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New York City Councilmember 'Baffled' By Mayor's Hesitance To Mandate Masks As Delta Variant Spreads

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- There's a new recommendation on masks from Mayor Bill de Blasio. He "strongly recommends" everyone wear one inside in public places, but stopped short of a mandate Monday.

In New York City, more than 10 million doses of the COVID vaccine have been given out. But it's still not enough, and more local lawmakers say de Blasio is making a mistake, CBS2's Jessica Layton reported.

With the Delta variant spreading at a dangerous rate, Gov. Andrew Cuomo is urging cities and towns to go back to requiring face coverings indoors.

"Local governments, you should adopt that CDC mask guidance. Learn the lesson from last year," Cuomo said.

Still, de Blasio did not announce an official mask mandate.

"We want to strongly recommend that people wear a mask in indoor settings, even if you're vaccinated," he said. "This is particularly true of course if you might be around anyone unvaccinated."


A strong recommendation isn't strong enough for City Councilmember Mark Levine.

"I'm really baffled at this point," said Levine, who says a clear directive is needed, given the number of new cases accelerating at 1,200 a day and doubling in the past 10 days.

"We need to act on every front. We need to push aggressively for more vaccination, but we also need to make indoor public spaces safer by requiring, not just recommending, but requiring masking," Levine said.

The mayor and city health officials wanted to look at the research before deciding how to apply that guidance to the five boroughs, CBS2's Andrea Grymes reported.

"The vast majority of transmissions both in New York City and across the U.S. is due to people who remain unvaccinated, but the data also did show it is possible for vaccinated people to spread the virus," said Health Commissioner Dr. David Chokshi.

Watch Andrea Grymes' Report

On the streets, there's a mix of opinion.

"After we went through the last year and a half, wearing a mask is not a big deal," said Ahmed Massoud, who works in Midtown.

"I'll do it because, you know, I got vaccinated because I care about our community. But it's frustrating that we're still making sacrifices for those who don't seem to care about others," said Upper East Side resident Bethany Trench.

Levine, chair of the health committee, wants to go one step further by requiring proof of vaccination or a negative test to attend places like movie theaters, bars, restaurants and museums.

"Look, I think this is good for business because as a customer, you're going to feel much more comfortable," Levine said.

Several more businesses are requiring employees and customers to get the vaccine, including Equinox and SoulCycle.

Northwell hospital employees must show proof of vaccination or take a weekly test.

De Blasio announced the city's new hires must be vaccinated, or they won't be able to work.

Gov. Cuomo announced Monday that MTA and New York Port Authority workers must be vaccinated or tested weekly, starting Labor Day.

"To date, nearly 70% of our work force has already been vaccinated. It's great progress. But we can and have to do better," said Janno Lieber, acting MTA board chair and CEO.


Last week, the governor ordered state hospital workers to get vaccinated, with no testing option.

Mask messaging in New Jersey and Connecticut are similar to New York's. There are no mandates, but they are strongly recommended indoors.

Gov. Phil Murphy announced workers in certain state and private health care facilities, as well as high-risk congregate settings, in New Jersey must be vaccinated or tested once or twice a week starting September 7.

"To be clear, we retain the ability and the authority to go further if we do not see significant increases in vaccination rates within this worker population," Murphy said.

Connecticut's Department of Public Health, like New York City, "strongly recommended" that all residents over age 2 wear masks inside in public places, citing the Delta variant.

Gov. Ned Lamont said he's not in favor of a mask - or travel - mandate right now.

"I think it's better if people stay closer to home a little bit. That makes life easier. Skip Florida for now," Lamont said.

CBS2's Andrea Grymes and Jessica Layton contributed to this report. Editor's note: This story first appeared on August 2.

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