October 13, 2021
Mayor Bill de Blasio: Good morning, everybody. We're seeing some real progress here in our city. We're working so hard to defeat COVID. We’ve still got more work to do. It's not gone yet, to say the least. And the effects of COVID on families all over the city are going to linger for quite a while, but we're making really extraordinary progress fighting back COVID. And what we find today is that the policies that go right at COVID work. Today is the one-month anniversary of the Key to NYC policy going into full effect. And the Key to NYC is based on a simple concept, vaccines are the answer. Vaccination unlocks our recovery, makes everything else possible. We're seeing it before our very eyes as more and more comes back in our city. So, Key to NYC allowed us to move forward. Now, we knew that New Yorkers – we love everything of the city that makes it great, our restaurants. We love all the parts of our community that are so exciting to be a part of, entertainment – all the kinds of entertainment this city is famous for. People wanted to be a part of that, and so they went out and got vaccinated. And we knew that to do this right we had to work with the businesses, the small businesses, the mom-and-pop restaurants, all the folks out there who were going to be a part of this. We want it to work for them, so we sent out teams of City officials and experts to go out and talk to people, work it through at the grassroots. They canvassed over 50,000 businesses, talking through how to do this the right way.
Our Small Business Services department has done an outstanding job throughout this pandemic, helping small businesses, answering questions, getting them the help they need. They assisted thousands and thousands of businesses that had questions, had concerns, that needed a place to turn. The City was there for them. And because that work was done to get things ready right to begin with, we've seen the launch of Key to NYC go very, very smoothly. So, so far there's been over 31,000 inspections all across New York City to make sure the Key to NYC approach was working. And, so far, after a full month, all the preparation, all the communication, all the education, there's only been 15 violations necessary in that whole time. This is exactly what we hope to see and what we believed we’d see – the vast majority of businesses working to keep everyone safe, their employees, their customers. They had questions, they needed help, we gave it to them and they made it work – very, very few problems. And since that mandate was announced, the Key to NYC mandate, the city vaccination rate has increased nine percent overall. That's huge in terms of saving lives, in terms of protecting people, in terms of bringing New York City back. We've also seen a particular increase among our younger New Yorkers. And this was part of what we knew was the goal of Key to NYC. What do we think of young people – of course, they want to go out to restaurants, and bars, and entertainment. It makes sense. In the 18- to 34-year-old group of New Yorkers, we've seen vaccination go up 13 percent since the Key to NYC was put into effect. So, this really shows us the approach.
Now, look, thank you to all the businesses that have worked with us. Thank you to everyone who has done the right thing to keep people safe. It has made an amazing impact. And we've got to remember we're all in this together. So, we put forward a bold policy, but it depended on lots and lots of people on the ground, making it work. And you have, sort of – all the small business owners and all the employees who have made this work, thank you. You are such a big part of the reason why the city is now coming back, because we got it right with the Key to NYC.
So, we know vaccination works. We know outreach works. We know all the tools, the incentives, the mandates – all the tools together work. And we've got something great now that goes back to how much we love going out in this city, how much we love enjoying everything this city has to offer. Well, one of the things that we have to offer some of the greatest movie theaters of any place in the country and the most amazing variety of movies you could ever hope for. This is part of what makes New York City great. We want to encourage people to go back to the theaters. Great movies coming out now, experienced the movies in-person again. Get vaccinated. So, we are announcing our Vax to the Movies program. This is a new initiative, launching this weekend. I got to tell you, it's so important that we make it easy. So, we're going to have – these posters are going be around all over the city. You're going to see vaccination sites all around where you can get vaccinated right outside a movie theater, go in, and enjoy the movie. We have found these mobile sites, these pop-up sites are some of the most successful things we've done in the vaccination effort. So, great movies coming out. I know a lot of us are excited that James Bond is back and we can go see him in the movie theater. You can get vaccinated. You can get the hundred-dollar incentive and you can go to the movies. A hundred dollars, that'll buy a lot of popcorn. So, it's a great moment to get back out there and enjoy.
I want you to hear from someone who epitomizes love of the movies. He started out at the age of 11 as a projectionist at summer camp, and he has been involved with the movie industry ever since. A board member for the film board, for the Library of Congress. He is involved nationally in building up and bringing back the movie industry and having people go to the theater once again where we all love to be. Chief Operating Officer of Bow Tie Cinemas and the President of the National Association of Theatre Owners, my pleasure to introduce Joe Masher.
Mayor: Thank you so much, Joe. Joe, listen, it's very important what you said – not all these movies are going to be streaming. You want to see some movies, you’ve got to go to the movie theater to see them. And also, streaming is cool, but there is nothing as exciting, there's nothing as wonderful as being with a crowd and seeing the big screen. I think you'd agree with that, Joe. It is an unparalleled experience to see a great movie in a movie theater.
