Big Apple officials on Thursday could not say what it would take to lift the mask requirement in public schools — even as kids ages 5 and up can now get the COVID-19 vaccine.
At his daily press briefing, Mayor Bill de Blasio was asked about whether there was a specific threshold for the city to reach in order to nix masks in the classroom.
“It’s a great question, is that point anytime soon? I would say, as a general view, that out of an abundance of caution, I would keep the masks in place, at least in the short term because they’ve really worked, because the kids have adapted to them well, the adults have adapted to them well,” he replied.
“But I would also say, as an everyday person, I look forward to the day when we don’t need them. We just need to make sure we’re absolutely certain that’s the right moment.”
Dr. Jay Varma, the mayor’s top health adviser, conceded City Hall couldn’t yet determine what percentage of students need to be vaccinated in order to make masking up in schools no longer necessary.
“We’re really not at a point right now to say that, at any given percentage of vaccinations, that all of our current mitigation measures could be removed,” said Varma, who joined the mayor’s press conference.
Dr. Dave Chokshi, the city’s health commissioner, cautioned against removing COVID-19 safeguards too soon.
“Our precautions have worked. We’ve been able to keep schools safe with the layered approach to prevention,” he said at the briefing. “Not just masking, but very importantly, vaccination and bringing to bear testing and distancing and ventilation as well.”
“We have to resist the temptation to throw caution to the wind too quickly.”
Still, the mayor predicted mandatory masks in schools will not be permanent — provided enough New Yorkers agree to get their jabs.
“I believe it’s quite possible to get COVID by next year to the place where the flu is in our lives, where yeah, you’ve got to take a simple precaution, but it’s an easy precaution, and you don’t need a mask,” he said, in comparing flu shots to the COVID vaccine.
De Blasio announced Wednesday that beginning Thursday, kids ages 5 to 11 can receive Pfizer’s COVID-19 jab at city-run sites. New Yorkers over 12 have been eligible to get inoculated against the virus since May.
City Hall’s vaccine requirement for the city’s public school teachers took effect Oct. 4. In August, the New York State Department of Health issued a mask mandate for public and private schools.