Though the number of coronavirus cases continues to climb in New York City, Mayor Bill de Blasio said Monday he would not issue an executive order mandating the use of masks indoors, instead doubling down on vaccination as the best line of defense.
During a news conference, Mr. de Blasio announced the average rate of positive tests over the last seven days had risen to 1.69 percent. That figure has been steadily rising in recent weeks as the Delta variant continues to spread throughout the city, but is still well below the 6 percent positivity rate the city recorded in late March, just before the second wave began to recede. Hospitalizations and deaths have remained low.
Dr. Dave A. Chokshi, the city health commissioner, said that the Delta variant appeared to be responsible for the increase and now accounted for 69 percent of cases sequenced by the city.
Over the weekend, Mark Levine, chair of the New York City Council health committee, called for the renewal of a broad indoor mask mandate. The city has dropped the mask rule except on public transportation, in hospitals and schools, and in congregate settings like homeless shelters.
But the mayor flatly rejected the idea on Monday, emphasizing instead the importance of getting all New Yorkers vaccinated. “No. Simple answer is no,” Mr. de Blasio said.
“Masks have value, unquestionably,” he added. “But masks are not going at the root of the problem. Vaccination is.”
Mr. de Blasio said that the city would increase its efforts to reach the unvaccinated and that he anticipated a surge in the number of children over 12 getting inoculated before school resumed in the fall.
Inoculation rates across the city are uneven, and the city’s vaccination campaign has slowed dramatically in recent months. About 42 percent of adults in New York City have yet to be vaccinated, according to the city’s health department.
On Monday, 4.8 million New Yorkers had received at least one dose of the coronavirus vaccine, and 4.4 million had been fully vaccinated.