New York State lifted its mask mandate on Wednesday, March 2, 2022. New York City followed suit for Kindergarten through 12th grade public schools starting on Monday, March 7. (Many private schools already struck it in response to the state law.)
However, on Thursday, March 3, Gothamist reported: New York City students who are under the age of five will need to continue wearing masks in class, even if the school mask mandate is lifted by Mayor Eric Adams next week, as those kids are not currently eligible for COVID vaccines, a City Hall official said.
The city confirmed that would be the case on Friday, March 4. Children under the age of 5 would remain in masks. (Because of NYC’s December 31 birthday cut-off for public school admission, it’s conceivable that up to half of a Pre-K or Kindergarten class would be either in masks or out of them, depending on their age.)
The most recent guidance from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) indicates that more than 90% of the U.S. population no longer needs to wear masks indoors.
Michael Mulgrew, president of the United Federation of Teachers, who, along with Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, has been a staunch advocate of “follow the science,” clarified that the union would “confer with our own independent doctors” before deciding whether or not they would believe the science of the CDC.
In the meantime, we asked NYC parents how they felt about the momentous change. Here is what they told us:
YY: Hallelujah! It’s about time! Will happily let my kids go to their public school without a mask.
RS: It’s time. Pandemic is now endemic. We cannot continue to live like we have the past 2 years. I 100% agree with what we have done up until now. Now it’s time to move on.
JS: FINALLY!!! I’ve felt sick muzzling my daughters every day at drop off. Now they will finally be able to breathe!! Shocking that it has taken THIS long to take masks off these poor kids’ faces so they can learn properly, when people can dine in restaurants and sit in movie theaters without them. Just goes to show where NYC’s priorities lie!!
LL: I am thrilled my ten year old will be able to see the faces of his classmates and breathe again.
JP: I am thrilled with this development – the science has shown that our children are at the lowest risk for serious complications from Covid and there is sure to be some damage to their mental health and/or development (emotional and learning) of wearing masks day in and day out for the last two years. Not to mention, adults can go to MSG and attend a Knicks game with 19k people Maskless! It’s time our children stop bearing the brunt of society’s concerns around Covid.
MZ: I feel that anyone who still wants to mask their children after mandates are lifted is welcome to. But glory be and hallelujah for the rest of our kids! It’s about time politics caught up to the science on the (non) necessity of masking children with this variant and with our children vaccinated! It’s been mandated at our school to be vaccinated…and masked at yard time. Absurd!
CD: It’s great that choice and free-will are back!! Though as an educator, I would choose to wear a mask around students since they often have poor hygiene habits.
LW: We are fine with it. Our kids are vaccinated. Want them to get back to a more normal experience.
SE: I am glad that the mask in schools may be over soon since I think it is especially important for young kids to see facial expressions and hear words being pronounced properly with enunciation. I will let my kindergartener decide if she wants to continue wearing a mask in school which I suspect she will since the school community is extremely covid cautious (more than the general NYC neighborhood observations I have made). I think most, if not all the kids in her school will continue to wear masks even though it will not be mandated and over 85% of the students have had at least one shot and over 75% of the students are fully vaccinated.
CS: I am a parent for a Grade 1 kid. I can’t wait for them to ditch the masks! Not a moment too soon. They are oppressive and highly unlikely to protect anyone.
DA: Finally…. it is about time to return our kids to normal life.. very Happy!
DG: Like many, I’ve been eager for a return to normalcy and view the elimination of school mask mandates as an important part of that, particularly for the youngest students whom it impacts the most (i.e., impacts their social emotional development by masking facial expressions, their speech development by not being able to see teachers’ mouths forming different consonant sounds, etc.). That said, I’m really struck by the fact that the timing of this announcement almost exactly coincides with the recent news that the Pfizer vaccine is almost useless in terms of preventing infection among 5-11 yr olds. Yes, the vaccines still confer protection against serious illness (which children were at low risk of to begin with), but if they don’t significantly reduce the risks of infection and transmission then I worry that the elimination of mask mandates and other precautionary measures at schools may lead to high rates of transmission in schools and then to vulnerable household members. It feels like it would be wiser to test this at a smaller scale or something before opening the floodgates.
AL: I think lifting the school mask mandate is premature, especially considering that the Pfizer vaccine is much less effective for the five-11-year-old age group. It’s unfortunate that in our haste to return to normal, we seem to be ignoring studies that show 1/3 of Covid cases result in Long Haul Covid. When we take that out of the equation in our cost/benefits analysis, we ignore a potentially significant and devastating consequence of dismantling precautions.
MA: Not ready for it. Will ask my kids to one-way mask for as long as it lasts. Don’t expect them to carry on masking beyond another week or so, if other kids are without. Hoping for the best.
JP: Considering that we are still in winter and transitioning to spring, germs abound. For our students to be protected and healthy, it is better for them to stay masked! At least until the warmer weather is consistently in NYC and the COVID infection rates remain low. Anything sooner than that is very premature.
SS: My children will be keeping their masks on indoors and outdoors! Still too much we don’t know about Covid, variants etc. We’re in no rush to remove them. They are fully vaccinated, and will be getting boosters, when eligible.
