MAYOR DE BLASIO HOLDS MEDIA AVAILABILITY

0
108
  • Mayor Bill de Blasio: Good morning, everybody. So, we got a number of things to go over today, but let’s start with what – the challenge we faced the last few days with the snowstorm. On top of everything else we’ve had to deal with in recent months, a huge snowstorm came our way. The official number now 17.4 inches of snow hit New York City and that is the most we’ve had since 2016. That’s the bad news. Now on top of everything else, we had a snowstorm. The good news is the amazing effort of the Sanitation Department. The men and women of Sanitation did an absolutely outstanding job and they were helped every step of the way by the people in New York City who headed the call, stayed in, stayed off the streets, helped our incredible sanitation workers to do their jobs so well. So, everyone, do me a favor today, if you see anyone from the Sanitation Department, just thank them. They do a tough job all year round, they don’t get enough thanks, just take a moment to say thank you because they really, really did something special and we’re very, very proud of them today. And as we continue dealing with the results of the storm, a reminder Alternate Side Parking canceled for the rest of the week.

      Okay, now, let’s go to the main topic every single day, fighting the coronavirus and of course the vaccination effort. Now, let’s be clear, the number one thing we can do to speed our recovery as a city, to overcome the coronavirus and move forward, is to get the maximum number of people vaccinated. So, this is what we focus on every hour, every day. The key here, today, is that our sites will be back up and running now that we’ve gotten past the storm. That’s the vast majority of our sites. Now, some sites are not yet fully opened because of lack of supply, not because of the storm, because of lack of vaccine. This is a persistent problem, but those sites will be open tomorrow. So again, clear majority will be open today. Others open tomorrow. The storm results past, but the problem comes right back to the same one we’ve been talking about for weeks and weeks, supply, supply, supply. We have to get a better and more reliable supply to be able to take this effort up to where it belongs, which is half a million vaccinations per week. What have we done so far? 8,000 – excuse me – let me try again. We’ve done so far 837,292 doses since day one. That’s really good. That is nothing compared to what we could be doing if we had the supply.

      So, we do continue to hear some promising signs, the Biden administration announced a five percent increase in supply to the State. They continue to find – I really commend the Biden administration to finding every way they can to keep adding supply. We see it happen steadily. That’s going to help us a lot and of course we’re very, very hopeful about the Johnson and Johnson vaccine as well. We also got some good news, I called upon the State to give us the freedom to vaccinate, to help us reach people who really need to be vaccinated. Obviously once the State made the decision to open up restaurants for indoor dining, again, on February 14th, it was clear to me that the folks that work in the restaurants deserve the right to be vaccinated. They were vulnerable. They needed the right to be vaccinated. The State agreed to let the city make that decision, and my decision is, yes, those folks deserve to be vaccinated, will like everybody, they’ll have a chance to get appointments when so many other people trying to get appointments. But the important point is that right to be vaccinated, as we add supply, we’ll be able to reach more and more people, and the State guidelines also allow us to do things I’ve been calling for before, reach folks who work in the taxi industry, for-hire vehicle drivers, TLC licensed drivers. They play a crucial role in the city. They have vulnerabilities in the work that they do. They have – they deserve, as well, that right. And of course, people who live in facilities for developmentally disabled people and those who work there. We want to reach more people. These are all new Yorkers who deserve the right to be vaccinated.

    Now, the real freedom to vaccinate means being able to use the second doses that right now are being held in reserve. It makes no sense. This is something I have been talking about all over the city. This is something I’ve talked to the Biden administration about. We need a clear national directive that states and cities should go ahead and use those second doses right now right now, not holding back for weeks ahead. Use them right now, so we can reach more and more people get them some protection. We need the freedom to vaccinate. We need a clear directive on the federal level. We need the State to be very clear, because right now the State rules do not allow us to use those second doses. We need the right to use them, especially because we’re getting more and more assurances from the Biden ministration that increased supply is coming, all the more reason we should be using the second doses right now. So, we’ll keep fighting for that freedom to vaccinate.

    Now, talking about our recovery again. I want to go back to this central issue of the year 2021, a recovery for all of us. This is what it will all be about. Making sure New York City comes back, comes back strong, comes back fairer, that we include everyone in the recovery. We’re going to have constant new announcements related to the recovery. You can go to recoveryforall.nyc.gov to get updates. This recovery is going to require a lot of bold actions. It’s going to require doing things differently and it’s going to require a lot of energy. Luckily, no place has more energy than New York City. So, this recovery is about every element of life in our city. It has to be a transformational time. We’ve come out of a crisis – or we’re still fighting our way out of a crisis better said – but in that crisis is a moment for transformation as well. And this means in every part of our city, including one of the most essential elements of life of the city, how we get around, how we get to work, how we get to our education, how people get to the health care they need, everything, everything, is underlined undergirded by how we get around. And to have an approach to transportation and transit that is equitable, we have to do some things very differently.

    So, we announced in the State of the City a variety of changes. We announced making the Open Streets Initiative permanent. We announced bike boulevards in every borough. We announced bridges for the people, on the Queensboro Bridge and the Brooklyn Bridge, opening up more space for bicyclists and pedestrians and doing it in a way that really keeps people safe. And we announced new public spaces in the neighborhoods, hardest hit by COVID. All of this is about transforming our city, but we have to do this very urgently, very rapidly as part of the comeback of the city. So, this to me takes what we’ve done previously, Vision Zero in particular, the number one initiatives of this administration. We need to build on Vision Zero. We have to do it urgently and rapidly. We have to go a lot deeper. We have to move away from the era of the automobile. We got to give people more and more and better options. This is the kind of city we have to build.  Now, Department of Transportation clearly leads the way and they’re going to lead the way even more in 2021. Just let me give you a sense of what they accomplished this last year, the most bike lanes created in one year in New York City history, the most bus lanes created, new bus lanes, the most speed cameras in America. These are extraordinary achievements and on top of that, Department of Transportation working with other agencies achieve something extraordinary. The Open Restaurants Initiative and the Open Streets Initiative together transformed the whole look and feel of many parts of New York City for the better, and these will now be permanent features.

    So, so much that will matter for the future of city rides on the Department of Transportation and the leadership of that department. Today, I’m going to introduce to you our new Department of Transportation Commissioner, Hank Gutman, and I want to talk to you about Hank, who is someone I’ve known for almost 20 years and someone I have tremendous respect for, having served shoulder to shoulder with him in many, many causes. Hank is someone who decided early in life that he was going to pursue a legal career, went to Harvard Law School, ended up having a very distinguished legal career, including arguing before the US Supreme Court. That’s what he did by day, but he also volunteered constantly civic efforts, and that’s how I got to know him. The fight to create Brooklyn Bridge Park, an 80-acre oasis, a jewel of the city, Hank was one of the leaders of that effort, and there was another effort within that effort, whether that park would be a place that was equitable and for all of Brooklyn, or whether it would be an elitist enclave. Hank fought for an inclusive park, even though many didn’t want to see it that way. He led the effort with other good people to make sure the park was for everyone and that’s where I gained such respect for him early on.

    He engaged many, many different voices and different viewpoints in that process, he always listened, but then he always found a way to bring people together and get things done, and that’s one of the central reasons that led me to want him to take on this new rule – excuse me –new role in this urgent year 2021. Hank has been the Chair of the Brooklyn Navy Yard Development Corporation, I installed him as the chair and he’s played a great role there, helping to take another one of the jewels in New York City, a place that’s been extraordinary job creation engine and make it work even better and connect it more deeply to the surrounding communities and ensure there was equity in the job development there. He worked on the BQE Expert Panel and that panel did great work and understood that we had to consider the situation differently. We had to think of a new approach, not the way we did things in the past and that’s of course a 100 percent resonant with Vision Zero, which is one of the ultimate transformative efforts and disruptive efforts in the best sense of the word, doing things in a way that we didn’t do before, because what we did in the past didn’t make sense.  So, I am very, very excited to turn to a new Commissioner who will take what we announced in the State of the City, bring it to life quickly and urgently, and then go even farther with the Department of Transportation leading the way as we build a more equitable city. My pleasure to introduce our new transportation Commissioner for the City of New York, Hank Gutman.

    Commissioner Hank Gutman, Department of Transportation: Thank you. Thank you very much, Mr. Mayor, both for the generous introduction and for this opportunity to serve the city that we both love. We have a chance to chart a new path for this city, one that leaves Robert Moses vision behind, beats back COVID-19, protects our environment, and builds a fair, safe, and equitable recovery for all of us. My entire civic career has been spent creating permanent and innovative improvements to the space we all share in the city, from Brooklyn Bridge Park to the Brooklyn Navy Yard, to the Mayor’s BQE panel. I fought hard to create jobs, to expand equitable opportunities, to create open spaces for the people who need the most, and to change the way people in goods move around our city. I’m honored to bring that experience and vision to this department. I’m particularly excited to work with the two leaders who are here with us today, Margaret Forgione and Jee Mee Kim. Margaret has faithfully served this agency for decades. She did an outstanding job leading this agency after the departure of Commissioner Trottenberg, and as my First Deputy Commissioner, I’ll rely on her experience and insights as we drive this agency’s mission forward. Jee Mee Kim is one of the sharpest and most creative transportation minds in the country. As Chief Strategy Officer, she’ll craft bold ideas that deliver on our promise of safe, equitable transportation options for everyone.

    Now, the Department of Transportation, as the Mayor just noted, completed one of the most challenging, transformative, and productive years in its history, and the Mayor’s State of the city address set the table for an even more ambitious here to come. One thing’s for sure, one day soon, and we all pray that it’d be soon, we’ll be rid of rid of the coronavirus. But the cycling boom is here to stay. That’s why I’m excited to build on our Bridges for the People and Bike Boulevards plans with another announcement today. We are going to create, in the next two years, 10,000 new bike parking racks around the city. Let me repeat. We’re going to create 10,000 new bike parking racks. And at two bikes per rack, if you do the math, that’s 20,000 spaces for bicycles. Now, we want you to tell us where they should be. So, please go to nyc.gov/cityracks and give us your opinion. We do want your input. Now, the Mayor and I believe that if you give people more and better alternatives to car culture, they’ll use them. Safe and equitable bike parking is a major part of that equation. And this announcement today, and what we’re doing in the next two years, will help transform biking in our city.

