September 27, 2021
Mayor Bill de Blasio: Good morning, everybody. Happy Monday. Let's begin with what's possibly my favorite topic, vaccination. So, we are seeing an amazing recovery in this city. We’ve got a long way to go, but we're seeing recovery. You go around the city, you can feel it. I was around this weekend, different parts of the city, incredible energy. Why? Because people got vaccinated. New Yorkers proved that they were going to do everything to fight back. And the best way to fight back was to get vaccinated, get your family vaccinated. People went and did it. The numbers are astounding and I want everyone to be proud of the fact that, as of today, more than 82 percent of New York City adults have had at least one dose of the vaccine. More than 82 percent, that's an astounding figure, that's something every one of you should be proud of. And thank you to everyone who's participated.
Now, we have a chance to double down and protect more New Yorkers because of boosters. We're very, very happy that the booster shots are here. I want to make it clear from the beginning, we're going to get different authorizations at different times. Right now, it's Pfizer recipients – folks who got Pfizer shots before can get Pfizer boosters now. Moderna will come along later – Johnson & Johnson. But, right now, it's folks who originally got Pfizer shots can get the Pfizer booster. We do expect those other approvals very soon for boosters. And the one I'm particularly excited about, as early as next month, the approval for vaccine for the five- to 11-year-olds – that is crucial and that's going to be so important for this city.
But, right now, for Pfizer recipients, here are the ground rules, and it covers a lot of New Yorkers. If you're 65 or older, you can get a booster. Adults with underlying serious conditions, you can get a booster. If you work in a high-risk setting, you can get a booster. If you're ready, you can get them right now. Go to vax4nyc.nyc.gov. Again, vax – number four – nyc.nyc.gov. Now, if you don't qualify, or you got the Moderna or the Johnson & Johnson – again, the original vaccination has a lot of impact, is providing a lot of protection. And we do believe those authorizations are coming soon for boosters. So, right now, we want to get boosters to everyone to qualifies, all the folks who had Pfizer previously and qualify. But we're, obviously, every single day, continuing the effort to get folks vaccinated for the very first time who have not yet, getting second shots to people that need second shots. But again, let's be proud of New York City – over 82 percent of adults have had at least one dose. That's a big, big deal.
Now, want to update everyone on the school vaccination mandate. There was a court action late Friday, temporary hold, but not a full trial. There is going to be a full procedure in the course of this week. And we are very, very confident that the City, the Department of Education is going to prevail, because we're trying to protect kids, we're trying to protect families, we're trying to protect working people in our schools. We've been in court with this very same set of information, very same argument at both the State and the federal level. We've won previously. We expect to win again and quickly this week. In the meantime, for the next few days, the previous vaccinate or test mandate remains in effect. That went into effect September 13th, that continues. So, everyone who works at the Department of Education, right now you either have to be vaccinated or you have to be getting that weekly test. We expect as early as the end of this week that we'll be going to the full vaccine mandate. But, of course, we will go through the whole court process.
But here's what's very good news in the meantime, because we had that vaccine mandate coming. People responded. In fact, even on Friday, even on Saturday, we saw the number of vaccinations in the Department of Education shoot upward – 7,000 more vaccinations just on those days. So, here's where we stand right now. Based on the information we have – and there's always a bit of a lag, getting the most updated vaccination information, and sometimes it's also employees showing us vaccination information if they got it in another jurisdiction, if they got vaccinated in New Jersey, for example. But, right now, here's our numbers – 87 percent of all Department of Education employees have had at least one dose – 87 percent, great number. 90 percent of teachers, 97 percent of principals, leading the way. Thank you to everyone who got vaccinated. A particular thanks to the principals for their leadership. And we've gotten information from the United Federation of Teachers. They're doing their own tracking. They believe that for their members, teachers, paras, other members – that number is actually higher. They believe that number is closer to 97 percent for their members. So, we would be thrilled as more information comes in to get that number up organically. But we're continuing every single day to tell folks, come get vaccinated. We're making it easy. It's available everywhere. Let's get ready for this vaccine mandate to take full effect as soon as we get through this court process. But look at these numbers already – for everyone, especially for parents and kids, this should be a real sense of relief to see the numbers are already so high. And that says great things about our ability to have a safe school system and keep everything moving really, really well for our kids.
