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Transcript: Mayor de Blasio Holds Media Availability

October 5, 2021

Mayor Bill de Blasio: Good morning, everybody. Well, yesterday was a great, great day for New York City. Our kids in school, every one of our 1,600 New York City public schools open and doing great. All our kids back, all our kids, including kids who hadn't seen a classroom for a year-and-a-half, back where they need to be and safer than ever. We already had that gold standard of health and safety measures in place from last year. We built upon it for this year. And for the first time, every adult, everybody who works in our schools, vaccinated – an amazing achievement. Kudos to everyone in our school system, our Chancellor, to all the vaccinators, to everyone who made it happen. This is a big deal, because now more than ever parents know their kids are safe. Kids can learn in a positive environment. This is what we've been working toward. Here it is and it's working. We got great support yesterday when I announced that 95 percent of all full-time DOE employees were vaccinated, and we expect that number to rise. We got support from the White House, from Chief of Staff Ron Klain, from Secretary of Education Cardona, supporting us, saying other districts around the country should follow New York City's example. And, as Council Member Dinowitz, so eloquently said, former teacher, 95 percent grade on a test is a damn good grade. And that's what the New York City public schools pulled off.

Now, the mandates have worked. We need to use them more and more all over the country. Let's give you the facts. 43,000 DOE employees got vaccinated since the mandate was first announced. 18,000 in a 10-day span, leading up to the deadline. Numbers now are growing again. We saw in the last 24 hours, 600 more vaccinations. Folks who were not vaccinated – 600 more DOE employees got vaccinated in the last 24 hours. We expect more to come. Now at 85 percent of our school safety agents, that number is going to climb. And we had, in fact, 15,000 substitute teachers – both substitute teachers, substitute paraprofessionals, ready and ready to go into play yesterday. We didn't need all of them, I'm happy to say. We had 7,000 substitute teachers. We brought in 1,000 members of our central staff. Schools ran smoothly, because we're prepared, but most especially because 95 percent of school employees got vaccinated. Again, that number is going to go up.

I want you to hear from someone now who has been leading the charge for the whole nation. He has been one of the key people turning this situation around and protecting us. And I’ve got to tell you, we have often looked to Washington for support, for guidance since President Biden came in. We're going to hear from a member of his team in just a moment. I just got a note, he needs a few more minutes. I’ll go ahead to another person I want you to hear from. And she is a national voice, a national health care leader, one of the big voices in the fight against COVID. But looking at it from the perspective of families, looking at what we've got to do to keep kids safe, to make our schools function – we've needed folks to say that there was an aggressive approach that works. And she is one of those who have said it most clearly. She is a Brooklyn native, that's a very special person in my book. She is the Associate Professor of Emergency Medicine at Columbia and founder of FemInEM, which promotes advancement of women in medicine. My great pleasure to introduce Dr. Dara Kass.


Mayor: Hey, Dr. Kass, I want to ask you one question and thank you for everything you laid out, but you've been watching the national picture, how people are responding to mandates. And I think the assumption early on was both public sector and private sector that they would be difficult to apply. We're having a very different experience so far with our health care workers, with our employees at Department of Education. But if you give a little bit more of the national picture, including what the private sector has experienced, the level of success these mandates are having.

Dr. Dara Kass: Yeah, I think that that's exactly right. These, these mandates have been remarkably successful. You've seen airlines like United Airlines, you know, see that they had just a fraction, less than one percent of the two percent of people even ask for more time to consider vaccination. But really across the board at the federal level, the private industry level, and it's a state and local government level. It is the last mile to get people vaccinated, to keep our children and our citizens safe. So, it's critical that both private and public entities do this. Because yes, we are seeing very little hesitation and a lot of adoption to these mandates because people just need to remember, it's not just about them, but really about the students and the people who [inaudible].

Mayor: Thank you so much, Dr. Kass, look, I think we are learning as we go along, but there's no question that when you give people a clear direction, it causes a lot of people moving. By the way, when one person moves and then they see their coworker moving, it, it creates momentum. And I think that's what we needed all along.

Dr. Kass: It’s peer pressure.

Mayor: It's the peer pressure. It's a good word. It may not be good when you're a teenager, but this case is good. Thank you so much, Doctor. Appreciate it. Okay, now again, I want you to hear from one of the leaders of the national effort to fight COVID. And the Biden Administration has been extraordinary. President Biden came in with clear, sharp vision and message on COVID. He helped lead us to a better place. He said, we need people vaccinated. We need to get our schools open. We've been following to the letter, the vision that President Biden has put forward. And it has always been so powerful to be able to turn to the White House, to the Administration for direction and support. It's helped us get done everything we've done. I want you to hear now from someone who has helped lead the way in the effort to get hundreds of millions of Americans vaccinated and with tremendous speed and success. He is the White House COVID Response Coordinator and Counselor to the President. My pleasure to introduce Jeff Zients

White House COVID Response Coordinator, Jeff Zients: Did I get the volume on?

Mayor: Jeff, can you hear us?

COVID Response Coordinator Zients: Yeah, I can. Good morning, Mr. Mayor.

Mayor: Good morning. How are you doing?

COVID Response Coordinator Zients: I’m thrilled to be here. Thank you for inviting me.

Mayor: Well, Jeff, I don't know if you could hear, I said to folks that we really want to thank you and the whole Biden team for the support you've given us. And most importantly, the vision you've given the whole country. That's helped to get huge numbers of people vaccinated, helped to get our schools open. It has been tremendously helpful and powerful to have the leadership of you and all your colleagues. I want to thank you for that.

