A day after announcing five people in New York State tested positive for COVID’s omicron variant, Mayor de Blasio said Friday he’s considering tightening vaccine mandates when it comes to restaurants and concert venues.
Such a mandate could include a second shot of the COVID vaccine, as well as boosters shots.
“With all of our approaches to COVID, we’re going to update them because we’re dealing with some new challenges,” he said. “We’re going to keep updating policies regularly to meet this challenge.”
De Blasio was responding to a question from WNYC’s Brian Lehrer about whether the city would require people seeking to eat indoors or attend concerts to show that they’ve been fully vaccinated — as opposed to providing proof of just one shot, which is the current requirement.
“That will be looked at along with a series of other actions because it’s really dynamic right now,” de Blasio said.
While not fully committing to the policy change Friday, the mayor also pointed out that it’s not just omicron he’s concerned about, but the spread of COVID’s delta variant in the winter months as well.
De Blasio, who’s contemplating a gubernatorial run next year after he’s term-limited out of office as mayor, was speaking a day after appearing alongside Gov. Hochul at City Hall on Thursday to alert New Yorkers that the heavily mutated omicron variant had found its way to the Empire State.
So far, one person has tested positive for omicron in Brooklyn, two in Queens and one in Suffolk County on Long Island. According to Hochul, a fifth case was identified as being detected more broadly in New York City.
The 67-year-old woman who tested positive for omicron in Suffolk County exhibited mild COVID symptoms — and had also received at least one dose of the coronavirus vaccine, Hochol noted.
The fact that the woman received at least one shot led some, like Lehrer on Friday, to ask whether mandates should be beefed up.
Hochul has signaled a reluctance to institute additional vaccine mandates despite disparities between COVID positivity rates in New York City, which have stayed relatively low, and other parts of the state, which have experienced surges. Notably, the MTA, which she controls, has taken the approach of using vaccinations and tests, which has led it to budget $100 million to test workers on a weekly basis.
Hochul, though, has not completely ruled out new mandates.
“I don’t know enough about this variant. I’m not going to overreact, but I can react that quickly if we need to,” she said Thursday with a snap of her fingers.
With omicron here, she’s encouraging wearing masks indoors, as well as getting vaccination and booster shots.
But Hochul has not yet said she’d issue a mask mandate — a decision that her rival Attorney General Letitia James views as a mistake.
James, who is also running for governor, said Thursday night on NY1 that the state should issue a mask mandate now and that “we can do better in the state of New York.”
“We’re seeing numbers in upstate New York, which are double digit,” she said. “Erie County, it’s 10.2% positivity rate. Monroe, it’s 8.9 positivity rate. Onondaga, 6.3 positivity rate … we need bold leadership and individuals who again can get things done.”
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