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New York City keeping mask mandate for kids 2-4 in schools, day care centers amid new COVID infection surge

BA.2 subvariant alters Mayor Adams' plans to end mask mandate for children under 5 02:37

NEW YORK -- COVID-19 cases are back on the rise across New York City and they're being attributed to new subvariant BA.2, which doctors say is more contagious than Omicron.

CBS2's Lisa Rozner was on the Upper West Side on Sunday in one of 15 neighborhoods across Manhattan and Brooklyn the city says has the most new cases. While it is nothing close to the spike the city experienced during the winter, there is one change the city is making in response.

People were wandering around Columbus Circle masked and unmasked, but wearing a face covering will be required for the city's youngest children come Monday.

Mayor Eric Adams is postponing his plan to discontinue the mask mandate for students in preschool under the age of 5 for at least a week. For all other students, masks will remain optional.

This comes after the city's Department of Health said Friday the seven-day positivity rate was up 2.67 percent, up from 2.26 percent the week prior.

Dr. Ashwin Vasan, the city's health commissioner, tweeted, in part, "In the past, cases and hospitalizations have risen in this vulnerable age group along with wider community spread, usually lagging a couple of weeks behind. So we want to use every tool we have to slow that growth."

Dr. Dyan Hes runs Gramercy Pediatrics.

"These are the littlest kids who have the least burden of the pandemic," Hes said. "They're the last ones to get hospitalized or, you know, the numbers are way down, even with cases going up in New York City, hospitalization rates and deaths down. I think at some point we're not gonna have to test for COVID all the time."

CORONAVIRUS PANDEMIC

Government-imposed mask and vaccine mandates have been lifted for every other age group at places like gyms, restaurants and movie theaters. People attending Broadway shows and public transit must still wear masks.

The surge of new infections is also impacting Broadway. Performances of "Macbeth" have been canceled through Thursday due to positive COVID tests within in the company. Mask and vaccine policies will remain in effect at Broadway theaters through at least April 30. 

People using public mass transit must still wear masks.  

Hes says in the last week her office has seen slightly more cases of the flu, and a stomach bug.

"This is life. I mean, people forgot, you know. We've seen more ear infections in the last three months than we did in two years," Hes said.

New York state's positivity rate is 2.9 percent, while New Jersey's is 3.2 percent. While the Tri-State Area is still recovering from COVID, New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy spoke about the current conditions.

"We're still largely in a good place, but cases are rising," Murphy said.

He believes based on the science, the risk of death is low if someone is vaccinated and boosted. 

While speaking to CBS2's Jessica Moore on Friday, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the chief medical advisor to the president, weighed in on whether people should be getting a fourth dose of the COVID vaccine, which would be their second booster shot.

"Well, right now it's authorized for people 50 and older and those with underlying conditions, particularly immunocompromised. I, as a physician, would recommend that if it's available to them and you want that extra level of protection, I would go ahead and do it," Fauci said.

Fauci added the broader question is even if you get the second booster shot, will you still be immune in the fall when there could be another surge? For now, the city's health commissioner says he's wearing his mask in public indoor spaces and recommending others do so as well.

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