COVID Response Coordinator Zients: Well, I want to thank you. And that you're on the frontline along with, you know, your colleagues, mayors, governors, local health officials around the country, doing the hard work on the front lines, and you've been at it for a long time. And our job is to help facilitate that work and provide resources and make it easier to do a very hard thing. And I just want to thank you for your strong and ongoing partnership with the Biden administration.

Mayor: Well, Jeff, thank you. And look, what we're seeing is that mandates are having a profoundly helpful effect. Again, 95 percent of all our Department of Education employees now vaccinated. We saw great success in our healthcare sector too, in this city. Tell us your perspective on the impact that mandates are having both in public and private sector.


Mayor: Jeff, thank you. We couldn't literally could not have done any of what you just said without your leadership and the President's leadership, the resources you've provided us. The message and vision that you provide the whole country. I'm very proud of what New Yorkers have done and what our whole team has done. We could not have done it alone. You guys were there for us every step, along the way. 185 million Americans, that's unbelievable how many people you've reached. And I just want to give you guys credit for the momentum that you have created, which is going to help us bring the whole country back. But I want to amplify, here's my message. Picking up on your point – to every mayor in America, to every governor in America, to every CEO in America. Go to a vaccine mandate, and that's what's going to turn the corner for all of us. It works. It's not always easy at first, but what's striking is the level of ultimate buy-in has been stunning. The numbers, you just went over, Jeff, from the health care systems, unbelievable buy-in levels in the final analysis. And that's what we should judge by.

COVID Response Coordinator Zients: United Airlines was one of the first to move, as you know, Mr. Mayor. And I think they're now at 99 percent. So, right back at you. I mean, I think we're sort of the support team here. You're the front line. There's still clearly work to be done. So, we look forward to our continued partnership and driving vaccination rates up to the – to an even higher level. So, thank you, Mr. Mayor, for your leadership and this opportunity.

Mayor: Thank you, Jeff. See you soon.

COVID Response Coordinator Zients: Thank you. Bye bye.

Mayor: All right. So, we talk about our recovery all the time. We talk about our recovery for all of us. Recovery for all of us depends on getting more and more people vaccinated. We're going to go over to indicators at the end. You're going to see once again hard evidence that vaccination is working. You'll see it particularly with the hospitalization rate that keeps going down. We got to press the advantage now and end the COVID era once and for all. And when we think about recovery, we think about getting our lives more back to normal. We think about New York City go into full speed. We've come a long, long way. You can feel the energy, you can see the jobs coming back. We've got some more steps to go, but that means being able to get New Yorkers around.

This city works when everyone can move around where they need to go and we got some good news on that yesterday. A beautiful moment, where I participated in a very moving ceremony, where we commissioned the new class of Staten island ferry boats. In this case, commissioning the Michael H. Ollis. The boat, named after hero Staff Sergeant Ollis, served in Afghanistan in the U.S. Army, gave his life to save a comrade in arms. An extraordinary act of courage and example to all Staten Islanders, all New Yorkers. Also, the family left behind, took their pain and did something powerful with it, reaching out to others, showing an example to everyone of grace and dignity and hope, because the Ollis family has upheld Michael's memory by doing such beautiful things to help others.

And the idea of this boat being named after Michael, it'll be, first of all, the first in a class of new, modern, beautiful ferry boats for the Staten Island ferry system. But it's also an opportunity to remember a hero and be inspired by him. So, to the whole, all his family, God bless you. And to all Staten Islanders, this is a great moment for you. And so much of the life of Staten Island revolves around the ferry. Well, this is the first new Staten Island ferry christened in over 16 years. It's a big moment. It is absolutely beautiful, modern, 4,500-passenger ferry. The first of three. We got great support from Senator Schumer and Senator Gillibrand and the Congressional delegation to make sure we could get this done. These are the top of the line ferry boats. Beautiful, modern, safe. They can run in more choppy weather than the previous boats could. That's great for keeping everyone on schedule.  There's modern amenities that people are really going to appreciate. And also, the name of each boat is so meaningful. Staff Sergeant Ollis will be remembered forever with this important naming.

The second boat will be coming along soon named after the Sandy Ground. The name of the boat is the Sandy Ground. Sandy Ground is one of the nation's first African American settlements. This was championed by Council Member Debi Rose. And we thank her. That boat will arrive in December and begin service in 2022. So, another crucial part of history being remembered. Sandy Ground was a stop on the Underground Railroad. So, remembering a noble history of people who fought for freedom, fought against slavery. And then the third boat in the Ollis class will be the Dorothy Day, an amazing activist Catholic worker movement. She was so instrumental in fighting for class people, fighting for social justice. A Staten Islander whose voice reached all over the country, all over the world. Dorothy Day, a great voice for social justice. That boat will arrive in 2022. So, good news for Staten Islanders and all New Yorkers. And to just take another moment to understand the importance of naming the first boat after Sergeant Ollis and the whole class of boats, Ollis class, what it means to the Ollis family and what it means for all of us. I want you to hear from our Department of Veterans Commissioner, who served this nation in the United States Army, who served in combat, who knows the pain and the challenges and came back to serve his fellow veterans. My pleasure to introduce Commissioner James Hendon. Commissioner, are you there?

