By Ava Stryker-Robbins
On Friday, Mayor Eric Adams announced that masks would no longer be mandated throughout New York City schools—an occasion that sparked varied reactions from educators and students across the Upper West Side.
West Side Rag reached out to 24 elementary and middle school principals to find out what their students were doing about masks, but only one responded, with another saying he could only answer with the permission of the Chancellor’s press office. Thus, we turned to students for their input.
Masks have been seen as uncomfortable and annoying to many students, but now that the mandate has been lifted, of eight schools with students responding, four reported that almost the entire student body still wore masks on Monday.
In a phone interview, a nine-year-old student at PS 166—Nefeli Antonoyiannakis—states that without a mask, you are essentially “free to catch the virus.” However, she claims that among 25 people in her class, she was one of only five to wear a mask.
An elementary school student at Success Academy—who prefers to remain anonymous—states that it was about “half and half.” She was seemingly very excited about the fact that she could now attend school without having to wear a piece of cloth over her face.
Among four middle schools, representatives of three reported that almost everyone wore masks, while one reported that almost no one did.
An anonymous eighth-grader at the Computer School states that she wore a mask to school, but that “someone took [it] off…and didn’t give it back.” In a written statement, she says that only three people in her class wore masks. However, at the Center School, Principal Elaine Schwartz says that 90% of students and all teachers continued to wear masks.
Similarly, eighth-grader Noa Stauffer at Booker T. Washington reports that very few students did not wear masks. She believes that “masks…should be worn, especially in crowded public places.”
In addition, seventh-grader Anya Schenck, states in a phone interview that at Calhoun, most students wore masks. She goes further to say that “some people feel pressured to wear a mask,” and that there is judgment towards those who do not wear them. Anya explains that she is excited for the day when she can go to school without a mask, but will wait to see when that day may be.
Students at several schools described the excitement of seeing their teachers’ and peers’ faces for the first time, but do not see this change as the end of the pandemic.
I am OK with giving kids the option to do what they want. I spoke to families at Computer, Center and Booker and they were all about 50/50 – your small sample size only leads to confusion. I don’t think Mr. Zymeck at Computer would tolerate a student stealing another student’s mask – he runs a very tight ship.
I understand that all precautions in the cafeteria were lifted, which I think was too aggressive. Some level of separation should be maintained, at least short term – kids were still able to socialize, but were slightly distanced. Now they are back to being on top of each other.
This reporting is on a neighborhood that is like very few others in our country. Everyone, everywhere outside of UWS has moved on from masks and returned to normal life—NYT reporting today that 70% of schools have removed mask rules nationwide. It is a sad state of affairs that the parents of these children have imbued them with fears of removing their masks and paranoia about a pandemic that is largely over and receding into the background as another variant of the common cold. I will be strongly supporting our childrens’ immediate removal of masks on the first day when our schools rule is lifted and encouraging continued eschewing of masks, just as everyone has been doing outside of NYC for months now.
Fears? As a parent of a middle-school children, their friends and their parents, I can assure you threee were no fears. I’m not going to dispute pro- or con- masks, but kids are dealing with them just fine, they are not bothered and are not fearing them.
Read about the effects of Covid on survivors here and let us know if it’s “the common cold,” ok?
Bottom line, comments that spread disinformation should be removed.
And yes, with cases down to 5% of the omicron peak, we can safely remove masks. But to say that a mask mandate was never justified is beyond pathetic.
Want proof? In the delta and omicron waves Florida lost 35,000 and New York State lost 14,000. That’s what statisticians call a significant difference.
Humm, I wonder if anyone has ever done a survey on the average education level of families that live in the UWS vs other areas of the country. Wonder how those numbers would play out.
For the record – I do know how those numbers play out. If you dont, I encourage you to look them up.
I think it’s ridiculous to assume that it’s the parents instilling fear in their kids. I told my kids to do what ever makes them comfortable. I also told them that because they are vaccinated, even if they get sick, they will be fine. One of my sons did not wear a mask and felt great. My other son chose to keep it on most of they day. His choice! So sick of the unnecessary drama caused by parents claiming their kids are forever ruined because of masks. Chill out!
Why are you so offended by masks? I agree that we do not need to be wearing them forever. But you act like it is some huge burden. Kids have gotten used to wearing them so they don’t really bother them. They will gradually get rid of them.
