Mayor Eric Adams announced that COVID-19 vaccine cards would no longer be needed at restaurants, bars and other venues in New York City starting Monday. The mayor also said schoolchildren wouldn't have to wear masks in schools beginning Monday. Credit: NY Mayor's Office

New York City on Monday will end its proof-of-vaccine mandates for venues like restaurants, bars and theaters — and is lifting a mask requirement for most of those in the public schools, Mayor Eric Adams said Friday.

Adams pointed to the city's low COVID-19 positivity rate, 1.8% averaged over seven days.

"Folks can come in and enjoy the restaurants, enjoy the businesses and be a part of this great city without having to show proof of vaccination," he said, adding that venues can still opt to require vaccinations. The mayor said that venues choosing to keep the vaccination mandate have the legal right to refuse admission to an unvaccinated person.

What to know

  • New York City will end its proof-of-vaccine mandates for venues like restaurants, bars and concert halls on Monday.
  • New York City also will lift a requirement for masking in K-12 public schools on Monday.
  • Both Nassau and Suffolk reported fewer than 100 new cases on Thursday. Also, no deaths were reported in either Nassau or Suffolk counties.

At school, students and staff can still wear masks if they want, Adams said. But the rule, in place since 2020, will be rescinded.

"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 that we can be there to comfort them, and a mask prevented us from doing so for almost two years."

Meanwhile, Friday's state report on virus numbers continues to show the virus on the retreat. Both Nassau and Suffolk reported fewer than 100 new cases on Thursday.

No deaths on Long Island

Nassau had 94 cases and Suffolk had 83 on Thursday, the state said.

Also, no deaths were reported in either Nassau or Suffolk on Thursday, the report said. New York State had 17 COVID-19-related deaths, the report said.

Long Island's seven-day average of positive test results dropped from 1.79% on Wednesday to 1.68% on Thursday, the report said.

In New York City, Adams said students younger than 5, an age group that cannot be vaccinated, still must be masked.

Asked whether extra spacing and other mandates in the schools would continue, outgoing Health Commissioner Dr. Dave Chokshi said: "Most of them will remain as they are. We’ll continue to evaluate them one by one as the transmission rate evolves, but what we want to do is, particularly because we are lifting one of the layers, the universal mask requirement, we want to keep most of the rest of it consistent as that happens."

Adams did not rule out bringing back some or all of the rules if infections or other indicators rise.

"COVID changes and shifts and modifies," Adams said. "And if we see a rise in cases, or hospitalizations, we're going to come back."

Asked whether he’d rescind the mandate requiring vaccination for public and private-sector workers, Adams said: "Not at this moment" as the city awaits getting "better and better … with these numbers."

Emotional exhale

The mayor's announcement, which he made Friday morning in Times Square, marks a bright moment in the two-year battle against the coronavirus.

Across Long Island, from classrooms to hospitals, people are saying they feel a sense of relief, a kind of emotional exhale.

"It's like a 10-pound weight has been removed. The lower [positivity] rates are liberating," said Dr. Bruce Farber, chief of public health and epidemiology for Northwell Health.

Farber, who works in North Shore University Hospital, says he's let his own life open up more, getting together with people, going out to eat and visiting the gym.

Still, Farber says it's not time to relegate COVID-19 to the background of our lives.

"We've been burned too often by this virus. Last summer it seemed like it was over, but it wasn't," he said. "But we should celebrate this moment."

People are opening up at their own speed, especially in schools where the mask mandate was lifted on Wednesday. In the Jericho school system, a majority of the students and staff continue to wear masks, said Superintendent Henry Grishman.

"There's a sense of relief for some," Grishman said. He emphasized that whether or not a person is wearing a mask, they're still shown respect for their decision. "They're accepting that this is a period of transition."

Christina Haubeil with her children, twins Corinne and Jacob Haubeil, 11,...

Christina Haubeil with her children, twins Corinne and Jacob Haubeil, 11, in front, and John Paul Haubeil, 15, on Friday in Wantagh. Credit: Debbie Egan-Chin

Kids react to no masks in schools

Christina Haubeil says she has three children in the Wantagh school system, and each has had their own reaction to the lifting of the mask mandate.

Her son Jacob, 11, a fifth-grade special-education student at Forest Lake Elementary, was elated over the prospect of not having to wear a mask.

"He was beaming. He was so happy," Haubeil said.

Jacob's twin sister, Corinne, a fifth-grader at Mandalay Elementary, has actually come to like wearing a mask. She had been bullied and the mask made her feel more anonymous, her mother said.

"She said she wouldn't wear it today," Haubeil said, adding that this is an adjustment period for her daughter.

Her oldest son, John Paul, 15, a 10th-grader at Wantagh High School, has been apprehensive about losing the mask, she said. He went to grab one on the way out Wednesday morning, but left it behind when his mother reminded him he didn't have to wear it.

Haubeil says she believes the country has "turned a corner" regarding the virus. Visiting Wantagh High School on Thursday, she said she saw most students weren't wearing masks.

"COVID will remain but we have all the vaccines and the antiviral pills. So we have better ways to fight it," she said.

She added, "It's probably going to end up like the flu. Things are going to get better and better."

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