Secondary Navigation

Transcript: Mayor de Blasio Holds Media Availability

August 25, 2021

Mayor Bill de Blasio: Good morning, everybody. We've got a really important update today. And let me start by saying the people of this city should be very proud of the fact that New York City is showing the entire nation what it looks like to get people vaccinated. 75 percent of all adults have had at least one dose. Our kids getting more and more vaccinated every day, 12 years old and up. We are driving vaccination in every conceivable way. It is our number one strategy. It is the way forward. It is the thing that makes a difference and we're driving it all the time. And the bottom line is nothing, nothing is as effective in defeating the coronavirus, stopping the Delta variant – nothing compares to vaccination. So, that's our singular focus, vaccination. But we're also really sober about the fact that the Delta variant is a tough, tough enemy spreading, and there's a lot of concern, a lot of concern out there about the Delta variant. And there's been a particular concern about breakthrough cases – when in fact someone is vaccinated, but still ends up contracting COVID. But we have new data today that's really helpful, and it helps you to recognize just how powerful vaccination is.

This is from the New York City Department of Health, and it's really important news because it makes clear that vaccines continue to be extremely effective – not just effective, extremely effective. Yes, there are some breakthrough cases, that's true, but the bottom line is vaccine overwhelmingly works at the things we care about the most, which is stopping people from being hospitalized, stopping people from ending up with the most severe illnesses. And certainly, most importantly, protecting lives, stopping people from losing their lives to COVID. What the data proves is that breakthrough cases are incredibly rare. Here's the top line data, 0.33 percent – I'm going to say it again, 0.33 percent of fully vaccinated New Yorkers have been diagnosed with COVID. One-third of one percent.  96.9 percent, basically 97 percent, of COVID hospitalizations are unvaccinated. The folks who are hospitalized, 96 percent un-vaccinated.

Now, I've just been handed a note. We're supposed to hear from our Health Commissioner with this update. And if he can't get to an elaborate Zoom structure, why doesn't he get on his iPhone and Zoom in with that spontaneous feeling? Let's see if we can get him back. I'm going to continue on to other things, but again, low production values are okay, guys. Let's just get Dave Chokshi.

But again, one-third of one percent of fully vaccinated New Yorkers have been diagnosed with COVID. 97 percent of the hospitalizations, 97 percent, are with folks who are unvaccinated. These are staggering facts. They're New York City facts, they’re based on New York City research from our Department of Health. So, there's a lot of understandable questions out there. There's rumors that spread and misinformation, but we want you to hear directly what the facts are. We will get them to you in a moment. And I want everyone understand the vaccination efforts have developed so intensely, the mobile vaccination we talked about yesterday, the $100 incentive, which has been extremely popular over, a hundred thousand New Yorkers have gotten that incentive. It's only been around for a few weeks. It's all making an impact.

So, we'll get Dr. Chokshi back in a moment, but I'm going to go onto the next issue, which is also about COVID. And we've been talking about the back-to-school effort, getting kids vaccinated, and we have a simple way to talk about back-to-school is “Vax to School.” So, it's come to my attention that younger New Yorkers do not watch my morning briefings. I was shocked by this information. Demographic research proved at Jimmy. I thought it was incredibly popular with teens and preteens. I just don't know what to think. So, we decided we better get some help. We reached out to Marvel. Marvel does very well with that demographic for sure, and they're teaming up with the doctors at SOMOS. I'm really thankful to Marvel. I'm really thankful to SOMOS. This is really fun. Starting this week, kids could get an exclusive, exclusive issue of the Avengers when they get vaccinated. So, again, constant incentive kids, 12 and up. That's a really cool incentive. So, you can go to the SOMOS vaccination sites, 20 Times Square, legendary site, amazing things happening there. There’s also a site at Maria Hernandez Park in Brooklyn, and a site at 368 East 149th street in the Bronx. You get vaccinated, you protect yourself, your family, your classmates, and get a limited edition, exclusive comic book.

Now for all of you, we want to remember why this is so important – Captain America. Captain America started out as a skinny kid from Brooklyn, okay? So skinny kid from Brooklyn becomes a superhero. You to all my young viewers, you too can become a superhero, if you get vaccinated, it makes you strong. It makes you invincible. Well, maybe not invincible. It makes you strong. It makes you able to fight back against evil. It makes you able to take on COVID. COVID is like Thanos. Let's give this a really important metaphor here. COVID is like Thanos, out to hurt millions of people around the globe. You need to team up with the Avengers to fight and win. And with more now and how we get the vendors to assemble, SOMOS Community Care co-founder, been a great, great partner in our vaccination efforts. My pleasure to introduce Henry R. Munoz III.

SOMOS Co-Founder Henry R. Munoz III: Morning, Mayor. How are you?

Mayor: Good. How are you doing, Henry?

Munoz: I'm doing pretty good. I'm standing here in the middle of Times Square where the Avengers will arrive this morning to announce this great partnership between the City and SOMOS to help young people, and particularly people who have not yet gotten the message that vaccinations are the way to help keep our city strong and moving forward and protect our families in the neighborhood. So, we're super excited to be unveiling this new initiative for Vax to School today.

