor: You're an artist. You look at the whole truth. Everybody, totally an honor, for all of us to have you here, Spike. And, everyone, you got to see this because every New Yorker has to experience what Spike has created. For this screening and for all the amazing films this week go to But if you can't see it at the screening, go see this on HBO. 

Lee: [Inaudible] 

Mayor: Yes. Rockefeller Center. 

Lee: [Inaudible] 

Mayor: Oh, I'm sorry. Rockefeller – I got it wrong, my bad. Rockefeller Park. That's different., everyone. I read my cue here wrong. Rockefeller Park – 

Lee: Hey, I messed up at the Cannes Film Festivals so don't – 


Mayor: I'm just here at my little desk at City Hall, not the Cannes Film Festival.  


Again, all the facts, how to see all these screenings – But also check out the entire film on HBO. This is going to be a powerful moment. 

Lee: Can I just say – 

Mayor: You have to – 

Lee: It's going to be an honor for me to have the world debut outside in front of 2,000 New Yorkers. 

Mayor: That's the way it should be.  

Lee: Yes.  

Mayor: The people’s premiere.  

Lee: Yes.  

Mayor: Now, I want Spike to stay for one more thing so he can offer a comment. We talked about this in my office a few moments ago. So, at the end of last week we got some powerful new facts, not rumors, not people –  

Lee: Facts. 

Mayor: Facts. Thank you, Spike. Facts. Because we had a very, very exhaustive census count in this city, mind you in the middle of a pandemic. And I want to tell you, take a moment to appreciate all the folks from the census effort, all the grassroots community organizations who participated. They went out, literally door to door in the middle of all of this last year, because that's what the U. S. Constitution says – you have to take the census every ten years. No matter what, they went out because they knew getting New Yorkers counted meant we would have the representation we deserve, but we'd also get the resources we deserve from the federal government. If we weren't counted, we would lose the money that our people needed. So, these brave souls went out and took a count that astounded everyone in how complete it was despite the pandemic. And here now is what the United States Census Bureau said at the end of last week, that New York City's population is now at its all-time highest ever, 8.8 million. What do you think of that, Spike? 

Lee: When you told me that this morning I was surprised because – I’m not hearing this from New Yorkers, it was just there's this narrative like, people are fleeing New York City, they're fleeing, like, everybody’s leaving. And when you – and if you hear that enough, you know, I was kind of like maybe buying this false narrative, but now you got the facts. 

Mayor: Facts. 

Lee: And what do the facts say again? 

Mayor: Let's go over it again, shall we? 

Lee: One more time.  

Mayor: 8.8 million, largest population in the history of New York City. Don't believe the naysayers – 

Lee: Don't believe the hype. 

Mayor: Don't believe the hype. Don't believe the doubting Thomases. And by the way – 

Lee: [Inaudible]  

Mayor: Yes, got that in there too. Spike and I were also talking about making sure this is a city for everyone. And that is why creating and protecting affordable housing, giving people, kids, families, free pre-K, 3-K, giving people a living wage – these are the things we do to keep this a city for everyone because the only way New York City works is if every kind of person is here, and not a gilded city, not an exclusive city, but a city for everyone. And again –  

Lee: When we talked about it I said that if – because of the cost of living in New York City, Mayor, if Black and Brown people no longer can afford to live here that's not going to be New York City. 

Mayor: And that's why we make sure it is a city for everyone now and to the future. The magic formula, the secret sauce, is everyone together. 

Lee: New Yorkers.  

Mayor: And you have shown that better than anyone in history, in my humble opinion. 

Lee: Thank you. 

Mayor: Thank you to everyone who made the census happen. Our Census Director, Julie Menin, and the whole team, outstanding. You've taught a lesson to the nation about the strength of New York City. And again, everyone, what a total honor to have with us one of the greatest New Yorkers. Thank you, Spike Lee.  

Lee: Thank you. Thank you.  

Mayor: We'll see you on HBO. We'll see you at the premiere.  

Lee: Oh, you're in it too.  

Mayor: Okay, I feel special.  

Lee: We have some fun in the documentary. 

Mayor: I'm sure you do. Thank you.  

Lee: There’s no [inaudible] it's just – 

Mayor: Straight up fun. 

Lee: Straight up fun.  

