Mayor Bill de Blasio: Good morning, everybody. Look, from the very beginning of the coronavirus crisis, this city made a decision. We decided to focus on the science. We decided to be – to be driven by the data. We decided that the facts actually mattered. We would make our decisions based on the data and the science, and we would stick to it. And that’s what we continue to do. We didn’t have all the information in the beginning we should have had. We didn’t have the testing capacity we deserved, but we knew that the direction was right. And the more we’ve learned, the more information we’ve gotten, the more testing we’ve gotten, the better we’ve done as a city. So, this is all what has sustained us. But we’ve also known from the beginning this was a crisis with an end in sight, because from the very beginning it was clear that the scientific community would band together and eventually there would be a vaccine. So, we know that the vaccine will be the difference-maker and we know that time is coming near. And so, New York City is working very closely with the State of New York to prepare for that day. And we have a lot to do. It’s one thing to think about a vaccine or talk about a vaccine. And it’s a very different thing to actually reach millions and millions of people. That’s going to take a lot of hard work, a lot of logistical work, a lot of communication and education. But that preparation is happening right now. So, we’ll be ready for that day.
Now, the vaccine will be a crucial part of our rebirth. The vaccine will open up the doors to our bigger economic recovery. We need to be ready and then we need to move quickly. And that’s what we’re going to talk about today, how we will make that happen. We don’t have the exact date. No one has the exact date when the vaccine will be ready. But what we do know is it will be sooner rather than later. What we do know is that we have to have a plan that is fair and prioritize. And what we do know is we have to make the vaccine available to people, regardless of ability to pay. It has to be free for those who need it. So, the vaccine plan is being prepared by this city with those assumptions in mind. And there’s some things that we know that are good, and there’s some things we know that are not so good. Right now, we know that we have a very mixed message, mixed reality in Washington D.C. and that it’s hard to rely on our federal government the way we would have in past years. That means it’s all the more important that we are self-reliant and self-sufficient here in New York City, working closely with New York State. The good news is that despite the confusion that comes out of Washington, we have a lot of history to work with. We have lot of knowledge of how to use vaccines positively as a public health tool. This city has a long and illustrious history of reaching people and protecting them, protecting them with vaccines. And in this case, that takes on such greater value and greater meaning than ever before, because it will also be the gateway to bring in life back to normal and to getting people their livelihoods back and their freedom back. So, this opportunity, this moment goes far beyond anything in recent memory in terms of the impact of vaccine would make. But history does teach us a lot about how to go about giving out a vaccine effectively – and Dr. Chokshi will talk about that in a moment. We have to make sure a vaccine is safe. We have to make sure it’s effective. We won’t do anything until we’re certain of those facts. And we have to make sure that we have a sufficient supply. And, as the supply grows, we’re going to work on the priorities it will take to manage that supply properly.
So, first of all, the first phase, when we have a sufficient supply, will be to focus on those who need the vaccine the most – the frontline workers – the folks we depend on – health care workers, first responders, essential workers, the folks who are making this city run no matter what. And, of course, the most vulnerable New Yorkers, the folks who are in greatest danger from this disease – that’s the first phase. The second phase is the general public and making the vaccine available widely. And the good news, again, is we have a public health infrastructure in this city that is so battle-tested, certainly in years before having done huge vaccine efforts, but particularly in the last seven months. Our public health apparatus in this city has learned such powerful lessons, has gone through such tough battles, but has done it so effectively. So, we all wish we hadn’t gone through this, but I’ll tell you something that everything that we’ve been through up to now has prepared us like never before to deal with the greatest challenges. And I tip my cap to everyone in our Department of Health and in Health + Hospitals, Test and Trace, all of the folks who have been part of this work because they’ve walked through the fire and they’ve learned so much in the process.
Now, of course, when we get to phase two and we’re talking about widespread vaccination, we’re going to use everything we have – our hospitals, our clinics, both Health + Hospitals and Department of Health clinics. We’re going to use community centers, schools, you name it. And we’re going to engage everyone in the health care world, public and private, including private physicians, pharmacies, urgent care centers, community vaccination efforts, whatever it takes. There’s going to be a lot information out, a lot of education, a lot of giving people the answers they need, listening to people, taking their questions, getting them answers from clinicians who can really help them understand, doing it in many languages, getting that information out through trusted community leaders. It’s going to be a huge, huge effort, but we can make it work. And here to give you a sense of what we will do and what we learned from our own history in this city, our Health Commissioner, Dr. Dave Chokshi.
Commissioner Dave Chokshi, Department of Health and Mental Hygiene: Thank you, Mr. Mayor. Imagine a virus arriving in New York City and a Herculean effort is launched to vaccinate millions of New Yorkers in a matter of months – one of the largest campaigns in history. The Health Department organizes employees, medical providers, and volunteers, goes door-to-door in apartment buildings to educate community members and partners with clinics across the city to handle lines of people waiting to be vaccinated. Well, this very event occurred decades ago in 1947 for smallpox in New York City. Turning to COVID-19 and the present, I do want to state at the outset, we are certainly not approaching the challenge of distributing a COVID vaccine in New York City with arrogance. This virus has humbled us before, but the New York City Health Department has a record from smallpox to influenza of mounting successful vaccination campaigns. We have the tools, the staff, and the experience at the ready to serve this mission and a commitment matched to the magnitude of the challenge.
Coordinating closely with our State and federal counterparts, we can leverage our well-established vaccine network to provide services across the city at hospitals, community health centers, urgent care clinics, and pharmacies. In fact, we are already doing this, starting with our historic flu vaccination campaign this season, And with our new first deputy commissioner and chief equity officer, Dr. Torian Easterling, we will ensure that equity is at the center of our response. Trusted local clinicians and community-based partners can address skepticism and help us navigate a history of health care provision that has two often failed Black and Brown New Yorkers in particular. Trust is an essential ingredient for turning a vaccine into a vaccination. The models exist – for instance, we have employed community vaccinators during flu season. At a church in Greenpoint last week, a neighborhood identified as having low coverage, dozens of community members were vaccinated in a matter of hours. The Governor has announced detailed plans, including ensuring that any vaccine distributed in New York is sufficiently vetted and the State has outlined thoughtful questions to the federal. We await those answers as well. In the meantime, we are activating our resources to prepare for an eventual first phase of distribution. This includes first closely tracking the science to understand when we will have a vaccine that is safe and effective. Second, enrolling and educating doctors and other clinicians. Third, adapting our databases to track orders and uptake. And forth, developing detailed operational plans related to vaccine distribution, storage, and administration. In other words, we’re marshaling the entirety of our public health infrastructure to meet this challenge.
We have the expertise and we have the experience, but most of all, we have New Yorkers, communities, and individuals who have pulled together so many times during this crisis. I know they’re going to rise to this occasion in history just as they have for generations. Thank you.
Mayor: Thank you so much, Dr. Choksi. And I want to thank you – I think what our Health Commissioner said is reassuring, and it’s encouraging, and it’s true – that history, that really is something we all should feel proud of and we should feel encouraged by. The fact is, New Yorkers, not just in this time, but generations before have shown the amazing ability to handle any and all crises and to band together. So, I think you’re going to see in some places, perhaps around this country, around this world, a high level of resistance to the science, the data, the engagement of the vaccine, I think here, we’re going to do a lot better than a lot of other places, because we’ve been talking about the science and the data from day-one, because there is a lot of faith and trust in our health care team and the grassroots health care providers who are out there and every community. This will take real work. I want to be clear, it’s going to take real work to turn the vaccine and the vaccinations as Dr. Choksi said. But I sure like our starting point in this city and I think this is going to be an example of New Yorkers really doing the right thing to protect each other.
And speaking of doing the right thing, it is so important to keep doing what’s worked in this city. And people really have been great overall in terms of social distancing, mask wearing, and better and better at getting tested. And, you know, we’re going to keep getting this message out. Remember, we don’t expect most people to see a vaccine until at least a few months into 2021, but testing is here and now and everywhere. So, keep getting tested because it tells us so much, it helps us so much. It also gives you so much in terms of knowing what’s going on with your health and your family’s health. And testing is expanding continually, we’re seeing more and more New Yorkers taking advantage of it. And in the cluster zones where we’ve been particularly focused in the last couple of weeks, numbers are coming in strong – over 23,000 tests since September 30th. And those test results continue to be encouraging. We continue to see in Brooklyn and Queens improved results, we still – excuse me, we still have a ways to go. But that big-picture reality, the City of New York is clearly leveling off. We’re seeing better numbers for the whole city. We’re seeing real improvements in some parts of those zones. Other areas have more work to do, but still most have shown improvement. And it absolutely correlates to the number of people getting tested. The more people get tested, the better look we get, and, in many cases, the quicker we’re going to be out of restrictions because we get a better look at what’s happening with the whole community. So, that is good news for sure. We’re waiting on an update from the State of New York. I think the Governor will be speaking soon on what is going to happen next with the red and orange zones. And we’re going to be working closely with the State to implement whatever decisions they make.
Let me talk about one more topic before I go to our indicators. And this is a topic that is on the minds of hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers, and they happen to be the youngest New Yorkers. And it is for many of them the most exciting night of the year, and that is Halloween. I think back – I’m having lots of memories flood my mind right now of carving pumpkins with my kids and going out trick or treating with them and having trick or treaters come to the door of our house in Brooklyn. And it is one of the most joyous nights of the year. And this year, it’s going to be different, but it’s going to happen. So, I want to make very clear – Halloween is happening in New York City and Halloween will be safe in New York City. We want to do it differently. As with everything we’ve experienced this year, we understand it’s not business as usual, but it can go on and it can be fun and it can be exciting for our youngest New Yorkers. And they deserve it – they deserve it after everything they’ve been through. So, let’s talk about what makes sense for trick or treating this year. First of all, the most important thing we have learned throughout this whole crisis, outdoors is better than indoors. So, with trick or treating, should all be outdoors, only outdoors – no trick or treating inside apartment buildings, for example, do everything outdoors. Second of all, a costume – the mask you have in a costume is not the same as the kind of mask we use to protect ourselves and each other. So, for a child wearing a costume, put a mask on top of the costume on the outside of costume to protect them and protect everyone. No indoor gatherings, no indoor parties. And do things in small groups – again, basic rules we’ve learned – small groups are better than bigger groups. Maintain social distancing. When folks are laying out the treats in the bowl for kids, stand back, give them some space. And it’s much better that any candy be, of course, in a bowl, not handed individually. So, real common-sense things. These are the smart rules that will keep our kids safe, keep our families safe. Also, Commissioner Chokshi told me there was one additional rule, it is a legally binding mandate – parents, you cannot take candy from your child’s bag. Okay? The Health Department is watching. Okay. Thank you, doctor. So, everyone let’s have a great Halloween. Let’s make it safe though – outdoors and safe.
Okay – our indicators. Number one, daily number of people admitted to New York City hospitals for suspected COVID-19, threshold is 200 patients – today’s report 77, and a confirmed positivity rate for COVID of 29.8 percent. Number two, new reported cases on a seven-day average, threshold is 550 cases, today’s report 493. Number three, percentage of people testing positive citywide for COVID-19, that threshold is 5 percent – today’s report 1.56 percent. And today’s seven-day rolling average number is 1.68 percent.
A few words in Spanish –
[Mayor de Blasio speaks in Spanish]
With that, we’ll turn to our colleagues in the media and please let me know the name and outlet of each journalist.
Moderator: Hi, all. We’ll now begin our Q-and-A. With us today we have Health Commissioner Dr. Dave Chokshi, Senior Advisor Dr. Jay Varma, and Health + Hospital CEO Dr. Mitchell Katz. Our first question today goes to Andrew from WNBC.
Question: Good morning, Mr. Mayor, and everyone on the call. I know we’re waiting for the Governor to make it official, but assuming he, in particular, relaxes restrictions on Central Queens, places like Forest Hills, what would the City then do to enforce the ongoing progress that you’ve made in those zones? And what have you seen in terms of how enforcement has changed?
Mayor: Yeah, Andrew, I want to respect your question, but I’m going to say, I wouldn’t start with the word enforce. I would start with the fact that a lot of people have been educated in this crisis from the beginning. But especially in these red and orange zones, the fact that this disease could come back, that restrictions could be put in place again – I think that’s been a real wake up call to people, and I think a lot of folks are going to act differently from this point on. And that’s what we really need to encourage and support first and foremost – the social distancing, the mask wearing, being smart about the number of people in gatherings. So, we’re going to educate, we’re going to support that. Of course there will be enforcement efforts as well. But I don’t think we’re going into the same situation we were in, you know, a couple of months ago. I think folks are going to be sobered by this experience and you’re going to see a different approach. Go ahead.
Question: The Boston School District decided to go all remote because their percentage level went above their threshold, which I believe was 4 percent. I know you’ve had good success with your blended program so far in New York City, but how confident are you that in-person school will be able to continue going forward?
Mayor: Andrew, I will never pretend to know what the future brings, but I will tell you that based on the experience we’ve had so far, I’m very confident. We’ve had really extensive testing and the results have come back consistently as a very, very low positivity rate in our schools, obviously much lower than what we’re seeing in the city as a whole, and the city as a whole is lower than almost any place in America. You know, schools are moving forward, kids are learning, so many kids, parents, educators are so happy to be back in school. So, I really like where we are and I think we’re on a good track.
Moderator: Next up is Rich from WCBS Radio.
Question: Good morning, Mr. Mayor, and everybody on the call.
Mayor: How are you doing Rich?
Question: So – I’m doing all right. So, I’m just wondering what motivated you to talk about your vaccine plan today? What what’s the immediate need for that since we’re a while from getting the vaccine, I guess?
