Mayor Eric Adams announced Tuesday that the city would lift the mask mandate for children under five years of age next month, provided COVID-19 cases remain low.
The announcement means that youngsters between the ages of 2 and 4 will no longer be required to wear face masks in school and daycare settings come April 4.
“We are continuing our serious moment of peeling back the masks off the faces of our people as we continue the process of getting our city really back to a level of normality,” Adams said. “We want to see our baby’s faces, I’ve said this over and over again. And our children want to see the faces of their loved ones.”
Parents will still have the option to have their children between 2 and 4 continue to wear masks in school and daycare.
Adams said that after removing masks for K-12 students two weeks ago, the administration wanted to wait two more incubation periods before removing the mandate for 2 to 4 year-olds.
“It’s now been two weeks since we removed the mask mandate for K-12 public school children, and our percent positivity in schools has, thankfully, remained low,” Adams said. “Each day, we review the data, and if we continue to see low levels of risk, then, on Monday, April 4, we will make masks optional for 2-4 year old children in schools and daycare settings. This will allow us sufficient time to evaluate the numbers and make sound decisions for our youngest New Yorkers. We must get this right for the health of our kids, and I refuse to jeopardize their safety by rushing a decision.”
However, Adams said, the decision is contingent on where COVID case numbers are in two weeks. Dr. Ashwin Vasan, the city’s new health commissioner, said they’ll carefully watch the numbers over the next two weeks and may have to adjust if they are higher than current levels before or after April 4.
In response to a reporter’s question about why the decision to lift this mask mandate is being made now, as the new COVID BA.2 subvariant is on the rise, Vasan said they’re currently not seeing evidence that severe illness from the variant is tied to any age group.
“At this point, we’re very concerned about the long-term effects of COVID in everyone,” Vasan said. “We’re concerned about the long term effects in our children, and we’re constantly monitoring them. Right now overall risk remains low. Overall cases in children remain low. Hospitalizations in children remain low, which is giving us comfort to make this decision at this point.”
Adams emphasized that while many parents will be happy to see the mask mandate go by the wayside, others will insist he continue to keep it in place.
“It doesn’t matter what decision you make on this, you’re going to have vociferous people on all sides of the conversation,” Adams said. “And so, we can’t go by the noise, we have to go by the science. And we have to go by the safety of our children. Every call that I receive, from parents of (children) two to four years old, that say ‘can you do it right away?’ I get another call from parents who are in school or daycare with the children saying “can you please don’t do it.’ So, let’s not think that this argument or this conversation is one-sided. It is not.”
And it’s important to stick with the science, Adams said, especially in a city like New York where people have strong opinions on both sides of an issue and it’s impossible to please everyone.
This story first appeared on our sister website, PoliticsNY.com.