NEW YORK CITY (WABC) -- Private sector vaccination mandates will continue indefinitely in New York City, Health Commissioner Dr. Ashwin Vasan said Friday, and masks will continue to be worn by children under 5 in public schools.
"I think it's indefinite at this point," he said. "People who have tried to predict what will happen in this future for this pandemic have repeatedly found egg on their face, as they say. And I'm not going to do that here today."
His announcement comes as concerns are growing over the new BA.2 omicron subvariant, which is expected to become the dominant strain of the coronavirus.
"I would love for me to sit here and say, I can give you a date or a data point for when we would lift those things," Dr. Vasan said. "Right now, we are in a low risk environment, and we will continue to evaluate that data."
Dr. Vasan also said masks will remain mandatory for public school students under 5, noting their lack of vaccination makes them most vulnerable.
"We have consistently seen disproportionate hospital rates in the under 5 population compared with other childhood groups, and as a father of a 2 1/2 year old and two other older kids, I want to keep them as safe as possible," he said. "I would love nothing more than to send my son to day care without a mask, but as a scientist and as a doctor and an epidemiologist, I want to keep him safe especially because he's not eligible for a vaccine. We're always looking at the data, as I've said, we have very clear benchmarks of how we are assessing risk, and we'll keep reevaluating whether that mandate should be in place. And right now, we think it should stay in place."
Dr. Anthony Fauci told ABC News that we should not be surprised to see an increase in cases in the next few weeks.
Health officials will monitor the data reflected the city's newly introduced color-coded alert system and said rising cases in other parts of the world remain a cause for worry, but right now, community spread remains low and hospitalizations and deaths are stable.
New York City is seeing an increase in omicron over the past few days, with the BA.2 subvariant accounting for about 30% of cases.
Celia Quinn, the health department's Deputy Commissioner for Disease Control, said the subvariant "may be a little bit more transmissible," but there is no evidence that it causes more severe illness.
"It has been increasing over the past several weeks, we've been saying that," she said. "At the same time, the overall case numbers have been relatively stable, with some increase over the last few days...We'll be watching the cases, hospitalization rates, and its impact on our health care system as we look at the alert levels going forward."
The city is aware of the applications for emergency use of a second booster shot by Pfizer and Moderna.
"As with every other vaccination approval, we're going to be following the guidance and the science from our federal colleagues," Dr. Vasan said.
Submit a COVID Question