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Mayor de Blasio balks at stricter mask requirement amid Delta spike

Though many New Yorkers continue to wear their masks while out in public, Mayor Bill de Blasio said Monday he would not reinstate a mandate requiring them even as COVID-19 cases tick upward due to the fast-spreading Delta variant.
Photo by Dean Moses

Mayor Bill de Blasio said Monday he will not reinstate a stricter mask mandate in New York City despite a recent uptick in COVID-19 infections driven by the highly contagious Delta variant. 

Hizzoner will instead focus the city’s efforts on vaccinating more people as coronavirus rates have spiked in areas where less people have gotten their shots. 

“No. Simple answer, no,” de Blasio said in response to a reporter’s question at his daily press briefing on July 19. “Masks have value unquestionably, but masks are not going at the root of the problem, vaccination is, so we do not intend a mask mandate. We do intend to double down on vaccination.”

Health officials have registered an increase in cases since late June, and the Delta variant now makes up about 69% of cases, according to City Health Commissioner Dave Chokshi, who said the strain was “concerning.”

“But our concern is primarily for people who remain unvaccinated, which is why the single most important thing that we can do to keep individuals as well as our communities, our city safe, is to get as many people vaccinated as possible,” Chokshi said. 

Governor Andrew Cuomo lifted almost all COVID-19 restrictions on June 15, when 70% of the state’s adult population got at least one shot.

Mask mandates remained in place for some indoor settings, including public transit, healthcare facilities, and schools. 

Other jurisdictions have reinstated stricter mask mandates due to a rise in cases driven by the Delta variant, such as Los Angeles, where officials implemented the requirement for indoor public spaces again over the weekend. 

Some 4.5 million New Yorkers, 53.5%, are fully vaccinated and 4.8 million have received at least one dose, according to de Blasio, and hospitalization rates have thankfully remained low at 0.35%. 

The city’s overall positivity rate was 1.69% on July 17 across a seven-day average, but Health Department figures showed 46 ZIP codes logged 2% or higher rates from July 9-15, with Staten Island’s Charleston/Prince’sBay/Woodrow area leading the pack at 5.06%. 

Eight of the 10 areas of the city with the highest seven-day rates also had less than half their population fully vaccinated. 

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