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Transcript: Mayor de Blasio Holds Media Availability

December 20, 2021

Mayor Bill de Blasio: Good morning, everyone. I want to start this morning with the big picture. We talked yesterday about the challenges we're facing with Omicron, and I want to just review the basics again, because it's so important. Omicron is a real challenge. It's going to be a very challenging few weeks, but the good news is based on what our health care leadership understands at this moment, we are talking about a matter of weeks. We're going to see a really fast upsurge in cases. We're going to see a lot of New Yorkers affected by Omicron. So far, thank God, based on everything we've seen so far, the cases are more mild than what we've experienced previously. But again, a lot of research we're still waiting for, a lot of evidence we're still waiting for. What we do know is that Omicron moves very fast. It's very transmissible. It moves fast. We have to move faster.  
That's why we're focusing even more on vaccination. And we do know that vaccination helps address Omicron. So bottom line, fast spreading variant. We're going to see surge cases for a few weeks. Then we think we're going to see it start to trail off. The answer is vaccination. Getting folks vaccinated who are not yet vaccinated, getting folks to get those boosters makes a huge difference in terms of how people will do, working their way through this next few weeks, protecting themselves. Also has a lot to say with what our hospitals will experience. The more people who are vaccinated, the more people get the boosters. The better off our hospitals will be as well. And our health care heroes who have seen us through these last two years now. A lot of the same people every single day, fighting this fight. Do yourself a favor, do them a favor, get that vaccination, get your child that vaccination, get that booster. That is the key to fighting Omicron.  
So, with that, I want to go into the fact that we will get past Omicron. We will continue our recovery in this city. Vaccination will be the key to all of this. And New York city continues to lead the way in this country in terms of huge numbers of people vaccinated and aggressive approaches to getting even more folks vaccinated. As of today, New York City has hit a couple of important milestones. We now have 6 million New York City adults with at least one dose of the vaccine. 6 million adults in this city have had at least one dose. And that number is climbing every single day. We're now over 600,000 of our kids who have had at least one dose and we're doing great, really great with the group of kids in that 12 to 17-year-old range. We got to get more progress though with the five to 11-year-olds. This is one of the areas where we need to move faster. I'm urging all family members, get your youngest kids vaccinated. So, it's great that 600,000 New York City kids have already been vaccinated, but we need to get to literally hundreds of thousands more.  
And of course, the overall amount of doses in the city, outstanding, unprecedented, historic. More are coming. And that includes what's happening today with the mandate going in effect for childcare and early intervention programs. That vaccine mandate, going into effect for those employees. That's over 102,000 employees who work with our kids. And we got the question yesterday from the media. Is it important for kids to keep going to childcare? Absolutely. Dr. Chokshi was very, very clear about this. Yes, it's really important for kids who are in childcare programs to keep going for all the great reasons that parents put their kids in those programs to begin with. But also, because they're safe places for kids to be. All the health and safety precautions that are being taken in childcare programs in schools make them particularly safe places for kids to be. And obviously, the fact that we have put mandates on all the adults who work with kids, making sure those adults are vaccinated That is crucial. So, the bottom line is we need to keep our focus on vaccination. We need to realize that we have an amazing tool to fight back against Omicron. And most people, the vast majority of people are taking full advantage, but there's still more who could. And if we act urgently, it will make a huge difference right now, as we're in the middle of this challenge. Now I want you to hear from someone who understands as we start this mandate for childcare facilities, she understands how important it is to protect the people who do this crucial work and the children and families they serve. She has been a leader on issues of concern to families. She is focused on making sure we get resources where they are needed to support our families. She was the Chair of the Womens’ Caucus in the City Council and has done so much to help make sure people in her district get vaccinated. My pleasure to introduce Council Member Helen Rosenthal.  

