Mayor Bill de Blasio responded to his soon-to-be successor’s desire to get rid of mask mandates in city public schools, insisting Monday that it’s “too soon” to nix the face-covering requirement.
During a virtual press briefing, de Blasio said that while he shares Eric Adams’ wish to remove the face covering rule, it’s not yet appropriate to do so as the five boroughs head into cold-weather months and have yet to vaccinate enough students against COVID-19.
The response comes after Adams, who in January will take over control of City Hall, declared Sunday he would like to lift the mask requirement as soon as possible, since he fears mask coverings hinder development of students’ social skills,
“If we can find a safe way to do it, I look forward to getting rid of the mask,” Adams, currently the Brooklyn borough president, said on CNN. “Part of the socialization of a child is that smile.”
“Not being able to see the smiles of our children has a major impact,” he added. “But it must be done with the science, so we don’t go back to closing our city down.”
De Blasio said, “I think we all aspire to it. Let me be clear: I wear these a lot and like every other New Yorker, I’m looking forward to the day where I don’t have to anymore. “And I’d love to free our kids, our educators and staff from it, but right now, it’s too soon for that action.”
He added, “The day will come and I think it will come relatively soon, but we’re not there yet.”
Dr. Dave Chokshi is the city’s health commissioner. He expressed excitement about the possibility of allowing students to attend classes without covering their faces, but cautioned that it was not yet the right time.
“I think we all look forward to the day where our kids can take our masks off, but that is not today,” he said during the morning news conference. “Masks have been an important component of our layered approach to prevention along with vaccination, improving ventilation, distancing where possible and other measures.”
Adams’ remarks followed de Blasio and health pros acknowledging last week that they don’t have a COVID-19 vaccination level that would prompt them to remove the city’s mask-wearing mandates, despite kids over 5 years old now being eligible to get their shots.
“I would say, as a general view, that out of an abundance of caution, I would keep the masks in place, at least in the short term because they’ve really worked, because the kids have adapted to them well, the adults have adapted to them well,” the mayor said Thursday.
“But I would also say, as an everyday person, I look forward to the day when we don’t need them. We just need to make sure we’re absolutely certain that’s the right moment.”
Dr. Jay Varma, de Blasio’s top health adviser, added during the briefing, “We’re really not at a point right now to say that, at any given percentage of vaccinations, that all of our current mitigation measures could be removed.”
A day after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Tuesday signed off on Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine for kids 5 and over, de Blasio announced last week that jabs will be available for the age group at city-run sites.
New Yorkers over 12 have been eligible to receive their vaccinations since May, and City Hall has required Department of Education teachers and staff to be inoculated against the virus since early October.