     

    But that’s not all. In addition, I’ll do everything I can to drive equity and to deepen Vision Zero, which has rightfully become a national model. I’ll double down on our commitment to Open Streets and Open Restaurants. And that work begins with listening to the communities and the advocates who live in them and requires and depends upon us working closely with our partners at the state and federal level. We have an opportunity to drive transformative and permanent change in this city to fight climate change and drive a recovery for all of us. 

     

    To the women and men of the Department of Transformation – Transportation, I look forward to joining the team, our team. And again, Mayor de Blasio, I can’t thank you enough for this honor and for this opportunity to help serve the city. Thank you.  

     

    Mayor: Thank you so much, Hank. And I want to tell you there, you had an interesting slip of a phrase and I liked it a lot. You called it the “Department of Transformation.” I think that’s a great, great idea. 

     

    [Laughter] 

     

    It is the Department of Transportation still. I will say that officially, but it’s also going to be the “Department of Transformation” because DOT is going to be doing amazing things in the year 2021. And we have extraordinary talent at the DOT. And someone I’ve had the great pleasure of working with over years is Margaret Forgione. She’s a dedicated public servant, that goes without saying, but she’s knowledgeable, she’s smart, she’s always looking for a better way to serve the people of this city. And she’s someone who has devoted her whole life to helping people get around the city better and better. So, as of today, our new First Deputy Commissioner for Department of Transportation, Margaret Forgione. 

     

    First Deputy Commissioner Margaret Forgione, Department of Transportation: Thank you very much, Mayor de Blasio and Commissioner Gutman. I’m so pleased to be here today to join you and to continue serving my city in this new role. Having entered City government in the 1990s, as the DOT analyst in the Mayor’s Office of Operations, I’ve seen the remarkable evolution of DOT’s mission to an agency now tasked by this administration with creating a city for the people – safe streets, high-quality public spaces, and an equitable transportation system. It is fair to say that last year was like none before it. We faced extraordinary challenges, but thanks to the Mayor’s leadership and the incredible dedication of the New Yorkers who serve the department, we made lasting and transformational improvements to the urban landscape. From biking to riding the bus to dining on the street, New Yorkers are using our roadways in more ways than ever. And we’re working tirelessly to deliver on a promise of a fairer and better city. Today’s plan to install another 10,000 bike racks across the city sends a powerful message that 2021 will be our best year yet. I know Hank and Jee Mee believe deeply in this agency’s mission. I’m excited to welcome them to the team and I can’t wait to start working alongside them in the coming days. 

     

    Mayor: Thank you so much, Margaret. And thank you for all you have done, all you will do in your new role. And we really believe in the concept of transformation. And if it’s going to be both the Department of Transportation and “Department of Transformation” we need great minds. We need great idea-people, innovators, folks who will look at all the possibilities. And that’s what this year has to be about. Urgency, innovation, being able to do and willing to do things differently than we’ve ever done before. And so, we have a new Chief Strategy Officer who will bring a lot of experience and a lot of great ideas to the Department of Transportation for this urgent year 2021. My pleasure to introduce Jee Mee Kim. 

     

    Chief Strategy Officer Jee Mee Kim, Department of Transportation: Thank you, Mayor de Blasio for this opportunity. I am delighted to join an amazing team at New York City DOT, working closely with Commissioner Gutman and First Deputy Commissioner Forgione, whom – I’ve known both for many years. I’m particularly excited about today’s announcement. Sufficient bike parking will get more New Yorkers to bike and create a better cycling experience for everyone who chooses it. I came to New York three decades ago with dreams to be an artist, but when I graduated from college, I wanted to make a difference, so I became a community organizer in the city. I then spent 14 years as a transportation planner in New York and nationally working closely with New York City DOT to help transportation issues for cities, big and small. I helped create new bike lanes in Lower Manhattan and Chicago. And I developed a plan for Barclay Center, when they opened, to move more visitors into transit and not drive to the arena.  And I experienced the importance of having transportation choices firsthand as a Rockaways resident in the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy. I believe in the power of transportation to uplift neighborhoods and transform our city. I am optimistic about the opportunity we have before us and I can’t wait to advance this agency’s mission and deliver a recovery for all of us. 

     

    Mayor: There you go. Thank you so much, Jee Mee. And love New York stories, someone who comes here seeking a dream and ends up being able to do so much for all of us. So, thank you and welcome.  

     

    All right, folks, that is the key point. This DOT, that we depend on so much, is going to do brand new things, exciting things, powerful things in the year 2021 to move us forward with a recovery for all of us. Now let me turn to our indicators and I’m going to say, as we go through them, that I want to keep emphasizing, we are watching really carefully these indicators because of the new X-factors we’re dealing with out there. We talked about this yesterday, the new variants we’re seeing emerge around the world, causing us a lot of concern. So, again, if we see some improvement indicators, we love that, we want that, but we’re also very much aware that there may be additional challenges coming and we’re preparing for that every day.  

     

    So, number one, daily number of people admitted to New York City hospitals for suspected COVID-19, today’s report, 230 patients, with a confirmed positivity level of 67.8 percent. Hospitalization rate 5.03 per 100,000. Number two, new reported cases on a seven-day average, today’s report, 4,009 cases. Number three, percentage of the people testing city-wide positive for COVID-19, today’s report, seven-day rolling average, 8.09 percent. Few words in Spanish now –  

     

    [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 Commissioner Gutman, by First Deputy Commissioner Forgione, by Chief Strategy Officer Kim, by Commissioner Criswell, Commissioner Grayson, Dr. Katz, and Senior Advisor Dr. Jay Varma. First question today, it goes to Dave Evans from WABC. 

     

    Question: Hey, Mayor. Can you hear me? 

     

    Mayor: Yeah, Dave, we haven’t heard from you in a while. How are you doing? 

     

    Question: I’m doing much better, a little time in the hospital, but I’ll tell you later about that.  

     

    Mayor: We’re glad you’re back. 

     

    Question: It wasn’t COVID, but I thought it was, but anyway. So, I wanted to ask you about our Health Commissioner, not to get into the nitty gritty, that’s his business of him testing positive, but of all people, if he can test positive, I mean, he’s very, very careful, and I think we’re all trying to be very careful, but what can you say to reassure the public that we don’t need to be extra worried because if the Health Commissioner can turn positive – test positive, then that doesn’t bode well for all of us. 

     

    Mayor: It’s a really fair question, Dave, and look, I do want to assure, reassure everyone. And I want to tell you, you know, Dr. Chokshi has been doing absolutely amazing work and grueling work protecting all of us. But we’re all human beings. There’s always the possibility that COVID can reach us. It doesn’t change the overall reality. Thank God, the vast majority of New Yorkers, obviously, including Dr. Chokshi, have been doing all the smart things we need to do. It’s not a guarantee, but because so many people are doing the right thing, it’s allowed us to fight this disease back in so many ways. So, I talked to Dr. Chokshi this morning, he’s doing well, his family’s doing well. Hopefully he’ll be able to join us tomorrow as part of the press conference. But it’s a reminder, you know, COVID is everywhere around us, but all of those smart precautions that we take, they do work. They’re not perfect, but they work. And obviously the real solution here is to get everyone vaccinated. And as soon as we get that supply, that’s exactly what we’re going to do. Go ahead, Dave. 

     

    Question: Second question, a different topic. The fact that waiters who are going to be able to, you know, sign up now for the vaccine, I think that’s great and it’s wonderful, but what do you tell the public when they look at this, and they say, okay, someone who is 60, 61, 62, who has a pre-existing condition, they can’t get the vaccine, but now a healthy 25-year-old waiter who would recover, we presume fairly well from the virus, can get the vaccine? That doesn’t seem wise. 

     

    Mayor: I think the reality is, Dave, we need to reach people who are in constant contact with other people, right. Think about it for a moment. We want to vaccinate everyone for their own good to protect them as an individual. We also want to vaccinate everyone to stop the spread of this disease. Indoor dining obviously involves people taking off their masks, eating, drinking, talking, laughing, you know there’s vulnerability there. It’s been proven time and time again around the world. The folks who serve them are going to come in contact with them constantly. And so, we have to recognize there’s a vulnerability there and a potential for more spread of the disease that affects all of us. So, it does make sense for them to be vaccinated if they choose to. I imagine some will not choose to, but those who do choose to, should have that right. 

     

    But what we need to address the whole problem is a hell of a lot more supply. And right now, very practically, the best thing that could happen is for the federal government and state government to say right now, hey, New York City can go ahead and use those second doses. Because if we could do that, we could reach a lot more of those senior citizens you’re talking about. I fought for their freedom and their right to be vaccinated. We could be vaccinating a lot of seniors right this minute, if only we were given the right to use those second doses. 

     

    Moderator: The next is Juan Manuel from NY1. 

     

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

     

    Mayor: Good, Juan Manuel. How are you? 

     

    Question: Very good. Thank you. Had Health Commissioner Chokshi been vaccinated and any other members of your administration? And if not, why not given that a lot of New Yorkers are distrustful of the vaccine? 

