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Transcript: Mayor de Blasio Holds Media Availability

December 6, 2021

Mayor Bill de Blasio: Good morning, everybody. Well, we are very, very carefully monitoring the latest news about the Omicron variant and, meanwhile, we're still fighting the central battle, which is against the Delta variant. So, a lot going on. Then, I have some updates for you today because we need to take very bold action, aggressive action to address these new threats. It's Omicron, it's cold weather, which we know presents a real challenge with COVID in every form. It's the holiday gatherings coming up. There's a lot going on and what we're seeing now in other parts of the world, and this is really an area of tremendous concern. We're seeing restrictions starting to come back. We're seeing shutdowns. Look at Germany right now, such a strong nation in so many ways, but the situation there has got to a really troubling place. So, now they're reinstating a lot of restrictions that we all hoped were part of the past. We cannot let those restrictions come back. We cannot have shutdowns here in New York City. We got to keep moving forward. And the answer is always is to use the things that work, vaccination works and vaccine mandates work. That's the bottom line.

So, look, we're working closely with the State government, with the federal government, we're all united, common front to fight COVID and that cooperation is tremendously important, but we also know Omicron is here. No debate about it anymore. It doesn't matter if we're only getting a few cases in different states. We know it's here. We know it's going to spread. It appears to be at this moment, very transmissible. We're waiting for more facts and more evidence, but that's what we're seeing so far.

What does that mean? You can expect – and I'm sorry to say this, you can expect community spread. We have to assume it's going to be widespread. We have to assume it's going to give us a real challenge. We'd been to this movie before, we've been down this road before, we know what happens when we get a new variant, in particularly one that's highly transmissible. It's not something we can't handle. We have the tools, but we have to use those tools aggressively and we have to move quickly. And that's why I described the actions we're taking today as a preemptive strike, get ahead of this problem before it deepens and use the thing that works, vaccination. We can talk about all the other tools and we will, but vaccination is the central weapon in this war against COVID. It's the one thing that has worked every single time across the board on a strategic level. It's the reason New York City is back in so many ways. And it's the reason we can avoid shutdowns and restrictions, it’s more use of vaccination. So, that's why we are taking aggressive action today. We are not going back to what happened in 2020. We cannot allow that to happen. We're not going to allow to happen in New York City with what's happening in Germany right now. We cannot let that happen.

So, look, bottom line. I've said we have been climbing the ladder as we have climbed the ladder, good things have happened more and more people have got vaccinated. The city got safer. We were able to bring back people's livelihoods and jobs and the life of the city. We need to keep that going. So, today, we're going to be announcing some additional measures to keep New Yorkers safe. And I'm going to remind everyone job, number one, any mayor, keep people safe. This is the biggest crisis not only of our time, but of the history of New York City. We cannot let COVID back in the door again. So, these measures today will make a big difference. First of all, with the Key to NYC, extremely effective program has been respected and emulated around the country. It needs to be more honestly, it's something that should be used in more and more places. Well, right now we require all employees and patrons, everyone, 12 and up to be vaccinated, at least one dose, that’s indoor dining, fitness, entertainment. That's worked brilliantly. It's been a tremendous success or a lot of concern about the beginning. In fact, it has been an across the board success with very few problems. You know, there's been a few challenges, but not many. So, we now are going to deepen that effort by requiring all employees and patrons to have from 12 years old and up, two doses. And that will take effect on December 27th, because the idea is everyone by that point, who has got their first dose, if you've got your first dose by now, you're going to be able to get your second dose by then. We got to up the ante here. We want to also encourage folks to get that second dose, vast majority of New Yorkers do. And that's good news, but we've got to encourage people even more, get that second dose because that's what gives you so much more protection. So, two doses for all the Key to NYC businesses starting December 27th, employees and customers, and that's going to keep people safe and we want to see people go out and get those second doses right now, if they qualify. 

Remember with the holidays, with the cold weather, you haven't got your second dose and you qualify, this is exactly the time to get it. You should feel urgency because the challenge of COVID is about to get greater. Now, another point on Key to NYC thinking the youngest New Yorkers, the vaccination for the five to 11-year-olds has just begun the last few weeks already. We've got over 127,000 New York City kids in that age range vaccinated. That's great. It's a little over 19 percent of all the kids in that group, considering as brand new. That's good and it's better than the national rate, but it's not enough. Obviously, we need to see a lot more. We need to see kids getting vaccinated in that age group. Parents, we need you to step up for the good of your children, your family, all of us go get your child vaccinated. So, we're going to include them in the Key to NYC. The guidelines are Key to NYC starting on December 14th. So, this is again one dose now because it's a new vaccination, that gives parents plenty of time. We've been having vaccination drives in schools. We're in the middle of our second round, in every single elementary school in New York City, every school with five to 11-year-olds, this'll be the second time around started last week continuing this week. If you're a parent, you want to get your kid vaccinated. it's so simple. It could be at your own school, or it could be in many, many locations nearby your home. This is something that's going to keep kids safe and families safe. Go get your child vaccinated so long as they've got that first dose by December 14th, they can continue to participate indoor dining entertainment, all of these great things.

