Although younger children can now start receiving the COVID-19 vaccine, New York City public school students will be required to wear face masks while in class for the foreseeable future, officials said.
“I would keep the masks in place at least in the short term because they have really worked,” Mayor Bill de Blasio told reporters during a press conference Thursday. “Kids have adapted to them well and the adults have adapted to them well.”
Last week, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration granted emergency use authorization for the use of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine on children ages five through 11 with younger children able to get the vaccine beginning Thursday. Just like when children between the ages of 12 and 17 were authorized to get the shot, City and State officials are encouraging parents to get their children inoculated against the virus in order to decrease the number of new cases and push New York out of the pandemic. Inoculating every child in the age range would prevent 38,000 new cases of the virus, according to New York City Health Commissioner Dr. Dave Chokshi.
So far, over 12 million doses of a COVID-19 vaccine have been administered in New York City resulting in 74% of adults living across the five boroughs being at least partially vaccinated and 78% of children between the ages of 12 and 17 have gotten at least one dose of the Pfizer vaccine, the only inoculation approved for use on kids.
But it is still too early, officials say, to set up an end date to mask mandates in schools.
“I miss seeing little kids’ faces,” said Gov. Kathy Hochul during a Thursday interview with City & State Magazine. “There will come a time, hopefully, sooner rather than later, when the masks will not be necessary but we are just not there yet.”
In order to declare the “era of masks” over, Hochul encouraged parents to get their younger children vaccinated against the virus, reminding them that children receive a slew of shots before starting school in more normal times.
Health officials urged parents to keep reinforcing mask-wearing to their children for the time being especially as the temperature drops.
“We have to resist the temptation to throw cautions to the wind too quickly,” said Chokshi. “We are bringing on board a very, very important additional layer of protection with vaccinating our five to eleven-year-olds but remember it will take us some time for people to get to a fully vaccinated stage and to get a sufficient number of kids vaccinated.”