New York City Parents Rise Up Against Toddler Mask Mandate

'Masking our children like they are dogs wearing muzzles'

A face mask / Getty Images
May 13, 2022

Hundreds of New York City parents are fed up with the city's toddler mask mandate and demanding an audience with Democratic mayor Eric Adams, according to the New York Post.

"We want to know why our young children continue to be masked even as every other resident of this city is given the option to unmask, regardless of vaccination status," the parents said in a letter to Adams and Health Commissioner Ashwin Vasan. They also said their "hundreds of phone calls and emails, and our direct requests for meetings, have gone unanswered." Only students under the age of five are still masking in city school and childcare facilities. All other students have been maskless indoors since March.

Facing pressure from teachers' unions, Democratic mayors during the pandemic have levied inconsistent mask mandates, often keeping students in school masked longer than in other indoor environments. Boston Public Schools in May chose to keep its in-school mask mandate even after dropping all other mandates two months ago. Most have said their administrations are following "the science."

Children are at very low risk of severe illness or death from COVID-19. In-school transmission is also "extremely rare," according to a 2021 study by the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Adams and Vasan have not acknowledged the inconsistency of the city's masking policy. On Thursday night, the mayor said he will "continue to evaluate the data" and unmask children when "the science says it is safe to do so."

The Biden administration in April stood by its decision to mask toddlers in Health and Human Services programs that provide early childhood education, with Secretary Xavier Becerra telling Congress that masks are "safe and effective" and "should be used" for toddlers.

"The science is guiding us on the actual implementation of those policies," Becerra said. HHS, along with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, had by that time dropped mask recommendations for nearly every school environment.

Politico-Harvard poll in March found nearly half of parents oppose masks for children, saying masking has hurt children's educational, relational, and mental development.

"It has become clear that we are masking our children like they are dogs wearing muzzles," one mother told the Post about the city's toddler mask mandate. "The only thing they seem to prevent is kids from biting one another."