Mayor: Well, we’ve been working on this obviously for a while and it was helpful to hear the State’s plan, the outline that the Governor put forward, which I think was a good one, but we want all New Yorkers to know that we’re getting ready right now. There’s – the doctors will tell you the we may be in a situation where it’s relatively soon where the first supplies are available for that Phase One for the first responders and health care workers and the most vulnerable New Yorkers. So, that’s a lot of work just to get ready for that phase. We want people to know that work is being done. What the State put forward, I think it was very helpful, but of course it comes down to localities to turn it into action. So, we’re showing people how we’re going to approach this and we’ll be giving a lot more detail as we go along. Go ahead.
Question: Okay. yeah, and so one other thing, following up a little bit on what Andrew just said, in regard to the schools. Last time I checked in with you, you only had to close two schools and I’m just wondering how many schools have been – had to have been closed at this point?
Mayor: So, okay, I’ll get this precise as best I can, Rich. Let’s put aside schools that are closed in red and orange zones. Of course those schools are reopened once those restrictions are lifted. So, for the rest of the schools, the city, well over 1,400 schools, the latest information I have from last night is five schools are on a 14-day shutdown. One of those is coming out of its shutdown tomorrow. So, then that would be four, and we have a number of schools who have been 24-hour shutdowns and then cleared, and they come right back online. We’ve had classrooms shutdown in two-week quarantines, but what has been very striking and was a question we had in the beginning, Rich, was how often would a school need to be shut down for two weeks? It has been a rarity. Right now, again, five today out of over 1400, one of them about to come out of that status and go back online. So, the good news is that’s a rarity and we want to keep it that way with intensive measures to keep the school safe, all the cleaning, the face mask wearing, the social distancing. We see it really working in our schools.
Moderator: Next, we have Gloria from NY1.
Question: Good morning, Mr. Mayor. I wanted to ask just – I realize you’re laying out these plans about the vaccine distribution process, obviously no vaccine yet in sight. The Governor talked about this a few days ago, as you know, and he talked about it as it specifically being a State-led effort. So, I guess because of the number of times we have seen different plans or disagreements or different approaches for me when the Governor about how to handle different parts of this crisis, what can you tell New Yorkers today so that they can feel confident that when this vaccine does arrive, that the City and State will actually be on the same page about how to get this done?
Mayor: Again, I just will say at the outset, I had this conversation with the Governor on Friday and we both agreed on this point, overwhelmingly the City and the State have agreed. I think it’s become a fascinating topic to a number of you to talk about when there’s a disagreement. I would challenge you to look at all the times when there was an agreement which is overwhelmingly the case. So, if there’s ever something where I think I have to do or say something to defend the interests in New York City, I’m going to do that, but overwhelmingly the City and State have agreed, and the State’s plan is a good plan, and we’re in communication with the State. We’re working with the State. We have to implement it, and this is the reality throughout this crisis. I wish this would be discussed a little bit more, a federal government, a state government can come up with a vision or rules, but it’s always localities that have to implement them, and state governments don’t do that. That’s true everywhere in the country, city governments, local governments, county governments, run schools, run policing health care system. States don’t do that. We have to put it into action, but we feel a lot of agreement with the plan the State has put forward, and our health care leadership is working closely with the State to make it come to life. Go ahead, Gloria.
Question: Thank you, and my other question is about some of the daily indicators in the last couple of days, I believe you said today, we’re at 493, the threshold being 500 for the number of cases. I believe the positive of the seven-day rolling average was in the twos yesterday, seems to have gone to gone down today. It seems like we’re getting close to some threshold numbers particularly that three percent, which would trigger a shutdown of the schools. I wonder if everyone can just speak to that. Where are we in terms of that? Is there something that is driving up those numbers and are you going over plans or how you would respond if we get close to that 500, and that three percent?
Mayor: As I said the other day, I was asked, I, I want to, unfortunately I have to tell you, I think one of those facts is not accurate, which is the number that I gave yesterday for the daily testing was in the twos. It was one of the only ones we’ve seen in the twos recently, but the rolling average was in the mid-level one range. So, the rolling average has been really consistent in the last few weeks in the neighborhood of 1.5 to 1.75. Today’s seven-day rolling average, 1.68. We’ve been in that kind of general neighborhood for a good amount of time now, and that is a leveling off. But with the threshold question on the new reported cases, I was asked this last week and I said, or earlier in the week, and I said, look, that number doesn’t live in isolation, we’re looking at all three indicators. Yes, the case numbers went up, but they went up in part because of intensive new testing efforts. But you see the hospitalization levels, still pretty stable, the positivity levels among those hospitalized still pretty low, and most importantly, the seven-day rolling average, certainly in a zone, in a range, we can work with. So, no, I think the news has been good and shows that leveling off, and no, we do not need to plan any additional steps beyond what’s being done with the restrictions right now, because the numbers are telling us that we are leveling off in a good way at this moment.
Moderator: Next up we have Dana from the Times.
Question: Hi, Mr. Mayor.
Mayor: Hi, Dana. How are you doing?
Question: I’m all right, thank you. Given the somewhat dissonant messages coming from you and the Governor regarding vaccine plans, and who’s in charge of implementing them, do you think some sort of joint press conference might reassure New Yorkers who are skittish about getting a vaccine?
Mayor: I’m happy to do whatever will be helpful to New Yorkers, but again Dana, I talk to a lot of people. I used to tell you this, everyone in the media, this when I went and had many town hall meetings, and I don’t have the benefit of having those town hall meetings the same way, but I sure talk to a lot of people. I really don’t think every day New Yorkers are particularly concerned about this concept, which is so interesting to the political class and the media of when the City and State have a disagreement, because again, the City and State have overwhelmingly agreed. I just said, you know, we, we have been working closely together on the vaccine plan are a hundred percent comfortable with what’s been put out with the State, but again, I, unless people want to ignore this fact that localities have to do the implementation and we have to figure out a way to do that, the State doesn’t come in and do that. They don’t have the personnel to do that. They’re not structured that way. We have to do that. So, it’s actually our responsibility to tell people how we’re going to make that work and to work with the State to make sense of it, but anything that helps get the message across I want to do and the moment when we have a vaccine it’s going to be a profoundly important moment. So, I’m certainly going to be talking with the Governor and his team about the best way to get the message out and we’ll work together on that. Go ahead.
Question: Thanks Mr. Mayor, and then on an entirely different topic, Friday is the deadline for federal departments to submit their list of proposed budget cuts to so-called “anarchist jurisdictions,” to the Office of Management and Budget. Have you separately calculated how much federal funding New York City is at risk of losing?
Mayor: We are not at risk of losing funding. I just want to be as clear as a bell on this. What President Trump is attempting here is blatantly unconstitutional. You know, we had our Corporation Counsel Jim Johnson here few days back talking about the constitutional underpinnings of how money gets distributed. The Congress makes those decisions, not the President, the President can’t reach into what’s been allocated and take it away because he disagrees with one part of the country. So, nothing has actually materialized in a meaningful way to affect our funding. I think this is an election ploy by the President to try and rally his base. It will not work. It will not hurt our funding, and if they do anything tangible to stop our funding, we’ll see them in court, and I guarantee you, we will beat them in court.
Moderator: Next up is Reuvain from Hamodia.
Question: Good morning, Mr. Mayor. I understand that the Governor – he has a press conference scheduled soon – there’s a possibility that he may announce that he’s allowing schools to open, assuming there’s a rigorous testing program, which would be overseen by the City. So, my question is if the Governor indeed does announce that how soon would the City be ready to implement such a program and with students who have already been sick previously, still need a negative test?
Mayor: I’m going to turn to the doctors on your second question. On the first question we have not been given any details from the State as to what they intend for schools. We have a huge testing apparatus, and we’re going to work with the whole community to help ensure that people are tested. Depending on what the Governor specifically intends, we may need some material help from the State, either in terms of testing capacity or funding, we may need something to help us achieve it quickly. But in terms of the overall ability to move a lot of testing quickly, we’re in a strong position.
In terms of the standards, and again, we don’t have any written guidance from the State to work with yet, but in terms of the standards, Dr. Chokshi, Dr. Varma, why don’t you jump in?
Commissioner Chokshi: Sure, I can start Mr. Mayor. To the second part of your question, Reuvain, the most important thing is if a student is not feeling well, if they have symptoms and they’re feeling ill, they should stay home. That is first and foremost. If they have not gotten a test than they should be they should be tested. The only exception to that is if they have gotten a test within the last 90 days, and it was positive. In those cases, we do not recommend that the student get retested. But most cases will be of a student feeling ill, making sure that they stay home, and if they haven’t gotten a test in the last 90 days to make sure that they do go get tested.
Mayor: Dr. Varma, you want to add?
Senior Advisor Dr. Jay Varma: No, nothing.
Mayor: Okay. Go ahead, Reuvain.
Question: Councilman Chaim Deutsch tweeted that there was a store that received in his district – that received the summons simply for having their doors open. They were just open for takeout, and I’m wondering if you’re familiar with this incident, and if in general, there’s a feeling that some inspectors are just looking for technical violations and flooding places with tickets even who are following the rules. I’m wondering if you’re familiar with this particular incident or the complaints in general?
Mayor: Reuvain, I’m not familiar with that incident, but I’m going to make sure we follow up on that incident. I don’t want to see any store penalized on a technicality that isn’t about health and safety, obviously. So, we’ll follow up on that case, but let me talk about the bigger situation. The meeting I had night before last with community leaders. You know, I think there was a tremendous concern that there was enforcement that was arbitrary, and we don’t want that. This is something we’ll be talking with the State about of how to strike the right balance. We all understand we need enforcement especially when there is willful decision not to follow the rules and to put people’s lives in danger. But you know, the vast, vast majority of store owners don’t do that nor any other community institution. As we’ve worked with the community overwhelmingly, we’ve had support from community leaders and organizations to make sure everyone is healthy and to follow social distancing and work with these rules and work together, to get people tested and to get out of these restrictions as quickly as possible. I really want to see us get ahead of these restrictions for everyone’s good, and so if the enforcement is becoming the kind of enforcement that you know, I’ve talked about for years, where it was to arbitrary towards small businesses in general, long before the coronavirus, we don’t want that, and we don’t want to penalize people who are struggling to keep going during such a tough time. So, we’ll be talking with the state about how to create that balance properly.
Certainly my message to all my agencies will be, I don’t want to see people penalized if it isn’t something that’s truly important, and I also heard from the community leaders, a real concern about discrimination, and I want to speak to that because that’s absolutely unacceptable. We cannot in this moment have any enforcement or anything else that is unfair or unequal. Concerns were raised about whether stores of one background were being treated differently than stores or another background. We can’t have that. That’s just not acceptable. There’s – I want to tell you it’s, to me personally, offensive that anyone would show discrimination towards the community in this moment, and all of us need to understand that we’re fighting a challenge together, shoulder to shoulder, and so we’re going to send a very clear message to all agencies to make sure that enforcement is fair and is equal for all and anything that might trigger discrimination, we have to fight vibrantly intensely. We cannot allow discrimination against this community. It’s a community that is suffering through this crisis and we all want to work together to help every community to get out of this crisis together.
Moderator: Next, we have Marcia from WCBS.
Question: Mr. Mayor with the Governor moving to eliminate some lockdown restrictions in Queens, I wonder how – what your prognosis is about how long it will take to eliminate all the lockdown restrictions in all the mini-clusters.
Mayor: Marcia, I want to start, and I’m asking people to loyally report this, I want to start with a really clear sentence. I’ve said it from the day I proposed a course of action to address this crisis. The State has to make these ultimate decisions. I will always say what I think is important to protect the people in New York City, but the State has to make these decisions and we respect that that’s the State’s law and rule, and we’re going to follow their lead. I am hopeful based on the numbers that this is only a matter of a few weeks, but again, we have to every day see those numbers, those numbers have to keep coming back better and better consistently, and the State has to believe in those numbers too. So Marcia overall trend, I’m seeing some real progress and I’m particularly seeing an uptick in testing, and that’s been really good, and some of the neighborhoods that never needed to go into red and orange zones, like Williamsburg, for example, are places where there was a particularly high level of testing. Absolutely need to see people get tested. State will decide, but I like the numbers we’re seeing now. We’re moving in the right direction. Go ahead.
Question: My follow up question is this, are you seeing any uptick in any other communities that could also be potential mini-clusters? And if so, what are you doing about those?
Mayor: We are not seeing anything like what you’ve seen in the current red and orange zones. We definitely see areas where we need a lot more testing and we will be sending more testing into different communities in the city where we are not seeing the kind of testing levels we’d like, we definitely see areas where we want to do more education and mask distribution. But we are not seeing anything that parallels what we’ve seen in these red and orange zones.
Moderator: We have time for two more. First we’ll go to Michael from the Daily News.
Question: Good morning, Mr. Mayor.
Mayor: Michael, before you get started, I want to – I owe you credit that you raised some important issues to us a week or so ago, and I’m glad you did. I want to thank you for that. I think, you know, we followed up on those two issues and I think we were able to make progress on both of them.
Question: Thanks, Mr. Mayor. I appreciate that. I had two questions for you, one has to do with the upcoming early voting and I’m wondering what your senses and feeling is on how this will proceed as far as just the nuts and bolts of it? Are you in contact with the Board of Elections on issues like, you know, do they have enough poll workers? I know, you know, the NYPD talked about kind of some of their preparations yesterday. What’s your sense of that at this point? And what other preparations is the city itself taking aside from, you know, what the NYPD is doing to ensure that early voting goes smoothly?