I think we are moving in the right direction but it is the Fox News-worshipping “free thinkers” like you who are actually creating drama. If we could get rid of the extremes of both sides (though most Republicans are extremists these days, while the woke only make up a minority of the Democrats), the world would be a much happier place!
With all due respect, this isn’t — and shouldn’t — be a political commentary.
Things have evolved and the virus is steadily decreasing to the low levels it is at now, which we all should be relieved of. And it is absolutely appropriate to review and tailor precautions accordingly. Easing restrictions of masks and other former guidelines falls into this category at this present time.
Could there be other spikes and variants? Yes, and this will be addressed. To live in the forever “what if” is unrealistic.
We need to be mindful of everyone’s individual opinions as well, which we are all entitled to. Derogatory comments as to particular television stations and/or political parties really have no place in a medical intelligent discourse and discussion.
Let’s all enjoy the moment, it’s been a long 2+ years for everyone.
Those who use the Fox News talking points about masks being evil and the bane of their existence are making it political.
Masks served a purpose. Those on the far right who say “white” anytime a Democrat says “black” do not think so, but it is pretty hard to disagree that they were helpful.
One can now make a compelling argument that it is time to reduce mask requirements, and that is what is happening. Perhaps it can be done more quickly. But those who write with Fox News dog whistles like the poster above are using a plague that should have united our country to be more divisive. Which is truly sad.
You seem to be completely obsessed with Fox News, Leon. It appears that you are actually watching far more Fox News than the average Republican!
The kids should be free to mask up or not, and should not be bullied or harassed if anyone disagrees with their decisions. They have been through enough these past 2 years. The schools need to make it clear that any sort of negative reaction to anyone’s masking decision will be treated as “bullying.”
Poor kids, who had already taken on the unprecedented burden of sacrificing their prime developmental years in service of a population that’s had over a year of vaccine access, are now being brainwashed into thinking that mask usage in their school still is making an ounce of difference in containing covid spread. It is simply not the case with Omicron which has been clearly displayed in the data, and I hope that they will soon ditch the safety theater and get on with their youth unencumbered.
Depends which mask is being used as to whether it will block Omicron. If a student is wearing an N95 or a KN95, they will be reasonable well protected from Omicron. Saying that all masks fail to protect from Omicron is just false. Please fact-check your opinions before presenting them as fact, or simply state that masks dont protect people from Omicron “IN YOUR OPINION.”
My view is that so long as the students are seated, a mask is not needed. Just like when you enter a restaurant, you go in wearing the mask, but when you sit down you can take it off. This is because the virus is generally is in “aerosol” in the upper layers of the room’s air, and when you sit down you are below the danger.
That is a very interesting view. As an expert, you would undoubtedly know that aerosols are small particles that are able to suspend in air. Undoubtedly, you would also know that this is not the same as, say, a helium balloon that will float up during to density differences, but rather they are suspended due to their small size that allows air resistance to keep them elevated. Therefore, you would also know that aerosols do not stay in the air indefinitely, but do make their way to the ground due to that little force called gravity. So, while aerosols ejected from the mouth will initially concentrate at about head height, they do not float higher into the sky, but rather make their way to the ground. As an expert, I am sure you would know that the reason you take your mask off at the restaurant table is not because the air is safer from aerosols, but rather because it is virtually impossible to transfer the food from a fork into your mouth while wearing a mask.
That very much depends on air flow, which is hard to predict. And most NYC schools don’t have efficient & effective hvac equipment installed — some (or, perhaps many) don’t have it at all.
I have friends and family in Florida – their kids don’t wear masks- avoided wearing them whenever possible. I have friends in MA their kids also wore masks only in stores where they HAD TO. None of their children ages 2,6,8,13,17 got sick. They lived their normal lives through this period. Also none were vaccinated!!! Of course there have been studies done in the past that say that masks DON’t do anything – in fact with constant moist BACTERIA in your face you will most likely get sick. Do the research-Not watch the news. Stop being lazy. IF YOU DID ACTUAL RESEARCH YOU’D YANK THE MASK OUT OF YOUR CHILD’S FACE!
