Wednesday, February 17, 2021


 Mayor Bill de Blasio: Good morning, everyone. Well, we're going to talk today about the most important way that we bring this city back, the most important part of a recovery for all of us, and that is vaccinations. And here's the bottom line, every single time we're running into the same challenge – we need supply, we need more vaccine so we can make a difference for the people of this city. Everything comes down to one simple issue – supply, supply, supply. Remember, in the beginning, for months and months, it was testing, testing, testing? Now, it is supply, supply, supply. We need more vaccine. And it's been really frustrating, because we are not getting the amount of vaccine we need and it would make all the difference in the world.  

So, let's at least acknowledge happily that a number of people have gotten vaccinated. Here's the latest for New York City – as of today, 1,365,956 doses of vaccine have been given. That is, for comparison, more than the total population of Dallas, Texas, the ninth largest – ninth largest city in the United States of America, and a place that's got a lot more snow than we do right now. So, the fact is that the vaccine effort keeps growing all the time, but the supply is not growing the way we need it to. Now, right now, we have a particular challenge, we've got fewer than 30,000 first doses on hand right now. That means we're going to run out today, tomorrow. We're going to run out of what we have now. Once again, we're in this ridiculous situation where we have massive ability to give people vaccination, we could be doing hundreds of thousands of more each week, and we're running out of vaccine because we're not getting what we need. We need the federal government, we need the State government, we need the manufacturers to step up, produce more, make it easier for us to get it, give us our fair share, make the rules simpler. But, right now, we're running out again. And, on top of that, we've got the weather problem. All over the nation, there's huge storms that are now causing delays in shipments. So, I've been updated this morning on the fact that we unfortunately do expect vaccine to be delayed – shipments of vaccine that we were expecting by yesterday, today, to be delayed. That means we're going to have to hold back appointments that New Yorkers need, because the vaccine isn't arriving. Based on the information I've gotten now, as many as 30-35,000 appointments or more might not be scheduled, because we don't have vaccine. So, appointments we would have been putting up available to people right now, we have to hold them back because the vaccine hasn't arrived.  


Now, I'm glad that at the new administration in Washington is aiming high. From the very beginning, Joe Biden said, they're going to increase production, put strong goals out there, that's exactly the right thing to do. But we need to get half-a-million doses delivered to New York City every week so we can reach our goals. And we have a specific plan to fully vaccinate 5 million New Yorkers by June, that's what will really give us a recovery, but we're going to need a hell of a lot more support to make that happen. When you get 5 million people vaccinated, you can imagine what it means – this city will fully come to life. 5 million people vaccinated means we are really turning the corner on this disease and we can bring back our economy and our life strong. Can't do it without supply. And, once again, let me go over the things that would help us. First of all, we need our fair share of the vaccine. The federal allocation to New York City is indirect, because it still has to require approvals from the State of New York. That's slowing things down in many ways. We need direct allocation in New York City, meaning direct supply and no strings attached. Let New York City, let our Health Department, let Health + Hospitals do what they need to do, and know how to do, and vaccinate people much more quickly without the red tape, without the confusion. And there needs to be a recognition by both the federal government and the State government that we are typically vaccinating about – 20 percent of the people who we vaccinated are from the suburbs and surrounding states. And we don't begrudge them that, a lot of them are people who serve us here in New York City, but our allocation should be bigger to account for that. And I talked about it yesterday, the State sends us 45 percent of the vaccine they get when we're actually vaccinating more like 53 percent of the folks getting vaccinated in the state. We've got to get our fair share. That could mean tens of thousands of more doses each week. And we need it direct and without so many strings attached.  


Second, the freedom to vaccinate. We've talked about this so many times. We need to be able to vaccinate wherever will work, much more of a grassroots focus. We've had these disagreements with the State where they say this center should be only for one type of worker, and another center for another – no, we need lots of grassroots locations where we can reach every-day people, particularly in the communities hardest hit. Maximum number of smaller locations, not just big mega sites, they play a role, but we need the freedom to have the smaller locations and a reliable supply of vaccine and not have the constant changing of rules that has held us back. Give us the local control that we can use to speed the vaccination effort.  


Number three, once again, the pharmaceutical companies, where are they? I've been talking about this for weeks and weeks, I still haven't heard a great answer. The pharmaceutical company in America, except for the three that are now involved in vaccines, where are the rest of them? Why are they not stepping forward, offering their assembly lines? We need to see the full use of the Defense Production Act and all the other tools that allow the federal government to dictate the terms in wartime conditions, compulsory licensing laws, all of the tools that allow the federal government to say we're in an emergency here, we're not doing business as usual, every company needs to be a part of it. And the federal government has the ability to direct what is in the public interest. We need more of that. We do not need business as usual in the pharmaceutical sector, which we all know has made it share mistakes in the past. How about they actually step forward and do what's in the common good, put people over profits, volunteer to help in this war time effort. We need more pressure to make that happen. And if we do that, this is the way we get to that half-million vaccinations a week that would transform this city in a matter of a few months. 


Okay. That's the overview on the number-one issue – supply, supply, supply. Now, let's talk about how we continue to try and make better the effort to allow people to get vaccinated, get those appointments. We want to constantly improve that effort. And, obviously, the online tools that we have, something we've been working on from the beginning. What's important is to constantly listen to the feedback we're getting from those we serve and improve our services. In the beginning, for example, we realized that just having appointments online was not going to be enough. That's why we had a phone option, especially for seniors as well. But we've constantly improved, and now the latest update today, if you go to – excuse me, I said that wrong – – vax4nyc – what you'll find is a simpler approach to scheduling, now available in 10 languages. This was an important point raised by our colleagues in the media, that folks needed to have the whole application process in their language and the most prominent languages in the city. So, the whole application is in 10 languages. 