Okay. Now, we continue to address COVID every single day, the most immediate challenge, but the biggest challenge of our time we have to address also everyday – that's the climate crisis. And we know the climate crisis demands of us a lot of changes, a lot of new approaches. We also know it is manifesting as something that's shocking, more severe, more sudden type of weather that we've never seen before, literally, in our lives, of, kind of, stunning, fast, brutal weather changes that have a horrible impact on our people. Let's talk about Hurricane Ida. Hurricane Ida hit Louisiana. I just want to remind everyone – everyone I've talked to sense who works in the field of emergency response is still a bit in shock that a hurricane could hit Louisiana over a thousand miles away, travel inland across the United States, and still have the impact it had here in New York City – unprecedented. We had the highest amount of rain in an hour in the recorded history of New York City, but not from a hurricane that hit us directly, from a hurricane that traveled inland for 1,000-plus miles. We're in a whole new world and we have to act very differently. Now, once we experienced this horrible impact and we feel for the families, especially those who lost loved ones and are still struggling from the results of Hurricane Ida. We knew we had to do everything we could to reach out to them. So, we did an unprecedented outreach effort. We learned from the past, in this case, where the City didn't have as agile an outreach effort as it needed. We got together a strong team to go to the doors – go, literally, door-to-door in neighborhoods affected from our Public Engagement Unit, from community-based organizations. Over 16,000 doors were knocked on in the affected areas – so, talk to people directly, get them help. Hundreds of thousands of texts, hundreds of thousands of calls, immediately helping people. We got over 750 people hotel rooms when they needed them. We gave out a well over 100,000 free meals. Also, the debris – folks’ basements that got horribly affected by the flooding. They had to throw out so much. Sanitation Department moved very quickly – and credit to the men and women of Sanitation for really helping to get people back on their feet. This is a staggering figure, they picked up 17,700 tons of debris. We kept them going nonstop every day, all day, all night, and they did a great job. Also, kudos to the City Cleanup Corps. They did a great job going in to help homeowners get stuff out that they couldn't deal with, especially senior homeowners. City Cleanup Corps. really stepped up, helped make people a little bit more able to deal with this crisis, because someone was there to help them. So, thank you to the City Cleanup Corps.
We know this hurricane and we've seen this with COVID, we're seeing it again with the hurricane – it hit in an unequal way. The folks who were hurt the most, in many cases, were not only working-class people, hardworking, struggling people, immigrants, but, in many cases, undocumented immigrants. Over 5,000 undocumented immigrants, we estimate, were affected very directly by Ida. So, we've launched an effort to support them with the New York Immigration Coalition and the Excluded Worker Fund. Some folks, of course, cannot get FEMA support, because of documentation status. Other families can because they have a mix of family members with different statuses. We need direct relief for the undocumented. So, we're working with the State of New York right now for an effort that will launch at the end of this week to directly provide relief to undocumented New Yorkers affected by Ida. The Governor is going to talk about this later on today, our teams have been working closely. I want to thank Governor Hochul. This announcement’s details will be put out later, so I won't go into any detail now. But the City and State, working together to reach those most affected and those who are struggling the most.
Now, we learned from Ida, that we have to do some very, very different things to even understand what's coming at us, to prepare for it, to alert people, to educate people – a whole different host of things and major changes in what we're going to do, going forward, for years and years, to deal with a whole different kind of weather than we've ever known before. I want to remind you, again, what hit us was what was called remnants of Hurricane Ida – never seen remnants of anything do as much harm and cause as much destruction. So, this is a brand-new world. And so, we can't have business as usual. I convened a task force to look at this – experts from within the City government and consulted with really thoughtful, smart folks, experienced folks outside. So, the Extreme Weather Taskforce had the mission, put together a report that guides us in how to deal with this new reality. Here it is today and it's up online now – it's called The New Normal: Combating Storm Related Extreme Weather in New York City. This report is important, because it talks about a whole host of things, some we can do immediately, some we can do over the next few months, some that will take years – it's true. But it's a real playbook, real game plan for how we're going to address extreme weather. Now, it begins with some of the things we've started talking about already. We're going to have signage in new parts of New York City, warning people in new ways of where to stay away when there's heavy rain. We're going to have evacuation preparation. We're going to be going door-to-door to prepare people for the possibility that there will be evacuations in the future. We're going to be talking about travel bans. Things we had very, very rarely used in the past, we're going to have to use more often now. We're engaging community organizations that know their communities, particularly those communities with a lot of basement apartments, go door-to-door, talk to people in their own language, prepare them.
So, what we're realizing now is even with the information we get from the National Weather Service, we're going to have to be much more cautious, because the warnings we get are not sufficient. So, we're going to be upgrading our own storm tracking and alerting systems, building our own state of the art modeling. We have to do that here in New York City. Appreciate the federal government, I think they need to make a lot more investment. This is something Senator Schumer's talked about – a lot more investment in the modeling and the projecting so they can prepare people all over the country for these crises. But we've got to do it ourselves in the meantime and particularly focus on being able to warn people as early as humanly possible, even the possibility that something really challenging is coming. And we've got to focus, of course, on the neighborhoods that have had the hardest times all along in immigrant communities, low-income communities, communities of color. We've got to especially focus on getting the word out, getting people ready. We're going to do a full census of all basement apartments in New York City so we have an exact way to do an outreach, going – literally, knocking on doors, educating people. But, even in evacuation, knowing exactly where Police Department, Fire Department, others need to go for an evacuation. If we give that order, we have to be able to implement it immediately.
Now, we've talked about what we can do to fix some of the underlying problems. It's going to be real tough, that's the truth. Our sewer system was built for an entirely different reality in terms of climate. We've made some investments, $2 billion investment in the sewer systems in Southeast Queens. That really helped, but that was one neighborhood, one area. To do the whole city, to rework all our sewers for this new reality is probably over $100 billion dollars, that's only going to happen with a lot of federal support. So, we're clear in this report, federal support, State support, there's a lot of things we need to get to the bigger solutions, the truly long-term solutions. But, in the meantime, we have very aggressive actions we're going to take to protect people in the here and now.