Commissioner James Hendon, Department of Veterans’ Services: I am. Thank you so much, Mr. Mayor. Just want to echo your remarks about, you know, how much it meant for the dedication yesterday, as far as recognizing Staff Sergeant Michael Ollis. Not only through the naming of the ferry after him, but also establishing a new ship class named the Ollis class. When we look at our city's veterans of which we have more than 200,000, we must always remember that 93 veterans from New York City gave their lives in combat operations during the wars after 9/11. And one of those 93 was Staff Sergeant Ollis. It's important to know that he, as was mentioned yesterday, died in a way where he gave his life for several other service members. Not only U.S. members of his unit from the 10th Mountain Division, but also soldiers in the Polish military. It's why he's received Poland's version of the medal of honor. And when we look to the ferry and to the class, we look at it as a reminder of the sacrifices that Michael and other veterans have made throughout time in support of our country. And we're so grateful for the City by recognizing his sacrifice with the renaming that occurred yesterday.

Just a few other the things I'll say. It's been a pleasure in this position to watch as this administration has done things to be right by veterans, including the Ollis family. Just last year working with the Mayor's Fund, we know that a donation was made to the [inaudible] of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, that is named after Staff Sergeant Ollis. Something was given to that post along with 23 other veteran service organizations that were experiencing hardship through the pandemic. So, we thank the Mayor and the Mayor's Fund for their leadership there. We also recognize the work that was done working with the Office of Citywide events in support of the Michael Ollis 5k Race, which occurred earlier this June. And so I will also thank the Mayor for his leadership and Dan Gross the team at City Events for that great [inaudible] that dedication. And so, you know, we just, in ways like this, we show not only [inaudible] Ollis and Michael himself, all the veterans’ families that we see you and we appreciate you and we care for you and we love you. And so last thing I'll say is that any veterans who have needs in this City [inaudible] website, And thank you so much Mr. Mayor.

Mayor: Thank you very, very much Commissioner. Thank you for the good work you're doing, serving the veterans of this city. All right, now, everyone as we think about our recovery, we got to take stock of just how much we've been through. Every neighborhood, every community suffered during the COVID crisis. Some communities went through particular pain. Our Asian American communities were actually hit even ahead of the onslaught of this crisis by discrimination, businesses being shunned, the pain that folks went through, the hardship even before our first case was recorded here in New York City. The discrimination that has experienced -- the people experienced the hatred, even the violence, unacceptable. We've all been fighting back. We've all been working to stop Asian hate. But on top of that in Chinatown Manhattan, even before the pandemic, another tragedy befell the community. And it really hit people in their hearts because it represented something so powerful to them. In January, 2020, just before COVID hit, there was a devastating fire at 70 Mulberry Street. 70 Mulberry Street was a gathering place for the Chinese community for generations. For almost 100 years it served as a public school, P.S. 23, a community center, a focal point. A place where the American dream was being lived out in the next generation. This was part of the heart and soul of the Chinatown community. Also eventually developed into a center for community activities. Senior center, training programs for folks looking for jobs, nonprofits. The Museum of Chinese in America, a crucial site for the community, preserving the history, keeping the archives. All of that was there. And then the fire struck. And again, it just pained people at some place that meant everything to them was suddenly gone. We had to move quickly to put things right for the community and build back and show that the Chinatown community would come back strong as a beacon for all of New York City.

So, last July, I announced $80 million in investment to rebuild 70 Mulberry. And that took us a long way, but we talked to the community. We heard what the community thought was right for the future of this crucial site. The community wanted more and the community deserves more. So, today we're announcing that we're doubling this investment to $170 million, and this will allow us to actually not only preserve the historic facade of the building that is so emotionally important to the community, but adding two additional floors of space for community events, for community gatherings, for community organizations, the nonprofits that were displaced, that were so important to community, they're all coming back. We're going to turn a horrible tragedy into a triumphant moment for the Chinatown community. And someone who has been the absolute champion, leading the way on this effort. And it's a labor of love for her because she went to P.S. 23. So, this is the school building where she grew up. Thank you for your leadership every step of the way. My pleasure to introduce Council Member Margaret Chin.


Well, you did great. You led the way, Council Member. Thank you for everything you've done for your community and for the whole city. It's really been a pleasure serving together with you over these years. And I just want to say, you're an alumnus of P.S. 23, who turned out good. Your teachers would be very proud of you.

City Council Member Margaret Chin: Thank you very much.

Mayor: Thank you. All right, we are going to do our indicators in a moment as I said. And they're going to tell us some very important, good news. But first I want to conclude on one other really crucial part of our recovery. We always say we need a recovery for all of us. And also I always say recovery equals safety, safety equals recovery. So, on public safety, one of the big stories of 2021 has been the way the NYPD has fought back, the way the NYPD has set records for gun arrests. The most gun arrests we've seen in 25 years. But now the truth, a new scourge, a new challenge. You've heard Senator Schumer talk about this powerfully. The scourge of ghost guns. This is a huge problem. These are guns that people order from out-of-state. They can assemble them without serial numbers. They're not traceable. It's a huge problem. We need maximum federal assistance from the Biden administration. I want to echo Senator Schumer. This is one where we cannot do it alone. We need federal help stopping the supply of these guns coming into the city. To give you perspective in 2017, just four years ago, the police recovered a grand total of 19 ghost guns in an entire year. So far this year, 135. And that number is about to go up. You're going to hear very shortly from our Police Commissioner in a separate press conference, the Manhattan District Attorney, the Bronx District Attorney. They've all been working together, NYPD. There'll be federal prosecution coming up. Another example of getting guns, but in this case, ghost guns. And really important work done by the NYPD to identify a cache of these guns and start the painstaking work of finding this supply and disrupting it. This is crucial to our future. We have not lacked for challenges lately. But we have the finest police force in the country. The Intelligence Division of the NYPD is leading the way and finding new ways to track these guns and get them off the streets. And again, thank you to the district attorneys, to the U.S. Attorney, to everyone involved. There’s more details coming up later, but this is going to be a powerful example of a new way of fighting crime and violence.

