Covid is officially over.
On Friday, NY Mayor Eric Adams said that come Monday, hundreds of thousands of public school students in the nation's largest district and their educators can ditch face masks indoors as he announced the looming end of one of the most profoundly hated longstanding mandates of the COVID pandemic, one which Congress also strategically dropped the day before Biden's SOTU address in response to dismal internal polling. Face masks will still be required for students younger than the vaccine-eligible age of 5, though, the Democrat announced, which affects some pre-K classes, all 3-K classes and many daycare and kids' programs overseen by the health department.
Also effective next week: businesses throughout NYC's five boroughs won't have to check vaccine cards at the door either starting next week, though they can continue to do so if they choose. The rule mandating employee vaccinations, though, remains in effect. Asked whether he may shift NYC transit mask rules should the CDC opt to change its guidance on that front when it revisits the issue March 18, Mayor Eric Adams said he isn't prepared to do that just yet
Parents of kids affected by the mandate's lifting can still send them to school with masks if they prefer, and schools will have face coverings handy for anyone in need.
Adams acknowledged "it may take time for some to feel comfortable without masks" in certain settings - if not so much children who can't wait to drop the loathed facial diapers, as much as their snowflake parents - and he said the city fully supports their right to discretion.
"We are not going to get in the way of your discretion and we want New Yorkers to be smart, flexibility and be able to feel comfortable without any bullying, without any teasing. If you feel comfortable wearing your mask feel free to do so," he said.
But it's time to lose the rule, the mayor said, citing an in-school positivity rate of just 0.18% -- on top of a lower-than-neighborhood average rate throughout the entire pandemic -- and drastically receding viral metrics across the board.
"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 masks prevented us from doing so for almost two years," Adams said.
Health "experts", who have become the laughing stock of the nation by confirming that Covid was never about science but purely about politics, say government officials have reached a point in the pandemic where they have to weigh public health policy as much as the science itself. Covid rates have dropped precipitously - the seven-day positivity rate is down to 1.8% - and nearly 87% of New York City adults have received two doses of the vaccine.
“There’s a reward for making this kind of incredible progress, and part of that is not having to constantly be checking people’s vaccine passes,” said Anna Bershteyn, assistant professor of population health at NYU Grossman School of Medicine. “We’re lucky to be in an in-between wave time right now. In general, now is the time to take a breath, get back to normal activities.”
Bershteyn said lifting the vaccine mandate for indoor activities is a reasonable step for Adams to take, and removes the inconvenience of digging out vaccine cards each time someone goes to a restaurant or the gym. It also creates more friction than the employer vaccine mandate, which requires minimal effort from city residents who would only have to prove their vaccination status at work once, she said.
She warned New Yorkers that this isn’t necessarily the end of the pandemic era. “Its entirely possible we’ll get another wave and we’ll need to tolerate these inconveniences again to stay safe,” she said. “We just have to get used to the fact that these things are going to come on and off, just like a coat in cold weather.”
To that end, Health Commissioner Dave Chokshi announced the launch of a color-coded Covid risk alert system to “give New Yorkers a road map for how to mitigate their own risk today or in the future, in the event we see a surge or increase in transmission,” he said. “While this Covid-19 wave is ebbing, we can’t yet say the pandemic is ending. We still have more work to do.”
And if cases surge again? “We will pivot if we see a reason to change any policies,” Adams said. “We are going to be unafraid to make those adjustments and changes.”
Sick of the propaganda, city restaurateurs celebrated the end of the vaccine mandate. They found checking customers’ vaccine passes tedious, costly and sometimes dangerous, as staff were forced to question, and possibly confront unvaccinated customers.
“It feels like a waste of time, like bureaucracy to check vax cards at this point,” said Justin Lee, chef and owner of the Lower East Side restaurant Fat Choy. “It can slow down service, there’s only so many people at a door that can check vaccines,” he said. “When we think about omicron, anyone who is asymptomatic can walk in with their card and still spread it everywhere.”
New York’s lifting of restrictions follow similar moves by Boston, Washington, D.C., and Philadelphia, and are, in part, intended to help lure visitors to the city. “That’s why we’re here in Times Square,” Adams said. “To tell people from Canada, Arkansas, from New Zealand to come here. But don’t come here and just walk, spend some money.”