Mayor: Well, Henry, you guys have been just absolutely amazing partners. SOMOS has done such good work during this fight against COVID, and I really want to thank you. We were together many different times during the struggle against COVID. I am so appreciative of what SOMOS did at Yankee Stadium – it became such an important site and really had a huge impact on the people of the Bronx, but so many other things you've done as well with all your community doctors. Thank you for this and bringing the Avengers in. I mean, that's pretty cool. So, thank you to Henry. Thank you to everyone at SOMOS. Thank you to Marvel. This is going to make a huge, huge difference.

All right. We're now going to take a step back and get Dr. Dave Chokshi. Again, this is New York City research that Dr. Chokshi is going to go over to explain the truth. The truth about breakthrough cases and to show how vividly it is that clear that vaccination is the key to moving forward. Dr. Chokshi are you with us?

Commissioner Dave Chokshi, Department of Health and Mental Hygiene: Yes, sir. Are you able to hear me?

Mayor: I can hear you. I knew you'd be there.

Commissioner Chokshi: Yes, sir. Apologies for the delay. I'm also headed to the Avengers myself. But I'm really pleased to have the chance to talk about this important, new research, as you mentioned you know, in the past I've likened vaccination to a wall, and every new person vaccinated is like putting another brick between us and the virus. But in recent months, the virus has mounted a new offensive, and many people have asked how effective this vaccine is against the Delta variant. And just to cut to the chase, our new Health Department analysis shows that the vaccines continue to be highly effective against COVID illness, including the Delta variant, our data compiles the number of cases, hospitalizations, and deaths over time, comparing vaccinated to unvaccinated people. And we have two major takeaways to share this morning. First, the vaccines continue to prevent the outcomes we most want to avoid: hospitalizations and deaths. Unvaccinated people are at least 13 times more likely to be hospitalized due to COVID-19 compared to fully vaccinated people. Second, COVID-19 cases in vaccinated, people remain uncommon, but have increased in recent weeks. This is likely due to the more contagious Delta variant, as well as higher levels of community transmission overall. Although you may have heard anecdotes about breakthrough cases, let's keep in mind that the plural of anecdote is not data. Our data shows that among fully vaccinated New Yorkers, only 0.33 percent were infected, 0.02 percent were hospitalized, and only 0.003 percent died. These findings, taken together with the most current scientific understanding from around the world, reinforce our core public health guidance around the importance of vaccination. The most effective way that unvaccinated people can protect themselves and their loved ones is to get vaccinated. And the highly contagious nature of the Delta variant is why we strongly recommend that even fully vaccinated people take some precautions such as wearing a mask in public, indoor settings.

One of the reasons that I personally mask up, even though I am vaccinated, is to protect my young daughter at home who is not yet eligible for the vaccine. The data that we're presenting today is real-world and rigorous, but beyond the facts and figures, here's the common sense, bottom-line: vaccines keep you alive and out of the hospital. We've made enormous progress in New York. City's historic vaccination campaign, Mr. Mayor, and it has saved lives. Now, is the time to keep going and extend the protection of vaccination as far as we possibly can. Thank you, sir.

Mayor: Thank you so much. Appreciate it very much, Dave, and thank you for addressing us while in transit, with such important information. Let's do that again, Jimmy. “The plural of anecdote is not data.” That was good.

Staten Island Borough President James S. Oddo: I will be borrowing that—

Mayor: I'm going to borrow that too.

Borough President Oddo: —in both serious settings and fantasy baseball trade settings.

Mayor: Yes.

Borough President Oddo: It's that good.

Mayor: I like that you see the parallel between real life and fantasy baseball. That's good. We'll have a conversation about that.

All right. Well, as you can see, we're here in Staten Island this week continues. It's been great already, and it's going to get greater. City Hall in Your Borough on Staten Island. We are doing exciting things every day. Yesterday was really beautiful, the moment at the Goodhue Center, when we got to tell the kids and the community that they're getting a huge investment, a new enclosed pool year-round, just the joy that that made people feel. I’m seeing a lot of good investments in the people of Staten Island – the Diabetes Center we talked about yesterday. The Center of Excellence at the Vanderbilt Clinic. Good things are happening this week and a lot more to come. And here is another important announcement because the school year is coming on. We've been talking about it for days and days, and this is a time to announce something really special for the kids of Staten Island, because we want them to have extraordinary futures. And that means giving them the very best education. An education focused on the areas where the future is going to be determined for the city, for this country. So, today we're announcing something very, very positive. Port Richmond High School will be Staten Island’s first Pathways to Technology Early College high school. That is a mouthful. So, it's usually called a P-TECH school and it is transformative. It's really transformative for kids who go into a P-TECH school. It's a six-year program. They get a high school diploma, they get a tuition-free associate degree from the College of Staten Island. They get hands-on work experience. They get ready to participate in the technology community and make an impact for all of us. Great careers ahead. Great opportunity ahead. The children of Staten Island are going to benefit from this incredible idea, coming to Staten Island for the first time. Who agitated and constantly called and texted and emailed? You already know who it is, ladies and gentlemen. He is persistent. He is feisty. He is the Borough President of Staten Island, Jimmy Otto.