     

    Mayor: It’s a great question. I’m going to start, I’ll turn to Dr. Varma, who I know has been in touch with Dr. Chokshi today, and he may have the answer on his own vaccination, but I’ll tell you what I’ve been doing. And it certainly seems to me most of the leaders of the administration had been doing is, yes, you make a good point, Juan Manuel, we want to show people that we have confidence in the vaccine. We’d take it ourselves, our families would take it, but there’s another crucial factor here, which is respecting the priority process. So, I’ve said from the beginning, hey, you know, the people in this country got to watch President Biden, Vice President Harris getting their vaccine. They certainly have been given the very best examples of public officials coming forward and being ready, willing, and able to take the vaccine. We have to also show people there will be fairness here in this city. So, I don’t qualify right now. And I think it’s important to wait until I do qualify. In terms of Dr. Chokshi’s reality, which is a – his own reality. I don’t know what he has done to date, but Dr. Varma, why don’t you jump in if you have that answer or anything else you want to say? 

     

    Senior Advisor Jay Varma: Yeah, no, thank you very much for the question. And just to re-emphasize what the Mayor had said, you know, this is a very – this is a disease that we’re all extremely concerned about. And the news today obviously hits home about how risky it can be. This is actually exactly what the Mayor said. Dave and I have actually spoken several times about this issue, and we’ve been sort of choosing to wait our turn in line out of respect for other people while at the same time also trying to balance our risks because we – the two of us have not been in direct patient care responsibilities. So, Dave had been actually choosing to volunteer at vaccine clinics because one of the ways we as City employees become eligible for vaccination is by working a certain number of shifts. So, you know, we’re having a lot of, you know, discussions ourselves about this topic right now, but again, we were trying to balance the ethics of us and where the prioritization should be in the line of vaccination. 

     

    Mayor: Thank you. Go ahead. 

     

    Question: Mr. Mayor – I don’t know if, Dr. Varma, that meant a yes or no for if Dr. Chokshi had been vaccinated or not, but I just wanted to follow up because you want to spend money on campaigns to encourage Black and Latino New Yorkers to get this vaccine. Why wouldn’t you lead by example? Don’t you think that you and the First Lady getting vaccinated in front of the cameras might ease a lot of New Yorkers fears? 

     

    Mayor: It’s a very fair question, Juan Manuel. And, again, there’s two important considerations here. We want to encourage people, reassure, to show that we have faith in the vaccine, but there’s also the question of respecting the priorities. I want to make sure that every dose possible goes to our seniors and to our first responders and all the folks we depend on. They need it. By our rules, they need it more than I need it. So that’s what I’m doing. The First Lady is in a different category than I’m at. So, she literally, according to the priorities laid out by the State, she qualifies differently than I do. But we’re all waiting until our turn comes up. We think that the question of equity and fairness people – yeah, you’re right, people need to see that folks they know, folks they trust and respect are getting the vaccine. They also need to know that the priorities are being respected and those who need it most are getting it first. So, we’re always trying to balance those two factors. Again, I take reassurance from the fact that all New Yorkers, all Americans have seen the most prominent leaders in our country already get vaccinated live on TV. I think that’s a lot of reassurance right there. 

     

    Moderator: Next is Rich Lamb from WCBS 880. 

     

    Question: Good morning, Mr. Mayor, and everybody on the call –  

     

    Mayor: How are you doing, Rich? 

     

    Question: Well, I’m doing – I’m doing all right. So, in regard to – so we don’t have a really, a yes or no on whether Dr. Chokshi was vaccinated, at least not that I could discern there. Is that wise for a doctor who is actually, who has patients, and I thought all the medical personnel sort of were quantified to get the, you know, were entitled to get the vaccination? 

     

    Mayor: Let me go back to Dr. Varma. You’re absolutely right that folks who are seeing patients or working in vaccination centers are being vaccinated, had been vaccinated. And so, Dr. Varma, could you just clarify whether Dr. Chokshi to the best of your knowledge had been vaccinated or was planning on getting vaccinated, just what’s your best understanding. 

     

    Senior Advisor Varma: Yeah, no. So, just to clarify, Dave had not yet been vaccinated and he had a plan to get vaccinated after he had done the requisite number of shifts in the vaccine clinics, which is the criteria that we’re using for all City employees who want to be vaccinated if they’re not already in a priority group. 

     

    Mayor: Right. So, again, Rich to amplify the point. This is a choice that we’ve all made that we think in a world where people need to see there’s integrity in the process, it’s really important for folks to see that everyone waited their turn and qualified in the appropriate manner. So, that’s the choice that Dr Chokshi made. And, again, you know, I don’t want to be disrespectful of his privacy or his family’s privacy, we’ll certainly have him speak for himself, hopefully as early as tomorrow. Go ahead, Rich. 

     

    Question: Well, we wish him well, of course. And just wondering, there are questions as to whether or not the City has been adequately testing for corona variants. Do you have any information about that? 

     

    Mayor: Let me turn back to Dr. Varma. I mean, this has been something we’ve been watching very carefully. The Department of Health has extensive capacity to do genomic sequencing, and obviously one of the strengths here in New York City and New York State that we have that capacity on the ground. So, go ahead. Jay, give an update on that. 

     

    Senior Advisor Varma: Yeah. So, thank you for the question. And I can’t even tell you how excited it makes me feel to hear the Mayor say the words, genomic sequencing. That’s actually an area that I’ve been personally [inaudible] –  

    Mayor: Jay, whatever, whatever works for you, Jay. I’m glad that makes you happy, but I’d say you need to get out more Jay.

    Senior Advisor Varma: Exactly. So, to be very straight forward, we are currently sequencing hundreds of specimens a day. Those specimens are getting sequenced at the City public health lab, the New York State public health lab, and several academic medical centers. In addition to that, we are working on a plan in collaboration with some of these different partners to actually increase that number from hundreds to thousands. And that process is actually beginning this week right now. So, we are going to have a very clear window, I think very soon into the proportion of cases that are due to these variants.

    Mayor: Thank you. Go ahead.

    Moderator: The next is Juliet from 1010 WINS.

    Mayor: Juliet? Usually she comes in really clearly. Can you hear us Juliet?

    Moderator: We can go back to Juliet. The next one is Michael Gartland from the Daily News.

    Mayor: Michael?

    Question: Good morning. How you doing?

    Mayor: Good, man. How are you doing today?

    Question: I’m good. A couple of things I wanted to ask about. One, on Sunday the Governor raised this issue of NYPD monitor oversight. And he seemed to suggest I mean, I think he really pretty much spelled it out that he felt a monitor, the monitor kind of recommended in Tish James’s lawsuit would be in charge of the NYPD. I’m not sure that’s exactly the way it’s spelled out, although I could see how you might make that interpretation. I know you’ve spoken about this before, but I was wondering if you could respond to what the Governor said about you know, NYPD possibly coming under the control of a monitor at some point, day-to-day running of the NYPD?

    Mayor: You know, the way things work best is when the government that’s elected by the people ensures that the people’s interests are addressed. Here in this city for the last seven years, we’ve been doing nonstop reform and change of the NYPD. And except for the perfect storm of the pandemic, which dislocated our entire society, we proved that you could do fundamental police reform, greatly improve the relationship between police and community and drive down crime all at once. That’s what neighborhood policing proved. And we’re going to double down on that in 2021. The number of reforms and changes that we’ve just announced in the last few weeks is extraordinary. The discipline matrix, the MOU between the CCRB and the NYPD, absolutely revolutionizing the approach to discipline. We’ve never seen anything like this before in New York City history, transparent, open police discipline like never before. The fact that we’re going to engage the community, involve the community in the choice of precinct commander, something that people have been talking about at the local level, never happened before in the history of New York City or the NYPD. It’s happening now. New York City is doing perfectly well making the changes that we need to make. And there’s a lot more coming in the next few weeks as we work with the City Council on additional reforms. That’s the way to do things right. Go ahead, Michael.

    Question: We ran a story today on charter school enrollment and you know, that it’s jumped about 10,000 students compared to the last school year. You know, meanwhile enrollment in the city’s traditional public schools is down. I was wondering if you could comment on that and give us a sense of why you think that’s happening? That kind of trend we’ve seen over the past year.

    Mayor: Michael, I respect the question. I don’t actually think it’s a trend. I think it is a one-year reality based on a global pandemic and the absolute dislocation of our entire society. I don’t think we have anything we can draw from this information yet. We’re going to know a lot better over the next few years what happens with New York City in terms of population coming back and jobs coming back. And that’s what we’re doing in everything we’re going to focus on in 2021. When I say recovery for all of us, it means everything. It means getting jobs back, ensuring that the city comes back to life fully. You’re going to see I’m quite certain, as things normalize more and more people going back into our public schools. Why? Because our public schools have been doing really well. We just announced a few weeks ago, graduation rate up once again. We’re well on our way to meeting and then surpassing the national graduation rate. We’ve seen consistent progress on test scores. So many things in our public schools have been improving. But the other thing to remember is our public schools have been heroic. Our educators have been heroic during this pandemic, shifting on a dime to remote learning back in the spring. And then bringing back the largest school system in the country when most cities didn’t even dare and doing it safely. And now with a global gold standard, you’re going to see the model of New York City the way we brought back our schools is being emulated around the country. And it’s about to be emulated even more going forward. So. I think that all adds up to a very bright future for the New York City public schools. And we’re going to see a lot more people wanting to be a part of it as things come back to more normal.

    Moderator: The next is Stacey from FOX-5.

    Question: Yes. Hi, Mr. Mayor. Question for Dr. Varma, following up on the question about the variants. Can you talk a little to why the City has been so behind, especially when it comes to other countries in sequencing these variants so far? And a little bit more specifically to what you’re going to be doing, what the City’s going to be doing to try to get the sequencing [inaudible] so you have better information sooner than later?

    Senior Advisor Varma: I thank you for the question. I guess I would first challenge the premise that we’re actually behind. You know, in New York City, we actually have a lot more capacity than the rest of the city laboratories and state laboratories around the country do. So in collaboration with New York State, New York City and New York State have continued to sequence really since sometime at least this summer, if not earlier than that. And so, you can see all that, it is on a publicly available database you can see. Now, is it as much as we would like to be? No, it hasn’t. And I’ll be very clear about that. The reason is because our single biggest challenge up until fairly recently, up until a few months ago was simply getting testing capacity. And as you know, New York City first prioritized and has been not just a national leader, but a global leader in the ability to have the regular tests, the PCR tests done. Now sequencing is an additional layer on top of that, that is incredibly complex and challenging to do. So, we really couldn’t get to the stage of sequencing a large proportion of our specimen until we had all of the PCR capacity. So, I do feel like we are moving at the – in a very aggressive way to make sure both that we have monitored what’s been going on up until now, but also can increase the level of monitoring to match the urgency of the threat.

