Thursday, October 1, 2020


Mayor Bill de Blasio: Well, good morning, everybody. And this morning, congratulations are in order. As the principal of the One World Middle School said to all of us in the Bronx this morning – we did it. We did it. You did it. New York City did it. This is an absolutely amazing moment, fighting back this pandemic. And this morning, 1,600 New York City public schools opened, kids coming to school for the first time since March. And it was a joyous moment in the Bronx this morning, the energy was amazing. The kids, ready to be back in school with their teachers they love, with their friends, parents so happy to see their kids back in school. So, relieved. The teachers, the educators, the staff, incredible joy at seeing kids again, at being ready to be there to help our kids move forward. We did it, New York City, and everyone should be proud of this moment. This is an example of what makes New York City great. We did something that other cities around this country could only dream of because we have fought back this pandemic so well for so long, because we had the will and the focus to bring back our public schools for the good of our kids, our families, and all of New York City. This is a key moment in our rebirth. And a lot of people said it couldn't be done and it was tough, but we did it and we did it together. So, congratulations to everyone.  


This morning, amazing Principal Patricia Wynn, who founded the school 10 years ago, she said she was up at 3:00 AM because she was so excited and so happy to welcome kids back. And she kept telling everyone they should be proud of what they achieved by getting us to this day. And then as I was leaving the school, she turned to me very purposely, and she said, thank you, now keep us open, please. And that is the crucial message that I want everyone to focus on, that we're going to work every single day to take this achievement and build on it, to make our schools better all the time, to keep strengthening everything we're doing for our kids and families, and to stay open all the way through. That is the mission. We've got a lot to do. And we have to constantly work at addressing the health challenges around us, but we have achieved something remarkable today and now we will build upon it. And I want to tell you, a beautiful moment with the young woman who is an ambassador, they call them ambassadors of the school, each grade has a group of ambassadors who greet visitors coming to the school. A young woman named Farhana, an eighth grade ambassador, she greeted me, she had a little speech she gave about what the first day of school meant to her and her classmates. And the most important thing she said to me is, we are so excited to be here together again. That is the spirit of what we're seeing this morning in schools all over New York City.  


Now, as I said, 1,600 public schools open, over 1,000 community-based pre-K and 3-K sites open, all receiving kids today. In the course this week, as many as half-a-million kids will go through the door of a New York City public school program. And that is something that speaks volumes. And I want to turn to the Chancellor now and say, this victory was won on the ground in every single school and every single pre-K and 3-K center by the educators, by the staff who were working all summer to make this happen, by the parents and the students who kept the faith. But I want to thank the Chancellor and your whole team – and we've spent a lot of time together the last few weeks at the war room at the Tweed Courthouse headquarters of the Department of Education. And I will tell you, the Chancellor and his team have not gotten a lot of sleep these last weeks. They – if you send them an email at midnight, you get a response at midnight, you send them an email at seven in the morning, you get a response at seven in the morning. They have been on it seven days a week. And this achievement is something you, Chancellor, and your whole team should be very proud of. We've got a long way to go and a lot more to do, but this is a crucial moment. Chancellor, please give us an update on what you're seeing today and where we're going. 


Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza: Thank you, Mr. Mayor, and good morning, everybody. Happy first day of school, times three. So, we have a lot to celebrate today. As the Mayor said, congratulations to our teachers, our principals, paras, school nutrition workers, school safety agents, and most assuredly our school custodians who have done everything in their power to make sure that schools are open safely and securely and with good sanitation and safety protocols. As of this morning, schools in every grade have opened their doors for children across the city. There's magic that happens in a classroom when you see an adult in the classroom with children, and it's been so uplifting. It's all worth it, all the sleepless nights are worth it. Classrooms and school buildings are buzzing again. And for the first time since March, students are in those schools eager to learn, and dedicated educators are ready to teach. This is a monumental milestone for our city. I want to thank everybody. And I've just mentioned everybody that I want to thank, but I want to thank parents as well, because you have made it possible for us to reach this point. I also want to thank the incredible and tireless staff in our schools and our central and borough offices who have worked literally night and day throughout the summer, and some of whom stepped up and out of their traditional day to day roles to support schools at this moment. Many of them are in schools today, supporting schools and making sure they have the adults necessary to make sure students have a good experience. This wasn’t easy, no one knew the challenges that this disease would bring and the grief and sadness that we've all had to grapple with. But finally, our students, despite so many challenges and obstacles, proved that they can persevere and take learning to new heights.  


