NYC ends mask mandate for children in preschools, daycares

A student wearing a mask on her face and a blue smock to cover her clothes uses brown paint on paper plates.
A student at the Joan Snow Pre-K Center in Brooklyn paints while wearing a mask in November 2021. (Michael Appleton/Mayoral Photography Office)

Masks will be optional for New York City children under 5 in preschool and daycare programs starting June 13 as COVID rates have begun to drop, Mayor Eric Adams announced Thursday.

The announcement comes several months after Adams lifted the mask mandate for public school students, a decision he stuck by even as COVID rates surged over the spring. But he kept the mandate in place for the children attending early childhood programs. Earlier this year, he pointed to data that showed younger children with COVID were hospitalized at a higher rate than older children. 

Adams was expected to lift the mandate for children ages 2 to 4 in April but held off, saying he was heeding advice of public health advocates concerned about new variants and an uptick in cases. A legal challenge briefly put the mandate, but his administration successfully appealed that ruling. 

“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,” Adams said in a statement. “New Yorkers stepped up when we needed them most and have put us on the path to lower risk.”

New York City’s COVID transmission rate is still considered high, according to the city’s coronavirus tracker, but the seven-day average of cases citywide began dropping in late May. On June 8, there were 840 cases reported among students and school staff, education department data shows. Still, Adams has urged New Yorkers to continue masking indoors. 

“We still strongly recommend that New Yorkers of all ages continue to wear masks indoors and we will continue to make masks available for any child or school staff member who wishes to continue wearing them,” Adams said in a statement.

Adams’ decision to lift the mask mandate for K-12 students was met with disappointment by those still worried about contracting the virus and relief from those who had grown weary of masking. 

Christina Veiga contributed to this story. 

Reema Amin is a reporter covering New York City schools with a focus on state policy and English language learners. Contact Reema at ramin@chalkbeat.org.

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