NEW YORK — Outgoing New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio is urging the Biden administration to send help as the Covid-19 Omicron variant rises dramatically in the city’s five boroughs.
The variant’s lightning-fast spread in the city forced the cancellation of Radio City Music Hall’s annual “Christmas Spectacular” over the weekend and led Saturday Night Live to broadcast without a live studio audience and with a smaller cast.
De Blasio said the White House should invoke the Defense Production Act to help provide a larger number of at-home tests as well as monoclonal antibody treatments. He also said the Biden administration should fast-track approval of an antiviral pill from Pfizer.
“We need help now … and we need a surge of support in terms of monoclonal antibody treatments,” de Blasio said at a briefing on Sunday. “We need more made available for New York City.”
The mayor, who will leave office on New Year’s Eve, said the city has launched a $10 million marketing campaign to push for more people to get vaccinated and will add new testing sites.
The city recorded more than 5,000 new Covid-19 cases on Saturday. “We need to act urgently,” de Blasio said.
The mayor expects to see an increase in Covid-19 cases in the next few weeks after which the number of cases will ease. But, he added, “we do not expect to see some of the painful reality we saw in the spring of 2020 or even last winter.”
Mayor-elect Eric Adams, who will take office on Jan. 1, said during the briefing that his team and de Blasio’s are coordinating as a new crisis takes shape.
“My message to New Yorkers is the same: We’re in this together,” Adams said. “But the only way we get our city back is to find our resolve once again and face this crisis head on.”
“Vaccination remains vital, even against Omicron,” city Health Commissioner Dave Chokshi added.
De Blasio said the city has the ability to get people vaccinated and boosted quickly.
More testing sites throughout the city will become available, and the city will distribute high-quality masks and increase efforts to encourage booster shots, the mayor said. At-home testing kits will be made available through community-based organizations to help reduce long waits at testing sites.
According to Ted Long, who heads the city’s Test and Trace Corps, there will be eight additional brick and mortar testing sites across the five boroughs by Tuesday. That means there will be 30 fixed sites and 93 mobile units in total.
Shortly after the briefing, Adams said on MSNBC that his first order of business will be to make certain that “all of our agencies are coordinated to ensure that we are encouraging vaccination,” and that he will work with business leaders to see how they plan to keep the city running through the crisis.
Asked whether he will continue to support de Blasio’s vaccination mandates, including one that applies to private-sector workers and is scheduled to take effect on Dec. 27, Adams said it’s uncertain what will happen in the coming weeks. “We’re going to reevaluate what the mayor has attempted to do with the mandates in all offices and all businesses and I’ll make a determination there on January 1,” he said. “Right now, we have one mayor.”