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NEW YORK — The emerging omicron variant of the coronavirus should cause people to take more precautions, a respiratory expert said on Friday, the same day that Mayor Bill de Blasio said that he’d consider raising the minimum number of doses of coronavirus vaccine a person may have to prove that they’ve taken in order to be admitted into bars, restaurants, gyms, theaters, and other venues.

“With all of our approaches to COVID, we’re going to update them, because we’re dealing with some new challenges at this moment,” de Blasio said when asked about the issue Friday by WNYC host Brian Lehrer.

Despite the overall COVID situation, New York Gov. Kathy Hochul has repeatedly told New Yorkers that it’s “not a cause for alarm.”

Still, state and local leaders are concerned — not only with omicron’s spread, but more with the delta variant. Delta is behind the state now having its highest daily numbers of COVID-19 cases — more than 11,000 — since last January.  

The combination of the rise in overall cases, along with the emerging omicron variant, prompted Dr. Purvi Parikh of the Allergy and Asthma Network and NYU Langone Medical Center to recommend some caution.

“I’m avoiding crowds now, knowing this variant,” she said. “I don’t really want to go to any indoor public places.”

She did say that as the holiday season continues to unfold, relatively small gatherings with family and friends should be okay, provided everybody is vaccinated.

The overall situation has the governor and mayor emphasizing vaccinations.
“Vaccine we know is going to ensure that there’s less severe symptoms,” Gov. Hochul said.  “The booster is something I would highly recommend. If you’re not vaccinated, get vaccinated.”

On Thursday, de Blasio issued a vaccination mandate for all 56,000 people who work at religious and private schools in the city to be vaccinated by Dec. 20.

Rabbi David Zwiebel, the chair of the Committee of NYC Religious and Independent Schools Officials, sent the mayor a letter asking him to reconsider.

Zwiebel said that vaccination rates are high in the city’s religious and private schools, but that “government should be using its bully pulpit to persuade, not its regulatory arm to coerce.”