New York City mayor Bill de Blasio will end his tenure at midnight, December 31, 2021, but he seems intent on inflicting one last insult on New Yorkers before he goes. De Blasio announced a mandate for the city’s approximately 184,000 private businesses, requiring them to ensure that their employees have at least one vaccine dose by December 27. The announcement seems more like a politically motivated stunt to show that de Blasio is taking, as he described it, a “bold, first-in-the-nation” measure than a medically necessary policy.
While de Blasio claims to be taking “a preemptive strike” against a potential winter Covid-19 surge brought on by the new omicron variant, cold weather, and holiday gatherings, no evidence yet suggests that a surge is imminent. New cases are high in upstate and western New York, not in New York City. The city’s seven-day average of cases is half the statewide average and one-third the average in high Covid-19 parts of the state to the north and west of the city and the mid-Hudson region. Meantime, the city’s seven-day percentage of positive Covid tests—a measure of high transmission—has been relatively stable, at one-half the statewide figure and one-third to one-quarter the level in New York’s upstate and western regions.
No one really knows how severe a threat omicron poses. It’s unclear if omicron is more transmissible or virulent than earlier variants, or if it can evade vaccination or natural immunity. Preliminary reports from South Africa indicate an increase in omicron cases but no corresponding growth in Covid-19 hospitalizations and deaths. Even Anthony Fauci has said that he is encouraged that, so far, omicron does not seem to cause severe disease.
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