Thank you so much, Council Member. Thank you. As always, you do everything with passion. I know you've been passionately supporting the vaccination efforts in your district and around the city and it helps. And I want to just emphasize thank you, Council Member, and thank you to everyone who's out there doing the work, vaccinating New Yorkers. Our health care heroes are out there. The vaccinators who are out there, Test and Trace Corps, all these folks who are giving their all to get more and more people vaccinated, to get people their boosters. It makes a huge impact. And speaking of boosters, now over 1.7 million New Yorkers have gotten their booster shot. 1.7 million already. That's fantastic, but there's a lot more people who can get that shot and help protect themselves and everyone else. So, go get boosted today. If you qualify, get boosted today, it makes a huge impact.  
And another reminder, as we continue using every tool we have, a week from today, the mandate goes in effect for the whole private sector in New York City. The vaccine mandate that we knew we needed in part because of Omicron. We had no idea Omicron would move this fast. Well, that mandate is even more pertinent now. We needed to keep us safe and we're getting a lot of cooperation from the private sector, understanding we've got to defeat Omicron. We got to avoid shutdowns. We got to avoid restrictions. We got to keep moving forward. Vaccination is the key.  
Okay. Now, knowing that the challenges of Omicron, knowing that vaccination is the most important tool, let's also talk about another crucial piece of the equation, which is testing. Testing helps us on so many levels. It helps to make sure that each person knows where they stand. On the very personal level, when you get tested, you know what's going on, you know what to do. If you test positive, there's so much support there for you through our Test and Trace Corps. We'll get whatever you need, whether it is a hotel room to isolate in, whether it is food, medical support. Amazing array of supports all for free. So, if you test positive, there's a lot of help available for you. If you test negative, great. You know, you don't have COVID. But getting tested is absolutely crucial and making sure we have enough sites, enough resources, enough test kits. We're working on all these fronts. And not a surprise, we're finding the supplies are becoming a challenge because all over the country testing is going up suddenly. And we're seeing a supply problem that needs to be addressed. And we're working on that, working with the White House working with the private sector to get more supplies. But what we do know is we want to maximize the number of places that New Yorkers can get tested. So as of now, we have sponsored by the City of New York, 89 testing sites in all five boroughs. Those are both the brick-and-mortar sites and the mobile sites. 23 more sites are coming online this week. Three more mobile sites and 20 more brick and mortar sites. So, by the end of this week, we're going to have 112, 112 City-run sites in health care facilities, but also in other community settings, schools, libraries, community centers, you name it. So, there'll be 112 test sites up by the end of this week. To find a site near you, you can go to test. And we're going to keep expanding test capacity constantly as we fight Omicron. And as we get more and more supply including in-home testing, which is going to be a really key piece of this puzzle, but another area where we got to get a lot more supply to meet the demand we are experiencing now. We are now testing in fact, more people than ever. 130,000 plus daily in the City sites. That is double the number of tests just three weeks ago. That's how fast things are ramping up. This intense effort will keep growing as long as we need it to grow, to address the demand.  
And what we're trying to do as much as possible is get those in-home test kits in play, particularly where we're seeing long lines. Wherever possible, we're trying to, particularly at our City-run sites, if there's a long line, offer people the alternative of giving them an in-home test, that they can take home with them. Again, we need to get that supply up quickly to allow that to be an option for more and more people. But another reminder that testing's really important, particularly around the holiday season, to make sure you're in good shape to go visit everyone else and to make sure your loved ones are going to be safe. And obviously as per usual, if anyone is not feeling well, don't come in contact with other folks. You know, stay away from them while you get tested, while you find out what's going on. If you test positive, you need to quarantine, we'll be there for you. If you test negative, great. But testing becomes even more important in terms of protecting each of other and those we love and our families. I want you to hear more from our city's doctor on how to stay safe, particularly in this holiday season. My pleasure to introduce our Health Commissioner, Dr. Dave Chokshi.  
Commissioner Dave Chokshi, Department of Health and Mental Hygiene: Thank you so much as always, Mr. Mayor. And well, look, I know how much people have been looking forward to the holidays. But Omicron has changed the landscape and led to anxiety and confusion. So, here's my best advice about navigating the coming days and weeks. First plan your holidays around your most vulnerable family member. That may mean hosting a virtual gathering or moving activities outdoors or using masks, same day tests and distancing. I do advise older adults and others at higher risk to skip optional activities, particularly in crowded settings, at least for the next few weeks. For my own family, we've made some adjustments to holiday plans around my young daughter who isn't yet eligible for vaccination. We decided to postpone some out-of-town travel until sometime in the new year. Though, we will still find ways to spend time with family both locally and virtually.  
Second, common sense precautions can help us lower risk and still enjoy holiday festivities more safely. Beyond meeting up outdoors, you can improve ventilation by opening up windows and doors. And you can limit gatherings only to those who are fully vaccinated to help reduce risk. Tests, high quality masks, and distancing, add more layers of safety as do booster doses. And I wanted to make sure to highlight the preliminary evidence announced by Moderna today that booster doses likely offer significant additional protection against the Omicron variant.  
Third, the people that I am most worried about with omicron are those that remain unvaccinated. Please take extra precautions for yourself and for the safety of others, like avoiding travel. And remember that it's never too late to get vaccinated. Regular testing is particularly important for those who aren't yet fully vaccinated. Since demand for testing is high consider taking regular home self-tests since supplies will increase. And if you test positive after taking a home self-test, you should call your provider or call us at 2-1-2-COVID-19 in order to be linked to care. This holiday may not be the one that we envisioned, but we can still make it a safe one and a healthy one, and of course an enjoyable one. Thank you, sir.  
Mayor: Thank you very much, Dr. Thanks as always for helping the people of the city know how to handle these challenging situations and ever-changing situations. But I will emphasize what Dr. Chokshi said, this is something we expect to be a matter of weeks, and we're going to overcome this as we have overcome every other challenge along the way. And I want to say one more thing about testing. It's our obligation, all of us who work for the City of New York, to make sure we get testing right. And yesterday I got some very good questions from members of the new media on concerns about test sites and things we have to do better. We've been working since yesterday afternoon to make some immediate improvements. And I want to say thank you to the members of the media who raised those questions and concerns, because it helps us to serve the public better. Special thank you to Mara Gay of the New York Times who had some very specific suggestions about how we could improve the oversight of some of the sites, which in fact we are going to implement right away.  
So, starting today we're sending out supervisors from Test and Trace Corps to all of our private vendor test sites to make sure we have another measure of accountability. Again, we overall have had very good results from our test sites, including those run by vendors. But we want to make sure we have our eyes on them every day to make sure there's high quality and consistency. And that the hours are as stated. We also know there have been particular challenges because as Omicron is spreading, some of the people who actually work at the test sites have been sick and have been out. We are establishing a corps of reserve professionals that we can put into play quickly to keep each site to its stated hours. So, we're going to be doing more to make sure there's continuity, consistency, quality at the test sites. But we welcome the feedback from the media and we welcome the feedback from all New Yorkers to know how we can do better. And we're going to keep making adjustments and improvements every step along the way as we fight through this challenge, like we fought through all of them before.  
Okay, now I'm going to something very different now. And this is about someone who has fought a very noble fight for many years and with tremendous positive impact on all of us. And there are people who have changed the world in many ways. Some people change our consciousness, our minds, some people create not just a specific moment of change, but whole movement. Some people change things in a way that is profound. Well, this is a very special moment, a very special honor for me, to recognize a New Yorker who has changed the world to its core. And is the definition to me of what an effective activist does, including not only calling for change and acting for change and organizing for change, but always showing a love for humanity in the process. A hope and a belief that we can make the change. Now like so many great New Yorkers, she didn't happen to be born here. She was born in Toledo, Ohio and came to New York City like so many others seeing a chance to make an impact here and live a life where she could fulfill her full potential. And she certainly did that. So, internationally renowned as a political leader, as a writer, as someone who defined feminism for this whole country and this whole world. But also, and very importantly, unlike some other people who focused on one piece or another of the social change puzzle, she always focused on what we now call intersectionality. She always focused on the challenges of race and class as well. And talked about how we bring together the changes we need across all these parts of our society. She stood with me as we announced the Commission on Gender Equity in 2015. She stood with me again in 2019, as we called for paid personal leave. A fight that will continue. But we're talking about someone who has been a champion for just the best of what we all can be and must be. I'm going to talk about Gloria Steinem in a moment. But before I do, I want to, and I'm going to provide this honor to her. But before I do, I want to turn to someone who is my partner in all things, who has also led from the beginning of her life, a vision of social change and what feminism means in real life and in practice that can each so many people. And who said to me, when we were thinking about the great New Yorkers who should be honored as we end our administration, Chirlane McCray said, you know, I can't think of anyone who's done more good for the world than Gloria Steinem. And she is right. My pleasure introduced our First Lady Chirlane McCray.  
First Lady Chirlane McCray: Thank you, Bill. Can you hear me?  
Mayor: Indeed, we can.  
First Lady McCray: Thank you, Bill. Good morning, everyone. I'm so glad I could join you this morning. Today is a special day for New Yorkers all over our city. Gloria is greatly admired and has influenced and transformed many lives over the years. Like many young women, I was inspired by the feminist movement and the dynamic activism of Gloria Steinem, along with others like Flo Kennedy, Bella Abzug, Shirley Chisholm, and so many others. They were outrageous and in a good way, and models of courage and focus. I know I'm not alone when I say it was to see women like Gloria who demanded respect. And took it upon themselves to raise our collective consciousness. It was important to see women who showed the nation that racial justice, gender equality, and the dignity of all people go hand in hand. They inspired me then, and they inspired me today. So, I thank Gloria for her support. I appreciate how she was there for me and for this administration from the very beginning. It has been a great joy to get to know her these past eight years and stand with her. Whether it was to support survivors of gender-based violence or to demand flexibility for families with paid personal time. Her voice has always been pivotal because when Gloria Steinem speaks, people listen. I thank her for a lifetime, truly a lifetime of leadership. And I thank her for showing us that when someone says it can't be done, we should ignore them. She is a really brilliant, brave and incredible person who embodies the values of our great city. And for that we praise and honor her. Thank you, Gloria Steinem. Back to you, Bill.  
Mayor: And thank you, Chirlane McCray. And the last thing I want to say is very personal. Chirlane and I, over the years in dealing with all the challenges that come with leading this city, there's times when, you know, we've needed to look to people who really light the way and show you how be an agent for change again, in a way that is so embracing and so hopeful. And in all of the times we've spent with Gloria, we've come away, inspired, come away a little more energized, a little more hopeful on a very personal level. And we always say, Chirlane and I always say, there are some angels in the world who help us all to keep going and be our best selves. And for us as a family, Gloria Steinem has been one of those angels. So, with that, I will now move across the stage. And Gloria, it’s my great honor to present to you on behalf of all of the people in New York City, the Key to New York City.  
[Mayor de Blasio presents the Key to The City of New York]  