Mayor: All right. Now, we were having some fun over here, but let me now go to something somber, which is what's happening with our brothers and sisters in Haiti. After everything Haiti's been through, it's almost unbelievable that there was another devastating earthquake this weekend. A huge Haitian American population here, grieving, suffering right now worried about their loved ones. And obviously all those who are suffering in Haiti, we've got to be with them. So, we're immediately mobilizing New Yorkers to support Haiti. Please let's do that together. Let's provide the resources they need because they are going through so much. And it's just been one challenge after another. So, please, if you can help Haiti, donations can go through the Mayor's Fund. You can go to We're going to get resources down there immediately. We're also providing mental health support in the Haitian American community. People are traumatized by all these crises and not even knowing what's happened to loved ones. So, we'll have mobile mental health support out in Haitian American communities this week 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM at the Haitian-American Council Training Center in Brooklyn at the Evangelical Crusade Christian Church in Brooklyn, too. You can go there in person or anyone who's dealing with a mental health challenge or trauma because of this situation you can always go by phone and call 888-NYC-Well 24/7, multiple languages, including Haitian-Creole. I want you to hear from one of the leaders of the Haitian American community and a leader of Brooklyn, she is also the Chair of the City Council Committee on Mental Health. And I know she's feeling this crisis and feeling it for her people. Council Member Farah Louis –  


Thank you so much, Council Member. And Council Member, thank you for reaching out. You really inspired this mental health outreach effort in the community with your leadership and we're going to partner with you all the way through. So, everyone, if you need that help, it's there for you in the community. And, again, anyone who wants to help Haiti directly with resources, go to and provide that support through the mayor's fund. We're going to help our brothers and sisters in Haiti, and please everyone keep the people of Haiti in your thoughts and prayers. Let's do everything we can to help and support them. But let's also remember the pain and the suffering that people right here in this city are going through worrying so deeply for their loved ones in Haiti. We'll all work together to fight through yet another challenge for that country. And we will remember Haiti always.  

All right, everyone, let's do what we do every day. It's time to go over our COVID indicators and let's start with vaccination. This is always the key. Vaccination is the way we fight back, and vaccination levels have been increasing. And this is proof that the incentives, the mandates, the strategies are having an impact. As of today, in New York City, 10,326,678 vaccination doses given from the very beginning of this effort. By far the biggest strongest vaccination effort in the history of New York City. Every hour, every day, reaching people and protecting them. 

Let's go over the indicators for the overall situation. Number one, daily number of people admitted to New York City hospitals for suspected COVID-19. Today's report, 126 patients. Hospitalization rate per 100,000 people is 1.34. And new reported cases on a seven-day average. Today’s report, 1,637. Let me just say a few words in Spanish, and I'm going to focus on the Key to NYC, again one of the key strategies for fighting back against COVID. 

[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'll now begin our Q-and-A. As a reminder, we're joined today by Dr. Chokshi, by Small Business Services Commissioner Jonnel Doris, by DoITT Commissioner Jesse Tisch, and by Senior Advisor Dr. Jay Varma. First question today, it goes to Andrew Siff from WNBC. 

Question: Good morning, Mr. Mayor, and everyone on the call. Mayor, I wondered your on this – as well-intentioned as the Homecoming concerts are, and the key to the city, if you will, the new rules with regard to the vaccine, do you have any concerns that by encouraging people to gather with one shot in them, not fully vaccinated, after they're at dinner or after they're at a concert, they're doing indoor gatherings with family members, some of whom were vaccinated, some of whom are not, that there isn't a stronger message about avoiding gatherings until Delta is better under control, that as much as you want to celebrate the city's return, how concerned are you that we're at a very precarious point on the Delta [inaudible]?  

Mayor: Well, it's a very important question, Andrew, and I thank you. And we're always looking for that balance. But I'll tell you something, this is absolutely strategic to say to people, to fully participate in the life of the city and to love and enjoy this city, go get vaccinated. We believe it's going to make a huge impact. We're obviously seeing a real uptick in vaccinations already. We made a decision weeks and weeks ago, the whole ball game is vaccination. And once you make that kind of profound strategic decision, you throw everything you got at it. We are not interested in half measures. We're interested in vaccination. So, making vaccination something that allows you to enjoy all that's good in life, and knowing that that first dose provides protection to begin with, but much more importantly, gets you on the road to the second dose – and that's what we see overwhelmingly that people go back and get that second dose – that's how we built this strategy. So, we're watching every day for any areas of concern, but the key is always to move vaccination as aggressively as possible. Go ahead, Andrew. 