Now, another point for our youngest kids, previously, for the kids 12 years old and up the rule has been in place for high risk extracurricular activities, sports, band, chorus, orchestra, dance, things where there's a lot of close contact,  things where kids are, you know, singing or anything where they're really the letting a lot of air out that could have an impact on everyone around them, that has applied to kids 12 and up, We're going to now apply that to kids in the five to 11 year old range, as well. That's also December 14th, again, only one dose required. There's time for parents get that done. Most kids don't necessarily participate in those activities. That's fine, but for those who do we want to make sure they have that protection, it's real important.

Okay, now another really big, important step in this is going to be a first in the nation step. You're going to hear from our Health Commissioner in a moment, and he will be issuing a Commissioner's Order for all private sector employers in New York City. It is time. Look, this is how we put health and safety first by ensuring that there is a vaccine mandate that reaches everyone universally in the private sector. A lot of folks in the private sector have said to me, they believe in vaccination, but they're not quite sure how they can do it themselves. Well, we're going to do it. We're going to do this so that, every employer is on a level playing field. One universal standard starting December 27th. We're going to be working with businesses all over the city. And that's almost 200,000 businesses that are not already covered by the Key to NYC guidelines right now. We're going to be working with the business community. We're going to be talking to them in the next days on how to put together the right plan to implement this. The specific guidance, the specific rules will come out in December 15th. We want to have a collaborative process. We want to make this work and let's be clear, we have a great example with the Key to NYC, all those restaurants, all those fitness clubs, all those entertainment facilities and movie theaters, all sorts of places they've been working with us. They gave us good advice up front. We came up with rules that work the vast, vast majority of implement those rules really effectively. And I constantly hear from people that they know that go into a place under Key to NYC they're safe and they feel comfortable. They're going to enjoy themselves. They feel comfortable in those settings because they know everyone's vaccinated and there was a lot of concern up front. Would it work? Would it be difficult? You know what businesses have adapted and handled it really, really well. And we know will happen again. We're going to set up a call center to handle concerns from businesses. We'll have a strong outreach effort as we've done previously, to answer questions, provide the support they need. This is going to make a huge difference to make sure New Yorkers are safe going forward. I want you to hear from the person who will be issuing the order in the course of the day, our Health Commissioner, Dr. Dave Chokshi.

Commissioner Dave Chokshi, Department of Health and Mental Hygiene: Thank you so much, Mr. Mayor. When we were thinking through these major new policies announced today, we had a few groups of New Yorkers in mind. I thought about my patients. So many of them essential workers who have been at risk throughout the pandemic and who are at greater risk when they are in close quarters with unvaccinated colleagues. I thought about our nurses and other healthcare workers, the trauma they've experienced and the post-traumatic stress they feel right now with cases increasing again and Omicron on the horizon. I thought about the patients, those same health care workers look after, especially the unvaccinated patients expressing regret for their decision in terrifying moments of remorse, like just before they have to be placed on a breathing tube. And I thought about how we can better protect people who remain vulnerable despite widespread access to vaccination, like children who are still too young to get the vaccine and New Yorkers with weakened immune systems, such as those with cancer on chemotherapy. For all of those groups, risk rises as community transmission increases, even before Omicron becomes more common, we've seen case numbers grow in recent weeks due to Delta, the devil we know. They have more than doubled since of recent low point in early November, increasing in every borough and every age group. That's why the bold steps the Mayor announced today are necessary and vital, starting with the private sector vaccine mandate. Vaccines work and vaccine mandates work, particularly when joined with efforts to build vaccine confidence, provide incentives and improve access as we have in New York City. We've seen this with our healthcare workers, school staff and public employees, now it's time for the private sector to step up and follow suit.

Turning to our younger New Yorkers, case rates are currently highest among our five to 11-year-olds, but we can change this. And indeed, parents have already vaccinated over 130,000 kids since five to 11-year-olds became eligible. Extending the Key to NYC to those five and up and expanding our vaccine requirement for high-risk extracurricular activities to that same age range will help further. These are proven tools in our fight against COVID-19 and a logical step to protect our kids. New York City has led the nation when it comes to decisive action on COVID-19. We have to be even more relentless than the virus. And I'm so proud of all the ways New Yorkers have shown our characteristic toughness, particularly when it's most needed. For instance, in the last two days, over 108,000 vaccinations were reported as administered, including about 63,000 booster doses. Those boosters may turn out to be particularly important for Omicron. So, you'll see us work to further increase the almost 1.2 million additional or booster doses already administered in NYC. And beyond vaccination, I'm grateful to everyone for their commitment to common sense precautions, particularly masking, testing, improving ventilation and staying home when you are ill. My Commissioner's Advisory on masking from last week, emphasized mask use indoors, including for those who are vaccinated and also, call the attention into higher quality masks like KN95s and KF94s for those at higher risk.

