Covid cases are on the rise in schools. So why are the masks removed?

On Tuesday evening, Mayor Eric Adams visited the Museum of Modern Art to attend the first live Ralph Lauren show in more than two years, a collection whose theme – New York in all its central glamor – appears to have been commissioned by the mayor himself and produced on demand. In honor of the occasion, Mr. Adams wore an overcoathalf of which was covered in swirls and iconic New York faces and buildings (and the name Eric Adams), all set against a yellow taxi background, creating another Instagram moment in his campaign to let the world know that New York is happening again and everyone really needed to get on with it.

“It’s the New York mayor’s new wardrobe,” he jovially told reporters at the event. “Our city is back. It is the capital of fashion. Time and time again, the mayor has asked New Yorkers to go back to their offices, get back to experiences outside the home, and live them.

The day after the Ralph Lauren event, the mayor followed up by announcing that masks would soon be optional for children in preschools and daycares across the city, though the effect of releasing 3-year-olds from their KN95s would have on repopulating offices and resurrecting Midtown’s economy was not self-evident.

The mask mandate for K-12 students was lifted on March 7. Acknowledging the issue was divisive, the mayor said he had spoken with many parents who pleaded with him to unmask young children – and also many others who implored him to please keep faces covered. He had followed the “science” and made his decision. Now was the time, said the mayor“to take another layer out of this whole initiative.”

The reprieve goes against still-in-place guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which recommend universal indoor masking for early childhood education programs, given that vaccines have not yet been authorized. for children under 5 years old. Although the risk of serious illness and hospitalization from Covid in children is extremely low, the costs of unmasking, largely in the name of symbolism, are not entirely fictional.

Over the past two weeks, Covid positivity rates have ticked up At New York. Corn case rate among students exceeded those of the general population (13.3 per 100,000 compared to 9.6 citywide, for a seven-day period ending March 22), figures that the city’s Department of Education did not have. not addressed when I reached out to ask about them. Some schools have experienced significant jumps. Hunters Primary School ended the week of March 12 with four cases; the week of March 19, there were 24.

One of the complaints from proponents of continuous masking is the availability of data on Covid cases from the city’s education department, which offers daily tracking that some find insufficiently comprehensive. One group, Parents for Responsive Equitable Safe Schools, has set out to regularly collect data and provide an overview. What their numbers reveal is an increase in the total number of Covid cases in New York schools this school year, from 135,977 cases on March 7 to just under 137,900 cases on March 23, a significant increase over the previous two-week period.

Even though most children haven’t gotten particularly sick since the repeal of the masking rules, the consequences remain. With pupils having to self-isolate for five days when they test positive, the rise in cases means hundreds of children are being kicked out of school after two years of demonstrably large school losses resulting from learning in person reduced or non-existent. What they have instead is “asynchronous” learning at home.

Beyond that, vaccination compliance for children eligible for inoculation varies across the city. In East Harlem and parts of the South Bronx, vaccination rates for people ages 5 to 17 are just under 55%; in parts of central Brooklyn, the figure is closer to 45%. And those neighborhoods, of course, are where Covid has wreaked some of its worst havoc.

Days before the mayor’s announcement to drop mask rules for young children, teacher and activist Annie Tan posted a photo of herself on Twitter dragging her own air purifier to school at the name of the safety of his children. The next day she brought a second when she discovered that some of her students would be taking standardized tests in windowless classrooms the following week.

Last month, dozens of educators, parents, doctors, political groups and public health officials penned a letter to the mayor, governor and others asking for better data from the Department of Education. , better air quality and continued wearing of masks. But the forces on the other side of the debate have been more aggressive. Just days before the mayor’s most recent announcement, dozens of mostly white parents – some of them at the forefront of the movement to reopen schools in an earlier phase of the pandemic – gathered at City Hall to demand that the Adams administration “unmask our toddlers. A similar protest had taken place a few weeks earlier.

One Manhattan mother, Natalya Murakhver, who was particularly vocal about removing masks, joined an action to outfit trucks with billboards in the name of her cause and sent them around the city. One featured a photo of a little blond boy next to a block of text that read, “I carry the least risk, but the most burden. Last year, Ms Murakhver launched a GoFundMe campaign to hire a lawyer and sue the city if schools did not return to full-time in-person learning.

After the mayor’s announcement this week, she took to social media to celebrate the victory, but wondered why children should wait until April 4 to remove their masks.

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