I want you to hear about what this means from folks who are on the frontline, who saw the effect of Hurricane Ida, who've been fighting for a long time to make sure communities are protected. One of them, first, he was my colleague in the City Council when I was first a Council Member. I have tremendous respect for him and he's also been a leader, fighting for the investments New York City deserves from his position in the State Senate. He knows a lot about the challenges of flooding from the communities. He serves in Southeast Queens. My pleasure to introduce New York State Senator Leroy Comrie.
Mayor: Thank you. And Senator, I want to emphasize the point you're making. As I mentioned, the need for federal relief, State relief – one of the things we want to explore immediately, this is for everyone's understanding as we talk about particularly what we saw happen to the basement – so, the basement apartments, again, by our estimate, right now, over 100,000 New Yorkers living in over 50,000 basement apartments that happened to not be legal, and that's a problem. But the solution is very complex and very costly. Senator Comrie is one of the people who is leading the way with us, trying to figure out the solution, including – it could be tax credits to help homeowners convert these apartments to legal apartments. Now, again, it will take serious investment – tax credits, public investment, both on top of whatever a homeowner can do. But a lot of the homeowners who were hit hardest by Ida are people who are working class, have very few resources, can't make the investment. We're going to need their help from the State, because if we can find a way to finance these improvements and conversions, it will help the homeowner, it will help the tenants in the basement apartments, it'll make the situation safer. But we're going to need a lot of resources and that's where the State comes in. And thank you very, very much, Senator.
I want you to hear from someone who's really focused on these basement apartments, and it's a huge challenge, but trying to find ways to support the tenants who live in them, trying to find ways to meticulously do the work to get each and every one converted. It's going to take a long time, but it begins by focusing on wherever we can make an impact and then working for those bigger investments from the State and federal level to help us do it. She has advocated for working people aggressively and looked for new solutions. My pleasure to introduce Council Member Darma Diaz.
Mayor: Thank you so much. Council Member. Thank you for all you're doing, advocating for the people in your community and helping us look for every solution. And now, in terms of the scope of this report, it's really – for anyone concerned about climate change, and resiliency, and how we protect people, take a look at this report, because there's a lot of really powerful solutions, including powerful ideas about how to use open space, how to use our parks as part of the solution if we're dealing with new extreme weather and flooding. There are great ideas, some of which are already being implemented here in New York City, like the blue belt in Staten Island. Some of which we are borrowing from our good friends, particularly in Holland, legendarily has done great work on this issue, Denmark as well, Copenhagen. So, really powerful ideas that are going to be implemented, some of them very quickly to change the approach here. Some are going to take a huge amount of time and a huge amount of investment, but we have great thinkers, great allies who are pushing for these new directions. One of them is the New York State Director for an organization that has done tremendous good for this nation and saved so many extraordinary natural spaces, which is also part of the response to the climate crisis. So, thanks to him and everyone on his team for the great work they do. The New York State Director for the Trust for Public Land, Carter Strickland.
Mayor: Thank you so much, Carter. Thank you for everything you're doing with your colleagues. Thank you for your previous service to the City of New York. You know plenty about these challenges, but, I agree, we can do a lot. And every time we get more of a challenge thrown at us, more information, more clarity on the dangers ahead, it's also a call to arms to do more. So, we can, we will, and thank you for being a partner in this work.
Everybody, we're coming up on our indicators as we do every day, but I want to give you two updates before. One, on Rikers Island. And then, some breaking news I want to share with you about the Key to NYC vaccine mandate. On Rikers Island, we have put a series of new measures in place and we are seeing a real impact. We’ve got a lot to do, big challenges, but we are also seeing that with a lot of smart investments, a lot of forceful changes with some actual support from the State of New York, which is great and deeply appreciated – I thank the Governor for that and our whole team – we're making a real impact. So, for example, there's been real concerned about the intake process. We changed the intake process. We added new spaces, new clinics for the intake process, more personnel. The goal is always to have intake and the necessary approach is to get it under 24 hours. The average now is 10 hours for the entire intake process. That means people are not together in enclosed spaces. That also helps us address the challenge of COVID. We also are absolutely certain that we will end the triple shifts in the month of October. It never should have happened. There's a lot of reasons why it did, including, of course, COVID, but it cannot continue, it will not continue. So, we're seeing real progress – very few triple shifts now. We want to get rid of them altogether. We're bringing a lot more of the Correction Officers back through a combination of incentives and tough standards, making clear that anyone not doing their job will suffer the consequences. So, we're seeing real progress.
Very importantly, we’ve got to reduce the population in jail. I want to give you perspective – in 2019 – as recently as 2019, the population in the jails was over 7,000. By August of this year, it was over 6,000. We're now down to 5,600. We believe, in the coming weeks, we'll be able to get this number under 5,000. I want to get under 5,000. I want to see the jail population go to 4,000-plus, and keep going downward as much as we can, but get it under 5,000 in the weeks ahead. That in combination with bringing more and more officers back and bringing in outside help from the NYPD, from private security, all of these actions are going to help us to make a safer, healthier environment. And, of course, the great work that Correctional Health is doing to keep people safe, to help everyone, officers and inmates alike, having a lower population, having more officers present is going to help everyone. The goal is a humane justice system, a humane correctional system, doing everything we can right now to fix Rikers. But, again, the real goal – get out of Rikers once and for all in the years ahead to the community-based jails. We did this work with the City Council. We're going to see this change for the city and allow us to do right by people in the future.