Mayor: Yeah, Michael, we’re obviously doing a lot to try and educate people and answer concerns and questions. I’m going to be early voting myself, and I want to really encourage people to take advantage of early voting. I think Election Day is going to be a huge, huge turnout, and you know, we obviously don’t want to see people more in lines than need to be, and we want to see everyone vote and sometimes long lines discourage people. So taking advantage of early voting, taking advantage of voting by mail and that deadline’s coming up soon, we’re going to encourage all that. We’re going to try and do a lot of public education through DemocracyNYC because public education has not been a strong suit of the Board of Elections. We’re obviously going to be responsive to any help the board needs. Obviously I wish – as you know – I wish we ran the board directly because I think we could get a lot more done in terms of making the process smoother, but whatever the board needs in terms of support to make this work, we stand ready.
Question: My next question has to do with the you know, the vaccine plan you just outlined, and I was wondering if you could give us some more specifics. I don’t know if you mentioned it or it was the slide mentioned it but you know, there was mention of that the cold storage, where is the city is at in terms of, you know, how many facilities do you have set up as far as infrastructure goes? What specific preparations is the city taking to ensure that that’s, you know, we’ll be ready to go once that vaccine’s ready to go?
Mayor: Yeah, I appreciate that question, Michael, look, this is exactly what I’m saying about, you know, here’s where the rubber hits the road at the local level. We have to do all that real logistical work to make sure that the idea of a vaccine turns into the reality of vaccination and it’s a lot of work and it can only be done locally. So as you heard from Dr. Chokshi that our Health Department has a lot of experience with this and that’s going to really come in handy now. So Dr. Chokshi, could you talk about some of those logistics and how we’re going to store the vaccine?
Commissioner Chokshi: Absolutely, sir. So for the different potential COVID-19 vaccines, there are three different ways that we would think about cold storage, which is also sometimes known as the cold chain. The first is refrigerated vaccine, that’s you know, two to eight degrees Celsius. The next is frozen storage so that’s a few degrees below zero, and then there’s what’s called ultra-cold storage, which is several degrees below zero beyond that. So we have to look at first how vaccines are making it through the clinical trials process to understand which ones will be available sooner rather than later, and match those up with what we know exists with respect to different cold storage locations. For example, we know that hospitals and clinics can very easily satisfy the first two dimensions of what we talked about with respect to storing vaccine, but the ultra-cold storage is one where there are more limited options with respect to being able to store that type of vaccine. So we’re in regular communication with the manufacturers of the vaccine to understand exactly how the cold chain process will work for all dimensions from that refrigerated side to the ultra-cold side.
Mayor: Thank you.
Moderator: For our last question, we’ll go to Julia from The Post.
Question: Hey, good morning, Mr. Mayor, hope you’re doing well.
Mayor: How you doing Julia?
Question: I’m doing good. On the vaccine plan, you and the Commissioner expressed a lot of confidence about being able to roll it out smoothly, but I wonder if you take any pause or learn any lessons from two things, one, the fact that you’ve only been able to get 20 percent of parents to fill out consent forms for testing, and two some of the troubles you ran into with the measles vaccinations last year?
Mayor: Julia it’s a smart question. I appreciate it because we do try to learn from every situation. Both of those topics are pertinent, but I would say to you, what we learned from the measles situation was a strong, small, a very small number of people spreading an anti-vaccine message definitely is something that we have to deal with. But we also learned that we could overcome that with a lot of information, particularly from trusted voices, from community voices, from health care providers. So I would say the measles example is cautionary for sure, but it had a happy ending that we figured out how to get the word through in a way that people heard and believed and acted on, and obviously that’s why we were able to end that crisis. The situation schools is nascent. We’re still in a time where everyone’s getting used to the new reality of schools. We’ve seen a steady, positive response from parents in terms of signing up for testing.
Again, I talked about this, I think it’s going to take more dialogue than might have been true in something in the past because there’s so much confusion, and a lot of it has come from the national level. There’s so many unanswered questions that we need to talk to people. We need a parent, if they want to talk to a doctor, we’re going to help them do it. If they need to talk to someone in their own native language, we’re going to let them do that. You know, we want to help people get their questions answered and that takes time, but as those conversations happen, more and more people are signing up. I think also, final point, the vaccine, because it is the decisive element here – a test tells you what’s going on, but it doesn’t solve your problem, a vaccine actually solves your problem and people know that from the flu and so many other examples. Once people see it is safe and it’s working, I think word of mouth takes over and more and more momentum builds and more and more people want that vaccine. Go ahead.
Question: Okay, second question is on testing and kids and students. I know you’ve cited, you know, the incredibly low positivity rate, I think it’s like 0.17 percent in schools, but according to this State, the city’s reported actually 2,000 positive cases for city kids, whether they’re at home in school, in private school, in religious school, that gives us a two percent infection rate since September. Does that give you any pause that in-person, specific DOE rate, is a fraction of the overall number of kids affected? And do you know if it’s that high for a specific reason such as yeshivas?
Mayor: No, I respect the question, but I have to say this is a case of stretching statistics in a very inaccurate manner. The fact – that if you’re looking over all of September and all of October, and that’s the number of cases you’ve had in that entire time, that means at any given point you’re positively level was very low. And the fact is we’re talking about not only over a million public school kids, but then hundreds of thousands of more charter school, public – excuse me – private school, religious school, and it’s a huge universe in which so, you know, I’ll get the exact number, if you take every kind of student in New York City, but you’re talking, you know, 1.3, 1.4 million kids, to have that few cases over two months is an incredibly low positivity level. And I think it actually is a number that says how well we’re doing. Dr. Chokshi, why don’t you weigh in on that too because I think I’m counting accurately, but let’s hear it from a real doctor.
Commissioner Chokshi: Yes, you’re right, Mr. Mayor, that the only one point that I would add to this is that the best scenario is when we are able to identify cases before they go into school. And so that’s what that testing represents is a number of kids who are being tested in the community as well as through our school based testing program. And so each of those cases that is identified before someone shows up in the school setting means that we know that they’ll be able to stay home, to isolate, and that helps us to interrupt the spread of COVID-19.
Mayor: Dr. Varma, and I turn to you on this point, you’ve really led the way looking at school systems around the world and what we needed to learn from them, and then comparing our results to school systems, not only in the United States, but around the world. So based on the information you just heard, what would you say?
Senior Advisor Varma: Yeah, thank you for the question. I think there’s a couple of important points. The first as the Mayor has has noted, the approach that we’re using is really among the most rigorous that you see anywhere in the world. I have personally reviewed protocols used for many countries in Europe and in Asia, and can attest to that. Second, we’ve received a number there’ve been a number of published and their internal reports coming from various parts, not just from the United States, but elsewhere in the world, which also continues to bear out, whether you look at the U.K., you look at Germany, you look at Australia, it bears out that when you have all of these measures in place, schools can in fact be made safely. And the third thing is, is to extend on the Mayor’s point about comparison numbers. The – it’s important to understand what the testing in schools, the school testing survey tells you, and what it doesn’t tell you. The most relevant comparison point is if we took, you know, randomly sampled a hundred New Yorkers off the street, how many of them would have infection if we tested them? And that’s because that’s analogous to what we’re doing in the school, where we’re taking a random survey of the school population and testing them and what we see so far, again, we always have to be cautious, what we see so far is that you are less likely to encounter somebody with infection in a school then you would be outside the school and not just by a little, but by a lot. And that isn’t evidence of the fact that what we’re doing in our schools, telling people to stay home if they’re sick, making sure they wear a face covering, doing all of the measures that we know, those have measures are working right now. We can’t rest, of course, on our laurels. This is something you have to do every single day rigorously, but everything we see right now is reassuring and very much in line with what we see elsewhere in the world.
Mayor: Thank you so much doctors. Let’s conclude today with this point that we’re preparing now in this city to continue to lead the nation in addressing the coronavirus. We were the epicenter. We overcame that. We became one of the safest places in America. We had a problem in some parts of our city. We went at it aggressively and we’re making progress. We said we could reopen the largest school system in America, and we did it, and we did it safely as you’re hearing from the doctors. Now we prepare to ensure that people get vaccinated in a safe, effective manner and that’s going to be a model for this country as well, and for the world. We’re going to be the public health capital of the world because of everything we went through, everything experienced, but all the triumphs that New Yorkers achieve, we’re going to have the ability to say here, in this heroic city, we figured out how to do it right and we can teach the whole world how to do it right, and that is going to be one of the pillars of the New York City of the future. That’s going to be one of the things that makes us strong, that creates new jobs, that gives us new meaning as a city that we will beat this disease and then help others ensure that no disease ever does this to any city anywhere again. Thank you, everybody.
MAYOR DE BLASIO HOLDS MEDIA AVAILABILITY
Mayor Bill de Blasio: Good morning, everybody. To say the least, there are so many families in this city that have suffered during the year 2020. So many families, so many kids who have gone through so much and the trauma, the pain, the challeng1es, they still are having such a huge impact on our families and children. And the City of New York believes it’s our responsibility to help those families, to help those kids. We believe that’s what we’re here for as public servants to actually alleviate people’s suffering and help them move forward. That’s what the City believes, but the federal government is doing something very, very different. Just at the moment when we need help the most, just at the moment where our families are suffering the most, you would think this would be when the federal government would offer a helping hand the most. Remember Franklin Delano Roosevelt, our own New Yorker, the New Deal, when people were having the toughest time, the federal government stepped up, helped in unimaginable ways, helped people get out of that crisis. You’ll want to believe your federal government is going to do the right thing for you and really try and every way to help us in everything we do for everyday New Yorkers, but we’ve experienced just the opposite. And I’m not just talking about the beginning of this crisis when there wasn’t enough testing or when we couldn’t get PPE from the federal government or any other things that we could go over, I’m talking about the recent actions of the Trump administration to literally cut off funding that would help us provide health care, that would help us keep people safe. A totally political action that would actually undermine the lives of New Yorkers, just when they need help the most.
What we’ve seen from President Trump, threatening funding for New York City and other cities, it’s morally wrong. It’s legally unacceptable. It’s unconstitutional. And we’re going to fight it. We’ve seen this not only directed at New York City, but at other cities that are trying to help their people, Seattle and Portland, that are trying to do the work of bringing their cities out of this crisis. Also being threatened with their funding being taken away by the federal government. So, here’s the bottom line – I said weeks ago, if the Trump administration persisted in trying to illegally take away funding from New York City, we would take them to court and we will beat them in court and here to tell you what we’re doing in coordination with our sister cities, the man who will lead the way, lead the charge with his team at the Law Department, our Corporation Counsel, Jim Johnson.
Corporation Counsel Jim Johnson, Law Department: Thank you, Mayor. In a couple of hours in Seattle, we will file a complaint that is pushing back on, and seeks a court’s judgment on, the Trump administration’s decisions to withhold funding from cities that they have, without cause and without law, determined to be anarchist cities. We’re bringing this action because they have taken concrete steps. They’ve actually taken this anarchist designation and started to include it in applications for federal grants. We’re not going to wait for them to include it in more. We’re moving now. There are three reasons why this is wrong. First off, they’re stepping way over their bounds. Congress controls the power of the purse, not the Trump administration. And yet they’re stepping into the congressional space. Second, they’re moving in a way that is arbitrary and capricious. There is no basis in law, there is no basis in fact, for this anarchist determination, and yet they are going to use it to determine who does and who does not get federal funding. And third, it violates federalism because it steps into a space, or at least they’re trying to step into a space, that is uniquely for the cities to decide – how we decide to police our streets, how we decide to spend our funds. And because those don’t line up with what this administration believes that it should do, that is the Trump administration, they’re deciding to withhold funds. And for New York, the amounts that potentially are at risk could exceed $12 billion. We will see them in court. The papers will be filed in Seattle later on today. In our western sister cities, we have seen the deployment of federal troops in battle dress uniforms. And that is the appropriate place for this suit to get started. And we will be with them all along the way. We expect to prevail in court, and we expect to see victory. But there is going to be no victory unless we push the fight. And that’s what we’re starting today.
Mayor: Thank you so much, Jim. And thank you to you and your whole team for this crucial work. We’re not going to let the rights in New York City be trampled, and our court system time and time again has shown it actually believes in the U. S. Constitution. And we are confident of victory in this case. Now, let me talk about the situation right here in this city when it comes to fighting this disease. Again, we’re doing this work every single day and we’re working closely with the State of New York. Our job is to fight back the coronavirus with every tool we have and we’re going to remain vigilant. Even when we make progress, we don’t let down our guard. Now, we do have some progress in Brooklyn and Queens. There’s still work to do. I’m going to say it many times. There’s still real work to do, but the two weeks of restrictions in place had a big impact. And we saw people really changing their approach in a lot of ways that were really helpful. So, again, we never, ever want to put restrictions in place unless we have to, but we had to and, in fact, they had the impact we needed. So, we see significant progress in Queens where all the Queens red and orange zones are now yellow zones by the State’s standards. And that means as of today, businesses in those areas can reopen, very important that those businesses can now reopen and get back to the work of earning their livelihoods and moving forward out of this crisis. It means indoor dining can resume with appropriate restrictions in those areas. It means houses of worship can increase their capacity to 50 percent in those yellow zone areas. And it means schools will be back with in-person classes on Monday. So, that’s good news all around.
