City officials say no need for new restrictions yet due to Delta variant

Mayor Bill de Blasio
Photo by Mark Hallum

City officials aren’t considering bringing back any restrictions in response to the spread of the Delta variant of the coronavirus just yet, arguing New York’s high level of vaccination provides a worthy shield.

The highly contagious variant, first identified in India, has caused outbreaks in Israel, where nearly half of those infected were fully vaccinated, and Australia, where it prompted new lockdowns in the country long hailed as a COVID-free paradise. The outbreaks in those countries were relatively small, but still alarming to public health experts. 

Mayor Bill de Blasio said Tuesday that, though the city is monitoring data on the variant closely, he is confident the vaccines will keep New Yorkers safe.

“Right now we’re winning the race against the Delta variant, but we’ve got to keep winning it,” Hizzoner said during a June 29 press briefing, adding that over 4 million New York City residents are fully vaccinated. “We’ll always be ready if we see things start to turn.” 

The spread of the variant has prompted public health officials in Los Angeles to recommend all residents wear masks in indoor settings again, regardless of their vaccination status, but de Blasio said he didn’t think similar measures were yet needed in New York due to the effectiveness of the vaccine and continuously low infection rate in the city.

 “We will make adjustments when we see real consistent evidence, but so far the data is telling us in fact, things keep moving in the right direction,” de Blasio said.

The mayor also announced Tuesday that municipal workers could ditch their masks in the office if they were fully vaccinated. 

The Delta variant accounts for about half of the COVID cases in the city right now — which are at their lowest levels since the crisis began. 

City health officials echoed the mayor’s remarks and stressed that vaccines were overwhelmingly effective against the variant. 

“Overwhelmingly the vaccine works against the Delta variant,” said Mitchell Katz, head of the city’s public hospital system. “People can keep their masks off if they have been fully vaccinated, and I have confidence that that will keep them protected.” 

Dr. Dave Chokshi, commissioner of the city’s Department of Health, added that the spread of the variant should serve as a more urgent reason to get vaccinated for those who have not yet gotten the jab. 

“We do know that the vaccines confer strong protection, particularly against severe disease against the Delta variant,” said Chokshi. “If you have been waiting to get vaccinated this is one more reason why you should run, not walk to get your vaccine.”