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Schools’ mask mandate could be lifted March 7

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Barring a surge in coronavirus cases, Mayor Adams was expected to announce March 4 the lifting of the mask mandate in city public schools. Should he do so, students and staff would enter school buildings without face coverings for the first time since the beginning of the pandemic starting next week.

“If we see no unforeseen spikes and our numbers continue to show a low level of risk, New York City will remove the indoor mask mandate for public school children, effective next Monday, March 7,” Mr. Adams said in a Feb. 27 statement. “Our schools have been among the safest places for our children since the beginning of the pandemic, and we will continue to make the proper public health decisions to keep our kids safe, including making masks available for any child or school staff member who wishes to continue wearing them.”

Plummeting virus numbers

The announcement came shortly after Governor Hochul said that the state’s mask mandate for schools would be lifted March 2, allowing municipalities to decide whether to continue masking requirements. City public schools also recently abandoned outdoor masking policies.


 

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So far this school year, there have been 175,145 staff and students who have tested positive for coronavirus, according to the Department of Education. But there were just 45 cases as of Feb. 27.

"We are very happy to see the numbers are going in the right direction,” Michael Mulgrew, the president of the United Federation of Teachers, said. “We will confer with our own independent doctors, look at the data from take-home test kits and random in-school testing this week, and make sure all of that is taken into account as New York City reviews its own school masking policy."

Some parents and legislators were concerned about the masking requirements being lifted because the vaccination rate varied greatly among the city’s public school students. Among students 5 and older, 59 percent have received at least one dose of the COVID vaccine, according to data released by the DOE Feb. 25.

But in several neighborhoods, particularly low-income areas, the vaccination rates lag. In school District 23, which is located in Brownsville and East New York, just 38 percent of students are inoculated. By contrast, in District 2, which covers schools in the Financial District, Chelsea, Midtown and the Upper East Side, 80 percent of students have gotten the shot, making it the district with the highest rate of inoculated students.

A spokesman said the DOE was “working with our partner health care agencies on an outreach campaign to encourage vaccination in the communities with the lowest rates.”

State Sen. Jabari Brisport was against ending masking in city public schools because vaccination rates among children “are nowhere near that of adults. Lifting the mask mandate in schools is premature.”

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