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De Blasio Encourages, Doesn't Require, Vaccinated New Yorkers To Wear Masks Indoors

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio at a press conference on July 14.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio won't follow his peers in Los Angeles and Washington, D.C., and reimpose indoor mask mandates in the United States' largest city. 

In a Monday morning press conference, de Blasio said his office strongly encourages vaccinated people to wear masks inside in places they could be exposed to unvaccinated people, but he stopped short of a mandate. 

“Let's be clear. Vaccines are the No. 1 most powerful weapon against Covid by far,” de Blasio said. “But we also clearly believe there is a place for masks.” 

The decision not to issue a mandate comes after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reversed course on its mask-wearing recommendation last week — suggesting that those in high-risk locations wear a mask regardless of vaccination status — amid a nationwide outbreak of the super contagious delta variant that has seen breakthrough cases. 

De Blasio announced a new vaccination mandate on Monday as well: All newly hired city employees will now be required to show proof of vaccination.

“There's going to be a reality where if you're vaccinated, a world of opportunity opens up to you. If you're not vaccinated, there's gonna be more and more things you can't do,” he said. “This is the shape of things to come.” 

Just a half-hour earlier, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced that all Metropolitan Transit Authority and Port Authority of New York and New Jersey employees would be required to either get vaccinated or be tested weekly.

Cuomo also recommended that school districts require teachers to be vaccinated or tested weekly in high-risk areas around the state. Last week, the state said that all public-facing employees that work in state-run public hospitals must be vaccinated. 

Gov. Andrew Cuomo inspecting a testing site amid the pandemic.

Cuomo said local leaders should be proactive in requiring vaccinations in these locations, and specifically called out New York City’s health system, New York City Health and Hospitals. 

“The state did it first, and you can use the precedent of the state,” he said. “Government is supposed to lead.”

If the caseload continues to increase, Cuomo said state and local leaders should consider mandating vaccinations for teachers, nursing home workers and all healthcare workers.  

“Everything should be on the table and we should start talking about it now,” he said.

Both leaders made the announcements in front of the backdrop of the economic strife that the city and state are still recovering from amid stringent restrictions for the majority of last year aimed at curbing the spread of the virus. 

Before announcing the new mask suggestion, de Blasio promoted New York City’s Homecoming Weekend, a concert series in mid-August that is available exclusively to New Yorkers that are vaccinated. He lauded Danny Meyer for announcing last week a requirement that customers show proof that they received a vaccine to eat indoors at Union Square Hospitality Group restaurants. 

“We've seen massive movement in the private sector the last few days,” de Blasio said. “Absolutely want to affirm and support all the businesses that are putting whatever type of vaccine mandate in place works for them.” 

Cuomo, too, encouraged the private sector to establish its own vaccine mandates as a way to beat back the potential financial impact of the virus's resurgence in the state. 

“I believe it's in your business interest to run a vaccine-only establishment,” Cuomo said.