Mayor Bill de Blasio, speaking at a financial meeting on Tuesday, 3 Aug., has refused to mandate the use of indoor masks in the face of the Delta variant becoming the dominant strain of the Coronavirus in New York City. The Delta variant is reportedly highly-transmissible, and Mayor de Blasio has no plan to reduce community spread of the dangerous strain. NYC Mayor's Office (YouTube/Fair Use)

EDITORIAL : After Mayor de Blasio’s embrace of laissez-faire public health, it’s up to New Yorkers to weather the Delta variant on their own

Without a mask mandate, individuals are not treating public health as a shared responsibility. Because Mayor Bill de Blasio has decided to allow the Delta variant to spread, unchecked, we must keep us safe.

By the Editor

The lack of a mask mandate in Austin, Tex., is being cited as causing a rise in hospitalisations in the face of a new wave of Coronavirus infections. The easily-transmissible Delta variant is driving the surge, even as “city officials were prevented from issuing mandates for masks and vaccinations by order of” Gov. Greg Abbott (R-TX), according to a report published by the New York Times. The Delta variant outbreak there has led to an increase in hospitalisations, now reported at 1,101 (the 7-day average for 23-29 July), about half of the winter peak of 2,267 (set for 15-21 Jan.), according to data compiled by the Times.

The lack of a mask mandate also exists in New York City. Because Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D-NY) lacked pandemic powers, he delegated the authority to consider a mask mandate to Mayor Bill de Blasio (WFP-New York City), who refused, according to a report moved by the Associated Press. For weeks, Mayor de Blasio has been focused on a vaccine-only policy response to the Coronavirus pandemic, despite growing reports about vaccine escape. In Oregon, it has been reported that one in five cases of COVID-19 occurred as breakthrough infections, according to a report published by the Oregonian. In Montgomery County, Md., 11 out of 14 people became infected with the Coronavirus after attending a house party, according to one guest. In Cape Cod, 74 per cent. of Massachusetts residents within a cluster of a Coronavirus outbreak were fully-vaccinated, according to a report published by ABC News. In Israel, very early data showed that 14 individuals, who had received their third booster shot, later tested positive for COVID-19. The issue of vaccine escape cannot be ignored, except that it is, particularly by politicians and Big Business, as they press forward with an economic reöpening that is turning out to be dangerous.

In Iceland, despite a vaccination rate of 69 per cent., the current wave of COVID-19 cases there “has not reached its peak[,] yet,” according to a report published by Iceland Review. Iceland makes use of a vaccine not in use in the U.S., AstraZeneca ; in Europe, the Johnson & Johnson vaccine is referred to as Janssen, which is in use in Iceland, according to State COVID-19 information.

When New York City is compared with Florida, the daily rate of new cases belie the disparity in vaccination rates.

Despite the increasing reports of vaccine escape, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or CDC, have not budged from their decision not to track breakthrough cases, leaving States and Cities to plan for an ongoing pandemic with incomplete data. As a result, most Municipalities are aggressively moving forward with reöpening the economy, despite the growing collateral damage, including to children. In Tennessee, children’s hospitals are expected to fill up by the end of the week due, in part, to the Delta variant surge, according to a report published by the Tennessean.

In New York City, the number of COVID-19 hospitalisations rose from a low of 13 on 19 June to 69 on 30 July, a more than four-fold increase, according to City data. And since we are not near the peak of this wave, the impact of the pandemic is expected to continue to rise in northeastern States in the time leading up to public school reöpenings, according to remarks made by Dr. Scott Gottlieb, the former commissioner of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

So much political blame is now placed on the unvaccinated or on the leaders of so-called Red States. For example, the number of COVID-19 cases in Florida are spiking, including amongst children. On Tuesday of last week, more children were hospitalised with COVID-19 in Florida than in any other state, according to a report published by the Miami Herald. Overall, the Florida COVID-19 case rate is reported at 90 per 100,000 residents, where the fully-vaccinated rate is 49,4 per cent., according to data published by Covid Act Now. In Florida, Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL) has refused to call for mask mandates or other protective measures, like confinements, according to a report published by the Washington Post. Despite the grim news, the Florida case rate was actually lower than in the combined, five boroughs of New York City, where the City-wide case rate stood at 134 per 100,000 residents and where the fully-vaccinated rate was 55,6 per cent, according to data published by NYC Healthy, the City health ministry.

Again, despite having a vaccination advantage in New York City, the rate of infections in the Big Apple was worse than in Florida.

