NEW YORK CITY (WABC) — Former New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio held a press conference Thursday to make some recommendations — and criticisms — regarding the city and its handling of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The latest omicron subvariant, BA.5, has become the dominant strain in New York City.
The infection rate has risen over the past two weeks to almost 20%, and experts warn that the number of cases could be significantly underestimated due to home testing.
BA.5 can evade antibodies thanks to new mutations that help it spread rapidly.
“I think city, state and federal leaders need to say this is a new type of COVID,” de Blasio said. “This is the most virulent strain we have seen to date and we will be taking additional actions to address it.”
More than 1,000 New York City residents are currently hospitalized with COVID-19, the first time infection rates in the five boroughs have surpassed that mark since the second week of February, when the massive wave of Omicron infections began to decrease.
“I’ve talked to Mayor Adams, we have a very respectful relationship,” de Blasio said. “We communicate a lot … and what I’ve told him is that I think we’re dealing with a new situation.”
De Blasio said there are also lingering COVID-19 concerns with this particular sub.
“This is just part of a cycle that, unfortunately, we’re going to be in for a while,” said Dr. Jay Varma, one of de Blasio’s top advisers during the pandemic. “And we, as scientists, have no way of predicting when we’re going to get away with it.”
He had some criticism of the current mayor, Eric Adams, and his handling of some aspects.
“The Adams administration has done zero inspections for vaccine compliance at businesses across the city and has failed to enforce mask mandates on the subway,” a press release from the de Blasio campaign said.
The former mayor is running for New York’s 10th congressional district.
“This is a matter of public safety; we cannot simply ask that New Yorkers supply their own expensive masks and avoid populated areas in the name of the public good and hope for the best,” de Blasio said. “We need to give them the tools and information they need to stay safe and organize our government efforts to serve them where others might fall short. New Yorkers have already sacrificed enough — we need to meet them with all the resources that we have. to keep them healthy and safe.”
De Blasio also criticized the city’s decision to abandon the color-coding system it implemented during his tenure.
“A proper response from our federal and municipal government begins and ends with clarity on the part of our institutions,” he said. “We had a color-coded security system in March and then it was abandoned in June. We had clearly laid out the requirements for restaurants, gyms and entertainment venues that worked, and then they were abandoned and their implementation is in the ‘air.’
De Blasio recommended the following course of action:
1. Distribute home testing kits, high-quality N95 masks, and information about Paxlovid to every household in New York.
2. Form a joint cooperative between the government and the private sector to purchase KN95 and N95 masks that would be continuously available in restaurants, grocery stores, theaters, gyms, swimming pools, libraries, and other high-risk environments where people mingle.
3. Enforce private sector mandates for COVID safety.
4. Redefine vaccination standards as “up-to-date” versus “not up-to-date” for students and workers.
5. Use federal stimulus or infrastructure dollars to address indoor air quality in private buildings and/or tax credits to support these investments.
Adams has yet to respond to de Blasio’s comments, but he discussed the new variants earlier this week.
“In the new variants, we’re seeing higher rates of community transmission as well as reinfection,” he said. “People that I know who have had COVID get reinfected. But because of the tools that we have available, we’re able to combat that. We don’t see the level of fatalities that we witnessed when we didn’t have those tools.”
READ ALSO | New York City shares the steps people should take in the event of a nuclear attack
* Get news from eyewitnesses
* More New York City news
* Download the abc7NY app for breaking news alerts
Submit a tip or story idea to Eyewitness News
Copyright © 2022 WABC-TV. All rights reserved.