UPDATE: NYC announced on June 9, 2022, that as of Monday, June 13, 2022, masks will be optional for children ages 2-4 in all early childhood settings.
New York City’s mask mandate for children ages 2 to 4 years old in schools and daycare will remain in place.
The mandate was supposed to end starting Monday, April 4, if COVID-19 cases remained low, NYC Mayor Eric Adams announced last month. Currently, Omicron BA.2 cases continue to rise in the city.
Earlier on Friday, a Staten Island judge threw the mandate out, but the city was granted a stay by the appeals court to keep it in place for now.
The mayor made an announcement last month to drop the mandate a day after New York State Governor Kathy Hochul announced a rise in cases of the Omicron BA.2 variant in the state.
At the time, Dr. Ashwin Vasan, commissioner of the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, said several factors were considered before officials made the decision to lift the mandate.
“Cases is just one data point we’re looking at to calculate our overall risk levels,” Vasan said. “What we know about BA.2 is that it is more transmissible. It is not yet shown to be more severe in any way. We’re going to see some rise in cases. We’re more prepared than ever than ever to tolerate that in our hospital systems, but also with all the tools we have in the community to keep ourselves safe in and out of the hospital in the first place.”
The mayor ended the NYC public school mask mandate for grades K-12 on March 7, but left it in place for children younger than age 5—an age group not eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine.
In a historic moment, the mayor also ended the city’s Key2NYC policy on March 7 that required people ages 5 years and older participating in public indoor activities to show proof of vaccination.
“Two years ago, New York City was the epicenter of the pandemic, but thanks to New Yorkers getting vaccinated and getting boosted we have made tremendous progress,” Adams said “I’ve said time and time again that the numbers and science will guide us as we continue to recover and rebuild, and now New York City is back, and vaccinations are why we’re back. New Yorkers should be getting out and enjoying our amazing city. The fight may not be over, but we’re clearly winning the war. We are open for business and New York City has its groove back.”
As a result of ending Key2NY, customers no longer need to show proof of vaccination mandates for indoor dining, gyms and fitness studios, as well as at indoor entertainment spaces and venues, which includes movie theaters, music and concert venues, museums, aquariums and zoos, professional sports arenas, indoor stadiums, convention centers, exhibition halls, hotel meeting and event spaces, performing arts theaters, bowling alleys, arcades, pool and billiard halls, recreational game centers, adult entertainment and indoor play areas.
State-wide, Hochul ended the state mask requirement in public schools on March 2, leaving it up to city governments to make the call on local COVID policies.
Several other states in the metro area lifted the school mask mandates before New York. New Jersey lifted its mask mandate for students, staff and visitors in schools and child-care centers on March 7. Connecticut also ended its mask mandates in schools and child-care centers as of Feb. 28.
Local officials, including those on Staten Island, have long urged the state and city to lift school mask mandates in New York.
“We’ve passed the point where New York can eliminate the mandates, make masks optional and give our kids back the freedom to learn, socialize and enjoy being kids,” Fossella added.
The mayor also announced last month a new color-coded system that tracks COVID-19 alerts. The system consists of four alert levels that outline precautions and recommended actions for individuals and government based on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Community Burden Indicator.
“Our new COVID alert system gives New Yorkers a roadmap for how to reduce their own risk in the event that we see another surge or increase in transmission,” said former Health Commissioner Dr. Dave A. Chokshi. “COVID Alert will keep New Yorkers informed, including about actions to expect from city government. As we look to the months ahead, we must continue to do all we can to prevent unnecessary suffering due to COVID-19.”
For more information about public school COVID guidelines, visit the DOE’s website at schools.nyc.gov.
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