STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. — All New York City children in schools, pre-K centers, and day cares now have the option to wear a face mask starting Monday.
Mayor Eric Adams announced last week that the city’s youngest students — kids under 5 years old — will no longer be mandated to wear a face-covering as a safety protocol amid the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. It marked the final age group to have its mask mandate lifted in New York City early childhood settings.
“Throughout the current wave, schools have remained the safest places for our children, and beginning Monday, June 13, we will make masks optional for 2- to 4-year-old children in all early childhood settings,” Adams said in a statement.
The mayor explained that the decision was made by following the science, and that data shows that cases are steadily falling after the latest coronavirus surge. The city continues to strongly recommend New Yorkers of all ages continue to wear a mask indoors. Masks will still be available to any child or school staff member who chooses to wear one.
All New York City public school children 5 years old and older were able to ditch their face masks on March 7.
Adams intended to lift the in-class mask mandate for students under 5 years old in early April, but due to rising coronavirus cases throughout New York City, the mayor and Health Commissioner Ashwin Vasan said they believed the mandate should stay in place in order to better protect some of New York City’s most vulnerable residents. This is because kids under age 5 aren’t eligible to get vaccinated against the coronavirus, the pair said at the time.
Kids under 5 who attend private or parochial school were able to ditch face masks in March after the state lifted the mandate for schools. In a letter sent to the Catholic school community at the time, Michael J. Deegan, superintendent of schools, said that the Archdiocese was no longer legally obligated by the state to mandate mask-wearing in schools.
“As such effective March 2nd, the wearing of a mask by an adult or children in all Catholic Schools in the Archdiocese of New York will be recommended but NOT REQUIRED,” Deegan wrote in that letter. “We will encourage the continued use of masks but will respect the choice of each parent and staff member.”
However, 3-K and pre-K programs contracted with the New York City Department of Education (DOE) would still follow the city’s requirements.
Now, all kids under 5 years old will not be required to wear a face mask in DOE schools or day-care centers – including those contracted with the Archdiocese.