NEW YORK (WABC) -- New York City Mayor Eric Adams announced Tuesday that if COVID numbers continue to show a low level of risk, masks will be optional for kids ages 2-4 in day care and school starting on April 4.
"We can't go by the noise," he said. "We have to go by the science, and we have to go by the safety of our children. We have to do this right and get this right."
Despite the slight increase in recent infections reported by state officials on Monday, New York City Health Commissioner Dr. Ashwin Vasan stressed that the city is "more prepared than ever" to tolerate any increase across the hospital systems.
However, he noted that should the risk levels rise, prior to or after the mandate is lifted, masking requirements may have to continue.
Here is the full text of Adams' statement:
"I have always said that the science will guide us out of the pandemic, and because we have followed the data, we are winning the fight against COVID-19. New York City is currently in a low-risk environment. It's now been two weeks since we removed the mask mandate for K-12 public school children, and our percent positivity in schools has, thankfully, remained low. Each day, we review the data, and if we continue to see low levels of risk, then, on Monday, April 4, we will make masks optional for 2-4 year old children in schools and daycare settings. This will allow us sufficient time to evaluate the numbers and make sound decisions for our youngest New Yorkers. We must get this right for the health of our kids, and I refuse to jeopardize their safety by rushing a decision. Our schools have been among the safest places for our children since the beginning of the pandemic, and we will only remove this requirement if the science says that it is safe to do so. I've said it before: I'm with New York City parents and New Yorkers can trust this administration to continue to make the proper public health decisions to keep our kids safe. We will additionally continue to make masks available for any child or school staff member who wishes to continue wearing them."
A UFT spokesperson said the union agrees with the decision.
"Our doctors agree that the time has come to make masks optional for the youngest children, as long as we continue to closely monitor the infection rate," a statement read.
Still, health officials warned that just because the number of COVID cases is low does not mean the pandemic is over.
The cited the subvariant of omicron called BA.2 that state officials say now makes up 42% of all new cases and that number is growing.
There's been a 30% increase in cases in the past week, but officials stressed it is not yet cause for panic. The current spike has has COVID at about 11 cases per 100,000, up from eight per 100,000.
For context, a few months ago, it was more than 400 per 100,000.
The state is reminding people to not only get vaccinated and boosted but also to take advantage of new anti-viral treatments if they do get sick -- options that were not available two years ago.
"We want everyone to take advantage of the treatment window, which is five days from the inset of symptoms," state Health Commissioner Dr. Mary Bassett said.
There's also a major push to get more children vaccinated, as just 35% of 5- to 11-year-olds are fully vaccinated in New York.
The city announced Monday it is adding mobile vaccine vans outside some schools.
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