Mr. Mayor, thank you for the swift and resolute leadership demonstrated by today's announcements. I know it will save lives and help us prevent unnecessary suffering. Thank you.

Mayor: Thank you so much, Dr. Chokshi. Thank you for everything you're doing and your colleagues to keep us safe and for this order you're issuing today, it's going to make a huge, huge difference. I want you to hear from someone now, one of the great national voices during this crisis we've all been trying to navigate an extremely complex reality, and it's so powerful when there are people who are those voices of wisdom and knowledge and help us make sense of COVID. He is an oncologist. He is a former Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress and Vice Provost for Global Initiatives at the University of Pennsylvania. My pleasure to introduce Dr. Zeke Emanuel.


Mayor: Thank you so much, Dr. Emanuel. I just want to thank you for your clear, sharp message to everyone about why this matters, but also again, thank you over these last 20 months, you've been one of the great voices of reason and science and clarity in this nation as we've been making our way through this incredibly difficult crisis. So, thank you for your leadership. We need your voice and I thank you for it.

Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel: Thank you, Mr. Mayor. I'm sure my mother appreciates it.

Mayor: There we go. All right, well, so you heard from one of the great national voices on why this is so important. I want you to now, let's take it local. Let's go to the streets of New York City. Let's go to our neighborhoods and hear from someone who really understands what this means at a neighborhood level, but also for a small business. You know, a lot of businesses have said that they would actually like this kind of support of having a clear mandate that will help them clarify to all their employees why it's so important to be vaccinated. And that a single universal rule actually is better for everyone. Well, I want to hear from someone who really made it a priority himself to get his employees vaccinated, he understood that was important for their safety, but for the whole community, and for the customer. So, amazing story. He is the owner of the Barber Factory in the Bronx. He's been with us before. And I want to give him a shout out. He has achieved something amazing. As of today, 100 percent of his staff are fully vaccinated. That's an amazing accomplishment. And I tip my cap, Nestor Lebron, you have done something great. And we welcome you.

Nestor Lebron: Thank you, Mayor de Blasio. Just want to say – can you hear me?

Mayor: Yes, we can. Absolutely. We can see your whole team too.


Mayor: Hey, Nestor, what do you say to your customers when they talk to you about what they're looking for? They want to go get a haircut, they're worried about COVID. What do you tell them about what it means to come into an environment where everyone is vaccinated?

Lebron: Well, I mean, they know our customers know what we went through in the shutdown. So, to let them know and let the community know that we're back and we're taking all steps necessary to make sure that that doesn't happen again. You know, it means everything to us. That’s our livelihood. That's what was put at risk before, and we're doing everything so that, that doesn't happen again.

Mayor: Amen. And when you got your employees, I see a lot of the guys there, what's the conversation like? If someone has a hesitation or concern, what's been the conversation that's helped everyone get to the point now that everyone's 100 percent vaccinated?

Lebron: I mean, it's mandatory for us. We're trying to do the right thing. You know, that's, it stands behind our name, the Barber Factory to make sure that we do the right thing. So, you know, we spoke to the guys. Guys, you know, this is something that we have to do to ensure safety, you know, and especially now with the new variant, you know, we feel better. We don't –
before when this all started, we didn't know what was going on. But now, knowing that we're all vaccinated and that the City has [inaudible] it's an amazing feeling.

Mayor: And Nestor, I am very, very impressed by what you've done. And as a New Yorker, I am proud of you. You're sending a message to this whole city, and you're showing the whole country what New York City is made of and our strength, our resilience. I've got some people here in the room with me who put together these press conferences. We're all going to applaud you now. Thank you, Nestor.


Lebron: Thank you very much.

Mayor: Good job.

Lebron: Thank you, Mr. Mayor.

Mayor: All right, everyone. Well, if that's not a true, clear voice, I don't know what is. And Nestor is showing an example to everyone. And what he said, we all went through shutdowns. We do not want to go through it again. It had a horrible dislocating impact on the lives of our families, our kids who couldn't be in school, businesses shut down. People lost their livelihood. We cannot let that happen again. So, that's why we're doing this. A preemptive strike. This major new initiative to keep people safe.

