A growing chorus is calling for Mayor Eric Adams to ditch mask mandates for children between the ages of 2 to 4 years old at schools and childcare facilities in New York City. But a representative of the American Academy of Pediatrics said the youngest kids still need the protection of masks in indoor group settings because they aren’t eligible to be vaccinated against COVID.
This week, the city lifted its indoor mask mandate for students in grades kindergarten and up at schools. The mandate has stayed in place for daycares, 3K, and pre-K classes because kids under the age of 5 are too young to be vaccinated. (Kids younger than 2 years old are not required to wear masks at all).
“People wanted to say, 'Let's lift it across the board,' but that's not what the science was showing us,” Adams said at a press conference last week. “So I know some people are concerned. I would rather people complain against me than losing my babies in our city. We got to follow the science.”
Opponents of the children’s mask mandate held a rally outside of City Hall Monday, while nearly two dozen directors of preschools and nursery schools - including the Saint Ann’s preschool program, the Tribeca Community School and the JCC Brooklyn - sent a letter to Adams Tuesday calling for the mandate to end, citing the lower risk of COVID to young children.
The preschool and nursery school directors also claimed that there are “negative impacts” on children’s “learning, social, and speech development,” while AMNY reported one parent at the rally as saying, “[Toddlers] are the least at risk from Covid and most hurt from the developmental delays we have all seen from extended masking.”
Studies have shown that young children are able to learn while masked, and no peer-reviewed studies have conclusively shown that masks are linked to developmental delays among children.
Still, the call for dropping the mandate for the youngest students has spread this week. The Community Education Council for District 2 public schools, an advisory board which covers a large swath of Manhattan including the Upper East Side and Tribeca, voted 7-4 Tuesday night in favor of a resolution demanding that the city lift the mask mandate for daycares, 3K, and pre-K classes.
“When we have already reopened society – our society – why are we still doing this with children, particularly when we know that they are at a much lower risk for COVID?” said Danyela Souza Egorov, vice president of the CEC.
But the American Academy of Pediatrics has maintained its official guidance that all students who are unvaccinated should wear masks at school.
Dr. Jesse Hackell, the head of the state American Academy of Pediatrics’s Chapter 3, which covers Manhattan, the Bronx and Westchester, called the CEC resolution “misinformation” about the scientific evidence that masks help prevent the spread of COVID.
“It's disingenuous when an organization that purports to be involved in education ignores the actual facts and the actual science to come up with their agenda,” Hackell said.
“The recommendation is that unvaccinated children should definitely be masked at all ages. Otherwise, it's not consistent,” Hackell added. “It makes no sense to protect unvaccinated 2- to 4-year-olds, but not protect unvaccinated 5-and-up-year-olds.”
A representative of City Hall said the mandate will stay in place while COVID rates among children are studied.
“We always appreciate the community’s input and will review this matter. Kids under 5 remain the most susceptible to hospitalization from all groups of children, but, day after day, we examine the data and follow the science, and that is what we will continue to do,” said City Hall spokesperson Amaris Cockfield in a statement Wednesday.