NEW YORK CITY (WABC) -- New York City took another step in its return to normalcy amid the COVID-19 pandemic Monday, with the city dropping several safety protocols including the school mask mandate and vaccination requirements for businesses.
Restaurants and indoor venues, including restaurants, theaters and gyms, no longer have to require proof of vaccination.
"We are an exciting city and we want to enjoy our city again," said Mayor Eric Adams, who announced the relaxed coronavirus rules last week.
However, some public indoor businesses like Broadway shows are keeping their mask and vaccine requirements through at least the end of this month.
Masks will also still be required on mass transit and at medical facilities.
Most of the city's public school students were allowed in class without masks on Monday for the first time since March 2020. Masks are still required for children under 5, who are not eligible to be vaccinated against the coronavirus.
At P.S. 94 in Little Neck, the vast majority of students still worn their masks on Monday. Parents told Eyewitness News reporter Kristin Thorne they feel the masks are still an important level of safety.
At Il Bacco Restaurant they are looking forward to welcoming all patrons into their restaurant.
Manager Tina Oppedisano said in the last few months people have called asking if they can dine in the restaurant if they're not vaccinated.
"It's been difficult to have to say, no you can't," she said.
Oppedisano said her restaurant lost customers to restaurants in Nassau County, just 200 feet away, because of the vaccination requirement. Nassau County never required restaurants to check guests' vaccination status.
Tommy DeCanio, owner of Powerhouse Gym in Bayside, said he heard from a number of people on Monday who were looking forward to coming back to his gym rather than driving to gyms in Nassau County where vaccination status was not checked.
"It's going to be a great thing for business," DeCanio said. "We're years behind, we're years behind."
Adams praised New Yorkers for following rules on masking and social distancing over the past two years.
"We came together as New Yorkers and it was similar to what happened during 9-11," Adams said. "We stayed together while we were being attacked by terrorism and COVID was terror. "
The Key2NYC vaccination mandate was imposed last year by Adams' predecessor, Bill de Blasio, in a bid to increase vaccination rates by barring the unvaccinated from many activities. The city is dropping the mandate as other U.S. cities including Los Angeles and Chicago are also easing some virus rules.
Right now, the COVID infection rate is at 1.8% -- the lowest level since August and nearly 87% of adult New Yorkers are vaccinated.
New York and other cities are dropping virus rules as the most recent surge in infections fueled by the omicron variant wanes.
More than 4,000 people in New York City died of COVID-19 in January and February, making those two months the deadliest of the pandemic since the spring of 2020. New infections have plunged, though, in recent weeks.
The city is now averaging a little more than 700 new cases per day of the virus, the lowest infection rate since late July.
(The Associated Press contributed to this report)
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