What there is to know
- Starting Monday, children in K-12 schools operated by the NYC Department of Education no longer have to wear masks indoors; mandate remains in effect for classrooms serving children under 5
- Also effective this week: The Key2NYC program requiring businesses to verify the status of vaccines for customers will end. The rule requiring the vaccination of employees remains in force, however.
- Asked if he could change New York’s transit mask rules if the CDC decides to change its guidance on that front when it revisits the issue on March 18, Mayor Eric Adams said he would was not yet ready to do so.
This week marks not only two years since the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a pandemic, but the latest action taken by the three states to lift the mandates put in place to control the spread of the virus.
Come Monday, hundreds of thousands of public school students in New Jersey and across the water in the nation’s largest school district and their educators can ditch face masks indoors. Individual districts still have the power to maintain mask rules or bring them back if cases spike again.
Decisions to drop masks in schools were quickly endorsed by a number of teachers‘ unions. The New Jersey Education Association released a statement endorsing the move when it was announced, saying it was “cautiously optimistic” it was confident if the trends continued. And in New York, the United Federation of Teachers agreed to a move to a “mask-optional system” after post-holiday testing showed no spike in cases.
“This is the responsible and thoughtful way to make our next transition,” said UFT President Michael Mulgrew.
Face masks will still be required for New York students under age 5 who are eligible for the vaccine, which affects some pre-K grades, all 3-K grades, and many Department of Health-supervised daycare and children’s programs. health.
Parents of children affected by the lifting of the mandate can still send them to school wearing masks if they prefer, and schools will have face coverings on hand for anyone in need. Adams acknowledged that it can take time for some to feel comfortable without a mask in some settings and he says the city fully supports their right to discretion.
“We are not going to interfere with your discretion and we want New Yorkers to be smart, flexible and able to feel comfortable without any intimidation, without any teasing. If you feel comfortable wearing your mask, feel free to do so,” said Mayor Eric Adams.
Children in kindergarten or older or staff returning to school after testing positive for COVID or showing symptoms should also wear masks until 10 days have passed since diagnosis or symptoms .
Watch the mayor’s full announcement in the player below.
Programs that include a mix of student ages within groups—such as pre-K classrooms that serve 4- and 5-year-olds or after-school programs with mixed ages—will likely need to keep the full mandate in place to consistency. A number of programs sent email notifications to parents on Thursday evening, after a town hall official told Gothamist of the mayor’s announcement on Friday on this policy.
Public schools will continue basic COVID precautions like case monitoring and deep cleaning efforts, along with weekly testing. Nearly 90,000 students and staff are randomly tested each week as part of the city’s COVID safety plan — and more than 20 million rapid tests have been distributed to children to take home.
“We will make appropriate public health decisions to keep our city safe. We will pivot if we see a reason to change policies. We will not be afraid to make those adjustments and changes. COVID is changing. changes. We need to be open to doing the same,” Adams said. “And if we see an increase in cases or hospitalizations, we’re going to come back. It’s imperative that we know this battle is still ongoing.”
The mayor will also suspend the city’s “Key2NYC” policy, which currently requires anyone 5 and older to show proof of vaccination in order to enter most public spaces, such as restaurants, bars, gyms. and grocery stores, starting Monday.
Businesses in the five boroughs also won’t have to check vaccination cards at the door starting next week, although they can continue to do so if they wish.
Adams, who has expressed the need for the city to return more fully to pre-pandemic habits, had outlined his plans earlier this week after the CDC changed its mask recommendations. The situation has since improved further, with the CDC now saying 90% of the US population no longer needs to wear them indoors, up from more than 70% when the agency made its announcement last week.
New York City’s numbers also improved.
COVID cases are down 43% on a rolling basis over the past week compared to the previous four-week average, while hospitalizations and deaths are both down 71% by the same metric. And the data period for which these rates are falling does not even encompass the meteoric fall of the omicron-fueled wave that hit in late January. Factor in the peak and you’re looking at a nearly 100% drop in cases.
About 77% of the city’s population is fully immunized, although rates lag among eligible children (56% fully immunized, 35% yet to receive a dose).
Complete vaccination rates for children vary considerably by neighborhoodhowever, from a citywide low of 17% in the east, north, and south parts of Williamsburg from Brooklyn to Park to a high of 99% in a swath of neighborhoods in Manhattan, as well as Long Island City in Queens and parts of Brooklyn, including downtown and Park Slope, among others. See the full city dataset for childhood vaccinations by zip code here.
New York schools outside of the five boroughs were allowed to drop mask mandates starting Wednesday when Governor Kathy Hochul lifted her statewide order.
This is the day that many families have been looking forward to for a long time: the day when students will no longer have to wear masks at school. But one Long Island district said more students than not were still wearing masks. Reporting by NBC New York’s Greg Cergol.
Unchanged, however, is the city’s vaccine requirement to operate. All private sector workers in New York must still be fully vaccinated under the ordinance put in place by former Mayor Bill de Blasio late last year.
Also unchanged: mask rules for public transport. When asked on Friday whether he would drop mask rules for subways if the CDC changes its transit guidelines when it reviews the issue next week, Adams said he was not. still there.
“New York is unique and we always have to vary our responses depending on the intensity. I think we should continue to wear a mask on the subway,” the mayor said. “The CDC will be making their recommendations, but I’m not where I think we need to spot the wearing of masks on the subway.”
Hochul gave no indication of his plans for state transit guidance if the CDC recommends looser mask rules for public transportation in the coming weeks. Both the state and the city assume responsibility for the management of the MTA, so any change in policy would reflect an agreement between them.
Mandates designed and put in place to slow the spread of COVID-19 are being withdrawn during a major phase of the pandemic. It has been more than two years since New York reported its first case on March 1, 2020.
Which face mask best protects against COVID-19? Chris Glorioso goes to a factory to get the answer.