I said, breaking news, I've got breaking news. There was a legal challenge to the Key to NYC – again, the mandate for indoor dining, entertainment, fitness. Legal challenge in the Eastern District, federal court, an attempt to get a temporary restraining order on the Key to NYC.
The Eastern District court has denied that restraining order and the Key to NYC, once again, has prevailed in court. So, this is further evidence, and other reason we're confident about the mandate that we have for the schools – every time there is a full court decision, we find that these mandates are affirmed, because they keep people safe, and they help us stop a global pandemic and turn a corner once and for all on COVID.
And speaking of which, here are our indicators. First of all, doses administered to-date, amazing figure today – 11,416,837. Every day, I've been watching the figures every day. They remain strong. You're going to see another uptick this week, because of mandates coming into play. Also, of course, now we're going to start to see the boosters. So, this is a very, very good number. Number two, daily number of people admitted to New York City hospitals for suspected COVID-19 – today's report, 120 patients. Confirmed positivity level 26.32 percent. And then, our hospitalization rate. And this is, again, one of the most important numbers, and a good one today – 1.07 per 100,000. Finally, number three, new reported cases on a seven-day average – today’s report, 1,320 cases.
I’m going to say a few words in Spanish, particularly on the storm response and the support we're going to provide for immigrant families, including undocumented immigrants.
[Mayor de Blasio speaks in Spanish]
Mayor: With that, let's turn to our colleagues in the media and please let me know the name and outlet of each journalist.
Moderator: Good morning, we will now begin the Q-and-A. As a reminder, we are joined by Dr. Dave Chokshi, Dr. Mitch Katz, Emergency Management Commissioner John Scrivani, Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Vincent Sapienza, Director for Mayor's Office of Climate Resiliency Jainey Bavishi, MOCJ Director Marcos Soler, and Chancellor Meisha Porter. Our first question today goes to Juliet from 1010 Wins.
Question: Good morning, Mr. Mayor. Good morning, Mr. Mayor, how are you doing today?
Mayor: Good, Juliet. How are you?
Question: I'm very well, thank you so much. I know on Friday you said you had planned to go to Rikers this week. When will that be, and will press be accompanying you?
Mayor: I'll be going this week. We're going to announce it as soon as we nail it down, but certainly in the next few days. I'm going to go on the tour with officials from my team. We're not bringing a whole big media contingent, and, obviously, this is a tour to update what's going on with all the initiatives we’ve put in place, see what's happening, understand what's working, what more we need to do. But I'll certainly be speaking to the media after right there at Rikers once we lock down the details. Go ahead, Juliet.
Question: Okay. Thank you. Also, these street vendor [inaudible] Bronx produce with dumped. Was that the right way for City agencies to handle that situation?
Mayor: That was precisely the wrong way, Juliet. I'm really sad about this. I'm someone – you know my mom brought me up to finish everything on my plate and I'd never waste food. And the notion that perfectly good food was thrown away is – it's absolutely horrible. So, look, this shouldn't have happened. I don't blame any one person or agency. I think this is a classic thing of bureaucracy is not communicating and not using common sense. If you've got a lot of good quality food, let's get it to a homeless shelter or food pantry someplace where it can be used. Of course, we would never throw it out. So, I'm disappointed and we're going to have to figure out some quick new approaches to make sure this never happens again.
Moderator: Our next question goes to Ari Feldman from NY1.
Question: Morning, Mr. Mayor, how are you doing good?
Mayor: Good, Ari. How you been?
Question: I'm doing well. I'm really interested to see this report, just starting to go through and formulate some questions about it. But one thing that I was interested in asking about was that, you know, this question of alerting people who live particularly in basement apartments, especially in vulnerable areas. My understanding is that the federal system, the wireless emergency alerts that go right to your phone and that you don't have to opt into, that those are currently only available in English and Spanish. And I'm curious if – whether or not the plan includes this, but how the City plans to create automatic alerts that will automatically show up on people's phones that may be geographically coordinated, but that will be in the many, many diverse languages that people who live in these basement apartments and in these vulnerable parts of Queens, languages that they speak.
Mayor: Well, it's a great question, Ari. And this is really about us using the technological capacity we have in new and better ways, but it also begins with that census that we're doing, which we've never had before. So, what I'd say to you is, right now, I think the combination that's outlined here, the door-to-door efforts by the community organizations in the languages of each community to prepare people, to get them acclimated because it's one thing to get that report – or excuse me that alert at the moment of contact, but we actually want people to think about and understand it in advance so they don't diminish that alert, so they really pay full attention. So, that early work is going to be crucial and that's going to start right away. And, clearly, using the alerts differently, regardless of language is crucial and that's clear in this report. But I think you make a great point. Whether it's the cell phone alert or other forms of communication using a more sophisticated, more pinpointed approach to how we reach people in their own language, I think that's something we can do. I really do. And I would say just, I'll give that charge to John Scrivani and his team at Emergency Management, who is on the call with us now, to work that through and figure out how we can have dedicated approaches for each area in each language whether it's texting or a variety of other modalities because we got to get the message across urgently. Go ahead, Ari.
Question: Thank you. The other question was about this idea to hire a private weather forecaster who can provide a “second opinion” on what the National Weather Service says is coming to the city. What will that look like in terms of how the City balances reports from National Weather Service and from the private forecaster, how will those different reports be weighted? You know, who will have determined – who will have control over how the City responds based on the different reports it gets?
