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NEW YORK (PIX11) — Students in New York City can leave their masks at home come Monday if they want to, Mayor Eric Adams said Friday. 

Though Gov. Kathy Hochul had ended the state’s school mask mandate on Wednesday, Adams chose to spend a bit of extra time evaluating the move in the five boroughs. With students just returning from a mid-winter break, Adams wanted to watch for any changes in COVID case numbers.

“Our schools have been among the safest places for our children since the beginning of the pandemic, and we will continue to make the proper public health decisions to keep our kids safe, including making masks available for any child or school staff member who wishes to continue wearing them,” Adams said earlier in the week.

There are around 1 million students in New York City public schools set to be influenced by the masking change. 

“We want to see the faces of our children,” Adams said. “We want to see their smiles.”

Students who are under the age of five will need to keep wearing their masks since they are not yet eligible for the COVID vaccine, a City Hall official said.

Michael Mulgrew, president of the union representing New York City’s teachers, said Friday’s move was the right one.

“Our doctors agree with the city’s medical experts that this is the right time to safely move from a mask mandate to an optional mask system,” Mulgrew said. “Both the take-home tests and the in-school random tests showed no post-holiday spike and put the infection rate at less than 1 percent. This is the responsible, thoughtful way to make our next transition. We will, however, keep our testing program in place – both in-school and the take-home tests – to make sure we remain on the right path.”