With the expansion of the delta variant of the coronavirus, the mayor of New York, Bill de Blasio, almost reinstated, on Monday (2), the obligation to wear protective masks indoors. Other cities and at least one state have already done so.
City officials are deliberating on measures that may be needed to prevent a more serious resurgence in America’s largest metropolis, which was once the epicenter of the outbreak. The county of Los Angeles (California) and the city of Washington (capital) recently re-enacted the requirement for indoor masks; Louisiana followed suit on Monday, as did San Francisco and several neighboring counties in northern California.
But De Blasio made a different calculation, saying he wanted to focus on increasing immunization rates and worried that forcing everyone to wear masks would remove the incentive for those considering getting it done. vaccinate now.
Jay Varma, the mayor’s senior public health adviser, has been telling De Blasio for months that the winning strategy is to focus on immunization and everything else is secondary.
Varma’s focus on vaccination appears to have made a strong impression on the mayor, who said on Monday that “everything we do is vaccine-centric.”
The country met President Joe Biden’s goal of giving at least one dose of vaccine to 70% of adult Americans on Monday, but the pace of vaccination in New York City has slowed and there has been a rapid increase in coronavirus cases – more than 1,200 per day, or about six times the number in June.
The increase has placed New York under new guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommending the use of masks in highly transmissible areas, which the agency characterizes as more than 50 new infections per 100,000 population. . All five of New York City’s counties are above that rate, with Staten Island recording 157 cases per 100,000 residents last week, according to the CDC.
Mayor De Blasio said he agreed with the CDC’s advice and stressed that he was in line with leaders in New Jersey and Connecticut who encourage the use of masks but do not require it.
“We want to strongly recommend that people wear masks indoors, even if they are vaccinated,” De Blasio said.
The city’s fragile economic recovery could be a factor in this decision; a more general mask requirement could reinforce fears that returning to work is still unsafe and cause employers to reconsider their plans to return workers to offices after Labor Day (September 6 this year). Large-scale meetings, such as weddings, could also be suspended.
“They can’t go back to demanding masks and thinking restaurants are going to be full and people going back to their offices,” said Kathryn Wylde, chief executive of the Partnership for New York City, a nonprofit supported group. by sector of activity. Instead, Wylde advocates a nationwide mandatory vaccination prescription.
The mask obligation could also interrupt De Blasio’s attention to the city’s renaissance, which has animated his administration in recent months by bringing workers back to offices, holding a parade with slips of paper and presenting plans for big shows all over town.
De Blasio also said an order to this effect would be difficult to enforce.
Shortly after his speech, Congressman Adriano Espaillat and Councilor Mark Levine, chairman of the health committee, urged the mayor to act more decisively in the fight against the virus.
“We’re not moving fast enough to slow this down,” Levine said. “The truth is that in public places, like nightclubs or cinemas, you have to assume that there is a good chance that there is a carrier of the virus.”
Levine and Espaillat said New York should require that businesses such as cinemas, bars and gyms require proof of vaccination to enter or proof that the person has tested negative for a Covid-19 test within 72 years. last hours.
“New Yorkers deserve to be assured that someone next to them in a confined area has been vaccinated or tested negative,” Espaillat said.
De Blasio said he wanted to focus on vaccination and announced on Tuesday (3) the requirement for proof of vaccination or a negative test to frequent restaurants, gyms and other closed spaces, as recommended by Levine and Espaillat.
But the mayor believes that New Yorkers will be motivated to get vaccinated if they think that after that they will have more freedoms, such as being able to live without a mask.
“We want to focus on vaccination, vaccination, vaccination,” De Blasio said on Monday. “We want to make very clearly the separation between all the good things, all the opportunities, all the positive points which will be available to the vaccinated people, in the face of an increasingly limited world for those who do not get vaccinated. This is the strategic guideline. “
De Blasio is concerned that the mask requirement may undermine vaccination efforts in reluctant communities, after speaking to community leaders and reviewing survey data, according to a person familiar with his ideas.
Eric Adams, the Democratic candidate for mayor, said he agreed that the requirement to wear a mask was not necessary at this time.
“I don’t think we are discussing obligation yet unless the CDC tells us; whatever decision science takes, we have to follow it, but then personal responsibility has to come into play,” said Adams to reporters. “But vaccination, vaccination, vaccination. Let’s get down to earth.”
Adams said he would distribute masks in high-risk communities this weekend.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo has said local governments must decide whether or not to adopt federal mask guidelines.
“It’s up to local governments,” Cuomo said. “But they should adopt the CDC’s mask guidelines.”