    Mayor: Thank you, Doctor. Go ahead, Stacy.

    Question: And one last follow up on that. I mean, since the sequencing is at a lower capacity that you would like, not just in the city, but around the country. I mean, how confident are you Dr. Varma that, you know you got the UK variant here, but do you believe that we have lots of cases with the other variants we’re hearing about elsewhere in the country, the South African variant, Brazilian variant and so forth?

    Senior Advisor Varma: I think the safest thing to do is for us to plan on the assumption that there are a lot more cases of these variants than we know about. I mean, that is always the safest way to do your public health planning. And that’s why you hear the Mayor, you hear all of us talking so aggressively, that the importance of all of these measures that we need to take. So, I think first of all, that’s the safest assumption. The second is to actually get the exact measurement of that really does require an incredible expansion of sequencing capacity throughout the country. And as you’ve heard from the White House and from CDC, they’re also working on the ability to do that as well. So, I do feel like we’re going to have a much better way to pin down exactly which variants, how many there are, how often are they occurring? Very soon, but, but for planning purposes, it’s safe for us to assume that this virus mutates. And even if it’s not one of the variants that’s known, it could be a new variant. And so, we need to act with that urgency to get vaccinated and to prevent infection.

    Mayor: Thank you. Okay.

    Moderator: We’ll go back to Juliet from 1010 WINS.

    Mayor: Juliet? Come on. Let’s try again. Juliet. Can you hear me? We’re having, yeah, try another person. We’ll try – three will be the charm. We’ll come back to Juliet at the end.

    Moderator: Next we will go to Dana from the New York Times.

    Mayor: Dana?

    Question: Hi, Mr. – Hi. Can you hear me?

    Mayor: Yeah, how are you doing today?

    Question: I’m okay. How are you doing?

    Mayor: Hanging in there. No snow today. I’m happy, Dana.

    Question: First regarding Dr. Chokshi. When was the last time you saw him? When was the last time Dr. Varma saw him? I mean, presumably aside from you two, he had a bunch of City government contacts. How many people are in quarantine?

    Mayor: So, the – I have not seen him in-person for a while. So best of my understanding, it’s not an issue for me, but contact tracing is going on now to ensure there is follow up on anyone he was in contact with. Dr. Katz, do you want to speak to that? Dr. Katz?

    President and CEO Mitchell Katz, NYC Health + Hospitals: Oh, well so much of, so much of our government now as shown in this presser is done remotely. I mean, I think I’ve talked to Dave at least twice a day for the last several weeks. I can’t remember the last time I was in the same room with him. So, I think, you know, we’ve been saved by our ability to communicate virtually throughout the city. But as you say, Mr. Mayor, we will do tracing because there were family issues as well, always. And he will be treated like any other contacts or any other positive person. And that would be how he would want it. Thank you, sir.

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

    Question: Thanks. And then on a separate topic, I was just curious, given your ambitious last year’s transportation agenda, why it makes sense to appoint someone who is not a transportation professional to run the transportation department?

    Mayor: Yeah. Dana look, very fair question. And I want to give you a very strong, clear answer because I know Hank will get done what I need done. When you work with someone again, this case most of 20 years, and you see the way they make things happen, that to me has always been the most compelling reality, not theory, but practice. I have seen Hank get results. I’ve seen him deal with very thorny situations and really tough community dynamics and find common ground and move an agenda forward, but always with a sharp equity lens. And we also have these incredible leaders joining Hank in this effort in Margaret and Jimmy who have just extraordinary history. And as a team, I think they’d bring the whole package. But this year 2021, is going to be about urgency at DOT. Again, I’m going to take that play on words and run with it. Department of Transformation – that we need a lot to happen. And when I have someone who I know I trust I’ve seen in action. That’s the kind of leader I can depend on to make things happen very quickly. We’re going to use every minute of the next 11 months to get a lot done. And we did lay out, we have very publicly, a very ambitious agenda. We added to it today with the bike racks. And I have absolute faith that Hank will follow this through and make it happen. Go ahead.

    Moderator: We have time for two more for today. The next we’ll go to Gersh from Streetsblog.

    Question: Thank you for taking the question, Mr. Mayor. I appreciate that. I’d like to follow up on Dana’s question. I just want to do it in a different way. Was this job offered to Ms. Forgione and she turned it down?

    Mayor: She’s sitting right here and I’ll say that was not her desire to take on this particular job of commissioner. But I very much wanted to see her be the First Deputy Commissioner and she’s going to be great at that role. And this is an effort where we brought together three tremendous professionals to achieve what we have to achieve. Go ahead.

    Question: Okay. Let me ask that question a different way then? Margaret Forgione, Jee Mee Kim are two prominent women appointees in your administration. Do you worry that a lot of women professionals in your administration will be disappointed by today’s move of appointing non-transportation professional and a male in this role?

    Mayor: The history of this administration Gersh, I know you focus on transportation issues in particular, if you look across this entire administration than a clear, strong majority women leaders when you put together all the senior elements of this administration, when you look at our deputy mayors, when you look at commissioners and heads of agencies, consistently from day one, clear majority have been women. Very proud of that. And they are women who have served this city with tremendous distinction. I think that message has been received over the last seven years loud and clear. Do we have Juliet?

    Moderator: We will try Juliet one more time.

    Mayor: One more time.

    Question: Okay. I’m here. Does this work?

    Mayor: Juliet you have come back to life.

    Question: Oh, hey, thank you. I don’t know what happened, but thank you for trying again with me. I appreciate it. So my question, Mr. Mayor is how often are you tested given that you are not getting the vaccine at this time?

    Mayor: Juliet, I’m now tested every week. I go to an H + H facility every week on a regular basis. Got tested over the weekend, came back negative I’m happy to say. And I’ll be continuing to do that. Go ahead.

    Question: And do you think that New Yorkers would really be offended if you and your top officials were vaccinated because you are out and about, and obviously your Health Commissioner is out and about and exposed to potential cases? And now that he has it. I get why you’re saying you wanted to wait, but what is wrong with top City officials who are really dealing with the public and have to do their jobs for the public, what is the harm in having you all get the vaccine?

    Mayor: Very fair question Juliet. Let me say two things. One – I’m absolutely confident about this vaccine. All the Health leadership of our team has said repeatedly. They believe in the vaccines we have. They either have gotten vaccinated or will get vaccinated. Their families will get vaccinated. I absolutely look forward to being vaccinated. All of that is clear. But I want to just tell you an easy story and I say easy because it couldn’t be clearer. The story is when I went out to Hillcrest High School in Queens, one of the first sites we had open for vaccination. I talked to seniors, folks in their 70’s, folks in their 80s. I talked to Marcia who was 97 years old, lived her whole life in Southeast Queens, talked to me about her family. Talked to me about everything that happened in her life, told me that she lived in fear of this disease and was so excited to get vaccinated because she knew that from the moment she even got the first shot, she would have protection. Imagine 97 years old and willing to go to a vaccination center because it meant so much to her, just to have that reassurance, that she finally had some protection from this horrible scourge that’s been with us for a whole year now. I think it is incumbent upon all of us who do not yet meet the criteria to defer to those in greater need. I don’t want to get a vaccination when a senior citizen could be getting that vaccination or a first responder could be getting that vaccination. I want to defer to people who do that crucial work for all of us and to the people who are more vulnerable. That’s a decision we’ve made and we’re going to stick to that. But the real answer here, Juliet is supply, supply, supply. And I really believe the Biden administration is trying to fix that situation. But, right now, we need the federal government and the State government to give us the freedom to vaccinate. Tell us we can use those second doses so we can reach a lot more of those seniors like Marcia. We can give a lot more people reassurance that they’re going to live through this crisis. We can give a lot more of their loved ones hope. That’s what we need to focus on right now.

    So, with that, everyone, look, I’ll conclude by saying today is about the idea that’s going to animate the entire year 2021 for this City in this administration, a recovery for all of us. Making sure it’s strong and making sure it’s fair. And our Department of Transportation is going to help lead the way with absolutely extraordinary and yes, ambitious new initiatives that are going to help make this a better, a more equitable city. And they’re going to help to fuel our recovery. And that’s a good thing for all of us. Thank you, everyone.

    ###


  • manzoor hussain <manzhussain72@yahoo.com>
    To:Anwar Abbasi,Hussain66 66
    Tue, Feb 9 at 2:52 AM

    .: MAYOR DE BLASIO HOLDS MEDIA AVAILABILITY

     

    Mayor Bill de Blasio: Good morning, everyone. Well, first very important reflection I have to offer. It may not have been the greatest Super Bowl of all time, but it is now established who’s the greatest quarterback of all time, Tom Brady, greatest of all time. I think we now have all the evidence we need. So, congratulations, Tom, job well done. But I want to talk about some other folks who are clearly the greatest of all time. And we saw it again this weekend as we dealt with the snowstorm. The men and women of our Sanitation Department, also greatest of all time. Amazing job once again. Thank you everyone at Sanitation. Thank you for everything you did with this storm and amazing job last week. And we depend on you and you never let us down. Thank you all.

