New York City public school teenagers won’t need to be vaccinated against COVID-19 to attend their proms this spring, Mayor Adams announced Monday.
The reverses a previous Education Department announcement rule requiring proof of inoculation in order for city teens to attend their end-of-high-school dances.
That policy had drawn criticism from some elected officials and students who argued that if kids are allowed to go to school unvaccinated, the same rule should apply to prom.
Students will also be allowed to attend graduation ceremonies regardless of vaccination status, Adams said.
“I am thrilled that, starting this year, every one of our young people will have the chance to celebrate all of their hard work with a prom and graduation, regardless of vaccination status,” said Adams.
The about-face comes as COVID-19 cases are ticking up both citywide and in the public school system, with reports of student and staff cases rising from about 2,100 the week before April break, to roughly 3,200 the week after break, to nearly 4,600 last week, according to city data compiled by the advocacy group PRESS NYC.
The city recently entered the “medium” level on its COVID-19 risk assessment scale because of the rise in cases.
New York City Health Commissioner Ashwin Vasan said vaccines “remain a lifesaving tool,” and encouraged kids and staff to wear masks indoors for prom. But he added “another critical resource for health is togetherness and celebration — for which these events are so critical in the lives of young people.”
Vaccination is not a requirement for city students to attend school, with 61% of students reporting at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine and 55% with both doses as of April 1, according to DOE data. Staff at city schools are required to be vaccinated.
Inoculation is required, however, for students to participate in extracurricular activities like sports, band, and clubs. Until recently, proms also fell under the extracurricular vaccine mandate. Official school proms were not sanctioned by the DOE in spring 2020 or 2021 because of COVID-19 concerns.
City Council Member Joe Borelli (RS.I.), one of the lawmakers who has been pushing the DOE to change its prom vaccine rule, said the change is a “positive step in returning to normalcy. Proms are a part of high school and we all deserve to have those awkward pictures 30 years later.”