By Dan Katzive and Carol Tannenhauser
At a press conference in Times Square on Friday morning, Mayor Eric Adams announced that both the indoor school mask mandate and the requirement to show proof of vaccination for indoor venues will be suspended starting Monday, March 7th.
The mayor had indicated this past Sunday that these steps would be taken today if testing upon return from the school winter break this week continued to show low levels of infection.
“COVID is still here, but we are beating it back,” he said, citing the city’s 1.8% positivity rate. “We’ve done everything we were supposed to….We’ve got to get our economy going.”
Adams graciously thanked his predecessor Mayor Bill de Blasio for having the courage in the face of criticism from all sides to have put the mandates in place when needed. “He made tough calls,” and he turned out to be right, the current Mayor said. “Numbers don’t lie.”
In an accompanying statement issued Friday, the mayor indicated that other covid protocols, including increased ventilation, daily symptom screening, and test kit distribution would remain in place and that children may continue to wear masks if they so choose.
He emphasized in his press conference that teasing and bullying of children opting to remain masked would not be tolerated. Masks will continue to be required in schools with children under age 5 given that that population is not yet eligible for vaccination.
In addition to lifting the school mask mandate, the mayor also confirmed that the “Key to NYC” rules, including requirements that restaurants and gyms check vaccination status, will also be ended as of Monday, though establishments may still require proof of vaccination (and/or masking) if they chose. Note that, under New York State and Federal regulations, masks continue to be required on buses, subways and trains and in stations.
Lastly, the statement also announced the launch of a new color-coded risk assessment system for the city. Currently, the city is at alert level Green, or “low risk”. Mayor Adams acknowledged that “COVID changes,” so we must too. “We will pivot,” he added, “if we see a reason.”