NEW YORK — The debate on the pace to reopen New York City continued Wednesday, as local officials called on leadership to slow their roll on future openings.
It happens as new state numbers show an encouraging outlook and a day after the city announced that 80,000 government employees will begin their return to the office.
“It’s sort of like taking your foot off the break before you could put the car into park,” said Dr. Celine Gounder, epidemiologist and member of President Joe Biden’s COVID-19 advisory board.
From medical professionals to local leaders, calls were made on both the city and state to slow down upcoming reopenings, including sports arenas and performing arts venues set to open in April, citing the ongoing race between the vaccines and variants.
“The variant first identified in New York City now itself makes up 40% of new cases and that’s pretty good evidence that it’s a highly transmissible form of the virus,” said Councilman Mark Levine.
Public Advocate Jumaane Williams agreed.
“We need to slow the pace of this reopening. We have the same information that we’re getting from other cities have gone through this,” he said.
The public advocate spoke the PIX11 Morning News and urged New Yorkers to “just hold on” and continue to stay cautious.
While Mayor Bill de Blasio insists the city will be enforcing its own safety guidelines for its workforce returning to the office in May, including mask requirements, he continued to express frustration with the Governor’s eager pace.
“I am concerned that some of the decisions he’s made lately are more and more about politics than rather the health of our people,” said de Blasio.
Meanwhile, Gov. Cuomo announced the launch of the New York State Citizen Public Health Training Program — a first of its kind, free, online course — that aims to prepare New Yorkers for future public health emergencies..
“It’s 16 hours and it will be the best 16 hours you’ve spent investing in yourself, your family and your community and it will give you peace of mind,” said Cuomo.
Also giving officials a peace of mind were the latest state numbers, where positive cases and hospitalizations are dropping.
To date, more than 8 million New Yorkers now have been vaccinated
Still, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the country’s leading infectious disease expert, didn’t exactly declare victory while appearing at a White House briefing Wednesday.
“When I am often asked if we are turning the corner, my response is really more like, ‘we are at the corner,’ whether or not we will be turning that corner still remains to be seen,” Fauci said.