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NYC May Lift Rules Requiring Face Masks for Children under 5

NEW YORK — New York City Mayor Eric Adams is preparing to lift requirements that children under age 5 wear face masks in school.

Adams on Tuesday said that he will make masks optional for those in daycare and prekindergarten starting April 4 if case rates and the risk of the virus spreading remain low.

“We want to see our babies’ faces,” Adams said.

City officials said if trends continue as they have, they will lift the mandate. They said case rates were only one factor they were looking at and did not specify what thresholds of positivity rates or other metrics would cause them to reconsider.

The Democratic mayor two weeks ago lifted several pandemic-related rules, including requirements in place since the start of the pandemic that students 5 and older wear masks in school. The mayor kept the rule in place for younger children who are not eligible to be vaccinated.

Adams also recently rolled back rules requiring people to show proof of vaccination to dine in a restaurant, work out at a gym or attend a show or other events. The move came amid a push for a return to normalcy from the mayor and his counterparts around the country amid a steep drop in coronavirus cases and deaths.

Adams has so far opted to keep in place a rule requiring private employers to ensure their workers are vaccinated. The rule has drawn scrutiny for keeping Brooklyn Nets guard Kyrie Irving from playing home games with the team. Irving is unvaccinated and is currently allowed to watch home games as a spectator but not play or be in the locker room.

The rules also apply to the Yankees and Mets, which could leave unvaccinated players sitting out games in the coming season.

Adams wouldn’t say Tuesday if he’s considering lifting the rule but said he’s been peeling back rules one-by-one to see the impact of each change.

“They have to wait,” Adams said of the sports teams.

New York City’s infection rate has been climbing again lately, rising 50% over the past week. It is now averaging a little more than 950 new cases per day, comparable to the daily average in early November before the start of the omicron wave.

City Health Commissioner Ashwin Vasan says cases have increased slightly in recent days and officials will continue to watch the trends over the next two weeks before deciding whether to lift the rule.

Vasan said officials are closely monitoring the spread of a strain of the more transmissible omicron subvariant known as BA.2 and expect to see some rising cases.

City officials say if risk levels rise from their current low levels, it’s possible the city will reimpose mandates.

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