I also want to thank my fellow New Yorkers. We are the only major school district in the entire country to safely reopen our schools for in-person learning. Now think about that for a minute. The largest, most complex school system in America is the only one that has opened their doors for in-person learning. This is a testament to my fellow New Yorkers and following the medical advice to make it possible for us to do this. I want to emphasize how crucial physically being in school is for our families. I've shared before the stories of children and some of whom haven't had a stable environment at home but have that in their school homes. This is critically important, especially for our most vulnerable children. A school community is sometimes the steadiest part of their lives and we have the people and the resources that they can rely on. These were the children that the Mayor and I were constantly thinking about while school buildings were closed. And I know that our educators and administrators were too. They've told me about their stories and what they hoped for their children. Seeing the faces of our children light up when they're reunited with their peers and their teachers and the principal, was a joyous experience that should serve as a reminder to all of us why this past week has been so important and why our hard work has been worth it.  


As I said earlier this week, despite all that's new about this school year, one thing never changes, the health and safety of our students and staff and the academic excellence for every student remain our highest priority. It's not going to be perfect right at the beginning, but we will continue to perfect and get better and build capacity as we go. Day one will not look like week one, will not look like month one or first semester. We're going to continue to get better. Our custodial staff has never been busier and our educators in the classrooms had been trained to enforce the strictest health and safety protocols. And I'm glad to report that in every school that I have visited this week – I have unannounced visits – I have seen students with their masks fully on, nose, mouth, full face, and keeping them on. And I've seen educators educate students as to why it's important and reminding them that this is what they do to not only protect themselves but protect their fellow friends and humans in the classroom. We're keeping a very close eye on our indicators and won't hesitate to take quick action where necessary.  


So, I want to end my remarks this morning with a message of gratitude. This was and is a colossal undertaking and it wouldn't be possible without every single staff member, every family, and all New Yorkers. As our principal, Principal Wynn, asked us today and asked the Mayor, implored the Mayor, keep us open. We can only do that with your continued cooperation and help. We wouldn't be here today without you and I want to say once again, thank you. And for the last time this school year, happy first day, 


Mayor: It's even better the third time, right Richard? Everyone, I want to note quickly – Richard made a point – it's been amazing seeing the consistency with which the students are wearing masks. Obviously, the teachers and staff as well. And the students this morning, I was watching as they were going in the door, at the One World Middle School and having a mask that just seemed natural to them at this point, getting the temperature check, just doing the elbow bumping. Kids are so adaptable, and it's been amazing to see how they've gone with it, because what they cared about was getting in the door, seeing their teachers, seeing their friends, feeling a little bit more like life was getting back to normal, the energy of being in school. And a lot of the kids said that they were tired of being cooped up at home. They wanted to get away from a screen. They wanted to see actual friends and teachers and human beings. And it makes all the difference in the world. And the energy of the teachers is astounding. And it communicates immediately to the students how important they are, how valuable they are, how much potential they have. That's why, among so many other reasons, it was so important to get our kids back in school. But yes, congratulations to everyone. Special shout out to everyone at School Facilities and School Construction Authority, all the folks who've done amazing work to make sure the PPE were there. All the custodial teams in the schools who are doing great work, keeping the schools clean and ready. A Herculean effort, but you can see across the system, it is working. Thank you to the school bus drivers. Thank you to the school safety agents, to the crossing guards, to the folks that work in food services. Everyone is contributing to this amazing victory today. And our educators, thank you for sticking with it and thank you for the joy and the passion you bring to this work.  


So, now let's get on with moving forward. And one of the things we need to do to move forward is make sure that we have rigorous and consistent testing for the coronavirus in our schools every month. So, a reminder to all parents, please fill out the forums authorizing the tests at the school for your kids on a monthly basis. This is going to allow us to keep a constant eye on what's happening at each school and make sure we can keep everyone safe. So, we need all families involved. If you have any questions you can talk to the school and we will get you the answers you need in whatever language you need it in. But those consent forms have been sent home. We are going to start testing next week. And again, a reminder to parents, and I'm saying this as a parent, there's going to be real questions understandably. Is it free? Yes, it's free. Is it quick and easy for your child? Yes, it will be at the school building or right near the school building. Is it going to be that long instrument that goes up your nose? No, it's the new version. That's basically like the equivalent of a QTIP going around your nostril. It's simple. It is not invasive. It's quick. It takes literally seconds. And then your child goes on their way. You get the results for your child and we all get to know what's going on and make sure we're moving forward safely. So, please, parent, fill out those forms. Let's get them back right away. 


