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NY Mayor Adams not reinstating indoor face mask mandate despite Health Department recommendation

New York Daily News logo New York Daily News 5/18/2022 Chris Sommerfeldt and Michael Gartland, New York Daily News
New York City Mayor Eric Adams speaks during the Milken Institute Global Conference in Beverly Hills, California, on May 4, 2022. © PATRICK T. FALLON/AFP/Getty Images North America/TNS New York City Mayor Eric Adams speaks during the Milken Institute Global Conference in Beverly Hills, California, on May 4, 2022.

NEW YORK — Mayor Eric Adams is not reinstating the city’s indoor face mask mandate despite a recommendation from the city Health Department to do so in light of a recent uptick in coronavirus infections and hospitalizations.

Guidance from the Health Department recommends that the government moves to “require face masks in all public indoor settings” when the COVID-19 risk is “high” — an alert level that the city reached Tuesday.

Nonetheless, when asked Wednesday if he’s prepared to mandate masks in public indoor spaces, Adams answered flatly: “No.”

“I’m proud of what we are doing and how we are not allowing COVID to outsmart us,” Adams told reporters at City Hall. “We’re staying prepared and not panicking. When I look at the hospitalizations and deaths, the numbers are stable.”

In contrast to Adams’ assessment, the Health Department’s COVID-19 guidance says that the “high” risk status — which is color-coded as orange — was declared because there is currently “substantial” pressure on the city’s health care system.

Though levels are far lower than they were during the grim early days of the pandemic, the number of people being hospitalized with COVID-19 in the city has been steadily increasing over the past two months, with the daily average of admissions reaching 56 this past Sunday, according to Health Department data. On March 15, that number stood at 27.

The color-coded COVID-19 risk guidelines were introduced in March by Adams and then-Health Commissioner Dave Chokshi. At the time, Chokshi said the recommendations were meant to ensure that city officials do “all we can to prevent unnecessary suffering due to COVID-19.”

But at Wednesday’s press conference, Adams said he must consider other issues, such as economic repercussions, before acting on the Health Department’s advice.


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“I’m going to be judged on my success in navigating the complexities of these days that we are facing,” Adams said. “We set a policy in place, not a law in place. I follow laws. I make policy.”

Some of Adams’ fellow elected city officials urged him to reconsider and reimplement the indoor mask mandate.

Manhattan Borough President Mark Levine, who chaired the City Council’s Health Committee before his election as BP last year, said mandating masks indoors now could shield the city from being forced to reinstate stricter public health precautions further down the line.

“We need to slow this current wave, and the easiest way to do that without disrupting lives is masking. We’re not talking about shutdowns, we’re talking about wearing a mask, which can protect others as well as yourself,” Levine told the Daily News.

The Manhattan beep also said rapid action from Adams could set an important standard ahead of the fall, when COVID-19 cases tend to spike even more.

“We need to have a system in place where we put in place restrictions when things get bad and take them off when things improve,” Levine said. “I’m even more worried about next fall and winter, and I think that it’s important for the city to have comfort to put in public health restrictions when the risk is higher.”

The indoor mask recommendation isn’t the only Health Department suggestion that Adams has been reluctant to act on in recent weeks.

Under the “medium” COVID-19 risk category that the city was previously in, Health Department guidance urged Adams to consider reinstating the K-12 public school mask requirement and Key2NYC, the coronavirus vaccine mandate for indoor activities like dining and drinking. Adams — who lifted both of those mandates early on in his mayoral tenure — has not reinstated either of them.

After Adams’ press conference at City Hall, his health commissioner, Ashwin Vasan, testified in a virtual Council hearing that while the administration isn’t mandating masks, it is “strongly” recommending that New Yorkers wear them indoors in light of the “high” risk designation.

“As we face a recent increase in cases and hospitalizations, we want New Yorkers to know that there is still work to be done,” Vasan said. “We can’t call it quits on the fight against COVID-19 just yet.”

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©2022 New York Daily News. Visit at nydailynews.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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