NEW YORK — Come Monday, the 1 million students in New York City public schools will no longer have to wear face masks indoors, for the first time since schools reopened for in-person instruction in the late fall of 2020. Also on Monday, the city’s Key to NYC Program will be suspended; it required people to show proof of vaccination in order to enter restaurants, bars, gyms, movie theaters and other venues since it was first implemented last September.
Mayor Eric Adams made the change official at an outdoor news conference in Times Square on Friday morning.
“I’m announcing today we’re lifting the indoor mask requirement for grades K through 12 starting Monday, March 7,” the mayor said, while a variety of other public officials — including Lt. Gov. Brian Benjamin — sat on either side of him.
The school mask change makes it optional to mask up inside schools. Parents who spoke with PIX11 News gave a variety of responses to the new situation, but a majority were like Lesly Rios. She’s the mother of a third grader.
“Kids are kids,” she said. “They don’t sanitize, they sneeze, [my daughter is] going to keep wearing a mask.”
Carlos Gonzales, who was with his first grade son, said, at the moment, it’s better to keep the masks on.
Robert Ivanovh’s son is in kindergarten. He asked his son if he wanted to wear a mask on Monday, when it becomes optional. His child shook his head no.
“It’s been two years,” he said, adding that that was almost half of his son’s life. “It’s time to move on.”
Some parents of pre-K students aren’t pleased that their kids still have to mask up. Cassandra Sevilla is among a variety of parents speaking out.
“A group of children that the World Health Organization doesn’t think should be masked ever in the first place,” she said in an interview with her husband, Antonio. “So it’s very difficult for us to see that.”
The mayor chose Times Square as the venue for the announcement in order to convey a message that New York is back. He was joined by Health Commissioner Dr. Dave Chokshi. They cited much lower COVID dangers in the city for being able to make changes.
Another change they announced was the lifting of the Key to NYC requirements.
Markos Triantafyllou, who owns the Vernon Grill Greek restaurant, said that to him, it feels like the city is catching up to what’s been needed for some time.
“I live in Astoria and work in Long Island City,” he said, “and wherever I go… nobody asks for vaccination card, nobody wears a mask. It’s like it’s already done.”
Also announced on Friday was a new city initiative. The health commissioner, in his last major public appearance before leaving office, spoke about it.
“Today we’re releasing a new COVID alert system,” he said. “There are four color coded levels … right now, we’re in green.”
If the city reaches higher levels of intensity, according to the city’s Dept. of Health and Mental Hygiene, it can reinstate mask mandates and requirements for proof of vaccination.