New York City Mayor Eric Adams and his health advisers reversed course Friday and said they will not lift mask rules on children in preschools and daycare centers.
They said a noticeable rise in coronavirus cases made them rethink the demasking decision.
The mayor had planned to lift the mandate on young children ages 2 to 4 on Monday but the BA.2 variant is slowly taking over and causing a potential surge.
“That’s why we’re recommending to wait a little bit longer before making masks optional for this age group,” city Health Commissioner Ashwin Vasan said.
They face a legal fight, however.
State Supreme Court Judge Ralph Porzio ruled that the mandate on young children in childcare settings is arbitrary, capricious and unreasonable. A group of parents had sued over the mandate, saying Mr. Adams lacked the authority to impose it and needed permission from the state legislature.
Mr. Adams said he plans to fight the ruling as his team tries to buy more time and assess a potential wave from the BA.2 variant.
“My legal team is going to put in place an appeal and asked for a stay we truly believe this is when within our powers to execute what’s best for the city of New York,” Mr. Adams said, adding he will abide by a final ruling.
The mayor’s team pointed to the fact that children under age 5 are ineligible for COVID-19 vaccines as cases rise from around 650 per day at the beginning of March to over 1,300 in recent days.
The decision to prolong the mandate will also stoke anger and confusion among parents who say children will struggle with socializing in a mask and tend to have less severe cases of COVID-19 than older persons.
Mr. Adams, a Democrat who took office in January, has been focused on reviving normal life in the city. He lifted mask mandates on older people and restrictions on New York-based athletes and entertainers who remain unvaccinated, notably clearing the way for Brooklyn Nets star Kyrie Irving to return to playing in home games.
“This afternoon we’re asking for a bit more patience and a bit of grace. Cases are definitively rising, and it’s gotten our attention. They will continue to rise over the next few weeks,” Mr. Vasan said.
He said while toddlers largely avoid bad outcomes, “we should have an extremely low tolerance for cases, for hospitalizations and for bad outcomes in our babies.”
Mr. Adams said his city will provide 6.3 million at-home tests in April through community organizations and other spots around the city, but the plan will need more help from the federal government.
“We remain committed to assisting the New York City congressional delegation as they work to secure COVID-19 supplemental funding, but inaction by certain members of Congress right now puts the whole country at risk,” the mayor said. “We need federal action now before we left to fend for ourselves if another surge hits our city.”
For more information, visit The Washington Times COVID-19 resource page.