NYC mayor insisting no mask mandate as COVID cases rise

NEW YORK (AP) — New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said Monday he does not plan to reinstate a citywide mask mandate even as COVID-19 cases increase, opting instead to focus on vaccinating more residents.

There have been calls for New York City to follow the lead of Los Angeles County, which announced last week that it will require masks be worn indoors amid a sharp increase in virus cases.

But De Blasio insisted vaccinations are a better strategy for the nation’s most populous city.

“Masks have value, unquestionably, but masks are not going at the root of the problem. Vaccination is,” the mayor said during an livestreamed press briefing. “So we do not intend a mask mandate. We do intend to double down on vaccination.”

There are 4.8 million city residents with at least one vaccine dose, the mayor said.

The daily number of COVID-19 cases in the city has increased recently, though the caseloads are nowhere near the pandemic’s peak this past winter. The seven-day average of confirmed and probable cases Friday was 537, compared to 229 on July 1, according to the city’s data.

The number of virus cases has been rising around the country, many of them the highly transmissible delta variant. City health officials say the variant makes up about 7 in 10 cases they sequence.