New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Thursday that he is against shutdowns, after nearly two years of repeated, extensive shutdowns of New York City championed by the mayor himself.
When De Blasi was asked why he did not cancel the city’s famous New Year’s Eve celebration, which is scheduled to have an in-person component this year, de Blasio said that he did not believe in shutdowns and wanted to “show the world that New York City is fighting our way through this.”
“Look, I don’t believe in shutdowns. We have to fight our way through COVID,” de Blasio replied.
“Shutdowns are not the answer,” he repeated. “The answer is to get people vaccinated. This event is vaccination-only. It’s gonna be outdoors, vaccination-only, masks required, socially distanced.”
These remarks are an extreme turnaround from the mayor’s history of COVID-19 response measures. De Blasio has been a repeated champion of locking down the city, usually ahead of or in response to surges in statewide infections.
New York City began shutting down nonessential activity in March 2020, in line with major cities across the world. The lockdown lasted for several months and the city finally began Phase 1 of its reopening in June 2020.
However, de Blasio agreed with other politicians about keeping lockdowns on the table for future spikes in infections.
In December 2020, former Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who later stepped down from office after a series of sexual misconduct allegations, announced a statewide shutdown on indoor dining and De Blasio was a vocal supporter of the move.
“We have to fight it back to save lives and we have to fight it back to start our recovery,” de Blasio said at the time. “If the governor announces restrictions, I support him a hundred percent because we have to protect against the worst.”
“The worst is the virus just grows and grows, that more and more people get infected, our hospitals start to get stressed and then get to the point where they can’t provide the service that people need and that puts lives in danger,” he continued. “I guarantee you, if that keeps happening then it’s going to be a lot longer time before we’re able to recover economically. That puts those restaurants in much greater danger for the long term.”
Just days following those statements, on Dec. 14, de Blasio doubled down on the proposed restrictions. The mayor further, announced that New York City should be prepared for a “full shutdown” after Cuomo discussed a similar idea in an interview.
“The governor said in a New York Times interview over the weekend that we should prepare for the possibility of a full shutdown,” de Blasio said. “I agree with that, we need to recognize that that may be coming and we’ve got to get ready for that now because we cannot let this virus keep growing especially at a moment we are finally getting the vaccine and can turn the corner.”
De Blasio, who will be replaced by Mayor-elect Eric Adams on Jan. 1, announced sweeping mandates across New York City in what he describes as a “preemptive strike” against a potential spike in COVID-19 infections amid the emergence of the omicron variant.
The new mandate would require vaccination for all workers in the private sector with no weekly testing option. The mandate that went into effect on Dec. 27 applies to around 184,000 businesses.