And speaking of which, tomorrow we're going to have a press conference in the morning, excuse me – in the morning with Commissioner Shea, Chief Harrison. We're going to talk about September, the fight against crime and violence. Some of the real progress that has been made in much of the city. Some of the areas where we still have a lot more to do. We're going to go all over all that tomorrow. But once again, you're going to see some extraordinary progress from the NYPD and more and more impact from our community partners. And that's really big news too that we'll be talking about in the weeks ahead. The extraordinary cooperation, the amazing efforts in the community to stop violence before it happens. There's a lot to talk about that we'll be going over.

Okay. As promised indicators. Again, the story is always led with vaccination as it should be. So, the first indicator is the number of doses administered to date, a stunning number, 11,593,431. Climbing all the time because of the incentives, because of the mandates. Number two, daily number of people admitted to New York City hospitals for suspected COVID-19. Today's report, 136 patients. Confirmed positivity level, 14.58 percent. Here's the number I want you to hear about, hospitalization rate. This has gone down so markedly. At this moment in New York City, 0.86 per 100,000. That's a really good number, and we want to keep driving it down with more vaccination. Finally, number three, new reported cases on a seven-day average. Today’s report, 1,091 cases. A few words in Spanish on the success of the Department of Education vaccine mandate.

[Mayor de Blasio speaks in Spanish]

With that, we will 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 a Dr. Katz and by Lauren Siciliano the Chief Administration Officer for the Department of Education. The first question today goes to Marla Diamond from WCBS 880.

Question: Good morning, Mr. Mayor.

Mayor: Good morning, Marla. How you doing?

Question: Good, how you doing?

Mayor: So far, so good.

Question: Great. We are getting reports this morning that the FBI raided the offices of the Sergeants Benevolent Association. Their president has been quite critical of your leadership. What do you know about this raid if anything? And what do you have to – you know, what are your thoughts about it?

Mayor: Yeah, Marla it's for me much too soon to be able to give you a meaningful comment, because I literally got handed a note in the last 10 minutes or so, all I've been told is the FBI has raided the SBA headquarters and it's in connection with an ongoing investigation, but we don't have any further details than that at this moment. Go ahead, Marla. 

Question: Okay, on the crime front, there were two incidents within hours of each other at the Times Square Subway station yesterday, leading rider advocates to call for the Governor to send in State Police and the National Guard. I'm wondering if you can give us an update on the NYPD strategy that we heard a lot about in the spring for reducing these crimes? And would you like to see a support from the State Police and the National Guard? 

Mayor: Marla, thank you for the question. I spoke to Commissioner Shea this morning about these incidents. The bottom line is this, the Times Square area obviously has been reinforced intensely, there's huge amount of police presence, and overwhelmingly, of course, that has succeeded in improving the environment there in every way and making it safer. We also surged a huge number of NYPD officers into the subways. We had one of the highest levels of NYPD deployments in the subways in the last two decades. So, I feel very confident about the impact that's had. We have seen a much-improved situation. We definitely welcome MTA police and the State in the previous State administration had said more MTA police were coming and we said, that's great, but they need to be carefully trained and coordinated with the NYPD presence in the subways. That's definitely of helpful. We welcome it. I would caution against other forces coming in because the environment here is very different than what State Police or National Guard are trained for. I think for folks with a different kind of training, this is a very challenging environment, and sometimes there can be unintended consequences. So, I would not encourage those other forces. I would say NYPD with the additional presence they've put in the subways over the last year, plus any additional MTA police, that's the right way to go.  

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

Question: Morning, Mr. Mayor, how are you doing? 

Mayor: Hi, Michael, how are you today? 

Question: I'm doing okay. So, the last couple of days, and you've done this over the past couple of weeks too, you've touted the effectiveness of vaccine mandates. And I know you've got a question on this yesterday, but I feel like it begs it again, I mean, when - when is this going to be expanded? It would seem that, you know, this sort of mandate that you've applied to the schools would make sense in Rikers for, you know, corrections officers. There's, you know, a captive population there. You know, what about the NYPD, FDNY, you know, you talk about climbing the ladder, Juliet asked yesterday what the next rungs are. I mean, what are – when are we going to going to see a plan here and which agencies are next? 

Mayor: Well, Michael, I appreciate the question and you're doing your job, and you obviously know if I had an announcement for your you'd have already heard it. We're looking at all the different pieces of the equation. Our focus in the last few weeks has been to solidify the reality with Department of Education, by far our biggest agency, to make sure we got appropriately through the legal challenges, which has been obviously great success so far, and then start figuring out what other steps that made sense. So, we're looking at that right now in the coming days, but don't have a specific deadline for you, but this is a discussion we'll be having over the next few days. Go ahead, Michael. 

