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NEW YORK (PIX11) — Children between the ages of 2 and 4 years old will no longer be forced to wear face masks while inside schools and early childhood education settings beginning next week, Mayor Eric Adams said Thursday.

“I have always said that the science will guide us out of the pandemic, and because we have followed the data, which shows that cases are steadily falling, we’ve beaten back the latest COVID-19 surge,” said Adams.

As a result, the mayor said that he was comfortable with repealing the mandate requiring children aged 2 to 4 to wear face coverings in schools and other education settings, effective Monday.

Nevertheless, Adams encouraged New Yorkers of all ages to electively wear masks indoors. Masks will continue to be available for children and school workers who wish to cover up, Adams said.

The end of the mandate comes more than three months after Adams announced that students 5 and older could stop wearing masks at school. At the time of that March shift, children younger than 5 were still required to mask up because they were ineligible for the COVID-19 vaccine.

Adams had hoped to roll back the mandate for younger children in April, but he announced an about-face, citing rising COVID-19 cases the variant known as BA.2, or “stealth variant,” gripped the five boroughs. A Staten Island judge then overturned the mandate, but the city appealed, and a higher judge sided with the city.

The mayor said Thursday that city parents “can trust this administration to continue to make the proper public health decisions to keep our kids safe.”