Now, we’re always going to keep watching all over the city and we’ll keep working with the State to look for any areas that need additional work. We’ve seen some additional numbers in Ozone Park that led the State to put Ozone Park into the yellow zone. That means we’ll get expanded outreach and testing into that area and we’ll keep a close eye. But overall, the situation in Queens we’ve seen some really good progress. Now we’ve got to consolidate that progress and keep moving forward as a city. Brooklyn – in Brooklyn, there’s more work to be done. There is progress but we still have work to be done. The red zone areas have remained stable. As I’ve said, I think it’s going to take another week or two to get those areas out of that red zone status. Orange zone areas in Brooklyn are shifting to yellow, and yellow zone areas that previously existed remain unchanged. So, progress in Brooklyn, but we need more, a lot of work, a lot of discipline needed to overcome the challenge and to make sure we get out of the restrictions altogether. But to anyone out there who’s frustrated – I don’t blame anyone who’s frustrated by the restrictions. Look at the fact that progress did come. It did come quickly in Queens, a lot of progress, some real progress in Brooklyn. Stick to it and we overcome this quickly. Anyone’s got questions, obviously, there are a lot of questions, you can go and use our online tool that will give you clear answers about what’s happening in your area. That is one of the ways to get the information you need. And we want to make sure that anyone who needs further information about what addresses in each zone, that online tool can help you.
Look, everyone, I want to thank everyone who’s worked so hard to overcome the challenge in these zones. I’ve talked to a lot of folks affected. I know it’s been tough, but I want to thank everyone. We’ve seen a lot of leadership. We’ve seen a lot of tremendous effort at the community level. Folks banding together to overcome the challenge. Now, the coronavirus affects us physically, and we have seen – we do not take this disease lightly at all, we understand the huge devastating impact it can have. And we understand it as a physical challenge, but we’ve also come to understand the massive challenge, the mental health challenge, that has come with the coronavirus crisis. It’s been a painful education to see how much, how difficult this has been for so many families in this city. We know that mental health is just as important as physical health. And we know that mental health challenges affect all ages, but our kids have been particularly vulnerable in this moment. Imagine if you’re still trying to understand the world and then the world’s turned upside down and you see all these painful challenges. We need to help our children. And we particularly need to help our children in the neighborhoods that have been hardest hit by COVID. So, we formed a task force – leaders of color in City government in all agencies, the Task Force on Racial Inclusion and Equity, with the goal of taking actions right now – right now, to address disparities, to reach the neighborhoods that have been hardest hit by COVID, to help everyone in 27 key neighborhoods in New York City. But there’s a particular focus on children, because we know how much kids have gone through. So, today, we’re announcing a new plan to reach our children. So many kids, thank God, are back in school and we can reach them better than ever and address their real mental health concerns. And here to tell you all about it – first, we’re going to turn to the co-chair of our task force, our First Lady Chirlane McCray.
First Lady Chirlane McCray: Thank you, Bill. And good morning to everyone. Before we talk about our young people, I want to acknowledge today as Go Purple Day, a part of Domestic Violence Awareness month. It’s a day we draw attention to the bravery and strength of survivors, but also the work we all must do to support them and stand by them. I encourage everyone listening to visit nyc.gov/nychope to learn how you can be a better ally to those who need them. And I want every survivor in our city to know there is always help and there is always hope. You know, one of the points I always make about mental health care is it works best when every individual plays a role, every individual and every agency, and we move beyond our silos and collaborate with each other. Today’s announcement is an excellent example of how that is now happening with agencies coming together to support our young people.
And I thank everyone at the Department of Education, the Department of Health, Health + Hospitals, the Mayor’s Office of ThriveNYC, and the Mayor’s Fund for their work and their compassion. I also think our Task Force on Racial Inclusion and Equity for bringing all the pieces together to continue the fight for our communities hit hardest in this COVID-19 crisis.
Last month, I visited P.S. 130 in Brooklyn with Chancellor Carranza, and I spoke with some of the second graders during their first week of school. We talked about what was different this year, like wearing a face covering in class. And we talked about some of the emotions that the children have – some were happy, some were sad, some were nervous. And we also talked about their hopes for the new year. Every time I talk with our young people, I’m reminded that in New York City, we have the most exceptional and resilient young children in the world. But growing up is never easy. Our children carry more than book bags in the class. They carry insecurities about making friends. They carry trauma, anger, anxieties. And if we want our young people to grow into happy, healthy adults, school cannot be about academics alone. We need to support the whole child. And that’s why we came in six years ago, determined to make mental health a priority and wellness a priority in every school. We’ve made great progress. The Department of Education, the Department of Health, and Thrive has significantly expanded mental health services in classrooms and communities.
Last year, we took a major step forward by bringing social and emotional learning to every school so that students can learn to identify and regulate emotions and other skills that will help them throughout life. And today, we’re making another step forward by increasing the level of direct mental health support for thousands of students in the neighborhoods hit hardest by COVID-19. Children who have experienced trauma can join a group therapy session with others who have had same or similar experiences. Children who have suffered through their parent’s loss of livelihood, or the threat of eviction can talk about it with a specialist who facilitates the conversation and keeps coming back, building a relationship with these young people. And when a student has lost a mother, a father, or another loved one to this virus, they can be immediately referred by a teacher, a principal, or another school staffer for ongoing therapy and treatment. Someone will be there for these students as long as they need it. Think about what this means for our children, their parents, or caregivers, the teachers, and the classroom to have that kind of emotional safety net during this difficult time. That is what today is all about, being there for our young people and supporting them in every way possible. Thank you.
Mayor: Thank you so much, Chirlane. And thank you for being there for our young people. And also, thank you for being there for survivors of domestic violence and standing up for them. Now, I want you all to hear a little more about this important initiative in the schools, reaching our young people, really helping them through this crisis, helping them to realize their potential, again, no matter what’s been thrown at them. And I want you to hear from a really energetic and creative leader at our Department of Education – she is our Deputy Chancellor for School, Climate and Wellness. It’s my pleasure to introduce Deputy Chancellor LaShawn Robinson.
Deputy Chancellor LaShawn Robinson, Department of Education: Thank you, Mr. Mayor and First Lady. I want to reiterate the sentiment shared by our First Lady, regarding the tremendous challenge that our young people have faced over the last seven-to-eight months. Our children dealt with abrupt separation from their teachers and counselors, distanced from their friends, various forms of loss in their families, and more. Now, that our children have returned to school, we have an opportunity to help them heal emotionally as a crucial part of helping them fully engage with their education. We’ve always believed that our young people are resilient, but also know that they are carrying a tremendous burden and we must do everything we can to provide them with care, love, and support as they deal with this trauma. We must also give them tools to understand what they are feeling and why. The initiatives that announced today will provide students who attend schools within our hardest hit communities with high-quality, easily accessible mental health care. This will provide schools with additional capacity to identify students who are struggling to heal and cope before they are in crisis and respond quickly if a crisis does occur. Our educators are doing heroic work, providing high-quality education in a new environment. These resources provide crucial backup to our educators, and adds another caring adult, ready to support our students.
We have come so far as a city and we know we have a long way to go. Thank you to the Mayor, First Lady – who is one of my personal champions and heroes – and to the Chancellor for putting the wellbeing of our young people first, always. By bringing together the incredible mental health and educational resources the city has to offer, we can continue to help our young people heal and thrive.
Mayor: Thank you so much, Deputy Chancellor. Everyone, look, if you wanted another reason why it was so important to reopen the largest school system in the country, you just heard it. For so many of our kids, they need that support. They need that love and compassion. They need trained educators and mental health experts to be there for them. And that can really only be achieved best if they’re there in person. So, having our schools open is opening the doors to kids, getting the help they need and moving forward with their lives after this horrendous crisis. Thank you to you, Deputy Chancellor. Again, thank you, First Lady. This is such important work for our children.
Now, let me go over today’s indicators. Number one, daily number of people admitted to New York City hospitals for suspected COVID-19, threshold is 200 patients – today’s report, 103 patients with a confirmed positivity level of 24.2 percent for COVID. Number two, new reported cases on a seven-day average, threshold 550 cases – today’s report, 523 cases. And number three, percentage of people testing citywide positive for COVID-19, threshold five percent – today’s report 1.77 percent. And today’s seven-day rolling average number is 1.76 percent.
Let me give you a few words in Spanish –
[Mayor de Blasio speaks in Spanish]
With that, let’s turn to our colleagues in the media and please let me know the name and outlet of each journalist.
Moderator: We’ll now begin our Q-and-A. As a reminder, we’re joined today by First Lady Chirlane McCray, by Deputy Chancellor LaShawn Robinson, Corporation Council Jim Johnson, ThriveNYC Director Susan Herman, Dr. Charles Baron, the Chief Medical Officer of Behavioral Health at H+H, Dr. Daniel Stephens, the Deputy Commissioner for Family and Child Health at the Department of Health, and Senior Advisor Dr. Jay Varma. First question today goes to Juliet from 1010 WINS.
Question: All right. Good morning, everybody. Good morning, Mr. Mayor. How are you doing?
Mayor: I’m doing well, Juliet. How are you today?
Question: I’m fine. Thank you. So, it’s great to hear about mental health for students, but what about adults? You know, there are parents who are trying to juggle remote learning and working at the same time. There’s people who lost their jobs or lost family members, but what’s available [inaudible] for the every-day New Yorker who’s just trying to cope and get through this pandemic as far as mental health help is concerned.
Mayor: Yeah. Juliet, I really appreciate that question, because this has been such a painful, challenging part of this crisis. And boy, I can’t tell you how many conversations I’ve had with people, sort of more revealing than ever – people being more open than ever about the challenges they’re going through. And I think even in this crisis, a small silver lining may be that that more and more people are willing to talk out loud about the mental health challenges they’re experiencing. And this is what Chirlane has been working on for years, de-stigmatizing, getting this conversation to be out in the open and getting people help. So, I’ll turn to Chirlane, and then any of the other leaders – Susan Herman, or Dr. Baron, Dr. Stephens want to add in – but I would say, you know, it all begins with 888-NYC-WELL as the entry point. And I’m sure Chirlane will talk about that. Go ahead.
First Lady McCray: Yes, I can’t emphasize 1-888-NYC-WELL enough. That line – that helpline is not just for crisis, it is for anyone who’s going through a difficult time, or if they’re going through – if they have a loved one who’s going through a difficult time. Trained counselors answer that that line, and you can also text, and you can go online and chat, and provide information. They provide counseling – brief counseling. They can connect people to a therapist or other mental health professionals. It really is one-stop shopping. So, I always advise anyone who’s going through anything to start with 1-888-NYC-WELL. I would also remind you that in New York City, we now have guaranteed health care. And that means that anyone who doesn’t have insurance or anyone who doesn’t have enough insurance can take advantage of NYC Care, which will also connect them to a mental – having a primary care doctor will also connect someone to a mental health professional. So, there really are many places for people to turn. There are – and I think that NYC Well is the greatest to start, because many people aren’t aware of resources within their own neighborhoods, and the folks who answer those lines actually have the best resources to determine what someone can take advantage of the easiest and in an affordable way.
Mayor: You know, I really want to turn to Susan Herman. Susan Herman has been leading the Thrive initiative extraordinarily well. And when Susan took over as my senior advisor and as the Director of the Mayor’s Office for Thrive, no one knew a pandemic was coming. So, she and her colleagues have been asked to do so much more than never was originally imagined. And Susan, if you could tell us about an answer to Juliet’s question – you know, some of the things you think New Yorkers need to know about, access to mental health care, and particularly the amount of calls and texts and everything coming into 888-NYC-WELL, we’ve obviously seen a real uptick. Could you speak to that, Susan?
Director Susan Herman, Mayor’s Office of ThriveNYC: Thank you, Mr. Mayor. What there’s – the First Lady said well, I think it all begins with contacting NYC Well, but during the pandemic and this profound need that we have all observed, we’ve really tried hard to not just spread out the awareness of mental health resources. So, you can call NYC Well, you can text, you can chat, you can also get on their website. And one of the things that we’ve seen is an enormous rise – a huge jump in the people that have looked on – looked at the NYC Well website just to get resources themselves. So, you can access that information in a number of ways. But we’re also trying hard to reach out to people in need. So, we’ve had special campaigns to call veterans, by veterans, mostly, and also by other New York volunteers. We’ve had special campaigns to reach out to seniors who may be experiencing much more loneliness and isolation than they were prior to the pandemic, and we know that that can lead to significant depression. While we reach out to people, we check on food insecurity, we check on housing insecurity, but we very much ask questions about their mental health and how they’re doing. So, we’ve reached out to about 15,000 veterans and hundreds of thousands of seniors across the city. We also, on our website – on the ThriveNYC website, have resources broken down by categories of people. So, you can look on the website and see mental health resources for students, people who have been involved in the criminal justice process, veterans, older New Yorkers. We have something for everybody and something just for – things for all New Yorkers. So, there’s plenty of resources there. Certainly, we’d like to have more, but we are trying as much as possible to get the information out to all New Yorkers.
Mayor: Thank you, Susan. We really want to emphasize, so many of these resources are free. You know, it’s just really important to say – of course, 888-NYC-WELL is free. As Chirlane pointed out, guaranteed health care for all New Yorkers who need it through Health + Hospitals. If people can’t afford anything, then the care is free. Do not think that mental health services come with extraordinary costs. We provide so much of this free, obviously for our children for free. So, anyone that needs help should not hesitate. Let me just see quickly if Dr. Baron or Dr. Stephens want to add anything.
Can you hear me? You may be on mute if [inaudible] you speaking. Dr. Baron, Dr. Stephens, do you want to add? I don’t think we’re hearing them. Okay. We’ll give them another shot around if we have another question. Go ahead, Juliet.
Question: So I guess I’d also like to ask you how your dealing with mental health for yourself. I saw an account where you take a couple of walks during the day. Is that like to clear your head or how were you dealing?
