New York City’s indoor COVID-19 mask and vaccine mandates will be responsibly phased out in the weeks to come, Mayor Eric Adams said Wednesday.
During a Q&A session with the press in Brooklyn on Feb. 23, the mayor was asked if the city would follow other Northeastern metropolises such as Boston and Philadelphia in rolling back their requirements that people present their vaccination cards or passports and wear masks when visiting a restaurant, bar, office or other indoor business setting as COVID-19 cases have plummeted in recent weeks.
“Yes, and I can’t wait to get it done,” Adams said. He stressed that his administration would be “rolling out some things in the next day or so” to allow for the mandate to be safely ended.
“Every morning I meet with my health professionals ’cause I’ve always stated I’m going to follow the science,” Adams said. “I’m not going to get ahead of the science, because I’m ready to get ahead of all of this and get back to a level of normalcy. But they’re giving us clear structures. They gave us benchmarks. We’re going to follow those benchmarks, but I look forward in the next few weeks of going through a real transformation that I don’t have to wonder what you look like.”
Governor Kathy Hochul ended the mask mandate for indoor establishments earlier this month, but has held off on lifting the requirement for schools, pending further data analysis.
The city instituted the COVID-19 vaccine mandate last fall at then-Mayor Bill de Blasio’s direction as a way to bring customers back into businesses with a semblance of safety. Some civil rights activists and vaccine opponents bristled at the mandate, claiming it infringed on their freedom.
Among those who protested that requirement was the Brooklyn Nets’ Kyrie Irving, who refused to get vaccinated and was sidelined for much of the first half. He ultimately returned to the Nets, but has been relegated to playing for them only in road games — as the New York City vaccine mandate prevents him from participating in the Nets’ home games at the Barclays Center.
The mandate came just before New York City was hit by a massive wave of COVID-19 cases around Christmas time last December, due largely to the fast-spreading Omicron variant. While tens of thousands of new COVID-19 were detected daily during the outbreak’s peak, hospitalizations and deaths did not skyrocket in a similar manner due to vaccinations and new treatments.
And while some businesses, including Broadway shows, had to roll back their activities, New York City avoided another costly shutdown. On Wednesday, Adams said that he’s anxious to end the mandate, but noted that he will not do so in a way that risks the city’s public health.
“All of these [health] experts will tell you one thing: we can’t close down again. And I’m not going to do something out of my anticipation to get back that is going to jeopardize closing down the city again,” Adams said. “Our economy can’t handle it. We don’t have another $11 billion [in federal COVID relief funding] to put back in the economy. We must do it in a smart way and people are going to look back later and say ‘you know he made the right decisions.’ We’re going to get the city back up and operating and we’re going to be rolling out some things in the next day or so on how we’re going to carry that out.”
COVID-19 cases have been plummeting around New York City since early January. As of Wednesday, the city’s Health Department reported that the Five Boroughs’ 7-day positivity rate was down to 1.71%. More than 85% of all New Yorkers have received at least the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, and 76.7% of residents are fully vaccinated.