Question: Shifting gears, my colleague, Marc Santia, is reporting on the weekend surge in shootings. And I’m wondering what your message is to New Yorkers. It seems like every Monday morning, they wake up and see some staggering total in terms of the number of New Yorkers who've been shot, including bystanders, almost every single weekend. Is there a policing strategy involving new numbers of officers over the weekend at certain off hours? What is it you can do to try and stop this constant weekend outburst of gunfire? 

Mayor: Andrew, it's another important question. NYPD is clearly changing the reality on the ground and working with neighborhood partners. We went over with all of you what happened in June, what happened in July. We see a major change happening. We've got more work to do, unquestionably have more work to do. COVID unhinged so many things, and we are doing the meticulous work to get things back to where they were and beyond. For years and years, we've been the safest big city in America, we will continue to be. But we're going to have some tough challenges along the way. The key is more gun arrests. We’re at the highest level of gun arrests in 25 years, more cooperation between NYPD and community to get the information that PD needs for those prosecutions, the work of the violence interrupters, all these pieces have been working. We're going to apply them constantly and, yes, move officers constantly to where they're needed most. It will not happen overnight, but it will happen. We will turn this tide. There’s just no question in my mind.  

Moderator: The next is Erin Durkin from Politico. 

Question: Mr. Mayor. I, first of all, just want to know about a couple of details about the vaccination mandate. So, I think most of us were under the impression, as were some businesses, that it was taking effect today. So, did something change there? Can you just clarify that? And then also, can you just go into the details of locations? Are there any new ones being added compared to the original announcement or is everything the same? 

Mayor: So, Erin, yeah, we said the week of August 16th, and we needed to just get a few more of the fine tunings going there to address it. And so, we wanted to get this word out today, put everything out there, start it formally tomorrow. But, again, the first month is going to be very much about education, engaging businesses, making sure we answer questions, showing people how it works. As you can see on the screen now, we've been clear with people about the kinds of facilities, indoor dining, indoor entertainment, indoor fitness, those are the areas we're focused on now, and we're going to move this and then from there determine what else might be necessary, go ahead, Erin. 

Question: And then certainly Chicago and LA on Friday announced a requirement for teachers to be vaccinated. Are you getting closer to imposing such a requirement here with school starting? 

Mayor: Erin, we're looking at all options. You know, I've been really clear, all options on the table. And I have used the phrase from the beginning, we’re climbing the ladder. We're going to apply any tools that we need to, to keep people safe and to deal with Delta. So, I don't have an announcement for you today but stay tuned because we're going to keep looking at each and every tool we need to use when we need to use it.  

Moderator: The next is Elizabeth Kim from Gothamist.  

Question: Good morning, Mr. Mayor.  

Mayor: Hi, Elizabeth. How you doing? 

Question: I’m good. My question is could you or the Health Commissioner tell us how many City workers have been vaccinated since you first announced the vax or test rule?  

Mayor: Since we first announced what? I'm sorry, Elizabeth – 

Question: The get vaccinated or submit to weekly testing rules – 

Mayor: So, you’re saying since the mandate was announced. Dave, do you have that roughly at your fingertips? Or do we need to get back?  

Commissioner Chokshi: We can follow up on this specific number, sir. What I can say is that, remember that the first tranche that was subject to the vax or test requirement was for clinical staff. And I do know that at least hundreds, likely thousands, of workers have been vaccinated since that announcement. The next phase of it goes into effect today. That's for other congregate and residential settings. And so, we expect the effect of those requirements to continue to drive additional vaccination in the days ahead.  

Mayor: And Elizabeth, we will get you specific numbers, but let me do some overall. This is not just City workers, this is the city as a whole. Combination of the incentive and the various mandates, which I think really do work together, we've seen a 30 percent increase in vaccination over the past week. And if you go back two weeks, it's been a 52 percent increase in vaccinations for the city on a weekly basis. And then last week for the first time since early June, we saw over 100,000 first doses in a week. So, there's no question that this is having an impact. I think it's going to have a lot more impact as it affects more and more City workers. But we'll get you the numbers as we have them today. Go ahead, Elizabeth. 

Question: And I know you said that you anticipate that this first month of the vaccine mandate for indoor dining and gyms will be about disseminating information, but I was wondering if you could be more specific about the penalties. The penalties for a restaurant or gym not complying, and also for the fake vaccination cards that some people might be tempted to try. 

