The city will soon start paying New Yorkers $100 to get vaccinated against the coronavirus, Mayor de Blasio announced Wednesday while fending off a call from the federal government to immediately reinstate an indoor mask mandate amid a resurgence in COVID-19 infections.
The currency-inducing coronavirus shots will start Friday at all city-run vaccination sites for those who can show proof of New York residence or employment, de Blasio said.
“When you get your first dose, you will get a $100 incentive,” the mayor said in his daily briefing. “It does not get better than that.”
The money will be issued in pre-paid debit cards that can either be emailed to recipients in digital form or mailed in physical form to their homes, according to Rachel Loeb, president of the New York City Economic Development Corporation, which is handling the logistics of the payouts.
The financial incentive is the latest effort by de Blasio to boost vaccination rates and comes on the heels of him mandating that all city municipal workers get their shots or submit to weekly testing or risk being suspended without pay this fall.
The city has struggled to increase inoculation rates, with more than 40% of the total population still unvaccinated.
At the same time, the extremely contagious delta variant of COVID-19 is causing a slow but steady surge in coronavirus cases across New York.
The city’s seven-day average test positivity rate reached 2.55% on Wednesday, the highest in months, while another 108 people were admitted to hospitals for COVID-19, according to Health Department data.
Other states are seeing even more dire coronavirus outbreaks because of the delta variant, driving the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to drop new guidelines Tuesday recommending that any parts of the U.S. with “high or substantial” COVID-19 transmissibility rates reinstate face mask mandates for all public indoor settings, regardless of people’s vaccination status.
Even though all five boroughs of the city fall within the “high or substantial” COVID transmissibility rates bracket, de Blasio said in Wednesday’s briefing that he’s not pulling the trigger on reintroducing mandatory indoor masking just yet.
“We are assessing the new information from the CDC right now. We got it less than 24 hours ago, and it is complicated information so our health team is reviewing it,” he said. “We’ll have more to say on it in the next few days.”
He added later in the briefing, “The CDC is providing guidance. It’s up to each locality now to make sense of it.”
Gov. Cuomo, who has the power to reinstate mask guidance on a statewide level, similarly said his team isn’t immediately jumping on a new mandate.
“The state is going to do a full review of the CDC guidance,” the governor said.
Local public health experts have called on de Blasio for weeks to reintroduce mandatory indoor masking, citing the delta variant’s disproportionate ability to infect vaccinated individuals who can then unknowingly spread it.
But de Blasio has maintained that he wants to prioritize vaccinations above mitigation tactics, arguing it would be unfair to make inoculated New Yorkers wear masks again simply to protect those who are refusing to get their shots.
De Blasio demurred when asked Wednesday if the new monetary incentive is unfair to New Yorkers who got vaccinated months ago without any perks.
“Anyone who got vaccinated previously — I’m one of those people — congratulations, you got vaccinated. You were protected from COVID. It was free. It was the right thing to do for yourself, for your family, for your community,” he said. “You did the right thing and the reward is you were kept safe, and you’re alive because of it.”
De Blasio’s foot-dragging on masking aggravated lawmakers who are saying that the city can reintroduce indoor masking and focus on boosting vaccination rates at the same time.
“We need the State and City to issue clear guidance *today* for NYers to wear masks in indoor public places,” tweeted Manhattan Councilmember Mark Levine, who chairs the Council’s Health Committee. “We can’t afford any further delay.”
Levine’s sentiment was shared by Dr. Rochelle Walensky, President Biden’s CDC director, who said in an interview Wednesday that a combination of indoor masking and vaccination efforts could quickly bring the country’s recent delta spike under control.