De Blasio says indoor mask mandate not needed despite Delta variant
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New York City does not “intend” to require masks indoors as the Big Apple sees an uptick in COVID-19 cases amid a highly infectious variant surge, Mayor Bill de Blasio said Monday.
“No. Simple answer: no,” de Blasio said Monday morning during his daily press briefing, when asked if the city would reinstitute a face-covering mandate for the unvaccinated and vaccinated in indoor spaces, following a vocal local politician calling for one.
“Masks have value, unquestionably. But masks are not going at the root of the problem — vaccination is.”
De Blasio vowed that the city will “double down” on vaccination outreach to combat the recent rise in coronavirus cases.
“We do not intend [to enact a] mask mandate. We do intend to double down on vaccination,” he said.
The COVID-19 positivity rate in the five boroughs is 1.69 percent, according to data released Monday by the mayor — higher than the sub 1 percent levels the city saw in June. The slight increase comes as the highly contagious Delta variant, first found in December 2020 in India, has emerged in the city.
Still, City Hall’s vaccination campaign and the still modest hospitalization, as well as death rate, has, for now, made mandatory face-covering rules unnecessary, de Blasio has said.
“Mask mandates, at a certain point, before we had vaccination, made a lot of sense,” de Blasio explained Monday. “Let’s address the problem by getting more people vaccinated, and going right at it, and knocking down this variant.”
De Blasio on Friday said, “No, not at this point,” when asked about enacting mask requirements in indoor settings.
“But we’re going to watch the data constantly to see if any adjustments are needed,” he added on WNYC’s “The Brian Lehrer Show.”
De Blasio’s Monday comments follow the chair of the City Council’s health committee suggesting the city reimpose an indoor mask mandate for everyone, regardless of vaccination status, because of the highly transmissible Delta variant’s recent spread.
“Cases are rising in NYC (up 2x+ in past 2 weeks), driven by delta,’’ Councilman Mark Levine warned in a tweet.
“Indoor mask use in NYC is falling — in delis, stores, subways, movie theaters etc. We need to reverse this trend,” he tweeted. “It’s time to renew the indoor mask mandate, including for those who are vax’d.’’
Meanwhile, Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, who will likely serve as the next mayor, said he’d mostly leave the call on mask mandates and other potential precautions to the city’s health experts.
“Let’s follow the science, and if the science states that we need to increase the wearing of masks and other safeguards, then we have to do it,” the Democratic mayoral nominee said Monday at an event in Brooklyn.
“We can’t go backwards and see our economy devastated by increase in COVID-19, so I’m going to be close with my medical professionals, listen to their advice, but I’m also going to listen to my gut.”
“We have some great health professionals,” Adams added. “In the daily briefings, if they state, ‘Listen, let’s scale back some of the things we were doing, wear masks indoors,’ then let’s listen to them, and let’s follow that.”
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