New York City Mayor Eric Adams speaks during the New...

New York City Mayor Eric Adams speaks during the New York State Democratic Convention in New York on Feb. 17. Credit: AP/Seth Wenig

A week after saying the city could look to “peel back” the vaccine mandate that currently bars Kyrie Irving from playing at Barclays Center and will eventually prohibit unvaccinated Mets and Yankees from playing at home, New York City Mayor Eric Adams cast further doubt on whether the mandates affecting local teams will be lifted in the immediate future.

“We’re going to do it in layers,” Adams said Tuesday of repealing the private-sector mandate governing city-based workers, including home athletes. “When we feel it’s the right time to look at that — if we do so at all, because the work environment is an important environment — we’re going to make that determination. We’re not there. We’re not there yet.”

Adams' comments came as part of a larger announcement that the mask mandate for two- to four-year-olds in New York City schools and day cares will be lifted on April 4 if COVID-19 numbers continue to stay low. Professional sports, he said, will have to wait their turn. 

Friday, new health commissioner Dr. Ashwin Vasan said the private-sector mandate is "indefinite." Currently, all New York City-based employees, including athletes, must be vaccinated if they conduct in-person work with at least one other employee or interact with the public. The mandate applies to those who work outdoors as well. Unvaccinated visiting athletes are exempt.

It is still unclear why or if Irving is allowed to practice at the Nets Sunset Park-based training facility, as he has since Dec. 29; the health commissioner's office said it would provide an answer Friday but has not commented since. The mayor's office has also not responded to requests for comment. 

“Right now, we’re going to take some complaints,” Adams said of the mandate. “But when this is all said and done, people are going to realize this is a thoughtful administration and we got it right. And so baseball, basketball, businesses, all of those things, they have to wait until that layer comes.”

Time, though, doesn’t appear to be on the side of the city’s unvaccinated athletes. 

There are only 10 games left in the Nets regular season, seven of which Irving will have to miss if regulations stay in place. The bigger issue for the Nets is the NBA playoffs, which begin April 16. The Yankees home opener is April 7 and manager Aaron Boone said last week his team is not fully vaccinated, while the Mets home opener is April 15. 

It’s unclear where the Mets are with regard to teamwide vaccination status, only that they were one of just six Major League Baseball teams to never reach the 85% vaccination threshold last year. (The 85% threshold included coaches and team personnel, meaning that the percentage of vaccinated players could have been lower.) 

: "There are people that are being asked in our city to do a certain thing . . . When it shakes out and they tell us what, that’s what we’ll do and we’ll make the adjustments," Mets manager Buck Showalter said Tuesday night.  "We understand why we are where we are, and we’re very respectful of those things they’re trying to put in place to protect people.

"It’s a personal thing with people. I don’t look any differently at someone that made a decision not to. You take in information and do what you do."

The Knicks, Islanders and Rangers are fully vaccinated. 

Boone said the mayor’s comments Tuesday had him contemplating the possibility of Opening Day without some of his players “a little bit [more] now.”

“We’ll handle that behind the scenes and it will be what it is,” he said.

“I hope not,” he said of the possibility.

Kevin Durant said Monday that Irving thought the mandate would long have been repealed by now. “He’s frustrated in not being able to play,” the Nets superstar said. “He figured this stuff would be rolled back by now — we’d be way past this. But it’s the situation we’re in. We've got to deal with it.”

Though COVID numbers are low in the city, they’re on the rise. There’s been a 50% increase in the city’s infection rate in the past week, according to the Associated Press, with an average of about 950 new cases a day. That’s compared to a seven-day average of 579 earlier this month, according to the city's database. Vasan also said they’re continuing to monitor the BA.2 subvariant — an omicron strain that is more transmissible, and has led to spikes in Europe and Asia.

Adams previously said he does not believe professional athletes should get special treatment, and touched upon that Tuesday when he said he was considering all businesses in his decision.

"Believe it or not, a lot of our businesses, they love the mandates," he said. "When I speak to a lot of my businesses [that are] getting people back in the office, that mandate is allowing them to feel safe in the office.”

With Matthew Chayes and Erik Boland

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