    So, as we now enter into another week, it’s time to talk about the thing we’re going to be talking about every single week, which is how to bring the city back, bring the city back strong, a recovery for all of us. This is what we have to build here in this city. And obviously it begins with making sure we get the most people vaccinated as quickly as possible. Now we need more help from the federal government. That is clear. We need more help from the State government, that is clear, but we’re going to keep vaccinating. We’re going to keep reaching New Yorkers. We’re going to keep making it easier and easier, going down to the grassroots where the people are. So, we continue to create more and more vaccination opportunities around the five boroughs. Friday, Yankee Stadium was unbelievable, just wonderful to be there in the Bronx at a site dedicated to the people of the Bronx, to make sure that folks who were amongst the hardest hit in New York City had the opportunity to get vaccinated. Friday was Opening Say for vaccination at Yankee Stadium. It was exciting. A lot of people, really ready to get vaccinated. We’ve seen really high demand there and we are going to keep making sure there’s more and more appointments at that site in the Bronx. But now we have to keep going, reach deeply into all the boroughs.

    And look, so far, an update on the numbers – we have so far provided vaccinations, 997,844 vaccinations from day one, 997,844 doses so far. That is more than the entire population of Austin, Texas, which is the 11th largest city in America. So again, even with the supply problems, vaccination effort keeps growing. But if we have the supply, we could do amazing things. We could be vaccinating half a million people a week, if we have the supply. And we are going to keep fighting for the supply.

    In the meantime, building out sites – an exciting announcement that on Wednesday. Citi Field is going to be open as a site. Citi Field, this is one that we’ve been hoping for, for a long time, get up and running. I want to thank the Mets. This is going to be great for the people of Queens. The focus will be on residents of the borough of Queens. There’ll also be a special vaccination effort at Citi Field because they have a huge parking lot there for TLC drivers. So, these are folks who we all depend on, Taxi and Limousine Commission, licensed drivers. We need them to help us get around this city. They’re vulnerable. We want to make sure that there are specific appointments set aside for them. Also, food service workers, folks we depend on. Folks who really have taken care of us and were there throughout this whole crisis. There’ll be special appointments for TLC licensed drivers and food service workers from all over the five boroughs can go to Citi Field for appointments. And of course, again, a preference and a focus on the people of Queens to make sure we reach deep into that borough that was hit so hard by the coronavirus. So, Citi Field opens this coming Wednesday, 10 am. And we’re going to continue to build out, but we need supply. We need supply to keep making these efforts go farther and farther. Okay. Now the goal here with the Citi Field site and certainly the Yankee Stadium site is to get them to 24/7. Make sure we can get as many people in. We know a lot of people want those late night, early morning hours. We want to make sure that there’s more and more opportunities for people, but we need the supply. In the meantime, anyone who wants to go to the Citi Field site, get vaccinated there. You can go to nyc.gov/vaccinefinder or call 8-7-7-VAX-4-NYC.

    Now when we talk about recovery for all of us, when we talk about the city coming back strong, so much of it depends on our public schools. And our public schools have done amazing work throughout this crisis. Our educators, our school staff, everyone has really stepped up. And our public schools coming back strong is going to be one of the foundations of everything that happens going forward. And I’m very pleased to announce that for our children in the middle grades, grades six to eight, you are coming back to school in-person for all who were signed up for in-person education. It’s going to start up again Thursday, February 25th. And we’re really excited about that. We know kids are ready to come back. Teachers and staff are excited to see the kids again. Teachers and staff will come in on the 24th to get ready. And then in-person education for kids at the middle grades, grades six to eight, up and running Thursday, February 25th. This is going to be great for New York City. And a lot of work has gone into this to make sure we are ready. And of course, to always put health and safety first. And here to tell you about it, and he’ll be telling you about really the amazing efforts that he and his team have undertaken to get this right and keep us bringing back schools, our Chancellor, Richard Carranza.

    Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza: Thank you, Mr. Mayor. I am so excited that we’re able to announce a return for middle school students today. Our educators have done an incredible job supporting students remotely, but as we’ve said from the beginning, nothing can replace in-person learning and the support that our students receive in-person. We’re so thrilled to be able to provide that. And I won’t come – it won’t come without additional support because we will not compromise on safety. We’re hiring additional staff to support our situation room in responding quickly to schools. We’re adding teams to conduct weekly testing in middle schools, as well as continued weekly testing in all of our elementary schools. We’re also prioritizing in-person staff returning to work for vaccine access at City hubs from February 12th through the 21st and over mid-winter recess. It’s been a year like no other, and I’m so grateful for the resilience and persistence of our students, our staff, and our families. I can’t wait to see our middle-grade students return to their buildings in just a couple of weeks.

    I’d also like to remind families of another exciting opportunity. Beginning February 24th, 3K and Pre-K for All applications are open. Families can apply online at myschools.nyc or over the phone at 7-1-8-9-3-5-2-0-0-9. Very briefly in Spanish –

    [Chancellor Carranza speaks in Spanish:]

    With that, Mr. Mayor I’ll turn it back over to you.

    Mayor: Thank you very much, Chancellor. And Chancellor, thanks to you and your team. I am thinking back fondly, remember we went to visit a school in the – we went to one in the Bronx and one in Brooklyn. And we were looking at the preparations for school to begin. I remember very vividly at the school in Brooklyn, the custodial team showing us all the PPE they had ready, all the cleaning they were doing. We saw this all over the five boroughs when we visited. The folks in our schools, the administrators, the educators, the staff, the custodial teams, everyone really worked hard to create a gold standard for health and safety for our schools. We literally borrowed the best ideas and the best practices from around the world, our medical team working with our team at the Department of Education, our schools have been remarkably safe, in fact, the safest places in New York City. It’s been just something outstanding and that’s why we know it’s time to bring back our middle grade kids now. And I know our children are ready, our parents are ready for kids to be back in school. So, we’re really excited about this.

    Okay. Now, a lot of things happening, and we’re going to keep making progress all throughout 2021, because we need a recovery for all of us. And recovery for all of us means bringing back everything that makes New York City great. And that course means supporting our arts and culture, supporting the artists and the cultural community who are part of the lifeblood of this city. We are the greatest city in the world in large measure because art and culture runs through the veins of the city like no other place on earth. And we are so proud of that. We got to bring this community back strong. It’s been hit really hard by COVID. Whether you’re talking about the biggest cultural institutions, down to the smallest community-based cultural nonprofit, it’s been really tough. And we particularly need to bring back that most vibrant element of our culture, which is live performance, live theater, nightlife, music, concerts, all those things need to start coming back. And so, really important new development, that there’s help from the federal government. I know, our senator, Chuck Schumer, fought hard for this to make sure there was money specifically in COVID relief packages to help live performance spaces and other cultural spaces. And we have to make sure that those folks on the ground get the aid that they need. We have to make sure that New York City cultural institutions get the help they need as part of the comeback. So, we are going to make sure we do an outreach effort to help our cultural institutions here in the city. We’re going to go over some of the ways we’re going to do that with our Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment. This is part of a wonderful initiative we’re calling Curtains Up NYC. And I want you to feel the energy of that, Curtains Up NYC means we’re coming back. It means our cultural sector, but it also means the whole city coming back, because all of the city is a stage – we can all agree on that. So, we’re going to go over the details, but anyone who can qualify and interested in qualifying for this funding, can go to nyc.gov/curtainsupNYC. And here to tell you more about this new federal aid and the way we’re going to help get it to New York City institutions, the Commissioner of the Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment, Anne del Castillo.

    Commissioner Anne del Castillo, Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment: Thank you. And thank you, Mayor de Blasio for pushing for this legislation and for your support in launching Curtains Up NYC. As the Mayor said, arts and entertainment are the heart of New York City. They’re what make us a global capital and they’re what fuel our local economy – $150 billion in economic output, half-a-million jobs. Live venues, in particular, are a critical piece of our creative community and have arguably been among the hardest hit. They were the first to close and, in all likelihood, they will be the last to open. The impact of these closings though extends far beyond the stages on which these performances take place. Live performance, whether in a nightclub, a music theater, or a theater generate roughly $15 billion in economic activity – it’s why people come to New York City. On average last year, 65 percent – not last year, two years ago, 65 percent of our theater audiences were visitors to New York City. And when people go to see shows, they typically also go to dinner, grab a cocktail, grab a coffee, stop by shops in the neighborhood. Our film office is located in Midtown Manhattan, where, on a typical day, I would see throngs of people in restaurants, coffee shops, souvenir shops. So, when live performance goes, the neighborhood shuts down. And that’s why we all thought so hard for the Shuttered Venue Operators Grants – the Mayor, our agency partners, the New York Independent Venue Association, and our colleagues at the federal level. But I personally know how critical this funding is. Before I joined City government, I worked in arts and entertainment for over 25 years, largely as a producer and fundraiser, and I know how difficult it is to apply for these grants. And that’s why my agency and the Department of Small Business Services created Curtains Up NYC, to help ensure that every single federal dollar possible goes to our venues here in New York City – live venues, theater club, theaters clubs, performing arts spaces, theatrical producers, talent representatives, movie theaters – we want to give them the assistance they need to put forward the strongest application, and, importantly, be first in line. People can sign up today so that they are ready to apply as soon as the applications go up. Information is available at nyc.gov/curtainsupNYC. We hope you’ll help us spread the word and thank you.

    Mayor: Thank you so much, Anne. And, look, everyone, this is part of how we come back strong. So, we’re going to work hard to make sure that New York City culture institutions get the help that they need, and they can get back strong, bring people back to work, help neighborhoods come back to life. And you know what? People are going to see it and people are going to start gravitating back to New York City, because of everything we have here. It’s going to all come alive in 2021, and that’s going to be exciting to be a part of.

    Okay, let’s now go to our indicators for the day. Number one, daily number of people admitted to New York City hospitals for suspected COVID-19 – today’s report is 220 patients. We have a 71.43 percent confirmed positivity level. And the hospitalization rate, 5.07 per 100,000. Number two, new reported cases on a seven-day average – today’s report, 3,491 cases. And number three, percentage of people testing positive city-wide for COVID – today, on a seven-day rolling average, the percentage is 8.28 percent.