Carmen, anecdotal evidence means nothing. I had an uncle that smoke 2 packs of unfiltered camels every day and lived until 95 and never got lung cancer. Should I use this as evidence that smoking does not cause lung cancer? Please share your peer-reviewed research showing masks dont do anything and will in fact cause you to get sick. When I look, all I can find saying that are opinion pieces. Someone once pointed out that real scientists do not post their work on YouTube/ Facebook/ Twitter/ Instagram but post their work in peer-reviewed journals. So please, point me towards real evidence that masks will make you sick rather than protect you.
@pot/kettle: easy to say it doesn’t exist if you dont actually look…
Greenhalgh T, et al. Face masks for the public during the covid-19 crisis. BMJ. 2020; doi:10.1136/bmj.m1435. BMJ. 2020; doi:10.1136/bmj.m1422.
Mahase E. Covid-19: What is the evidence for cloth masks? BMJ. 2020; doi:10.1136/bmj.m1422.
Feng S, et al. Rational use of face masks in the COVID-19 pandemic. Lancet Respiratory Medicine. 2020; doi:10.1016/S2213-2600(20)30134-X.
Cowling BJ, et al. Impact assessment of non-pharmaceutical interventions against coronavirus disease 2019 and influenza in Hong Kong: An observational study. Lancet Public Health. 2020; doi.org/10.1016/S2468-2667(20)30090-6.
Howard J, et al. An evidence review of face masks against COVID-19. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 2021; doi:10.1073/pnas.2014564118.
Chu DK, et al. Physical distancing, face masks, and eye protection to prevent person-to-person transmission of SARS-CoV-2 and COVID-19: A systematic review and meta-analysis. The Lancet. 2020; doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(20)31142-9.
Tso RV, et al. Importance of face masks for COVID-19: A call for effective public education. Clinical Infectious Diseases. 2020; doi:10.1093/cid/ciaa593.
Lyu W, et al. Community use of face masks and COVID-19: Evidence from a natural experiment of state mandates in the US. Health Affairs. 2020; doi:10.1377/hlthaff.2020.00818.
Gandhi M, et al. Uniting infectious disease and physical science principles on the importance of face masks for COVID-19. Med (NY). 2021; doi:10.1016/j.medj.2020.12.008.
Now, I could go on, but I know I am violating the WSR comment requirements based on length already. There is ample evidence out there, but it is easy to deny its existence if you refuse to look.
WSR: please allow this post through so people who otherwise would not even look for legitimate evidence could have easy access.
As you seem to be focused on the peer reviewed stories – which are the ones finding benefits outweighing risks during this past year of hyper contagious but limited impact on school kids omicron to masking preschool and elementary children? I am not aware of any. Because there isn’t any. Before demanding proof for regular conduct, offers it yourself for extraordinary demands (such as keeping preschoolers masked this past year)
Great post Carmen and so true! Too bad the liberal lemmings in NYC are so anxious to follow career bureaucrats!
The harm done to children, including remote learning far longer than necessary and the ridiculousness of mask mandates, will dwarf the direct medical issues resulting from Covid. The young were always at very low risk levels, but the “powers that be” greatly inflated said risks and recklessly peddled fear to both parents and children. Shameful!
I had to go to DuckDuckGo.com because for some “strange reason” the literature that was once easy to find regarding mask and how ineffective they are are no longer popping up. Hmm..thats weird right?!? NOT! Well here’s an article from a neurosurgeon. Happy hunting. I did my research the second this Covid mess came out and for two years I have not changed my life and neither have my children or my friends or family from other states who also have children. So many friends have moved out of NY because of your thinking and I don’t blame them as they are happy in places like Florida where people actually have a mind of their own and are actually living normal lives. What is currently happening is the perfect recipe for those who like to find excuses to panic. And by the way, anecdotal stories pile up. They will be coming out. Unless you keep using google as research that is. In all seriousness, fear mongering is not healthy. It also comprises the immune system. Don’t forget operation Mockingbird. I also looked that up. I never thought this would be actual truth but it blew my mind that it is still happening. Doctors are being threatened for telling the truth, that is why these false articles are so easy to find. Wake up.
I love it! Articles in peer-reviewed journals are false and fake news, but an opinion piece by a long retired neurosurgeon is considered to be factual and good science.
If you wish to get your expert opinions from a neurosurgeon regarding infectious diseases, then I am sure you would be comfortable having an infectious disease doctor perform brain surgery on you.