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School Mask Mandate Could End by March 7, Mayor Says

Mayor Eric Adams will make the final decision on Friday whether to end the City’s school mask mandate and indoor vaccine requirement
Photo: Michael Appleton/Mayoral Photography Office.

Vaccine cards for restaurants and masks in schools could be gone as early as next Monday, March 7, in a major milestone for the City’s pandemic recovery if Mayor Eric Adams goes through with plans to reverse the COVID-19 restrictions.

Adams announced Sunday that he planned to drop the Key2NYC policy, which requires those over 5 to show proof of vaccination to enter public spaces including restaurants, grocery stores, theaters and gyms, and also drop the mask mandate in the City’s schools.

"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," Adams said in a statement.

Adams said the announcement have business owners a week to adapt to the likely changes.

He also stressed that not all mandates would lapse Monday such as the City’s requirement for public- and private-sector workers to be vaccinated, which is still in place.

"All other vaccine mandates in New York City will remain in place at this time as they are, and have been, vital to protecting New Yorkers," he said.

The decision followed an announcement by New York Governor Kathy Hochul, who also announced Sunday that she was dropping the statewide mask mandate in schools.

Hochul said that while the mask mandate had been a vital aid in battling the Omicron surge, the “day has come” to end it.

“When I look back at what was going on just a short time ago, I am so happy that we did have a mask requirement in place for schools at the time,” she said. “That’s how we kept these numbers from getting even worse.”

The state’s decision does not override the rules of individual districts and counties, which can still impose mask mandates and other restrictive measures.

Michael Mulgrew, president of the United Federation of Teachers, said in a statement that although the union was “very happy” to see that the numbers are going in the right direction, it would “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.”

Last week, New York City released data showing that just 59% of students in city schools had at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, The New York Times reported, and that rate was unequal between boroughs, Chalkbeat reported. The education nonprofit found that the most vaccinated district in Manhattan had a vaccination rate more than double that of the least vaccinated district in Brooklyn.

It also seems a significant number of parents are skeptical about dropping mask mandates in schools, with a recent poll from the Siena College Research Institute showing 58% of registered voters in the state believed the state should wait to lift restrictions until reviewing data from early March. That same poll, which was taken two weeks ago, found that 45% of respondents disapproved of the state’s rollback of mask mandates in private businesses, The New York Times reported.


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