New York City Mayor Eric Adams says the city will lift the mask requirement for young children in schools next Tuesday, provided there is no dramatic change in local COVID numbers before then.
The announcement came Tuesday morning, nearly two weeks after Adams approved an end to mask rules for vaccine-eligible schoolchildren, ages 5 and older.
While a COVID subvariant (Omicron BA.2) is renewing concerns about the virus in the city's most hard-hit neighborhoods, Adams echoed Gov. Kathy Hochul's statement from a day earlier, saying the city will continue to monitor the situation and "follow the science" behind how to protect people from the virus.
He added that there are no plans to change the private sector COVID vaccine mandate anytime soon.
Under Adams' COVID benchmark system, the current alert level in the city is low and unchanged since March 7.
"We can't go by the noise. We have to go by the science and the safety of our children. We have to get this right," Adams said Tuesday. "Let's not think this is one-sided because it's not. The only way you do it right is to follow the science and follow the numbers. I can't have my city and our city close down again."
He says the April 4 date was selected because it will give the city more time to assess the impact of the BA.2 subvariant as potential new cases of the virus incubate and more New Yorkers get tested.
Adams and newly-appointed city health commissioner Dr. Ashwin Vasan emphasized that if the mask rule is indeed dropped on schedule, parents and children will still be welcome to mask if they wish.
Vasan noted that the issue of masks is "personal" to many New Yorkers. He implored resident to "be respectful of whatever choice families make. Let's be kind to each other when it comes to how we each manage our own risk."
While New York has seen a 30 percent increase in COVID cases in seven-day case average driven by BA.2, Gov. Hochul pointed out Monday that the raw numbers only amount to a difference between 8.3 new COVID cases per 100,000 and 10.8 new cases per 100,000.
During the height of the Omicron surge this winter, the state was reporting 400 new cases per 100,000 residents. Statewide COVID positivity rate was at 2 percent last week, down from 23 percent in January.
BA.2 might produce a statewide increase in COVID cases, but state health officials do not see evidence that suggests another surge on the horizon.
COVID hospitalization numbers in New York remain at their lowest level in eight months, and COVID-related deaths are growing more infrequent. Furthermore, hospitalization outcomes are better than ever due to vaccination and emerging COVID treatments and therapies for severe symptoms.