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Why Adams Is Rejecting Mask Mandates as Covid Cases Rise in New York

Mr. de Blasio, who oversaw the city’s response during the worst waves of the virus, held near-daily virtual virus briefings, sometimes inviting outside health experts like Dr. Wafaa El-Sadr, a professor of epidemiology and medicine at the Columbia Mailman School of Public Health, and Dr. Celine Gounder, an infectious disease expert at New York University. He rolled out some of the most aggressive health measures in the country, including a vaccine mandate for city workers and private employers that is still in effect.

Mr. Adams has relied on a handful of key advisers to form his virus response: Dr. Vasan, an epidemiologist who formerly led a mental health nonprofit; Dr. Mitchell Katz, the head of the city’s hospital system; Ms. Williams-Isom, deputy mayor for health and human services; Dan Weisberg, first deputy schools chancellor; and Dr. Ted Long, executive director of the city’s test and trace corps. The group meets nearly every morning on a virtual call to discuss the latest data.

Mr. Adams said that the message from hospital and school leaders was clear: “They’re all saying the same thing. They say, ‘Listen, we got this. We’re not overwhelmed.’”

But Dr. Chokshi, the former health commissioner, said in a recent interview that during each new wave of cases in the city, elected officials and New Yorkers often had “collective amnesia” about how to respond.

“People would say, ‘Well, it’s only cases increasing, let’s see what happens to hospitalizations,’” he said. “To me, as someone who’s steeped in this, and particularly to understand the epidemiology, it’s hard not to have your head explode when you feel the public, and in many cases, the political conversation, go in those circles. And you’re like, ‘Wow, when are we going to learn.’”

Some health experts agreed that it would be difficult at this point in the pandemic to reinstate broad mandates unless the health system became seriously overtaxed. At the same time, having an alert system but not following through on its recommendations can confuse the public and weaken trust, particularly if the change is not carefully explained.

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