Vaccine passport and masking requirements in New York City will be lifted on Monday, Mayor Eric Adams announced Friday, including the city's school mask mandate and vaccination requirements for restaurants, entertainment venues, and other public indoor spaces.
The mayor made the announcement in Times Square, telling New York residents that while the coronavirus pandemic is not over, it is now safe enough to suspend the heavy restrictions enacted over the past two years.
"We're far from out of the woods," Adams said. "COVID is still here. But we are beating it back."
"Proof of vaccination will no longer be required for indoor venues like restaurants, bars, gyms, and entertainment venues, but business owners may voluntarily ask customers for proof of vaccination if they choose too," the mayor announced, declaring suspension of the Key2NYC program.
"Schools have remained among the safest places in the city throughout this pandemic, with record low numbers of infections. Beginning Monday, March 7, the indoor mask mandate will be removed for @NYCSChools K-12," he said.
The mayor's announcement follows the release of a study by epidemiologists at Yale University that estimated New York's COVID-19 vaccination campaign has prevented 48,000 deaths, 300,000 hospitalizations, and 1.9 million cases, the city health department said.
"COVID-19 vaccines have saved so many lives and prevented an immense amount of suffering," Health Commissioner Dr. Dave Chokshi said, according to WABC-TV. "Nearly 48,000 New Yorkers will celebrate another birthday this year due to the power of vaccination."
New York will leave some pandemic restrictions for young children in place. Mask mandates for children younger than age 5 will not be lifted because these children are not eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccine.
"Masks will continue to be required for all settings with children under 5 years of age, including programs contracted by the New York City Department of Education with 3- and 4-year-old children as well as 3K and 4K classrooms in district schools," the mayor said.
"When you looked at those under 5, they were more likely to be hospitalized," Adams said. "People wanted to say let's lift it across the board. But that's not what the science is telling us."
Children under age 5 are at an extremely low risk of COVID-19 mortality. According to CDC data, a total of 307 children have been recorded with "COVID-related" deaths since the pandemic began two years ago, out of approximately 20 million children in the U.S. between ages 0-4. Studies have found deaths from COVID-19 among children to be "incredibly rare."
COVID-19 vaccine mandates will also remain in effect, the mayor announced. Employees are still required to be vaccinated unless they have received a reasonable accommodation from their employer.