Mayor de Blasio Appears Live on NBC’s The Today Show

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Kristen Welker: Bill de Blasio is the Mayor of New York City for two more days, wrapping up eight years in office. He approved keeping Times Square open to the public to watch the iconic ball drop on New Year’s Eve, just as the number of new COVID cases breaks new records. Mayor de Blasio, good morning. Happy almost-New Year’s Eve to you.

Mayor Bill de Blasio: Good morning, Kristen. It’s going to be a great New Year’s. We’re looking forward to 2022, getting past the COVID era.

Welker: Well, that’s for sure. Let me ask you about your decision to have the celebration, the ball drop. It is scaled back. There’s going to be about 15,000 people, about a quarter of what was initially planned. But given that New York is yet again the epicenter, given that some local officials are calling for you to cancel the in-person event altogether, why not scale back that event even further?

Mayor: Look, I don’t believe in shutdowns. We have to fight our way through COVID and the way to do it is vaccination. We have the strongest vaccine mandates in the country and now 91 percent of all New York City adults have had at least one dose of the vaccine. So, shutdowns are not the answer. The answer is, get people vaccinated. This event is vaccination-only. Everyone who’s going to be, it’s going to be outdoors, vaccination only, masks required, socially distanced. But we want to show that we’re moving forward and we want to show the world that New York City is fighting our way through this. It’s really important to not give up in the face of this.

Welker: Mayor de Blasio, just to put a fine point on it, are there any discussions about scaling back the in-person event further or canceling it outright?

Mayor: No, Kristen. This is the decision we made with our health care team. And all of those layers of protection – I mean, we said from the very beginning, it would be vaccinated folks only and outdoors. And now, we added the masks, the distancing. Our health care leadership believes this is the right way to do it. And our colleagues at the Times Square Alliance, they believe adamantly, and I agree with them, we’ve got to send a message to the world – New York City’s open, our schools are coming back Monday, full strength. And the way to deal with COVID is not shut downs, it’s even more in terms of vaccination – doubling down on vaccination.

Peter Alexander: Mr. Mayor –

Mayor: Our private sector vaccine mandate started Monday and that’s one one of the things that’s going to see us through this moment.

Alexander: Let me ask you about the frontline staffing shortages, if I can, for a moment. As you know, at the FDNY, their EMS workers are seeing 30 percent of their numbers out of their staff out due to illness there. How big of a risk is that to public safety in this city?

Mayor: Peter, it’s a really important question. But, thank God, we’ve got this five-day standard now. So, what are what are first responder leadership is saying – look, folks are cycling in and out. We want everyone to be a healthy, but what we’re seeing is very mild illnesses, thank God. After five days, people coming right back on. We have the ability to weather this, for sure. So, I want, you know, everyone to understand, this city is strong and is functioning right now, really, really well because, thank God, the vast majority – we have, you know, 94 percent of our public workforce vaccinated. So, folks are weathering this really quickly and well, because they’re vaccinated.

Welker: Mayor, let me ask you about your eight years as mayor. During your tenure, homelessness has gone up, police stops have gone down, as you know, racial inequality is still a major issue here in this city. So, is New York better now after eight years of your leadership?

Mayor: Look, New York’s better, because of New Yorkers. New Yorkers were heroic in fighting COVID these last two years, but I came here to fight inequality. We’ve proven it. Independent studies have shown we were able to put a lot more money back in the pockets of working people. Wages have gone up. We’ve been able to give things like pre-K and 3-K to all families for free, universally. We have, after a really tough two years, we’re, once again, turning the corner – this is the safest big city in America. That is a fact. And look, I’m convinced, New Yorkers have shown us just a heroism and a beautiful passion to move forward in this crisis. And I’m convinced this place is better off than it was eight years ago.

Alexander: Mr. Mayor, our time is thin, so I’ll go for a one-word answer here. You said you’re seriously thinking about running for Governor. What’s next? Are you going to run for Governor of New York State?

Mayor: I will be traveling New York State in just a matter of days, so I’ll have more to say then.

Alexander: All right. I think I counted 15 words there, but it was a good effort. Mr. Mayor, Bill de Blasio, we appreciate your time. Thank you so much.

Mayor: Happy New Year, everybody.

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