Mayor: Yeah, really, really key questions. Elizabeth, so, first of all, I'll start and then Dr. Chokshi and then Commissioner Jesse Tisch can add. On the falsification of a vaccination card, that's actually a serious offense, falsifying an official document. That literally could result in prison time as much as seven years. So, I want people to understand that is not something to play around with. This is – we're in the middle of a pandemic. The vaccination card is a pretty sacred document to tell us who's vaccinated, who's not. Don't even think about falsifying because it could be very, very serious, serious consequences if you do. As to the penalties, so again, our goal here, Elizabeth, is not to penalize restaurants and indoor entertainment, fitness. To educate for a month, get everyone clear about what they need to do, and just make sure people do it. If we get non-compliance after that much education and that much of a grace period, you know, we won't hesitate to get penalties, but we certainly hope to not to do that often. And our experience last year showed us that we didn't actually have to do too many penalties luckily. Most people complied readily. But my understanding is that the typical situation, a first offense for example, is $1,000, a second offense is $2,000, I think a third is $5,000. We'll get you all the details, but it's an escalator approach to make clear that people have to conform with the law. Dr. Chokshi then Commissioner Tisch. 

Commissioner Chokshi: Thank you, Mayor. And that's exactly right. So, starting with the penalties for non-compliance. As a reminder these would go into effect as of September 13th of this year. Any establishment that is subject to the mayoral executive order that's found to be noncompliant would be subject to a fine of $1,000 on the first offense. And as the Mayor just said those fines can escalate with repeated offenses beyond that. In terms of the concern about fake vaccination cards, the most important point is that a fake vaccination card constitutes fraud and will be prosecuted as fraud by that individual. We will have recourse for people to report if they're encountering fake vaccination cards, both at the City level through 3-1-1 as well as at the State level through the State Attorney General's Office. The final thing that I'll say is that another part of the requirement is that any establishment that's subject to the executive order is required to post a sign that describes what patrons and staff should expect. That's now available online at Thank you.  

Mayor: Thank you, and Commissioner Jesse Tisch has played a key role in putting together this initiative, anything you'd like to add? 

Commissioner Jessica Tisch, Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications: Thank you, Mr. Mayor, I have nothing to add. That was very complete.  

Mayor: Good. And I also see we have Small Business Service Commissioner Jonnel Doris, anything you'd like to add? I think he’s out there.  

Commissioner Jonnel Doris, Small Business Services: Thank you, sir. Only that we have an extensive outreach plan for small businesses to make sure that they know all that is needed to comply, and we start that this week. We start that actually, tomorrow. We're in the streets speaking with small businesses and also partner with our bids, chambers of commerce, and other small businesses groups. So, folks are well aware of all the information and make sure that they have the requirements that are met, but also, we're there with them hand-in-hand, that's what we've been doing from the start of this pandemic. So, we'll be here for you. You can call our hotline if you're a small business. We want to make sure that you have everything that you need to comply. 

Mayor: And Commissioner, you and your team had done a great job working with small businesses from the very beginning. I want to thank you for that, you've been out there at the front, hands-on, but, you know, I like to always have you remind people of your hotline number for any small business that needs help.  

Commissioner Doris: Correct, sir. Yes. 8-8-8-SBS-4NYC. 

Mayor: Number four. 8-8-8-SBS – number four - NYC. Thank you very much, Commissioner.  

Moderator: Next, making her return to the Blue Room is Katie Honan from The City.  

Mayor: Katie, welcome back, and congratulations on the new gig. Well, we see – I don't know if she's out there. Okay. Hold on. Are you muted? You got her there or not?  

Moderator: Maybe not.  

Mayor: Okay. Well, all this buildup then we got nothing.  

Moderator: We'll have to wait for Katie’s return.  

Mayor: Okay, Katie will come back later. 

Moderator: Next is Emily from NY1. Okay.  

Mayor: Emily, are you there?  

Question: Good morning, everyone.  

Mayor: How are you doing Emily? 

Question: I'm well, thank you. I hope you're well, too.  

Mayor: Thank you.  

Question: [Inaudible] from business owners, from restaurateurs, from gym owners, for [inaudible] NYC, patrons are one thing, the actual business owners who will need to enforce the mandate is another thing. What are you hearing? 