Question: Alright, thanks, Mr. Mayor. The second question I have is on this report today about, out of Rikers about an inmate who is stabbed in the eye and fellow inmates had to take this person to get medical treatment because there are no corrections officers anywhere to be found. You know, this is an incident dating back a bit, and there's a lawsuit just filed on it. You know, can you comment on this? You know, I know you guys are trying to address the situation there, but how do we have a situation where there are no COs in the facility to help somebody who was stabbed in the eye? 

Mayor: So, Michael, as you said, it's a lawsuit. So, I'm going to be very sparse in my comments, for obvious reasons, for legal reasons, but I'll make the broader point that I've been talking about these last weeks. We saw something unacceptable. We saw officers not coming to work and leaving their fellow officers and everyone else in the lurch. We have called that question very assertively, anyone who is not really sick and doesn't come to work is being suspended immediately without pay. That has had a huge impact. We've also increased the medical appointments so that people have to prove if they say they're sick, we're seeing hundreds and hundreds of officers coming back. That is changing the environment. We’re obviously reducing the population of inmates. Everything is changing. So, whatever incidents occurred and anything where anyone suffered, I'm obviously really unhappy about, but everything that happened months ago was in a very different environment. Now, we see the population Rikers going down, the number officers going up, the health care personnel gaining the support they need, ,and you're going to be seeing a lot more on that front in the coming weeks. 

Moderator: The next is Andrew Siff from WNBC. 

Question: Mayor, good morning. I wanted to ask about the use of substitute teachers yesterday. If I understand your math correctly, you said you had about 14,000 available and you used about 7,000. How many subs are used on a typical non-pandemic day? And what does the - sort of, what do the numbers tell you about where you can get in terms of vaccinated personnel? 

Mayor: Great, great question, Andrew. I'm going to start, and then I want you to hear from someone who's done wonderful work with her team, Lauren Siciliano, she'll be coming up in a moment. She's the Chief Administrative Officer for DOE, but look, Andrew, I think we got to put this in perspective. For the last weeks there's been a lot of naysayers saying, you know, we were going to hit some wall and there wouldn't be enough teachers, there wouldn't be enough staff, then the smoke cleared yesterday at that 95 percent level for our staff overall, 96 percent for teachers specifically. And we said, stay tuned, because the situation will evolve. One of the things I've learned working with Chancellor Meisha Ross Porter, working with Lauren Siciliano and others, is that the school environment, even when there's never – no pandemic, is fluid day to day, especially in the beginning weeks of school. So, they make huge adjustments over a vast school system, 1,600 schools, a million kids, 147,000 employees. It's a giant, giant operation and adjustments are made all the time. The big point for you to hear is just since yesterday 600 more vaccinations, that just changed the math again. 600 more vaccinations means we need fewer substitutes than we originally thought we need adjustments can be made. So, in terms of what a typical day is like, and where we think we're going, we think we're going someplace better in the next few days, but I'll have Lauren Siciliano give you an update and answer to your question.  

Chief Administrative Officer Lauren Siciliano, Department of Education:  Absolutely. Thank you, sir, and good morning. We are just very pleased to see that 95 percent of our staff has gotten the first dose of the vaccine. On a typical day, we would use around 3,000 sub teachers for absence coverage and other needs. 

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

Question: DC37. Yes. Yes, can you hear me?  

Mayor: Yep. 

Question: Okay. So, DC37 said yesterday that the city has essentially invited unvaccinated employees that includes lunch aides, crossing guards, et cetera, to resign by the end of October and keep their benefits for a year. Is the purpose of that offer really aimed at the folks who are never going to get vaccinated. Are you making a separation where you still believe you can get hundreds a day or dozens a day, but there is a subset that is simply not going to get vaccinated? Is that why you're essentially promising folks they can keep their benefits, but they need to leave. 

Mayor: Well, again, there was an arbitration process, Andrew, and we said from the beginning we were going to bargain with our labor unions. We did in good faith and ended up in the arbitration process. That's what the arbitrator decided, but I think the bottom line is we very much believe that some people, we said, people got to make the decision quickly after getting that letter saying you're on unpaid leave. It's nice to have benefits. It's a lot nicer to have pay. So, when folks got that letter over the weekend saying, you're now on unpaid leave, I told you some people are going to react to that letter. Already, in the first 24 hours, 600 people reacted to that letter, came in and got their first vaccination. You're going to see more of that. Second, some people are going to go a month, two months, and then the absence of pay in their life is going to really make an impact on their thinking. So, this is a situation where there's more than one chance for redemption, but we're working with the rules that came out of labor negotiation, came out of arbitration, and so far, obviously, with those rules in place, we're seeing overwhelming success.  

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

Question: Hey, good morning, Mr. Mayor, how you doing? 

Mayor: Good, Paul, how you been? 

Question: I’m well, sir. Thank you. Regarding the new ferries the overnight service despite the law has been reduced to hourly fairly frequently in recent weeks. I'm just hoping to get – 

Mayor: Paul. Can you hear us? 

Question: [Inaudible] half hour services necessary. 

Mayor: Wait, Paul, you cut – your service cut out for a second. What was the punchline there? 

Question: So, the ferries haven't been running on the half hour service, I just wanted to see how you think the new ferries might improve the timing of service and if the City still thinks it's necessary to have half hour service? 

