De Blasio: No plan to bring back mask mandate if hospitalizations remain low

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NEW YORK CITY — On the heels of the announcement that Los Angeles County will reinstitute its indoor mask mandate — even for vaccinated Californians — this weekend, Mayor Bill de Blasio is addressing plans for L.A.’s cross-country counterpart.

He was asked on the Brian Lehrer Show on WNYC radio on Friday if he has plans to make a similar move and bring back mask rules for New York City.

“No, not at this point,” the mayor said.

The primary reason, he said, is the low number of people in the hospital due to COVID-19. Hospitalization rates are not increasing in New York City — and vaccination rates are.

“We’re not seeing any movement in hospitalizations, and that’s really important,” said the mayor.  

NY COVID latest: Friday, July 16, 2021

But in L.A., hospitalizations are up 27% over the last 14 days, while in New York, they’re down 12%, according to the health departments in each jurisdiction.

Plus, there are 1,537 new cases in Los Angeles County, which is nearly a tripling over the past two weeks. That contrasts with New York City, which has 409 new cases, nearly doubling over the same period.

L.A. and N.Y.C. have nearly identical vaccination rates, even though they use slightly different standards of measurement. L.A. has had 69.4% of its residents age 16 and over receive at least one dose, while in New York, people 18 and over have been vaccinated at a rate of 69.4%.

Virus circulating could be confused for COVID-19

Los Angeles County officials announced this week that it will again require masks indoors, even for people who are vaccinated. The move was prompted by a sharp increase in virus cases, many of them the highly transmissible delta variant that has proliferated since California fully reopened its economy on June 15.

LA County’s top health officer said there is now “substantial community transmission.”

Still, health officials and medical experts said the way to lower COVID-19 numbers, which are on the rise everywhere nationwide, is straightforward:

“If they’re not vaccinated, get vaccinated,” said Dr. Purvi Parikh, an immunologist with the Allergy and Asthma Network. “That’s the best way everyone can help from going backwards.”

She said that the current numbers in our area are well worth keeping a close eye on.

“If hospitalizations go up, and our resources start to get depleted, I wouldn’t be surprised if those mandates came back,” Dr. Parikh said.

The mayor told Lehrer much of the same: the city is keeping close tabs on the data.

“We do not have a plan to change at this point,” de Blasio said, “but we’re going to monitor the data closely to see if any adjustments are needed.” 

The comments from the mayor likely come as good news for New Yorkers that have begun to readjust to life after pandemic-era restrictions.

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