And this leaves New Yorkers confused, because Mayor de Blasio appears not to be taking the Delta variant seriously. He’s been consistent about placing an emphasis on the conduct of normal economic activity, despite the risks to the public from increased social interaction. From the outset of the pandemic, when he continued to encourage nightlife activity and other missteps, to pressing forward with premature school reöpenings that ended in closures due to increases in community spread of the Coronavirus, to now, as he resists a mask mandate in the face of the dangerous Delta variant outbreak.

For this report, the press office supporting Mayor de Blasio did not answer an interview request.

The ideology of personal self-interest versus the responsibility to act for the benefit of all.

Early in the pandemic, politicians, like Gov. Cuomo, claimed that masks “are worn to reduce the wearer’s chance of infecting others, are a sign of respect to everyone they walk past, as well as to workers pulling society through the outbreak,” according to a report published by the Associated Press. By the time the political focus shifted from saving lives to making money, a switch was required from focusing on public health to individual risk sensibilities, according to an essay by Joseph Allen, an associate public health professor at Harvard University, published in the Washington Post that was later cited in a CNN report.

The emphasis on reöpening the economy could not succeed without transfering responsibility for infections, disabilities, and deaths from the Government to scapegoats. Presently, two groups are taking the blame for the Government’s abandonment of sound public health policies : GOP leaders in Red States and unvaccinated individuals. This has been aided by a shifting narrative over the use of face masks, for example. Indeed, as GOP leaders, such as Gov. DeSantis, take the blame for avoiding pandemic mandates, like on indoor masks, Democratic Party leaders, like Mayor de Blasio, get a pass on stopping short of issuing an indoor mask mandate. There’s a double-standard in the press.

Whenever the Government decides on policy that contravenes the best interests of the general public, the Government appears to pressure the mass media to take up its case. As Dictator Adolf Hitler (Nazi-Germany) began to invade Nations in the lead-up to World War II, the British Government propagated a policy of appeasement in the early months of 1938 that was the subject of public criticism. During that time, a historical review has shown that the British Government exercised “extensive official influence on the press, broadcasting[,] and newsreels,” noting that the Government’s influence was focused on “opinion-makers … rather than on mass opinion.”

In the first year of the pandemic, a study revealed that skepticism in the U.S. media about mitigating precautions resulted in consumers of that media practising fewer preventive behaviours and more risky behaviours. Because corporate media depend on access to Government officials, Government officials can and often do condition corporate media access on moving certain narratives. Those conditions may include a prior restraint on criticism of officials in a majority party, explaining, in part, why Gov. DeSantis can face criticism over his refusal to support a mask mandate, but Mayor de Blasio does not.

Last week-end, after former President Barack Obama (D) hosted a maskless birthday bash for himself on Martha’s Vineyard, Times reporter Annie Karni defended the breech of pandemic precautions by claiming his guests were “sophisticated,” according to a report published by the New York Post. Some social media posts that were critical of the maskless party were met with swarms of instant excuses. But it’s not that the élites were caught setting the wrong example for the rest of us. Rather, the élites think that the rules don’t apply to them, because they access to expensive insurance plans, have bought their own private ventilators, or can afford home COVID-19 test kits.

As New York City prepares to reöpen public schools next month, a study referenced in a Times report estimated that between 11 per cent. and 15 per cent. of infected youths may end up with Long Covid, a form of Coronavirus-derived illness that is differentiated by symptoms, severity, and duration. Politicians are ready to sacrifice us, including our children, to encourage economic activity. If we are to survive with our health intact, then we are going to have to take care of ourselves.

What you can do

  • Stay home at least one day a week to reduce community spread of the Coronavirus.
  • If you are living on a fixed-income, please consider using a food bank or soup kitchen to reduce your food expenses. In New York City, dial 311 for directions to the nearest food back or soup kitchen.
  • Request KN95 face masks from the City. Dial 311 to request PPE.
  • If you can’t afford higher-quality face mask, please use a double face mask (a cloth mask over a paper mask) when you are indoors, regardless of your vaccination status.
  • If you are not yet vaccinated, please discuss with our primary care physician if vaccination is an option for you.
  • Join community groups that advocate for relief. For example, join a group that is demanding that the New York City Public Schools chancellor creates a remote option as a fallback plan for public school students and makes sure that in-person school rooms are well-ventilated and use HEPA systems.
  • Demand that the Government compensate people, who test positive for the Coronavirus, so that they can afford to isolate until they test negative.
  • Please resist gossip about issues where the medical community currently lack data, like the need for booster shots. If you want answers to your medical questions, then please call your primary care physician.
  • Avoid indoor gatherings or indoor activities, where you don’t or won’t know the vaccination status of other attendees.
  • Avoid large outdoor gatherings, where you lack adequate social distancing.

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