Mayor Bill de Blasio on Tuesday scolded vaccine holdouts in the city and pleaded with people to get their shots, promising further announcements later this week on the city’s approach to stemming the spread of COVID-19.
De Blasio came under criticism Monday after he played down the importance of a mask mandate to stop the virus relative to the power of vaccinations, which he and city health advisers have called a permanent solution to the pandemic. Los Angeles has reinstated a mask mandate to curb the spread of the highly contagious delta variant, while San Francisco has issued a mask advisory to residents.
Yet at Tuesday's news conference, de Blasio doubled down, shifting from his more encouraging tone and a professed faith in “grassroots” efforts to push vaccination in communities with decreased health care access.
“At a certain point, personal responsibility matters,” he said. “We’ve been really nice, really respectful. But I’m like, come on people.”
De Blasio touted the city’s new initiative to provide vaccinations to people in their homes, regardless of age or ability.
“Literally we will come to your door, for free, and vaccinate you in your home,” he said. “I mean, what more do we have to do at this point? This is getting insane.”
As the number of COVID-19 cases in the city has risen in recent weeks, some elected officials have called for a renewed mask mandate. Masks are currently only required in certain public settings, such as schools and mass transit, as well as in hospitals.
The city saw 576 new COVID-19 cases yesterday, up from about 200 cases each day a month ago, according to city data. Hospitalizations have leveled off at about 20 per day, down from nearly 400 in early February.
Some officials, including Manhattan City Councilman Mark Levine, have called for a broader mask mandate.
“It is inconvenient, but it slows the spread,” he said Tuesday morning in an interview on NY1. “And to protect vulnerable people, including kids, including the immunocompromised, it’s a step we need to take.”
De Blasio said he would consider a mask mandate if the city’s health situation became serious, but largely dismissed the idea, partly because it eliminated the incentive to get vaccinated and be free to go maskless in most places.
“It is a problem to say to people, ‘You did the right thing, but now you have to put your mask back on,’” de Blasio said.
He said that the mask mandate could also threaten the city’s economic recovery.
“We have the solution to the thing that is killing so many people and is once again threatening our ability for people to make a living,” he said. “Why is this so hard? Just go get vaccinated.”
De Blasio blamed vaccine misinformation, which he called a “national disease,” for preventing the vaccination effort from reaching the whole city. On Monday, Twitter suspended U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene for spreading vaccine misinformation.
De Blasio declined to preview what his announcements on city COVID-19 requirements would be, but suggested they would be significant measures to spur vaccination.
“At a certain point it's time to step forward,” he said. “We’re going to make that real clear.”