NEW YORK (PIX11) – As New York City continues to see a downward trend in COVID-19 cases, Health Commissioner Dr. Dave Chokshi said Thursday he is hopeful schools can eventually ditch masks at some point this year.
“I hope that that is true,” the city’s top doctor told the PIX11 Morning News when asked if he envisions schools forgoing masks following New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy’s mask prediction on PIX11 News last week. However, he said it will not happen just yet, as community transmission rates remain high. Chokshi said it is up to New Yorkers to continue to take precautions to allow for a continuous drop in cases.
The health commissioner is “cautiously optimistic” as cases are now just under 7,500 compared to the peak of over 43,000 cases. However, Chokshi said more needs to be done, including vaccinations.
The health commissioner advised parents to get their children vaccinated, specifically children ages 5 to 11. Currently, only one in three children in that age range are fully vaccinated. He also advised adults and older children who are fully vaccinated to get their booster shots so they can keep their immunity strong.
When asked when he thinks children under the age of five may get the vaccine, Chokshi said he believes it can happen “as early as some time this spring,” but health officials need to make sure the vaccine is safe and effective before administering.
The health commissioner also said he is strongly supportive of the vaccine requirement in place country and statewide for health care workers. The current national mandate does not impact New York City as much, as the city already had a vaccine mandate in place. He is also confident the requirement will help staffing as less people will get sick.
The health department is also involved in Mayor Eric Adams’ blueprint to end gun violence. Several hospitals also have a violence interruption program as trauma doctors and surgeons see a downstream of violence. Hospital involvement will use tragic moments to change the dynamic, forging community conversations, Chokshi said.