“If every variant that comes, we move into shutdown thoughts, we move into panicking, we’re not going to function as a city,” the mayor said.
Mayor Eric Adams of New York City said on Wednesday that he does not plan to bring back mask mandates now, after the city entered the high alert level for the coronavirus this week.
Mr. Adams, a Democrat who took office in January and has focused on boosting the city’s economic recovery from the pandemic, said the city was settling into a “new norm” as variants emerge.
“If every variant that comes, we move into shutdown thoughts, we move into panicking, we’re not going to function as a city,” Mr. Adams said at a news conference.
Asked if he would reinstitute a mask mandate for schools, Mr. Adams replied: “No.”
New confirmed cases have been rising citywide over the last two months, driven by Omicron subvariants. The city is logging 4,000 new daily cases — a figure that is likely much higher because most home tests are not logged in the official tally. More than 730 people are currently hospitalized with Covid in New York City, according to state data.
Mr. Adams introduced a new color-coded alert system in March to let New Yorkers know when they are at greater risk. On Tuesday, the city entered the orange, or “high” risk level, which comes with the recommendation that the city require face masks in all public indoor settings. The guidelines also recommend that Mr. Adams consider requiring masks at schools and bring back a proof-of-vaccination requirement at restaurants and gyms.
Mr. Adams said that the situation had changed since March, and that he was focused on distributing antiviral medications and home tests.
“We’re staying prepared and not panicking,” Mr. Adams said. “When I look at the hospitalizations and deaths, the numbers are stable.”
Earlier this week, New York City health officials strongly recommended that all individuals wear medical-grade masks in offices, grocery stores, schools and other public indoor settings. Mr. Adams has echoed that advice, but he said earlier this week that he would not consider mandates until “there comes a time that our hospitals are in a state of emergency, or we’re trending that way, and my doctors that run the hospitals tell me this is what we need to do.”
Mr. Adams has received criticism for not moving aggressively enough to contain the virus, including from Dr. Jay Varma, a senior health adviser to former Mayor Bill de Blasio. Asked on Wednesday about that criticism, Mr. Adams thanked Dr. Varma for his service, but said that he would set his own policy.
“I’m hoping the doctor will respect my role as being the mayor of the city,” he said. “I’m hoping he will respect that and not constantly weigh in and allow us to do the job.”
At the first White House Covid briefing in six weeks on Wednesday, federal health officials warned that one third of Americans live in areas where the threat of infection from the coronavirus is now so high that they should consider wearing a mask in indoor public settings, whether local leaders require it or not.
For areas with high levels of transmission, mostly in the Northeast, “we urge local leaders to encourage the use of prevention strategies like masking in public indoor settings and increasing access to testing and treatment for individuals,” said Dr. Rochelle P. Walensky, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Sharon LaFraniere contributed reporting.