Children and their guardians wear masks as they leave P.S. 64...

Children and their guardians wear masks as they leave P.S. 64 in Manhattan's East Village on Dec. 21, 2021. New York City will end its mask mandate for children ages 2 to 4 on Monday. Credit: AP / Brittainy Newman

A New York City mandate is ending that requires kids ages 2 to 4 to wear face masks at school and day care, Mayor Eric Adams announced Thursday as the health commissioner declared the peak of the latest COVID-19 wave to be over.

Starting Monday, masking will become optional for that age group — the same policy Adams put into place in March for older schoolchildren, who like younger ones had been required to mask up when schools reopened in fall 2020.

“I have always said that the science will guide us out of the pandemic, and because we have followed the data, which shows that cases are steadily falling, we‘ve beaten back the latest COVID-19 surge. New Yorkers stepped up when we needed them most and have put us on the path to lower risk,” Adams said Thursday in a news release.

In a series of tweets preceding Adams’ announcement, the health commissioner, Dr. Ashwin Vasan, posted: “After a two-month sustained increase of #COVID19 transmission, we are finally past the peak of this wave. Cases have fallen since May 23, giving us confidence that we have passed the peak and we are heading into a safer environment.”

The tweet said the case rate had fallen between May 23 and June by 26%, but “COVID-19 is still with us.”

Adams has been criticized by some parents for keeping the mask mandate for the youngest age group. There have been public confrontations between Adams and angry parents. 

As recently as last week, Adams said, "I want to remove masks and see our babies’ faces as quickly as possible."

Masking for the New York City public schools was part of the reopening plan published July 31, 2020, under then-Mayor Bill de Blasio.

And on Thursday, Adams' news release urged that masks keep being worn, despite the lifting of the mandate.

"We still strongly recommend that New Yorkers of all ages continue to wear masks indoors," the release said, "and we will continue to make masks available for any child or school staff member who wishes to continue wearing them."

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