New York City's new mayor, Eric Adams, who was sworn in just after midnight on New Year's Day, said challenges lie ahead for the city with the current surge of COVID-19 cases, but New Yorkers must adapt to live with the virus.
"COVID is a formidable opponent and it continues to evolve, and we must pivot and evolve with it, but you can't do it viewing yourself from within the crisis," Adams told anchor George Stephanopoulos exclusively on ABC's "This Week" on Sunday. "We have to see ourselves past the crisis."
Adams also insisted shutdowns for New York were unlikely in his administration.
"If we close down our city, it is as dangerous as COVID," Adams said. "That's what our focus must be. So that proper balance of safety [and] keeping our economy operated is going to allow us to get through."
The fast spread of the omicron variant has dominated New York City, making it again the epicenter of the pandemic, recording over 40,000 new COVID-19 cases in the last two days, while the daily average of confirmed cases for the last seven days has been nearly 24,000, per the NYC Department of Health.
Asked about the quickly moving variant, Adams said, "We've spent $11 trillion on COVID and we don't have another $11 trillion. So our lives can't be based on what's the new variant. No. We have to figure out: how do we adjust?"
Stephanopoulos pushed Adams on the ability to get back to normal when different job sectors in New York City currently have shortages. Adams replied that changes and pivots, such as to the subway system, are being made "based on where the urgency is located."
New York City's unemployment rate currently stands 9.4%, double the national average, Stephanopoulos noted later.
"We have to get New Yorkers working again," Adams agreed. "How do we do that? By [not] having an antagonistic relationship with our business community. I have been meeting with top business leaders in making our city attractive to do business in."
Adams said he would work to create a centralized database of job applications with businesses the New York City government has partnered with to help people find jobs.
On Thursday, Adams laid out his winter COVID-19 strategy, which includes keeping in place the city's current private sector vaccine mandate. Adams told Stephanopoulos he is also thinking about requiring city workers to get a booster shot.
Adams also reached out to those who still remain unvaccinated.
"I say to those who are not vaccinated: stop it," Adams said Sunday. "It's time to get vaccinated. It's time to have the booster shots. You're endangering yourself and you're endangering the public and your family as well."
With schools returning from winter break this week, Stephanopoulos asked Adams what message he has for New York City parents who fear sending their children back to school during this current surge.
"I say to them, fear not sending them back," Adams said. "The stats are clear: The safest place for children is inside a school."
Noting that "we've lost almost two years of education," Adams added that "we want to create a safe environment with testing."
"We're going to identify the children that are exposed," he continued. "We're going to remove them from that environment, and the numbers show the mere fact that a child is exposed in a classroom does not mean that entire classroom is exposed."
Pressed by Stephanopoulos on why New York City is not requiring testing for students to return to school, which is being done in other major cities, Adams responded that the decision lies with the governor and that he's working with the tools he currently has available him.
"I think that would be a great idea," Adams said. "But unfortunately, the governor made the decision, and I'm going to follow the governor. We're going to be partners on this to make sure we make our school system safe."
Another challenge that Adams faces is the rise of violent crime, including nearly 500 murders last year in New York City. Adams explained his plan to address the surge of crime, saying it's important to have balance that's not only about heavy-handed policing, but also public safety and justice.
"What we do long-term, and what we do right now, we're going to go after gangs. We're going to take down some of the large gangs in our city," Adams said. "Whenever you see a shooting take place, look at the next line: 'gang-related.' We're going to zero in on gangs. We're going to reinstitute a plainclothes anti-gun unit and zero in on those guns."
Adams has also made a point to participate in public transportation in his first days as mayor. He arrived to the "This Week" interview via Citi Bike and took the subway to work on his first official day as mayor on Saturday. During his subway commute, Adams called 911 to report an assault that occurred on the sidewalk below the train platform. The new mayor also on Saturday visited a police officer who was shot while sleeping in his car between shifts.
Asked if he had learned anything new in the 36 hours since he had become mayor, Adams said he'll be leading his city from the frontlines.
"Generals don't lead their troops from the back, they lead their troops from the front," Adams said. "I'm going to lead my city into this victory from the front, and people tell me this is a difficult job. Darn it, I want it to be a difficult job. You know, it's a difficult job being a cop, riding the subway trains in the '80s. It's going to be difficult now."
This is a developing story. Please check back for updates.