Mayor: Yes, you have your whole gang.   


Mayor: But we are so appreciative to you and you keep lighting the way, you just don't stop. And I think that's one more thing I want to say, Gloria. I have always admired, you know, you could have, you could have years and years ago said, Hey, I've made my contribution and you would've been able to do so with a tremendous respect and renown, and you could have just said that's enough. But every time I go to rally, you're there, you know, and every time someone needs to speak up, you're there. And I just, I think for all of us who think about this as a lifelong mission, you're the exemplar of that. So, thank you.  


Mayor: All right, good news in the world even as we deal with our challenges. Let's talk about our indicators. First one, always my favorite, a great number today, 12,974,734 doses to date administered. And we expect a lot more, again, people getting out there, getting those boosters mandates, coming into effect that number we want to keep pushing up, pushing up, but here are the challenges. Number two daily number of people admitted to New York City hospitals for suspected COVID-19 today's report, 193 patients. Confirmed positivity, 35.05 percent.  Hospitalization rate per 100,000 New Yorkers is now 1.80. And then new reported cases on a seven-day average, this increase we've talked about very sudden, we expect that to continue for a period of weeks, today's report 6,989 cases. Now a few words in Spanish about the importance of getting vaccinated to address Omicron.   

[Mayor de Blasio speaks in Spanish]  

Mayor: 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 will now begin our Q and A. As a reminder, we are joined by Health Commissioner, Dr. Dave Chokshi, Dr. Mitch Katz, President and CEO of New York City Health + Hospitals and Dr. Ted long, Director of New York City's Test & Trace. Our first question for today goes to Andrew Siff from NBC.  

Question: Good morning, Mr. Mayor, and everyone on the call. Can you hear me?   

Mayor: Yes, Andrew, how are you doing today?  

Question: Doing well, thanks for asking. I want to drill down on the problems in terms of the long lines for testing and the lack of availability in many neighborhoods across the city. Did your Office or the Health Department make a conscious decision last month to scale down testing by 20 sites? And if so, why was that decision made, given that even without Omicron, there was going to be a surge in testing demand ahead of the holidays?  

Mayor: You know, Andrew let me start and I'll turn to Dr. Mitch Katz in a moment. We saw a very decreased demand at some of the sites. We moved to a focus on mobile sites where we're getting really good results and, obviously, Omicron then and change the whole picture. And we started to ramp everything up again, and we are quickly ramping up. So, we were responding to the experiences we were having, and we did not, and I've been very clear about this in what I said, we did not expect Omicron to move quite this quickly. And so, we are moving quickly to adjust, but we will. Dr. Katz. Can we hear him? Dr?   

President and CEO Mitch Katz, Health + Hospitals: Yes, sir. Thank you so much. Well, I'm as cranky and demanding as any born in New York City person. But you know, I have to say the Test & Trace Corps doubled in the last three weeks its testing capacity. And I acknowledge that in-and that was just in three weeks, sir, that we did twice as many tests. So, yes, I'm sorry that demand was so enormous over the last few days, we did not anticipate so much news was about Omicron. We did not anticipate that the supply chain would run out of the home tests. In my own pharmacies last week, there were shelves and shelves of home tests to take care of the demand. When I went by yesterday, there were none. So, yes, we had a lot of people online and we appreciate that. We appreciate that New Yorkers wanted to get tested that they're following your guidance. I'm very pleased to say we're going to be opening new testing sites all of this week so that we have more than a hundred testing sites going. We have moved more to mobile testing sites and we do constantly close testing sites and move them to places where the demand is. that's part of our model. So, when someone says, well, we closed X site, that's only because our own Community Advisory Board said, you're going to reach more people if you move from here to there. So, we constantly are moving them to try to reach New Yorkers in the greatest of need. We're going to keep expanding to meet that need. And I feel really confident that New Yorkers this week will have a different experience than they did this weekend. Thank you, sir.  

Mayor: Thank you. Go ahead, Andrew.  

Question: When it comes to your assessment that Omicron is mild, and it's still based on preliminary data. Is this primarily looking at the hospitalization rates in South Africa and other countries right now? Is this from lab analysis of how it's interacting with people who are contracting it? How concerned are you that that conclusion might be premature?  

Mayor: That's a great question, Andrew. I'm going to go back to Dr. Katz in a moment but let me say this. We have looked at all the things you mentioned. We've looked at the, the research as has been done. We looked at the experience in South Africa. We've looked at our own experience already here in the city, on the ground. And that's what we're seeing so far.  I think it's absolutely right to say that's preliminary, absolutely right. To say, we're going to constantly need to learn more because that's the whole story of COVID for two years. But we are seeing certainly right now in our hospitals much better outcomes than what we would've feared and certainly than what we experienced, not only in the spring of 2020, but even last winter. We're seeing a much, much better experience. So that's what we know so far. But we are going to be vigilant and always looking for more evidence. Dr. Katz.   

