Mayor and Mayor-elect Double-Down on Vaccinations, as Omicron Likely Creates Large, Quick Surge
By Yehudit Garmaise
Mayor Bill de Blasio today called the Omicron variant, “a temporary reality that demands an urgent, immediate step, which is to maximize vaccination, and that is what we are going to focus on and double down on.”
“This is a pivotal moment for us,” said Mayor-elect Eric Adams, who said he is in constant contact with Mayor de Blasio for a “seamless hand-off and “continuity between his administration and mine when the new year begins.” “The decisions we make over the next two weeks determine the success of our city over the next two years.
“The mayor and I are in 100% agreement that the government is doing all it can to stop the COVID surge, so we can protect New Yorkers and ensure that New York opens again in a prosperous way.
“There will be no confusion or gap in our COVID responses when I take office.”
Mayor de Blasio called “a substantial number of cases of the Omicron variant,” “a major challenge,” but he also said that Omicron’s symptoms appear to be much less severe than those of previous variants and most reassuringly, COVID’s new surge may only last a few weeks.
“We are seeing a very substantial rise in the number of cases," the mayor said. “I would hasten to add, thank G-d, what helps us and what protects us always are vaccinations.”
Based on the trajectory the new variant took in South Africa, where it was first detected, the mayor said he hopes Omicron will be “a fast and temporary phenomenon.”
“We expect, in the next weeks, to see a very, very big surge in the number of cases: more than we have seen previously, and then we expect, and then, after a period of time: that it will dissipate,” said the mayor, who was describing the pattern health experts seen in other places already hit by Omicron.
“Based on what we know: we are expecting a fast uptick and then going the other way: the cases starting to come down, and we move past corona,” he said. “We can weather than storm if more and more people get vaccinated and more and more people get boosters.”
Health Commissioner Dave Chokshi pointed out Omicron has an unusually savvy ability to evade the immune system: meaning that “those who already had COVID and those who are vaccinated are more likely to be infected with Omicron compared to past variants.
“But there are steps we can take to weaken the link between exposure and infection: wear a high quality mask, improve ventilation or gather outdoors, and stay home if you feel sick: no matter how mild your symptoms: even just a scratchy throat or a runny nose.
“Vaccination remains vital because it can protect you from severe disease.
“New York’s high level of vaccination built up our ‘sea wall’ against his Omicron wave, and boosters short up that protection.”
In addition to “vaccination being the key to keeping people safe,” the mayor pointed out that New York can better fight diseases because “we have much better treatments than we have ever had,” said the mayor, who urged support from the federal government, which can provide more monoclonal antibody treatments to New York City.
Mayor de Blasio also wants, from the federal government, the authorization of Pfizer’s antiviral pill to be accelerated, more vaccines, and more test kits.”
When asked whether he would consider closing the schools in the face of what could a few weeks of an Omicron surge, the mayor clearly said that he would not close the schools, which he said, “remain the safest place for our children: physically, mentally, and emotionally.”
“Our message to New Yorkers is: ‘We are in this together, so look out for each other,” said Mayor-elect Adams. “That means getting vaccinated, getting boosted, and getting tested to stop the spread.”