Health and Science

NYC reinstitutes Covid mask advisory 'at all times' indoors regardless of vaccination status

Key Points
  • New York City has not identified any cases of omicron so far, according to outgoing Mayor Bill de Blasio and Health Commissioner Dr. Dave Chokshi.
  • They both emphasized that vaccination remains the most crucial tool available to fight Covid-19.
  • Chokshi said New Yorkers are strongly urged to wear masks indoors regardless of vaccination status.
An MTA worker is seen wearing a mask on the subway after The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) announced a mandatory coronavirus vaccination or weekly test mandate for employees in New York City, New York, August 2, 2021.
Andrew Kelly | Reuters

New York City on Monday issued an advisory strongly recommending that everyone wear masks indoors in public places at all times regardless of vaccination status, amid concern about the new, highly mutated strain of the coronavirus named omicron.

"I'm also issuing a commissioners advisory strongly recommending that all New Yorkers wear a mask at all times when indoors and in a public setting. Like at your grocery or in building lobbies, offices and retail stores," Dr. Dave Chokshi, commissioner of the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, told reporters during an update on the coronavirus situation.

Outgoing Mayor Bill de Blasio and Chokshi said New York City has not identified any cases of omicron so far. They both emphasized that vaccination remains the most crucial tool available to fight Covid-19.

"There are no omicron cases here in New York City at this moment. It is very likely there will be, but there are no cases at this moment," de Blasio said during the update. "Our entire focus once again is going to be on vaccination. Based on everything we know, vaccination is crucial to any strategy for addressing omicron."

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Chokshi said it will probably be a matter of days before omicron is detected in New York City. He said the city has a strong surveillance system that can rapidly identify omicron when it arrives.

The World Health Organization, in a technical paper published Sunday, warned that omicron poses a "very high" global risk with a high likelihood of further transmission. The variant has more than 30 mutations on the spike protein that binds to human cells. Some of the mutations are associated with higher transmission and a decrease in antibody protection, according to the WHO.

De Blasio encouraged parents to vaccinate their children ages 5 to 11 years old. He also called on New Yorkers to get their booster shots as soon as possible. The mayor doubled down on the city's vaccine mandates, expanding the requirements to cover 102,000 people who work in child-care and early intervention programs. The compliance deadline is Dec. 20

New York City's vaccination rate is comparatively high, with 88% of adults in the city having received at least one dose. However, just 16% of kids 5 to 11 have received one shot. The city has administered more than 943,000 booster shots so far.

Covid infections are rising in New York City, with about 1,400 new cases a day on average, according to the city's health department.