By STEVE BITTENBENDER
THE CENTER SQUARE CONTRIBUTOR
(The Center Square) — New York finds itself amid a string of record-breaking caseloads of COVID-19. However, officials are not looking to implement any shutdowns to contain the coronavirus despite the rapid outbreak of cases.
“This is not March of 2020, we are not defenseless,” Gov. Kathy Hochul said in a statement Sunday. “We have the tools to protect ourselves and the vulnerable loved ones in our families: Get vaccinated, get the booster and wear a mask when indoors or in large gatherings.”
The state reported 22,478 new positive cases Dec. 19, an all-time high. It marked the third consecutive day when the state broke that mark.
The winter surge, the second in as many years, comes as the state and New York City have started to take additional steps to promote new vaccination policies.
On Dec. 20, a new vaccine mandate for New York City’s child care and early intervention programs went into effect. That order impacted more than 100,000 workers at facilities licensed or overseen by the city or state.
Religious and medical exemptions are available.
Another step the city has taken has been to put more of an emphasis on vaccinating children ages 5 to 11. A vaccine mandate took effect for them last week that required kids in that age group to have their first dose of a vaccine to dine in a restaurant or attend an indoor theater.
Last week, Radio City Music Hall said it would not enforce the vaccine mandate on the youngest eligible until Dec. 27. That was a move met with criticism by Mayor Bill de Blasio.
Late Friday evening, officials at the iconic Manhattan entertainment venue abruptly announced they were canceling the rest of their traditional “The Christmas Spectacular Starring the Radio City Rockettes” shows for the rest of the season because of “increasing challenges” due to COVID-19.
“We had hoped we could make it through the season and are honored to have hosted hundreds of thousands of fans at more than 100 shows over the last seven weeks,” a statement read from Madison Square Garden Entertainment, which operates Radio City.
Plans are for the show, canceled completely last year because of the pandemic, to return in 2022. Those who had tickets for canceled shows this year will get a refund.
Despite the move by Radio City officials, Mayor de Blasio said Monday he does not want to implement any lockdowns or closures, and it’s not just because he’s getting ready to leave office in less than two weeks.
“It’s about what’s the right thing to do, and what’s the right strategy to both save lives and also protect livelihoods,” the mayor said. “We should avoid lockdowns. We should avoid shutdowns. We should avoid restrictions. I’ve said this now for weeks and weeks. We can avoid all those things by getting more people vaccinated.”
As of Monday, more than 6 million adults in New York City have received at least one dose of a vaccine, according to Mayor de Blasio. For kids, more than 600,000 have received a dose.
However, the mayor said there’s a marked difference between adolescents and younger kids. About 83% of kids aged 12 to 17 have had at least one dose, but only 27% of those ages 5 to 11 have received a shot.
“This is one of the areas where we need to move faster,” Mayor de Blasio said. “Urging all family members: Get your youngest kids vaccinated. So, it’s great that 600,000 New York City kids have already been vaccinated, but we need to get to literally hundreds of thousands more.”
The mayor said that while the newly discovered omicron variant has spread quickly through the city, the cases have been milder than what officials have seen from previous variants. However, he cautioned those findings are still preliminary.
“It’s very transmissible,” Mayor de Blasio said. “It moves fast. We have to move faster. That’s why we’re focusing even more on vaccination, and we do know that vaccination helps address omicron.”