NEW YORK (AP) — New York City shed major COVID-19 precautions on Monday as masks became optional in city schools and restaurants and other businesses could stop asking patrons for proof of vaccination.
“We’re in that place right now where we’re lifting our across-the-board mandate for Key2NYC,” Mayor Eric Adams, who announced the relaxed coronavirus rules last week, said on WINS radio Monday morning.
Adams announced Friday that indoor venues including restaurants, theaters and gyms would no longer be required to check the vaccination status of patrons. Businesses can require vaccination if they choose to, however, and proof of vaccination will be required at Broadway theaters at least until April 30.
The Key2NYC vaccination mandate was imposed last year by Adams’ predecessor, Bill de Blasio, in a bid to increase vaccination rates by barring the unvaccinated from many activities. The city is dropping the mandate as other U.S. cities including Los Angeles and Chicago are also easing some virus rules.
Most of the city’s public school students were allowed in class without masks on Monday for the first time since March 2020. Masks are still required for children under 5, who are not eligible to be vaccinated against the coronavirus.
Adams praised New Yorkers for following rules on masking and social distancing over the past two years.
“We did our job as New Yorkers and now we’re winning,” the mayor said on TV station NY1. “COVID is no longer in control of our lives. We are in control of our lives.”
New York and other cities are dropping virus rules as the most recent surge in infections fueled by the omicron variant wanes.
More than 4,000 people in New York City died of COVID-19 in January and February, making those two months the deadliest of the pandemic since the spring of 2020. New infections have plunged, though, in recent weeks. The city is now averaging a little more than 700 new cases per day of the virus, the lowest infection rate since late July.