THE NEW YORK TIMES – Mayor Eric Adams announced on Sunday that New York City was poised to eliminate school mask mandates and vaccine requirements for restaurants, gyms and movie theaters, by March 7, if case numbers remain low.
The rollback of pandemic restrictions, which had served as a crucial weapon in the city’s battle against the coronavirus, is a milestone that many hope will help to restore a sense of normalcy in the city and boost its economic recovery.
Mr. Adams has said for weeks that he is eager to remove virus-related restrictions across the city, including mask mandates in schools. In a statement on Sunday, he promised a final decision by Friday, saying:
“I want to thank the millions of New Yorkers who have gotten vaccinated to help stop the spread. New Yorkers stepped up and helped us save lives by reaching unprecedented levels of vaccination.”
The mayor said he wanted to give business owners time to adapt — a nod to the toll that the virus and related restrictions have taken on small businesses.
Both Mr. Adams and Gov. Kathy Hochul have focused on reviving the economy in New York City, where the unemployment rate has remained stubbornly high.
The news came hours after Ms. Hochul announced that the statewide mask mandate for schools would be lifted, empowering local officials to assess the need for additional restrictions in their schools. Vaccine mandates in New York City for municipal workers and private employers remain in effect.
“My friends, the day has come,” Ms. Hochul said, reiterating that the decision, which is set to take effect on Wednesday, came in consultation with public health and education officials.
In making her announcement, Ms. Hochul said that the mask mandate had been a vital aid in battling the Omicron surge:
“When I look back at what was going on just a short time ago, I am so happy that we did have a mask requirement in place for schools at the time,” she said. “That’s how we kept these numbers from getting even worse.”