Mayor: I'll make a parallel that I think is helpful here. Ari, it’s a great question. You know, after something very horrible happened to this city, which we just commemorated, 9/11, the City of New York made the determination to create its own intelligence gathering capacity and its own preparations to fight terrorism. It was not any disrespect for the other efforts, good efforts happening – state, federal, international – but we needed our own perspective given how important we are, how vulnerable we are. And it – thank God we created the Intelligence Division at NYPD. It's had a tremendously positive impact and it has often given us information we wouldn't have gotten any other place. Faster, better information, information that might have gotten lost in other bureaucracies, bluntly, more urgent information because it was us protecting ourselves and thinking about our people directly. The National Weather Service, they do good and important work, but we've too often found the reports were too vague or too late, and we need something more urgent. So, my simple summary would be having a private forecasting capacity to just be that second set of eyes, just like you'd go to a second opinion with a doctor, to tell us if what we're seeing from the National Weather Service looks like the whole story, where there's a possibility of things happening earlier, a higher impact, what level of alert we should go to, someone dedicated to thinking from the New York City perspective, not the whole nation perspective. I think that's going to be really, really valuable.
Moderator: Our next question goes to Andrew Siff from WNBC.
Question: Good morning, Mr. Mayor. Happy Monday to you.
Mayor: Happy Monday, Andrew, how you feel?
Question: I'm doing pretty well, thanks. With regard to the now paused vaccine mandate for school employees, the UFT is saying that this morning teachers who were not vaccinated or staff were not vaccinated, got an internal message saying they're not allowed to report to the building and that they notified you guys or the DOE about this at 6:15 in the morning, and it wasn't fixed until 8:00 in the morning. What they're saying is, this is further proof that you're not ready for this mandate to go into place, and that if there is a staffing shortage, you are not ready to meet that. What is your response?
Mayor: Well, I will first say that that alert was a mistake. And, you know, there is human error out there, which is a very different question than level of readiness. It shouldn't have happened. It was a mistake. It was caught, it was corrected, and it had very little negative impact. So, I'm not happy about it, but I'm glad it got fixed. And we just put some additional safeguards in place to make sure that no such alerts go without additional sign off to make sure they’re the right thing. But to the readiness point, let's go over the numbers again. Right now, 87 percent of all DOE employees – this is what we know of this moment, we know this number is higher. Again, 90 percent of all teachers, 97 percent of all principals. In fact, the UFT themselves says amongst their members who are a huge part of the school system, the number is closer to 97 percent of members vaccinated. I think the facts speak for themselves, Andrew. We’re going to have the staffing we need, and the mandate has already worked because it's encouraged so many people that get vaccinated to protect each other and our kids. So, we're confident we're going to win in court. We're confident we're going to be able to implement this as early as the end of the week. And we're confident we're going to have the personnel we need. Go ahead, Andrew.
Question: Second question, zeroing in on Staten Island as an area of concern, we're hearing from folks like Joe Borelli and others that their staffing concern is specifically schools out there where they've been told anywhere from 13 to 50 people at one building might not be there. And separately, you may have heard about an anti-vaccine protest over the weekend at the Staten Island Mall, where people in the food court were shouted down. It was, sort of, a strong show from an anti-vax movement. What are you planning to do, if anything, about a culture of opposition to the vaccine on Staten Island and at schools there?
Mayor: Well, I don't think there is a culture of opposition in the end. I think there's some people opposed, but it has not manifested as some bigger reality. They went, they had a protest, they left. That's that. It's, again, we're seeing that – this number doesn't lie. Over 82 percent of adults in New York City have received at least one dose and more will be, I guarantee it, this week. So, I think this, sort of, question of where is New York City going, where are the people going? It's already settled. The vast, vast majority have already made the decision that vaccinations are the right thing to do. I mean, 82 percent. I like to say it this way, Andrew. When else have you ever seen 82 percent of New Yorkers agree on anything? So, this is a staggering figure in Staten Island and all five boroughs. And in terms of the schools, I've been asking the exact same question, great minds think alike. We are not hearing, so far, any instance of a school where the numbers of folks who will be out are more than we can address. And I think some people say that they are going to leave when this finally comes into place they're going to leave, but they have to make a really big decision. Do they really want to give up on their kids and the school community? Do they want to give up a paycheck? I think a lot of people when they really think about it are going to realize that getting vaccinated is the right thing to do. And you're going to see those numbers a lot lower than some of the projections.
Moderator: The next question goes to Marla Diamond from WCBS 880.
Question: Good morning, Mr. Mayor. This is a question for you and Mitchell Katz. Are you aware of any staff shortages at City hospitals, public and private, because of the State vaccination mandate that goes into effect today?
Mayor: I'll speak to the publics and say – and I want to give Dr. Katz credit. I think he's managed the situation very well. I feel good about, very good about our ability to have the staffing we need in the public hospitals. I'll let Dr. Katz start, and then he and Dr. Chokshi can speak to anything about the private hospitals that we're hearing as well. Go ahead, Dr. Katz.