Joe Masher: Especially in New York City, absolutely.
Mayor: Amen. Amen. So, everyone, get on out there. This is the best time to go back to the movies. Get vaccinated, get the incentive – good for everyone. I want you to hear from someone who has been such a crucial ally and partner in our efforts to keep people safe and to make sure that vaccination was available all over. And we needed help from the State level to do it, and sometimes we got help, sometimes we didn't, but someone who was always on the side of New York City, always fighting for us, the Chair of the New York Assembly Health Committee, Assembly Member Dick Gottfried.
Mayor: Thank you so much, Assembly Member. And, listen, thank you, you have been there every step of the way, really pushing the effort to get people vaccinated. And you're right, we’ve got to think about keeping everyone safe. And you're someone who's been a great defender of people's civil liberties, but we’ve also got to think about the whole community. And this has been a time when we need everyone to step up for everyone's safety. Thank you very much for your leadership.
Now, everybody, as we bring the city back, we talked about this yesterday – we bring the city back, we create a recovery for all of us. That means focusing on where we're going and that means, of course, focusing on our kids. We talked yesterday about Brilliant NYC. We're so excited about this new vision for accelerated learning, reaching tens of thousands of kids. This is the way forward. And the way forward is investing in our children and recognizing their amazing potential. I want to highlight two very specific investments today that epitomized the direction that we need to take, going forward. And these are great things happening in Brooklyn in District 21 – Southern Brooklyn. First, the early college teacher prep academy. This excites me so much. This is going to be based at John Dewey High School, an academy, working in partnership with CUNY to reach talented high school students, get them ready, get them on the fast track to become teachers, to bring up the next generation. Listen, amazing career, teaching in New York City. Imagine the virtuous circle, taking some of our wonderful public school kids, helping them, supporting them, bringing out their talents, preparing them to be the teachers of tomorrow. That's amazing to begin with, but, second, on the same campus, a new middle school. And we all know middle school is, in some ways, the toughest part of the equation for public education, a time that's really tough in kids' lives. We need great middle schools. There's going to be a 550-seat new middle school. It will alleviate overcrowding. It'll give great opportunities for the kids in that community in Brooklyn. This is happening in partnership with the School Construction Authority and the Chair of the Education Committee in the City Council, Mark Treyger, who's been leading the way on this.
These are the kinds of investments that make a huge difference, reaching kids, giving them the best quality options, helping them to see their future, giving them faith in themselves. Look, it starts early. That's why we're doing 3-K and pre-K to reach kids at the earliest grades. That's why we're doing baby bonds for kindergartners to show every child, every family their child can succeed. But now, think about this example in Brooklyn, a child starts out 3-K, pre-K, baby bonds, literacy efforts to bring them forward, moves along, goes up to the new middle school, beautiful new middle school that will be there on the John Dewey campus. And then, that child goes to high school and is inspired to become a teacher. And now, they can get on that fast track. That's the kind of thing we want to see more of. And the reason this is all happening is a great champion for education. This was his vision. We were so happy to partner with them to make it come true. It's going to do amazing things for the kids at his community. My pleasure to introduce the Chair of the Educational Committee of the City Council, Mark Treyger.
Mayor: Thank you so much, Council Member. And listen, first of all, excellent baseball analogy. You are right with the season. Second, we are trying to unleash the potential of each child. And I’d like you to speak for a moment as someone who devoted yourself to our kids as a teacher. We’re, right now, reworking the whole approach to how we recognize kids’ talents early on, and I believe there are tens of thousands more kids who have a talent – maybe it’s in one subject like science, or math, or whatever it may be – but a talent that can be drawn out, supported. Too many of those kids have been missed in the past. We’re changing that now. I’d love you to reflect on what it means from your experience to find those kids and support those kids who had been left out under previous approaches.
Council Member Mark Treyger: Thank you. Thank you for the question, Mr. Mayor. As a former teacher, and as someone who cares deeply about education, there is no credible research in the world that supports the testing of four-year-olds to determine whether gifts or talents. All of our children are in fact gifted and talented. And this was a change instituted by the previous administration. It resulted actually in many districts, particular communities of color, losing a lot of key programs in their communities. So, we need to build a program that actually brings out the talents and skills of all of our children and this is the pipeline approach from 3-K, all the way to middle school, to high school, to early college that we need to, kind of, be building out on a greater scale. So, yes, I look forward to working with the DOE on building a program that actually brings out all the talents and skills out of our kids, not just for some. Not to actually just test for privilege, but to test for the true – to really build and bring up the talents and skills of all of our kids, Mr. Mayor. Thank you.
