Mayor Eric Adams repeated his pledge Friday to lift the mask mandate for toddlers in schools and daycares, though it’s unclear when the policy will actually be dropped as the city’s health officials monitor increases in the city’s positive COVID rates.
“I want them off. I'm the one of the biggest advocates,” Adams said on WNYC’s The Brian Lehrer Show Friday. “But my doctors are saying, ‘Eric, here's how we have to move forward.’”
The mayor did say the mandate could be lifted next week, if his health team gives the green light.
Adams lifted the mask mandate for students in kindergarten and up on March 7th, but has left the mandate in place for the younger grades because children under the age of 5 are not eligible for vaccination. Children under the age of 2 have never been required to be masked in daycares or childcare centers.
The mayor promised to eliminate the mask mandate for the youngest kids on April 4th if COVID risk levels remained low in the city as some parents and childcare providers pressured Adams. But the BA.2 variant has driven an increase in cases in some areas, including Manhattan which is now classified as “medium” risk according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s guidelines.
That uptick in cases prompted Adams to announce on April 1st that he would keep the toddler mask requirement in place for now. The same day, a Staten Island judge issued a stay on the mandate after a lawsuit was filed against the city to overturn the policy—but the city won its appeal of the stay, so the mandate remains in place for now.
Some schools are now reporting increases in cases after a brief lull that came after the omicron variant surged in the city around the winter holidays and as older students ditched masks after March 7th. The Department of Education updated its COVID protocols this year to minimize the disruptions of quarantine and classroom closures.
Adams promised to be “meticulous” about lifting the city’s last remaining mask mandate for schoolchildren.
“The reason we are opening and functioning as a city is because we did things in a meticulous way,” Adams told Lehrer Friday. “And I'm not going to be reckless with the economy and the safety and the health of the children and families in the city.”