New York City Mayor Eric Adams revealed during a press conference that numbers of those testing positive for the new COVID-19 variant BA.2 have risen enough to postpone the previously planned end of the school mask mandate for children under the age of five.
The final decision is dependent on a formal court decision made to determine whether or not keeping the mask mandate in place for children of this age group, with city government attorneys attempting a stay and appeal with the mayor believing that city government “has enough evidence” to win and postpone the end to the mask mandate.
Adams said that due to the rise in cases, however slight they may be at the moment, it was imperative to act preemptively in order to avoid the skyrocketing of cases back in January caused by the first Omicron variant.
“We are seeing a slight uptick [in positive cases] and we want to be prepared not panic,” said Adams during the April 1 press conference. “That’s the theme that we’re doing here. New Yorkers, we want to be prepared not panic, as we continue to cycle out of COVID and deal with the new variants as they come.”
Dr. Ashwin Vasan, Commissioner of Health also attended the press conference, offering further insight into the rise in cases as well as the prevalence of the new variant.
“Cases are definitively rising and it’s gotten our attention,” said Dr. Vasan. “They will continue to rise over the next few weeks, and it’s likely that over these weeks we will move into a different level of overall risk across the city.”
Dr. Vasan also made a formal recommendation that all New Yorkers, regardless of their own vaccination status, should wear masks in indoor spaces in which they are unsure of the vaccination status of others in the space.
Since this new variant is more transmissible than the previous Omicron variant, city doctors highly recommended avoiding high-risk areas such as bars or nightclubs.
“Like other waves, as you might expect, the people who are out and about and what we would say ‘social mixing’ – contacting others the most, engaging in the economy and nightlife – those [people] are at most risk,” Dr. Vasan said. “Because you are contacting people with whom you may not know their vaccination status.”
Medical experts at the press conference reiterated that some of the best ways to avoid contracting COVID-19 were getting vaccinated and booster, wearing high-quality masks, and avoiding large groups of people especially if you are unsure about vaccination status.
In order to fulfill the needs of New Yorkers, city government officials including Mayor Adams stressed the need for federal funding to be provided to the city to ensure that there were adequate vaccine supplies to meet the needs of all city residents.