Mayor: Thank you. And we appreciate – I really appreciate that perspective and we appreciate your voice. And we're going to be working with you in the engagement process over the next couple of months to perfect a new approach. Let's get to every child. I love the passion you bring to it. Thank you so much, Council Member.
Council Member Treyger: Thank you, Mr. Mayor.
Mayor: I want you to hear now everyone from another former teacher. Devoted himself to his kids and his community, and then went and devoted himself to serving the community as an Assembly Member. He represents the Northeast Bronx where he was born and raised. I've known him for so many years as someone who really understands the life of our neighborhoods really goes to bat for our children and families. And he was a teacher, became an Assembly Member, but now he's in a position to do extraordinary things as Chair of the Committee on Education in the New York Assembly. My pleasure to introduce Assembly Member Mike Benedetto.
Mayor: Well, thank you so much Assembly Member. And I want to ask you the same question I asked Council Member Treyger, because you are each chairs of the education committees and your respective bodies, and you're both experts, to say the least, as former teachers. In terms of reaching all our kids and making sure that we move to an approach that finds the talents in many more kids, not just gets to a very small group, I want to hear your thoughts on that. From your own experience as a teacher, I'm sure you saw kids that you thought had a lot of ability but weren't getting the same kind of opportunity as some others. Talk about what you think we need to do going forward.
Assembly Member Michael Benedetto: I have long shook my head and wondered as to why we were testing children, four years old in kindergarten, and putting them in supposedly Gifted and Talented programs at that age. Yes, we've got to recognize those who excel. Okay, but there's a time and place for everything. One of the great things about our country is that we should – don't [inaudible]. In Europe they channel children at an early age to specialized high schools, depending upon tests that they take. And I think that's just been disproven. One of the great things about America is we worry about the late bloomer. Kids develop at a different break. Okay. And we’ve got to adjust to that. And at four years old, you’re just – it's too early to test them. What you have done to make changes in this system is admirable. And going forward, we've got to be sure that children are tested properly, okay, that they're tested later on in life when they are ready for it, and that it's done fairly, equitably throughout the system. We want all children to be able to have that experience and have the ability, if it's fair, to move on at an accelerated pace and not to leave people behind because they might have not had an advantage of going to a special school for training and preparation for these tests that are given. We want to get all kids educated, educated properly, and to the finest of their ability. And I'm very proud to say that we've made a major investment on the State level in just doing that. Something which has been called for, for years, full funding of CFE is finally being done. And I'm very proud to have had a hand in that.
Mayor: Well, you had a big hand in that, and I want to thank you. Look, what you achieved, what Speaker Carl Heastie achieved, that was historic by every sense of the word, because we couldn't reach all our kids properly without the resources, which we thought were coming to us 15 and 20 years ago. But because of you, because of the Speaker, we're actually going to have those resources now going forward. It's going to change everything. But I agree with you. We don't need to rely on a test for four-year-olds. It doesn't work. We need to use the multiple measures that all educators say is the best way to really assess talent. And I love what you said about the late bloomers. A lot of kids, the talent shows up later, some kids it's talent across many subjects. Some kids, it is talent across one subject. But whatever it is, we got to reach them, and we can. And we're going to have you involved as well as we perfect this plan and move forward. I want to thank you so much for your leadership.
Assembly Member Benedetto Thank you, Mr. Mayor.
Mayor: So, everyone, a lot of good things happening as part of our recovery. And one more good thing I want to note, and I'm really proud of our team here because last night they got recognition that they really deserved, the folks in our Vaccine Command Center who have been heroes in the fight against COVID. But they don't get a lot of attention. They work every day, they're in the nerve center making sure that vaccination was happening all over the city. You've seen it now happening on an extraordinary level. These are the folks who put together everything to make it work well. Last night, there was a virtual gala for the Citizens Budget Commission, and they gave their annual Public Service Award, and it went to the men and women of the Vaccine Command Center who really stepped up. These are folks who were doing other work for the City – along came this horrible, unforeseen unbelievable crisis. And they stepped up. They created something from scratch. They are the folks who get so much credit for the high vaccination rates in the city, for the Key to NYC, the mobile vaccination sites, what's happened with the schools. A lot of it was there. So, to everyone at the Vaccine Command Center, well done and congratulations for this very, very well-deserved honor.
Okay, let's go to indicators. First of all, my favorite indicator, number one, doses administered to date, and this number is just amazing, 11,753,287, and a lot more to come. We're really looking forward to the five- to 11-year-olds soon. That number is going to jump up a lot. Number two, daily number of people admitted to New York City hospitals for suspected COVID-19, today's report, 196 patients – confirmed positivity, 12.61 percent. Hospitalization rate per 100,000, 0.71 – very good number. And then number three, new reported cases on the seven-day average, today’s report, 1,014 cases. I’ll say a few words in Spanish, going back to the Key to NYC initiative.
