New York City will no longer require masks in public schools or proof of vaccination for indoor dining and entertainment starting March 7 if there is no spike in Covid-19 cases before then, Mayor Eric Adams announced Sunday. The announcement comes after Gov. Kathy Hochul lifted the indoor mask mandate statewide for schools. In addition to ending the mask mandate in schools, Adams said the “Key to NYC’ initiative, which has required proof of vaccination at restaurants, bars, gyms, and indoor entertainment venues since August, will also be lifted. An official decision is expected on March 4.
“More than a million New York City schoolchildren will return to class tomorrow after a week off,” Adams said in a statement on Sunday. “At the end of this week, we will evaluate the numbers and make a final announcement on Friday. If we see no unforeseen spikes and our numbers continue to show a low level of risk, New York City will remove the indoor mask mandate for public school children, effective next Monday, March 7.”
“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.”
According to data released by the city’s Department of Education on Friday, nearly 52 percent of the city’s public school students are fully vaccinated.
Key to NYC, put in place last summer by then-Mayor Bill de Blasio, required proof of full vaccination for most indoor activities. The mandate for private employees and city workers will remain in place. According to Politico, businesses can still opt to require proof of vaccination.
The private sector mandate would still prevent unvaccinated Brooklyn Nets star Kyrie Irving from playing in games at the Barclays Center, according to Shams Charania of The Athletic. Irving has been outspoken against the vaccine requirement and hasn’t been able to participate in home games or games in cities which have instated an indoor vaccine mandate.
“I take my hat off to New Yorkers, through masks, through vaccines, through social distancing, we were hit with the uncertainty, the fear of Covid,” Adams said last week.
“I’m really proud of how we responded as New Yorkers. And every morning I meet with my health professionals because I’ve always stated that I’m going to follow the science. I’m not going to get ahead of the science because I’m ready to get ahead of all of this and get back to a level of normalcy.”
Earlier this month, Gov. Kathy Hochul dropped the state’s indoor mask mandate due to a steep decline in positive cases, deaths, and hospitalizations due to Covid-19. On Sunday, Hochul said the mask mandate in schools across the state will be dropped starting March 2, citing the declining number of children testing positive for the virus.
According to the governor’s office, 229 cases were reported on Saturday, just two days before students return after winter break, compared to a seven-day average of 832 cases at the beginning of the school year. Pediatric hospitalizations have declined by roughly 80 percent since the Omicron peak, the governor said.
“Because New Yorkers have stepped up, we can confidently remove the statewide mask requirement in our schools,” Hochul said in a statement. “This is a huge step forward for our kids and communities and I am grateful to the students, educators and parents for their dedication to keeping us all safe—we’ve reached this milestone because of your hard work.”
Masks must still be worn in health care facilities and public transportation like subways, trains, and buses.
Statewide, there’s been a 98 percent drop in reported cases between January 7, when roughly 90,000 cases were reported, to February 26 with just over 1,600 cases, according to Hochul.
According to the city’s Health Department, all Covid-19 metrics are currently decreasing, with the 7-day positive testing rate under 2 percent. Citywide, 77 percent of adults and 42 percent of children aged 5 to 12 are fully vaccinated.
Editor’s note: The original version of this article was published on February 24, 2022, and has been updated with new information.
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