    A few words in Spanish, and I want to go back to the announcement earlier about the Citi Field site opening up for vaccinations.

    [Mayor de Blasio speaks in Spanish]

    With that, we’ll turn to our colleagues and the media. 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 Chancellor Carranza, by Commissioner del Castillo, Commissioner Grayson, Commissioner Criswell, Commissioner Doris, Dr. Katz, and Senior Advisor Dr. Jay Varma. First question today goes to Jessica Gould from WNYC.

    Question: Hi, so it’s great to see that you’re prioritizing middle school educators for the vaccinations. But in the case that it’s only the first shot, there’s a delay before it protects them. And so, what are you going to say to educators who are going to be asked to go back before they’re fully vaccinated?

    Mayor: I’ll start and the Chancellor can join me. Look, I say that because of the incredible efforts of everyone in our school system, our schools are amongst the safest places in all of New York City. Again, that gold standard of health and safety measures has really worked consistently. So, we know that everyone will be going into an environment that is safe. We’ll be having lots of extra effort as it starts out to make sure everything is working right. But it’s been proven time and time again. Chancellor?

    Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza: Yes, sir. I would only add that. You know, just look at the data, and the data is really very, very clear that these are safe environments. We continue to work very closely with our colleagues in the Health Department, Test and Trace, Health + Hospitals. We also have added additional air purifiers in every middle school. So, we’re up and running. We’re ready to go. And what I would say to educators is, just continue to follow the guidance that’s been put out. If you do that, we will continue to have this safe environment for not only our students, but those that serve our students.

    Mayor: Go ahead.

    Question: In terms of the variants though – I mean, I’m hearing that what has been safe before, what has worked before may not be working as precautions against these variants that are so much more contagious. So, again, to these educators who are concerned about going back with the looming exponential increase of these variants, can you respond to that?

    Mayor: Yeah. Jessica, I’ll start and I’ll turn to Dr. Jay Varma, because we’ve talked about this a lot. Obviously, we take the variants very seriously, to say the least. But we also know that the same measures, those foundational efforts to keep people safe, work – the social distancing, the constant cleaning, the ventilation – all of the things – the mask wearing. I mean, you know, these are things done so consistently in our schools, more than pretty much any place else in the city, and we know that works. So, I think we’ve got a situation here where if – look, if everyone were doing the things we were doing in our schools, the whole situation in the city would be different and better. But, Dr. Varma, why don’t you speak to that question?

    Senior Advisor Jay Varma: Great. Thank you for the question. And I would just really echo actually what the Mayor has just said. We are – first of all, we are obviously very concerned. We want to continue to be as vigilant as we possibly can both to control transmission among the strains that are, you know, present and dominant right now, as well as any new strains that might emerge. Now, I know a lot of the concern extends to what happened in Europe, where schools were kept open during the peak of their epidemic and then after these new variant strains took over, they ended up closing their school system. And I think it’s important to understand, as the Mayor has just said, but just to be very explicit about it, there were no European countries adopting the same rigorous approach that we have adopted here. That means universal masking, regardless of age, universal maintaining of physical distance, aggressive symptom screening, all of the ventilation improvements that you’ve seen. And now, this additional layer that we’ve added, which is the weekly testing regimen combined with vigorous contact racing. So, when you combine all those things together, there really isn’t a comparison to what’s going on other places. And then, of course, we are going to continue to see the additional added benefit of people getting back needed. We know that it takes time for people to build immunity, but the existing measures we have, have proven safe and I anticipate we’ll continue to prove safe.

    Mayor: Thank you. Go ahead.

    Moderator: As a programming note, we’re also joined by Dr. Ted Long. The next is Shant from the Daily News.

    Question: Yeah. Good morning, everyone. On the middle schools, I was wondering if you can say how many are going to go back to in-person learning five days week right out the gate. And if you don’t have a specific number, can you give a ballpark? Like, 50 percent? A different percent? Thanks.

    Mayor: Thank you. Very important questions, Shant. I’m going to start, I’ll turn to the Chancellor. We discussed this on Friday and I wish I could quote the exact numbers, but I was struck immediately by the extent to which right away we’ll have a number of middle schools at five days a week, either for the whole school community or for at least a majority. Now, this is something that keeps evolving as we get a clearer sense of which kids really intend – which parents really choose to have their kids in school in person. Those who want in-person education, we want to get it to them as many days a week as possible. Ideally, five days a week. Those who don’t, you know, are not sure about it – you know, then remote education is right for them. But we will certainly have a number of schools doing five day a week for a very big chunk of their student community and we want to keep building that out. Chancellor, do you want to speak to that?

    Chancellor Carranza: Yes, sir. So, of the 471 middle schools, we fully expect that half will be able to open their doors on the 25th, offering a five-day-a-week instruction to their students. And we know that the other middle schools are going to continue to program and reprogram to get to the goal of having five-day-a-week. In the rare occasions or the occasions where perhaps space just isn’t available, we will continue to prioritize vulnerable groups of students, including students with disabilities, students in temporary housing, multilingual learners, etcetera, so that even in a school that is not fully five days a week, the most vulnerable student populations can receive five-day-a-week instruction.

    Mayor: Thank you. Go ahead, Shant.

    Question: Yeah. Thanks for that. So, on testing, you were mentioning, you know, weekly testing at middle schools. Can you say if you’re doing anything to boost testing supplies? And also, I know Chancellor Carranza said that the Situation Room would get additional staffers. Can you share some more detail on that?

    Mayor: Yeah, we can get you very specific facts. But the testing capacity, we’ve been building it up throughout. I’ll turn to Dr. Long, if he wants to talk a little about that, but we have been building it up throughout. And the Situation Room, which has been absolutely crucial – and this is another one of the models here – Dr. Varma was talking about the models we developed here in New York City that borrowed from different ideas around the world. We also created some of our own, and the Situation Room is an example of that. And I want to thank everyone who’s been a part of the Situation Room, especially its leader, Commissioner Melanie La Rocca, who has done a fantastic job. That’s something that we created here. That’s a homegrown idea that really helped to move quickly whenever there was a case in the school, working with Test and Trace Corps. And we’re going to keep building up the staffing of the Situation Room to make sure it’s always there for folks. But we do have the capacity. What we found by doing – this, sort of, learning by doing – is that we can constantly increase the capacity to meet our needs. Dr. Long, do you want to speak to that?

    Director Ted Long, NYC Test and Trace: Yeah. Thank you, sir. I think you covered all the key points. I’ll just emphasize that, across the board, we’ve been building our testing capacity. In fact, across the city now, we’ve been able to reach approximately 120,000 tests in a given day. So, we’ve built the capacity across the city and we’re applying all those same tools to the schools. And we’re 100 percent confident that we have the capacity that we need to keep our students and our teachers safe, which is always our highest priority. So, thanks, Shant.

    Mayor: Thank you.

    Moderator: The next is Matt Chayes from Newsday.

    Question: Hey. Good morning, all. Thanks for taking the questions. The first is a practical one – what proof is going to be required for food service workers who work off the books and want to get a vaccine in Citi Field – I mean, can anyone just show up and say, hey, I’m a food service worker, I work off the books and don’t have any proof?

    Mayor: No, of course not. It’s a good question, Matt. No, we want to make sure that people really do have proof. This is something that’s – you know, when we’re providing a focused, priority effort to help some of the most essential workers and people we’ve depended on, we’ve got to make sure it’s actually the folks who have done the work. And so, we’re going to obviously have some checks and balances in place on that. Among our colleagues, if someone has a handy answer on how that’s going to work, Dr. Varma, Dr. Katz, Dr. Long, if one of you have an answer or else, we’ll get it to Matt right after. Someone want to comment? Okay, we’re going to get to Matt right after. Go ahead Matt.

    Question: Okay, I’m looking forward. Another question, in December the Health Commissioner issued an advisory telling people who are 65 plus or who otherwise vulnerable to COVID to stay home and away from others, if possible. So, do you plan on modifying that advisory – excuse me – modifying that advisory in any way to account for those who are vaccinated? And then second, relatedly, there are older people who are isolating due to worries of getting the virus themselves, once they’re vaccinated, can this population ease up in any way on the most extreme measures that are aimed at them? How about two people who are vaccinated? Can they relax a little bit? I’m not asking that they can throw –

    Mayor: That’s a lot of – a lot of pieces. Let me try –

    Question: And I need to ask this part because I want you to answer it, you know, the right way –

    Mayor: Yeah, yeah, but again, my friend, let us try and answer the bigger picture. We’ll have plenty of time to keep working on these issues, I assure you, but let – you’re asking a really important foundational question. Let’s try and get to the core question. I’ll start and then turn to Dr. Katz and Dr. Varma. Really important question, how do people comport themselves even after they are initially vaccinated, fully vaccinated, other people in their home are vaccinated, very, very important. What I want to emphasize as a layman and then the doctors will talk from their perspective is, we need to be careful in this atmosphere where – still a lot of folks dealing with COVID out there – we need to not let down our guard. And so, keeping to masks, keeping to social distancing until we really get to a critical mass point is crucial, and then that’s something that we’ll be talking about very openly as we lead up to it, what it looks like to reach that critical mass point and then how people might change their behavior. But until we get a well down the road, and certainly no earlier than June, we’ve got to stick to the same kind of precautions we have now. Dr. Katz, Dr. Varma, you want to speak to it?

    President and CEO Mitchell Katz, NYC Health + Hospitals: I’d like to Mr. Mayor, I fully agree with you, but I also want to extoll the efficacy of the vaccine, and I think it’s important that people understand that getting vaccinated really does matter and will bring us back. So, since doctors often disagree, I want to tell the reporter the advice I give to my 98-year-old father and my 93-year-old mother, they are going to get their second vaccine this week, and I’ve told them that 10 days after they have gotten their second vaccine, their older son and older daughter who have – they haven’t been able to visit with because they are a part of separate households can now come and see them, and that they can see other friends of theirs who have been vaccinated. But that when they go out, they still need to wear a mask and use other precautions. So, I think we want to give people both the sense of protection and the sense of hope that vaccination really is going to return New York City back to the amazing, dynamic place it is. Thank you, sir.