Borough President Oddo: Thank you, Mr. Mayor. I've been vibing my old man and these weighing days of our terms. And you've heard me reference him, I think, just about at every event. And I'm holding in my hand one of his tools. He was a motorman, as you know – a train operator, they’re called now – drove trains all around New York City. And I keep this in my office. And I think he'd be really, really happy with today's announcement, because, for him, it was all about preaching education and telling me that the education would offer me opportunities that he never had. And this program is such a win for the young people of Port Richmond. And today, we get to announce officially our two industry partners – not one but two great industry partners, and that's Northwell Health, and Sun River Health. So, together we build these pathways to viable, sustainable, well-paying careers for these Port Richmond high school students. CSI will offer them not one, but two different career tracks – information technology and a general liberal arts. We are getting these kids, these young people ready for jobs in healthcare and tech, which happened to be two growing fields. That's where the jobs are. And I have to tell you, Mr. Mayor, when you talk to Dr. Brahim Ardolic, the Executive Director at Staten Island University Hospital, who is a partner in this, and he starts enumerating the job titles, many of which I can't pronounce. I didn't know these jobs existed. Certainly, these high school students don't know they exist. If they don't know they exist, they can't pursue them. Well, they are not only going to know – you know, now know they exist, they're going to start working towards those jobs. They're going to get those jobs. These are good paying jobs that they can sustain their families. I want to thank Dr. Ardolic at SIUH, Diane Arneth for Sun River, just an amazing, amazing duo of people. I want to thank – and we selected the right high school – Andrew Greenfield is one of the best principals in the city. And I will admit, Mr. Mayor, initially, I thought this was going to be better suited for a different high school. I was wrong. Everyone was right, Port Richmond is the – 

Mayor: Could you repeat that? You were wrong and everyone was right. I'm enjoying this moment.  

Borough President Oddo: In the plural – the plural of anecdote is not data, but I certainly was wrong. Port Richmond is where it should be. And I thank Principal Greenfield and Michael [inaudible] from the high school. I want to do a shout out to a guy on my staff who is the driving force behind this. He's home watching right now, because he has a newborn. That is my buddy Isaac [inaudible] our policy director who worked so hard on this – lots of fits and starts. Isaac was the person who originally spoke to Stanley Litow and the folks at IBM about this. We had some fits and starts getting industry partners, but we found the right ones. And I want to close with this, Mr. Mayor, this started with Chancellor Carranza visiting us in August of 2018, and I told him it was not right that four boroughs had it and one didn't. He said he would rectify it. A year or so later, you came out for City Hall in your borough and I hit you up some dollars. At one point, those dollars disappeared – that required a mini-Red Wedding moment, similar to the one we had on Sandy and this very room. The money reappeared. And we've been working with DOE, I thank Chancellor Porter and the Office of Postsecondary Readiness. We thank our friends at CSI and CUNY. This is a really wonderful program. We are impacting lives this week, Mr. Mayor, and this is a great one. Young people are going to be finding careers that, as of right now, they don't even know exist. And that is a really wonderful thing. So, thank you again.  

Mayor: Thank you. Congratulations, Jimmy. Persistence is a virtue. And now, I want you to hear it from someone who's really excited about this new development. She has done so much to build new opportunities for kids all over the city, and she believes in reaching every borough, every neighborhood, our Chancellor Meisha Ross Porter. 

Schools Chancellor Meisha Ross Porter: All right. Good morning, everyone. I'm a little jealous that Dr. Chokshi is going to the Avengers this morning, but I'm going to Staten Island, so I'm looking forward to that. You know, I'm so excited that just one year after launching a computer science P-TECH program, Port Richmond is gaining a health care program too. This amazing program will provide our Staten Island students with rigorous, career-oriented instruction, and a path to a free associate's degree. And this is at a time when health care workers are so critical to our city. I'm grateful – so grateful to Borough President Oddo, for his partnership, and for your unwavering advocacy in expanding early college and career opportunities for students on Staten Island. This moment in the recovery of our city is about how our partners come together in support of our schools and our students. And with that, I want to also thank Northwell Health and Sun River Health, our new industry partners, who will provide key exposure and training for our students as they chase their dreams and pursue careers in the medical field. And to our partners at CUNY College of Staten Island, we absolutely couldn't do this without you, and are so grateful for your continued support.  

As a teacher, I can tell you there's nothing more valuable than hands-on experience. This is a type of learning that students remember for years after they graduate. This is the type of learning that determines the course of their careers. Although I didn't follow my original path, I majored in plumbing at Queens Technical High School, and look where I am now. But as the only female student – as one of the only female students, because there were two of us, doing that work at that time, those classes taught me a lot, and it was the experience of a lifetime to get hands on. As our city rebounds from the pandemic partnerships like this will give students hands-on work experiences and college prep that will set them up for success in their careers and lives. Our students deserve every educational opportunity we can give them and this program is a great example of why we need to bring our students back to school. Whether they are pursuing their dreams in the computer lab, on the soccer field, or in the music room, our babies need to be back in school, surrounded by educators, mentors, and school staff who are there to support them every step of the way. That's what our full return to in-person learning is all about. And with that, I'll turn it back to you, Mr. Mayor. 

Mayor: Thank you, Chancellor. And Chancellor, every time you talk about your own personal story, I love it, because, yeah, you had opportunity, but you also proved that there were so much more in you than even people saw and you took your education, ran with it, and now you're in charge of the education of over a million kids. So, thank you for being an inspiration through your own example. 

