HARLEM, Manhattan — In the midst of a battle between competing interests — a societal desire to move on from the pandemic and the need to protect the public against the concerning COVID-19 delta variant — the potential return of mask mandates is giving New Yorkers reason to pause.
Masks are still required on mass transit and at airports, along with in various private businesses which can make their own rules.
“When I go out on the bus, or the train, or to the store, I always put an extra mask on,” said Washington Heights resident Daniel Tapia. “I double up.”
But the mayor stuck to his guns Monday, saying he does not plan on reinstituting an indoor mask mandate as Los Angeles did this weekend.
“Let’s address the problem by getting more people vaccinated,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said.
You don’t have to look too hard to see a lot of exposed faces, even as the highly contagious delta variant becomes the dominant COVID-19 strain.
In fact, according to the MTA, the percentage of subway riders wearing masks has dropped over the last few months, from 90% to 71%.
On buses, masking has dropped from 91% to 84%.
New York City Councilman Mark Levine — who’s also chair of the Health Committee — disagrees with de Blasio’s commitment to avoid another mask mandate. He said although he understands the burden of mask fatigue, delaying a return to a mask mandate could hurt the city in the long run.
“Cases have tripled in New York City over the last three weeks. Hospitalizations are starting to tick up,” he said. “It is now very risky for crowds of people who are of mixed vaccine status to be together indoors. It’s had to have a policy that works in stores, in any of these settings, unless it includes everybody — otherwise it’s an honor system.”
“We need to act now,” Levine told the PIX11 Morning News, noting he has seen a decrease in mask usage in supermarkets, public transit and movie theaters, which is more concerning. He said there needs to be a return to “mask solidarity,” where mask wearing becomes a part of the culture and protects everybody.
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