KUALA LUMPUR, Mar 7 – New York City will no longer require residents and tourists to show proof of vaccination to enter restaurants and bars, gyms, and theatres as Covid-19 case numbers have sharply declined once again.
The rollback of the vaccine mandate follows similar moves in Boston, Philadelphia, and Washington, D.C., where restaurants can still voluntarily choose to require proof of vaccination to dine indoors as an extra safety precaution.
In announcing the guidance on Sunday, New York City mayor Eric Adams invited “people from Canada, from Arkansas, from New Zealand, from anywhere else,” to visit and spend money and called on New Yorkers to “go out this weekend and go dine” as the city pushes for a return to normalcy after two years of the pandemic.
Adams also announced that New York City will do away with several other mandates, including lifting face mask requirements in public schools. The city has about a million school children, making it the largest school system in the United States.
Face masks, however, will still be required for students younger than the vaccine-eligible age of 5. Parents can still send their children to school with masks if they prefer, and schools will provide face coverings for anyone in need, Adams said, acknowledging that it may take time for some to feel comfortable without masks in certain settings.
“We are not going to get in the way of your discretion and we want New Yorkers to be smart, flexible and be able to feel comfortable without any bullying, without any teasing. If you feel comfortable wearing your mask feel free to do so,” Adams said, as quoted by NBC New York.
“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, citing an in-school positivity rate of just 0.18 per cent.
Children and staff who return to school after testing positive for Covid-19 or experiencing symptoms will be required to wear masks until 10 days have passed since the diagnosis or symptoms.
The move follows new guidance from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that says most Americans can safely take a break from wearing masks, including students in schools.
Public schools in New York City will continue with other Covid precautions such as case surveillance, deep cleaning efforts, and weekly testing. Nearly 90,000 students and staff are randomly tested each week under the city’s Covid safety plan, and more than 20 million rapid tests have been distributed to children to take home.
“We will make proper public health decisions to keep our city safe. We will pivot if we see a reason to change any policies. We’re going to be unafraid to make those adjustments and changes.
“Covid changes. It shifts, it modifies. We must be open to do the same,” Adams said. “And if we see a rise in cases or hospitalisations, we’re going to come back. It’s imperative we know this battle is still on.”
As of March 6, the Covid-19 test positivity rate on a seven-day average in New York City stood at 1.41 per cent, according to city data, marking a steady decline in test positivity rates since the Omicron variant set off a surge in case counts in December and January. Across the city, 86.9 per cent of adult residents have been fully vaccinated.
Unchanged is the city’s vaccine requirement to work. All of the private-sector workers in New York City are still required to be fully vaccinated pursuant to the order put in place by former New York City mayor Bill de Blasio at the end of last year.
Also unchanged are mask rules for public transit. “The CDC will hand down their recommendations, but I’m not at the place where I think we need to spot wearing masks on the subways,” Adams said.