The following is a transcript of an interview with Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti that aired Sunday, March 21, 2021, on “Face the Nation.”
MARGARET BRENNAN: We want to go now to the West Coast and the mayor of Los Angeles, Eric Garcetti. Good morning to you, Mr. Mayor.
MAYOR ERIC GARCETTI: Good morning, MARGARET.
MARGARET BRENNAN: You run the second largest city in the country. When we spoke last in January, it was the epicenter of a COVID outbreak. Now we’re at 50,000 infections a day. Are you confident there was not a fourth wave coming?
MAYOR GARCETTI: Oh, COVID makes you never confident, but hope really hangs on the horizon. I haven’t felt this optimism in 12 months, MARGARET. Here in Los Angeles, we have a positivity rate of 1.9%, and we estimate that anywhere between half and two thirds of our population has antibodies in it now,–
MARGARET BRENNAN: Wow.
MAYOR GARCETTI: –either because of exposure to COVID-19 and vaccination. So it is a very different context than when openings happened last July or when openings didn’t happen in December. But we still saw this virus burn through our city. So this is a very, very optimistic moment. And we’re doing a lot of work to make sure that vaccines don’t just get to all of our population, but get to every community as well through a lot of equity programs Dr. Fauci has praised some of the best in the country.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Yet the CDC said this week that you have two variants of concern, B.1.427 and B.1.429. How do you know that L.A. isn’t opening too fast, too soon?
MAYOR GARCETTI: Well, you never know, but you have to follow the data and the data is very clear, if we were a state right now, we’d have the second lowest positivity rate. And our state of California right now, I think, is the third lowest case rate in the country. I believe that some of those variants have burned through Los Angeles. It’s the only way to really explain what happened in December and January when we still had the same level of closures as a month or two before and we didn’t have that case rate. So I think that our population really is much stronger, our vaccinations are accelerating and we can take these steps. It was a year to the date that we closed down movie theaters, restaurants, first big city in America to do that, March 12th. It was that date that we now have reopened those places cautiously, with the lessons learned. But it’s time to get things moving. It’s time to get our economy started. It’s time to start hugging our loved ones again. And certainly that comes from getting a vaccine.
MARGARET BRENNAN: On vaccines, since before the Biden administration took office, you have been petitioning Joe Biden for direct shipments to your city instead of going first through the state. Why are they blowing off your requests?
MAYOR GARCETTI: Well, we still keep asking as cities. And I want to praise the Biden administration where we’ve seen them hit their targets early. We’ve seen vaccines ramp up, a lot of support for the mega sites, mobile teams–
MARGARET BRENNAN: But you said- you said a few days ago you can’t meet the president’s target of May 1st opening up all vaccinations because he’s not giving you enough supply.
MAYOR GARCETTI: I didn’t say those words. What I’ve said is, you give us more and we have double the capacity today. So I look forward to when those deliveries come in for us to be able to do that. And I think cities across our country, mayors have been very clear, are the right places to add more vaccines. And I’ll continue saying that to our friends in the administration. I’ll keep saying that especially when cities are larger sometimes than most states. We’re larger than 23 states.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Right.
MAYOR GARCETTI: L.A. County is larger than 45 states. Give us more, we’ll get them into arms.
MARGARET BRENNAN: OK, so now you think you can hit that deadline. So California, though, when you rank it by the CDC numbers that we looked at, it is among the most unequal states. I know you’re talking about the city you control, but you also said in a speech at Harvard that many of these deaths could have been prevented if it had been distributed by zip code, really targeted.
MAYOR GARCETTI: Yes, no I believe that–
MARGARET BRENNAN: Have you talked to your friend Gavin Newsom about his plan? And did you tell him you were frustrated?
MAYOR GARCETTI: Yes, we’ve talked and he actually did a great move by making sure that 40% of all of our vaccines, and I don’t know if other states have done this, but 40% of them are targeted now towards the most vulnerable. That’s allowing us to be able to put that into zip codes with mobile teams. We actually deliver vaccines now to people in their homes, and we’re working with local, community-based organizations. But I look forward to when the federal regulations release our handcuffs and allow us to target anybody in a hotspot. I think that is probably two or three weeks away. And when we can do that, we can make sure even as our numbers have plummeted here, some of our lowest hospitalizations in a year, that’ll allow us, if there is anything that comes up quickly, go into the geography of a neighborhood, knock it down before it spreads throughout a city.
MARGARET BRENNAN: When you say two to three weeks away, what are you talking about? Which restrictions?
MAYOR GARCETTI: I think that that is the time when we’ll have enough supply to be able to have states and, or the federal government to allow us to go into the hardest-hit zip codes and just say, look, anybody, regardless of age, can be vaccinated there.
MARGARET BRENNAN: I want to ask you about this really troubling spike in hate crimes because your city has really experiencing- experienced them when it comes to Asian Americans. Last year, you cut around $150 million dollars from the police budget because of these Black Lives Matter protests. You reprogrammed those funds. Do you need to push that money back to the LAPD so they can police this kind of ethnic targeting?
MAYOR GARCETTI: No, I think that’s the wrong frame. We are reimagining public safety together with our police department. We know that things like hate crime need both a police response and education, reporting mechanism, civilians and community based groups that can help be the eyes and ears. And we have no tolerance for this hate here in Los Angeles, a great city filled with folks of Asian-American and Pacific Islander descent. And we have seen attacks, footsteps away from where I’m talking from you today. We had an attack here in Koreatown just a couple of weeks ago. And we are putting together some of the best programs in the country. LAPD is absolutely part of that. But that- no, that’s absolutely the false kind of dichotomy. For us you need to make sure that there is a police officer to answer. And we have more patrols this year, even with cuts that every department, including our police department, hit because of the fiscal crisis and also making investments in the human side of this to make sure community organizations are well-funded, too.
MARGARET BRENNAN: All right, Mr. Mayor, thank you for your time this morning.
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