▶ Watch Video: New York City Mayor Eric Adams on keeping city open amid COVID-19 surge and combating crime

Eric Adams was sworn in as the 110th mayor of New York City just after midnight Saturday and like many leaders across the country, he’s facing an unprecedented spike in COVID-19 cases.

There have been more than 3.4 million new cases nationwide in the last seven days. In New York City, hospitalizations have topped 5,000 a day for the first time since the spring of 2020. 

Despite the increase in cases, Adams told “CBS Mornings” on Wednesday that the city will remain open and people should return to work because New Yorkers have overcome challenges before. By following social distancing and other CDC recommendations, Adams believes that the city can overcome the recent surge in cases that have gripped the city.  

“We’ve been through crises before. I don’t care if it’s Pearl Harbor, if the Great Depression, if our two buildings were attacked on 9/11. Remember 9/12, we got up and we continued to survive,” Adams said. “We are tired of being prisoners to COVID, so let’s be smart.” 

The mayor has also faced pushback from the city’s teacher’s union over his decision to keep schools open. Adams said he stands by that and believes that schools are “the safest place for a child.” 

But it’s not just COVID that Adams is facing. A recent spike in crime has put New Yorkers on edge. Some neighborhoods have seen double-digit increases in criminal activity. Adams has a deep background in law enforcement. He is a former captain in the New York Police Department and was the Brooklyn borough president. 

Manhattan’s new District Attorney Alvin Bragg said on Tuesday that his office will stop going after smaller offenses, including fare evasion and resisting arrest.  

Adams said he agrees with Bragg and believes that identifying mental health issues and advocating social services could help deter crime. 

“Instead of locking them up, let’s defer prosecution, let’s have a local community-based organization that deals with mental health illnesses [and] handle it right at the precinct. That’s the coordination we need,” Adams said.  

Despite being on the job for just five days, Adams has faced criticism over a recent comment he made during a press conference about businesses returning to the office.  

Adams said, “My low-skill workers, my cooks, my dishwashers, my messengers, my shoe shine people, those who work at Dunkin’ Donuts, they don’t have the academic skills to sit in a corner office. They need this.”  

Adams said if larger business don’t require their workers to return to office, it impacts an entire group beyond those employees.  

“The goal is we need to open the city so low-wage employees are able to survive. If no one came into the restaurant when I was paying my way through college, I would not have been able to survive and families can’t survive and that’s the message,” the mayor said.