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COVID-19 Cases Increasing Across Queens and NYC, Prompts Calls for Another Mask Mandate

Mayor Bill de Blasio handed out face masks at the Queensbridge Houses in May (Ed Reed/ Mayoral Photography Office)

July 19, 2021 By Allie Griffin

New cases of COVID-19 are on the rise across Queens and citywide as the Delta variant spreads across the boroughs.

The average daily number of cases in Queens more than doubled in the past two weeks — it was 122 on July 15, compared to just 57 on July 1, according to the latest city data. Neighborhoods like Howard Beach (11414) have a positivity rate of 3.71 percent — compared to the citywide rate of 1.13 percent.

The number of new COVID cases citywide saw a 203 percent increase from the average two weeks ago, according to the New York Times COVID-19 tracker.

The uptick is likely a result of the highly contagious Delta strand of the virus. The variant now makes up about 69 percent of cases across the city, Health Commissioner Dave Chokshi said Monday.

Queens COVID case count over time (NYC Health Dept)

The rise has prompted some officials to call on Governor Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio to reinstate mask mandates for all indoor activities — even for people who are fully vaccinated.

Currently, only the unvaccinated must wear masks inside, and it is almost impossible to determine compliance. However, both the vaccinated and unvaccinated are required to wear a mask in some settings, like on subways and buses as well as schools, hospitals and congregate settings.

Council Member Mark Levine, the chair of the Council’s Health Committee, is calling on the state and city to reimpose the mask mandate for all.

“Indoor mask use in NYC is falling—in delis, stores, subways, movie theaters etc. We need to reverse this trend,” Levine tweeted Saturday. “It’s time to renew the indoor mask mandate, including for those who are vax’d.”

He pointed to the rise in cases due to the Delta variant as well as concern for young children, who aren’t yet eligible for the vaccine, and the immunocompromised.

“This must include vax’d because there’s a very small chance they can still receive/transmit, & because we need mask solidarity.” Levine added. “Otherwise it doesn’t work.”
At least one Queens leader echoed his wish to bring back mask-wearing for all indoors.
Council Member Selvena Brooks-Powers said she agrees that it needs to be done in a tweet.
I agree with my colleague @MarkLevineNYC, especially when you see we have communities still at greater risk,” Brooks-Powers wrote. “We need to be measured as we reopen so that we do not lose out on all of the progress we’ve made to beat #Covid19.”

De Blasio said he has no plans to reintroduce a mask mandate for the vaccinated during a press conference Monday.

“Masks have value unquestionably, but masks are not going at the root of the problem — vaccination is, so we do not intend a mask mandate,” de Blasio said. “We do intend to double down on vaccination.”

Health officials agreed that getting more people vaccinated is the way to fight the Delta variant.

“The Delta variant is concerning as we’ve talked about…,” Chokshi said. “But our concern is primarily for people who remain unvaccinated, which is why the single most important thing that we can do to keep individuals as well as our communities, our city safe, is to get as many people vaccinated as possible.”

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