Okay. As we talk about recovery, talk about bringing back all the pieces that make New York City so great – obviously, our restaurant industry. We love our restaurants. We care about them. They're part of our identity, and our culture, and hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers depend on them for employment as well. We've been doing a lot of things this last year to help the restaurant industry. We also want to make sure we are keeping everyone safe – the customers, the folks who work in restaurants. Number-one job as we find our way out of this pandemic, keep everyone safe. So, with indoor dining back at 25 percent capacity, we want to focus on the right way to go about indoor dining, the right way as someone who's going to enjoy indoor dining with your family, with your friends, how to do it safely, but also the right way to protect the people who work there, protect the folks who have kept fighting through, kept those restaurants going. We owe it to them to make sure we watch out for their health and safety too. Here to talk more about the rules for the road, if you will, for indoor dining, my senior advisor, Dr. Jay Varma. 


Senior Advisor Dr. Jay Varma: Great. Thank you very much, Mr. Mayor. We know that the best defense against COVID is a vaccine in your arm. But while our supplies remain limited, we know that the next best defense is to be armed with information, information you can use to reduce your risk getting COVID. And so, that's why we talk every day about the importance of masks, about maintaining physical distance, hand hygiene, and getting tested frequently. As public health officials, we know how important restaurants are to New York City. There are stories of joy, of culture, of income for so many of us. They're one of the features that make this city really so special. Now that the State has opened up indoor dining, we want to make sure New Yorkers are armed with information. If you choose to eat at a restaurant indoors, we encourage you to follow the tips that you see here are tips for safe indoor dining. And, as the Mayor has said, this is important not just for your own health and safety, but for the health and safety of all of the New Yorkers who work at our restaurants.  


So, let's go through some of those tips. Before you go out, keep the size of your group small, consider limiting it to only people in your family or in a pod or a bubble, if you have one. Confirm that everyone in your group has no COVID-like symptoms and no one's been exposed, no one's a close contact of somebody with COVID. Encourage everyone in your group to get tested. You can go to our City website and find sites all over the city that are free, accessible, and fast to get tested, including rapid point of care tests you can get for that same day. When you're at the restaurant, make sure it's observing city and State rules for how to make sure dining is safe. Those include making sure it's not too crowded indoors. Remember, capacity is restricted to 25 percent. Make sure you see employees wearing their face mask consistently and correctly. Make sure the tables are spaced apart, they need to be at least six feet apart from each other. And make sure there are no self-serve buffets being used. Wear your face cover, except when you're actively eating or drinking. And you make sure to put it on when your server comes to your table. Wash your hands before you eat and after you use the bathroom – those are good rules not just for COVID, but for all times. And maintain distance as much as you can from other patrons, stay at your table as much as you can. And after you dine, keep it a record of where you went, when you went – where you went, who you went with. If you end up getting COVID, you want to have that information ready to give to your contact tracer. And then, make sure you're getting tested frequently. We recommend people get tested as often as once a month. And, as we mentioned, there are plenty of sites around the city where you can make that happen. Thanks. 


Mayor: Thank you very much, Jay – appreciate all that clarity, and it's really important. Look, our health team, I want to thank them. They've really helped the people in New York City to know the best way to handle all the challenges of this crisis. Our health leadership, and I talk to them every single day, they've guided us well with the, kind of, news you can use, real guidance for your lives. And here are really great tips that Jay has provided on how to go about indoor dining the right way. So, thank you very, very much.  


Now another challenge and an immediate challenge, and we've seen what's happening all over the country with the winter storms. It's been unbelievable, how hard hit many parts of the country have been. We're going to get our effect from these winter storms too, although it looks like we're going to do a lot better than many other places, thank God. But here's the latest, starting tomorrow morning – and the latest we have from National Weather Service is between 5:00 AM and 8:00 AM tomorrow morning, we'll see some snow beginning. Looks like it'll go through the day Thursday, into Friday, ending somewhere between 10:00 AM and noon on Friday. Sow right now, over that pretty long period of time the total accumulation is not too bad. It's between six and seven inches. But I'm going to say what I've said many times and I've learned from painful experience, these things change. So, we're going to constantly update New Yorkers, six to seven inches over 24 hours or more. That's not so bad. However, that can change. It can become a lot more. It can become a lot quicker. The timing can change. So, we're going to constantly update you. What I can say is expect tomorrow to be difficult. So, I'm going to say what I always say when we're expecting snow, stay off the roads if you can, it's not going to be so easy driving out there tomorrow. It's going to hit potentially ahead of the morning rush hour. So, the ideal is if you don't need to drive tomorrow, don't drive. Good for you, take mass transit. It's better for you. Stay home if you can, but also better for clearing the roadway so Sanitation Department can do the job that they are so good at, and they have been outstanding in these last few storms we've had. I always say thank you to the men and women in the Sanitation Department. I'm asking you to say thank you to them as well. They got a big job to do tomorrow and Friday. Let's help them by staying off the roads.


Okay, let's go to our daily indicators now. Number one, daily number of people admitted to New York City hospitals for suspected COVID-19. Today's report, 255 patients, confirmed positivity, 66.42 percent. And hospitalization rate 4.62 per 100,000. Number two, new reported cases on a seven-day average, today's report, 3,321 cases. Number three, percentage of people testing positive citywide for COVID-19, today's report on a seven-day rolling average 7.04 percent

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