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NYC's new Health Commissioner Dr. Ashwin Vasan says kids should keep masks on until they can be vaccinated

NYC's new health commissioner says unvaccinated children should continue wearing masks 01:56

NEW YORK -- During his first press conference, the city's new health commissioner made the case for maintaining mask mandates for young children. 

This contradicts Mayor Eric Adams' promise this week, assuring parents their kids wouldn't have to wear masks much longer. 

Watch: NYC Health Commissioner Dr. Ashwin Vasan's first COVID briefing 27:53

Dr. Ashwin Vasan says until city children are old enough to get vaccinated, the masks stay on. 

"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," Vasan said. 

He said he didn't reach that conclusion easily. 

"As a father of a two and a half year old and two other older kids, I want to keep them as safe as possible. I would love nothing more than to send my son to daycare without a mask. But as a scientist, and as a doctor, and an epidemiologist, I want to keep him safe," Vasan said. 

The city's new top doctor cited high hospital rates among children under 5 for his position on masks, which appears to directly contradict Adams' position on the issue. 

On Thursday, Adams was confronted by angry parents demanding he reverse the mask mandate for toddlers and told them, "I got this. They will be unmasked."

Parents who spoke to CBS2's Thalia Perez shared that sentiment.

"We don't want to wear them. And we have immune systems. This is what we're designed to do. We'll fight it," Middle Village resident Francesca Amodeo said.

"Children under 5 should be able to breathe and have fresh air, not stay with masks indoors all day long," Middle Village resident Andrea Cornea said.

The renewed debate over masks comes amid concerns about the new Omicron subvariant BA.2. BA.2 now makes up nearly 25% of new COVID infections in the U.S., and 39% in New York and New Jersey. Health officials say it does not appear to cause more severe illness, but data shows it's 30% more transmissible. 

"We're keeping a close eye on the numbers, and we'll continue to let you know what they tell us. At the same time, we know the increase in cases in other parts of the world can be worrisome," Vasan said.

Also Friday, the city announced vaccine mandates for privates businesses will remain in effect indefinitely. 

Vasan also reminded New Yorkers to take the time to assess their mental health, and seek help if needed. 

"We've all been through so much over these past few years and continuing coverage adds to strain of wellbeing," Vasan said. 

He encouraged New Yorkers to get vaccinated and boosted as the best line of defense.

Extended interview: Dr. Dave Chokshi reflects on guiding New York City through the pandemic as healt 06:10

As he left his post, former Health Commissioner Dr. Dave Chokshi passed along some tips for Dr. Vasan.

"The advice that I have for him is to follow his core values and his convictions. For all the credentials that we have as doctors, it was much more my convictions than my credentials that I relied upon during this crisis," Dr. Chokshi told CBS2's Jessica Moore in a one-on-one interview

Meanwhile, Moderna is asking the FDA to authorize a fourth COVID vaccine dose for all adults. Earlier this week, Pfizer asked for emergency approval for a fourth dose of its vaccine, but only for people 65 and older.   

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