President and CEO Mitchell Katz, NYC Health + Hospitals: Thank you so much, sir. And I'm very happy to report that over 95 percent of my nurses are vaccinated today. So, you were talking about 82 percent of New Yorkers agreeing. Well, 95 percent of my nurses have agreed. Close to 98, 99 percent of my doctors have agreed. All our facilities are open and fully functional. I have not heard of any negative reports from the private hospital system, but I confess I spent today making sure that Health + Hospitals is running well. Thank you, sir.
Mayor: Thank you. Dr. Chokshi, want to add?
Commissioner Dave Chokshi, Department of Health and Mental Hygiene: No, sir. Nothing to add. Thank you.
Mayor: Okay. Go ahead, Marla.
Question: [Inaudible] Riker's visit. Do you – would you have anything to say on calls from advocacy groups, they say that you can use your executive powers to release more non-violent offenders. Is that something that you plan to do? And also have you met with the city district attorneys on the issue of bail? Advocates said at a protest this week that it is still being set at a high level for low-level offenders, a level of bail that they often cannot meet.
Mayor: Okay. Two different questions there. Marla, on bail, I talk to the various district attorneys quite a lot. I think the important point is that judges are working within the law to determine what's safe and what makes sense. So, I don't hear reports that the advocates are raising. I'm certainly not hearing that from district attorneys. I think right now the challenge is, work within the law but keep public safety first and foremost. In terms of the second part – Marla, I'm sorry, I'm going to ask you to repeat that other part of your question.
Question: Right, can you use your executive power to release even more people at Rikers that do not fall under that – it's the State, what the Governor announced about releasing non-violent offenders, the 191 non-violent offenders? Can you release more with your executive powers?
Mayor: Yeah, you said the key point is non-violent. Here's the deal, with my executive powers there is the ability to release certain people. It is a small number. We're going to talk about it as soon as we have finished the process with the district attorneys, NYPD evaluating each case. I have been real adamant about, I want to reduce population in Rikers quickly. We are reducing it as we speak. We're going to reduce it by hundreds more, very quickly in the coming days because of work we're doing with the State, because thank God, the Less is More law is now at our disposal. We're going to be able to drive this population down, I think in pretty short order, below 5,000. That's the key point. But the ability that I have to do further releases is small in the scheme of things compared to these big moves we're making. And also, I'm only going to release someone if I'm convinced it will not hinder public safety. So, that's the balance we're going to strike. But we will be providing those specific numbers as soon as the evaluation is done.
Moderator: Our next question goes to Emma Fitzsimmons from the New York Times.
Question: Good morning, Mayor. I was curious, are you concerned about shortages at private hospitals in light of this new vaccine mandate and what are you doing to monitor that or respond to that?
Mayor: I will start, Emma, and, obviously, turn to Dr. Chokshi, Dr. Katz to comment as well. Am I concerned? Yes. But am I seeing evidence of any substantial shortage in New York City private hospitals? No, I am not seeing that at this moment. I think there are big challenges around the rest of the state for sure. But I think really good work – I mean, obviously, you've seen some of the hospitals that got out first with vaccine mandates have had extraordinary success getting their folks vaccinated. Health + Hospitals, you just heard it from Dr. Katz, putting that mandate in had a big impact. So, we're going to be watching and be ready to work with the private hospitals if there is any problem, but I am not perceiving a major problem at this point. I think anything that we see is something that we'll be able to make adjustments to help address. Dr. Chokshi, Dr. Katz, do you want to speak to?
Commissioner Chokshi: Yes, sir. That's exactly right. And we are in touch with our colleagues at the private hospitals, non-profit hospitals, to make sure that they have plans in place, you know, with respect to adequate staffing. But as you said, what we've seen thus far, for example, in New York-Presbyterian had implementation of its vaccine requirement last week and saw minimal to no impact in terms of patient care. And you just heard from Dr. Katz in terms of what's happening in Health + Hospitals. I do expect that some places where more health care workers remain to be vaccinated may have to make some operational adjustments, particularly to ensure that, you know, the places that staffing is most important, that's intensive care units or the operating rooms, are adequately staffed. But, you know, I do believe that that hospitals will be prepared to get through this, again without a major impact to patient care.
I'll just add on a personal note, you know, I was in my own clinic last Friday, everyone that I was seeing patients with, this was at Bellevue Hospital, part of the Health + Hospital System was already vaccinated, and I think that there are so many people who have been taking care of patients over the last two years who want to feel safe in the environments that they're in and who are very supportive of these vaccine requirements moving forward, because it's the right thing to do for not just their colleagues, but also the people that we’re taking care of.
Mayor: Thanks doctor, and Dr. Katz, you want to add anything.
President and CEO Mitchell Katz, NYC Health + Hospitals: No, sir. I totally agree with Dr. Chokshi. Thank you.
Mayor: Thank you. Go ahead, Emma.
Question: And then in terms of H + H, you know, Dr. Katz said that not everyone is vaccinated, there are high rates in nurses and doctors, but my understanding is that less well-paid workers are vaccinated at lower rates. So, how many health care workers do you expect to put on leave today if they're not vaccinated?
Mayor: And let me just offer before turning to Dr. Katz, Emma, one, again, this comes to the hours, really, as people have to make a choice. I really feel strongly that many people, whatever previous hesitations or concerns, when it comes down to choice of are you really ready to give up a job, that you've been a part of serving people, a community of people, that you're really ready to give that up, and you're really ready to give up your paycheck, a lot of people at that point say, okay, wait, I'll go get vaccinated. I think that's a powerful reality we're seeing here, but go ahead, Dr. Katz.