Okay, now that's tremendous good news. And it's the most important news of the day, but we also have to obviously deal with the challenges we're facing now in 10 ZIP codes around the city. And these are real challenges and we're taking them head on, we'll go over the indicators and what's happening on the ground in these communities. Ten ZIP codes, where we have a clear problem. We have a group of other ZIP codes where we have concern, again against the backdrop of 146 ZIP codes total in the city and overwhelmingly the rest of the city is doing very, very well and the numbers show it, but we've got real work to do so let's go over these indicators. First, number one, daily number of people admitted to New York City hospitals for suspected COVID-19, that threshold is 200 patients, today's report is 75 patients with a confirmed positive rate for COVID of 22 percent. Number two, new reported cases on a seven-day average, threshold is 550 cases, today's report is 394. Number three, percentage of people testing positive for COVID-19, threshold is five percent, today's report is 1.59 percent for the day. But again, now we're also talking about the seven-day rolling average, which is even more crucial. 1.52 percent for the seven-day rolling average.  


Now, everyone, what we need to do again is a number of measures we're going to act on in the communities most affected, but the message to people in those communities, the message to all New Yorkers is, get tested. We need the best possible look at what is happening in every part of New York City. We know we got this far by people going out and getting tested. And by being quick to act when we saw a problem, as we had some weeks ago in Sunset Park in Brooklyn and Soundview in the Bronx, anytime we've seen on the issue, we go at it, attack it, address it, and turn it around, but it all keys in on the need for people to get tested. So, if you have not gotten tested lately or never gotten tested, please, wherever you live in New York City, get tested today. Fast, easy, free. If you live in one of these affected ZIP codes, imperative – if you haven't been tested, go get tested. It will help us understand exactly what's going on and how to address it. So, let's talk about the clusters we're seeing in Brooklyn and Queens – largely Southern Brooklyn, Central Queens, and obviously part of the Rockaways, Far Rockaway area. These are the areas where the positivity rate above three percent. Yesterday, another ZIP code, Fresh Meadows, Hillcrest surpassed three percent in Queens. So, we're now at 10 ZIP codes. We have been watching carefully, some other ZIP codes – Williamsburg in Brooklyn, had been low. We have seen an increase, but not yet over three percent. We're watching that carefully, a lot of action on the ground in Williamsburg to address that. 


So, we all have to buckle down at this point in those 10 ZIP codes and go hard at this challenge. Now we have six others we're monitoring carefully because we've seen some increases – Crown Heights, Bedford-Stuyvesant, Clinton Hill, Fort Greene, these are all Brooklyn now, Kensington and Windsor Terrace, Brighton Beach, Manhattan Beach, Sheepshead Bay. And then in Queens, Rego Park and Hillcrest, Jamaica Estates, Jamaica Hills. These ZIP codes, we're keeping a close eye on and sending more support into, but again, the same message for people who live in these ZIP codes, go out and get tested right away. Obviously, follow all the basics, the face mask, the social distancing. We need that. Now on the ground in the 10 ZIP codes right now, 1,000 City personnel who have been out there doing education efforts, free masks distribution, inspections, a huge amount of masks distributed, schools were visited, nonpublic schools were visited, businesses were inspected – 130 warnings issued yesterday, 16 violations. So, again, the warnings, if not heeded, lead to violations and can also lead to the closure of a school or business. But we are seeing, thankfully, overwhelmingly, a growth in compliance. We're seeing more and more masks usage. We're seeing more and more adherence to the rules, but still not enough so we have to keep pushing further. And you will see these thousand City personnel out again today aggressively. And it's going to be very, very clear, every opportunity has been given for people to follow the rules as they've been laid out, anyone not following them now, subject to fine, any business, not following now, subject to closure. This is what you'll see more and more today and tomorrow as we continue to deepen these efforts.  


I think by now, it is clear for anyone who was resting on the assumption there was herd immunity, there has not been herd immunity in New York City. We have to treat this seriously. We have to address it. Now that being said, we have something very positive. In addition to the fact that more and more people clearly are adhering to the rules, much more mask usage over the last few days, and we see it increasing all the time, for example. Testing expansion is also key. The mobile units, the mobile – the popup testing areas we talked about yesterday, the testing machines being brought into the community and given to neighborhood health providers, now well over a thousand new tests per day being provided. We're going to know a lot more in the next 24 hours from all of that. But the testing levels, the capacity for testing in the community will be growing greatly over the next few days. It is imperative that community leaders, community institutions, and everyday New Yorkers heed the call and go out and get tested and send the message of how important it is to get tested. 