Mayor: I'll start, and then my colleagues can weigh in. Emily, look, as you heard from David Burke, a lot of business owners are telling us they just wanted clear rules and they can work with these rules. They want their customers to be safe. They want their employees to be safe. This actually creates, you know, a really straightforward approach for them and they can say to people, hey, if you come here, it's a positive, safe environment. So, we've gotten a lot of good feedback. I know not everyone agrees, I'm clear, but we've gotten a lot of good feedback from the business community that this was clear and straightforward, they could work with it. Let me see if Commissioner Jonnel Doris or Commissioner Jesse Tisch want to add? 

Commissioner Doris: Sir, just to say, to echo your point, certainly we heard from multiple groups, multiple sources as it pertains to the advocates from the small business community, and the one thing I think we heard echoed throughout was consistency, knowledge, and understanding exactly what the rules are. That's our role here at SBS. We will continue to do that. And then of course making sure that whatever is being asked of them is outlined and easily assessable, and that's what we have as pertains to the rules, regulations, requirements. They are in various languages. Again, we're doing webinars, training, outreach to make sure that all businesses know what they need to comply. 

Mayor: Thank you very much. Go ahead, Emily 

Question: Mr. Mayor, with respect, of course, speaking of clear and straight forward, the mandate we thought had begun today, but it's to begin tomorrow?  

Mayor: Yeah, again, it's – let's be clear, Emily. Fair question, but we said the week of the 16th and we were trying to be clear that we were working out some final details, but the bottom line is this is a period in which we are educating folks, we're answering questions, meaning we're going to businesses, we want them to start applying it, but we're not penalizing them. So, we're telling businesses, starting tomorrow, apply this rule, do you have any questions or concerns, reach out to the City, we'll work with you, but there are not going to be any penalties until the week of September 13th. And I also would say to you, Emily, a lot of businesses wanted to do this and started doing it even last week because they had that right as a business to make their own standards, and a lot of businesses are already complying because they see this as something that makes sense for them. Go ahead.  

Moderator: The next is Henry from Bloomberg.  

Mayor: Henry? Henry, Henry? Okay. You got him or not?  

Moderator: We do not have Henry. 

Mayor: We have Katie?  

Moderator: We do have Katie.  

Mayor: You have Katie, alright. 

Moderator: The next is Katie from The City.  

Mayor: Katie – 

Question: Hey, can you hear me?  

Mayor: There, now I want to now formally congratulate – 

Question: Can you hear me?  

Mayor: Yes, can you hear me?  

Question: Oh, thank you so much. Yeah, I can hear you.  

Mayor: All right. Welcome back.  

Question: Great, thank you. Thanks. I wanted to follow up with Emily's question, you know, there seems to be some confusion and business owners, or I guess they're concerned about –although this is very well intention – a lot of it sort of falls on them, already kind of a tax workforce enforcing these rules, are you concerned about any real blowback or any really strong negative reaction to this rule and how it would affect the small business owners and the sort of the people working as a hostess or a bartender and having to enforce it? And does the city have any other resources, any trainings or other kind of guidance to help people as they're getting used to this? 

Mayor: That's a really important question. In terms of training guidance, I'll turn to, in a moment, the Commissioner Doris and Commissioner Tisch if they want to give any sense of how that's being done. But let me emphasize, first of all, Katie, I think the notion that it is a government mandate to address a pandemic, there's a whole lot of people that can make sense of that, and they understand it's not the individual restaurant making that decision, but it's something being done for the good of people overall. Obviously, we're seeing various mandates now, all over, including the United States military. So, this is not a new idea. People are smart and getting the message that we really have to deal with the Delta variant, it's a whole new ballgame. But second, I'd say, remember that so many places already have a procedure for checking people, obviously restaurants and bars when checking IDs when people get alcohol, for example, or other check-in procedures, people showing ID at a fitness club, whatever it might be. So, it's not like an entirely different concept. I think it's going to go quickly and smoothly in the vast majority of cases and if they need support and they have questions, that's what this whole month is for, to really get people clear on how to make it work before any enforcement begins. With that, let me see if Commissioner Doris or Commissioner Tisch want to add on how we're preparing people? 

Commissioner Tisch: I could jump in here and Mr. Mayor, it's Jesse. Katie, the Office of Administrative Trials and Hearings both is putting together de-escalation training, specifically for small and medium sized businesses who want tips on if they have to turn someone away, how they can de-escalate the situation. So, that training will be available at some point this week for any business who wants to review it, it's going to be an online webinar. The other thing we've done is we've put together a website that's largely geared towards businesses implementing the Key to New York City, and that website has FAQs for businesses, obviously it's going to have the links to the training, the policy, and general information in addition to calling the SBS hotline or 3-1-1. 

