New York City schools will end their outdoor mask mandates starting Monday, but face coverings will still be required for all students, staff and visitors inside buildings, the Chancellor David Banks.
Other basic COVID protocols, such as increased ventilation, distancing where possible, distribution of test kits and daily medical screening, will also remain in place for now.
“Throughout the pandemic, our schools have remained among the safest spaces for our students and staff, thanks to our benchmark health and safety protocol,” Banks said in a statement. “I am so pleased that we are able to make this exciting announcement and safely allow students and staff to remove their masks when outdoors at New York City Public Schools.”
A spokesperson for the United Federation of Teachers, one of the strongest unions representing school workers in the city, backs the plan, saying in a statement: ‘This is the next step in carefully evaluating the procedures COVID by the school system”.
The developments come the same day the CDC is expected to relax federal mask guidelines, saying in part that most Americans do not need to wear masks in indoor public places. The new recommendations are part of an overall shift in focus for the Biden administration, moving from an approach of containing infections to mitigating serious illnesses and deaths related to COVID-19, the AP reported. .
A growing number of states have already relaxed mask guidelines — or scrapped rules entirely — amid rapid declines in new infections linked to the omicron variant and continued slowing COVID-related hospitalization and death rates.
Schools are one place in New York where mandates have lingered, even as New Jersey seeks to lift its indoor school mask rules early next month. Governor Kathy Hochul said she would consider doing the same across New York state, assuming kids return to school after winter break without new severe COVID spikes, though individual districts have always been allowed to apply stricter rules.
It’s expected that New York City will likely keep its indoor mask mandate through the April break, at least.