NYC Won’t Re-Up Mask Mandate Indoors Despite Delta Variant Spike

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New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said he has no plans to renew indoor mask mandates despite a spike in cases stemming from the delta Covid-19 variant and a move by Los Angeles to again require residents to wear masks inside.

“The simple answer is no,” de Blasio said when asked about the issue during a Monday briefing. “Masks have value unquestionably, but they’re not going to the root of the problem. Vaccination is.”

The seven-day average Covid-19 positivity rate in the city jumped to 1.69% on Saturday, more than double the percentage of residents who tested positive from last month.

The delta variant makes up 69% of cases sequenced, said health commissioner Dave Chokshi during the briefing.

“I am concerned about the increase in cases we’re seeing in New York City that appears to be propelled by the delta variant,” Chokshi said, noting that masks continue to be required indoors in public transit, health care settings, and schools.

Chokshi said to some degree there’s a slightly higher rate of breakthrough infection associated with the delta variant but that vaccines continue to offer strong protection for hospitalization and death and that the main concern is unvaccinated residents.

De Blasio failed to reach his stated goal of fully vaccinating 5 million New Yorkers by June. Only 4.5 million residents are fully vaccinated, with the lowest rates among young New Yorkers and those living in the Bronx, Brooklyn and Staten Island. Vaccination rates also vary widely by race: While 69% of Asian New Yorkers are fully vaccinated, only 30% of Black New Yorkers are vaccinated.

Mark Levine, chairman of the City Council’s Health Committee, has called for the renewal of a mask mandate indoors as cases rise in the city. “The rule of thumb should be: in indoor settings where there’s no screening for vax/test status, everyone should wear a mask,” Levine said in a Twitter post on Saturday.

In response, de Blasio said he respected Levine’s views but that vaccines, rather than masks are “the answer.”

Los Angeles on Saturday reinstated its mask mandate indoors regardless of vaccination status, becoming the first major county to reimpose mask-wearing in public spaces. The move was met with some resistance, though, after the county sheriff said he wouldn’t enforce the rule.

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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