Mayor: Thank you. Commissioner Doris, do you want to add?  

Commissioner Doris: No, sir. I think we're covered.  

Mayor: Great. Okay, go ahead, Katie. 

Question: Thanks. And I apologize if this has been answered at some point, but when the enforcement begins in September, who will be doing the enforcement to make sure restaurants are checking for vaccines and especially for those fake vaccination cards? 

Mayor: So, what we're going to do is focus on civilian agencies, of course, Department of Health, which plays such a big role right now in regulating restaurants. But civilian agencies, variety of agencies will be mobilized, depending on the situation we also have the ability to bring in the Sheriff's Office if needed. But I think what we're going to see, again, is that people are going to realize that this is important and that it's important to do it right. If we get any indication of falsification of vaccination cards, again, that's exactly the kind of situation where you bring in the Sheriff for. 

Moderator: The next is – pardon me – the next is Nolan from The Post.  

Question: Hey, good morning, everybody.  

Mayor: Hey, Nolan, how you doing? 

Question: I’m well, Mr. Mayor, how are you?  

Mayor: Good, good.  

Question: Concerning the Delta variant, the City Health Department, and Yale did that massive study – I think it was a couple of months ago at this point – that looked at how effective the vaccines were at preventing infections, and it found that something like a quarter million infections were prevented, which in turn prevented about 40,000 hospitalizations and about 8,000 deaths. Since then, there's been another two months of new case data, and I'm wondering if the Delta variant has proved to have changed those numbers and those rates at all? 

Mayor: An important question. Let me turn to Dr. Chokshi and then Dr. Varma to comment on what we're seeing so far.  

Commissioner Chokshi: Thank you, sir, and thanks Nolan for this important question. To recap the study that that Yale put out showed that over a quarter million cases, 44,000 hospitalizations, and 8,300 deaths were prevented as a result of New York City's vaccination campaign. As you pointed out, that covered essentially the first six plus months of our vaccination campaign. Since then, because of Delta., we do know that the level of infection, as well as the number of hospitalizations and deaths, has increased, but that means that our vaccination campaign has prevented still more than those numbers that I cited with respect to cases, hospitalizations, and deaths. So, even though we are concerned of course about the numbers that we are seeing right now, we only have to look to other places in the United States and around the world with respect to what would happen if we did not have the levels of vaccination that we do have in New York City. So, it’s all to say that vaccination continues to save lives and that's why you've seen our concerted focus on it. Thank you, Dr. Varma. 

Senior Advisor Jay Varma: Yeah, I would just – to emphasize, again, what Commissioner Chokshi has just mentioned that we know that in any time that a vaccinated person is surrounded by people with COVID, there is a greater risk of having a breakthrough infection, but at the same time, but what we've consistently seen, is that even if you are a vaccinated person who gets infected, your risk of being severely ill or dying is way, way lower. It is substantially lower than it would be if you were unvaccinated. So that's really the critical message to keep sending – is that vaccination does have an impact on reducing your risk of being infected. It does reduce the risk that you would transmit infection to other people and even more important, it is incredibly lifesaving, and I think we'll continue to see that. And I think we can, you know, as the analyses are able to be conducted, you'll be able to quantify that exact benefit as well.

Mayor: Thank you. Go ahead, Nolan.

Question: Yeah, so just to follow up on that point, you say, as the analyses are conducted, we'll be able to quantify that benefit. Does that mean the benefit has not been studied to the point where it can be quantified? So, for instance, if was effective at preventing 95 percent of – you know, reducing the rate of infection by 95 percent, which is an extraordinary number, do we know what that number is today for Pfizer versus the Delta variant?

Mayor: Dr. Varma, then Dr. Chokshi.

Senior Advisor Varma: Yeah, I’ll answer quickly since this is a follow-up to what I was just mentioning. So I think that the reason I use that wording is because we know that the real world effectiveness of a vaccine, and this isn't just for COVID vaccines, this is for every vaccine ever developed, never matches exactly what you get in a clinical trial, because there are so many different variables that could impact how you might get infected, what your medical history is, et cetera. So, you know, quantifying that impact over time was referring specifically to that issue you were saying which is how many infections have we prevented over time? How many hospitalizations have we prevented over time? And that is something that you only get when you can look back in the real world and measure over time. And that's why, you know, the Health Department analysis with Yale, you know, took quite a long time to do, because do it properly requires you to have a substantial amount of data and to do a lot of analysis.