Everyone, I'm going to turn to a very different topic real quick. I want to just make sure all New Yorkers know we've got another heat situation on our hands. Not as bad as some of what we've seen earlier in the summer, but it's still something that we got to take very, very seriously. So, we have a heat advisory in effect today and tomorrow. Today, the heat index will go up as high as 96 or 97. Tomorrow, as high as 97 or 98. That is very serious heat. You should not underestimate it. Again, just change what you're doing if you can. Spend less time outside. If you don't need to go somewhere, don't go there. Just avoid the heat. Stay hydrated. Keep an eye on the people in your life. Keep an eye on seniors. If kids are outside playing, keep an eye on how long they're out there playing. Keep them hydrated. We have cooling centers – 340 are open today, many with extended hours. And we have pools – also, City pools will have extended hours today and tomorrow. Anyone needs help, anyone who is looking for where to go, where you can stay cool, all the resources that are there for you, go to  

Okay, let's do our indicators for today. Back on COVID, today's indicators, number one, the doses administered to-date – again, very strong number – 10,528,908. And more evidence every day that vaccination makes the difference. This is a great number. We’re going to keep building it every single hour, every day. Number two, daily number of people admitted to New York City hospitals for suspected COVID-19 – today's report, 148 patients. Confirmed positivity, 30.82 percent. Hospitalization rate, 1.39 per 100,000 New Yorkers. And number three, new reported cases on a seven-day average – today’s report, 1,645 cases. Let me do a few words in Spanish. I want to go back where we were. We had the update from Dr. Chokshi, live from his car on the breakthrough cases. I want to just say a few words in Spanish on it.  

[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 Borough President Oddo, by Dr. Mitch Katz, by a Dr. David Chokshi, and by Emergency Management Commissioner John Scrivani. First question today, it goes to Jeff Mays from the New York Times.  

Mayor: Jeff, are you there?  

Question: Good morning. 

Mayor: Hey, there you go.   

Question: Good morning, Mr. Mayor.  

Mayor: Good morning.  

Question: How's it going?  

Mayor: Good. How are you doing?  

Question: Good. I'm good. I'm hanging in there. I had a couple of questions on this data. I don't know if Dr. Chokshi is still on the call, but I'm wondering – 

Mayor: Yes, he is.  

Question: Okay. Maybe he can tell me if when the data was collected, I believe. I mean, that would be helpful to know – did the data collection come after the start of the Delta variant? And also, I'm wondering if the data – does it represent whether people tested positive for the virus before they had symptoms or after they had symptoms? Does the data distinguished any of those things? 

Mayor: Dr. Chokshi, did you hear those questions okay? 

Commissioner Chokshi: Yes, sir. I did. Thanks Jeff, for these important questions. And we'll follow up with the full details of the analysis and happy to walk through it. But briefly in response to your questions, we've been analyzing this data since the inception of the vaccination campaign and the analysis that we're putting out today goes from January through early August with respect to cases, hospitalizations, and deaths that have been tracked. And it's broken down between unvaccinated people and fully vaccinated people. So, that's the timeframe that is covered. And it's also broken out week by week so we can see precisely what the changes are in the more recent period when the Delta variant has predominated. With respect to symptomatic versus asymptomatic illness, the way that cases are cataloged, it is independent of, you know, whether or not someone is symptomatic. So, if there's a positive test, it counts as a case. But that's why it's incredibly important for us to focus on severe illness as indicated by the hospitalization and death numbers. I hope that clarifies.  

Mayor: Go ahead, Jeff. 

Question: Yeah. Thank you for that clarification. I appreciate that. And so, Mayor, I'm wondering – I mean, you may have responded to this yesterday, but, you know, there's some concerns from DC 37 about the sort of mandates that you've been putting out. I'm just wondering how you respond to those? Are you worried about those? Do you think the sort of finalizing of the vaccines by the FDA will cover you in the case of these mandates? So, I'm just hoping you can talk about how you're thinking about those mandates [inaudible] – 

Mayor: Yeah. Jeff, appreciate the question. The FDA action, the full approval is very important. The fact that, as employers, we have to keep our employees safe – very important. The fact that we announced from the very beginning, we're going to bargaining immediately. We've begun bargaining with unions in the Department of Education. All these things are part of why we're absolutely convinced that we're on the right path. The most important thing here is our kids. I want to just, again, respect – care about adults, but kids are where my heart is. We’ve got to protect our kids and we’ve got to give parents reassurance everyone's going to be safe. We're hearing a lot of great feedback from parents, real appreciation that we've taken another step to keep school safe. And I think it's going to work in the end. I think it's going to go smoothly and we're going to get this done.  

Moderator: Next is Andrew Siff from WNBC. 

Question: Good morning, Mr. Mayor, and the folks on the call. I want to follow up on Jeff's question real quick. Given that Dr. Chokshi just said the timeframe of your data was January to August, and that the Delta variant didn't really become a significant factor in New York City until somewhere around June, isn't this isn't this data heavily weighted towards original COVID when the vaccines were about as high as possible at preventing a breakthrough infection, isn't it misleading to assert with such confidence that the numbers would be that low?  

Mayor: I'll turn to Dr. Chokshi and certainly welcome any comments from Dr. Katz. I respect the question, Andrew. I think it's leading. I think it's the opposite of what you suggest. I think it's extraordinarily important and there's – I always say it, there's a lot of misunderstanding. There's a lot of misinformation. It's our job to make things clear. It is abundantly clear that unvaccinated people are in real danger and vaccinated people are protected. We’ve got to keep showing people those facts. So, first Dr. Chokshi then Dr. Katz responding to Andrew's question. 

