Manhattan Borough President Mark Levine and Dr. Jay Varma, one of former Mayor Bill de Blasio’s top health advisers, called on the city on Wednesday for a plan to encourage New -Yorkers to get vaccinated and protect residents from any future surges. of the coronavirus.
The suggested plan is driven by the potential threat of a new variant, which could lead to a further rise in cases and hospitalizations and the need for more “vigorous” action, Dr Varma said.
The plan also comes as Mayor Eric Adams has aggressively promoted efforts to rebuild the city’s economy in recent weeks, removing the vaccination mandate for indoor activities and mask mandates for schools. The mayor also encouraged tourists to visit New York, telling people at a recent press conference in Times Square to come “spend the money”.
If the plan were to pass, New Yorkers who have received at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine but have not yet received a booster would receive a text, email and postcard with a location. and an appointment to get vaccinated. The plan also suggests reinstating the $100 incentive to receive the booster, a program that was introduced by Mr. de Blasio and reintroduced by Mr. Adams in February, although it expired at the end of the month.
“I am thrilled with the progress we have made over the past two months and elated by the increasing return to normal life in New York City,” Mr. Levine said in an interview. “We need it.”
The effect of the Omicron wave over the winter was a major setback to the city’s recovery, he said, a setback he doesn’t want to see again. “There are steps we can take now to prepare, so we can lessen the severity of a future wave.”
Positive test rates, deaths and hospitalizations in New York City have all fallen in recent weeks, according to a New York Times database. An average of 662 daily cases were reported on Tuesday, compared to more than 40,000 a day at the height of the Omicron wave.
Booster shots have been shown to be 90% effective in preventing hospitalization due to the Omicron variant and have been shown to be particularly beneficial against infection and death in people aged 50 and over. But the city’s new vaccination data shows wide disparities among residents who received their boosters.
Nearly half of Manhattan has been boosted, compared to just 27% in the Bronx. Citywide, while 36% of city residents received their dose as of Tuesday, only 24% of black residents received a booster, compared to 57% of Asian and Pacific Islander residents.
Mr. Levine and Dr. Varma’s plan also suggested broader Covid safety measures, calling on the city to provide frontline workers and people in communities hardest hit by the pandemic with “Covid safety bags”, which would contain rapid test kits and masks. It also suggests that government agencies allow more flexibility for remote work, as well as implementing a new program to improve data collection on positive coronavirus test rates.
In a statement Wednesday, Patrick Gallahue, spokesman for the city’s health department, said the city’s case-tracking system is “constantly evolving” and that the department is open to any recommendations on the way to improve the city’s Covid response.
“Data on race and poverty, as well as other characteristics, are factored into our data and we particularly appreciate their prioritization,” he added. “Fairness has been and must continue to be at the center of the recovery.”
The speed at which Mr Adams eased the city’s Covid safety measures worried some who argued the vaccination mandate made more people feel safer going out into the city.
In an interview, Dr. Varma said he thought it would be difficult to get residents to comply with mandates if they were reinstated. At this point, he added, the city should focus on preventing as many deaths as possible through an increased effort to stimulate its residents.
“We need to focus on the things the government absolutely can and should do,” Dr Varma said. “For me, that includes very targeted and directed outreach to get people vaccinated.”