[Mayor de Blasio speaks in Spanish]
With that, let’s turn to our colleagues in the media, please let me know the name and outlet of each journalist.
Moderator: Good morning. We will now begin our Q-and-A. As a reminder, we're joined by Dr. Dave Chokshi, Dr. Mitch Katz, President and CEO of the New York City School Construction Authority Nina Kubota, and SBS Commissioner Jonnel Doris. Our first question today goes to James Ford from PIX 11.
Question: Good morning, Mr. Mayor, and everyone on the call. Can you hear me okay?
Mayor: Yeah, James, how you doing today?
Question: Great. Thank you. Thank you very much. Listen, are your feelings [inaudible] of a COVID vaccine mandate for school children evolving? Could you support a mandate, especially with the New York Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics recommending and equivocally supporting a vaccination for children?
Mayor: You know, James, it's a very fair question and I certainly can't support it at this point. I do understand the reasoning, obviously, but I got to tell you, it is very much in my mind a question of what's going to help our kids the most. Our kids need to be in school. We can't, in my opinion, hold against our kids the decisions of adults because the kids can't get vaccinated without the adult consent. And there's still, unfortunately, in my mind, too many adults who are not ready to give that consent. I want those kids in school no matter what. And the schools are extraordinarily safe because we have that mandate for the adults and so many other health and safety measures. So, certainly not something I would consider at this point. Go ahead, James.
Question: And at what point might you support it? I guess – I don't want to put words in your mouth, but once the CDC and FDA give full approval is that what it would take? What would it take, sir?
Mayor: I want to thank you because anyone who doesn't want to put words in my mouth and is asking a sincere question is deeply, deeply appreciated. And I appreciate the integrity of that. James, I don't see it, don't see it now, don't see it over the horizon. Again, I'll always look at new facts, but for the foreseeable future, job one is to get the kids into school, obviously, safely. And we're doing that right now. So, we'll always evaluate new information, but what I like right now is the extraordinary safety we're seeing in our schools. The gold standard of health and safety measures is working. The vaccine mandate for adults has worked really, really well. The schools are safe. I want every kid in the classroom. The best way to do that now is the approach we're taking now. Again, as we see new information in the future, we'll evaluate, but that's the direction we're going to keep for now.
Moderator: Our next question goes to Marcia from WCBS.
Question: Good morning, Mr. Mayor, how are you doing today?
Mayor: I'm good. But your voice sounds different. Are you on a computer, Marcia?
Question: I am on a computer, but this is actually a big day because this is the first time I've actually been able to do it from my computer in my office. So, I'm, so –
Mayor: It's taking away the richness of your voice, Marcia.
Question: In any event, for me it's a huge day. So, the reason I'm calling you today or speaking to you today is that we have been inundated, hundreds of letters from New York City retirees who are really furious that their health care benefits are changing, that they're being asked to go into the federal Medicare Advantage Plan or pay an extra $200 a month in order to keep their present health care plan. They're accusing you of “working a backroom deal in a smoky room,” that's one quote. And they say that they're not able to get the same kind of health benefits under the Medicare Advantage Plan than they were getting under the union plan. And they say, for example, a lot of doctors won't take the plan, they're afraid that their health care is going to be compromised, and they also say that if they were to – that they're going to be bankrupt by having to pay out extra costs that they didn't anticipate. Is there anything that you can do? And what – how do you defend the decision to make them go into a Medicare Advantage Plan that they had no say over?
Mayor: Well, Marcia, they did have say through their union leaders and representatives. No, look, I appreciate everything you put out there and I know you're relaying what you're hearing from other folks. I got to tell you what they're telling you just isn't accurate. There's no deals or anything like that. This was an open, ongoing, thoughtful process with the Municipal Labor Council to figure out how to protect health care benefits for the long term. For decades, there has been a conversation in the city about the threats to the health care benefits, which often didn't have the right kind of funding and backing, and that we would be in a situation where retirees’ health care might be endangered in the future. We needed to stabilize it. We needed to make sure it would be permanent and reliable. We needed to do it in a way that would keep the same benefits or even improve upon them. And that's what we did. It was all done through an exhaustive process with the unions. So, a lot of people are spun up out there on different things that just aren't true. There needs to be more communication, obviously, to explain how it's going to work. And there needs to be more communications with the doctors as well, to make sure they understand that this is the same kind of plan in the sense of the coverage that we expect to see from doctors. So, we'll get you a lot more of the details and the facts, but, no, this was done the right way to ensure the health care of our retirees long-term. Go ahead, Marcia.