With that, I want to turn to Dr. Katz, who's been leading the way and working so closely with community leaders and, again, emphasizing how much support and cooperation he's gotten from community leaders in getting these messages out. And Dr. Katz will now update us on this expanded outreach and testing effort – Dr. Katz.  


President and CEO Mitchell Katz, NYC Health + Hospitals: Thanks, Mr. Mayor. And as you say, we've been incredibly happy with the changes we've seen in behavior. A major, major increase in the number of people wearing masks. And I want to thank the community for hearing our plea and for responding so responsibly. We still have some work to do. Usage is not yet where we need it to be. And people have to remember to include their full mouth and nose in their mask the way our children do. As the Chancellor was saying, our children can do it. We can all make sure that we have our masks on correctly. I do want to remind people that masks are needed both outdoors and indoors, especially in places of business. So many stores in our city, our small stores, there's not a lot of room. It's important that people have the masks so that we don't infect each other, or the people who work there. Wear a mask when shopping for groceries, at the department store or picking up take-out. It protects the workers and other customers.  


This Friday begins the celebration of Sukkot. It's a very important holiday in my tradition. It's a time when, typically, we want to spend with both our family and other families. Fortunately, the sukkah itself is typically outside. There's no roof because part of the celebration is being able to be directly under the stars, but it's very important that if families are coming together to enjoy being in the sukkah, that they are not huddled in one part of the sukkah together. When my family of four eats with other families, it's always outside and it's the four of us on one end, a big space and the other family at the other end. And it does not prevent us from having a great time. It's good to be near the people who are part of your own pod, but it's good to keep a distance from people who are not part of your own family. We can still enjoy each other's company. We can still tell stories together. We can listen to music. We don't have to be all in one spot. We can wear a mask whenever we're not eating. If we do those things, we'll be able to still enjoy our festival without risk of infecting anyone.


Our teams are out there distributing masks, palm cards, and sanitizers. You'll find them in the Borough Park Library and Fort Hamilton, out in the Rockaways. And several other places. Our 11 mobile testing sites have been busy, continue to test hundreds of New Yorkers every day. We started our first block party yesterday, and I expect it to get busier as the neighborhood learns about it. At full capacity, we'll be able to test 500 people a day. And when all six sites are up and running, we'll be able to test 3,000 people a day. I thank all the community groups who are working with us that are distributing face coverings and giving people the necessary literature. We know that neighbors and peers are credible managers messengers and we are grateful for their help in spreading the word to community members. We're going to keep taking all these actions. I again, thank the Mayor for giving us the resources to do this so that we can protect all New Yorkers. Thank you.


Mayor: Thank you very much, Mitch. And thank you again for your leadership and all the efforts of everyone at Health + Hospitals, Test and Trace, Department of Health, everyone who's out there getting the testing done and getting the word out to the community. And thank you again to all the community leaders who are helping us do it. All right, one more update on another topic. And this is again, crucial to New York City and our future for the next decade, the census. So, we had a major victory yesterday, the ninth circuit court, the federal court in California affirmed that the census count should continue into October. So we've had now two federal court decisions in favor of going back to the original deadline at the end of October, the courts are being consistent. President Trump is still trying to block this action. We expect him to try and appeal further to the Supreme Court.


So in the meantime there is obviously a question we all have of what's going to be the final disposition of the census? But what we're doing now is we're not letting up. We are continuing to do outreach, particularly in areas where the response rate has been too low in Brooklyn and Queens, there will be continued outreach efforts at least through Monday. The phone banking, the street efforts. We still have an opportunity to drive our number up and ensure New York City gets its fair share of representation and federal resources. And we're going to need that more than ever. So right now, as of the end of yesterday, our self-response rate was 60.9 percent, which is now an even lower gap between us and the nation. The gap between us and the national average rate is 5.6 percent. That is a lot less than it was in 2010 and even earlier this year. That gap is crucial. Because remember the results are comparative. The better you do against the national average, the more resources you get. So we've done well, especially in the context of the pandemic. And I thank all New Yorkers who have been part of it and the census team, but we still have more to do. And while the window appears to be reopening, let's go through it. So if you haven't filled out your census form, please do it right away. If you get a knock on the door about the census, answer it, it is crucial for this city. If you want to help us get the word out that people can still fill out their census form, you can sign up to phone bank at So we are racing the clock now. We still have an opportunity to go farther. Let's take every moment we have and make sure New York City gets counted.  

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