Mayor: Yeah. Look, Paul, we've navigated – forgive the pun – we've navigated so much in the last year and a half. I want to get us back where we were before COVID. I think the more service the better, obviously. People getting the ability to move around spurs recovery and mass transit is our future and no better example of the Staten Island Ferry. So. that's where we ultimately want to be. Go ahead, Paul. 

Question: Thank you for that. And regarding the blueprint,  the extreme weather blueprint released a couple of weeks ago. I'm hoping to get a sense of, in addition to the $2.7 billion in new and accelerated funding, what you can do in your remaining months to, you know, make sure the complete blueprint is you know, the ball starts rolling on it and what sort of interactions you've had with the next possible administration? 

Mayor: Yeah. Paul, thank you for the question. I obviously regularly talk to who I think is overwhelmingly the likely next mayor, who is someone I feel great, great faith in, and we talk about some of these challenges, and I think he will be very well-prepared. The fact is a number of the items in that report are being acted on immediately. We're accelerating a number of the capital actions, the infrastructure actions that we can take. Some of which can be done quickly. Some of the areas that we found during Hurricane Ida really were hit hard, there's some immediate improvements we can make. Other realities, as we said in the report, would take –tragically – would take years and not just tens of billions could be well over a hundred billion if you wanted to redo the entire sewer system, but we can do some of the physical work quickly. We're doing the inventorying of the basement apartments immediately so that we'll be able to get community organizations involved, police department, fire department, will be drilling for evacuation. We're going to be improving a lot of our communication systems, our forecasting, our signage for areas that flood on the roads. There's a number of things we'll do immediately the next few months, and then hand off a group of action items, a set of action items that the next administration can keep going on immediately.  

Moderator: The next is Erin from Politico. 

Question: Hi, Mr. Mayor. First off, I just wanted to clarify a point about the substitute teachers [inaudible]   - 

Mayor: Wait a second, we’re just - hold on one second, Erin, you're coming in a little cut up, and again, I don't know if something was wrong on our side today or – the folks here are saying it's okay. Try again, Erin. Let's see if we can hear you better. 

Question: Okay, yeah, just with a few of the questions I think today. Can you just clarify how many teachers were out? How many substitutes were used? Because I thought you said 7,000 and then I thought I heard only 3,000 were out. So, what accounts for that discrepancy? And then if you can just sort of speak a little more broadly about, you know, were there particular schools where it was a bigger issue than others, where there were more vacancies? Were there others where it was, you know, not really an issue, just sort of how, what were the differences in how it played out around the system? 

Mayor: I'll start and we'll bring back Lauren Siciliano to talk about some of the specifics, if there was anything notable from certain schools and also the overall numbers. The import of what I was saying in my opening remarks, Erin, one we had more substitutes ready to go than we needed. And that's good, that's a good problem to have. Two, that we've already seen the picture change after 24 hours because 600 people that we thought we need a replacement for are now back in the game. So, that's just changed the math immediately. That's a lot of people. That's just one day. So, we're trying to just give the picture of an ever-emerging situation, but it's emerging in the right direction. In terms of how many substitutes you actually needed and put in play yesterday, Lauren, and again, if there's any particular notable school situations, why don't you give that update, Lauren? 

Chief Administrative Officer Siciliano: Absolutely. Thank you, sir. So, in terms of the number of unvaccinated teachers, we are at just around 3,000 unvaccinated teachers. And as the Mayor said, we do have many more times that in our substitute pool. And I would say in terms of trends, generally speaking, the schools that had higher numbers of staff, higher ratios of staff to students, tended to have not surprisingly the larger numbers of staff out. 

Mayor: In terms of overall number of substitutes, you use, could you just clarify that, Lauren? 

Chief Administrative Officer Siciliano: Sure, so the 7,000 was the total number of subs used across the system yesterday. 

Mayor: Thank you. Go ahead, Erin. 

Question: Okay. So, so the 7,000 includes people who are out for just regular, normal reasons. That's not my question, but if I'm wrong, tell me. My other question, I guess I'll go back to the Sergeants Benevolent Association. I know you don't really have any information about what's going on there in any detail, but, you know, just given your history with Ed Mullins, you know, how critical you've been of him in the past is, is this a situation where, you know, you have any kind of a visceral reaction to hearing that this is happening? 

Mayor: Erin, look, you know what I've said about him. And I think a lot of what he has done has been really, really destructive, especially in the middle of a crisis where we're trying to unify and we're trying to get people through together. I think he's been a divisive voice, but that doesn't cause me to feel anything in this situation, because I don't know what's happening. All I hear is an FBI raid. I don't know the specifics. I don't know who it's directed that. I want to really hear the details before I comment further. What I would urge is everyone in all of our unions, because we've seen in the case of SBA, some very destructive actions. We've seen it – I've talked about COBA, Correction officers who really fomented in so many ways so much of the crisis on Rikers. We need our municipal unions to help us move out of the COVID era, not hinder us, not create division, but help unify the city and move us forward. The vast majority of them do, by the way. The vast majority of municipal labor – municipal labor leaders do the right thing and stand up for New York City. The few who don't, really, I don't think they do a service to their members or this city at all.

Moderator: Next is Nolan from the Post.

Mayor: Nolan, can you hear me? We’re a tough day on the remote situation. Nolan?

Question: Can you hear me, Mr. Mayor?

Mayor: We finally got you. Can you hear me okay?

Question: If not, I’ll just walk down the hall.

Mayor: I can hear you. You're a little bit watery, but I can hear you.