President Katz: Yes, sir, as you say COVID if it teaches nothing, it teaches humility. So we are, you know, constantly looking at data. We could be wrong, but at this moment it certainly looks like Omicron does not cause as severe disease as we've seen with Delta. One of the things that's positive is in general, it seems that when people are in the hospital, they have shorter stays. They do not need as intensive treatment as what we've seen before that part of that is that our own treatments are better. Part of it is that more of the people who get hospitalized now have been vaccinated. And so, they have immunity, or they have prior exposure to the virus, and they do not get as sick. So that has made a, it a major difference when people don't need to stay in the hospital as long, it prevents the hospitals from being overwhelmed. I think we'll know the answer in a week or two of exactly what proportion of New Yorkers who get COVID wind up sick enough to be in the hospital. But I can assure you, sir, that all of our hospitals have plans for how we will expand. We worked on it all weekends. We're doing fine right now, but if we do have to expand, I’ll remind New Yorkers, that when Health + Hospitals had to triple our ICUs in six weeks, we tripled our ICUs in three weeks, we're prepared. We know how to do this. If we have to do it, we will, but at least so far, sir, it looks like it will not be necessary to have that level of expansion. Thank you.   

Mayor: Thank you.  

Moderator: Our next question goes to James Ford from PIX 11.   

Question: Good morning, Mr. Mayor, everyone on the call. Can you hear me okay?  

Mayor: Yes, James, you sound like you're on site somewhere.  

Question: That is actually true. And by the way, congratulations to Ms. Steinman and unrelated, my regrets for not being able to see you this evening with the appropriately canceled holiday reception for the press corps.   

Mayor: We shall meet again.   

Question: I look forward. Onto the questions, can you elaborate further about this supervision by the City of private testing sites beyond just making sure that they are, where they say they're going to be in keep their hours? Is there more that can be done between the City, regarding the sites, including letting people know where letting citizens of New York City know where those sites are and when they're supposed to be operating and ensuring that those sites return results in a timely manner?   

Mayor: Really important question. So, I'm going to call upon, first, Mitch Katz, then Ted Long. And I want to do this. You asked two pieces that both matter a lot. One, how do we make sure things are functioning well and that the public knows if they're going to a site at the assigned hours, they're going to get a quality experience on time, et cetera. And then, of course, getting the results back. And I think the results question, James, is very different if you go to a public sector site than if you go to say an urgent care, we're seeing a radically different timeline, we're getting much faster results out of our City-sponsored sites than some of the private sites. So, I want both Mitch and Ted to speak to it with, but I want to start with Mitch because on the question of how you supervise and maintain quality control, I want to remind you that Dr.  
Mitch Katz runs by far the largest public health system in America. And making sure all the pieces of this far-flung enterprise are working and working well is what he does for a living. And, obviously, he and his team and Ted running Test & Trace have applied those same principles to make sure these private vendors are doing their job. So, Mitch, if you could speak to how you make sure all the sites, including the private sites are running well and Ted, if you could particularly talk about the response time and the turnaround time on the tests.  

President Katz: Yes, sir. Thank you so much. So, just to give a little bit of background Health + Hospitals runs some very large testing sites like Bellevue, and when somebody is out sick, it's very easy for me to replace that person. So, a large site, lots of nurses, lots of registration people, huge ability to move people around, but we also want to have some small sites because we can't have a Bellevue Hospital on every block. And so, part of our strategy of making testing as available as possible is having many of these markedly smaller sites. And what we experienced yesterday was that sites that might have say two people doing nasal swabs, one of the persons is sick because of COVID, not their fault, not anybody's fault. It's Sunday morning, they're sick. They call in, they can't come in. Those settings are more difficult, of course, for us to be able to immediately respond because they're not part of a large hospital where you can divert people from one function to another.   

So, what you you've announced Mayor and we want to be clear is what we are going to do is we're going to send supervisors all around to the other sites, the smaller sites, so that we can constantly recalibrate staff and we can move people from one place to another. And also keep the public informed. Sometimes we've experienced moments where one site is very busy, but if people went to another site, they would experience a markedly shorter line. So, we want to make sure that people constantly have the correct information and know where they can go for testing. And I know Ted is going to talk about the response rates, but I'll just say how proud we are every time we hear someone say, wow, I got my results in one day at Health + Hospitals, but my friend went to a private site and they're still waiting three days later for results. Our response times are doing great. Thank you, sir. Thank you.  

Mayor: Go ahead, Dr. Ted long.  

Executive Director Ted Long, Test & Trace Corps: Yeah, thank you, sir. Just emphasize what Mitch is saying. When our staff call out, we're going to be holding back staff and deploying them based on our, our structure here and that's why we were bringing more mobile. Our staff are heroes. They take risks coming to work every day, cause they're testing people with COVID. So, I just wanted to say that, you know, I'm proud of our staff and if they call out it's because they themselves got COVID, but they're doing so much for our city and I'm very thankful that we have them. Now, in terms of our turnaround times, the fastest turnaround times in New York City are at our public sites. If I was to give you one piece of advice, I would say, go to COVIDtest. Find one of my sites, come here. We built our own lab to keep to control turnaround times, which are now around 24, sometimes up to 36 hours, but that's some of the fastest turnaround times for PCR across the city. So, come see us.  

Mayor: All right. Thank you. Go ahead, James.  

Question: Thank you. And then a related question on behalf of my colleague Henry Rossoff, what are the specific criteria for more drastic actions, including capacity limits and lockdowns?  And are you hesitant at all to go there in your final days in office? Because it seems as if most leaders at this point are not really willing to cross that line.  

Mayor: Yeah, it's be-I want to be very clear, James. I appreciate the question a lot. It's not about final days in office. It's not about what leaders are willing to do. It's about what's the right thing to do, and what's the right strategy to both save lives and also protect livelihoods. We should avoid lockdowns. We should avoid shutdowns. We should avoid restrictions. I've said this now for weeks and weeks, we can avoid all those things by getting more people vaccinated. So, I think there's a really sharp juxtaposition, James. I've been saying for a long-time, vaccination equals freedom. You get vaccinated, you have more personal opportunities, you get vaccinated, your whole neighborhood, your whole city can do more, can come back more, can recover, more, can maintain our life, and that's why we've been so focused on getting more and more people vaccinated. That's why we've used strong measures, incentives, mandates, everything we've got. So, in fact, we're going to double down now on vaccination to avoid shutdowns, to avoid restrictions. I do not see a scenario for any kind of shutdown because we are so vaccinated as a city, and because we have the ability to get a lot more vaccinated, that's where our energy should go. Another shutdown would have horrible, horrible impacts on the people of this city, but more importantly, it's not necessary if we keep getting more and more people vaccinated, we keep ensuring that people get tested, we keep reinforcing our hospital system, which is doing very, very well. We don't want to shut down. We want to vaccinate, simple as that.  

Moderator: Our next question goes Jenna DeAngelis from CBS.  

Question: Hi, Mayor de Blasio, wanted to know your thoughts on having the Billy Joel concert proceed at MSG tonight, a big event, obviously with people singing and drinking and taking masks off. Just your thoughts.  