Question: Second question is, you know, you said that the unions were involved in this, but they make two points. Number one, they said that the unions aren't empowered to negotiate for retirees, and they've actually gone to court to say that. But second of all, the PBA sent a letter to its retirees saying that they don't support any agreement that isn't done as a result of collective bargaining, and they don't want it – they didn't like it and they didn't vote on it. So, I guess what I want to know is what is your response to the suit, and the fact that these people feel that their health is going to be compromised. I mean, it's really – it's heartbreaking to hear their stories about how they're not going to get cancer care, they can't get MRIs unless they get a second opinion. They're all, like, crazed and it's heartbreaking to hear their stories.
Mayor: Right, Marcia, it is heartbreaking to hear their stories, except they're unfortunately being given false information. I don’t know how to say it to you more simply. It's just not true. I've been over this so many times. If one union stood apart of the rest of the entire municipal labor community, they can always do that. They often do that. One union often stands apart. The rest of the municipal labor community through an exhaustive process, in a democratic process because it's the people elected to represent the members. And yes, that does include the retirees, decided this was the right thing to do for the long-term health of our system. We need to make sure we're there for the retirees in the long-term. The worst of all worlds was people not having reliable health care in the future. But of course, the whole concept was to make sure it was the same quality or even better. We'll get you all the facts, but people are being sold a bill of goods by some people that don't like it. This went through so much of an exhaustive process to get it right. And the vast majority of unions believed it was the right thing to do for their members.
Moderator: Our next question goes to Steve Burns from WCBS 880.
Question: Good Morning, Mr. Mayor. How are you?
Mayor: Hey, Steve. How are you doing?
Question: Doing all right. Wanted to circle back on this being the one-month anniversary of the Key To NYC and the enforcement that's been going on. I guess in one sense, it's admirable that only 15 businesses have ended up with violations. But I'm sure you can understand there might be skeptics out there that say, how can there only be 15 businesses? So, I wanted to see, you know, what kind of enforcement action is going on? To the ones that get fined, are they only, I guess, the most egregious violators? And in a general sense, what have you been seeing from businesses that might've been skeptical about this?
Mayor: I'm going to start, and I'll turn to our Small Business Services Commissioner Jonnel Doris, who's been at the frontline of this. But Steve, I'd say it this way, we said from the beginning, we are going to educate and work with the businesses, hear their concerns, answer their questions. And then we go out and enforce and inspect. But the goal was if we saw a problem, say, Hey, can you fix that problem? This is true with not just Key To NYC, but other things we do as a city as well. Can you fix the problem? If you fix the problem, we don't have a problem here. Let's move on. There doesn't need to be a fine, there doesn't need to be a violation. If you refuse to, that's where we have a problem. And I think what this says is the vast, vast, vast majority of restaurants and all the other businesses are saying, yes, we're going to work with this. We're going to make it work for our employees, for our customers, keep everyone safe. Very few are standing apart. And that's the good news. And that's the big news. And that's what we saw in the beginning of the pandemic too. Very few outliers. So, in terms of how we're making it work, let's turn to Commissioner Jonnel Doris.
Commissioner Jonnel Doris, Small Business Services: Thank you, Mr. Mayor. Yeah, certainly, we have had an education first policy throughout the pandemic and this was no different. 50,000 or so businesses contacted, trained. Our SBS team as well. Webinars and different partnerships with our chambers and other groups, making sure that the community knows the requirements. And also instituting a warning which I think is a key here. Where we were able to have a warning to those businesses and in the process showed them what they needed to do to correct. And that's why I believe we are seeing the low numbers that we are seeing when it comes to the actual violations that are being issued. And you know, as always, we ask our businesses and now 73,000 of them call our hotline. We want to keep saying, please reach out to us at our hotline. We want to make sure that you're able to connect with us at SBS, 8-8-8-S-B-S-4-NYC. If you have any concerns or issues with this particular mandate, we're happy to help.
Mayor: Thank you. Go ahead, Steve.
Question: I appreciate that answer. On a separate topic, I know we talked about real estate and New York starting to bounce back yesterday. I wanted to kind of jump off of that and ask another type of recovery question as it relates to traffic. If you, I know you're listening to my station, you hear traffic reports that talk about, you know, hour, hour and a half waits at the bridges and tunnels now. MTA Bridges and Tunnels has said traffic is now exceeding pre pandemic levels, when we still have a fraction of the office workers back at this point. I know you've gotten the question before, but I wanted to see if your thinking has changed? Especially since we know congestion pricing is still going to be a while away? What will it take to see harsher traffic restrictions coming into Manhattan, say HOV restrictions on bridges? You know, we're seeing this get far worse before it might get any better? Is your thinking changing at all on short-term traffic relief measures?
