Mayor Eric Adams announced that New York City schools could remove the indoor mask mandate Monday, March 7th, if there are "no unforeseen spikes" in COVID-19 cases as students return from midwinter break.
The announcement came on Sunday, hours after Governor Kathy Hochul said the state will no longer require students and staff to wear masks inside schools beginning on Wednesday, March 2nd, ending the state's school mask mandate. This applies to children ages two and older in childcare settings.
After Hochul's remarks, Adams released a statement saying, “More than a million New York City school children will return to class tomorrow after a week off. 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 7th." The city has had a more stringent indoor mask mandate than the state.
Last week, New York City officials announced that students would no longer have to wear masks outside of schools.
Earlier this month, the governor lifted the statewide mask mandate for businesses and certain indoor spaces, but said she would reassess the school mask mandate when schools reopen after the midwinter recess on February 28th. However, with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention dropping masking requirements in communities based on COVID-19 transmission rates on Friday, Hochul said she made the decision after consulting with the state officials, the CDC, and educators across New York.
Noting the decline in pediatric COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations, from its January peaks during the omicron surge, Hochul said that the situation had improved enough to end the school mask mandate, saying that masks were not required in counties where COVID transmission was low or medium, and even counties where cases are high can have the flexibility to determine whether to keep the mandate.
Hochul did emphasize that some parents and students may decide to continue to wear masks, and that the state "will not stand for any bullying, ostracization, or harassment of any individual who chooses to still wear a mask."
New York City's five counties all have "low" transmission, according to the CDC. Eighty-seven percent of all adults in the city are fully vaccinated, while 78% of 13-17 year-olds are fully vaccinated and 42% of children 5-12 years have completed their vaccination series.
"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," Adams said in his statement.
March 7th could also be a turning point for businesses in New York City. The mayor added that "as long as COVID indicators show a low level of risk and we see no surprises this week, on Monday, March 7th we will also lift Key2NYC requirements," including vaccine mandates on restaurants, bars, and theaters. "This will give business owners the time to adapt and will allow us to ensure we are making the best public health decisions for the people of New York," Adams said.