Mayor: Jenna, I think the first thing I'd say is that you've got a vaccine mandate for all indoor entertainment, and when you're talking about all vaccinated people, you're having a very different discussion right there. The challenge right now is for the unvaccinated and the challenge is when unvaccinated people are together with vaccinated people, but in that kind of setting, it is all vaccinated people, and that is absolutely crucial. Now I would urge everyone keep their masks on, obviously except for when they're eating or drinking something. Make sure if anyone's not feeling well, don't go to that concert, you know, all the basics. But right now, again, we want to keep this city moving forward, but in a safe manner, that means the focus on vaccination. Go ahead, Jenna.  

Question: And also wondering if a plan is in place yet for new year's Eve, obviously that's on a lot of people minds heading into the holidays.  

Mayor: Yeah. Jenna, again, New Year's Eve, right now, the starting point is we have the original plan that we announced with the crucial good elements, all vaccination, vaccinated folks only and outdoors. But we are looking at that again now in light of Omicron. I've said we'll make a final decision. We'll announce it certainly before Christmas, we're working closely with Times Square Alliance. So, folks who are planning on being there, be ready to, but if we have to modify those plans in a way, we're certainly going to let people know that in just the next few days.  

Moderator: Our next question goes to Christina Veiga from Chalkbeat.  

Question: Hi Mayor, thanks for taking my question. You opened this press conference saying to expect a rapid increase in cases, and that seems to be happening in schools right now. We're also hearing from lots of school leaders that the situation room is taking a long time to respond to positive cases, and I understand on from the UFT that staffing for the situation room won't be fully ramped up until the new year. So my question to you is what can be done this week, students are in school until Thursday, what can be done this week to make sure that schools are equipped to handle this increase in cases?  

Mayor: Yeah, thank you, Christina. I'll start and I'll turn to Dr. Chokshi in a second. First of all, let's start with the most important fact, that gold standard of health and safety measures in place in all our schools and the fact that all adults in our schools are vaccinated. That is why at this moment positively levels in the school lowered and anywhere else in the city. We have, as of this morning, four schools closed out of 1,600 and a positivity level just over one percent, obviously compared to a much higher level for the city. The situation room has been beefed up immediately. We saw just literally between, you know, Monday and Friday last week, a big sudden uptick in cases. We immediately beefed up the situation room and more help is coming quickly. So, we can certainly manage these next few days. And then there is a natural break, obviously, between the end of Thursday and when school comes back in January. So, we'll have time to beef it up further, but I'd really want to emphasize how safe the schools are and really give credit to everyone in the school communities. When we brought back school September 2020, herculean task and our school communities did an amazing job keep and kids safe and making something happen under really difficult circumstances. They did the extraordinary, this last September 2021, bringing back schools full strength while we were still dealing with COVID and making them incredibly safe. So, kudos to all the folks in the school communities of this city who did that? Dr. Chokshi, why don't you add to what I said.  

Commissioner Chokshi: Thank you so much, sir. I just want to pick up where you left off though, which is to recognize the heroic efforts of our school staff who are delivering absolutely necessary, essential services for the kids of New York City. They've dealt with so many challenges is over the past two years and handle them with such [inaudible], and that extends to the staff that are supporting them in the situation room. We have doubled the overall number of staff in the situation room and will continue to expand that as needed in order to be able to support principals and other school leadership with the increase in cases that we're seeing citywide. There are a couple of things that I want to emphasize, which are important, not just for the short term, but also for the longer term. The first is to reiterate our guidance that for anyone who is feeling ill, meaning parents, if your child is feeling ill, please keep them home even if it's relatively mild symptoms because that makes a big difference for the entire school community. The second is to underline our push for vaccinating even more kids across New York City. As the Mayor mentioned, 600,000 New York City children are vaccinated with at least one dose already, but we're going to make even more concerted efforts, particularly for five-to-11-year-olds. So, the bottom line is that our schools are some of the safest places for our students, as well as our staff to be. It's because of those strict, layered protocols that we have, and we're going to continue to do what we need to meet the moment with Omicron. Thank you.  

Mayor: Thank you, very much. Okay. Go ahead – oh, I’m sorry, Christina, you have another.  

Question: Thanks. So, we just heard the health commissioner encouraging folks to keep their kids home if they're not feeling well, on that note, we're hearing that schools are all responding to this increase in cases in their own way. Some are offering excused absences and remote work for those who are staying home out of health concerns and others are not. Obviously, it's not great if kids are home without any instruction, so can schools expect or can parents expect any policy guidance to ensure that kids have even access to instruction during this time?  

Mayor: Yeah, I mean, look Christina, clearly our school communities had to – beginning with the absolute shock of March, 2020 – come up with a variety of tools to support kids and continue to improve upon those tools. So, right now we're talking about a four day week this week, because New Year's Eve is off. And again, overwhelmingly, we started this morning all of our schools open except for four out of 1,600. We had a meaningful number of classroom closures, but overwhelmingly the vast, vast, vast majority of our classrooms open. So, there will be some kids in this week that need to do things remotely and each school has come up with their own ways of doing that. But I think we should see this week as a time where all the tools we have in place can serve us well. What we need to do is of course prepare for when kids come back in January, and that's going to overlap with several weeks of Omicron being at a very high level, but then based on everything we're seeing now, by the end of January, Omicron should be dissipating and we should be seeing things get more back to normal. Now, again, that's based on the information we have now. So I want to emphasize that we're dealing with a temporary phenomenon. We have tremendous tools to deal with it because school communities have been so safe. When a school closes, obviously everything goes remote. When a whole classroom closes, that goes remote, we have those tools in place. But the final thing I want to say, Christina, and I really think this is a lot of the heart of the matter right now, every adult in our school vaccinated, and we want to get boosted if they qualify. Today's number on the 12-to-17-year-olds, 83 percent, amazing, want to go up and that's a great number. The area where we need more help is from parents of five-to-11-year-olds. We're at this point, just over 27 percent of that group vaccinated. We need those parents to get their kids vaccinated, get them vaccinated now or get them vaccinated once school ends, but when we go back in January, we want to see that number way, way up because that's, what's going to help keep school communities safe and keep schools moving forward.  

Moderator: Our next question goes to Juliet Papa from 1010 WINS.  

Question: Oh, hey, good morning, Mr. Mayor. Good morning, everybody on the call. I wanted to follow up on James Ford’s question. So how are you checking on the accuracy of these private testing companies? Are they reliable? And what’s the criteria for that?  

Mayor: In terms of the companies that we do our vendor relationships with, I'll start with Mitch Katz and go to Ted Long as well, because I think this begs again, the bigger question what Health +  Hospitals does every day in their huge network that they have to protect the health and welfare of New Yorkers starting with Mitch, how you work with vendors to make sure they're doing their job? Ted specifically about the test sites. Go ahead, Mitch.  

