NYC officials finally lifted the longstanding toddler mask mandate for children 2-4, just as the school year is set to end.
For many parents in The Big Apple, it has been a long uphill battle to get to this point. New York City officials just announced that they will (finally) lift the long-standing, contentious ruling keeping children in public schools under the age of five masked. The toddler mask mandate stayed in place despite city officials removing requirements for all other students months and months ago. But as happy as many families are, the ruling won’t make much of a difference, as city schools are nearing the end of the school year very soon.
New York City’s mayor, Eric Adams, announced the joyous news on Twitter Thursday, June 9th. Starting on Monday, June 13th, children aged 2-4 in public NYC schools will now have the option to wear masks. However, the timing of the ending of this toddler mask mandate fortuitously coincides with the end of the school year, which lets out in just two weeks.
Many parents have been advocating for the city to remove the toddler mask mandate for quite some time. Like many districts across the nation, NYC lifted school mask mandates for all students other than this age group over three months ago. Furthermore, school officials and Mayor Adams gave parents of toddlers the promise that they would soon be lifting that requirement for them as well.
As the Omicron variant and its coinciding subvariants brought another round of heightened cases of positive findings of the virus this spring, the school cited this as a reason to keep the toddler mask mandate in place. Furthermore, they noted another reason for needing to keep the controversial measure in place as a means to protect the youngest age group inside classrooms, who were unable to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.
According to The Post Millenial, Mayor Adams made a statement as to the city’s decision to finally lift the toddler mask mandate. He noted that data showed cases had been “steadily falling” as the city comes off its latest surge in cases. Additionally, city health commissioner, Ashwin Vasan, noted that this was the first time in two months that the positive rate had declined. Cases now have been decreasing since May 23rd.
Many are still wary about the looming lift of the toddler mask mandate. This isn’t the first time city officials promised date for the ruling to end. Fed up with the city’s promises and pushbacks, a group of parents came together earlier in may signing an open letter demanding that young children no longer be required to mask up in public schools – especially considering that outpouring of accredited data showing that the virus was far less harmful to young children. Many advocates for this felt it was cruel and unusual punishment to keep them covered while the rest of the city was able to walk around maskless.
As long as the ruling holds up, the toddler mask mandate will end as of today, and children ages 2-4 will be able to show their smiles – if they choose – for the first time this school year. It may only be for a short-lived period before summer break hits, but it is better than nothing for those who have waited so long for this day. As for next fall, however, parents and families eager to know if schools will remain mask optional will just have to wait and see what this summer brings.