President Katz: Yes, sir. I totally agree with your analogy and when I did a town hall last week, I got a lot of positive feedback about reminding people that smallpox vaccination was also mandated, and because of that, I have the scar of taking Vaccinia, which was a very dangerous vaccination that people actually died of, but happily my children do not – they did not have to get vaccinated because we eradicated the disease. We do things sometimes in all for purposes that are greater than ourselves. I'm – in terms of Health + Hospitals were over 90 percent now across all employees, and even today we are not putting people on leave. If people are not vaccinated, they're not going to get paid for today, but we're keeping lines of communication open, and we're hoping that if not today, then by tomorrow people will go and get vaccinated and resume their posts. So, I don't yet have any final numbers, but today's actions will be for people who are not vaccinated, they cannot come into our facilities, and they will not be paid for their work. Thank you.
Mayor: Thank you. Go ahead.
Moderator: Our next question goes to Erin Durkin from Politico.
Question: Hi, Mr. Mayor, actually, I'm going to ask something similar, but I don't think I heard an answer to part of it, which is how many public hospital employees are – I guess this category that you're saying are just not getting paid starting with today and not allowed to show up starting with today. Is that correct? And what is the number?
Mayor: Good question, thank you, Erin. And Mitch, with a qualifier that numbers are still being tabulated and a lot of people are making those last-minute decisions to get vaccinated, as we indicated, if you could give us sort of any kind of universe of numbers of folks that still are not resolved. I think – so Erin, I'm modifying the question in a friendly amendment because I don't think we can say here's the exact number of this hour because it's changing literally as people are making decisions, but we can give you a little sense of universe, Mitch, what would you say?
President Katz: So, there are 43,000 employees for Health + Hospitals. We're over percent, which means there are about 5,000 people who are not yet vaccinated, as of the best information we had last night going into this morning. But as you say, sir, I won't have better information until the end of the day, because if someone comes in for their shift today, we will send them to the vaccination clinic, and if they get vaccinated, they can then go to work. So, I won't know until the end of the day. Also, for people to keep in mind, because we're a 24 hour, seven-day-a-week service, not everybody is due for working today this morning. So, some people will get vaccinated today so that they can come in for an afternoon shift or an evening shift. But going into today, I had about 5,000 people who were not yet vaccinated.
Mayor: Right, and Erin, to put in perspective, so you're now seeing at Department of Education and at Health + Hospitals, the number we have this hour is so high, and we again know that more people have gotten vaccinated, we'd still haven't gotten the report on or more people will choose to, that these are numbers that we can sustain. The point is when you're around 90 percent, clearly, we can work with all the tools we have to keep everything moving. So, there'll be challenges, unquestionably, but I want to affirm when you're at that level of vaccination, good organizations, good leaders like Dr. Katz can work unquestionably with the personnel they have to keep everything moving, and I would remind you, they were all these leaders were lacking a huge amount of personnel at the height of COVID because so many people are out with COVID, and they still kept extraordinary operations going in the face of crisis. This is a situation much more manageable, and we're going to have the people we need. Go ahead, Erin.
Question: Okay, thanks. And then with the [inaudible] Rikers, when you say you're going to bring down the population below 5,000 in the next coming weeks. So, if I understand correctly, the Less Is More Act Governor Hochul already ordered those folks to be released, and the transfers to the state prisons are also happening and, and you've been kind of reluctant to release the people under the 6A, you know, and, and bail decisions or judges and prosecutors. So how exactly are you going to get it under 5,000, by which mechanisms are you getting people out of there if it hasn't already happened?
Mayor: Yeah, and Erin, I want to affirm to you, thank you for the question, it's not reluctance, it's clarity. The 6A group is not a large group of people to begin with, and I'm only going to work with the recommendations from all of our public safety professionals, including DAs as to which might be appropriate. It's just not going to be a game-changing number. The big numbers are related to Less Is More, the ability to not bring people in the front door if they're technical parole violators. We’re working to try and have them immediately diverted, either not be in any kind of incarceration, or go straight to the state system which is what really makes sense. A number of other people will be leaving for the state system who have been sentenced there. There are big pieces we'll be able to act on, hundreds at a time, over these next few weeks, and a lot of it is based on the cooperation with the state. So, you know, that's always been the missing link here. We didn't have a state partner, we needed a state partner, we now finally have that. The Legislature provided partnership by passing Less Is More, Governor Hochul and her team provided leadership by signing it and then acting on it and working with us each day to find solutions. So, those numbers will be going down by hundreds immediately in the days ahead.
Moderator: We have time for two more questions today. The next question goes to Michael Gartland from the Daily News.
Question: Good morning, Mr. Mayor.
Mayor: Hey Michael, happy Monday.
Question: Happy Monday to you. On 6A, you said repeatedly it's not a large group of people who’ll be affected when you're factoring out violent offenders. So, what is the number, exactly? What is the estimated number of people that could be released under 6A?
Mayor: I’m not going to give you an estimated number and I'll give you an actual number when the process is completed, which will be, I think this week. Every case is being looked at individually, including if there are, you know, some cases – remember, Michael – you've got someone in for one charge, but there's another warrant outstanding. There's a lot of specificity here. We're going to figure out what that number is and then announce it. But to my understanding, it's dozens, it's not hundreds. The real big impact is going to be these actions we take with the state where we're moving hundreds of people out in the course of weeks. That's where we're going to see the big population reduction. Again, I believe in relatively short order, we can get the population under 5,000. Go ahead, Michael.
