As news about the Omicron variant of the COVID-19 pandemic has many alarmed, New York City health officials have issued a new health advisory recommending people wear masks indoors and in public settings.
NYC Health Commissioner Dr. Dave Chokshi and Mayor Bill de Blasio addressed the concerns at the daily press conference held by the Mayor’s Office on Monday (November 29th). They said that while there has been no detection of cases caused by the new variant in the five boroughs, there is some worry that it could add to the recent uptick in cases in the city. The announced mask advisory stops short of a full mandate. In addition to the advisory, the mayor extended the vaccination mandate for public educators to the 102,000 who work in early childcare and intervention programs in the city.
The primary reason for the advisory, Mayor de Blasio said is that “Vaccination is the crucial strategy.” In August, when there was a surge in COVID cases due to the Delta variant, the city issued a similar indoor masking advisory without mandating it. “We want to deliver a very clear and unequivocal message that everyone should be masking indoors, regardless of their vaccination status,” Chokshi said, noting that those who are unvaccinated are seven times more likely to be infected that those who are vaccinated. Presently, only those riding public transportation and in schools are required to wear masks indoors.
Incoming Mayor Eric Adams praised the advisory and de Blasio’s efforts, and encouraged him to keep working with Governor Kathy Hochul. “Vaccination is our most important weapon, but coordination is second to that,” he said when contacted by the press about the briefing. Governor Hochul declared a state of emergency this past weekend to reinforce staffing at state healthcare facilities in advance of case surges.