Mayor: That's something we're going to look at for sure, Steve. I think we've all been watching the trajectory here. Now, let's be fair, subways, buses are coming back really clearly. I think we're about 55 percent with the subways compared to pre pandemic levels. That's been steady, steady increases, bus ridership, even more. Clearly people are – things are normalizing. Obviously, people see the city getting healthier. There's more and more activity. So, people are starting to transfer over to mass transit more and more. But it's going to take a while. I agree with you. It's also, you're right. Congestion pricing, it should be expedited by the federal government and the State government, MTA. I don't see that. I don't know why they're not doing it. I think there needs to be pressure on them to do it. We can go a lot faster with congestion pricing that would help. But there's clearly a problem of too many people in cars. We're going to look at that option. We're going to look at other options of how to address it. In the meantime, I think the big picture is keep fueling the recovery in every way, the vaccinations, everything we're doing to fuel the recovery, because that's also going to help people feel more comfortable going back to mass transit.
Moderator: Our next question goes to Elizabeth Kim from Gothamist.
Question: Good morning, Mr. Mayor.
Mayor: Hey Elizabeth, how you been?
Question: Good. I wanted to ask you and Dr. Chokshi to tell us a little bit about booster shots? The demand? And also, if you can share that data, start sharing that data with the public, the number of booster shots that are being, you know, given every day?
Mayor: Well, we certainly like to share data. So, Dr. Chokshi, if you could give us the latest on how that's going and how you are sharing that data, that'd be great?
Commissioner Dave Chokshi, Department of Health and Mental Hygiene: Certainly, I'll be happy to, sir. And thank you so much, Elizabeth, for the question. We are following the uptake of booster shots in New York City. As you know, currently Pfizer recipients who are at least six months after their second dose, are the population that's eligible for booster shots at this moment. Thus far we've administered a little bit over 128,000 doses across New York City. We expect that number to continue growing, both for Pfizer recipients as well as for those who received Moderna or J&J once the FDA authorization for those two vaccine types advances, which we expect to be in the coming days as well. With respect to sharing that data more generally. We are working on that. And we plan to post it publicly as we do for the rest of our data. There are some nuances in terms of how we collect it. And we're just working out that methodology. But we will certainly share that in the coming weeks. Thank you.
Mayor: Thank you. Go ahead, Elizabeth.
Question: And as a follow-up, do you anticipate as we head into the winter months, more people spending time indoors, more time since people got their first shots, do you – will the City begin to do more messaging, urging people that get that third shot?
Mayor: Great question. And I would say this, I think it's really smart to say, Hey, we're going into a new season. What do we got to do? I think the good news compared to anything else we've dealt with, with COVID is the very, very high levels of vaccination in the city right now. The fact that it's growing all the time. Again, we expect a big boost in vaccination levels overall when the five to 11-year-olds can be reached and that's good for everyone. But in terms of promoting boosters and the right way to do it, Dr. Chokshi, Dr. Katz, jump in?
Commissioner Chokshi: Thank you so much, sir. And I agree with you. The first and most important point is to remember that first doses are even more important than third doses. And so, we will be focused on reaching everyone who is unvaccinated and continuing our messaging encouraging them to get vaccinated. Whether you're an adult that's currently eligible or as the Mayor has pointed out, as we expand eligibility to younger children, five to 11 in the coming weeks as well. That will remain a primary focus. With respect to boosters, yes, you will see more messaging from us on all of the different platforms that we use, as well as our partnerships with community-based organizations and community physicians. A lot of that will be focused on the populations for whom we know boosters will make the biggest difference. For example, our seniors, those who are 65 years and older, as well as younger adults with underlying health conditions that put them at highest risk for severe outcomes. So, you'll be hearing more about that in the coming months.
Mayor: Thank you. Dr. Katz, you want to add?
President and CEO Mitch Katz, Health + Hospitals: I agree with Dr. Chokshi. In my clinical practice, I'm particularly focused on having my older patients and those who have an underlying health condition, get that booster. I think those are the most important populations to do it. Other people feel safer when they get a booster. And as long as it fits the eligibility requirements, I think that's great. But especially the older people and those with underlying health conditions. Thank you, sir.
Mayor: Thank you.
Moderator: Our next question goes to Erin from Politico.
Question: Hi, Mr. Mayor. I have a question also about the vaccine mandate, the Key To NYC enforcement? First of all, I think I heard one of my colleagues say 15 and I apologize if I missed it. But I didn't think I heard that from you? So, can you folks just confirm, is it in fact 15 fines that have been given? And then also, do you have any data since you're doing this warning first approach, do you have any data on how many violations you've actually observed and how many warnings have been given without a fine?