Mayor: Thank you, Dr. Chokshi, you want to add?

Commissioner Chokshi: Yes, sir. Thank you. Just to take a step back to emphasize a key point that Dr. Varma made previously, which is that the bottom line is that all of the authorized vaccines – Moderna, Pfizer, Johnson & Johnson – continue to offer strong protection against severe illness, even in the context of the Delta variant. We know this from analyses that have been done around the world as well as here in the United States and in New York City. And that's why the most important public health message that we have is: please, if you're unvaccinated, the single most important thing you can do to keep yourself safe and your loved ones safe is to get vaccinated.

Mayor: Thank you. Go ahead.

Moderator: We have time for two more for today. The next is James Ford from PIX 11.

Question: Good morning, Mr. Mayor, and everyone on the call.

Mayor: How are you doing, James?

Question: So far, so great. I do appreciate your asking. Could you provide just a little more detail regarding the Key to NYC pass? I understand this isn't just for indoor facilities. Could you see, especially in a city where plenty of outdoor seating at bars and restaurants notably is largely enclosed – could we see this expand? Do you see maybe some enforcement there and how much is that a part of the guidance and information that you all are providing between now and September 13th?

Mayor: Yeah, very good question, James. Look, first of all, outdoor is still outdoor. And obviously in the warm – outdoor tends to be more opened up, you know, people want the air and the light. And I think everybody I've seen at least a lot of places really have opened up their outdoor dining, but the point is, it's just always a different environment when you're outdoors. These rules are for indoors. Clearly, we were cognizant when we created these rules – again, very much trying to focus on strategy. It was a positive and a reward that folks who get vaccinated have more options and that indoor dining will be available, indoor entertainment, indoor fitness, go get vaccinated. That's the Key to New York City, unlock all those opportunities. But there still are other opportunities available for folks who are not yet vaccinated, and we thought that was a good balance. If we need to take additional steps, we will, for sure. But the crucial point now is, you know, we, we have said really clearly, we're climbing the ladder. We're going to keep taking steps as we need them, but the place where we still have the greatest sensitivity is indoors. And it was a great way for us to send a message. If you want to fully participate you’ve got to go get vaccinated. Go ahead, James.

Question: Thank you. Also, over the weekend, Senator Charles Schumer talked about the need for greater enforcement against forging vaccination cards. Can you talk about what assistance you'd like to see from the federal government, maybe even the state government, to crack down on forgery?

Mayor: Yeah, James, really, I appreciate this a lot. And I agree with Senator Schumer entirely. This is a major area of concern where we need cooperation from federal law enforcement and state law enforcement. I think so long as people get the message that enforcement is happening and that there are real penalties, I think that will overwhelmingly address the problem, but any anyone who, as a criminal enterprise, is producing fake vaccination cards, that's what we need all the levels of government to work together to crack down on that. We have good examples of that in lots of other areas. So, we definitely need that help and support. And Senator Schumer is absolutely on the right track there.

Moderator: Last question for today goes to Robin Pogrebin from the New York Times.

Question: Thank you, Mr. Mayor. I know you had already announced vaccination requirement for indoor concerts, but can you clarify that this policy now applies to museums and other cultural institutions, that it applies to staff members as well as visitors, what the penalties will be for noncompliance, if you're going to compensate arts organizations for the additional implementation expense, as well as lost revenue, and have you satisfied your concern that people of color will be adversely impacted at a time when cultural groups are emphasizing diversity?

Mayor: Well, Robin a lot there. That's a definitely – very meaningful set of questions. Let me see if I can do my best to remember them all and answer, but we'll give you a chance to follow up if I miss anything. Let's put up on the screen again, all of the institutions that are reached by this rule. So, Robin, in terms of making very, very clear to all New Yorkers as we start this new approach, there's the list including obviously a number of cultural institutions, cultural institutions clearly have a capacity right now for checking people in when they arrive. This is an additional step for sure, but it's one we think they can navigate and we're going to work with them on. We do not anticipate providing additional resources because again, we think this is something manageable that people can do as part of, you know, when folks arrive buying tickets or presenting tickets.

