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New York City Mayor Eric Adams says no to ‘shutdown thoughts,’ won’t bring mask mandate back amid surge

May 20, 2022, 5:16 PM UTC

New York Mayor Eric Adams said he has no plans to reinstate a mask mandate in public schools, even after health officials this week raised the city’s COVID-alert level to “high” and advised wearing face coverings indoors. 

“I’m proud of what we are doing and how we are not allowing COVID to outsmart us,” Adams said at City Hall briefing, explaining why he didn’t intend to reinstate the school mask mandate for children age 5 and older. “We’re staying prepared and not panicking. When I look at the hospitalizations and deaths, the numbers are stable.”

Adams set up a color-coded COVID alert system when he took office this year, which allows him to reinstate measures like masking requirements and vaccination mandates in response to increases in COVID case levels. Asked why he implemented the color-coding policy if he didn’t intend to follow its recommendations, Adams said: “We set a policy in place, not a law in place. I follow laws. I make policy. That was a policy we put in place based on the information we had and the tools that were available.”

The virus has become a constant feature of daily life in New York, Adams said. The current surge is being fueled by an Omicron subvariant.

“Variants are going to continue to come,” he said. “It appears as though there’s a new norm that is settling in our city and our country. If every variant that comes, we move into shutdown, we’re not going to function as a city.”

Alert levels take into account cases, hospital admissions and the percentage of inpatient beds that are occupied by COVID-19 patients. Early in May, the city moved to a medium alert from low after surpassing 200 new cases per 100,000 people over a seven-day period.

As of May 14, new cases citywide were at 309 per 100,000. A high alert level is triggered when new hospital admissions over seven days surpass 10 per 100,000 or the percentage of staffed inpatient beds occupied by COVID patients is greater than 10%, according to guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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