NYC drops most COVID mask and vaccine requirements

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(NEW YORK) — New York City dropped several of its COVID-19 mandates on Monday, including mask and vaccine requirements.

Restaurants, bars and other indoor public areas — including gyms and entertainment venues — will no longer be required to ask people for proof of vaccination under the “Key to NYC” vaccine passport program.

Additionally, masks will be optional for public school students aged 5 and older.

When announcing the changes Friday, Mayor Eric Adams said it was time to drop restrictions because COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations are declining and more than 75% of New York City residents are fully vaccinated.

“Two years ago, we were the epicenter of the COVID virus, and two months ago we became the epicenter again under omicron,” he said during a press conference in Times Square. “New Yorkers stepped up. They heard the call and they responded. We did the masking, we did the social distancing, we did the vaccinations and boosters shots.”

Although he acknowledged “COVID is still here,” he said “we are beating it back” and added that the next phase of the pandemic response will focus on reviving New York City’s economy.

“The overall restriction is being removed. This is about giving people the flexibility that is needed to continue to allow not only safety, but we have to get our economy back on track,” Adams said. “It’s time to open our city and get the economy back operating.”

However, other COVID restrictions will remain in place.

Any settings with children under age 5, including daycares, will still require masks, and K-12 schools will still have daily screenings to check for any students exhibiting symptoms.

In addition, anyone using public transit — including trains, buses, taxis and ride-share services — must wear masks.

Some indoor businesses have said they will keep their mask and vaccine requirements in place.

The Broadway League, which operates all Broadway theaters, said its guidance on masks and proof of vaccination for audience members will last until at least April 30, 2022.

Adams also said Friday the city will neither be lifting its municipal employee vaccine mandate nor reinstating any unvaccinated workers who were fired.

“The overwhelming number of New York City employees did the right thing, and it sends the wrong message,” he said. “We can’t send the wrong message that, when we say something, we’re going to change and vacillate.”

The city is currently recording a seven-day rolling average of 569 COVID cases, the lowest seen since October 2020, according to NYC Open Data.

Additionally, the test positivity rate has also dropped by nearly half from 2.65% to 1.41% over the last 28 days, data from the city’s Department of Health & Mental Hygiene shows.

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