“Learn to live with COVID”: Adams unveils plan to combat the spread

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Commissioner for Health and Mental Hygiene Dave Chokshi, and the new Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services Anne Williams-Isom, at a briefing in Brooklyn Borough Hall Dec. 30.
Screenshot via WebEx.

On Dec. 30, days before his inauguration, Mayor-elect Eric Adams held his first COVID briefing, with a setup and plan somewhat similar to Bill de Blasio’s. 

Adams will be continuing much of the protocol established by the outgoing mayor to combat the winter surge of the COVID-19 virus. There are many concerns about the omicron variant, including its possible severity and how it could increase the number of hospitalizations. 

As of Dec. 29, there were 32,800 cases in New York City, and 100 deaths. 

“So the day has come when we must learn to be smarter, live with COVID and ensure that we protect everyday New Yorkers and that is what I’m going to do,” Adams said.

The plan has six parts: vaccinations, hospital and congregate care, testing, treating, slowing the spread and safer schools.

As for vaccine mandates, the administration is considering extending Bill de Blasio’s mandate to include the booster shot. Commissioner of Health and Mental Hygiene Dave Chokshi joined Adams, along with his future replacement, Dr. Ashwin Vasan, to talk about keeping science at the center of the decision. 

The potential “up to date” mandate, Chokshi said, “​​would require New Yorkers to have their booster shots under the vaccine mandates currently in place. Studying it encompasses both following the emerging science on the importance of booster doses with Omicron as well as understanding the impact of the mandate on the settings it would apply to by engaging with unions, the business community and other partners.”

Along that same line, they will make a final decision in Spring 2022 about a vaccine mandate for schools. 

To prepare for the return to classes on Jan. 3, the Adams administration will follow state guidelines and double their surveillance testing, while making sure that millions of rapid at-home tests are sent home with students and teachers. Vasan said they would be providing tests “especially those who may have been recently exposed to a positive case.”

Over in the private sector, the mandates will stay. Adams emphasized that he does not want to enforce with punitive measures. “We’re going to go to those sites with people are openly failing to comply and make sure our city services are utilized to ensure compliance. But the goal is not to be punitive. The goal is to get our city up and operated,” he said. 

Adams also debuted his first deputy mayor, Lorraine Grillo, and deputy mayor of health and human services, Anne Williams-Isom, to show how they’ll be involved in COVID protocol. 

“It’ll be my role starting Saturday to make sure that all of our agencies and departments are working hand in hand to defeat COVID-19. Under Mayor Adams’ leadership and with the guidance of doctor Chokshi and the Vasan, we will target resources and personnel to drive up our vaccination rates even higher while providing more testing to keep our city open,” Grillo said. 

Williams-Isom added that it is important to sign up for health coverage and monitor mental health as the pandemic continues. “The simple things that we forget sometimes eat healthy, get exercise, moderate exercise, go for a walk; it will help not only your physical health but it will help your mental health,” she said. 

Adams continues to stay away from lockdown talk, and stresses that keeping businesses and schools open is safer for the economy. “With this plan that we are announcing today we will prepare ourselves to get through the winter surge and get back to living our lives,” he said.