Question: Thanks, Mr. Mayor. I've seen a lot of examples in recent weeks of police officers in enclosed spaces, not wearing masks. I see it myself. I see people posting about this in social media all the time. And I – this is something we've asked about before, but could you talk about what has made it so difficult to get police to put the masks on and what the city is doing to get them to put their masks on?
Mayor: Michael? I believe you saw what you saw, and I believe the folks on social are reporting what they're seeing. I'm also watching all the time. I got to tell you, it seems a very different situation to me than it used to be, and I want to differentiate, I'm glad you said indoors. I agree with you, indoors is where we need the most caution. There are certain situations if everyone is vaccinated, and it's a small group of people, where it is safe to have a mask off indoors, but overwhelmingly for officers and for all public employees, indoors is going to be a place where you keep the mask on. Outdoors, different reality, and again, a lot of our officers are vaccinated, and part of what we've emphasized is if you are vaccinated, you have a little more freedom, and we want people to understand that. So, the message has been very clear to officers, I think the best way to handle it, Michael, is any individual instance, if any members of media see it, reported it to us, we'll bring it over to PD for follow-up. We got to just keep reminding people, have the supervisors do their job, get people to do the right thing. If someone seriously is resisting, of course there'll be consequences, but I think it's about just persistent supervision to make sure it works right.
Moderator: Our final question today goes to Robert Hennelly from the Chief Leader.
Question: Thanks for taking the call. Reducing the economy's carbon footprint is a top priority of policy makers concerned about climate change and reducing use of fossil fuels to move the workforce is on their list. For years, even the federal government has had successful pilot programs to promote remote work for back-office functions like the Social Security Administration, the offices they have. In the last few months, you seem to have repeatedly said that New York City’s use of remote work was just a point during the pandemic. Do you think that there's any municipal jobs that could be done via remote work or hybrid?
Mayor: Look, Bob, I want to emphasize – it's a fair question. And I want to remind you, of course, when people are getting around using mass transit, the impact on the carbon footprint is obviously minimal because that mass transit's running anyway and that's what most of our public workers use. But the fact is, I think there's a really valid discussion about the future of remote work in public service, but this isn't the moment to have it in my very strong opinion. We saw a lot of hard work. I want to emphasize, some people said, oh, are you saying that people who were remote weren't working hard? No, they were working hard. I'm sure the vast, vast majority we're working really hard and trying their best. What I saw just absolutely consistently was that the quality of work, the quality of teamwork, the quality of communication was being undermined by the remote reality, and that the best we could do for people, the best we could do for the people we serve was to get our workforce back, get them coordinated, get them focused on the people they got to serve, get them vaccinated. But post-pandemic, whole different discussion. I think for the new administration, it's a chance to look at this and decide what the future looks like. And there may well be some examples where remote work or hybrid work makes sense. It's just this is not the moment for that conversation from my point of view, we have the immediate crisis we got to address. Go ahead, Bob.
Question: So, you mentioned the challenge in prior get-togethers that the City’s had to get its arms around the tens of thousands of illegal basement apartments. Over the years in interviewing the Department of Buildings and FDNY inspectors, they've talked about the problem they have with the existing State law about getting access to buildings. Can you talk about that? And in light of the serious efforts you're making to reach these people, do we need to reassess some of these laws that have really hindered the City being proactive?
Mayor: Yeah, I'm really glad you raised that. The answer is yes. And I'm going to send a message out. You're going to help me with my managerial approach for the day, Bob. I'm sending this message out to all the good people who worked on this report. I know you're going to be doing follow-ups each month, providing progress reports on this, which is great. Include what Bob just said in one of your follow-ups, because this has been a big issue. I think it has ramifications for what we're talking about with the basements. But I think it has ramifications for all the work that, for example, the Buildings Department, does in terms of health and safety. I have been at town hall meetings where people say, there's a problem, you know, the house next door, there's a safety problem, a health problem for our community. And we send over inspectors and inspectors say they can't gain access. I've always thought that's ridiculous. That's not the inspector's fault, it's the law's fault, that if someone is there from the City to protect the health and safety of the surrounding community, they have to be able to get access. So, I think you're exactly right. We should – and thank you, I will always comment and compliment when media raises things that we in public service need to know and need to act on. Thank you, Bob. We need to change City and/or State law to give those inspectors access. And if they need support from any of our public safety agencies in doing it, they should get it because a lot of what they do is what's going to keep people safe. And if they can't get in the building, they can't keep people safe. So, thank you.
And everyone, look, as we conclude today, we have big challenges. We're still fighting back COVID. We've got this huge new challenge from the climate, but I urge everyone to look at this report because this is an example of what New York City does. We get hit with something, we get right back up, we find new solutions, we move quickly. We are bold. That's who we are as New Yorkers. We do not take no for an answer. So, whatever is thrown at us, we're going to find a solution. People are doing that right now with COVID by getting vaccinated. Thank you to the 82 percent. Let's go get the 18 percent now and finish the job and beat COVID once and for all. Thank you, everybody.