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Mayor-Elect Adams Hints That Mask Wearing In NYC School Classrooms Could Be Over By End Of School Year

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- Mayor Bill de Blasio said Sunday that 93% of city workers are now vaccinated.

And with children as young as 5 now eligible for the COVID-19 shot, the city's incoming mayor, Eric Adams, hinted at a major change that may be coming inside the classroom, CBS2's Lisa Rozner reported.

Mayor-elect Adams said it's possible by the end of the school year masks may no longer be required while learning.

Lifting the mask mandate in classrooms is something Adams is considering. He spoke to CNN from the Dominican Republic on Sunday.

"I think it's imperative if we can find a safe way to do it," Adams said. "We are going to do it with the science. That is crucial to me. Let's follow the science, but I hope so. I think part of the development and socialization of a child is that smile."

An Adams' spokesperson said, "Any changes to the current policy would be guided by health experts."

Adams' comments came days after children ages 5 to 11 became eligible for the vaccine.

The Department of Education's web site shows COVID cases among students and staff make up a fraction of 1%. Last Thursday, the mayor and health commissioner said the masks will stay in the short term.

"Remember, it will take us some time for people to get to a fully vaccinated stage and to get a sufficient number of kids vaccinated," Dr. Dave Chokshi said.

This week, New York City is opening more than 1,000 pop-up vaccination sites at schools. The first shot of the Pfizer dose for kids will be administered and children must be accompanied by a parent or guardian.

When it comes to protecting the kids- we know you have concerns. Drop your question in comments and we'll get answers in an upcoming Town Hall. #cbsnewyork

Posted by CBS New York on Wednesday, November 3, 2021

The mayor-elect didn't say whether all children would be required to get vaccinated, but seemed optimistic about relaxing mask rules in schools.

"I cannot tell you, I look for that smile when I go visit schools. Not being able to see the smiles of our children, I believe that has a major impact," Adams said.

Parents and students had mixed reactions.

When given the hypothetical that she wouldn't have to wear a mask, fourth grader Makanna Rosen said that would make her, "Happy, because they kind of get annoying. It's hard to talk."

"For me, that's way too early. My kid went to daycare just one week and came home with a cold," Upper West Side resident Teisha Mott said.

"If they're vaccinated, why not?" Upper West Side resident Greg Hruby said.

"I like the fact that they're used to wearing masks and so once we take that away we're not going to be able to go back. So I want to be very confident it's the right decision," Allison Rosen added.

Some parents of special needs students said they feel the sooner the better, saying masks are impeding learning.

"Especially for a lot of these kids that can't pick up on social cues, to not be able to read somebody's expression or see their eyes. It has been detrimental for a lot of kids," Heidi Green of the Upper East Side.

"It's really hard to hear, especially if they're wearing a mask or a face shield," seventh grader Rosie Green said.

Adams did say any mask change would be done with science, so the city doesn't go backwards and have to shut down again.

If you have questions or concerns about the vaccine for children, let us know. Submit your questions here.

We'll answer as many as we can during an upcoming town hall on CBSN New York.

CBS2's Christina Fan contributed to this report.

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