    Mayor: Thank you, Jay, you want to add?

    Senior Advisor Varma: Yeah, I would just say that this is a situation where we’re going to have to have people understand that we have a recommendation for today and we’re going to have a recommendation so it’s going to change probably in the very near future. At the exact moment, you know, echoing what the Mayor had said, you know, we’re in a situation that is still dynamic. Lots of people are still either not vaccinated or just about to get their first dose. It does take 10 to 14 days after that second dose to develop immunity. They’re still emerging information in a new vaccine coming. So, at the current time, we really do recommend that people continue to observe all the things that we’re recommending, but it is very likely in the near future when more people are vaccinated and disease rates have come down, we can alter our recommendations.

    Mayor: Thank you. Go ahead.

    Moderator: The next is Rich Lamb from WCBS 880.

    Question: Good morning, Mr. Mayor, and everybody on the call.

    Mayor: Hey, Rich, how you doing today?

    Question: Okay. So, I’m just wondering what changed in the middle schools. Why now? Why is it okay now to reopen them? You know, now I say, but the 25th? What were the factors that went into the decision here and why not the high schools?

    Mayor: Yeah, so we’re certainly going to look at high schools next. High schools, I want to get our high school kids back during the course of the current school year, but there’s going to be more work needed. High schools are a more complex situation, but it’s certainly our goal to do that, and we’ll have more to say on that going forward. But for middle school, we just we had the pieces we needed. We had the testing capacity built out. We had the ability to build out a situation room. We’ve seen how effective the health and safety measures have been in the schools. They continue to be effective, but it’s also for our kids, and I’ll speak to this, you know, I think it’s important that we dwell on this for a minute, so I’ll ask the Chancellor and Dr. Varma to speak about this too. Our kids need to be in school. Those, again, those families that choose to have kids in school, our kids really benefit emotionally, intellectually, and even in terms of their physical health, getting out to school, being in the school community, being somewhere where there’s caring adults who can help them out in so many ways, and a lot of kids have not done well with their isolation and need a chance to be back in the school community, and we’re convinced we can do it safely. So, this is why it’s the right time. Chancellor?

    Chancellor Carranza: Thank you, Mr. Mayor. So, the perverse nature of the social isolation that the Mayor spoke of for students, it’s real, and it really is having an impact on students. I’ve heard from number of families and educators that have talked to, to me about the fact that their students are suffering. So, at every conceivable opportunity, when we can do this safely, and we can, as the Mayor’s talked about, the capacity we’ve built and the ability to bring students back, we’re going to do it. And that’s what’s changed is we’ve built capacity and we continue to build capacity. But we also have this very deep-seated desire to make sure that, that the isolation and the harm of not being with other human beings that our children have suffered with, that we can start in doing that and we can get them back safely in-person, that’s why we’re doing that.

    Mayor: And Dr. Varma, you want to speak to the situation?

    Senior Advisor Varma: Sure. Yeah, as both the doctor, as well as a parent of three kids who attended New York City public schools for six years, I just have to really emphasize just the value of schools for health overall. It’s emotional health, its mental health, its physical health, and everything we do in life is about balancing risks. And so, we have seen a risk of COVID, we know how real and dangerous it is, and we’ve developed a model to reduce that risk. What we haven’t done is figure out a model to reduce isolation and the mental and emotional and physical harm from being separated. And so, as the Chancellor and the Mayor has said, the best approach to that is to bring kids back to in-person schooling, and we only do that when we found a way to reduce and manage the risk of COVID, which we have developed a very successful model for doing.

    Mayor: Thank you. Go ahead, Rich.

    Question: So, a different topic here. So, given, you know, the massive problems that we’ve seen in regard to the supply of the vaccine, are you still a firm believer in the idea of making those second doses first doses? Or do you see that there could be some problems there?

    Mayor: No, I am a firm believer in that, Rich, I’ll tell you why. You know, I’ve been in regular touch with leaders of the Biden administration working on their COVID effort, and I do believe there’s so many, just very specific indications that our supply will grow over time. Very, you know, one that’s been very, very public is the fact that the Johnson and Johnson vaccine will be here in a matter of weeks. So, we have assurances that are believable, that are tangible, that we’ll have more and more supply. Given that fact, that we can put that into our approach to making sure a second doses will be available and given that it’s clear that some flexibility around the timing of a second doses is acceptable medically. It just makes sense to focus on first doses. The protection they provide them, this is what I think is not getting enough attention in the public discussion, the first dose provides immediate protection. Is it perfect protection? No, but it provides substantial protection to folks who are really vulnerable, particularly seniors, and I’m also very aware of what it means to them emotionally. And I look – our seniors have been here throughout their lives, making everything possible for all the rest of us. A lot of them have really worked hard. A lot of them have suffered a lot during this crisis, making sure every single one of them possible gets a first dose should be an imperative for all of us, and we know the second doses will be there in short order. But holding back, artificially, I think is a fundamental mistake. I think it’s a strategic mistake and I think it’s unfair to the seniors who have done so much for all of us.

    Moderator: The next is Christina Veiga from Chalkbeat.

    Question: Hi, Mayor and Chancellor, thanks for taking my question. I really want to push and go back to the situation room. We keep hearing that there is the capacity there, but it seems like you’re saying it will be built up. I’m wondering if the capacity – and you also were not able to provide any specific details on what the staffing levels are, so can you talk about how many more tests are we talking about going on weekly in middle schools and what does the capacity look like for that? And is the staffing already in place for a beefed-up situation room, or is that still something that’s being worked on?

    Mayor: No, Christina, staff has been hired in anticipation of students in the middle grades coming back. They’re being trained now and prepared, but again, the situation room already has hundreds of folks doing the work and they’ve proven to be very, very effective at it. So, we can get you the exact hiring figures and all, but we’re quite confident that we have the capacity. On the question of the testing, again, we’re doing something you’re not seeing any place else, weekly testing in all our schools and we’re doing the exact same thing in the middle grades. So, the testing capacity is there. It has been built up over time. I’ll let Dr. Long speak to it. But remember, week after week New York City has been adding testing capacity in general, and we have the capacity now to devote specifically to middle schools. Go ahead, Dr. Long.

    Executive Director Long: Yeah, no, that’s a great question. So, specifically in the situation room, first, we are building our capacity there and we have a clear idea of how many staff we’ll need. I’ll give you an example of that. So, we brought on 27 more tracers, are we bringing on another 35 that we’ll need before the situation room can accommodate middle schools going live, and we have a clear plan for that. So, we know what the numbers are there and we’re hiring appropriately. On the testing side, as the Mayor said, we’ve been building up our capacity and we look at the number of teams that need to be at each school in order to do the weekly testing per school and we have the teams already set up. We’re very confident we can do it. Across the city we’re doing 120,000 tests on our good days. So, we’re ready.

    Mayor: Yeah, and I want to emphasize that Christina, 120,000 tests per day, when you add everything we’re doing citywide. So, this capacity is a very different situation that even a few months ago, the testing capacity has really built up intensely. We have our pandemic response lab doing a lot of our processing. That was a homegrown lab here in New York City to speed the processing of tests. So, we’re in a situation now where we can do a lot more testing than we used to and that’s another one of the reasons why we’re ready to go with the middle grades. Go ahead, Christina.

    Question: Thanks, and my second question is, you’ve said a number of times that you’re aiming for a full reopening of schools in the fall and I’m wondering if you can define what that means. Does that mean everybody going five-days-a-week or does it mean something different and will there still be an option for all remote next fall?

    Mayor: We’ve got a lot of work to do to get the details together, Christina, but I would say your initial assumption is exactly right. Five-day-a-week education in-person, because remember our goal right now is by June to have reached five million New Yorkers vaccinated, and we have the supply, unquestionably we can do that because we can vaccinate half-a-million people a week now. So that’s June, you know, school doesn’t start until September. If we’re an environment where the city is overwhelmingly vaccinated, we’re able to bring school back as it was, you know, same physical proportion, the same number of kids in classrooms. We’re able to do that kind of thing and we’ll keep other important precautions in place, obviously. But the goal is five-day-a-week education for our kids. As we get closer, we’ll determine, of course, if there’s a remote piece needed as well that will have everything to do with what’s happening in the general situation with COVID and what parents are looking for, but we have to be able to welcome back every family, every student that wants to learn in-person by September, that’s the bottom-line. Chancellor, you want to speak to this?

    Chancellor Carranza: Yes, sir. So, what I would add, Christina, is that our goal is to have in-person learning, as a Mayor has stated, but I think this whole notion of virtual learning, remote learning, electronic distance learning, that’s going to stay with us well beyond the end of the pandemic because it does also provide students with an opportunity to enhance their learning, personalize their learning, do some self-directed investigation. Think of the power of a group of five students being able to work on a project, and instead of having to be in one place together, they could do it on Google classroom in the evening.  So, it creates these opportunities as well to really accelerate and enhance instruction. So, we’re looking at it and the Mayor and I have announced our plan for recovery. We’re looking at this being a component of what the new normal looks like post-pandemic in a good way, not to replace in-person learning, but to keep the best parts of what we really built in terms of capacity and keep that going into the future.

    Mayor: Amen. Go ahead.

    Moderator: The next is Kala from PIX11.

    Question: Hey, good morning, Mr. Mayor. Happy Monday to you.

    Mayor: Happy Monday, Kala. How are you?

    Question: Good, thanks. So, I want to know if students would be given another chance to opt in this year?

