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No more masks in NYC schools, indoor venue can drop vaccine requirement

"We are open for business and New York City has its groove back," Mayor Eric Adams said announcing the lift of Covid-19 restrictions Friday.

MANHATTAN (CN) — New York City will no longer require masks in public schools or proof of vaccination in almost all public places, Mayor Eric Adams announced Friday.

While students will no longer be required to wear a mask indoors starting Monday, children under 5 will have to continue wearing a mask since they are too young to be vaccinated.

Speaking from Times Square, Adams said this has been a long time coming.

“We want to see the faces of our children, we want to see their smiles, we want to see how happy they are, we want to see when they're feeling sad so we can be there to comfort them,” the newly elected Democrat said. “The masks prevented us from doing so for almost two years.”

Also come Monday, businesses like restaurants, gyms and most entertainment venues will no longer require proof of vaccination to enter. 

Adams acknowledged that two years ago the city was the epicenter for Covid-19, but thanks to vaccines and the strict restrictions, there is light at the end of the tunnel. This means tourists should come to town and “spend some money,” he quipped.

“I’ve said time and time again that the numbers and science will guide us as we continue to recover and rebuild, and now New York City is back, and vaccinations are why we’re back,” Adams said in a statement. “New Yorkers should be getting out and enjoying our amazing city. The fight may not be over, but we’re clearly winning the war.”

Indeed, throughout the pandemic the Big Apple has been a hotbed for Covid-19, but according to the most recent data, the daily average for positive cases in the city is 1.6%, and in public schools it has dropped to 0.18%.

Not everyone will get to reap the benefits of the newly lifted restrictions, including public employees who are still required to be vaccinated. This includes Kyrie Irving, an unvaccinated player for the Brooklyn Nets, who will still not be able to play in home games.

A very small minority of teachers who have spurned vaccines have been pushing back on the mandate in court but to little avail. In the latest ruling against them Thursday, the Second Circuit called them unlikely to succeed on the merits.

Adams addressed this when faced with a question Friday by a reporter asking how it was fair that an unvaccinated tourist could come enjoy the city while unvaccinated city employees lost their jobs.

“How we determine fair and unfairness is in the court of law,” said Adams. “The court of law said it’s fair.”

City data shows that 77% of New Yorkers are fully vaccinated.

Jay Varma, a top health adviser to Adams' predecessor, Bill de Blasio, urged Adams not to stop requiring proof of vaccination in an opinion piece for Daily News, saying it incentivizes residents to get vaccinated.

Adams took time to thank de Blasio for how he handled the pandemic, despite “criticism for every decision he made."

“Some of you are sitting here today because of decisions he made,” said Adams.

Masks will still be required on public transit and in some indoor venues, including Broadway. Businesses still have the option to require proof of vaccination.

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