During an interview on CNBC’s “Squawk Box” program, New York City Mayor Eric Adams said, “We are back.”
Adams announced last week that he would end the indoor mask mandate for public school children starting March 7. But there will be no changes to mask mandates in public transit and healthcare facilities.
“Our schools have been among the safest places for our children since the beginning of the pandemic, and we will continue to make the proper public health decisions to keep our kids safe, including making masks available for any child or school staff member who wishes to continue wearing them,” said Adams in a statement this week.
Adams followed the lead of New York State Gov. Kathy Hochul who announced the lifting of mask requirements for students starting this Wednesday. This comes after the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention changed their guidelines on school masks stating that masks can come off at schools unless the COVID metrics are high.
“With more New Yorkers getting vaccinated, and the steady decline over the past several weeks in cases and hospitalizations from Omicron, we are now entering a new phase of the pandemic,” said Hochul in a statement. “Because New Yorkers have stepped up, we can confidently remove the statewide mask requirement in our schools.”
According to the CDC, mask use is determined by three metrics: “new COVID-19 admissions per 100,000 population in the past 7 days, the percent of staffed inpatient beds occupied by COVID-19 patients, and total new COVID-19 cases per 100,000 population in the past 7 days—to determine the COVID-19 community level. New COVID-19 admissions and the percent of staffed inpatient beds occupied represent the current potential for strain on the health system. Data on new cases acts as an early warning indicator of potential increases in health system strain in the event of a COVID-19 surge.”
According to the city’s latest stats, as of Wednesday morning, the daily average of New Yorkers who tested positive for COVID dropped to 1.94% over the last 7 days. Hospitalizations (people diagnosed with COVID) at least the last seven days is 26 with 12 confirmed deaths and continues to decrease. Statewide, as of Feb. 28, with 66,574 tested, 1,284 tested positive. CDC stats showed that 81.2% of people age 5 and above have at least one vaccination.
Adams has also ended the Key2NYC rules that required vaccination for indoor dining, indoor fitness and indoor entertainment spaces.
Nationally, statewide and citywide the dominoes have fallen.
Michael Mulgrew, president of the United Federation of Teachers, said that while the mayor has lifted the mandate, he will continue to monitor the situation on his own.
“We are very happy to see that the numbers are going in the right direction,” stated Mulgrew. “We will confer with our own independent doctors, look at the data from take-home test kits and random in-school testing this week, and make sure all of that is taken into account as New York City reviews its own school masking policy.”
Mona Davids, of the New York City Parents Union, has been pushing for an end to the school mask mandate. She said that City Hall was late, but right on time.
“We’re talking about a group that’s the least at risk,” said Davids. “So as far as I’m concerned, it’s unconscionable that we’ve been masking kids now for two years. They’ve been traumatized, they’re depressed…Children are behind in speech development and learning because of these mass mandates. I’m glad that it’s finally going to be lifted, and let the parents decide what is best for the child.”
Some elected officials, however, especially those who have loved ones they lost to COVID, aren’t ready to declare victory yet. Senator Jamaal Bailey stated that he will continue to mask up his kids for the rest of the school year.
“I’m not…I’m uncomfortable,” said Bailey. “I have different traumas related to COVID. Should we be in a position where we’re doing this really? I don’t know. But you’re in a position where if you can say that we’re governed by science and then what science is indicating to us…it is what it is.”
New York City Public Advocate Jumaane Williams is in the same boat. Williams cited the lack of ventilation issues in certain schools.
“It is also critical that any change comes alongside addressing problematic, pervasive issues with ventilation in schools,” said Williams. “I have additional concerns related to the disparities in vaccination rates and school funding across different communities within our city, and the city must address these issues to ensure that all students in all neighborhoods are kept safe.”
Dr. Sandra Bonat is a pediatric physician advisor at VIP StarNetwork, which provides healthcare services for film crews and provides it for everyone via mobile and onsite services. VIP StarNetwork recently signed a contract with the city to provide free COVID tests and vaccines to venues requesting them. Bonat said that the city and City Hall are moving too fast.
“I’m concerned that dropping the mask mandate is a little bit premature,” Bonat asserted. “I know it’s the more popular opinion, and I understand people are tired of masks. But given the fact that we have a good number of kids that still need to be vaccinated throughout the city. Certain neighborhoods and counties have higher transmission rates, including City Island, Tribeca, Murray Hill, Astoria, Southwest Brooklyn. It is so important for parents who are uncomfortable with the mandates being lifted to know they can and should still send their kids in a mask. Especially if their children are immunocompromised.
“Masks are proven to work; masks reduce transmission rates,” continued Bonat. “I would also encourage school districts to make sure no one feels isolated and that everyone realizes it’s a choice they can still make, even with the rules being loosened. Otherwise, we can monitor the situation and possibly even bring back the masks if we see transmission rates in the state, and schools should reenact mask wearing to reduce transmission.”
Parent Tamika Hall didn’t mince words with her rejection of the new rules. “It’s foolish. lmao,” said Hall in a text. “The governor isn’t the sharpest knife in the drawer so I’m not surprised. My kids will continue to [wear masks].”