    Mayor: A very important question, Kala, thank you for that. Right now, remember for the middle grades, we had just done an opt in period back in November. So those opt-ins will be honored. Unfortunately, because everything happening with COVID and those kids were not able to come back in person yet, but now they will. So that opt in will be honored now. In terms of further opt-in, opt-ins, it will depend on the overall situation with COVID. We’re hopeful that we could see, you know, a really positive trend here, and if we get to see a very different situation with vaccinations, with the overall case numbers, et cetera, that would be the occasion to put another opt-in into play, but we’re not there yet. Go ahead, Kala.

    Question: I also wanted to know how long do teachers’ medical accommodations last. So, when we’re talking about next year already, and you say that you want to open up full strength, five days a week, what about the teachers who chose not to get vaccinated, or who just haven’t had time because of shortages through the summer, and they’re not ready to go back in September. And, also what about the parents who don’t feel like their kids would be safe in school still? Because the reality is 70 percent of students are still remote learning, right?

    Mayor: Yeah, and Kala, let me I’ll turn to the Chancellor also, but let me just say: it’s February, and September is a long way away, in light of, you know, what we’re dealing with, with COVID. And again, the goal is, as part of our recovery effort, by June have five million New Yorkers vaccinated. That’s an entirely different reality. We’re always going to be sensitive to families that might still have concerns, to educators and staff that might still have concerns. We’re going to really work on that, but we have a lot of time to work that out. The bottom line now is we need to recover. We need to bring this city back. We need our schools back full strength, and everything we’re seeing now, including the extraordinary commitment of the Biden administration to moving more and more vaccine to cities all over the country. You know, everything we’re seeing says that we’ll be in an entirely different situation, even by the end of the spring and the beginning of the summer, let alone by September. So, a lot to work out, and a lot of people we want to hear from, and a lot of people we want to consult with, but I feel confident we can bring the pieces together. Chancellor.

    Chancellor Carranza: Yes, sir. You’re absolutely right. So, the medical accommodations are the exemptions that are in place currently. There is no plan to sunset those this school year, they will remain in place for the remainder of this school year. With all of the looming good news that the Mayor has talked about in terms of vaccination, and the commitment of the federal government to help us, that only looks better and better. But, like every single aspect of this pandemic, we’re going to let the facts and the science drive our decisions. So, there is a long time until September. So, depending on what’s happening with the virus, what’s happening with the vaccines, what’s happening with us generally and broader in the community, those circumstances will drive any decisions on policy changes. But, it’s way too early to think about that right now.

    Mayor: Go ahead.

    Moderator: We have time for two more for today. The next is Debralee from the Manhattan Times.

    Question: Hey, good morning. Can everyone hear me?

    Mayor: Yes, Debralee. We haven’t heard from you in a while. How are you doing?

    Question: Glad to be connected. All as well. I wanted to follow up, Mr. Mayor, on something that’s been discussed in the last few weeks, and that’s about the city data you’ve been showing, some of the stark racial disparities among our groups in terms of the vaccination rates that the city itself is putting out. And I wanted to discuss with you and have here from your, your panel, how you feel that the City is handling it now, and specifically when you look at some of the screening questionnaires and some of the online portals, they specifically ask for health insurance information, and even though that is a prerequisite for the vaccine, it seems that as a screening protocol, that in fact may be disproportionately affecting the very communities you’re trying to reach. Can you speak to that and see how that might be rectified, particularly when the calls and the online systems tend to be beset with delays?

    Mayor: That’s a really good question, Debralee, and I appreciate it. So, let me start, and then my colleagues can jump in – my health care colleagues. Look, we do not want to give people information that might be misleading. So, I think this is something that’s come up before about whether we need to change the message in the application process. Asking for health insurance information if people have is understandable, but you’re right, if it in any way suggests that people can’t get the vaccine without health insurance, that’s a real problem, because that is not the truth that you can get the vaccine regardless of whether you have health insurance. And we obviously want to make sure people do get health insurance, and I’ll start with Dr. Katz in a second, and he can remind everyone about the fact that NYC Care is available to folks who don’t qualify for other insurance. But look, the equity effort starts with having 60 percent of the vaccination centers in communities of color, in the places that were hardest hit by COVID, and we want to move more and more of the outreach to the places where we’re seeing hesitancy and do a – we’re doing a big grassroots effort. We want on keep deepening that. But I take very seriously that if something in the application form is throwing people off, that we have to address that there. So, Dr. Katz, could you speak to that and to, again, the access to health support for anyone who needs it, and then if any of the other doctors—

     

    President Katz: Sure, Mr. Mayor, and thanks to you, and launching NYC Care, we are able to offer everyone in New York City who isn’t insured a primary care doctor, a place that they can get care and assurance that they will never get bills that they cannot afford due to getting health care, and as you say, sir, we at Health + Hospitals, having insurance is never a barrier for getting care and people know that. I mean, if you go back to the start of the epidemic of COVID, why was Elmhurst so filled with patients with COVID? Because immigrants knew that they could go to Elmhurst and be cared for despite not having despite their immigration status, they knew that they would be welcomed and taken care of. So, you know, for us this is a major issue we have not heard complaints about insurance in part because we make it very clear that yes, if you have insurance, we take the insurance information. If you don’t have insurance, you have the same access as anyone else to the care. So, I don’t think that at least in the health and hospital system or in our city public health system the insurance issue has been a barrier. Thank you, sir.

    Mayor: Thank you, Dr. Varma, Dr. Long, you want to add? Okay, go ahead, Debralee.

    Question: I just want to be quick. Can you hear me now?

    Mayor: Yes.

    Question: Great. So just as a quick rejoinder to that, I wanted to make clear that while HHC might necessarily have a built-in constituent base that understand its policies, I’m speaking specifically for the online portal, including the SOMOS vaccinations that were set up for everyone, but for the Bronx residents. It’s a required field, as it stands now, and so as a result, if you don’t have that information, you’re essentially not able to get past that space. Now, if you punch in a variable. You, you can sort of work around it, but if you don’t know what it shows up by the consistently required field, which just allows for you to continue. So, I wonder if there might be more information that can be put out regarding – in regards to that, because it is in fact, a disincentive

    And no, it’s really fair point, and we’re going to get to work on this immediately. We talked to folks from SOMOS about this on Friday, and they affirmed publicly that they’re going to vaccinate people regardless of insurance coverage. But I hear you loud and clear – if people receive it when they’re applying as required field, and they can’t get around it, or they don’t think they can get around it, then it is creating a disincentive. We don’t want that. So, we’ll work with the folks of SOMOS, and any other providers to make sure that that application doesn’t seem to be excluding people. We can’t have that. We need everyone to get vaccinated. We need everyone to feel comfortable getting vaccinated. It’s free, it’s available to all. So, this is a good catch and thank you for raising it. We will definitely get that fixed.

    Moderator: Last question today goes to Abu from Bangla Patrika.

    Question: Hello, Mayor. How are you?

    Mayor: Good, Abu. How are you feeling?

    Question: Good. Thank you so much. My question is the – do you have any idea or any plan that when the city that, where the vaccination and everything is going, the infection rate is going in the lower, away from the city could be in a different shape, or normal life?

    Mayor: Wow. Big, very big question, Abu. Look, I think the smart thing to say is we need to take this one step at a time. While I projected in the State of the City that we will be bringing our public employees back who are not currently at work sites. They’ll come back, starting in May. That in June, we’ll reach five million vaccinations, so long as we have the supply of vaccine. I think you’re going to see a constant reenergizing of our economy. So, a lot is going to happen, and obviously, as we just talked about reopening the schools fully in September, but we want at the same time, emphasize – let’s keep the smart precautions in place because they’ve been working, they’ve been helping, and we’re going to listen to our health care leaders who are going to follow the data and science.

    So I think it’s too early to project, you know, “normalcy.” I’ve said publicly, I know our health care leaders have to, let’s think about from now to June, keeping all the different precautions we’re living with in place to really get this right, and then we’ll be talking before we get to June about the changes we can make, restrictions that can start to come off. But I think if you’re talking about our economy coming back, our life coming back, I think you’re thinking about this summer and fall. You’re going to see a real intensive uptick, but if you’re talking about not having any of the precautions in place, that’s something we have to be really smart and careful about how we do that, and we’ll be led by our health care leadership on that. Go ahead, Abu.

    Question: The second question is the Biden administration – they’re thinking to help about, as you know in this country, about 12 million undocumented people living here, to give them a path for legalization. So, if anything happened and how New York City would help the people who want to apply for the application and other stuff.

    Mayor: Yeah, I am very excited that we’re having an actual national conversation about comprehensive immigration reform, and I think this is the time to get it done, and President Biden’s the right leader to get it to make it happen. You have, and I talked about this a lot in recent years, you know, 11-12 million people who are part of the fabric of our country. We’ve got to stop this madness of acting like they don’t exist and, and going without a solution, there should be a pathway to citizenship for the folks who are here, and once that becomes federal policy, New York City will reach out throughout immigrant communities to help people to achieve that pathway to citizenship. Our Office of Immigrant Affairs, very energetically, actively connected to the grassroots, working with so many wonderful organizations that help immigrants. We’re going to be front and center getting this done.

    We already saw with IDNYC, the ability to serve immigrant communities, including folks who are currently undocumented. We see with NYC Care, we just talked about the ability to help folks, even if they’re undocumented, to get health care coverage we’ve been doing this. We know how to do this. Give us comprehensive immigration reform, and New York City will lead the way in terms of helping people on that pathway to citizenship right away.

    All right, everyone. As we conclude today, look, again, we’re going to be constantly throughout this year. Talk about what recovery looks like, and we know it has to be a recovery for all of us, and today really great examples of how we bring our city back, the strong vaccination effort, going right down to the grassroots, the effort to help our cultural institutions come back strong, bringing back our middle grade kids, and that’s going to be so exciting and bring it back to school across the board in September. These are the building blocks are the building blocks to recovery, but they’re also the building blocks to a recovery that is equitable, that is fair. That helps us go farther, helps us become an even better city. So, 2021 is going to be a very exciting year, and today is further evidence of the shape of things to come. Thank you, everyone.

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here