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Will Incoming Democratic Mayor of NYC Eric Adams Do Away with School Mask Mandate? There's Hope

AP Photo/Frank Franklin II

On Tuesday, New York City voters overwhelmingly voted to elect Democrat Eric Adams as their next mayor, by 72.8 percent. While Adams and the current mayor of New York, Bill de Blasio, are both Democrats, it looks like they'll have very different governing styles in key areas, namely when it comes to handling the pandemic with mask and vaccine mandates. 

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During his Sunday appearance on CNN's "State of the Union," Adams told host Dana Bash that "I believe in the mandates," adding "let's be clear on that." However, he is in favor of religious exemptions, as he shared that he spoke to a woman whose children have not received the COVID vaccine or other vaccines because of their religious beliefs. "So, why are we all of a sudden telling her we are no longer going to respect that," he asked.

And so, if there are real health care issues, real religious exemptions, we need to look at that and weed that out of those who are just on the street trying to bring about disorder in our city," he did continue to note.

Such a position puts him at odds with New York state, as Gov. Kathy Hochul, also a Democrat, has mocked those looking for religious exemptions. New York is just one of three states that does not allow for religious exemptions when it comes to the COVID vaccine, the others being Rhode Island and Maine. The New York vaccine mandate for healthcare workers has been temporary blocked, though. 

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Adams also signaled he would be open to lifting the mask mandate in schools, especially now that children as young as 5-years old are eligible for the vaccine.

While Adams emphasized that he is going to "follow the science" when it comes to lifting the mandate, he did say "I hope so," adding that "I think part of the development and socialization of a child is that smile. I cannot tell you. I look for that smile when I go visit schools. Not being able to see the smiles of our children, I believe it has a major impact, and not only that, not being able to identify the child" and that "I look forward to getting rid of the masks."

As Jack Morphet reported for The New York Post, the mayor-elect had a different approach than the current mayor's approach. During a Thursday briefing, de Blasio claimed that "a general view, that out of an abundance of caution, I would keep the masks in place, at least in the short term because they’ve really worked, because the kids have adapted to them well, the adults have adapted to them well."

Adams' remarks will come as a welcome reprieve in contrast not just to de Blasio, but Centers for Disease Control (CDC) Director Rochelle Walensky, who has doubled down on insisting that mask mandates for children at school need to remain in place even after the vaccine has been approved.

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In a tweet from Friday, which I highlighted, Dr. Walensky claimed that people are vaccinated should still wear masks not just due to COVID, but because of the flu and the common cold. She was thoroughly mocked over Twitter. 

Mayor-Elect Adams also differs from Mayor de Blasio on another aspect of education. Last month I reported that de Blasio caved to those claiming the city's gifted and talented programs were racist, and so announced he was phasing them out. 

Soon after the announcement, Adams pledged to keep them

While Bash opened the segment with Adams by pointing out that "Eric Adams says he's a progressive, but with a different approach," Morphet also reported that Adams has called himself "extremely conservative on crime." 

Speaking to NPR's "Weekend Edition Sunday," Adams referred to himself in such a way when it comes to common sense ways for how to deal with criminals. As he said on the program:

Yes, I am. I'm conservative on public safety, you know? And I'm clear that when you see 13-year-old children in our schools stabbed in libraries; a woman was shot while walking down the block with her baby in the carriage - when I use the term conservative, it's meaning I have zero tolerance for abusive and criminal and violent behavior. So I don't believe people who discharge guns on Monday should be out of jail on Tuesday, the next day. That's not acceptable. But you can do that without being abusive. I testified in federal court to end stop and frisk during the mid-'90s, and so I know what we need to stop the abusiveness of law enforcement but, at the same time, to get the justice and safety that we deserve.

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Throughout the campaign, including during the Democratic primary, Adams has been seen as a fitting rebuttal to the Defund the Police movement heralded by progressives like Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY).

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