And now we'll go to the indicators and they, once again, show us both what's working, vaccination and the challenge, more and more cases of COVID. So, on vaccination, you heard from Dr. Chokshi, there's been a surge of vaccinations. That's great. Particularly the booster, that's really great, but we want to see a surge now of those first doses for people who haven't had them, particularly our youngest New Yorkers. We want to see a surge of second doses for anyone who was delaying their second dose. As of today, we're at 12,682,136 doses. An astounding figure but we need that to jump up again, to keep us safe from Omicron and Delta, both. Number two, daily number of people admitted to New York City hospitals for suspected COVID-19. Today's report, 109 patients. Confirmed positivity of 37.27 percent. Hospitalization rate per 100,000 New Yorkers is 1.01. And again, it's the first time we've been over one, and that is something we're watching very carefully. The first time in a while, I should say we've been over one. And then new reported cases on a seven-day average, today's report, 1,879 cases. Going to say a few words in Spanish, on the mandate for private sector employers.

[Mayor de Blasio speaks in Spanish]

With that, let's turn to our colleagues in the media, and please let me know the name and outlet of each journalist. 

Moderator: Good morning. We'll now begin the Q-and-A. As a reminder, we're joined today by Dr. Dave Chokshi, Health Commissioner, Dr. Mitch Katz, President and CEO of NYC Health + Hospitals, Dr. Ted Long, Head of NYC Test and Trace, Georgia Pestana, Corporation Counsel for NYC Law Department, Rachel Loeb, President and CEO of NYC Economic Development Corporation, Vicki Been, Deputy Mayor of Housing and Economic Development, and Jonnel Doris, Small Business Services Commissioner. Our first question for today goes to Marcia with WCBS. 

Question: Good morning, Mr. Mayor, how are you today? 

Mayor: Good Marcia, how’ve you been?  

Question: Good, good. I wonder if you're coordinating this with the Governor of New York State and we can expect to see her adopt the steps that you're taking today as well? 

Mayor: You know, Marcia, I spoke with Governor Hochul this morning and gave her an update on what we were doing, and I said, look, based on all of our experience, including with the Key to NYC, with the restaurants, with the indoor dining and entertainment, that we really were confident this was the right next step, and that private sector employers would work with us to get this done. So, I told her why it was the right thing to do for us now. We had good conversation. I'll certainly let her speak for her own, you know, approach here. And let me emphasize, I respect the Governor, we work well together, we talk regularly, there's a lot of coordination and communication, and I appreciate that. That's been really, really helpful in our efforts to keep people safe. Go ahead, Marcia. 

Question: Second question is this, Mr. Mayor, I know that there's been some concern about private sector people coming back to work in January. And I know that there's been some concern expressed by the business community about their, you know, the number of people who want to come back because they like telecommuting, et cetera. Are you afraid that these new mandates, especially in the finance sector and in the tech sector, which have been the fastest growing parts of New York City, are you afraid that this is going to slow down their return to the offices, which could affect, you know, other small businesses, et cetera, in the city? 

Mayor: It's an important question, Marcia, and I'll tell you, I actually feel very good about what the impact will be. I'll tell you why, because I've heard from so many business leaders, including in those sectors like finance and tech, that the best thing for them is for the government to lead the way. What we did lead the way with the approach to our own employees has been incredibly successful. We led the way with the Key to NYC reaching with the indoor dining, with the indoor entertainment, showing the larger private sector that in those parts of our economy, could really work for everyone, and it has, and a lot of them recognize that, but it's always better for the private sector if the government sets a single universal standard. So, they don't have to have the reality with their employees of saying, hey, this is something we're going to do on our own. This is what a lot have actually asked for in the private sector. One standard that applies to everyone, I think you're going to see a lot of people embrace it, you're going to see a lot of people make the decision that it's time to get vaccinated. There's also, obviously, many, many people are vaccinated. So, for them, you know, they're coming back to the office, they are already vaccinated, that's done. So, I really think we're going to see this actually help, ultimately, just like you heard when it comes to any other business environment, if people know where they go is going to be safe, it actually encourages them to come back to the office. 

Moderator: Our next question goes to Juliet with 1010 WINS. 

Question: Yeah. Good morning, Mr. Mayor, and everybody on the call. So, I guess my question is, how do you plan on enforcing this with private business? Will there be reports that they have to submit or will inspectors go to the office? How does that work? 

Mayor: So, Juliet, we're going to work with the different business communities between now and December 15th to put together those protocols. We'll publish them on December 15th, so it's still well before the mandate takes effect December 27th. And look, we have a really impressive body of knowledge now from the Key to NYC. There was a lot of dialogue with the business community in advance. We figured out ways to improve the approach to educating, providing support. We're going to have that call center for any concerns. You know, we're going to work with people – the goal, of course, is just get them there in a way that works for them. And really we found with Key to NYC, overwhelmingly it's gone smoothly. So, we'll work that through. We'll put that on December 15th, but I feel it got a lot of evidence now that this approach will work. Go ahead, Juliet. 

