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Mayor Adams lifting mask requirement for children ages 2-4 on April 4

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Mayor Adams relaxes masking requirements for toddlers in preschools, nursery schools and day cares 02:49

NEW YORK -- Another step was taken towards normalcy on Tuesday as the Big Apple shrugged off another pandemic mandate.

Mayor Eric Adams has decided to relax masking requirements for toddlers in preschool, nursery school and day care, but only if COVID-19 rates remain low, CBS2's Marcia Kramer reported.

To mask or unmask young children who are not eligible to be vaccinated is an issue that has divided New York City parents, but Adams said he is ignoring the so called "noise" on both sides and is simply following the science.

"If the numbers continue to show a low level of risk, masks will be optional for 2- to 4-year-old students in schools and in day care," Adams said.

And with that the city peeled back another layer of restrictions in its march towards recovery from the pandemic. Starting April 4, parents can decide whether their little ones will mask up.

"If we see the levels of risk rise, either before or after the mandate is lifted, we may be here having another conversation," city Health Commissioner Dr. Ashwin Vasan said.

NYC lifting mask mandate for ages 2-4 next month 29:43

 The cautious approach is being taken to allow officials to track infection rates in grades K-12, where mask rules were lifted two weeks ago. They're watching a new Omicron subvariant, which has caused a slight increase in New York City's infection rate.

"We want New Yorkers to be prepared if there is another wave but able to engage with the world according to their comfort level," Vasan said.

"If we have to pivot and shift and come back here in a week and say we're going to do something different, we're going to do that. I'm not going to hesitate to say this is where the numbers are taking us, this is where the science is, and this is what we're going to do," Adams added.

Parents are divided about what they want for their kids. The head of the anti-masking group Mask Like a Kid says why wait.

"I'm shocked that we're still waiting two more weeks and I don't really understand what the science is or the parental will. We need to do it today," Natalya Murakhver said.

"I think it's a good idea. They need to see each other's facial expressions. Are they happy or are they sad? I think it's time. I really do," Julie Dichiacchia said.

"I think that's very silly for children who are still not vaccinated and even in the middle schools and high schools where a lot of kids are not vaccinated. My son is in middle school and one week after the mask mandate was taken away there's been at least two cases a week. Actually, we just got an email yesterday that there was another two cases," Dinella Ayala said.

And while all New York City kids will have the option to go maskless, the mayor said he's still not changing the vaccine mandates for New York sports teams. So, Nets basketball player Kyrie Irving will still have to get vaccinated to play in New York.


Mayor lifts mask requirement for ages 2-4

CBS News New York

New York City students ages 2 though 4 will no longer be required to wear masks in schools and child care settings starting April 4. 

Mayor Eric Adams and Health Commissioner Dr. Ashwin Vasan made the announcement Tuesday morning. They said the mandate will be lifted, as long as the risk level stays low. 

"We can't go by the noise, we have to go by the science, and we have to go by the safety of our children," Adams said. "We want to see our babies' faces." 

"Whatever we require as a city, some children and some parents will choose to stay masked, and some will not. Let's be respectful of whatever choice families make," Vasan added. "Let's be kind to each other when it comes to how we each manage our own risk. You don't know what life circumstances someone might be accounting for in their choice to remain masked. Let's remember that our shared experiences over the past two years should be a bond, not a wedge. We've been in this together, and the only way to get through this is indeed together."

The mayor said COVID rates have remained low since the city rolled back the mask requirement for older students earlier this month

Stick with CBS2, CBS News New York and for more on this breaking news.

By CBS New York Team

Health commissioner shares the science

CBS News New York

Health Commissioner Dr. Ashwin Vasan joined the mayor with the data behind the decision.

He said cases are increasing slightly citywide -- due, in part, to Omicron subvariant BA.2 -- but hospitalizations remain low.

"Over the next two weeks, we will continue to watch the numbers closely, as we have throughout our pandemic response. And if we see the levels of risk rise -- either before or after the mandate is lifted -- we may be here having another conversation," he said. "However, right now, we feel comfortable saying that if the risk level holds, masks can become optional for our youngest New Yorkers."

Vasan encouraged New Yorkers to get vaccinated and get boosted, and said anyone experiencing symptoms should get tested right away and know there are treatments available. 

By CBS New York Team

Setting the stage

Last week, the mayor's new Health Commissioner took over and led his first COVID briefing

Dr. Ashwin Vasan faced questions about when the city will allow children under the age of 5 to lose their masks. 

"I think it's indefinite at this point. People who have tried to predict the future in this pandemic have had egg on their face, and I'm not going to do that today," he said. 

Tuesday's announcement also comes as a new Omicron subvariant, called BA.2, is rapidly spreading in New York and New Jersey.

"We're not being alarmist about it. We're just transmitting the information as we get it," Gov. Kathy Hochul said Monday. "But the number one basic way to deal with this right now is if anyone feels symptoms at all, just get tested immediately. That's how we can stop it from spreading."


By CBS New York Team
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