Commissioner Chokshi: Thank you, sir. And you covered the bottom line with respect to the implications of the data. What I would say in response to Andrew's question is that the data show what the data show. We do look at totals which is where some of our proportions with respect to hospitalizations, cases, and deaths are calculated. But as I mentioned, we also look at it week by week, including in this more recent period when Delta has predominated. And what it shows is that, you know, in the most recent weeks people who are unvaccinated are 13 times more likely to be hospitalized compared to people who are fully vaccinated. And they are at least three times more likely to be infected compared to people who are fully vaccinated. That's not spanning the entire time frame. That's just looking at the most recent weeks. And so, it accounts for the situation that we're in with the Delta variant. 

Mayor: Thank you. Dr. Katz, do you want to add? 

President and CEO Mitchell Katz, Health + Hospitals: I would strongly endorse the data that Dr. Chokshi has said because I watched every day, the numbers at Health + Hospitals and while we have a lot of positive swabs among people who are vaccinated, all of the sick patients that we have, practically everyone is somebody who is unvaccinated. So, the vaccines are working at doing what vaccines are supposed to do, which is prevent serious disease, prevent hospitalization, prevent death. And that's the bottom line. Thank you, sir.  

Mayor: Thank you very much, Mitch. Go ahead, Andrew. 

Question: Today, Governor Hochul told me that one of the things she liked about your conversation last week is that you both sort of agreed there'll be no more blindsiding. And she was appreciative that you called her and said, look, we're going to mandate vaccines for teachers here in New York City, I want you to hear it from me. Despite the obvious improvement in warmth and information sharing there, do you have any concerns that the Governor's current approach is to not go that far in other school districts around the state to continue to offer the vaccinate or COVID test choice, which doesn't line up with your current policy in New York City – do you have any concerns that two different standards across the state might not be the best approach? 

Mayor: Look, I’ll only say it this way. I respect the Governor. I'm pleased that she talked yesterday about the mask mandate. We've got to make progress on all fronts. So, I don't want to, in any way, speak about what other places need at this moment. I want to speak about what we're doing here in New York City. We believe that a full mandate for all of the adults who work with our kids is the right thing to do here in New York City. But I don't want to judge for anyone else. I want to respect each and every part of the state and the decisions they make. I'm just happy that we have a governor we can work with. 

Moderator: The next is Roger Stern from 1010 WINS. 

Question: Yes. How are you, Mayor? Good morning. 

Mayor: How are you doing, Roger? 

Question: I'm doing good. I'd like to sort of drill down a little bit on the two headline numbers you had started with, the 0.33 percent of people fully vaccinated diagnosed with COVID, and then the hospitalization figure of 97 percent. First of all, does that include the data going back to January – following up on Andrew's question – or is that just in recent weeks? And then the more – the bigger question about that is, when it comes to 0.33 percent [inaudible] fully vaccinated maybe more likely to have symptom-free COVID, doesn't that make them less likely to get a test so that you really don't know how many people who've been vaccinated [inaudible] diagnosed COVID? 

Mayor: Roger, I'm not sure I understood that last part of the question. Could you repeat that? 

Question: Sure. I'm sorry. [Inaudible] a third of a percent of the fully vaccinated people have COVID, but I'm wondering how you would know about the people who may have asymptomatic COVID and therefore wouldn't be getting tests. 

Mayor: Oh, okay. I'll turn to the doctors. I mean, you're raising a good point. This has been true throughout the history of dealing with COVID over the last year-and-a-half. There's what we know from testing and there's obviously cases we don't know about. But the testing tells us a lot and we're testing at a very high level, one of the highest in the country. And the consistent results tell us a lot. So, it's really important to acknowledge, do we have perfect information? No, but do we have incredibly consistent information based on a really big sample? Absolutely. Dr. Chokshi, do you want to speak to it? 

Commissioner Chokshi: Yes, sir. I agree with that. We are continuing to test at rates that are significantly higher than most places around the rest of the country. It is true that people who are asymptomatic, whether they're vaccinated or unvaccinated may not know to get a test, but because our analyses compare outcomes among vaccinated and unvaccinated people, you know, that is one way in which it is factored into the data that we're presenting. With respect to the other part of the question. Those cumulative totals that I mentioned, the 0.33 percent of fully vaccinated people have had an infection, 0.02 percent of fully vaccinated people who have been hospitalized, and 0.003 percent of fully vaccinated people have died – that's from the timeframe January 17th through August 7th. But as mentioned, there are breakdowns for more recent weeks, which will be shared as well. Thank you. 

Mayor: Thank you very much. Go ahead, Roger. 

Question: Yeah, the other question is, are people going to be confused by a contradiction in tone? [Inaudible] you're saying [inaudible] you really don't have to worry, you're almost not – it’s almost definite except in rare cases that you'll get sick but then on the other hand you say, ‘well, don't forget to wear a mask indoors.’ Is that sending a mixed message? 

Mayor: Oh God, I don't think so. I mean I respect the question, but I don't think so. I'll let the doctors at this one too. I think the bottom line here throughout – I mean, Roger, we could not be clearer, vaccination is the key. Masks are a worthy topic. They are by far secondary. It's about vaccination. And it's quite clear if you are vaccinated, you have a lot more freedom in every way. We're making that clear all the time with the different mandates that we're putting into place. But if you're not vaccinated, you're supposed to wear a mask all the time. If you are vaccinated, there are times when you don't need to wear a mask. I mean, that's really, really clear. And there are some places that are just sensitive where we're saying everyone needs to wear a mask like schools, for example. I don't see a contradiction there at all. I think people are smart. I think they're getting the message. By the way, they're voting with their feet. 75 percent of New Yorkers have had at least one dose of the vaccine. So, the vast majority – if I showed you 75 percent of New Yorkers agreed on anything you'd be shocked. 75 percent of New Yorkers agree on the vaccine because I went and got it. Doctors, either one of you want to add? 