President Katz: Thank you, sir, and maybe I'll actually start for Juliet to just remind people that at there are other private testers in New York City that are not affiliated with Health + Hospitals and we’re happy for that. We're happy for anyone to come and fill the need. We know New Yorkers need tests but we don't have the capability for guaranteeing those sites or those tests. What we can tell you is that if you go to any city run site, whether it's Health + Hospitals or our sister department, the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, the Test and Trace Corps, at those places. First the test is done at a very high functioning lab and I have great confidence in the results, and that we will be going out to all of the sites as Dr. Long explains, so that if there is somebody who is out sick, we can replace that person. That was really the issue yesterday is that we unexpectedly had people out sick and we need now to always have a reserve of people to replace them to our vendor site. So, we'll be going out, Juliet, we'll be checking on them, we always appreciate when the media or people tweet online, that always helps us. We are constantly moving resources around. We can’t always accurately predict demand. We do our best, but sometimes a particular community feels at risk and they go for testing and that's great, but it makes the line longer. So, I'm going to turn to Dr. Long for more information about our process. Thank you.   

Mayor: Thank you. Dr Long.  

Executive Director Long: Yeah, Juliet, thank you for the question. So, we work closely with our vendors and from my perspective, they've been doing a great job. Again, the staff that go test New Yorkers every day really are heroes. They're the ones testing in front of everybody with COVID. Now in terms of how we work with our vendors, we even have a GPS system of tracking where the mobile units are, so we have a very good line sense knowing what's going on across our city. And now with one of the challenges as Dr. Katz said, is that unfortunately some of our staff, again, they are the heroes, are getting Omicron or COVID themselves. So, going to be deploying mobile units and additional staff to where they're needed the most working with our vendors, with a close supervision structure, but I'm confident this week is going to get better and better as we have a tighter and tighter structure in place, but I just really wanted to make the point, Juliet, our staff really are doing incredible work.  

Mayor: Thank you. Go ahead, Juliet.  

Question: Okay. Thank you. And Mr. Mayor, I know you just talked about – your, in discussions about New Year's Eve. Would you consider a hybrid New Year's Eve? You know, you would allow the outdoor activity, but no indoor activity?  

Mayor: Well, again, we were talking about New Year's Eve, the formal event in Times Square. So, I want to make sure, Juliet, there's no misunderstanding here. The – I'm very, very clear about the city as a whole, the city's going to keep moving forward. I am against shutdowns, against restrictions, in favor of vaccination and thank God we have the high level vaccination we have, and thank God we have put in place strong mandates to guarantee even more vaccination. So, many, many things will be happening during the holiday season. The key is for people to be vaccinated, for people to get tested, again, if someone's not feeling well to stay home and to be really careful around folks who are particularly vulnerable, but for the New Year's Eve celebration in Times Square, the outdoor celebration that the eyes of the world are on, we have what we've done historically for years and years, we have the kind of model that we used last year. We're looking at anything that will make this work best, but right now it is on, fully vaccinated, outdoors, of course, that's the plan, but we're talking to Times Square Alliance, and if we need to make any other modifications, obviously, working very closely with our health care leaders, we'll decide that in the course this week, we'll announce it before Christmas.  

Moderator: Our next question goes to Steve Burns from WCBS 880.  

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

Mayor: Good, Steve, how are you doing?  

Question: Doing all right. Wanted to circle back on schools. You may have seen that a few city Council Members held a press conference this morning saying basically we don't know what the picture is in schools right now in terms of COVID because there's not nearly enough testing happening right now, and the sampling that we get from students isn't nearly wide enough to be, you know, a representative picture. So, I wanted to see if you could respond to that and, you know, what your level of confidence is that the amount of testing right now in school is adequate?   

Mayor: I really respect the elected officials who raise the concern, but I think the people can answer that best are our doctors, and this question's been asked in recent days and we've answered it squarely, we're testing in every school, every week, the results are extraordinarily consistent and show very low levels of COVID. So, you know, if we were not in every school every week and we are seeing wild variations in the numbers, I mean that we maybe have a different discussion, but I think scientifically there's something that's been extraordinarily clear here, and it's for a reason. You have all those health and safety measures in place, you have every adult vaccinated, this is one of the safest places in the city by definition. It just – the facts. explain it, but it – lets Dr. Chokshi speak to the scientific question, do we have a good sample size? Do we have a good picture of what's going on the schools? Dr. Chokshi.  

Commissioner Chokshi: Thank you, sir. And the short answer is that we do because of the testing that you've described, but let me back up for just one moment and explain that, you know, anytime there are cases associated with a school community, we do have to differentiate what's happening because of community and household transmission from what's happening with respect to school transmission. And the former, as we've been talking about now for days, we are seeing a surge in cases across New York City. We mentioned from the very beginning of identifying Omicron cases, that based on what we knew about this variant, that we were going to see community spread very rapidly and that is indeed what we are seeing. But when it comes to school transmission, I'll give you a few data points that help us to understand this. First, our in school testing positivity rate is at 1.18 percent. This is higher than what we've seen in previous weeks, but it remains relatively low. And another data point is that the number of full classroom closures that we have is 0.94 percent of classrooms. So, although it is a significant number and we would want to keep as many open as possible, when you put it in that broader perspective, what the, that tells us is that hundreds of thousands of students are benefiting from in-person learning and doing so in a safe way because of the protocols that we have put in place. Our goal is to make schools as safe as possible so that our kids can benefit from those educational and instructional times that are so important for them. So, the bottom line is this, our schools remain among the safest places to be in New York City, because of those layered precautions. We're dealing with Omicron as a city, you know, and in our communities. And we've got to take both of those things in concert together. Thank you.  

Mayor: Thank you. Go ahead, Steve.  

Question: Thank you very much. And going back to the test vendors that we're working with here. I can also speak from firsthand experience, I waited here in Sunset Park outside for two-and-a-half hours, staff took a 45-minute lunch break. This was Saturday afternoon.   

Mayor: Steve, tell us – Steve, I'm sorry to interrupt. Tell us exactly the site, if it was City-run, if it was private, because that's going to help us as we follow up. Then, continue with your question.  

Question: It was, I believe, an ambulance – mobile van parked right outside Sunset Park, the park itself, which I believe is a City-run contracted site, if that helps you at all.   

Mayor: Thank you. Continue.  

Question: So, I know you said options are limited as far as supply goes. So, if these supervisors do go out and find problems, you know, what are your options from there in terms of consequences, finding a new provider? You know, is option kind of limited from here on out? Or, how do you kind of rectify the situation when you do find bad situations?  

