The city’s new health commissioner believes mask mandates for young children should be indefinitely maintained – a position in direct conflict withMayor Eric Adams, who recently claimed kids wouldn’t have to wear them much longer.
During his first press conference as commissioner, Dr. Ashwin Vasan cautioned on Friday that children under 5 years old should continue wearing masks because they’re not old enough to get vaccinated. He also cited high hospital rates for young children with COVID-19.
“I think it’s indefinite at this point,” Vasan said. “People who have tried to predict the future in this pandemic have had egg on their face, and I’m not going to do that today.”
“As a father of a 2 1/2-year-old and two other older kids, I want to keep them as safe as possible,” he said. “I would love nothing more than to send my son to daycare without a mask. But as a scientist, and as a doctor, and an epidemiologist, I want to keep him safe.”
Adams, who earlier this month lifted the city’s Key2NYC vaccine mandate for dining and other indoor activities, appeared to have a different take on Thursday.
When confronted by an irate parent demanding he reverse the mask mandate for toddlers, he insisted, “I got this. They will be unmasked.”
However, Adams spokeswoman Kate Smart said Saturday — in a bid to “clarify” his remarks — that Adams supports keeping the masks on youngsters until the health experts say it’s safe to take them off.
“There is no difference in their positions on masks or vaccine mandates,” Smart said. “The commissioner was explaining why children should remain masked currently, but they both look forward to lifting mask requirements when it is safe to do so, and we expect to share an update very soon.”
Data collected by the American Academy of Pediatrics shows that just 0.1% to 1.5% of child COVID cases resulted in hospitalization and 0.00% to 0.01% resulted in deaths.
The renewed debate over masks comes while the new Omicron subvariant BA.2 continues to surge. While it doesn’t seem to cause more severe illness, data shows it’s more transmissible.
“We’re keeping a close eye on the numbers, and we’ll continue to let you know what they tell us. At the same time, we know the increase in cases in other parts of the world can be worrisome,” Vasan said.
New York City parents of toddlers on Saturday had mixed opinions.
“We prefer not to have our children masked. It’s important for them to see faces, and it’s also really challenging to keep a 2-year-old in a mask,” said Waverly Livingston of the Upper East Side.
She added that her daughter Evie, 2, has already had COVID-19, and the side effects were minimal — a slight cough and stuffy nose.
Sonja Puschmann, a cardiologist visiting from Germany, was waiting for the Bryant Park carousel with her 1-year-old son and said she doesn’t think young kids should be masked.
“We do not have many children with big symptoms. They only have a little bit of a fever, some coughing. I think it would be better that the kids get COVID to get antibodies for it,” she said. “Kids in their first winter get so many illnesses, and that’s normal for us.”
One mom from Prospect Park, Brooklyn, who didn’t want to be named, said she has had enough of masking our youngest kids.
“I’m going to give you an eye roll because I hate the idea,” she told The Post. “My child is two and a half and he doesn’t know enough English to understand why he has to wear something wrapped around his face,” she said.
But Emily Kangas of Sunnyside, Queens, said children should still wear masks.
“You don’t know how contagious things still are and how easily they transmit, especially in a school setting,” said Kangas,who was at Bryant Park in Midtown with her young daughter, Aili Kangas.
The toddler, however, disagreed. When asked by her mom if she liked wearing a mask, Aili shook her head in disagreement.