Question: Okay. Thank you. And would there be penalties for non-compliance? 

Mayor: Juliet, look, it is part of life that there have to be some consequences, but I want to emphasize, one we'll figure out what makes sense by December 15th when we put out the guidelines, but I want to remind you – and we'll get you the latest facts on this – it's been amazing with the Key to NYC, very few times we actually had to penalize people. We focused on educating. We focused on warnings and helping people figure out how to do it well. There's been very few instances where it got to the point where there had to be any penalty. So, it's always a tool we have, but I think the fact is we've already proven that there's a good cooperative way to get this done. We've done it with a big swath of our business community already, and I think this next step is going to be something really the vast majority of businesses are going to embrace and work with us to get done. I mean you just heard from Nestor, he didn't have to do what he did, he did it because it made sense for his customers and his employees. I think this is going to help a lot of businesses to get it done because it's one standard for everyone. 

Moderator: Our next question goes to James with PIX-11. 

Question: Hey good morning, Mr. Mayor, and everyone on the call. Happy new week. 

Mayor: Happy new week, James, how are you feeling? 

Question: Not bad, thank you, not bad at all. Hope you're well. 

Mayor: Feeling good, man. 

Question: Okay. So, onto the questions, and maybe this is sort of a follow to Marcia’s question, I'm curious to know how much conversation you've had about the private sector mandate with the Mayor-elect. I mean, I get that December 15th, you're planning on coming up with certain standards by which businesses have to comply, but it doesn't go into effect, as I understand it, from what you've said, until the 27th of December which is less than a week before you leave office and someone else does. What is the role of the next administration in enforcing what this plan that you've come up with? 

Mayor: Look first of all, everyone knows, I have tremendous respect for our Mayor-elect Eric Adams, and we talk all the time. We met at Gracie Mansion right before he went on his to Ghana. We talked through a variety of pending issues. I gave him the initial thinking on this. We had another conversation late this Friday while he was over there, I gave him the full update on what we're doing. Look, he has always said, he understands right now there are urgent threats facing our city, and the Mayor's job is to protect New Yorkers, and that's my responsibility up until the very last minute. He understands the urgency of the situation. I'll let him speak for himself about what he thinks about each approach, but he has been tremendously clear that he respects the health care professionals and their guidance. He respects the science and what it tells us. And I can tell you, James, our health care leadership absolutely believe this was a necessary act because of Omicron, and that likely very high-level transmissibility, because of the colder weather, and because of the holiday gatherings, that's a triple threat and we need to be aggressive. So, I think the merit of this will become very, very clear. Go ahead, James. 

Question: Thank you. And yeah, following up on your last point and I'd love to hear from you and maybe one of the medical professionals on the call, can you talk about –you've said this is a preemptive strike against Omicron, but certainly Delta is overwhelmingly the predominant problem at this point, as far as we know. Can you talk about how much these new measures that you're announcing are preemptive and how much they are reactive, particularly noting that the indicators are rising, you did also point out that hospitalizations, for instance, went above the number one for the first time in quite a long time. [Inaudible].  

Mayor: Yeah. The reason I say preemptive is it's time to do something even bigger before Omicron asserts itself here, before we get into the holiday gatherings, before it gets to the really colder weather, it's actually been surprisingly nice weather the last few weeks, but that won't go for too much longer. We know that. So, it's preemptive because we needed to do something bold quickly and get ahead of all of this. These are major threats looming, and we see it with the numbers rising because of Delta. We see it with the nature of Omicron as we understand it right now. That's a lot all happening at once. So, to give you the medical thinking, I'm going to turn first to Dr. Katz and then to Dr. Chokshi, and we have had really just conversation after conversation, trying to figure out the right tools and what I've heard from the medical team loud and clear is vaccination, vaccination, vaccination, and anything that gets more people vaccinated, that's what we need to do. That's what we have to do right now. Dr. Katz first. 

President and CEO Mitch Katz, Health + Hospitals: Yes, sir. I think you have it absolutely correct. One of the things that I find so interesting about this particular COVID virus is how good it is at finding the unvaccinated. Despite the fact that we are at such a high level in New York, this virus is amazing at finding those people who are unvaccinated and making them sick, and so everything that we can do to get everyone vaccinated will make a huge difference. While there are still cases among people who are vaccinated, they are overwhelmingly mild, people having some symptoms, sometimes testing positive without any symptoms, but for people who were are unvaccinated, we continue to see in our hospital, very serious disease, people on ventilators, people dying. We desperately want everybody vaccinated so that we do not have to have any more death in New York City, we have gone through enough. Thank you, sir. 

Mayor: Amen. Dr. Chokshi. 

