NEW YORK — The city’s top doctor says he’s cautiously optimistic New York will reach its goal of fully reopening by July 1, but also says the next two months will be critical.

“I’m feeling some cautious optimism based on where the numbers are headed right now, particularly with respect to cases, but also hospitalizations and deaths,” Dr. Dave Chokshi, the city’s health commissioner, told political anchor Errol Louis during a Friday evening interview on “Inside City Hall.”

But Chokshi warned New Yorkers not to become complacent with the recent wave of positive local news regarding the city’s progress against the coronavirus.

“We can’t mistake progress for victory,” he said.

Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Thursday he plans to reopen the city on July 1, citing 6.3 million vaccine doses administered in the city to date. He said he wants to see restaurants, hair salons, gyms, arenas and other venues operating at full capacity. The state would need to sign off on the plan.

While the city has made progress in vaccinations and positivity rates in recent weeks, its key COVID-19 indicators have not dropped to the levels from last summer, when the positivity rate was consistently around 1%. On Friday, the city reported 146 new COVID-19 hospitalizations, 1,309 new cases, and a 3.24% 7-day positivity rate.

Chokshi told NY1 that the city needs to maintain its trend of driving down those key metrics — while keeping an eye on the spread and severity of coronavirus variants — over the next two months to meet the goal of a full reopening.

He also stressed the importance of inoculations, noting there is growing evidence that people who are fully vaccinated are less likely to transmit the coronavirus.

Chokshi, who has family members in Mumbai, also reflected on the COVID-19 surge in India. He noted what New York City went through last spring at the height of the pandemic locally, and said India is currently going through “that and more.”

India set a daily global record for coronavirus infections in seven of the last eight days, with a seven-day average of nearly 350,000 infections. Daily deaths have nearly tripled in the past three weeks.  

Chokshi told NY1 that coronavirus variants appear to be playing a role in the surge in India.

In response to the surge, the Biden administration announced Friday it will ban most travel from India starting May 4. Chokshi said it’s reasonable to question how effective the move will be, but agreed with the White House.

“It’s not the most effective tool that we have in our toolbox, but I do agree with the travel ban that has been recommended by the CDC in this case,” Chokshi said. “In part because we’re on such a positive trajectory here in New York City and around the United States. So we have to do everything that we possibly can to preserve those hard-won steps that we’ve taken.”

The health commissioner urged New Yorkers to help India through donations, particularly to medical relief organizations.


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