NYC mayor stands firm against mask mandates despite 'high' COVID-19 alert level

COVID-19 update for NYC

ByEyewitness News WABC logo
Wednesday, May 18, 2022
NYC mayor firm against mask mandates despite 'high' COVID alert
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New York City Mayor Eric Adams on Wednesday stood firm in his reluctance to reinstate both the city's indoor mask mandate and similar face covering requirements for schools.

NEW YORK CITY (WABC) -- New York City Mayor Eric Adams on Wednesday stood firm in his reluctance to reinstate both the city's indoor mask mandate and similar face covering requirements for schools, insisting that the city is now in a different place with treatments and vaccines available to blunt severe disease and death.

"We're staying prepared and not panicking," Adams said. "It appears as though there is a new norm that is settling in our city, in our country. Variants are going to come. If every variant that comes, we move into shutdown thoughts, we move into panicking, we're not going to function as a city."

Despite New York City transitioning to a "high" COVID-19 alert level, indicating "high community spread and increasing pressure on the health care system," Adams insisted hospitalizations and virus-related deaths are stable.

"I feel extremely pleased based on my analysis in the morning with my health experts that we are being extremely strategic," he said. "We are fighting COVID with not only the tools that we didn't have before, but we're also fighting COVID using the intelligence we need to win in a COVID environment."

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Any announcement regarding the potential reinstatement of the indoor mask mandate would be made after the mayor meets with his health advisors in the mornings, he added.

Asked about former Mayor Bill de Blasio advisor Dr. Jay Varma constantly weighing in on Adams administration policy, the mayor thanked him for his service but didn't mince words.

"I'm hoping the doctor will respect my role as being the mayor," Adams said. "I'm hoping he will respect that and not constantly weigh in and allow us to do the job that we supported when he was the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene commissioner."

Still, the health department is urging indoor mask use in all public spaces, including schools. An advisory issued Monday notes particular importance for people who are at high risk of severe illness and death, namely those who are over 65 or who are unvaccinated.

Map: 7-day rolling positivity rates by Zip code:

The Department of Education also sent a letter to families, recommending that all public school students 2 and older wear a mask.

"We recommend that everyone age 2 and older wear a well-fitting mask in all public indoor settings, including at school and early childhood education (ECE) programs, even if not required," the letter read. "Encourage your child to wear a mask while at school or ECE program and when gathering with friends. Your child's school has masks available."

Officials also urged everyone 5 and older to get vaccinated and a booster when eligible.

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New Yorkers can find an at-home test distribution pick up location most convenient to them and their hours of operation by visiting the city's COVID-19 testing page. New Yorkers with a disability who need assistance or have questions regarding at home test kits should call 311. Those who are deaf or hard of hearing and use American Sign Language can call via video phone at 646-396-5830.

New Yorkers who test positive using an at-home test can call 212-COVID19 to be connected to resources like free meal and care package delivery. Care packages contain personal protection equipment (PPE) for a household of three to quarantine, two rapid antigen at-home tests, and other necessities to help New Yorkers safely isolate.

Multiple COVID-19 treatments are available for people ages 12 and older, and can be delivered to New Yorkers' homes for free. For more information on COVID-19 treatments, please call 212-COVID19 and press 9 or visit

Calling 212-COVID19 provides New Yorkers an immediate connection to a clinician who can refer them to monoclonal antibody treatment or prescribe antiviral medications, like Paxlovid, and arrange to have it delivered to their home that same day for free.

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