Mayor: Thank you for asking Juliet. I think it’s really good of a – you’re a good person and I know you asked that in a good spirit and everyone should ask each other. One of the things Chirlane talks about is just asking people, how are you feeling? How are you doing? It really helps. For me, yeah, walking is very calming and a lot of times when I’m dealing with complicated decisions, I actually prefer to walk during a conference call. I find that it – the process of walking is calming. It’s clarifying. It helps you think stuff through. I have long said, and Chirlane and I practice this, whenever a couple is having any kind of issue they have to work through or any kind of disagreement, you’re better off walking together because actually the very process of walking helps you communicate better and calm down a little bit. So, yeah, it helps a lot, but it’s been tough, Juliet, especially in the beginning months for all of us. I mean, it was so many unknowns. I got to say that was in many ways the worst part of this crisis was that, you know, we were trying to fight back and trying to save people and a lot of times we did not have the knowledge that we needed to have, nor did the whole medical community have the knowledge they wished they had. We didn’t have the resources we needed. It was really painful and of course that affects your humanly, when you feel that, you know, there’s so many unanswered questions, it affects everything. It affects your emotional wellbeing, but you have to keep going. And so, you know, we all find our way to just stay focused. I find a good walk, goes a long way.
Moderator: The next is Henry from Bloomberg.
Question: Hello, Mr. Mayor, how are you doing today?
Mayor: I’m doing well, thank you for asking as well, Henry, how are you doing?
Question: I’m doing well, I also don’t begrudge, you taking walks to clear your head and deal with all the stuff you’ve got to deal with. But let me get to my questions. My first question has to do with this legal action that you’re taking. Am I correct in assuming that no denial of funds has occurred yet? And can you give me a little bit more detail about what these concrete steps are that have that you say have forced your hand to initiate this legal action?
Mayor: Yeah, Henry, I’ll start and I’ll turn to our Corporation Counsel. As with many of the politicized threats of the Trump administration, a lot of times you see, you know, a lot of threats that don’t amount to a whole lot, and we have seen it over and over again. I remind you, there was one point where they said there’ll be massive ICE raids. They didn’t happen. There was one point where they said, they’d send in federal troops or federal officers, that didn’t happen. They said they would take away our funding because we didn’t ask the documentation status of immigrants, that and funding wasn’t taken away. This has happened over and over again. Sometimes it’s just a threat for the President’s political gain, and then they move on to something else. Sometimes they actually try to follow through as was true with the immigration executive order and they’re stopped in court, and that’s the case here that we fundamentally believe if they take any more tangible actions that the court system will stop them. But as a layman, I’ll say before turning to an actual lawyer, that we did see them taking more and more moves that might have had an impact on funding and that was the appropriate trigger for legal action. Go ahead, Jim.
Corporation Counsel Johnson: Thank you, Mayor. So the steps that they took include these. First, the President actually issued a memorandum, which we call the “anarchist memo”. Second, the Attorney General engaged in an actual designation process for three cities, the three cities that are suing Portland, Seattle, and us in New York. And the third, one of the agencies is actually embedded in its noticed of funding opportunity, a requirement that a city essentially that is a city that is designated in an “anarchist city” would not be eligible for that funding. As I mentioned before, we’re not going to wait additional times for them to embed this provision in any other grants or any other opportunities for the city. We need the funds. We don’t want to see them threatened any further and we’re acting now rather than waiting until they move further down the track.
Mayor: Thank you, Jim. Go ahead, Henry.
Question: Well I had other questions, but I’ve got a follow up on this. When you – the anarchist designation. Is this a term of – is this a legal term in any kind of congressional legislation or any kind of federal law, or is this something that they have made out of whole cloth?
Mayor: They entirely made it up. Look, this is a figment of Donald Trump’s troubled imagination. The only anarchy in this country is coming from the White House and it’s not anything we’ve seen from any Democratic or Republican administration ever before, and its madness. I was driving around the city yesterday and looking at all of the incredible activity in the city and people coming back and people working and people, you know, outdoor dining and everything else, I was thinking of the President calling this place a ghost town, when in fact this is a vibrant city, you know, rebounding from a horrible crisis. This President just makes things up. So this is a city that is strong and is moving forward. Those words are his words, just to create a political gain. He uses the government for political gain in a disgusting fashion, but to the legality of him using that phrase, I think our Corporation Counsel can quickly make clear how little it means. Go ahead.
Corporation Counsel Johnson: Henry, you were absolutely right to say that it’s made up out of whole cloth. As we say in our complaint, this is a fabrication. There’s no statutory basis for it. There’s clearly no constitutional basis for it and the court will see that it should make really short work of this and reject the characterization and the consequences that come from it.
Mayor: Thank you. Go ahead.
Moderator: The next is James Ford from PIX.
Question: Good to see you all. Thanks for taking my call. Follow up about the legal case. Potentially the Trump administration potentially only has a matter of weeks left in it, what is the – certainly you can’t assume that this administration is ending, I do understand that, but why this timing? Why are you filing it now? And who is the lead city of the three? If there is one?
Mayor: Go ahead, Jim.
Corporation Counsel Johnson: It’s being filed in Seattle, but we were all co-plaintiffs in the action. And in terms of timing, it was just two weeks ago that they took the concrete step that I referenced, which is the notice of funding opportunity indicating that they’re serious. And the, the administration actually will go to January – through January 19th or noon on January 20th, and there is no question just as Congress can act during the lame duck that the administration could take additional acts during the period if the election were to go in a way that President Trump wouldn’t like. So rather than waiting and hoping, we are acting.
Mayor: Go ahead, James.
Question: And then regarding this mental health initiative that is targeting the hardest hit areas. What is this taskforce doing in the red zones where schools are still closed?
Mayor: Yeah, look, James, that’s a very temporary reality. So Deputy Chancellor’s coming back to join us again and she can talk about how we help kids when they’re in school, as well as how we help kids even when they’re remote. But remember that red zone reality we’ve said from the very beginning should only be a matter of weeks. You know, we have the vast, vast majority of our schools open and moving forward. So really I’m hoping when these last zones are resolved over the next few weeks, that we never have to have restrictions again, and we’re going to just go straight through to the vaccine without ever having to experience it. Now we have real work to do. We have to be vigilant, but in the meantime, I think your question is very important, not just in terms of red zone, but how do we help kids if we’re not seeing them in person, it’s not as good as being able to see them in person, I’m very clear about that, but there’s still a help we offer no matter what. So Deputy Chancellor, you want to talk to that?
Deputy Chancellor Robinson: Yes, thank you so much, James, for your question. Very important question. Before the start of the school year, we partnered with the First Lady and the Office of Thrive to release additional resources to schools through our Bridge to School plan. We have also trained over 45,000 educators in trauma informed care over, 1,600 school leaders in trauma informed care as well, and really worked to prepare the school system to receive our young people and our educators during this pandemic. We’ve increased adult Social Emotional Learning within our school system and partnered with the Child Mind Institute for additional resources. That information has been shared with schools and those supports are out there being utilized as speak. We have also worked to increase tele-therapy within our school system as well to ensure that every child in a red zone, orange zone, a yellow zone across our school community, whatever the case may be, and now more targeted support, and our 27 hardest hit communities are supporting children and adults every step of the way.
Mayor: Thank you very much. Go ahead. The next is Yoav from the city.
Question: How are you doing everyone? I had a question for Dr. Herman actually. The city was planning to pilot co-response teams responding to 9-1-1 calls in two high need precincts. That pilot was paused because of COVID. I’m just wondering what the status of that is. San Francisco is also dealing with coronavirus, but they just implemented – or they’re launching a huge initiative to have firefighters and other workers who are unarmed respond to calls for people in mental health crisis. So even though they’re dealing with the same coronavirus crisis, they’re able to launch this huge initiative. My question is, respectfully, why isn’t New York City able to launch that pilot in two precincts?
Mayor: Let me start and then turn to Susan. Look, first of all, tremendous respect for San Francisco and the way they’ve handled this crisis and Mayor London breed has done a great job but a very, very different reality. They’re very different scale, a very different experience with the size and extent of the crisis. So, you know, what we were dealing with over months and months caused us to have to pause a lot of good things that we wanted to do. But I’ll simply say this way, we’re re-engaging that issue right now, and we’re going to have more to say on that for sure soon. Susan, you want to add?
Director Herman: I would just add that the scale of the problem in New York City really required many people to be focusing on things that they might not usually be focusing on, so the co-response teams were functioning during the many months of the pandemic, but were functioning differently. They were functioning, the social workers were functioning mostly virtually and now have gone back into the field. Officers, many of them were redeployed, now have been coming back onto the co-response teams. And as the Mayor said, we are actively looking at that pilot and many ways of serving people when they have great need. So we are fully engaged and working on this issue.
Mayor: Go ahead, Yoav.
Question: Okay, thanks. Switching gears, I understand that NYCHA discovered there were children under six living in 6,000 more apartments with – that likely have led paint, far higher than the 3,000 that you ordered fixed two years ago. I’m just wondering how you feel about this apparent discovery and what you’re planning to do about it?
Mayor: First of all, I’m just getting this information now in the course of this gathering, and apparently it’s coming from the federal monitor and we have to see that information and analyze it. Look, I’m concerned that we have to reach every single child, every single family. We have to eradicate lead point paint poisoning in New York City. That I want to be really clear, we have a Vision Zero approach. In the past, some really important reforms were taken in this city and then some missteps happened for sure over multiple administrations, but in the end, what’s important now is we have the clearest plan the city has ever had and there’s a plan to literally eliminate lead paint poisoning once and for all. It can be done. It must be done. We’re seeing many, many fewer cases, steady decrease. We put out the information quarterly and there’s been a steady decrease, but if there’s anything where we got to double back and go farther, we will. Also really important, Yoav, that the great work being done at NYCHA to determine the apartments that do not have lead and never had lead and do not need constant inspection and work, that’s that XRF assessment that’s being done, that is going to change the situation profoundly. We’re already hearing of tens of thousands of apartments that are now cleared forever, and that’s going to allow us to concentrate our resources. But we will follow up immediately on this federal monitor report and get down to the bottom of what’s happening and we will act on it immediately.
Moderator: The next is Bob Hennelly from the Chief Leader.
Question: Good morning, Mr. Mayor. Yesterday you went into some detail about what you’re doing to prepare for the distribution of a COVID vaccine and you mentioned that the essential workers, first responders, and health care professionals will be part of the first phase of the vaccines deployment. While no vaccine has been identified, I can’t help but feel that we’re not addressing a very basic issue surrounding what’s at stake from first responders and health care professionals, who would in essence be a – basically Guinea pigs for a vaccine produced, and what quite frankly, has been a process corrupted by President Trump’s machinations. Could you comment on how you think we’re workers are going feel about this and then also have your Corporate Counsel, Mr. Johnson, comment on how did we be entering a new phase here where, would the City of New York compel first responders to take this vaccine?
Mayor: Okay, we’ll get Jim to come on up. Let me start, we’ll start with Dr. Varma as well. First of all no, we’ve made really clear that we are not going to accept a vaccine unless it is thoroughly vetted by the medical community. So Bob, I know you’re a long time and I know you used a phrase there that was a little bit provocative, we’re not going to treat anybody as anything less than valued public servants. We’re not going to do something that unless we’re a hundred percent sure. So that means the State and the City together are going to be vetting any vaccine to make sure we’re a 100 percent clear. If we’re not a hundred percent clear, we’re not going to give it to anybody. We obviously need to make sure that once we have a truly effective vaccine, that it’s as widely utilized as possible. And I believe the vast majority of people in the vast majority of public servants are going to want a vaccine to protect themselves and their families. In a second, Jim can talk about legalities as we know them now, but I think the most important part of your question, goes to Dr. Varma on what we’re going to do to make sure that any vaccine is appropriate before we’d even consider distributing it in New York City. Dr. Varma?
Senior Advisor Varma: Great, thank you for the question, and, you know, I’ll start by saying we absolutely understand the concerns that people have. There’s been obviously a lot of discussion about this process and ensuring that it’s not just done quickly, which is sort of the “Operation Warp Speed” terminology, but then in fact whatever vaccine that becomes available must be safe and it must be effective. So there’s been a lot of movement as you know, to make sure that this any vaccine that that gets developed is not just vetted by the federal government but also includes a thorough review by the State and the City. The Governor has announced a task force of experts. We on our health leadership team here I have also been planning on how we’re going to review and evaluate that information, and so we feel strongly that we would not incorporate any vaccine into our health and safety measures until we feel confident that it’s something we would use ourselves, we would use on our families, and that we would of course use on our most valued civil servants who are healthcare workers and our first responders.
Mayor: I would say, obviously, Bob, when we get to that point, if we truly believe in it, a number of us will lead the way and take it to show people that when we’re advising it’s something we truly would do ourselves. We will actually do that ourselves. Go ahead, Corporation Counsel.
Corporation Counsel Johnson: Just very briefly. As the Mayor’s remarks and Dr. Varma’s remarks made clear, there’s going to be – there would be a tremendous amount of process involved before decisions are taken about the administration of the vaccine. The idea of a compulsion for a vaccine is not something that is, as far as I know, on the table.
Mayor: Go ahead.
Question: And then also, I think Katie Honan had a Wall Street Journal piece that was headlined a “New York Aims to Bring Back 25 Percent of City Workers by Year’s End.” I would like to know if you could give us a sense of the concrete criteria that goes into this determination, if that’s accurate, and then moreover, what role do you see the city’s public unions playing in helping you through this process to guide themselves their members feel comfortable with taking this step?
Mayor: Yeah, of course, Bob, we work closely with so many of our municipal unions on these issues all the time. We have not made a final determination. We need to continue to consolidate the progress that we’ve seen in Brooklyn and Queens, and we need to continue to drive down our number citywide, but we do want to start to bring back city workers before too long, and we would do it in phases. I think the fact is that there’s important work to be done, and it’s important for the city to move forward, to have people start to come back, but we’re going to do that in a way that we’re convinced is safe and only do that when we’re convinced it’s safe.
Moderator: The next is Abu from Bangla Patrika.
Question: Hello, Mayor how are you?