Question: I said I can just walk down the hall if that's easier.

Mayor: Try me.

Question: Alright. Yesterday, you said that the administration had taken prompt action when alerted to the conflicts of interest for CORE services group. Documents obtained by the Post show that City officials first flag the potential conflicts of interest with contractors in 2017. So, why did the City allow it to go forward for the better part of four years?

Mayor: So, again, Nolan, I spoke to this yesterday, thank you for the question. The – any individual and propriety that's uncovered, obviously, we're going to deal with those individuals, any money that needs to be clawed back. But the point we talked about yesterday and Commissioner Banks talked about yesterday, if the organization was doing work that was serving people, and we needed, and we were trying to fix some of the problems in the organization, that's a reality we've had with more than one social service agency. If there were specific things that were missed and not shared by agencies, that's a problem, and I'm very unhappy about that. But the broader point, yes, there were problems. And to the best of my understanding, the City had a corrective action plan and was trying to work with the organization to fix the problem, because we want these nonprofits to fix their problems and keep serving. We do not want them just to not be part of the picture, if we can work with them. That's what we talked about yesterday. When we get to the decision that a nonprofit just can't work or that the people involved are absolutely unacceptable and no change is possible, then we cut off entirely. But my understanding was, this was a nonprofit that the officials of the different agencies thought they could work with. Go ahead, Nolan.

Question: So, I'm a little confused. I'm a little confused about two things. One, I'm a little confused about why the City allows a nonprofit contractor to set up for-profit subsidiaries that, by its own tax records, say our owned separately by the CEO in this case. And secondly, I'm confused by why the City gets into business with Jack Brown in the first place, considering he was a central figure in two previous contracting scandals, including an Albany bribery scandal that resulted in a private prisons firm getting fined $300,000.

Mayor: Nolan, again, we spoke to this yesterday. Anyone who does something inappropriate, there are many instances where we're not going to do business with them at all. There are some instances where, depending on what happened, if there's a corrective action plan for the organization, if we think things can be made right, and the service can be provided, we'll pursue that. I don't know the details of this situation. I don't know this individual. We’ll get Commissioner Banks and his team to get you more information. But the big point I'm trying to make is, what our agencies do is make a determination. If they find the information that's absolutely positively disqualifying, they will disqualify an individual, or they will disqualify a company, or they'll disqualify a nonprofit forever. If they find information that says that we want to keep working with the nonprofit, but not with the individual employee, that's another step. If they think the situation can be redeemed with the nonprofit, they're going to try and do that, because we need the work to be done. But it all depends on the specifics and I'll get our team to give you an update on that.

Moderator: We have time for two more for today. The next is Matt Chayes from Newsday.

Question: Hey, good morning. Can you hear me okay?

Mayor: Yeah, Matt. How are you doing today?

Question: I'm doing all right. How are you?

Mayor: Good. Thank you.

Question: My question is for Dr. Chokshi. You told the conference call of reporters last month that the City's choosing to disclose data about the coronavirus infections only when – and this is a quote – when it's connected to a public health purpose. Does that mean that the City will release data only that support its public health goals?

Mayor: I'm not sure I understand the question. Dr. Chokshi, do you feel you understand it?

Commissioner Chokshi: I believe so, sir. And the answer, Matthew, is no. We, in New York City – is one of the most transparent jurisdictions in the entire world with respect to the public health data that we're sharing. It spans surveillance data on COVID-19 as well as some more specific analyses to get at key questions that, of course, do have public health purposes. The latter, I believe, is what you're referring to and that's always in service to the health of New Yorkers.

Mayor: Thank you. Go ahead, Matt.

Question: So, in the interest of that transparency, by what date can we expect you to release data showing that vaccines are superior to [inaudible] conferred immunity. And before you say you've provided the data, you haven’t. So, why don't you tell us the topline percentage results here, right now, comparing infection conferred immunity to vaccine conferred immunity, rather than telling me to follow up with your team later who then don't give what what's promised on the call.

Mayor: Well, Matt, look, you're doing your job. I'm just going to defend Dr. Chokshi. I think he's been incredibly transparent throughout this crisis. So, I'm not going to accept if you just say, oh, he hasn't done what he said he was going to do, let him speak for himself rather than preempting his answer. Dr. Chokshi, what do you say?

Commissioner Chokshi: Thank you so much, sir. And yes, Matt, we have gone back and forth a few times on this question. I know, unfortunately, it sounds like not to your full satisfaction. But here are the facts. We are looking at the question of reinfection in people who are previously infected. We've shared data both from a national study that the CDC has published as well as data from New York City residents themselves, and this is what it shows. For people who have had prior infection with COVID-19, once someone becomes fully vaccinated, that means they have less than two times the risk of re-infection compared to someone who remains unvaccinated. The real-world choice that people who have had prior infection with COVID-19 face is whether or not to get vaccinated and, based on that data, the choice is very clear. The risk is far lower once you get vaccinated and that's why we have this strong and clear recommendation for New Yorkers. Thank you, sir.

Mayor: Thank you.

Moderator: Thank you. Last question for today, it goes to Abu from Bangla Patrika.

Question: Hello?

Mayor: Abu, how are you doing?

Question: I’m good. How are you, Mayor?

Mayor: Good. Good.

