Mayor Adams would not commit Monday to reinstating some mask and vaccine mandates in the event that the city’s coronavirus risk level reaches “medium” — even though his health team recommends it.
Guidance from Adams’ Health Department holds that he should consider mandating masks in schools and vaccination proof for indoor settings like restaurants again if the city hits the “medium” level, which is defined as when the average infection rate surpasses 0.2%. On Friday, Health Commissioner Ashwin Vasan said he expects that the city will surpass the medium risk threshold this week.
Still, Adams said Monday morning that he may not put the mask and vaccine requirements back in place unless other more troubling coronavirus data points begin surging as well.
“Our hospitalizations are at a steady level, deaths are at a steady level. As the tick cases up, we are not at the area where we have to move to the next level,” he told reporters during a press conference at City Hall.
Adams said he must balance any new pandemic restrictions with economic concerns and noted that the Health Department guidelines are recommendations, not requirements.
“The most important term: Considering,” said Adams, who was making his first in-person appearance since testing positive for COVID-19 last Sunday. “We have to factor in everything, and I think Gov. Hochul was right when she stated, ‘We can’t close down our city.’ We need healthy bodies, healthy minds and healthy economy. They all go together.”
The city’s recent coronavirus uptick has been driven by the extremely contagious BA.2 omicron subvariant, which now accounts for more than 80% of cases in New York.
According to the most recent Health Department data from this past Thursday, the city is reporting 192 new cases for every 100,000 residents on a seven-day average. That’s just eight infections shy of the 200 case threshold that means the city is in the “medium” risk category.
COVID patient intake and hospital bed capacity rates are also ticking up, according to the data. Deaths rate have remained relatively low, with nine people perishing from the virus statewide Thursday, including two in the city, state Health Department data shows.
Since taking office, Adams has made the case that COVID restrictions must be peeled back in order to stimulate the city’s pandemic-battered economy.
In March, he rescinded the public school mask requirement and the Key2NYC vaccine mandate for indoor activities like dining and drinking. He followed that up a few weeks later by exempting professional athletes and performers from the city’s private employer vaccine mandate.
Despite his penchant for rolling back pandemic precautions, Adams vowed at Monday’s press conference that he’s not afraid to reimplement them. He did not specify what data point would necessitate a return to stricter public health guardrails, though.
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“If we get to the place of a mandate, we’ll make that call,” he said. “We’re not there yet.”