Mayor: I’m doing well, Abu. How are you?
Question: Good. Thank you so much. I would like to ask you about [inaudible] which is regarding the children mental issue, because I found, and we are receiving a lot of phone calls from the parents that the student school student who are – it’s been a long time that they are staying in the home that they are suffering by mental anxiety and other stuff. So what is your program to help the kids who are living since March in the home and they don’t have that space to play in the home, they don’t have that much space to go out. So do you have any suggestion or do you have any program or do you have any, anything you can say about the parents who are suffering [inaudible] doing that with their kids.
Mayor: Yes, Abu. I’m going to start and then turn to our Deputy Chancellor. Look, the best thing we can do for our children is fight back this disease, lower the level of infection, New York City, so we can go farther and farther in terms of getting kids back into school settings. That should be a mission for all of us that every time we do the right thing, you know, wear masks, practice social distancing, all those basics, we are speeding up the day when we can do more and more for our children.
The second point is that parents are going to have an opportunity in the coming weeks to opt in to in-person learning, to blended learning, and I’ve talked to a number of parents who are interested in the chance to get their kids to school, but they wanted to see how the beginning of the school year went. Obviously, what we’re seeing is a tremendously successful reality in our public schools, in terms of health and safety, very low level of positive tests. I think a lot in parents when they get that chance to opt in and we’ll take it so their kids will get that opportunity to be outside the home, will get the socialization and opportunity to be with their friends, will get the loving attention of trained adults. I think that’s going to be an important moment. I’m going to give parents a lot of information and give them a chance to make that decision for their family, but in terms again, of what we continue to do, and I think it’s a great point, how we’re going to help parents to understand what they can do for their kids, even if their kids are in a remote setting. Deputy Chancellor, you want to speak to that?
Deputy Chancellor Robinson: Thank you so much, Abu. We understand that schools must be places of healing and learning, and that’s been a core focus, and then we have also heard from families, you know, looking to be able to provide greater support. In the spring, we were able to act fast, last year, we announced Safe Resilient NYC in collaboration with Thrive, and we were able to add additional supports for schools, including Sanford Harmony which is a social emotional learning program, restorative practices, and we were ready to support families right away, back in the spring. We also trained parent coordinators and Trauma 101 and also supported parent leaders across the city as well. Really working with families to understand how to notice trauma within young people and then be able to act quickly with their own children.
So we’ve taken a number of steps to support families directly. Our parent coordinators have been trained and have participated in our trauma sessions. So our school communities are prepared their safe places for our young people. We’ve answered the call to be able to provide this support, and with this new initiative announced today, it’s even greater support in the communities that need it most. On the ground support, trained, licensed clinicians that can be able to support young people and group sessions continuing to train educators and parent coordinators and working closely with families, and we look forward to continuing to build upon the success of the past while we increase mental health supports more and more each day.
Mayor: Well, I’m going to have the Deputy Chancellor note if there’s website or phone number that parents should call if they’re just trying to get guidance on these things, but I’m going to remind you that anybody a parent non-parent a young person, older person, anyone can call 888-NYC-WELL, any New Yorker for free can call 888-NYC-WELL, if they’re not only having their own struggles with mental health challenges, but if they want to talk to a trained counselor about how to help a loved one, how to help a child, there’s – just want everyone to get in their minds, that this is the go-to location for any kind of concern about mental health, because what happens NYC Well is they can either help you address the issue immediately or connect you to the support you’d need. Also, they can do that in an amazing range of languages and it’s 24-7. So when in doubt on a mental health issue, reach out to 888-NYC-WELL, and then for parents, is there a specific place to turn?
Deputy Commissioner Robinson: Absolutely. Please, please reach out to your parent coordinators at the school. They have been trained along with school leaders who have also been trained in trauma informed care. They are resources right at the school level and can connect families with resources.
Mayor: Okay, go ahead Abu.
Question: My second question is last week in Bengali television called Time Television, there was a panel about the drugs, alcohol and other stuff, and then the doctor, he said, marijuana is the gateway of all the drugs, and in New York City, whenever we are working, we are getting the smell of marijuana and the police [inaudible] the people are smoking marijuana. Is it legal or illegal? Or what, what kind of action you are thinking to take since it’s a gateway of all drugs?
Mayor: Yeah, No, it’s not legal in New York state, but we handle the enforcement differently. We do – NYPD gives out summonses for sure and addresses those issues, and we want to make sure that anyone who has an issue with substance misuse also can turn to 888-NYC-WELL, and get help. Families can turn there to get help, but in terms of, excuse me, in terms of enforcement, it’s illegal, but it’s handled through summons now. Go ahead.
Moderator: We have time for two more for today. The next is Chris Robbins from Gothamist.
Question: Good morning, Mr. Mayor. You talked earlier today about how successful in-person learning has been in schools. Can you give us an update on school attendance? Is there a reason why DOE hasn’t been putting those figures out and when will the DOE release guidance on what counts as attendance?
Mayor: An important question, Chris. That information is going to come out very shortly. We have a very unusual situation and what has been the hesitation to make sure that the numbers are accurate in what has been an ever-changing situation? Obviously, school started as a phase-in and started on different dates than was originally intended. But thank God, school’s got opened and got opened well. We have kids who are in school, blended, home, blended remote. We have kids who are full time remote schools are still adjusting to having three different things happening simultaneously and getting the attendance right for all of them, and then one more thing when we put together the formal numbers in the next few days and get them out, you have a phenomenon we did not anticipate, which is parents who are still in a blended status. Some days they’re having their kids go to school, some days they’re not, and they haven’t really a hundred percent decided if they want to stay in that blended status or go to remote, and again, the last piece of the equation, which is coming up in the next few weeks, the other way around the parents who have been fully remote, who now want to send their kids back. So the honest truth is it’s been a very challenging playing field to get clear numbers on. We’re going to give the best numbers we have shortly once we’ve confirmed them, but you will see this interesting phenomenon of parents who are their kids are in blended, but clearly not yet fully using the blended status the way we expected, and that’s something that we want to resolve in the coming weeks. Go ahead, Chris.
Question: Okay, thank you, and my second question is we talked about earlier this week, but the, the private owner of the pier in Greenpoint that the New York City Ferry system uses block the public from using the peer temporarily. The stop is back open, but I wanted to learn more about the agreement between the City and the private owners of the pier. So I asked the Economic Development Corporation to see a copy of that agreement, and they acknowledged that it exists, but they said, I’d have to file a Freedom of Information request for it. Do you think I should have to file a Freedom of Information request for public documents that are clearly in the public’s interests like this, and more broadly, are you satisfied with how your administration has handled Freedom of Information requests? Because you know, my colleagues routinely pointed out that it takes months and sometimes more than a year to get really basic information from many agencies in your administration?
Mayor: Chris is something we got to keep working on. I am satisfied that people are trying, you know, very consistently to make the process better and better, and the whole thing with the Freedom of Information act is that acknowledges that each document has to be reviewed legally because it’s not as simple as saying, you know, anything and everything can be released. There are confidentiality issues. There’s a lot of issues that have to be taken into account. That’s why the Freedom of Information Act is set up the way it is. We are constantly answering requests and pulling out information. But another thing, Chris, that’s very real and very practical is the number of requests has skyrocketed over the years and it takes an immense amount of work to get it right. So I want to see more and better. There’s no question. I want to see the constant improvement in the release of information. When we can simplify, I want us to simplify. On that particular case, you know, a legal contract we’d need to have the lawyers check and see if it is such a simple matter of putting that out publicly without a request. But the good news is that issue got resolved that same day, and as far as I have heard that Greenpoint pier will be open for NYC Ferry on an ongoing basis.
Moderator: Last question for today, goes to Emma from the New York Times.
Question: Hi, good morning. I was wondering if you could give more specificity, Mr. Johnson, about the $12 billion list of things that the city could lose. Other outlets have reported it could be mental health counseling for elderly New Yorkers, transit funding, health centers for COVID patients. What are we looking at here?
Corporation Counsel Johnson: Of the $12 billion encompasses a full range of needs of the city that includes grants from HHS. That includes grants that actually go to law enforcement. It includes grants that go to, they would go to transit. So it’s, it’s a large number, and particularly when you consider that our operating budget is about $97 billion, $12 billion covers a tremendous amount.
Question: Okay, in terms of what prompted this, was it the transit funding? You said something happened two weeks ago. Was it this idea that we could not apply for transit grants?
Corporation Counsel Johnson: It is the notice of funding opportunity, which was a notice that was related to a transit – Federal Transit Administration grant. But it was the fact of the filing of the notice, the fact of including this provision in that notice that told us the potential for conditioning federal funds on this designation had moved from simply potential to a reality, and we’ve decided that we were going to move so within two weeks, which is actually fairly quick for lawyers, we’re filing a complaint.
Mayor: That is a true statement. That was quick for lawyers. Emma, just to finish this last point is just blatantly unconstitutional. It’s not even close, and you know what, as much as Donald Trump has tried to tear down American democracy, it’s still alive. The court system is still rendering judgments based on the law. I mean this is just unbelievably unconstitutional. Also, this is a city that’s the most important largest city in the United States of America. We’re making a really heroic comeback. You’d think a President of the United States would want to help us and praise us instead of playing these games. But there’s not a judge anywhere that’s going to look at New York City and look at the work being done and the work to keep people safe and claim that that is “anarchism.” It’s just ludicrous, and the courts are going to see through this very, very quickly.
As we close everyone, look, here’s the thing. It is a heroic city. I’ve talked about this a lot. You know, we’re in the middle of this crisis. Now we’re going to look back years from now and just think about the pure heroism of New Yorkers, how they fought through this crisis, and we shouldn’t just think about our healthcare workers, or our first responders. We should praise them always, but we should think about everyday New Yorkers. We should think about parents and kids who’ve been through so much and really, really found a way to keep going. We should think about our educators and our school staff and our mental health professionals who have been there to support our kids and families. But the important thing to remember is children need to know that it’s going to be all right, whether they’re a little kid or whether an adolescent, they need that reassurance from adults that it’s going to be all right, and that’s our job. All of us, we’re all in a sense, the role models and the big brothers and sisters for all the children of New York City, let’s show them that we can get them to a better place and that we cherish them and let’s show them that it will be all right, and I firmly believe this city will come back, and our children who are always our future are going to be part of that heroic come back in New York City.
Thank you, everyone.
.: MAYOR DE BLASIO HOLDS MEDIA AVAILABILITY
Mayor Bill de Blasio: Good morning, everybody. Well, look, for years and years New Yorkers have been waiting for a moment to express their views on the direction of our country, waiting through such difficult times, through this pandemic, through all the pain, all the challenges. Energy has been building up and that energy exploded in such a positive way this weekend with early voting. We saw people really own their democracy this weekend in New York City. We saw the people come out in numbers we’ve never seen before to express their views and determine their future. Almost 200,000 New Yorkers voted in early voting on Saturday and Sunday – unbelievable. Literally, we’ve seen nothing like it before. Now, look, this is something all New Yorkers should be proud of, people care so deeply. Early voting has just begun you already see that many people engage – that’s something beautiful. There’s more time ahead for early voting and, of course, Election Day, and, of course, absentee ballots as well. So, we’re really – this is a great sign that people may be getting involved in an unbelievably powerful manner. And this could be great for our future as well.
But, right now, we’ve got a problem. The Board of Elections was clearly not prepared for this kind of turnout and needs to make adjustments immediately to be able to support all the New Yorkers who want to take part in the democratic process. We need this to be a better experience. You know, long lines tell people to go home – that’s just the reality. Long lines at a poll site discourage voting, they don’t encourage it. And we’ve worked so hard over these last years to make voting and make the democratic process better, to make it more accessible, to make it clearer. We cannot at this crucial moment see people discouraged. So, here’s what I’m calling on the Board of Elections to do. Right away, the Board of Elections must increase the number of voting machines and must ensure the staff is available at early voting sites to help people vote quickly and efficiently and help them move on with their day and not be discouraged from voting. The Board of Elections needs to step up. This is a historic moment. They need to act like it’s a historic moment. Let me be clear – from the beginning, there are plenty of election machines, voting machines that are on hold for Election Day. Those machines should be brought out now and put in the early voting sites so that New Yorkers can vote more easily. The hours right now – the weekend hours for early voting are only 10:00 AM to 4:00 PM. This coming weekend, those hours should be expanded. The solutions are staring us right in the face. So, I’m saying to the Board of Elections, let’s make these changes immediately for the hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers who are ready to vote in the days to come through early voting. And if the Board of Election says they don’t have the money, let me say right now, the City of New York will provide the resources. There is nothing more sacred than our democratic process, particularly at this moment in history. We will make sure the Board has what they need. They cannot claim they won’t have the resources. This is about doing the right thing and making voting easier for all New Yorkers. So, to the Board of Elections, your moment has come. Let’s get it right now.
Now, I want to continue to tell everyone early voting, notwithstanding some of the challenges, it is a great solution for folks who want to avoid what will surely be a massive turnout on Election Day itself on November 3rd. So, want to encourage all New Yorkers, take advantage of early voting in the days ahead. I want to note that folks get priority if, for example, they have a particular need. Some seniors, some folks with disabilities who maybe would need to not be in a long line, they get priority. And the Board of Elections is supposed to bring them to the front of the line and facilitate their voting. Anyone who wants to participate in early voting, you can find your poll site and the hours online at voting.nyc – voting.nyc for all the information you need. We are making sure to get this information out clearly, because we want to give everyone a chance to participate. You can also drop off completed absentee ballots at early voting sites. So, everyone, let’s do this. This is such an important moment. Get involved. Whatever you believe, however you’re voting, get involved. The First Lady and I will be voting tomorrow, early voting, and we look forward to sharing the excitement of New Yorkers as we determine the future of our nation.
