Children at New York City public schools will finally be able to take off masks outdoors next week, but the face coverings will still be required when inside.
School Chancellor David Banks announced the move Friday amid cratering Covid cases and increasing pressure from parents and the community to do away with the controversial school mask policies.
Once a Covid hotspot, daily Covid cases in New York City have cratered, with the Big Apple only recording around 1,000 new cases per day – far below the peak of around 40,000 per day during the early-January peak of the Omicron surge.
Children also face little risk from the virus when they are infected, and outdoor transmission of Covid is rare – whether masked or not.
Children at New York City schools will no longer have to wear masks outdoors when they arrive back to class from break on Monday
‘I am so pleased that we are able to make this exciting announcement and safely allow students and staff to remove their masks when outdoors at NYC public schools,’ Banks said in a statement.
The move comes as there are discussions about rolling back Covid restrictions across the city.
Earlier this week, new Mayor Eric Adams said he ‘can’t wait’ for the city’s health officials to give him the greenlight to lift vaccine and mask mandates in the city.
New York Gov Kathy Hochul instituted a strict mask mandate late last year to combat with the Omicron surge, but lifted an indoor mask mandate for everywhere except schools earlier this month.
Masks are still required indoors in schools across the state under the governors orders, and New York City is still required to follow state orders.
Covid cases in New York are trending downwards, though, strengthening calls for remaining restrictions to be lifted.
Over the past two weeks, cases have halved, from 2,000 per day to 1,000 per day. Statewide, cases are down 56 percent over the past two weeks.
Forcing children to wear masks outdoors is a policy beyond typical recommendations from health leaders, and is a bizarre policy based on available information about the virus.
Transmission of Covid outside is very rare. Because air is constantly circulating aerosol droplets ejected by an infected person are quickly whisked away and do not have much of an opportunity to find their way into someone else.
Even for adults, risk of catching or transmitting the virus is very low.
Children also do not spread virus particles at the same rate as adults, a German study published earlier this week found, making the already minuscule risk of outdoor transmission even lower.
Young people are also among the least likely demographics to contract or fall fatally ill from the disease, leading to questions why vaccine or mask mandates would be implemented on children in schools.
Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that children make up less than 0.1 percent of deaths from the virus since the pandemic began in early 2020.
A study performed last autumn by the researchers at the University of Utah – before the more mild Omicron variant arrived – found that half of pediatric Covid cases were asymptomatic.
New York City students are currently on a February break, and will return to the classroom this week. Some are hopeful the Governor will lift the mask mandate in the wake of their return, though it is unknown whether city officials will follow.