JL: I am not in favor of removal. We as a family have not gotten COVID. I want to do my best to stay that way. Also they have been the healthiest not catching the typical school colds. For a child with a reactive airway it means less medication. It’s not hurting my kids and it’s not a long day.
AA: I don’t agree with this at all. My son, a 2nd grader, will continue to wear a mask in school. Our family in general will continue to wear masks both indoors and outdoors. I have a 16 month old baby at home and my elderly parents come over frequently to help me. Children under 5 can’t be vaccinated and although my parents are vaccinated I don’t want to put them at risk.I believe COVID is still going strong and I don’t feel safe. Schools are generally crowded and even pre-COVID, my son would always get sick with something (whether it’s a cold or flu) and then the whole family gets sick. There is still so much about COVID that we don’t know.The virus is still mutating. We’re all tired of the pandemic and wearing masks, but in my opinion, I feel it’s just the new normal and something we have to do and live with.
AM: I’m not in favor of this. It seems to be driven by politics rather than what is best for the health and wellbeing of the school communities. Is there really no correlation between mask wearing, reduced transmission, and low reported case numbers? What if the masks come off and cases go back up? Is the DOE planning on following any thresholds for re-evaluating mask requirements (new variants, rise in reported cases or hospitalizations?) When I told my son (8 years old, third grade) that the Mayor said they would not have to wear masks any more in class, he asked me (without prompting) if it was ok if he could still wear his mask in school.
JF: Considering the report that kids under age 11 who’ve received the Pfizer vaccine are showing that it offers little protection from the virus even after a short period of time, I hope that the City will take this science into account and reverse this policy.
MK: Unmasking in schools will cause even more concern to families with children too young to be vaccinated, elderly, and high risk family members. It also doesn’t offer much comfort to know your child will be in a building for hours without their masks on. Everyone makes decisions based on their thoughts, experiences, and family dynamics. Some take things more seriously than others. Putting all children in a classroom together is just too risky when we are still learning about the virus, it’s effects, and how to treat people mentally and physically.
NC: Given recent studies showing the low efficacy of the 5–11 vaccine, and the exceedingly low numbers of vaccinated children—meaning that vaccinated kids won’t get severely ill, but they will get infected and spread the virus to unvaccinated kids, who will have worse outcomes— Adams is throwing all elementary school kids under the bus. Dropping the mask mandate before all children can be vaccinated is unconscionable. Dropping the mask mandate before there’s a vaccine mandate is unconscionable. Who will suffer most? Low-income Black and brown students.
SS: I have a pre-K student (too young to be vaccinated) and a second grader (vaccinated), and with the lifting of the mask mandate I worry about the increased risk of exposure for my unvaccinated younger child. If our whole family were able to be vaccinated, I would be much less concerned about any exposures, but we’ve been working so hard this year to keep our home COVID-free for our little one in particular. I just wish this mask removal could be timed with a vaccine for younger kids (which I believe is predicted for later in the spring?) so that anyone who wanted to could get their kids vaccinated, and then have the peace of mind along with the comfort of unmasking.
DL: I have a child who is vaccinated, and a child under 5 unvaccinated. If my 3 year old was eligible for a vaccination – I would have no worries. Unfortunately I have no choice, we are still living in a pandemic and if anything, the new variants have gotten worse for us. The vaccine does little to prevent getting covid, and it only protects you against long covid and death. We have to be even more cautious with our 3 year old, which means making sure that my 6 year old does not get it from school. It bewilders me to think that parents under 5 have been forgotten about. Even the immunocompromised have less to worry about than us because they are eligible for a vaccination. Further, not all kids wear high filtration masks! My kid who wears an n95 against a kid who wears nothing will only protect her for 2.5 hours
AM: I’m pretty upset. Masks are a simple, effective way to keep schools open and safe, as well as protect the most vulnerable around us. Children don’t live alone. They come home from school to families and communities with members who are elderly, immunocompromised, and vulnerable to serious illness. I would add that while it’s true that case numbers are currently very low, and it might be a reasonable time to ease some restrictions, we need to know what the metrics are for putting the mandate back in place. If cases start climbing again, at what point do we re-mask? There needs to be very clear guidance on this.
TOO LITTLE, TOO LATE:
PK: Finally!!! I will never forgive or forget the people who forced this upon my children and society.
EK: We will never forget or forgive that our little kids and toddlers were forcibly masked for 2 years despite the data showing there is no benefit. While millions of kids and teachers went to school maskless in this and other countries, NYC kids continue to be deprived of seeing each other’s faces. Both groups got identical covid outcomes. Despite the data, mask hysteria continues.
ST: Too late, already left NYC schools due to unresponsive DOE and irrational, COVID-zero focused local community. Long past time to let kids get back to normal.
HT: My son now attends school in Westchester. They have as of today allowed masks to be your choice. My son is in K and we feel that indoors he should wear it (including the bus). Outdoors he should be OK. The school has overall been amazing in providing for the safety of the staff and children. They’ve had children and staff tested at school before breaks such as Xmas break when Omicron surged. Wearing masks and distancing has been implemented and I am very thankful to the Head of schools. Unfortunately, I fail to believe public schools have been as successful.
Now it’s your turn to speak out! Let us know your thoughts in the Comments!