Mar. 4, 2022 By Michael Dorgan
New Yorkers are about to take a major step towards normalcy.
Vaccine requirements for businesses and most mask-wearing mandates in schools will be lifted across the five boroughs starting Monday as the city appears to be winning the battle against COVID-19.
The pandemic preventative measures – which have proven highly controversial — will be rolled back following plummeting coronavirus figures, Mayor Eric Adams announced Friday at a press briefing in Times Square.
Restaurants, gyms and indoor venues will no longer be forced to check the vaccination status of customers before allowing them entry – although employees at the establishments will still need to be vaccinated in order to work. The mandate was first introduced by former Mayor Bill de Blasio in September as part of his Key to NYC initiative and it was continued under Adams.
School mask-wearing mandates for kindergarten students through 12th grade will also be scrapped. However, kids in pre-K and daycare facilities will still be required to wear face coverings, Adams said.
“This is about giving people the flexibility that is needed to continue [safely], but we have to get our economy back on track,” Adams said in relation to the ditching of vaccine requirements for businesses.
“We are open for business and New York City has its groove back.”
The mayor said that businesses will still have the option to deny customers entry based on their vaccination status.
The announcement comes as the city’s COVID positivity rate has plummeted to 1.65 percent, according to city-data. In Queens, the latest 7-day average of positive cases is 131, down from an Omicron-driven peak of 12,592 on Jan. 3.
Adams said the school positivity rate stood at 0.18 percent, which is well below the city average. The figures were low enough for him to begin rolling back mask-wearing mandates in schools, he said.
“We want to see the faces of our children, we want to see their smiles, we want to see how happy they are, we want to see when they’re feeling sad so we can be there to comfort them,” Adams said.
“The masks prevented us from doing so for almost two years.”
Adams said students still had the option of wearing a mask in school if they so wish.
He also said that other COVID safety protocols like weekly testing, case surveillance and deep cleaning efforts will continue in public schools.
However, masks will still be required on public transport, Adams said, noting that the city still has to proceed with caution.
He warned that some of the measurements being lifted Monday may make a return if the city sees another spike.
“COVID changes, it shifts, it modifies, we must be open to do the same,” Adams said.
“And if we see a rise in cases or hospitalizations, we’re going to come back, follow the numbers and follow the science.”
New York City is leading the fight against #COVID19 and we’re winning. Join us at Times Square for a major announcement. https://t.co/lEK91gPYaQ
— Mayor Eric Adams (@NYCMayor) March 4, 2022