President Katz: I'd like to add, sir, that imagine a world where everyone is vaccinated, and we can't get there right now yet because the vaccines are not approved for the young children. But in such a world where we will be at some point when those vaccines are approved for the young children, if everybody is vaccinated, then the only thing we would worry about is whether or not people got sick. The reason we still worry about people who have a positive swab is we don't want them to expose somebody who is unvaccinated, a young child or somebody else who is unvaccinated. So, it is very important to distinguish between how well the vaccines work at preventing disease which is extremely well as Dr. Chokshi has said. And yes, there is still transmission, but the transmission does not harm the vast, vast majority of vaccinated people. Thank you, sir. 

Mayor: I want to just wrap that together to finish Roger's point. We are saying – look, I was talking to us about ending the COVID era. I really want to come back to this. We have to end the COVID era. No one's saying COVID is going to disappear from the earth, but end the COVID era, get us away from this madness of having our lives determined and shaped by COVID, put it in the rear-view mirror, put it in the background. To do that we got to get more and more people vaccinated. You're still going to see people who get sick, but if they get minimally sick, if they don't need hospitalization, if they don't have the greatest illnesses and with God's help, if they don't pass away, the bottom line is you could have COVID as one of many, many diseases that are out there in the world, but don't have much impact, thank God. So, the idea is to get to a level of vaccination where COVID is marginalized. No one's saying no one ever gets sick, but it's marginalized because it doesn't kill people and it doesn't cause the most grave illness. That is as sharp a red line as I’ve ever seen in the world. Vaccination is that difference maker, period. Go ahead.  

Moderator: The next is Katie Honan from The City. 

Question: Hey, good morning, Mayor de Blasio and everyone. How are you doing? 

Mayor: Good, Katie. How you been? 

Question: I'm good. I'm good. I wanted to ask, you know, obviously there's been some controversy around the vaccine mandate for DOE employees. And you mentioned that you might expand it to other City agencies. I was wondering if you could speak about, do you think doing that, especially in agencies like the Department of Corrections and the Police Department, which have the lowest vaccination rates amongst the City agencies, at least from the data that I most recently saw, I think it was in the Post. Do you think that would encourage – if it would boost those numbers. I know it's been frustrating for the Commissioner, he’s been trying to get people vaccinated, but that they're not. So, do you think that could help or would it just create more controversy on – or at least pushback? 

Mayor: Katie, we’ll obviously speak to each step we're going to take when we take it. I want to commend Commissioner Dermot Shea, he's been a powerful, passionate voice for vaccination. He has spoken to the men and women in the NYPD very personally. He went through a horrible bout of COVID himself and he's told them how important it is to get vaccinated. I think a lot of officers are going to hear that. Everything we do is with the goal of getting more and more people vaccinated, getting everyone in the city to be safe, getting to that point where we put COVID in the rear-view mirror. So, that's what we'll think about as we make decisions. And we're only going to make a decision if we think it's going to be a net gain for vaccination, obviously. Go ahead, Katie. 

Question: Thanks. Thank you. So, looking ahead too, and I know you don't like hypothetical questions, but if there are a significant amount of teachers – because I have seen pushback from teachers who speak about medical freedom and their rights and their bodies or whatever they say – if they are not vaccinated and they are still employed by the DOE, whether it's a teacher or someone working elsewhere in the school, if they are not vaccinated by that deadline what is the City's plan? What comes in, I mean, do they start testing, do you start letting people go? Is there a plan or have you not thought that far ahead yet? 

Mayor: Well, we certainly thought about it, Katie. That's part of what we're bargaining with the unions over. I mean, that's what impact bargaining is all about. That's what we started already with the unions in the schools. We want to sort out those details. We're quite confident we can one way or another. And, of course, we ran lots of scenarios and did a lot of preparation before the announcement. I'm certain there's people who have concerns. We want to work with them, but I'll tell you something again, as the Chancellor told me yesterday, what we're hearing overwhelmingly is a lot of relief among parents and, in fact, a lot of folks that work at DOE who appreciate this announcement because they want the safest possible workplace and they know that everyone being vaccinated is the way to achieve that.  

Moderator: The next is Michael Gartland from the Daily News.  

Question: Good morning, Mr. Mayor. 

Mayor: Good morning, Michael. How you doing? 

Question: I'm good. I wanted to talk about the situation over at Rikers now. You know, there have been a number of stories about it in recent days. Talk of, you know, how there's kind of a brewing crisis there. And I wanted to ask you, I mean, do you feel it's at a crisis level? Or is all this talk about the crisis there an effort to undermine the plan to close Rikers? I mean, if it is a crisis, how do you plan to address it? 