Commissioner Chokshi: Yes, I agree. This is an all of the above approach because it's an all hands on deck moment for New York City. We're seeing enough about Omicron that is concerning, that warrants the bold steps that the Mayor announced today, and we have a chance to blunt the effect of Delta in the here and now as well. What we do know is the common thread is that vaccination saves lives and it helps us to prevent suffering. So, that's the very clear public health rationale for the steps that we're taking today. Thank you.  

Mayor: Thank you. Go ahead. 

Moderator: Our next question goes to Erin with Politico. 

Question: Mr. Mayor, just a couple detailed logistical things about this private employer mandate. So, are you talking about all employers? Is that regardless of their size? And is it regardless of whether the employee is in-person or remote, or is it applying only to in-person employees? 

Mayor: Erin, we're going to put out the detailed standards on December 15th. The broad stroke is it's in-person employment, and so remote is obviously different and essentially that means people working from their home. We're talking about in-person employment and we're talking about whenever it's, you know, more than one person. If someone, you know, has a place of employment, they're the only employee, that's a different matter, but if it's more than one person, that's what we're focused on. Go ahead, Erin. 

Question: Okay, great, thanks. And then I'm wondering, you know, so the City's approach to this was to put the employees who are unvaccinated on unpaid leave. That seems just at first like the kind of thing that not every small business, you know, unpaid – like those types of leave policies don't necessarily exist. So, I'm just wondering, are you giving - are people going to get fired? Are people going to be on unpaid leave? Like what is going to happen to the unvaccinated employees at these private businesses? 

Mayor: We're going to work with the business community and working out these guidelines by December 15th. Obviously, there's going to be the kind of thing we've seen throughout all of the mandates, some kind of process made available if folks want to request a reasonable accommodation. That's been a consistent and effective tool. Vast majority of people don't do that, or don't end up getting it, obviously, but that's something that will be available. And really different companies will have different approaches, different businesses. Look, I think, first of all, so many people, thank God, are vaccinated, let's remember that they will already be covered. Second of all, a lot more people will get vaccinated because of this, has been true with every single mandate. So, the bottom line is I don't think there's going to be too many situations where you're talking about someone potentially having to take leave. Bigger companies might do a leave policy. Others might do something else. But we've got time to work it through between now and December 15th.

Moderator: Our next question goes to Elizabeth with Gothamist.

Question: Good morning, Mr. Mayor. I wanted to follow up on James’ question about your conversations with Mayor-elect Adams. Can you say when you arrived at this decision and when you had a conversation with Mayor-elect Adams? And why isn't he on this call with you this morning?

Mayor: Well, Elizabeth, obviously, I can't speak for his schedule, and he's overseas right now, but I can say – as I said, I had two conversations with him as we were starting to formulate this. Right before – it was the day he actually was leaving for Ghana we had a detailed conversation and a more detailed conversation on Friday night as we were perfecting this and working on the final details. So, again, I'm sure he'll be speaking to it. But he – and every conversation we've had about fighting COVID, he has been really consistent on the point that he is feeling urgency about these new threats and he understands that my job is to keep New Yorkers safe until December 31st, and then hand the baton to him. So, I feel very, very good about the conversations we've had and the close coordination that he and I are constantly involved in. Go ahead, Elizabeth.

Question: So, this is the season or time of year where a lot of companies are having holiday parties. What would you and your health officials say to these companies who may have unvaccinated workers about holding these kinds of gatherings?

Mayor: Well, I'll start as a layman and then I'll let the health care professionals weigh in. I start with, get everyone vaccinated and wear masks in gatherings. I mean, I think that's two really essential points that cover the core of what we need to do. I think people can still gather but gathered the smart way. Dr. Chokshi, Dr. Katz, Dr. Long, who wants to go first?

Commissioner Chokshi: I'm happy to start, sir. But you're exactly right. You know, the safest holiday gatherings are the ones where everyone is fully vaccinated. And we are encouraging that, you know, particularly as we see cases increase. That is one very concrete way to make them even safer. If there is a mix of unvaccinated and vaccinated people, the precautions that the Mayor has mentioned are extremely important – masking, distancing, making sure that people get tested both before and after a gathering. And the final thing is to keep it as small as possible. If we bring all of these things to bear together, but particularly starting with the foundation of vaccination, everyone can be kept safer. Thank you.

Mayor: Thank you, Dr. Kats or Dr. Long, do you want to add?

President Katz: I'll just add, I'm a big believer in open windows and outdoor parties. So, in addition to all of the things that Dr. Chokshi said, I think that's a nice way of adding a layer of protection. Thank you, sir.

Mayor: Amen. Dr. Long?

