New York City's Pre-K Students to Potentially Remove Masks Next Month

New York City Mayor Eric Adams announced Tuesday that preschool children and those younger may be able to stop wearing masks at the beginning of next month if COVID-19 risks remain low.

It's not clear how Adams will determine the risk level, but ending the mask requirement for public schools and day care facilities could start April 4, local NBC reporter Adam Kuperstein reported on Twitter. Earlier this month, the mayor made masks optional in schools for children 5 and older. But children aged 2 to 4 were still required to wear them because they are not eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine.

The latest mask announcement in the city comes as a new subvariant of Omicron, BA.2, is increasing coronavirus case numbers worldwide, and there are fears it may cause another surge in the country. New York state officials say the subvariant makes up 42 percent of all new cases. In the past week, there was a 30 percent increase in the state's seven-day new case average per 100,000 residents, WABC-TV reported.

"We can't go by the noise. We have to go by the science and the safety of our children. We have to get this right," Adams said, according to WNBC-TV. "Let's not think this is one-sided because it's not. The only way you do it right is to follow the science and follow the numbers. I can't have my city and our city close down again."

As of Tuesday morning, the weekly case average in New York City had increased 12 percent. There were 763 new cases on Monday, but hospitalizations and deaths remain low. Meanwhile, over half of children aged 5 to 17 are fully vaccinated in New York City, while nearly 34 percent are not vaccinated at all.

"We must get this right for the health of our kids, and I refuse to jeopardize their safety by rushing a decision," Adams said, according to WABC.

Since the removal of mask mandates for K-12 public school students in the city, the test positivity rate for infections has remained low. If the trend continues for the next two weeks, the mayor will adjust the rules beginning on April 4. However, masks will still be available for anyone who wants to continue wearing them.

"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," Adams said, according to WABC.

Meanwhile, New York City launched a campaign on Monday to raise vaccination rates among children 5 to 11 because of an uptick in cases resulting from the new Omicron subvariant. There will be 20 pop-up locations, but the city will not announce them publicly. Instead, the student's principals will be reaching out to parents directly, WABC reported.

Update 03/21/22, 11:40 a.m. ET: This story was updated with additional information and background.

New York Pre-K May End Masks
New York City preschool children and those younger may be able to stop wearing masks at the beginning of next month if COVID-19 risks remain low. Above, a student adjusts her face mask at St. Joseph Catholic School in La Puente, California, on November 16, 2020. Frederic J. Brown/ AFP/Getty Images