Mayor: Thanks for the question, Michael. First of all, we are going to close Rikers Island. Let's be clear. There may be folks out there who want us to go back in time. This is an 80 plus year old facility that does not make sense anymore. It is based on a punitive negative dynamic, when what we need is a dynamic focused on how we redeem people, turn their lives around, make them positive members of society again. We need to get out of Rikers and have a whole new approach and we're going to. Second, there are real problems. I remember though, Michael, and I don't mean to minimize it. These are serious problems that need to be addressed. But I remember in the months before I took office in 2014 reporting on horrendous problems that had to be addressed at Rikers. It's a tough environment. Again, it's outmoded, the whole culture of the Department of Correction needs a lot of change. I spoke to Commissioner Schiraldi last week about this. And certainly it's something that First Deputy Mayor Dean Fuleihan and I talk about a lot. We're making a series of changes to keep addressing the needs. COVID clearly had a really, really big impact on this situation and created a whole host of challenges. But we're going to work our way through it. We're going to make constant changes and improve the situation. But the bottom line is all of us, everyone involved, our officers, those who are incarcerated, everyone is feeling the effects of both COVID and that we're in the wrong environment. Rikers is a place we got to get out of. Go ahead, Michael. 

Question: Thanks, Mr. Mayor. The jail population there is up 49 percent from a year ago. And you know, I'm wondering, do you think that increase has anything to do with you putting pressure on judges to set higher bail? 

Mayor: Michael, [inaudible] on how you're doing your statistics. Remember a year ago we went through a very focused effort on a humanitarian level to get folks out of Rikers who could be safely removed because of the challenge of COVID. So, we went to a really historic low in population because of those medically focused actions to get the most vulnerable folks out or folks who had minor sentences, et cetera. So, I'm not sure the comparison holds. What is clear is the court system also wasn't functioning a year ago. So, we were seeing all sorts of situations that would have normally led to someone ending up in Rikers as part of a functioning criminal justice system that wasn't happening. That is now happening again, particularly for violent offenses and that's necessary. And we're seeing more and more folks leaving Rikers if they have to go upstate to prison, being sent there. Again, that was jammed up for a while, that starting to happen again. So, I think we are fairly along in terms of restoring some normalcy. But we still have a ways to go and we still need the court system to really get to full strength so we can get that appropriate flow going. Our goal of course, is the lowest level of incarceration possible. But where it is merited, particularly for gun violence, it has to happen.  

Moderator: The next is Paul from the Staten Island Advance. 

Question: Hey, Mr. Mayor. How you doing?  

Mayor: Good, Paul. How you've been? You enjoy the pool yesterday? 

Question: It was lovely. It's been a nice week. Was just hoping to get a bit more information on the Port Richmond High School announcement? You know, what sort of investment are we looking at? What kind of classes will students have the opportunity to take? What sort of jobs will be able to come out of that, that kind of thing? 

Mayor: I’ll turn to the Borough President to give you the once-over. I think he could probably go on for the rest of the day on this topic, like most topics. But he'll give you the once-over and we'll get folks from DOE to come behind it and talk to you today. Borough President, you want to give him the highlights?  

Borough President Oddo: So, Paul, I'll happily go into more detail offline, so we don't take the Mayor's time. But again, the focus here is on the two paths of, in the Bridge program leading up to P-TECH will be a computer technology pathway and a health sciences pathway. In terms of the jobs, there are a whole host of jobs in each thrust. I'll bring you later and we can go bit by bit, bird by bird, as they say. 

Mayor: Talk to him about the money too. Make sure. All right, go ahead, Paul. 

Question: Thank you both for that. I also just wanted to ask, I was at the West Brighton Houses yesterday, last night. And some members of the tenants association raised some concerns about a push toward private management. I was just hoping to get a sense of where the City is on that? And you know, what you as Mayor, your position is on that push? 

Mayor: Thank you, Paul. This is something that is often mis-characterized. I appreciate you asking very much. I believe public housing has to remain public. Anything we do has to have a legally binding dynamic where the land remains City land, the ownership is City ownership. The ultimate decisions have to be approved by the City. The rights of residents have to be continuous with what they are now. Resident representation has to be continuous with what we have now. All of that is being achieved. What we're doing is taking a policy that emerged from the Obama administration that created a way to bring private financing in, while maintaining public interest and public rights and public ownership. We need this. As good as some of what we're seeing on infrastructure is lately in Washington. For the first time in generations, we're seeing actual investment being put together. This is a game-changing moment. And it's going to help public housing. But the irony is the original Biden administration proposal for public housing for the entire United States of America, was literally the exact same dollar figure that our public housing, NYCHA needs, to bring all of our buildings up to the quality level they deserve, $40 billion. So, even if we get an influx of federal funding, it's not going to help us fast enough. We need this private funding too. But we're doing it in a way that 100 percent protects residents and the power of the public sector.  

Moderator: We have time for two more for today. The next is Julia from the New York Post. 

Question: Hi. Good morning, Mr. Mayor, and everybody else on the briefing. First I'm wondering – Shea, Commissioner Shea and other top police department officials have been photographed flouting their own mask rules. Wondering why rank and file officers follow the rules or head advice to get vaccinated if the leaders can't. The photograph was yesterday at police headquarters, that was even tweeted out by a DCPI. 

Mayor: I haven't seen the photograph but I remind you if someone is vaccinated it's a different reality. Someone vaccinated has the ability to do things that someone unvaccinated doesn't. And the Commissioner, I think, has been extremely sincere on this point. And said unvaccinated officers need to wear masks. Vaccinated folks, it depends on the setting, obviously. I haven't seen the photo, but I've found him to be very consistent on this. Go ahead, Julia. 

