By Artemis Moshtaghian and Jay Croft, CNN
New York City is dropping mask requirements for K-12 schools and lifting proof of vaccine mandates for restaurants and theaters starting next week, Mayor Eric Adams announced Friday.
New York joins cities and states across the country that are loosening Covid-19 rules after health officials released new guidelines and hospitalizations fell. The NFL also said it is dropping protocols.
Adams made his announcements at a press conference in Times Square, urging people to “come in and enjoy the restaurants, enjoy the businesses, and be a part of this great city without having to show proof of vaccinations.”
In schools, he said, parents will still be allowed to mask their kids.
“I know that some who state that they still want their children to wear their masks, you can,” he said. “We are not going to get in the way of your discretion.”
Adams touted how safe public schools are, saying that as of this week NYC schools had a Covid-19 positivity rate of 0.18%.
Still, kids under 5 will be required to keep wearing masks.
“We’ve got to follow the science,” Adams said. “The science states that that age group cannot be vaccinated and they have, among children, they’re some of the highest hospitalization rates. So we have to save our children.”
The mayor’s moves come after Gov. Kathy Hochul, citing steep declines in Covid-19 hospitalizations statewide, announced earlier this week that, effective Wednesday, New York would no longer require students to wear masks in schools.
Individual counties and cities with higher transmission rates could still require masks in schools, and parents and guardians may also still choose to send children to schools in masks, Hochul said.
Changes being made across the country
Most Americans live in areas where those who are healthy don’t need to wear masks indoors, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said recently. That was a sweeping change, and other cities and states have recently made similar changes.
- California, Oregon and Washington state will shift from mask requirements to recommendations in schools.
- California is dropping its requirement for unvaccinated people to wear masks in most indoor settings.
- Los Angeles County will no longer require masks in schools.
- Illinois lifted its mask mandate for restaurants, bars, gyms and stores. And Chicago ended its proof-of-vaccination requirement.
- In Massachusetts, a statewide mask mandate for K-12 schools ends Monday. A similar mandate in Connecticut also ends Monday.
- New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy announced Friday that the statewide school and daycare mask mandate and the statewide public health emergency, announced in response to the Omicron variant in January, will be lifted starting Monday. Friday marked two years since the state’s first case, he said.
The National Football League (NFL) and NFL Players Association (NFLPA) also agreed to suspend all Covid-19 protocols, effective immediately, according to a league-wide memo sent Thursday.
Mayor praises vaccinations
In a statement, Adams said the reason “New York City is back” is because of vaccinations.
“Two years ago, New York City was the epicenter of the pandemic, but thanks to New Yorkers getting vaccinated and getting boosted we have made tremendous progress,” Adams said. “The fight may not be over, but we’re clearly winning the war. We are open for business and New York City has its groove back.”
Restaurants, theaters and other indoor venues will no longer have to ask patrons for proof of vaccinations.
“New York City’s restaurant and nightlife industry has been devastated by Covid-19, and over the past two years these small businesses have endured ever changing pandemic mandates that have posed significant challenges to their operations,” said Andrew Rigie, executive director, NYC Hospitality Alliance. “We must continue to be safe and smart, and modify mandates as the situation evolves.”
The city’s Health Department said vaccines have prevented an estimated 48,000 deaths, 300,000 hospitalizations, and 1.9 million cases since December 2020. More than 77% of New Yorkers are fully vaccinated, and more than 17 million doses have been administered in the city.
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CNN’s Holly Yan contributed to this report.