Question: Thank you so much. Okay. So, my question is, as you mentioned many times about the mental health issue in New York City, there is a lot of people – there's a show in our community television [inaudible] many people, they are trying to see the mental health helps to make the [inaudible] to make the appointment with the doctors, but it's been answered – I mean, everywhere is a waiting list – very long waiting list. So, how you are going to address this issue?

Mayor: A very important issue and I'll turn to Dr. Katz and Dr. Chokshi. Look, the reality of mental health in our society as a whole, certainly, before this administration, very, very unfortunate lack of focus on mental health – this is nationally, this was locally. What we did – and I give full credit to our First Lady, Chirlane McCray – that we focused on mental health to destigmatize, to make help available through 888-NYC-WELL, to create training programs to get more mental health professionals to communities who didn't have enough, a variety of changes that started and now gone to a much higher level with the mental health response to crisis calls by civilians, with the mental health screening for all our public health – excuse me, for all our public school kids. Every single public school kid will get a mental health screening in the weeks ahead. So, we've changed the entire nature of access to mental health services. But we still don't have the kind of federal support we need. We still don't have, obviously, universal healthcare in this country. We don't have parity between mental health and physical health. We do have guaranteed health care in this city thanks to Health + Hospitals and NYC Care, and that includes mental health services. So, it is true that there's not as many professionals as we need and not the kind of infrastructure of mental health that we ideally should have in this city, in this nation. But it's also true that more and more mental health services are available than ever before. And our vision of mental health for all is growing. Dr. Katz, then Dr. Chokshi, talk about what you are doing to make mental health services, the tangible services, more available to New Yorkers who need them.

President Katz: Well, thank you, sir. And, actually, the very first thing I do clinically is I tell people to call 888-NYC-WELL. It's an amazing service and I don't say that just because it's the First Lady's creation. It is available 24-hours a day, seven days a week. They have multiple language capability. And what they will do is connect people to ongoing services after an initial supportive and evaluative process. So, the reason I have found it especially helpful clinically is sometimes people need mental health right then and there and it's never going to be practical that people are going to be able to see a psychiatrist immediately that minute on a Saturday night at 3:00 AM in their language – that's just not possible given the supply of services. But starting with supportive counseling via the telephone, then we're able to connect that person to a psychiatrist in their language. Beyond that, sir, we're increasing our outpatient and inpatient staff at all our facilities, because we recognize that COVID has been very difficult for many people. It's been difficult for people with serious mental illness. It's been difficult for people without serious mental illness who are now suffering from post-traumatic stress syndrome. So, we're going to keep growing our services to meet the need. Thank you, sir.

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

Commissioner Chokshi: Yes, sir. I'll just pick up where Dr. Katz left off. He described it very well. And we have to start with the fact that the ways in which the COVID-19 crisis has affected New Yorkers’ mental health is profound. It's what we at the Health Department call one of the parallel pandemics related to COVID, the grief, and the stress, and the trauma that so many of us and our families have experienced. And Dr. Katz talked about NYC Well, that is always the first call that we recommend for anyone who is seeking support either for yourself or a family member or other loved one. We also have a new website, which is, which is searchable and which collates all of the many resources that that are offered across New York City for people who are looking for specific aspects of help. The final thing that I'll say with a sincere thanks to the Mayor and the First Lady is that this administration has made a historic investment in mental health resources to try to meet this need and particularly to address the needs of New Yorkers with serious mental illness. We've extended – expanded the intensive mobile treatment teams by hundreds of slots just this year. We've added more capacity and clubhouses, which are to serve people with serious mental illness. And we've also added several resources for people who are in behavioral health crisis. So, we all have a role to play in addressing this important need and we encourage everyone to look at those resources to start. Thank you.

Mayor: Thank you so much, doctor. Go ahead, Abu.

Question: Yeah. My second question is, do you have any data since the school is open how many students are suffering the same issue, like mental health? How you are handling the mental health of the student and do you have any data that how many students are affected by, you know, the mental health?

Mayor: It's a big question, Abu, and a very important one. We will have data as we deepen the mental health screening. It's too early yet to give you specific numbers. We know so many kids went through a trauma. And that's the only word for it, they went through trauma during COVID. A lot of kids lost a loved one. A lot of kids saw family members lose their jobs and livelihoods. Their whole lives were disrupted. And for some kids, many kids, they were not inside a classroom for a year-and-a-half. I mean, all of that is really, really troubling for a young person. So, we know a lot of kids are carrying a lot with them. The screenings are going to tell us how many kids have more profound problems and they will get help in a variety of places, including Health + Hospitals that's making mental health services available for whatever families can afford. Some will need help, but they can get it from within the school community, from the mental health support that's available in the school. But it's going to take us certainly a number of weeks to get that situation as numbers clear. The good news is, to your question, Abu, we're actually going to be able to answer it. We're going to be able to get a full picture, because we're doing universal mental health screening. And I can tell you that every child identified who has needs, we're going to have an action plan to help each and every one, because we've got to help our kids through emotionally and academically after everything they've been through.

And, again, we conclude today, coming right off that answer – best thing we can do for our kids, best thing we can do for our families, best thing we can do to keep our schools open and thriving is to get vaccinated. And just continue to remind people – there are still people I meet – even this weekend. I met a young man who did not know about the hundred-dollar incentive and was immediately interested in it. Please, everyone, if you're not yet vaccinated, go get that hundred-dollar incentive. If someone in your family, someone in your life hasn't gotten vaccinated, tell them about it. Every additional vaccination helps to move us forward. Thank you, everyone.



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