One day after the state ended its mask mandate in most indoor public settings, Mayor Eric Adams signaled he wants to take a conservative approach, saying he fears a premature decision could backfire and result in a resurgence of cases.
Asked about mandates at an unrelated news conference in the Bronx on Thursday, Adams prefaced his answer by saying he wants to “get rid of these darn masks so bad.”
But he quickly added that he would rather live with “the discomfort of wearing a mask” than run the risk of easing restrictions too early.
“And [then] we’re right back to where we started,” he said. “So I want to err on the side of caution.”
He added, “My healthcare professionals have not said this is the moment yet.”
The mayor faced renewed questions about COVID-19 restrictions following Governor Kathy Hochul’s announcement on Wednesday that she would end masking and vaccine requirements in most indoor places with the exception of schools.
But the state’s decision has minimal impact on New York City, which has among the strictest COVID-19 rules in the U.S. They include a vaccination requirement known as “Key to NYC” for customers and employees at restaurants, gyms and cultural and entertainment venues; and vaccine mandates for municipal employees and employees of private businesses.
In addition to schools, masks must also still be worn on mass transit and in healthcare, congregate and childcare settings.
The governor’s decision now allows businesses in New York City to lift mask rules for their customers and employees. But the city is still encouraging the public to wear high-quality masks whenever they are indoors and in crowded settings.
On Thursday, Adams was pressed on whether he envisioned a vaccination threshold that would allow the city to lift its vaccine mandates. More than 75% of New Yorkers are currently fully vaccinated.
The mayor said he would let his health experts decide. “I’m sure, knowing them, because they are very conservative, they’re going to say 100%,” he said.
Adams also gave no sign that he would offer a reprieve or extension for city workers who refuse to get vaccinated. Up to 3,000 municipal employees — out of nearly 400,000 — could be fired on Friday, the deadline the city has set for employees who had still not received a shot and were not approved for an exemption or granted an extension.
“I want them to stay,” Adams said. “I want them to be employees of the city, but they have to follow the rules that were put in place before my administration.”