Adams says private-sector vaccine mandate to remain, decision on mandate for NYC schools by spring

NEW YORK CITY (WABC) -- Mayor-elect Eric Adams laid out his game plan to confront the COVID crisis in the new year, including how he plans to keep schools open as cases continue to surge.

Adams held a COVID news conference Thursday morning, unveiling his plans as he prepares to take office this weekend.

He was joined by current Health Commissioner Dr. Dave Chokshi and incoming Health Commissioner Dr. Ashwin Vasan.

Adams said the plan is to, "Keep our city open. That's the goal. We can't shut down our city again."

As for existing mandates regarding vaccines and masks, they will stay in place with a few changes and adjustments.

The private-sector employee vaccine mandate will stay in place with a focus on compliance, not punishment. A dedicated unit will work with small businesses, stakeholders, and the mayor's corporate engagement committee to help implement the mandate, foregoing fines if employers engage with the city to help get their workers vaccinated.

Adams' plan was announced the same day that New York state announced 74,000 positive COVID tests, which sets another new record.



The city will study the need for an "up to date" mandate program to require booster shots for all New Yorkers currently covered by the vaccine mandates and engage with unions, the business community, and other shareholders. The data shows that booster shots are extremely effective against Delta and earlier COVID strains, but the city says it does not yet have definitive data on omicron.

The city will set a deadline of this spring for a decision on whether or not there should be a vaccine mandate in schools for the fall of 2022. The decision will be based on expected COVID risk in city schools and vaccination rates among students.

"Right now we don't believe the rates in schools calls for," mandatory vaccinations, Adams clarified. "We said it over and over again, it is the safest place for our children, on so many levels. The governor will make the final outcome if we are going to mandate vaccines in schools."



All other current mandates stay in place, including for masks.

"We are going to get through this," Adams said. "New York will lead the way for this entire country to follow."

As for New York City Schools, they will fully reopen on January 3, and they will implement the Stay Safe, Stay Open plan.

It includes doubling surveillance testing and adjusting the Situation Room and quarantine protocols. Sending home millions of rapid at-home tests for students and educators.

They will also strengthen mitigation measures including higher quality masks and better ventilation.



Incoming-Mayor Adams says they will surge resources to the Health + Hospitals system to ensure enough capacity to address new hospitalizations from omicron. Ambulatory care will be shifted to virtual when possible to shore up nurse staffing levels and other measures.

He also plans to improve safety in congregate settings like jails, shelters, and nursing homes at high risk by supporting rapid isolation and quarantine. They will also provide ready access to vaccination and testing.

As far as COVID testing efforts for the city, the Adams administration plans to increase testing with more sites and mass-access to rapid tests.

The city says it will provide clear testing protocols for specific settings, including in the private sector.

The city will also surge resources to the Health Department, including more than 250 staff, to keep the public health infrastructure strong and at adequate capacity.

For people who do find themselves infected with COVID, the city plans to roll out and scale up access to monoclonal antibody treatments (sotrovimab) and oral antivirals (paxlovid and molupiravir) with a focus on equity and underserved and high-risk populations.

The administration will also work to distribute an additional two million higher-grade masks (KN95, KF94, and N95) in January, particularly via community-based organizations and Health Department sites.

Guidance and rules will be calibrated based upon science, equity consideration, the advice of health experts, and the virus' threat to public health.

For public awareness and to manage COVID, the city will release a color-coded system that shows the level of virus threat and communicates clearly what level of safety measures are in place.

Later Thursday, Adams headed to Broadway to show support for the theater industry which has struggled during the pandemic and particularly during the most recent surge.

"Broadway provides the foundation for our economic system and has the gravitational pull that allows people to come from around the globe to come here and do what we all love, spend their money," Adams said.

Meantime, Adams says he will be sworn in as the 110th mayor of New York City on Saturday morning in Times Square, shortly after the ball drop on New Year's Eve.

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Lauren Glassberg has more on Mayor-elect Eric Adams' plan to deal with the surge in COVID cases.



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