Mayor: That's a really great question. I'm going to turn to Mitch Katz, but let me talk about this first. I want to emphasize very humanly, a few weeks ago we had a lot of sites where very few people were coming to get tested. And it's understandable, if there's very little demand, if people need a lunch break during a day or something like that under normal situations. But now, we're seeing an extraordinary uptick in demand. We’ve got to go on a war footing. I think my colleagues and I would all say, you know, if this sudden surge caught us by surprise in terms of sheer ferocity, then that's on us to quickly rebound, make the adjustments, get the personnel where they need to be. We do have the ability to move a lot of personnel. And that's why I want Mitch to talk about this. He has a huge, huge workforce. He can make adjustments with that workforce to cover more places. In terms of the vendors and their sites, they've got to create consistency. So, whereas maybe before a lunch break might have been acceptable, it's not acceptable if there's a long line of people and they just need more staffing. And we need to demand that of them. That's on us to fix. You know, literally, Monday, last week, we didn't have this particular problem. We do have it this Monday. We’ve got to fix it. That's on us. But yes, there are – there is staffing to be found and to be put in play and we're doing that very quickly. Dr. Katz?  

President Katz: Yes, sir. I can say, in three weeks, we doubled our testing capacity to deal with yesterday. I wish we could have quadrupled our testing capacity, but we are definitely on it. And, as you say, sir, it is up to us. Let me reiterate that the people who do the testing, whether it's at one of our hospitals or through a vendor, these are in fact heroes. They are coming very close to people with COVID without their masks on, because while the swabber has their mask on, the patient cannot, because you're swabbing their nose. So, it's not surprising that people got sick. None of what we found yesterday was malfeasance. Everybody was trying to do their best, they just couldn't do it with the number of people. So, we've now created an extra pool of people who we can send to replace people at lunch. People do have to take a lunch break, but it is – as you say, sir, it's on us to replace that person so that they can go and have their lunch. But that the testing line keeps moving. And with today, you'll see the sites will run better. Once we have enough home kits – that was a huge way we would make lines better, by offering people home kits. They work quite well. And as soon as the supply improves on that, that will be another tool to make the lines go fast, sir. Thank you, sir.   

Mayor: Thank you.   

Moderator: We have time for two more questions today. The next question goes to Amanda Eisenberg from Politico.  

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

Mayor: Good, Amanda. How have you been?  

Question: I'm good, thanks. I won't be partying tonight, but, you know, in the sake of public health, we’ve got to do what we got to do.  

Mayor: We’ve got to do what we got to do, but, but we'll always have volleyball, Amanda. That will be our memory.   

Question: That is true. That is true. Mr. Mayor, I wanted to go back to the questions around lockdowns. Eric Adams earlier today had mentioned we can’t have a lockdown every time there's a variant. However, what I'm hearing from one emergency room doctor at New York Presbyterian had said, it's not really an issue of beds anymore, right? Like, [inaudible] just open Javits again, it's a staffing issue. And he's concerned that if we see a surge of even mild cases coming into the hospitals, it could flatten the hospitals just based on solely staffing shortages. And so, you know, that's a harder challenge than just reopening ICU beds. So, I was hoping you could comment on, you know, what does that look like in the case that we really are just seeing this massive volume rather than acuity of illness?  

Mayor: Fantastic question. I appreciate it, because this is a conversation that we have had ever since the spring of 2020. In those really, really tough days, Amanda, when it looked like we were going to have to massively increase our capacity, everyone was thinking at first it was literally physical space. It was beds. It was, you know, ventilators. That was all true, but what became clear and clear was actually the toughest challenge was staffing. So, whenever we talk about how we're doing and where we're going, we actually make staffing the first consideration. You heard Dr. Katz earlier. It was quite possible for him to increase ICU capacity. He and his team at Health + Hospitals did that very, very agilely. We have much better supply than we used to have, obviously. And, thank God, hospitals are able to handle the cases a lot better. The treatments are a lot better. You don't have as many people on ventilators. But staffing's a real issue. And you're going to have a lot of people out sick for brief periods of time with Omicron. So, we've run this scenario a lot lately, talking about what it looks like. We still think – and I'll turn to Dr. Katz to elaborate, but we still think we're in strong shape because of the very high levels of vaccination, which do blunt the impact of COVID in general and Omicron specifically. Because the hospital is so much better at how they handle these cases, therefore the amount of staffing – Dr. Katz will talk about people who are intubated, how much staffing it takes when someone is versus when they're not. If you're able to deal with the cases better, faster, it frees up staffing. So, we do feel confident that we can sustain this hit for what we believe is only a period of weeks, because of all those other facts, especially the high level of vaccination. Dr. Katz?  

President Katz: Yes, sir. You've explained it very well. It's all about staffing. In March 2020, it was not about physical space. It was all about staffing. And I am concerned about loss of staff due to Omicron. So, I'm not – at the moment, we are not seeing large, no of hospitalized patients overwhelming us. But I am concerned that our own staff will get Omicron and then will need to be isolated. And that will result in our having fewer staff. But we have run the scenarios, as you say. Starting this week, Health + Hospitals will be moving to almost all virtual visits in the ambulatory care area so that we can redeploy nurses and staff assistants into the hospitals, as well as to our testing sites. We’ll be able to maintain our appointments, because doctors like myself, and Dr. Long, and Dr. Chokshi – we’ll keep seeing our patients virtually. But we won't need the same support staff. We'll maintain skeleton crews in our clinics so that when people do need to come in, they can be seen. That will provide us additional staffing. We are currently increasing the number of registry staff and anticipation that we may have losses of our health care heroes due to the illness. So, we're preparing that with additional staff. And it is making a huge difference that the people who are being admitted generally are not requiring ventilation. When people are on a ventilator, you generally need one nurse at most taking care of two patients. When somebody is just needing oxygen, then one nurse can often take care of five, six patients well. So, we are going to focus on making sure that we deploy the correct staff, that we are moving – we will move patients around as necessary to our different facilities. We are very agile. We know how to do this. We are prepared. Thank you, sir.  

Mayor: Thank you. Go ahead, Amanda.  

Question: Great. Thank you so much. And this is, kind of, a follow up. I've been personally fielding a lot of questions from New Yorkers about re infections and breakthrough cases. And I would love the medical professionals on this call to get better context than maybe I can as a lay person. I was hoping that you might be able to explain, like, why Omicron infections are expected to trail off in the coming weeks? And also, this, to me, seems like a flare-up situation. And with COVID becoming endemic, my understanding is we will just continue seeing flare ups as we kind of, you know, move past this main period of pandemic. So, I was hoping to get a better understanding from the medical professionals, just to explain, like, what kind of phase we are in the pandemic? What should New Yorkers expect in terms of – should they expect to be like flu season where they get vaccinated every year, and people are going to get reinfected? And understanding the science is still evolving on this, but I would really love just like a better explanation, a more succinct explanation about, you know, where we're at now and what New Yorker should expect, moving forward.  