Look, when you take a look at the NYC app, I've got on my phone you know, you've got your ID and your vaccination card, you know, a photo of each on your phone, you just show two screens and you're done. It takes, you know, a matter of seconds. So, I think cultural institutions will be able to navigate this well, we'll provide support and training if anyone needs. To your question about equity, and Robin I know you've covered this. you know, very meaningfully that from the beginning with our cultural plan and a lot of other approaches, we've been trying to encourage our cultural institutions to diversify their audiences, diversify their boards, their staffs. This is something very important to me in this administration to keep doing. But this moment with the Delta variant is a very, very challenging moment, but it's also a temporary reality. I want to emphasize that we believe if we take these aggressive measures that, you know, over time, we're going to beat back the Delta variant. This is not a permanent reality. This is a temporary reality. And I also believe that in terms of communities of color, this is going to encourage a lot of people, audience members and staff alike, to get vaccinated, because what we've found is a lot of folks and the doctors talk about this all the time, a lot of folks who are open to vaccination, but just need that extra little, either incentive or reminder or convenience. And I think this is going to give a rationale for a lot of people to get vaccinated. Before we go to your follow-up. I want to get Dr Chokshi in because he still sees patients, and this point about, you know, most are not vaccinated – I don't think it's ideological. I think it's – they just need to get to that right moment that works for them, and Dr. Chokshi, if you could speak to that.

Commissioner Chokshi: Absolutely, sir. And that's really what was coming to mind as you were speaking, as well as the patients that I've taken care of restaurant employees theater workers for whom I have been very concerned about their safety over the last 18 months during this pandemic this is one more step that will help to assure their safety. And as we well know particularly in lower wage jobs too often people of color are overrepresented in those jobs. Often they're filled by undocumented immigrants as well. And so, this is one more thing that we can do to keep people protected. As the Mayor has said, you know, this is often an iterative conversation with people. For my own patients sometimes it's not the first conversation or even the second conversation, but sometimes the third or fourth and having things like our vaccine requirements, as well as the $100 incentive and lowering barriers to access for the vaccine, all of these things taken together are contributing to the increase in vaccination rates that we're seeing, but we have to push further because of our concern about the Delta variant. And that's what today's announcement represents.

Mayor: Thank you very much, Dave. Go ahead, Robin.

Question: Thank you. I mean, I appreciate your being so responsive. But the one point I wanted to just return to is, you know, I have one cultural organization saying to me, they were that they were the first to shut down, they were the last to reopen, and that the whole field has not been given the measure of relief others have. That they do feel that this implementation is going to be insult to injury and the lost revenue they already have with reduced capacity. What would you say to that?

Mayor: Robin, first of all, I really value our cultural institutions, truly. And we saw during the pandemic that they went through a whole lot and they went through a lot of difficulty, a lot of challenges, but we also saw as they started to reopen, what a booster gave, what an energizing reality it was for New Yorkers. We are defined by our arts and culture in this city. So, having arts and culture come back, having performance come back meant a huge amount to New Yorkers and gave people hope. Now I would argue though, we have provided a lot of support, working with the City Council in the last budget, we increased cultural funding in a variety of ways. We also saw support from the federal government. So no, I don't think it is anything but trying to get us where we need to go, ultimately, so Robin to me, defeating the Delta variant is the best way to support cultural institutions because it brings us all back, and we cannot defeat the Delta variant without a focus on vaccination.

I know that when people see this mandate, we're seeing it already with city workers. Some folks just – it's not surprising as a human factor. You just need sometimes to hear, hey, you know what, for a long time, this was optional. It's not optional anymore. For a lot of people, it's like, okay, I'm just going to get this done. I want my job. You know, I'm just going to do this. And for a lot of the patrons who go to the cultural institutions, to know they're in a safer environment, because everyone's vaccinated, we've heard this from so many different organizations, businesses, cultural organizations – people prefer to know they're in that safer environment. So, I think that's a real positive. It's not them doing it to anyone. It's a decision by the City of New York applied to everyone equally. I think that helps a lot. And you know, the incentives that we've encouraged people to take advantage of so they can get vaccinated. I think all of these pieces move us forward to the day, not long from now when we won't need these rules. And then our cultural institutions can open up 110 percent in every way. So, I'm always listening to them, but I really think this is the right approach to get us where we need to get. And I think the cultural institutions will find it works and the folks who go and enjoy these institutions will appreciate it.

And with that, everybody again, so much happening, good things happening this week, recovery happening this week, homecoming events, a reminder of how strong we are and that ultimate confirmation with the census – New York City, literally biggest population we've ever had because people love to be here, and New Yorkers love to be here, people from other places love to come here, and we're going to keep this city moving to its recovery. Thank you everybody.


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