Mayor: Yeah, I’ll start and I’ll turn to Commissioner Doris. Erin, 15 is the accurate number. And again, remember that the things we look for are the proper signage and the right protocols, checking people in. Some of that just needs adjustments and conversation with people to get it right. And what we're seeing overwhelmingly, is that business owners want to get it right. I think the violations really connect with a situation where there's not a willingness to follow the instructions, follow the guidance. But in terms of the overall picture, Commissioner Doris, what would you like to add?
Commissioner Doris: Yes, sir. I believe we did about over 6,000 warnings in the 31,000 inspections. So again, overall vast compliance. And again, once folks learn what they're doing wrong or make the adjustments, that's how we ended up with just 15 or so actual violations.
Mayor: Thank you very much. Go ahead, Erin.
Question: Okay, great. Thanks. And then secondly, I want to follow up on something I asked you about yesterday with regards to the DOI report and your use of the detail for your presidential campaign. You've talked about the fact that you have a right to appeal this ruling from COIB that you're responsible for that money, but the original guidance was given in May of 2019 and this appeal wasn't filed until July of this year. So, just wondering if you can explain why more than two years elapsed before you actually appealed this decision while also not repaying the money?
Mayor: Yeah, Erin, really important to note, again, there's not a procedure historically because mayors and their families were protected in anything and everything they did, that was the way it was done. We took all guidance from the NYPD. When I walked into the door as Mayor, I didn't know what the security protocols were. I didn't know what the approach had been historically. I only knew and assumed that it would follow what had happened for other mayors, but actually in an even – unfortunately – tougher environment, because we've seen the rise of terrorism, and then since then a much more divided and violent society here at home. So, everything was determined by the NYPD and I followed that guidance. The – what we got from the COIB suggested something very, very different, and so there wasn't a methodology for following up on it. We sent the appeal letter to say, hey, this is the history, this is what we think makes sense. We're asking you to consider all these facts, they'll go through their process and then we'll look to their, you know, I'm sure a very careful deliberative process, we'll look for their final determination.
Moderator: Our next question goes to Yoav from The City.
Question: Good morning, everyone. It's good timing because I was going to ask a similar question to Erin’s, and I didn't really hear an answer to the main question, which is why did it take you two years to appeal that determination?
Mayor: Yoav, again, we got this guidance, there was no methodology that fit the guidance because it had never been done before, and it didn't follow the history. As these issues have come up, it was important for us to put that formal appeal in which we've made public explaining the history, explaining the security considerations, everything that's been looked at previously and to put that information before the COIB. So, that's the simple answer. Go ahead, Yoav.
Question: Okay. That – you're still not answering the question, but –
Mayor: Go ahead, go ahead.
Question: I don't want to ask another question – I don't want to waste another question and just have you not answer it. So maybe I can ask this, what was the appeal - well, two things, you keep referring to their guidance letter. We can't see that for ourselves. So, in the name of transparency and so that we can get a sense of what their perspective is, can you release the COIB guidance and was your appeal prompted by your awareness that DOI was investigating the matter?
Mayor: Yeah, it was important to put in the appeal. Of course, these issues were out there. It was important to put in the appeal to get to a clear, ultimate answer. The process with the Conflict of Interest Board historically has been one, it was structured this way by law to allow the Conflict of Interest Board to have private communications as part of how they do their work effectively. No –the previous back and forth is not what we're going to be releasing. What we did release was our appeal letter, and that's the only thing we're releasing at this point.
Moderator: We have time for two more questions today. The next question goes to Reuvain from Hamodia.
Question: Good morning, Mr. Mayor.
Mayor: Hey, Reuvain. How have you been?
Question: Good, how are you? So, last week you signed the bill mandating severance pay for hotel workers laid off during the pandemic surrounded by members of the Hotel Trades Council. The times has reported in the past that that was the only union two endorse your presidential bid and donated $440,000 to the cause. This is not the first bill that was helpful to the union that you've supported, and presumably its endorsement would be helpful when your potential gubernatorial run. So, my question is, was this payback to the union? And if not, why should hotel workers, specifically, more than any other industries workers affected by the pandemic be entitled to this special look?
Mayor: So, you asked two questions. The first one, of course not. That's farthest thing from the truth. The second one, because this industry was one of the hardest hit in all the city. Anyone with eyes to see can see what happened to the hospitality industry as a result of COVID and shutting down travel across the board, and now it's still international travel. Hotel industry was hit very, very hard. That's why we took actions to support the hotel industry earlier in the year. But we also have to support the hotel workers who have been going without their jobs for a long, long time. That's why we did what we did. Go ahead, Reuvain.