Mayor: Thank you. Very, very helpful, big picture question. I'm going to start as the layman and then Dr. Katz, and Dr. Chokshi. Because I've asked this question, Amanda – great minds think alike. I've been asking this question over months now, trying to hone, sort of, where are we going? My summary is this – Omicron, challenging few weeks, then starts to come down toward the end of January. The cold weather lets up, starting in March, and opens up more possibilities for us in terms of starting to move away from COVID and deep into recovery. The level of vaccination continues to rise markedly during this time, because of folks hearing, you know, the advice of doctors and also the strong vaccine mandates. So, you put those pieces together, you're in position to start 2022, go into the spring 2022 in a very different reality. Our hope, based on all the conversations I've had with the doctors, is, that in the course of 2022, you transfer to a reality where COVID is much more like the flu, as you described, where people need that annual shot or maybe a couple of shots a year as a maintenance. But it's much less central to our lives, much more in the backdrop. But that really will depend obviously on what happens also around the country, around the world. We’ve got to get vaccination levels up everywhere. But it's certainly possible that 2022 can be a transcendent year if there is a real push to deepen vaccination across the board. So, that's my layman's analysis. Now, Dr. Katz, followed by Dr. Chokshi.  

President Katz: Well, sir, I think your layman's analysis deserves a medical degree just from the last two years that you've been going through this. I wish I could grant it to you, sir. I think you deserve it at this point.   

Mayor: Thank you, brother.   

President Katz: In terms of short-term, for reasons that no one really understands, COVID does seem to come in waves. You know, we saw this dramatically in India where very, very high – high rates of infection, hospitals running out of oxygen, horrible scenes, so distressing to watch – and then less, and then less, and then less. Nobody really understands exactly why you get the cycles. People raise issues of weather, and travel patterns, and life patterns. But it's not really understood. It is clear though that COVID comes in waves. And that is – South Africa is already – which had the earliest, some of the earliest and best data, because of the quality of their scientists there – have already noticed that the wave is diminishing. So, that's why we believe that Omicron is going to be quite severe in the sense of infections, not as severe in terms of hospitalizations. It will probably get worse before it gets better in terms of number of infections, but then we believe within mid-January, we'll start to see cases leveling off and things return to our new normal. In terms of long-term picture, humans are very adaptable. We will learn how to coexist with the COVID virus, just as we've learned to coexist with the virus that caused the 1918 Spanish flu. It's still circulates. Humans have learned how to deal with it. Whether that means that we're going to need yearly immunizations, that, I think, is a likely possibility, that the immunizations may need to change just as we change the flu vaccine formulations. I think that's a likely possibility. We have a lot of hope for some of the new medications, which are likely to be approved by the FDA by the end of the year, that with these medications we will be able, when someone tests positive, to be able to offer them a pill that they can take, which will markedly decrease the chance of serious illness. I think all of these things will eventually result in us being able to live with COVID. Thank you, sir. I turn to my colleague Dr. Chokshi.  

Commissioner Chokshi: Thank you very much, Dr. Katz. And, you know, I agree with the summary that you provided. I'll just briefly make a couple of additional points to your thoughtful question, Amanda, and focus on Omicron, because that is, you know, the threat that is before us right now. Yesterday, what I said was that we have to think about exposures, infection, and disease. And when it comes to exposures, turning into infections, what we're seeing is that Omicron is the fastest, fittest, and most formidable version of the virus that we've seen thus far. That doesn't mean that we're powerless against it. And that's where the precautions that we've talked about can really help us to slow the spread. But particularly when it comes to infections, turning into disease, that's where I want to rest a moment, because it is crucially important for us to understand how important vaccination is as well as hopefully additional treatments within the next few days to weeks. For vaccination, what we do see is that people who are fully vaccinated do appear to have a significant protection against severe disease – that means needing oxygen, or a hospital bed, or a ventilator – and that makes a very significant difference. The other thing that I want to emphasize is that we are not taking this passively, meaning we, as your public health leadership, but also we as a city. And the thing that will help the most is for people who are fully vaccinated to go and get your booster dose, because that will also help us to weaken the link between infection turning into disease. And as I mentioned earlier, for people who remain unvaccinated, that's where I get the most worried about those severe outcomes. And so, today is the day – you heard it from me before – to run, don't walk, to start getting the protection that vaccination affords. Thank you.   

Mayor: Thank you very much.   

Moderator: Our last question for today goes to Michael Garland from the Daily News.  

Question: Good morning, Mr. Mayer. Good morning, everybody on the call. Thanks for taking my question. I was talking to a City worker today who is furious – if there are any plans in place for members of the City workforce to go back to remote? I mean, what I heard from this person was that many people are questioning why this isn't happening. And if there are plans in place or something you're talking about, how would that work?  

Mayor: Bottom line, Michael, we've got a City workforce that's 94 percent vaccinated – 94 percent. And we've got a City workforce that works in locations where there's a real focus on health and safety measures. And we also need people, at this moment especially, to serve their fellow New Yorkers, to do everything that New Yorkers need to get through this challenge. So, that's our core – those are our core principles here. We'll look at different options, but there's no change to the approach right now. Obviously, anyone who's not individually feeling well should stay home. And supervisors will address their own situations in their own units. But the overall approach continues as is. Go ahead, Michael.  

Question: And I wanted to ask you also about Mayor-elect Adams’ inauguration plans. Last I checked, he's planning to do his inauguration indoors at the Kings Theatre, you know, as opposed to doing an outside City Hall, as has been, you know, done in the past. Is this a good idea, given, you know, how quickly Omicron is spreading? Do you think, you know, perhaps he should look at changing his plans?  

Mayor: Look, first of all, I'll say, the Mayor-elect has been constant working with our team and with, particularly, our health care leadership to determine the best way to go about things. And so, whatever final decision he makes, I know it will be based on the advice of the health care leaders. So, you know, let's let that play out. Obviously, there's some time to sort it out. But he has made very, very clear that that's how he makes his decisions and I commend him for that.   

So, with that, I also want to say to everyone, given everything that's going on with Omicron, we are going to have another press conference tomorrow. We had a reduced number of press conferences as we were closing out our administration, but, given this immediate challenge, we're going to have another one tomorrow just to make sure we're providing some extra high-level information to people. And, everyone, look, New Yorkers should be so proud of what you have done this last two years to fight through this challenge. I think that last dialogue we heard in response to Amanda's question about where we're going with COVID was really important to remind us, this is not forever. This is a period of time. Omicron's going to be, looks like, a very brief period of time. But the key is to help each other, support each other, and, most importantly, get vaccinated, get that booster shot, get your child that vaccination. That's what makes a difference. And that's how we're going to make it through once again. Thank you, everybody.  


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