NYC officials recommend masks indoors, but won't reimpose mandates

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  • Dave A. Chokshi
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New York City officials said Monday that they do not immediately plan to reimpose an indoor mask requirement due to the omicron coronavirus variant, but are "strongly" recommending people wear masks indoors in public spaces.

Dave Chokshi, commissioner of the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, said there's still a lot about the variant scientists don't know, but it's important for people to be vaccinated.

Chokshi said he is issuing an 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."

Chokshi said that the delta variant currently accounts for 98 percent of all sequenced cases in the city right now.

Mayor Bill de Blasio (D) said cases are rising because of delta, and that the city is going to double down on its vaccination strategy and make sure as many people as possible get the COVID-19 vaccine - and a booster shot.

"That is job 1, vaccination," de Blasio said. "Based on everything we know, vaccination is crucial to any strategy for addressing omicron."

De Blasio said that while there have been no cases of the omicron variant reported in New York City, "it is very likely there will be."

He also expanded the city's vaccine mandates to cover 102,000 employees who work in child care and early intervention programs. The deadline for vaccinations is Dec. 20, the mayor said.

New York City has a vaccination requirement in place for all indoor entertainment activities, such as restaurants and gyms. The city has a relatively high vaccination rate, with 88 percent of of adults having received at least one dose.

COVID-19 infections have been rising across the country as the weather in gets colder, but there's been a debate about whether the widespread availability of vaccines and booster shots mean heightened restrictions and caution are still needed, or if this means that a new era of living with the virus has arrived.

Washington, D.C., lifted its indoor mask mandate last week, with no vaccination requirements.

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