Okay. Now, nothing’s more important to our democracy than voting and making sure that voting is easy, making sure everyone participates, but there’s another tremendous underpinning of our democracy, and that is public education. I’ve talked about this before and I feel it passionately, a functioning democracy hinges on public education. It is the foundation for preparing all our young people to be the citizens of tomorrow who will own this country. And we need to always make sure that we’re doing what we can to reach our young people. So, we knew that this would be a very, very tough year. We knew back in March when we had to close our schools instantly and go to all remote, and we knew in the months leading up to the opening of schools that this would be extremely difficult to do something that few school systems in America have even attempted – to reopen in a safe, healthy manner, in a way that really would give kids both the advantage of in-person education and the health and safety they need and all the adults in the building need. Well, right now, we have evidence, and it’s overwhelming, and it’s outstanding evidence that through the amazing work of our colleagues at the Department of Education and all the folks in our school buildings and our school communities, our schools are safe. It has been proven over and over again. The latest information we have from our random testing program and hundreds and hundreds of schools is the positivity rate based on that testing program is 0.15 percent. Extraordinary achievement for our public schools. So, we are seeing more and more evidence of just how safe our schools are and more and more evidence that kids are benefiting from in-person education. We know now a lot more about what our attendance situation is. We’re going to go over those numbers now. Here’s a crucial number – and this number is one that I think needs to be understood as a work in progress. So far, we’ve had 280,000 kids who have attended school in-person. Now, there’s a lot more who could, and we want to address that situation. That 280,000, of course, that’s a huge number unto itself, and many, many more kids attending in-person than in many parts of the country, but a lot more kids could be attending in person. And we want to make sure that their families know, and they know the school is safe. Attendance, so far, the percentage attending each day, has averaged around 85 percent. Given the pandemic and the extraordinary amount of upheaval – that’s not a bad number, but we want that number to go up. So, we have work to do. We have work to do to help parents and kids know they can come back safely, work to do to increase attendance percentages every day. And we’ll be doing that work day by day, family by family. But we also have an opportunity now to give parents a chance to opt back in. Now, that they’ve seen school up and running for a month, they’ve gotten a chance to see how schools are working. Parents have a lot more information and I understand any parent that wanted more information before making a choice – well, now that we’ve been able to show how our schools are working, it’s time for an opt-in period. It’s time to give parents and kids a chance to come back into school if they’re all remote right now. So, the opt-in period will begin next week on November 2nd and will go through November 15th. And here to tell you all about the opt-in opportunity is our Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza.
Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza: Thank you, Mr. Mayor. As you and I have said time and time again, we’re proud of our students, our educators, and our families. They have all shown heroic optimism and determination to achieve in the face of unthinkable obstacles. And their efforts are beginning to bear out in the data we’re beginning to share today on attendance. All that said, we know we’re not yet where we want to be with attendance. We’ve raised the bar since the spring and we expect students to meet that bar. It’s our job as a system of educators to make sure that we do. We’ve made progress each week and we’re confident we’ll keep getting better. So, we will do so by doing the following – setting clear expectations with families, leveraging attendance teachers to connect to students to understand what may be going on, and removing any barriers to participation in making sure that students can be present mentally, physically, emotionally, ready to learn. We’re keeping a close eye on this and will continue to drive support to schools as they need it. We’ll also be closely watching the opt-in period for schools, starting next week. And, as a reminder, any family who wishes to switch from remote to a blended learning environment can do so by simply filling out a form online and making their choice apparent. We will also make sure it’s available at schools and in multiple languages, and registration can be completed over the phone as well. The pandemic has caused so much uncertainty in every aspect of life and for families who needed a bit more time to feel comfortable sending their children back, now is that time. This will be the only time to opt in. Let me repeat that – this will be the only time to opt in, which is a change from what we originally had said over the summer. We think that this is better for the sake of stability for all students, for families, and educators. So, we urge any family who is considering it to take advantage of this opportunity to do so now. We’ve seen the tremendous benefits of in-person education, the joy that, Mr. Mayor, you and I have observed on the faces of teachers and students and parents, even behind their masks. And the direct access to mental health support for those who have experienced trauma in the past several months is just unparalleled in-person. We’re lower than we anticipated in being in terms of in-person learners and know that families initially had hesitations. We’ve always known this, but now we can prove it. There is no replacement for in-person learning and it’s safe to do so. We invite all families who want to return to in-person learning to do so during this opt-in period. Thank you, Mr. Mayor.
Mayor: Thank you, Chancellor. And thank you to you and your whole team. This school system, the largest school system in America up and running every single day and kids are getting the help they need. And that’s what matters. And we’re going to get a lot of information out about that opt-in period. We want to answer the questions the parents have. And again, we’ve shown over this last month and more how safe our schools can be. We’ve shown how effective it is to have kids back in-person and the joy that kids and adults both share in the school community, having everyone back together. But we know there’s a lot of questions and we want to answer those questions. We want parents to get the answers. And whatever language they speak, we want parents to have access to medical professionals if they have questions. And all that information – and the places they can turn for answers will be available through the Department of Education. So, we’re going to have about two weeks for parents to sign up and we want to make sure it’s a two-week period where parents get all the information they need.
Okay. Now, parents who want to, obviously, know what’s going on in their own school. We’ve been getting requests for clarity about the COVID testing data school by school and we’re now going to be putting that up regularly for parents and the whole city to see. The COVID testing data will be available at the DOE website at schools.nyc.gov/covidresults. And it will have test results for every borough, for every school that’s been tested and a complete case map for all known cases in New York City public schools. And that would be available at schools.nyc.gov/casemap.
So, look, I can say this as someone who was a public-school parent for a long time, when you are a parent in our New York City public schools you are entrusting the school community, all the adults in the school with your child, the person most precious to you in the world. You’re entrusting the people who work in our schools to get it right. And, I have to say, our educators and our school staff have been outstanding. We have shown parents that we will keep their kids safe, this further information will make it really clear how things have played out, and we want to answer all those questions so that parents can make an informed decision as they have this opportunity to opt in to our public schools one more time.
Okay. I’m about to turn to our daily indicators, but I have to comment for a moment, because when we talk about indicators, we’re talking about the fight against the coronavirus. We’re talking about informing you what’s going on, because every single one of you has been involved in this fight. There are over 8 million soldiers in New York City fighting the coronavirus. Every New Yorker is a soldier in the battle against the coronavirus and every New Yorker has contributed. So, here, we take the attitude, we can fight back this disease. We can control it. We can show what happens when people do the right thing, and we’ve shown it over and over again for months. Even when we’ve had challenges, we’ve shown the power of involving the people, educating them, getting them the testing they need, the support they need, and how it turns the situation around. Having said that, how strange to hear the chief of staff for the White House, Mark Meadows, putting up the white flag of surrender yesterday and expressing just pure defeatism, basically suggesting that our federal government can’t do anything more to stop this pandemic. I’ve never heard something so ridiculous and so counterproductive for one of the leaders of our national government, rather than rallying us and saying, yes, we can – saying emphatically, no, we can’t. So, Mark Meadows literally said, “We’re not going to control the pandemic.” That’s outrageous. We have been controlling the pandemic right here in New York City. We have been proving that if you engage the people and you provide the testing and the masks and the support, you can stop this pandemic from growing. We have been fighting back a second wave. We have opened our schools successfully, because we said we could and we did the things necessary and we engaged the people. So, look, I think the lessons learned here should be used around the whole country – the importance of masks, social distancing, test and trace, the importance of testing being available broadly and for free. How about the White House talks about those lessons and applies them everywhere? How about the White House listens to Dr. Fauci when he says mask-wearing should be mandatory nationally, take the onus off of localities and make it a national standard so we can get out of this pandemic together. That’s what would actually help move this country forward.
Okay, let’s go to our indicators. Number one, daily number of people admitted to New York City hospitals for suspected COVID-19, threshold is 200 patients. Today’s report 75 patients with a confirmed positivity rate for COVID at 28 percent. Number two, new reported cases on a seven-day average, threshold is 550 cases. Today’s report 551. And number three, percent of people testing positive citywide for COVID-19, threshold is five percent. Today’s report, 1.74 percent, and today’s seven-day rolling average, 1.73 percent. A few words in Spanish –
[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: Hi, all. We’ll now begin our Q-and-A. With us today, we have Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza, Deputy Chancellor for School Climate and Wellness LaShawn Robinson, Senior Advisor and General Counsel to Democracy NYC Laura Wood, and Senior Advisor Dr. Jay Varma. With that, we’ll first go to Andrew from WNBC.
Question: Morning, Mr. Mayor and everyone on the call. My question is about the early voting. My question is, do you agree with what AOC said, which is that the long lines are a form of voter suppression? And have you yourself been out to see any of these lines or are you just sort of consuming it off social media?
Mayor: Yeah, Andrew, I’m consuming it off a lot of different media and it’s quite clear. It’s outstanding how intensely people want to participate. I would say it a little bit differently. I would say when the election authorities don’t make voting easy, they discourage people from voting. I don’t think there’s a conspiracy at the Board of Elections. I think there’s incompetence at the Board of Elections. And I think the Board of Elections is just the wrong organization the way they’re structured. It should be abolished. It should be replaced by either a City agency or a State agency, a professional modern agency that runs the elections like we would run any other City service. But no, what’s happening now is people are being discouraged from voting and that’s unacceptable. And the board needs to make changes immediately to improve early voting. Go ahead.
Question: [Inaudible] has to do with what needs to take place for those changes. I think a lot of New Yorkers hear both you and the Governor express displeasure with the voting system, but they think to themselves, well, geez, you’re the mayor, he’s the governor, can’t you guys actually by, executive action, do something to improve the situation?
Mayor: What we need is a bigger solution. Andrew, you’ve been around, you know, the Board of Elections is a vestige of a corrupt past. It just doesn’t make sense. It’s a vestige of Tammany Hall. How on Earth is the election system run by party officials instead of non-partisan public employees? This just doesn’t make any sense. So, what I would happily team up with the Governor on is legislation to abolish the board as it’s constituted now and come up with an entirely different agency. We could do that for next year’s elections. There’s no reason that couldn’t be moved quickly by the Legislature. This just doesn’t make sense the way it is. In the meantime, what we’ve done here in the city is, with Democracy NYC, a really intensive effort to support people who want to vote and want to be involved, making campaign finance more equitable, major, major reform voted by the people. We’re doing a lot of things to improve the system around the Board of Elections, but we don’t control the Board of Elections. I wish I did. And we’re saying to them right now – right now, put out those additional machines; right now, put out the additional staffing. If you say you don’t have the money, we’ll get you the money because nothing’s more important than voting in our democracy.
Moderator: Next we have Rich from WCBS 880.
Question: Morning, Mr. Mayor.
Mayor: Hey, Rich. How you doing?
Question: I’m doing okay. If I could follow up a little bit on what Andrew was saying, isn’t it really the Governor’s responsibility to step up on this. I understand you say you’ll team up with him, but is this not an agency – the Board of Elections – that is controlled by the State or State legislation?
Mayor: Correct, it is a State regulated agency. It is not under the direct control of the City of New York. Ironically, we end up having to pay for a lot of its operations, but we don’t control it. You remember, Rich, years ago, I asked them to do some fundamental reforms, to use more technology, to bring in more poll workers, train people better. We offered them money to do that. We offered them $20 million. They’ve refused money in exchange for reforms. That’s the perfect example of the fact that, unfortunately, the City of New York does not control the board. State regulated. But we should all work together to change it. And it’s going to take some political courage. The fact is there’s a lot of people invested in the old ways, but they just don’t work. I mean, how many times are we going to go through this? Election after election, there’s always something wrong. Let’s tear it down and start over again. Go ahead.
Question: Okay, this is a complete – sort of out of left field in a way. So, apparently there is a stipulation in the Citi Field lease that is controlled by the City that you could step in to block the change in ownership of the Mets and also Citi Field. Do you have any intention of doing that or have you thought about it?
Mayor: Rich, this is something our Law Department is evaluating right now, and we obviously want to get to a resolution on this very quickly. The deal is this, that because the land that Citi Field is on, and the stadium belongs to the City, the City always has to have a role when there is an ownership change. And there’s a process for doing that. The Law Department’s doing its due diligence right now. So, I’ll be getting a report from them soon. And it will just be based on the facts of the research they’ve done. And then we’ll speak to that again very quickly.
Moderator: Next is Hazel from WCBS.
Question: Good morning, Mr. How are you?
Mayor: Good, Hazel. How you feeling?
Question: Good. Good. This question is for you and the Schools Chancellor. I just wanted to get your reaction to reports that families dealing with broken school-issued devices or unreliable internet, in turn, their kids aren’t able to log on for remote learning. We’re being told that those families are being told by school administrators that they’ll be notifying child services for remote truancy. Now, some of these parents say they’ve notified their schools about having tech issues, but they were still contacted by DOE attendance officials for an explanation as to where their kids are.
Mayor: Yeah, Hazel, I’ll start and pass to the Chancellor. I, obviously, am very distressed to hear that. Look, we all understand it’s a very difficult time. We all understand that it’s hard to have the same kind of communication when people are not in person. But if a family reports a technology problem clearly that means they’re trying to solve the problem and they want their child to be engaged in education. That is not a situation of neglect. That’s a parent or a family trying to solve a problem. The left hand and the right hand at the DOE have to be able to know what’s going on. So, if a family is not in touch at all, that’s a problem. And, of course, the DOE has to reach out and find them because that kid, by law, is supposed to be getting an education. But if a family is trying to solve a problem, we should be working with them and not giving them the impression that we are judging them negatively. Go ahead, Chancellor.