Question: And then just to kind of wrap up the questions on the new COVID data? Are you and the Health Commissioner able to now, or following this phone call, provide the similar numbers in terms of the breakthrough cases and the hospitalizations from June through now, to when Delta has been in play? 

Mayor: I'll turn to Dr. Chokshi, what can we provide? Go ahead. 

Commissioner Chokshi: Thank you, sir. And thanks, Julia. Yes, this data is now up on the Health Department's website. It includes the period that you just described. That's encompassed in what is being shared, and we'll be happy to follow up with you for any more detailed questions. Thank you.  

Mayor: Thank you. Last question for today, it goes to Gersh from Streetsblog. 

Question: Well, hello, Mr. Mayor. How are you enjoying your week on the Rock? 

Mayor The Rock is a happening place, Gersh.  

Question: No question about it.  

Mayor: I am enjoying the culinary treasures of the Rock as well. Thank you, Borough President. 

Question: I'm sure you have a good guide in Jimmy Oddo. 

Mayor: He is a culinary aficionado, connoisseur. 

Question: Anyway, Mr. Mayor, I didn't want – you guys can talk offline. But anyway, Mr. Mayor, it has become common at these morning briefings for you to be asked many questions about shootings and other violence in the city, but, you know, road violence is far more prevalent. Indeed, last night, a six-year-old girl was run down and killed by a reckless in Dyker Heights, a neighborhood that has about three crashes per day on average. And just to put crash numbers in perspective for a second, many of my colleagues, you know, certainly don't report these numbers, but so far in the city, there have been 68,198 reported crashes. And those were only the reported crashes, causing 29,965 injuries. And that's your own City data. So, that's about 292 reported car crashes on average every day. So, I know Mr. Mayor, after a high profile shooting, you obviously call Commissioner Shea to demand action. Did you similarly call DOT Commissioner Hank Gutman this morning after this six-year-old girl was killed? And if so, what'd you talk about. 

Mayor: Gersh, I respect the question greatly. I feel horrible that another family is suffering. And so much of this comes down to changing the whole mindset around cars. And this is what we've been doing for eight years with Vision Zero. We all have to do a lot more. People need to use the cars less. People need to drive more carefully. People need to respect that we're talking about kids. We're talking about seniors who are in danger when people drive recklessly or they drive under the influence. Vision. Zero is the strategy. And it's the strategy that we have proven can make a difference. But it's also been challenged by COVID and so many people getting back in the cars. And we have to go back to getting people out of cars, more and more mass transit investment, more and more recovery, which is also going to help people feel more comfortable. But no, I don't, unfortunately your thesis is just not accurate. It's not that with every painful incident, I call each commissioner about that incident. What I've said to both commissioners is when they see anything we can act on, whether it's moving officers, whether there's a crime problem, precision policing, or Vision Zero investments, like McGuinness Boulevard, you and I talked about and others. I expect both commissioners to make the adjustments, make the investments, make the moves. I don't call them and ask about each one. That's a standing instruction. Go ahead, Gersh. 

Question: Okay. Fair enough. I appreciate the answer. So, I have a question for Commissioner Chokshi. Commissioner, you're clearly being driven to Times Square for an event, so we'd like to know what kind of car that is and why you were driving when you do know that transportation emissions now comprise the single biggest share of American greenhouse gas emissions? And obviously pollution from cars as your own Health Department has reported causes more than 3,000 deaths, 2,000 hospital admissions for lung and heart conditions, and approximately 6,000 emergency department visits for asthma in children and adults? 

Mayor: Well, I'm going to start, I'm going to start before Dr. Chokshi jumps in and say Gersh, our job is to get more and more people into the mass transit, for sure. And we've made massive investments and you know it. In buses, busways, select bus service, NYC Ferry, bike lanes, you name it. And I am pushing really hard, and this is something we all have to work on together with Albany and the MTA. We've got to move congestion pricing. Those are the big structural changes. We have a lot to do to fight climate change. This city has been leading the way with the NYC Green New Deal. But as for a specific commissioner who is literally playing a life and death role in the city, having to get where he needs to get, and sometimes having to be live on a Zoom from a car, I think using a car is sometimes the realistic option, obviously. And I know he cares about all of the health implications, but I want to be clear. I think Dr. Chokshi approaches his work with great intelligence and integrity, and we need him. And sometimes that means he needs to be in a car. Dr. Chokshi, would you like to add? 

Commissioner Chokshi: Well, thank you very much, sir. And Gersh, all I can say is that I'm grateful that you're highlighting the links between the environment, transit, and health which I also strongly believe in. Personally, you know, as a proud resident of Jackson Heights, I'm grateful that we have the public transit system that New York City has with the 7, the E, the F, the R, all serving my neighborhood which I take as frequently as I can. And this morning I've got to get somewhere and I'm in a compact hybrid. So, you know, sometimes we've got to do what we have to do to serve the people of New York. Thank you.  

Mayor: As you do every day, Dave. And thank you. And thank you for such an important update today where we started this once again, showing the massive, massive difference between what happens when you get vaccinated, the protection you have, versus what happens when someone is not vaccinated. Listen, I just want to protect people. I want to make sure people are safe in the city. Please, no better time than this week to get vaccinated. The FDA has acted. The incentives are there. It's easier than ever, go get vaccinated, everyone. Thanks so much. 



Media Contact
(212) 788-2958