re-posted from NYC Rubber Room Reporter:
In 2005 I created the “Who Are You Kidding Award” for all politicians anywhere who say ridiculous things that are contrary to the truth (i.e. false, in my opinion). The first winner was Joel Klein, then Dennis Walcott and then Carmen Farina (twice!), Bill De Blasio, and the NYC Department of Education. Now, we are giving the Award to NYC Mayor Eric Adams.
But Adams — who previously vowed to lift the mask rule for the youngsters next week barring a COVID-19 spike — immediately appealed Porzio’s ruling. Adams cited a recent uptick in infections in the city driven by the highly contagious BA.2 omicron subvariant of the virus.
“I will continue to say to parents: You should keep your mask on your children,” Adams told reporters in a briefing at City Hall.
Appeals Judge Wooten’s order trumps that of the Staten Island Judge, and allows Adams to keep the mandate in place temporarily as the case is litigated between the administration and a parent group opposed to masking young children. Wooten scheduled a hearing for April 11 on the matter.
“Every decision we make is with our children’s health and safety in mind,” Adams wrote on Twitter after Wooten issued the stay. “Children between 2 and 4 should continue to wear their masks in school and daycare come Monday.”
Adams initially hoped to scrap the mask mandate for kids under 5 this coming Monday — but the BA.2 variant of COVID has caused him and his health experts to reassess.
At a City Hall briefing earlier in the day, Health Commissioner Ashwin Vasan declined to give a new date for when the administration may again consider allowing the toddlers to go without masks, only saying that his team is “reassessing the data every single day.”
Adams’ move infuriated parents who have demanded for weeks that he roll back the toddler requirement.
“We have unvaxxed NBA superstars able to play unmasked at Barclays Center … yet my 4-year-old has to wear a mask,” Queens resident Daniela Jampel said, referencing Adams’ controversial decision last week to exempt professional athletes and performers from the city’s coronavirus vaccine mandates.
Some studies have shown that kids under 5 are at risk of suffering socially and educationally from mandatory masking, while at the same time being at exceedingly low risk of developing severe symptoms if they catch COVID.
Abe Shampaner, the co-owner of the Learning Tree, a preschool in Queens, said he was dismayed by Adams’ decision to appeal Porzio’s ruling and questioned why the burden of mandatory masking should be placed on the city’s youngest residents.
“The kids are the least susceptible. Our concern is that they’re going to make them wear them indefinitely,” Shampaner said. “What is the point of the mask mandate (for toddlers) when you’re letting everyone go mask free?”
With coronavirus infections on the upswing, Adams and Vasan countered that it’s critical for kids under 5 to keep their masks on since federal regulators still haven’t cleared that age group to be vaccinated.
“We want to keep an eye on this latest uptick to ensure that our youngest New Yorkers remain safe as we see an increase in cases due to the more infectious BA.2 subvariant,” said Vasan, who warned that he expects cases “to continue to rise over the next few weeks.”
According to data from the State Health Department, the city’s average test positivity rate reached 2.01% on Thursday, far lower than where levels were during January’s omicron peak, but nonetheless an increase compared to just a few weeks ago.
Other parts of the state have fared way worse from BA.2.
The Central New York region’s average test positivity rate reached an alarming 9.35% on Thursday, the data show, and some public health experts are warning that the city should brace for the potential of a similar surge. Twelve people died from the virus statewide Thursday.
Declaring that it’s time to “prepare, not panic,” Adams said at City Hall that his administration will distribute 6.3 million free at-home tests at 2,500 locations across the city in the coming weeks.
He also took aim at Republicans in Congress for their reluctance to pass a $15 billion pandemic spending package aimed at ensuring adequate supplies of testing and vaccine across the U.S.
“The obstructionists in Washington, D.C., don’t really see how important this is,” Adams said.
Adams’ decision to keep the toddler mask mandate in place contrasts with his more laissez-faire attitude toward other public health precautions.
In early March, Adams scrapped the mask mandate for all school students older than 5. Around the same time, he rescinded the vaccine mandate for indoor activities like dining, drinking and exercising — opening the door for unvaccinated people to patronize bars, restaurants and gyms.
Last week, Adams also announced exemptions from the city’s private sector vaccine mandate for unvaccinated professional athletes and entertainers so that they can play sports and perform in the Big Apple again — a policy shift that drew intense backlash across the political spectrum.
Asked at Friday’s briefing how he justifies masking kids under 5 while letting unvaccinated athletes play sports, Adams demurred: “I listen to the advice of my doctors and this is what the doctors told me to do.”
City Council Speaker Adrienne Adams, who for months refrained from directly criticizing the mayor, was among the chorus of critics who blasted his sports-boosting exemption last week, saying that it sent the “wrong” message as cases spike.
On Friday, the speaker announced she had tested positive for COVID — and urged New Yorkers to remember that the pandemic is not over.
“We will eventually overcome this pandemic,” the speaker wrote in a statement, “but in the meantime, I encourage everyone to remain vigilant and continue to take the necessary precautions.”
The city’s youngest children must continue to wear face masks in school after an Appellate Division judge stepped in late Friday to uphold Mayor Adams’ mandate on the controversial issue — for now.
The order signed by Brooklyn-based appeals judge Paul Wooten capped a confusing set of legal developments that unfolded earlier in the day on the school mask mandate for kids younger than 5.