Chancellor Carranza: Thank you, Sir. Hazel, let me state unequivocally without any exception, there should be no reporting to ACS of any student that’s having difficulty with technology. What should be reported is to the school that they’re having difficulty with the technology and it’s our job to follow up and make sure they get the right form of technology. That being said, it’s also important to understand that as we look at attendance, it’s important for folks to reach out to families where we haven’t seen students logged on, or we haven’t seen a positive history of being online or checking in with us. Because we want to know, are those students safe, but we’ve sent out guidance last spring. We’ve also updated that guidance this semester to school sites, making it very clear that technology issues should not be one of the reasons for a report to ACS. And we’ll continue to follow up on those. If parents are getting those kinds of calls, we just need to know about it. Our superintendents in the districts should know about it. Principals should know about it, and we will follow up. But I want to be very clear, that is not the policy of the DOE.
Question: My second question is following up on the city-wide school attendance report you just released today. Just curious, how does this overall attendance compare to pre-COVID days?
Mayor: I’ll start and let the Chancellor and we have Deputy Chancellor Robinson with us as well. They can speak to it. It’s lower than what we had pre-COVID. Some of that is understandable because of the dislocation that’s occurred. But we need to get it back to the number that we had before. And that’s clearly our mandate, to get attendance back to the levels it was before COVID so we can reach, you know, kids and really get them the help they need. Go ahead, Chancellor.
Chancellor Carranza: Thank you, Mr. Mayor, I’ll start. And then Deputy Chancellor Robinson, if she wants to add. So, it’s important, Hazel, to understand as well that when we pivoted to remote learning last March, that was very quick. It was in the middle of the pandemic where we were the epicenter of the epicenter. So, obviously, we had to alter what our attendance was, our policies, taking into account all of that immense change. What’s important to understand about this year is that we’ve strengthened, and we’ve made it much more rigorous. We’ve raised the bar on what counts for attendance this year. So, it is a much more rigorous process. That being said, pre-COVID, the overall attendance over the last five years has been about 91 percent. And obviously this 85 percent is lower than that, but keep in mind as well that there are really three attendance buckets that are being assessed every single day. In-person learning is one of those attendance facets. Then it’s the blended students, students that have in-person learning on a part of the week and then the other part of the week, they have the remote. That attendance counts as well. And then you have the fully remote students. So, it’s literally three buckets of attendance every single day that is being, not only accounted for by schools, but then reported up by schools. LaShawn, did you want to add anything?
Deputy Chancellor LaShawn Robinson, Department of Education: So, you covered it. Pre-COVID, it was 91.6 percent [inaudible] –
Mayor: Thank you very much.
Moderator: Next we have Shant from the Daily News.
Question: Good morning, everyone. I wanted to follow up a bit more on the story about ACS contacting families where kids haven’t been able to log onto virtual learning. I mean, I get you’re saying you’ll look into the, sort of, ACS side of the equation and make sure they’re responding appropriately but could you say some more about the logging-on side. You know, my colleagues found some of the iPads students have received are glitchy. There is still an issue with getting Wi-Fi especially in shelters. Will you take any steps such as committing to get Wi-Fi installed in shelters?
Mayor: I’ll start and turn to the Chancellor. Yes, the instruction I have given to the Law Department and to Social Services is to ensure that every shelter gets Wi-Fi, to send teams out to literally go shelter by shelter and simply ensure that, not just for that student but for the whole shelter, Wi-Fi is in place. We’ve got to stop this and make sure everyone has what they need. In terms of devices, I want to keep emphasizing, one, any parent, any kid with a problem should call 3-1-1 and let us know immediately. Two, schools have to really do this work as well to make sure that all the devices they have are distributed and if there is any child in a school that doesn’t have one, but there is one in the school building going unused, they have to make that match. And we’re getting more devices in all the time to ensure that we can reach everyone. Go ahead, Chancellor.
Chancellor Carranza: Thank you, Mr. Mayor. So, yes. I want to emphasize and repeat, it is not the policy of the DOE to report families to ACS for technology issues. It is the policy of the DOE to account for our students and make sure that our students are safe and that they’re well. My reading of the article, the parents didn’t say they were reported to ACS. There was a threat that they would be reported to ACS. That’s unacceptable. So we’re following up on that as well, because there should be no threats of being reported if the only issue is a technology issue. Obviously if there are other issues, there are other things that we have as mandatory reporters, a responsibility to do. So that being said, we will again, reissue the guidance to make sure that all schools are clear about what it is that we’re doing to make contact with our students. How do we report that? And then how do we hold ourselves accountable to make sure that we resolve any of those technology issues that may be reported by families or students.
Mayor: Thank you. Go ahead, Shant.
Question: Yeah. So can you give a sense of how many shelters have wifi? Is it 0 percent? Is it 50 percent, something else? And also with the iPads, it was strange to read that, you know, some of them are glitchy. I mean, were these brand new iPads that were given out, were they maybe refurbished?
Mayor: Yeah, I’ll start. I don’t – first, on your first question, we’ll get you the exact numbers, but my instruction to all involved is to get the wifi in these shelters immediately. We’ll get you an update on that today. On the glitches, I would caution – we did a massive distribution, hundreds of thousands of iPads. You know, we’re talking about kids, you know, every single kid in their household, things happen to technology. It’s just not a shock that some of them might have problems either coming out of the factory or along the way. But the important point is we want to solve those problems. And sometimes that might just be providing some assistance over the phone. And sometimes that requires a new device, but whatever it is, we’re going to do it.
Moderator: Next, we have Gloria from NY1.
Question: Good morning, Mr. Mayor. I just kind of, I want to follow up on what you said about the long lines and the fact that you believe people are being discouraged from early voting. I don’t know that you’ve been out there in the last two days, but what we have encountered is actually that people are, you know, being quite patient and people seem obviously energized and happy about the opportunity to get out there. So are you, I mean, do you have any, any evidence to point to that shows that people are actually choosing to stay away because there’s such long lines? And what is it exactly that you’re calling for here? You want more sites? What do you want the Board of Elections, if you could just get a little bit more specific, to do?
Mayor: Yeah, I’ll repeat what I said earlier. The Board needs to get more machines to the sites. We originally called for a hundred sites around the city. They did 88, that’s close, but they don’t have enough machines at those sites. They have machines in reserve waiting for Election Day where it’s obviously as many more sites. They should move those machines out now. Get them into position so that they can handle the much bigger demands on early voting. It’s fantastic that people are early voting, but they need to have the machines and the personnel out there. And we will support that in whatever way they need to help them do that for this week and obviously I expect next weekend to be, you know, a lot of voting. And we’re calling on them to increase the hours next weekend, ten to four is just not enough. My point about discouraging voters is, again, I’m not saying it’s a conspiracy and I’m not saying it’s willful. I’m saying we’ve known for a long, long time, you give people long lines, at a certain point, people give up or have other obligations. If you really, really want early voting to be maximized, you have to make that line move more quickly. It’s as simple as that. Go ahead.
Question: Okay. And now I also noticed that one of the medical, one of the indicators rather, you mentioned today, we went over that 550 threshold. I believe you said 551. What does it mean? And is there anything that would be triggered as a result of that number at this point?
Mayor: Yeah, I talked about this last week and I want to emphasize again. No, we are looking at those numbers in combination. When we see, thank God, the hospitalization number still on the lower side, both in terms of overall patients and the positivity. When we see the citywide positivity number stable and we’ve talked about that leveling off over the last few days. That means the overall picture is still good, but we have to be very, very vigilant. We have to constantly be vigilant against a second wave. We’ve seen progress in some of the zones of Brooklyn and Queens. That’s good news. So that one number alone doesn’t change what we do. It’s also in part, a result of a hell of a lot more testing. And that testing is a very good thing. If all of the numbers moved in unison in a different way, that would be a real concern, but not that one number alone, given the actions we’ve already taken.
Moderator: Next up is Jessica from FOX 5.
Mayor: Jessica, just say that again. Couldn’t hear you well.
Question: So, I tried to ask you, do you have a comment? We know that the New York Civil Liberties Union and the Legal Aid Society is suing the City and the NYPD for police brutality during the protests following the killing of George Floyd. Do you have a comment?
Mayor: Look, Jessica, first of all, it’s a lawsuit. So I’m certainly not going to go into any detail when there’s a litigation matter. I’d only say this, from what I’ve heard of the lawsuit’s allegation, it doesn’t sound right at all to me. You know, there’s been a conscious effort for seven years now to change the relationship between the NYPD and communities, with a neighborhood policing strategy, with de-escalation training, with implicit bias training. We’ve seen a fundamental change, many, many fewer arrests, many fewer gun discharges, much less incarceration. This has been going on for seven years. So clearly what we want and what we believe in is a better and more peaceful relationship between the NYPD and the community. I think that evidence is clear. So again, I’m not going to speak to the details of the lawsuit, but I think the underlying concept just isn’t fair. Go ahead. Jessica?
Question: Yeah. That’s it. Thank you.
Moderator: Next up we have Julia from the New York Post.
Question: Hey, how are you doing?
Mayor: Okay, how are you?
Question: Good. So there was a woman who was shoved onto the subway tracks Friday morning. Thank God she was okay, but it appeared to be a random attack by a mentally ill man with a long criminal history. This at a time when serious crime, including rape and murder are up underground, despite decreased ridership. What is Thrive NYC doing to address the mentally ill homeless, especially those underground? And Sarah Feinberg has called for more police. Would you respond to that call?
Mayor: NYPD is always updating where it needs to put officers according to the facts. That’s the whole idea of CompStat. So if we see additional needs in the subways, NYPD is always ready to make those adjustments. I’ll leave that to Commissioner Shea to speak about specifically. In terms of Thrive, Thrive is here to cover the whole range of mental health challenges. And it begins with giving all New Yorkers, including their loved ones, the ability to reach out via 8-8-8-NYC-WELL, and connect anyone to mental health services. And that might be someone who’s having a simpler problem or someone who’s had a historic problem making sure we can get them the more intensive support they need. And there’s a lot of work with Thrive, working directly with the NYPD to make sure that mental health professionals are available to address more serious problems. So that’s – we’ve seen obviously, a huge uptick in the amount of New Yorkers turning to Thrive across the spectrum. And I want to encourage that. I want to encourage anyone if there’s someone in your life with a problem, pick up that phone and call 8-8-8- NYC-WELL, so we can get the help that you need. Go ahead.
Question: Well the Mayor’s Management Report did find a big uptick in folks calling that hotline, but there was actually – they missed the goal of connecting people to services. So do you think Thrive is doing enough to actually get services to these folks who are in distress?
Mayor: I don’t have that part of the Mayor’s Management Report in front of me to speak to it specifically, but I can say unquestionably the whole concept. I mean, remember that before Thrive, there was not a single place to turn. Now there is, and we’ve seen a huge number of examples of people getting connected to services effectively. Where for some reason it doesn’t happen, we need to drill down and figure out why not, and go back and do our best to fix that. Sometimes it’s obviously hard to maintain the connection to people and make them willing to receive services. But overall, what we’re seeing is a lot of outreach from New Yorkers, especially during the pandemic and a lot of people being connected to services. We’re always going to keep improving upon that as we go along.
Moderator: We have time for one more. And with that, we’ll go to Derek from WABC.
Question: Hi, good morning. I will make this quick. We are reporting from a private school in Forest Hills that reopened this morning. And the principal was talking about the fact that, you know, now that they’re in a yellow zone, they have to do the mandatory weekly, random testing just like public schools have to do. And this may be a question better for the Governor, but while I have you, I want to know to your knowledge will private schools get any help paying for these mandatory COVID tests?
Mayor: Yeah, Derek here’s what I know so far, our City Department of Health will work with any non-public school to help them get the actual test materials, you know, the tools for the test, if you will. We’ll make sure they get that for free and provide them the support to work out how they would administer it. Each school will have their own approach. A lot of schools are going to use their own school personnel or own school nurse, for example. But unquestionably any non-public school with a question can turn to the City Department of Health, get support, get help, and get the actual tests. Go ahead.
Question: About charter schools. I have someone who reached out to me, he’s an administrator in a charter school, and he was concerned because even though the public schools have to do this weekly random testing, the charter schools, I guess don’t have that requirement. And just want to know why that is, especially when some of the charter schools do share the same building as a traditional public school?
Mayor: I’ll turn to the Chancellor, I want to remind you a lot of charter schools went all remote. So that obviously changes the equation. But again, we’re ready to work with any school that is in-person to ensure that they maximize testing. And obviously for parents, for staff, for kids, testing is also widely available for free in all communities outside of school hours. But go ahead Chancellor.
Chancellor Carranza: Thank you. So it’s a little baffling, the question. I think obviously the executive orders cover all schools in the zones but if there is a charter school, that’s co-located with a Department of Education school, they’re considered part of the building. They are part of the random testing. So we’ll dig a little deeper into that as well. And it would be helpful if we knew what charter school so we could clarify for that administrator as well.
Mayor: Thank you very much Chancellor. Look everyone as we conclude today, I just want to say this, again look at what the city has done. Look at what our schools have done. It’s amazing. And it is about the everyday heroism of New Yorkers. And, you know, some history is written by famous names, but the most profound history is written by everyday people. And they may not get famous for what they did individually, but they’ll I hope, be rightfully famous for what we all did together as New Yorkers. Every time someone wears a mask and every time someone practices social distancing, all the basic things, every time someone gets tested, it helps us move forward. But there’s also been a heroism, you saw this weekend. Almost 200,000 people coming out early to vote because they care. And because they believe in our democracy. So this is what gives me faith that we’ll get through whatever’s thrown at us. We have some challenges right now, unquestionably but that incredible by every day New Yorkers is what’s going to ensure that we prevail. Thank you, everybody.
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