Executive Director Long: Yeah. I would just add that, I think, as we think about holiday gatherings, this is the success of our Key to NYC policy that we've been a national leader in setting up. You know, we require people to be vaccinated, going to certain types of gatherings, like at restaurants. And, I think, for holiday parties, I would strongly encourage employers to think about the success in terms of how Key to NYC has kept our city safe and use the same standards. And again, regardless of vaccination status, I want to go back to one thing that Dr. Chokshi said, get tested before you go to gatherings, especially if they’re among people that you don't ordinarily see. And then get tested after the gathering as well. Thank you, sir.

Mayor: Thank you very much.

Moderator: Our next question goes to Nolan with the Post.

Question: Hey. Good morning, everybody. Can you hear me?

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

Question: I'm doing well, Mr. Mayor. I would just like to start by saying that in a time when the city is facing a new coronavirus variant, and there are concerns about access to testing, and the rollout of a new mandate policy, and everyone's trying to figure out just how we get on with life amid all this, it is urgent and essential that City Hall take questions from reporters and make you available at every opportunity, and that the dramatic restrictions placed on the press corps and its ability to access you regularly are not helping that clause. And I just want to lead off with that. And I would like to follow that by asking what exactly is the legal advice that you got in terms of how this is legal? How can the City compel these sorts of conditions upon employment and participating in in-office activities?

Mayor: Let me just say very simply, as I turn to Georgia Pestana, our Corporation Counsel, one of the things I'm proud of over the course of this crisis – and it's been a horrible crisis – is that our health care leaders have been so constantly answering the concerns and questions not only of the media, but of every-day New Yorkers, community leaders, elected officials constantly in these morning press conferences, in endless Zooms, and community meetings, that I have regular press conferences and have throughout, obviously, in addition to what I do with WNYC and NY1 – we have made it a point to constantly communicate and we will right up to the last day. And I'm proud of that. And I know a lot of New Yorkers have expressed their appreciation to me. But the question of why this makes sense legally and otherwise – the universality is key, Nolan. We believe the right way to approach this is a clear, strong standard for everyone. And the Commissioner of Health has to act when there is a health crisis and we have seen it deeply over the last two years. But now, we have these three factors bearing down on us – a new variant, which appears to be very transmissible; cold weather, which we know unfortunately facilitates the spread of COVID, because people are indoors; and the many, many holiday gatherings that will be happening, including family gatherings. Those three together, as I say, that's a triple threat. That's a real cause for concern. Our Health Commissioner does have the legal right to say, here's something necessary to protect the health of all New Yorkers. But from a purely legal standard, I want you to hear from our Corporation Counsel Georgia Pestana.

Corporation Counsel Georgia Pestana: Thank you, Mayor. You're absolutely right, the Health Commissioner has an obligation and a responsibility to protect the public health. Here, he is issuing an order that is intended to do just that in a public health emergency. So, he has the authority and it is across the board so it's not picking one industry over another and treating them differently. So, we're confident that this will survive any challenges.

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

Question: Thanks, Mr. Mayor. And just to rebut what you said, your administration has done away with technical briefings, it's done away with the ability of the press to ask more than one follow-up question in any round questioning, and it has done away with the daily briefings, taking them to just two a week. So, I just challenged, to borrow your phrase, your premise. Secondly, how are parents supposed to get their kids into restaurants with the expansion of the Key to NYC? Are they supposed to carry their kids’ vax cards with them? Or, what mechanisms are putting in place to help parents do this?

Mayor: It's the exact same approach as we've seen with the rest of Key to NYC, including for kids 12 to 17, and it's been working perfectly well. Yeah, you've got the apps. You can carry that physical vax card, whatever it takes. But look, this is going to help make sure a lot more kids are vaccinated. But also, it's a fair standard that parents will certainly be able to meet.

Moderator: We have time for two more questions for today. Our next question goes to Emma with the New York Times.

Question: Hi. Good morning, Mayor. I'm curious also about the legality here. Can you say what precisely is your legal authority to do this? And, you know, the Biden administration tried to do this for private employers with more than 100 employees and that is currently stalled in court. So, what makes you think yours will be successful when his was not?

Mayor: A really important question, Emma. And, of course, I'll turn to Georgia Pestana in a second, but I just want to say, look, the Biden administration has been exemplary. What they have done with a variety of mandates and policies has really helped save this nation. And, obviously, you know, very, very extensive vaccination effort. What they've done with the military getting vaccinated is astounding – the high, high percentage now in our military of vaccinated people. They've done so many things that worked and have been in the right direction. And I agree with them on their approach to private sector employers around the country. But we have here an immediate set of circumstances and we have the legal right of the Health Commissioner to keep the people of this city safe. That is something that's been proven time and time again. We've been in court many times on a variety of issues – State court, federal court. We have, every single time, been validated by the courts. When the Health Commissioner believes there is a pressing public health threat, he has the ability to act in that situation. That's the broad strokes now. For a more erudite answer, our Corporation Counsel Georgia Pestana.

