Mayor Bill de Blasio continues to follow a vaccine-only response to the Coronavirus pandemic, ignoring a new call to reinstitute mask mandates, even for individuals, who are vaccinated against the Coronavirus. NYC Mayor's Office (YouTube/Fair Use)

And the masks came off : Mayor de Blasio’s vaccine-only policy hits a bump, as a Columbia University scientist invokes WHO’s mask recommendation

The idea of returning to compulsory masks-wearing ran up against Government indifference and the political jockeying to declare a premature end to the Coronavirus pandemic.

By Progress New York Staff

Updated 01 July 2021 06:30 A leading New York science communicator called on Mayor Bill de Blasio (WFP-New York City) on Monday to follow recommendations issued by the World Health Organisation, or WHO, that urged individuals, who have been vaccinated, to continue wearing masks and practise other safety measures in the face of new, more communicable variants of the Coronavirus. The recommendations were in contravention to guidance issued by the chief U.S. health ministry, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or CDC, which last month advised that masks and social distancing were no longer recommended to Americans, who had been vaccinated, revealing a split, according to a report published by the New York Times.

The scientist, Dr. Lucky Tran, an organiser for March for Science who also holds a leading science communication post at Columbia University, posted a message on the Twitter social media platform, making their request : “Hey @NYCMayor @NYCMayorsOffice @DrJayVarma can we please have NYC recommend indoor masking again, following @WHO guidelines, and the leadership of cities like LA?” As of press time, the press office supporting City Hall had not responded to an inquiry about Mayor de Blasio’s response to Dr. Tran’s suggestion. One day after Dr. Tran’s request, the New York Times published another report, examining a reconsideration of mask mandates in the face of a concerning new strain of the Coronavirus known as the Delta variant.

Mayor de Blasio has been promoting a vaccine-only response to the Coronavirus pandemic that has reportedly fallen short in the United Kingdom, Israel, major cities in Australia, and elsewhere. The failure of a vaccine-only response has reportedly led to a reïnstitution of compulsory facial coverings and confinements. Indeed, in Israel, approximately half of the adults, who tested positive for COVID-19 during an outbreak of the Delta variant of the Coronavirus, were reportedly fully-vaccinated with the Pfizer vaccine, leading to the reïmposition of indoor mask requirements, according to a report published by the Wall Street Journal. It’s been widely reported that the Delta variant is 60 per cent. more transmissible than the immediately preceding dominant variant in the U.K., and it is capable of vaccine escape.

For this report, Dr. Tran did not immediately answer an interview request.

A response in New York City that, once again, diverges from the science-based responses from the West Coast.

One day after Dr. Tran called for a return to using masks, Mayor de Blasio lifted the mask mandates for fully-vaccinated City employees in office buildings. Mayor de Blasio appears to be doubling-down on his decision to continue to solely emphasise vaccines as a pandemic response.

Critics of Mayor de Blasio complain that his decisions may put the health of New Yorkers in jeopardy, since the vaccination rate of New Yorkers is lower than that of the British, where an outbreak of the Delta variant has led to a new wave of COVID-19 cases.


The Delta variant has ‘‘exploded’’ in the U.K. Source : The Johns Hopkins University Center for Systems Science and Engineering (“JHU CSSE”).

A report by the cable financial news channel CNBC noted, in relevant part, that, “the U.K.’s experience of Covid-19 has often been a harbinger of things to come for other countries[,] including the U.S,” predicting that, “Perhaps wary of how infections have spread in the U.K., the U.S. wants to speed up its vaccinations too. It could take more time than the White House would like, however.”

Appearing related to that concern or sensibility, the Los Angeles County health ministry “strongly recommends everyone, regardless of vaccination status, wear masks indoors.”

This is not the first time when the de Blasio administration’s response has forked from the response from West Coast metropolitan areas. Early in the pandemic, the New Yorker reported that the Government’s pandemic response in cities, like Seattle, permitted scientists to take the lead, whereas, in New York City, politics took to the fore.

There’s a lack of check on Mayor de Blasio’s response to the Coronavirus pandemic.

“[T]he vaccine approach is not enough,” Dr. Eric Feigl-Ding, a senior fellow at the Federation of American Scientists in Washington, told the New York Times for a report published Tuesday, adding that “We’re not at the level of vaccinations where we can release the brakes on everything else and herd immunity will grind transmissions to a halt.”

