Face masks remained mandatory for New York City toddlers in daycare and public 3-K school programs on Monday amid renewed court challenges and an omicron subvariant contributing to the latest trend in rising COVID cases citywide.
Democrat Eric Adams just two weeks ago had shared his plan to lift the order on April 4 for kids aged 2 to 4, who aren't yet vaccine-eligible, if the city's core viral rates remained low. The city's community-level risk is still low -- and it hasn't changed since the K-12 school mandate ended on March 7, but based on comments from the city's health commissioner, it may change soon.
New York City's new health commissioner, Dr. Ashwin Vasan, made comments Friday afternoon indicating Adams may not have lifted the mandate for 2-to-4-year-olds as hoped because of increasing transmission rates throughout the city.
"Cases are definitively rising and it's gotten our attention," Vasan said. "They will continue to rise over the next few weeks, and it's likely that over these weeks, we will move into a different level of overall risk across the city."
Vasan said he was "recommending" people wear masks in public, indoor settings. That doesn't apply to kids under 2, who haven't been subject to the mandates since the pandemic began. And this is a move erring on the side of caution.
One look at the citywide transmission trends should stave off some anxiety for many New Yorkers. Sure, the percentage increases can be alarming when you have a small number and double it. In some cases, the increases that appear to be "soaring" reflect just 20 new COVID patients or so. No cause for alarm, officials say.
The city's rolling COVID case average is up 41% compared with the average for the previous four weeks. In terms of raw numbers though, it's a 364-patient difference -- 364 patients in a city of more than 18 million people.
Most importantly, hospitalizations and deaths, the more critical COVID benchmarks at this stage, remain on a stable decline and are not expected to surge.
While BA.2 does appear to be "inherently more transmissible" than the original omicron strain, the World Health Organization has said, experts say they don't expect it to trigger a major resurgence given high vaccination rates and so many people having been recently infected with the first omicron strain.
BA.2 is now the dominant COVID strain in both New York and America. Last week, the feds authorized a second booster dose for millions more Americans to help stem the potential tide of new infections among the most vulnerable.