Corporation Counsel Pestana: Thank you. The Commissioner of Health, as I said, has the authority to issue a mandate like this to protect the public health. And his authority to do that has been upheld time and again. The trouble that the Biden administration has run into in court doesn't really apply here. Those injunctions were issued because there are questions about the authority of OSHA in one case and CMS, which is the agency that regulates Medicare and Medicaid providers authority to issue the mandates that they did. Here, I don't believe there is any question that Dr. Chokshi has the authority to issue this mandate. And it's the across-the-board nature of it that is also – I think makes it defensible.

Mayor: Thank you. Go ahead, Emma.

Question: A few more questions on specifics. So, to be clear, there will not be a testing option as an alternative? And folks would need one dose by December 27th?

Mayor: That's right. There's not a testing option as an alternative and anyone who is unvaccinated would need one dose by December 27th. As I said, on December 15th, we'll issue much more detailed guidelines. But we want to reach everyone who is not yet vaccinated and this is a clear, strong standard that allows us to do that.

Moderator: Our last question for today goes to Katie with The City.

Question: Hey. Good morning, Mayor de Blasio. I'm going to ask about two agencies that are not private necessarily, but also not under your purview. It's about CUNY and the MTA. There's currently not a mandate for CUNY employees. I know there's one for students. I think they have an option to get tested. And the same for the MTA, there's no mandate. So, have you spoken with the Governor's Office about this? And do you – does this extend to them, this new mandate?

Mayor: The mandate is for private sector employers. We'll get the all the details out, again, by December 15th, but it does not apply, obviously, to the State government or State-related entities like CUNY and the MTA. And look, Katie, I've said it, for now, probably a couple of months, I believe across this country, private sector and public sector mandates are necessary. I think they're helpful. They've been proven to work. We now have a really, you know, extensive experience with our schools, with our health care system, what we did with the rest of our City workforce, most recently the Key to NYC – every single time it's worked. And the fears that originally existed were proven wrong, thank God. And there’s been just extraordinary growth in the number of people vaccinated. You know, each mandate has just caused a lot more people to get vaccinated, it’s as simple as that. So, I really hope all levels of government will use them more and more, going forward. Go ahead, Katie.

Question: Have you happened – well, I don't want this to count as second question. I know you're a really strict about that and we have limited time. I guess you'll continue conversations with the State on CUNY and MTA. But my other question is, it just seems that this – I want to know, I guess, more details about how you discussed this with private sector companies. Some people have announced today they were very surprised by this mandate. Business leaders around the city seem to be very surprised by this. There seems to be a limited amount of time between now and the 13th – that's about nine days, getting this together. And then, the enforcement really happens under the next administration. So, just if you want to talk a little bit more about how many conversations you had with the relevant stakeholders before making this announcement this morning on – I will say, on cable television, when you could have been on local TV, or you could have announced it here, but that's just me splitting hairs.

Mayor: Thank you for everything you said. The conversations with private sector go back months and months about the different approaches. We based our thinking on a lot of factors, the most important is the health and safety of all New Yorkers. So, even though of course we want input, the most important thing is what's going to keep people safe and our health care leadership was adamant that this was a step that we could and must take. We know from extensive conversations over months with private sector employers what their concerns are. And we also know that many of them had said that when mandates are in place it actually helps them. When the government leads, it is helpful. We're going to have time to work with the private sector on what the exact standards would be, that's between now and the 15th. Given everything we've worked on together before, that's enough time to solidify these standards. And then, from the 15th of 27th, time to get ready. And remember, thank God, such a high percentage of employees are already vaccinated. That helps a lot. But I'll tell you, the number-one thing I've heard from the private sector now over many months is that we must avert shutdowns. We must avert the huge restrictions we had last year. We’ve got to get continuity and move forward. And when the government acts and sets the example, it helps the private sector. So, of course, we did this for our employees first before we're asking others to do it for theirs. And that's been such a powerful example and it's worked. So, I feel very good about the fact that the input we've gotten over months and months about the general direction has been clear. And this is borrowing from that input. But much more importantly, it’s based on the single most important factor – what's going to keep New Yorkers safe as we now face a new threat? And this will do that. This mandate will make a huge difference. It will be in effect quickly and it's going to help protect people then for months and months to come, because everyone who gets even that first dose starts on the pathway to being protected and that helps protect all of us.

So, with that, everyone, again, I thank every New Yorker who has gotten vaccinated. I thank Nestor, and so many good people like him who have made that decision to turn to their employees and say, it's time everyone. This is going to help everyone take that next big step. And if you have not gotten vaccinated, today's the day to do it. If you're looking for that booster, it's out there. Go get it today. Keep us all safe. Thank you.



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