Coronavirus Update New York: Workers' planned return worries unions, Mayor Bill de Blasio says NY opening too quickly

Coronavirus update for New York

ByEyewitness News via WABC logo
Wednesday, March 24, 2021
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NJ Burkett reports on Mayor Bill de Blasio's announcement on the return date for city workers.

NEW YORK (WABC) -- The unions representing New York City municipal employees are voicing their concerns about Mayor Bill de Blasio's announced return date for office workers of May 3.

The mayor said that he hoped to ease some concerns and clear things up during his daily press conference on Wednesday.

"We'll make sure the written guidance is really clear. People have to wear masks in offices, period," he said.

The mayor said that his concerns are with other reopenings of large public venues, indoor dining, and fitness classes.

"It's people involved in intensive exercise, letting out their breath. Either not wearing a mask or wearing a mask that has gotten wet, and it therefore compromised. That just doesn't make sense," de Blasio said. "And throwing down the caution that we should not go past 50% in indoor dining. Those are two that really concern me."

New York City's Public Advocate Jumaane Williams agreed. "I think we all have a right to question whether the opening plans are driven by science, or something else. So we want to make sure that we're really focused on the science. So we want the governor to do what's right for the state. Please pause the openings," he said.

"We obviously have the challenge of who regulates what things are open or not. From our perspective as health leaders, if we can't change the regulatory environment of who is making the decisions of what is open or not, we have to focus on educating New Yorkers about the best way to reduce their risk," Dr. Jay Varma said.

"Outdoors is better than indoors. Situations where you are able wear a mask consistently and properly are better than those where you are not. Smaller groups are better than larger groups," Dr. Chokshi said.

Meantime, the Javits Center surpassed the distribution of 250,000 vaccines Wednesday morning.

3,455,877 vaccinations have been distributed in New York City so far. The mayor estimated the city would surpass 3.5 million later in the day.

Also starting today, eligible New Yorkers can make vaccination appointments at the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum.

It's the county's first site to be operated by an outside contractor.

"This is an iconic building," County Executive Laura Curran said. "It's in the heart of our county, it's easy to get to, and it just makes sense to do vaccination distribution here."

More than 100 people were vaccinated there Tuesday as part of a soft launch.

At first, the site will vaccinate up to 400 people a day.

Eventually, it will administer 1,000 shots a day.

Curran says 32% of Nassau County residents have gotten the first dose of the vaccine.

Governor Andrew Cuomo said the state expects an influx of vaccines in the coming weeks and months, with the hope that all those who schedule appointments now would be on track to be vaccinated by April.

"We're expecting a large increase in vaccine supply from the federal government that will enable us to reach more residents and families and further utilize our vast distribution network, but new variants are spreading across the state and should give New Yorkers reason for renewed caution," Cuomo said. "Wash your hands, stay socially distance and wear a mask. We're going to beat COVID, but this fight isn't over yet."

New York has crossed another grim milestone in terms of COVID deaths, Governor Cuomo announced Tuesday, on the same day the state expanded its vaccine eligibility.

More than 40,000 people have now died due in part to the novel coronavirus, with 53 additional deaths Monday. Statewide positivity was 4.74%, and 4,681 patients were hospitalized -- including 925 in the ICU.

But there is hope on the horizon, as all New Yorkers ages 50 and up are now eligible to be vaccinated.

"As more New Yorkers get vaccinated every single day, we're working toward a future in which COVID is left behind and we can settle into the new normal," Cuomo said. "We have a ways to go until that happens, so New Yorkers need to stay vigilant and continue practicing safe behaviors."

RELATED | NYC's public sector workforce to return to offices May 3

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