This is as officials from major cities across the U.S. try to restore normalcy following two years of the pandemic.
The mayor announced Friday that New York City will be removing several of its COVID-19 safety protocols. New York City has been known for having some of the most rigorous COVID-19 safety protocols in the country.
Residents in Los Angeles County no longer have to wear masks to enter restaurants, bars and gyms. However, the city of Los Angeles still requires indoor businesses to ensure that all their customers are fully vaccinated.
These moves are being made at a time when officials from the U.S. government have been relaxing COVID-19 guidelines, signaling that there is less risk of spreading the virus -- at least temporarily.
Face mask requirements in Illinois were lifted Monday for indoor spaces. Boston will follow suit on Saturday. Chicago no longer requires proof of vaccination in order to eat at restaurants. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, most Americans are now able to stop wearing masks. This includes students.
Eric Adams, New York City's Mayor, declared it was time for "celebration" and stood in Times Square Friday to declare that the city needed to recuperate and that COVID would not define him.
"We are far from being out of the woods. COVID is still around. Adams stated that we are battling it back.
He invited people from Canada, Arkansas, New Zealand and other countries to come and spend money. He also encouraged New Yorkers "to go out this weekend to eat."
According to the Democratic mayor, he is confident that children and teachers can be sent to school without being masked starting Monday. Businesses no longer have to verify guests' vaccination cards.
Los Angeles County's decision to relax rules aligns with California guidelines that allow people who are vaccinated and not vaccinated to wear no face covers in all places.
All K-12 schools districts require masks until March 12. Districts may have their own requirements for masks after that. Customers and employees can also be required to wear masks by business owners.
Owner Tae Kim of Coffee Fix, Studio City in Los Angeles, said that customers have been confused by the new masking rules.
Taylor Lewis, a customer, was wearing her mask and said that it was so nice to see people's faces. However, she will continue to wear her mask indoors out of habit.
She said, "With the ever-changing facts we have been given, I see the benefit in wearing it."
New York City's elimination of the school mask is a remarkable turnaround from a few months back, when teachers and parents argued for remote learning after the omicron wave hit schools. Attendance plummeted. Friday's statement by the teachers union stated that it supported the lifting of the rule.
Children below 5 years old would still need to wear masks, as they are not eligible for the vaccination.
New Yorkers and tourists had to present proof of vaccination in order to be allowed into bars and restaurants, to exercise in gyms, to see a Broadway show, to visit a convention, or to enter a museum.
Some of these places may not be ready to lift the restrictions. Broadway League stated that it will continue to require vaccinations and masks in all of its theaters until April 30, at the earliest.
Andrew Rigie, executive director of New York City Hospitality Alliance, which represents restaurants, bars, and nightclubs, stated Friday that few venues will continue imposing vaccine rules on themselves because their staff had to enforce them with customers and sometimes weather their frustrations.
He said, "Regardless of how someone feels about the vaccination requirement it's put restaurant employees in an extraordinarily difficult situation." "We hoped people would respect workers, but it's been really difficult."
Kyrie Irving, the Brooklyn Nets' star guard, was also prohibited from playing with the team at home because of these rules. Adams stated that he would keep a rule that requires private employers to provide proof of vaccinations for their employees, which would include Irving.
Irving would be permitted to watch the Nets' home games from the stands, but not as a player, if the Key2NYC rule was lifted.
New York City has seen a drop in coronavirus incidences and deaths to just below 680 per day. This is a decrease from the nearly 41,000 cases and almost 130 deaths per day during the January omicron wave.
New Yorkers continue to be hospitalized and killed by the virus, even more frequently than last summer and much of fall when many of the school and vaccination masking rules were in place.
Since Jan. 1, nearly 4,000 people in cities have died from the virus, more than all the deaths over the past nine months.
The move was not supported by everyone.
Jumaane Williams was the city's public advocate and an elected ombudsman. He called it "unnecessary" and "unwise" to eliminate the vaccine requirement while lifting other rules. People needed to feel safe.
Adams responded to critics Friday by saying that "there's no New York decision you can make that you're going get 100% of New Yorkers to agree with".
Although he acknowledged that some people might be reluctant to eat out without vaccination rules, he said that most New Yorkers are willing.
Adams stated, "We're all fine, folks." "We are doing the right thing."