Question: There are many industries that were affected by the pandemic, but I have to move onto the next question. Do you think that the hotels that closed did so because they have tons of extra cash lying around so they can afford to pay $15,000 to each worker?
Mayor: I don't know each hotels finances or approach. I do know that the working people of this city and the working people, that industry made them what they were and allowed them to prosper for years and years. We got to a point we had 67 million tourists a few years ago, and it was the working people in that industry that allowed everyone else to prosper. So, they've been hurting for a long time. I would argue at you very clearly, this is one industry's hardest hit of any industry. That's just factual. But we got to support working people, first and foremost, I believe a lot of those companies are going to come back strong. We're seeing a number of hotels now starting to reopen. We're seeing international travel coming back, but we got to make sure that working people get their share as well.
Moderator: Our last question for today, it goes to Yehudit from Borough Park 24.
Question: Good morning, Mr. Mayor, how are you?
Mayor: Good, how are you doing today?
Question: I’m great. My question is about the special needs students who are bilingual and have on their IEPs that they require teachers who speak the same languages that their families speak at home. We have a reader whose child is autistic, completely non-verbal, and her IEP says that she's bilingual and requires a teacher to speak and teach in the same language that her family speaks at home. So, since last Monday, the student's longtime class has been broken up and put in a variety of other classes with teachers who do not speak the students’ predominant languages, and that is causing the kids daily distress, a feeling of displacement, and a lack of comprehension, and the parents feel – are feeling devastated and anxious that their children are going to lose another year of education. So, it was great that you have a surplus of substitutes to replace those who have not gotten vaccinated. I'm wondering, however, to be more equitable to special needs students, whether you have enough substitutes who speak the different languages, New York students require, and whether Commissioner Meisha Ross Porter and the DOE could take measures to ensure that when substitutes are brought into special needs classrooms, they speak the languages that the bilingual students need to learn?
Mayor: A very important question, Yehudit, and thank you for it. I'm just checking the latest numbers. I mean, right now we're seeing across all categories at the Department of Education really, really impressive numbers on vaccination, and we do have a lot of different substitutes available, and obviously that includes substitutes who can speak a variety of languages, but I think your point is well taken. We need to pinpoint to make sure we make the right connections. If you have specific cases, Yehudit, if you'd share it with the team here at City Hall, so we can follow up and make sure that those children, those families get what they need, and you know, we continue to hire. So, if we see a very specific need that's not filled right now, we'll go and find someone who can provide that help for the child. Go ahead, Yehudit.
Question: Then also a week ago Community Board 12 in Brooklyn voted not to approve the text amendment that would allow zoning changes to make Open Restaurants permanent because the majority of board members felt that the outside spaces, some of which are very beautiful and which were very beneficial during the pandemic, many Brooklyn residents felt that the structures take up precious parking and narrow sidewalk space that pedestrians need to walk and push strollers. So, some also sometimes the structures attract people that camp in them, or kind of otherwise cause trouble in them, bad actors. So, I'm wondering if the new zoning law goes through that would make Open Restaurants permanent. I'm wondering whether communities will be able to opt out of the change if they don't think that the outdoor dining structures are good for their particular neighborhoods?
Mayor: Well, Yehudit, we obviously – it's a fair question, but I want to be straightforward with you – when we create a law for the whole city, it's for everyone, and we will treat every community equally. But what we can do, and it's important to do, is to listen to community concerns and make adjustments. And we were doing that before the pandemic with our Nightlife Office, done great work, when there were concerns about a specific restaurant, bar, whatever it might be, figuring out how to adjust and make it right with the community. So, for example, you know, the sidewalk space is a great point, there's really clear rules, and if a restaurant isn't smart about that and they take up too much space, we have to fix that. We have to hold them accountable. We've got some restaurants that stopped using their outdoor space. I've been very clear with our team, if a restaurant is not going to revive that space and use it, they should give it up, and we got to be very good about enforcing that. It's one thing if they're briefly shut down and they're holding it to start up again soon, but if they're not intending to use it, they got to liberate it so other people can use it.
But I would bring it all together, Yehudit, and say the outdoor dining has had a miraculous impact on this city. It's saved 100,000 jobs to begin with and it's helping to save many more since. It has been part of the comeback of the city. It's creating life and energy. We need to keep it long-term, but let's make the adjustments case by case to make it work best for communities. That's the way to approach it. And I'll conclude by saying, you know, another example, so many of the things we've talked about today, examples of this city creating, fighting back, people being resourceful, being resilient. That's what New Yorkers have shown in this crisis. That's why we're going to come out of the COVID era. We got more work to do, but we're going to get there. Thank you, everyone.