During the AIDS pandemic in New York City, the activist group ACT UP was born to fight back against an irresponsible pandemic response. According to one of its Web sites, “ACT UP was formed in response to social neglect, government negligence and the complacency of the medical establishment during the 1980s. Soon it found itself needing to fight corporate greed, lack of solidarity and various forms of stigma and discrimination at home and abroad.” But the grand-daddy of New York’s direct action groups has sat mum, even as the LGBT Community Centre remained closed during Pride Month, even as Mayor de Blasio has been telegraphing the City’s economic reopening since May. Without dynamic, social movement tension on Government leaders, only political considerations will determine public health policy. And it appears that public health policy is taking a backseat to the economic reopening.

For this report, several requests to ACT UP members were never answered. Another activist-oriented, AIDS-era institution, the Treatment Action Group, was formed to accelerate treatment research. It’s executive director did not answer a request for an interview about the City’s weekly Coronavirus variant sequencing studies.

The de Blasio administration has continued to amend and restate its weekly variant sequencing studies.

On Tuesday, a reporter for the New York Times pressed Mayor de Blasio about identifying a threshold at which point the City would begin to recommend vaccinated individuals to again wear masks indoors, at which point the Mayor ; the president of the Municipal public hospital system, Dr. Mitchell Katz ; and the City’s chief health minister, Commissioner Dr. Dave Chokshi, reaffirmed the City’s vaccine-only approach to the Delta variant, with Mayor de Blasio retorting, “[W]e’re led by the data and the science, we’re watching constantly,” according to a transcript of the press conference. However, for weeks, Progress New York has raised questions about the City’s weekly Coronavirus variant sequencing studies. Recently, the rows of an entire data set were restated without explanation after Progress New York inquired whether Federal authorities would look into the City’s compliance with transparency laws, given their life-or-death consequences during a pandemic, similar to how the Cuomo administration reportedly now faces a review about his administration’s transparency of COVID-19-related data. As reported by Progress New York, the prevalence of the Delta variant being reported by the City health ministry’s weekly variant sequencing studies have diverged from the National rate, according to at least one model.

During Tuesday’s press conference, Commissioner Dr. Chokshi outlined some, limited exceptions to the vaccine-only response, admitting that, “[T]here are some settings, particularly schools, congregate settings, health care settings, where we’re recommending that everyone stay masked[,] you know, regardless of their vaccination status.” Notwithstanding the few exceptions for mask requirements being made by the de Blasio administration, the widely-cited expert in epidemiology, Dr. Feigl-Ding, has stated that the reason that masks should be recommended, even for vaccinated individuals, is because of the high transmission rate of the Delta variant.

Despite the CDC taking a different approach to masks from WHO, generally, the chief U.S. health ministry has, nonetheless, recommended adherence to compulsory masks and social distancing in shelters for individuals lacking permanent housing. On this front, it appears that the de Blasio administration is also out of step, because social distancing could be compromised in congregate shelters as Mayor de Blasio relocates shelter residents from hotels to congregate living facilities that were deemed too dangerous at the outset of the pandemic.

As more than 200,000 public school students enroll in the City’s summer school program, time will tell how closely Mayor de Blasio adheres to his limited promises to follow the science. But in the U.K., cases of COVID-19 began to rise after the Government rescinded mask mandates for early teens, according to a tweet shared by Dr. Feigl-Ding. Whereas the de Blasio administration has repeatedly claimed that schools were safe, including during times when most teens or children were not approved to receive vaccinations against COVID-19, Dr. Feigl-Ding has emphasised that children can transmit the Coronvirus.

In other areas of the Nation, numerous reports detailed the impact of the Delta variant. In Los Angeles, the Delta variant accounted for nearly half of recently-sequenced cases of COVID-19. In Missouri, some hospital patients are beginning to be transferred hundreds of miles away in order to address staffing shortages described as reaching the “breaking point,” in particular due to a spike in COVID-19 cases reportedly being blamed on the Delta variant. The Delta variant is also reportedly being blamed for spikes in cases of COVID-19, or at least increased cautionary talk about returning to mask mandates, in Arizona, ArkansasNevada, Oklahoma, and Utah.

Even if COVID-19-related deaths appear to be falling, the medical establishment have yet to answer questions about the future health of individuals, who live with what is being described as “long COVID.” Even when science is telegraphing caution in the face of a highly-transmissible variant and strains yet to come, Mayor de Blasio appears resolute in ignoring pleas for a return to mask mandates.