Mayor Eric Adams on Thursday defended his administration’s decision to phase out its COVID-19 alert system, calling it an “old weapon” ill-equipped to combat the recent wave of new variants. 

The city’s health commissioner last week said the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene was “reevaluating” its alert system, which had deemed the five boroughs at either “low,” “medium,” “high” or “very high” risk level based on their latest COVID-19 statistics. 

Asked about the move, Adams said at a Thursday news conference that the system was “not fitting the new wave, and the new variant, as COVID continued to shift.” 

What You Need To Know

  • The city last week phased out its COVID-19 alert system, which had deemed the five boroughs at either "low," "medium," "high" or "very high" risk level based on their latest COVID-19 statistics

  • Mayor Eric Adams defended the decision on Thursday, calling the alert system an "old weapon" that was "not fitting the new wave"

  • Adams first unveiled the color-coded system in March, following a winter spike in cases fueled by omicron.

“The color-coded system was fighting an old war. And as COVID shifted, it became a new war,” he said. “So we’re not going to hold onto something that’s an old weapon merely because we had it. No, we’re going to create new weapons to fight this new war.” 

“What this administration won’t do, we won’t remain stagnant,” he added. “As COVID continues to evolve, a new variant, new variants are finding their way into the city. And as they come about, we continue to pivot and shift, a term I use all the time.”  

As of July 2, the new, highly contagious BA.4 and BA.5 omicron subvariants accounted for 16.5% and 53.6% of COVID-19 infections in the United States, respectively, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — up from 6.1% and 9.6% on June 4. 

The mayor did not say if or when the city planned to roll out a new alert system. The health department’s COVID-19 website on Thursday said New Yorkers could check the page for updates “in the coming weeks.” 

Adams first unveiled the color-coded system in March, when the city was at a “low” COVID-19 alert level following a winter spike in cases fueled by omicron.

By mid-May, health officials had raised the alert level to “high” as the city’s seven-day average positivity rate surpassed 9%. 

As of Thursday, its seven-day infection rate stood at 14.6%, with transmission levels in all five boroughs higher than they were in mid-June, health department data shows. 

Citywide COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths, however, were still trending downward as of July 3, according to the data. 

Adams on Thursday maintained the five boroughs were “at a good, stable place” with respect to their COVID-19 statistics. 

“The numbers are ticking up, according to our health care professionals this morning, but we’re not at the place where our hospitals are [being] over-impacted, and we’re not at a place where [we’re] stopping our growth in the city,” he said.

“Our goal is to make sure whatever we put in place is going to stem the infections, keep down our hospitalization, and most importantly, keep down those who die from COVID,” he added.