Reason Roundup

New York City Toddlers Can Finally Take Off Their Masks

Plus: trans teens, trouble at the FTC, and more...


Finally! Long after lifting mask requirements in other settings, New York City has continued to require masks in schools and day cares for very young children. That madness will come to an end this week.

Effective today, children ages 2 to 4 will no longer be forced to wear masks in schools or child care settings.

Mayor Eric Adams announced the policy change last Thursday. "Beginning Monday, June 13, we will make masks optional for 2-4 year old children in all early childhood settings," he explained in a statement. "We still strongly recommend that New Yorkers of all ages continue to wear masks indoors and we will continue to make masks available for any child or school staff member who wishes to continue wearing them."

New York state dropped its business mask mandate back in February and ditched its school mask mandate in March. Following suit, New York City stopped requiring masks for most students on March 7.

Yet even as kids ages 5 and up were allowed to stop wearing masks, the city kept the mandate in place for ages 2–4. Officials said this was because very young children could not get vaccinated. But very young children are also the least likely to catch COVID-19 or to suffer severe consequences if they do. They are also among the least likely to wear masks correctly and consistently, or to wear tight-fitting and high-quality masks. The requirement was more about appearances than anything else, and was even less sensible than your average mask mandate.

It's especially galling that New York City subjected its youngest residents to this hygiene theater well after giving it up for other age groups.

"I think it's really sad that we've had to advocate so strongly for this—and, also, advocating with almost no response from our elected officials," said Sumayya Ahmad, the mother of two toddlers and a member of NYC Toddler Parents for Mask Choice, in an interview with Restore Childhood.

"Toward the end of March, Adams said he would lift the mask mandate for toddlers in schools and daycare settings on April 4 if the Covid-19 rates stayed low. But the city ultimately kept the mandate in place amid an uptick in cases due to the BA.2 Omicron subvariant," reports Politico. "Then, in early April, a Staten Island judge struck down the mandate on the grounds that the measure was 'arbitrary, capricious and unreasonable,' but an appeals court judge later ruled the mandate could stay in place. The following month, the city scrapped the mask mandate for toddlers in outdoor spaces."


Transgender identification is up among teens. New research suggests 1.4 percent of 13- to 17-year-old Americans identify as transgender—a significantly higher portion than found in older age groups:

The new data were analyzed by researchers at the Williams Institute, a research center at the University of California, Los Angeles law school that produces highly regarded reports on the demographics, behaviors and policy concerns of L.G.B.T.Q. populations in the United States.

The study found people 13 to 25 accounted for a disproportionately largely share of the transgender population. While younger teenagers were just 7.6 percent of the total U.S. population, they made up roughly 18 percent of transgender people. Likewise, 18- to 24-year-olds made up 11 percent of the total population but 24 percent of the transgender population.

Older adults had a disproportionately small share: Though 62 percent of the total population, only 47 percent of transgender people were 25 to 64. And while 20 percent of Americans are over 65, that age group makes up only 10 percent of the total number of transgender people nationwide.

One could surmise that the lower levels of transgender identification seen in older generations reflect the greater stigma among those age groups and the lower likelihood that trans individuals in them would felt comfortable publicly coming out. In this case, the higher levels of trans identification seen in the younger generations presents a better reflection of how many transgender Americans actually exist. But one could also postulate that growing attention to and acceptance of transgender and nonbinary people has led a greater number of young people to try on those identities for a short period, in the way that adolescents often experiment with different identities. Time will tell which is more common.


Trouble at the Federal Trade Commission? FTC chief Lina Khan—a progressive who wants to use a antitrust law to cut big businesses (especially big tech businesses) down to size—is alienating longtime staffers and sowing discord within the agency, according to the New York Post. "Since October, at least 40 FTC staffers have left the agency for new jobs, including roles at Big Tech firms," the Post reports.

A commission spokesperson countered that this was similar to turnover under the previous two chairs. But there are other signs of trouble:

An internal survey showed that the percentage of staffers across the entire agency who have a "high level of respect" for the the agency's senior leaders nosedived from 83% in 2020 to 49% in 2021, as first reported by The Information in April.

The Post suggests that both Khan's management style and her priorities have been rankling long-time staff:

In May, Khan asked Congress to up the agency's budget from $377 million to $490 million so that she can hire more staff and cope with its "ever-increasing workload," citing a wave of mergers and acquisitions.

Even Khan's harshest critics concede that the FTC deserves more funding, but they also are concerned that the agency isn't using its current resources effectively.

For example, some career FTC staffers bristled at a New Yorker profile of Khan published in November that paraphrased Khan as saying "she intends to steer the agency to choose consequential cases, with less emphasis on the outcomes."

While Khan backers praise this attitude as evidence of her transformative vision, some critics have interpreted it as evidence that the chair plans to send staffers on wild goose chases that will result in headlines but not substantive legal victories.

[Former FTC executive director Eileen] Harrington went even further: "If the idea is, 'We're going to sue you even though we think we can't win because this is what we think the law should be'—honestly I think this is an abuse of power."


• The second public hearing of the House elect committee on January 6 will be held today, starting at 10 a.m.

• Republicans and Democrats in the Senate have reportedly reached a consensus on new gun regulations. The yet-to-be-finalized agreement "includes enhanced background checks to give authorities time to check the juvenile and mental health records of any prospective gun buyer under the age of 21 and a provision that would, for the first time, extend to dating partners a prohibition on domestic abusers having guns," reports The New York Times.

• A Texas state court has halted the state's investigations of the families of transgender children receiving what's known as "gender affirming care." The ruling comes in response to a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union; the A.P. reports that it "halts investigations against three families who sued, and prevents any similar investigations against members of the LGBTQ advocacy group PFLAG Inc."

• "Research demonstrates that, in general, abortion does not wound women physically, psychologically, or financially. Carrying an unwanted pregnancy to term does," writes Annie Lower at The Atlantic.

• A new report from NASA's Office of Inspector General looks at Mobile Launcher 2—a tower being built to launch manned moon missions—and finds it has gone about $1 billion above budget and is taking years longer than initially planned.

• The federal government gave $1.5 million in COVID loans to a woman using two different identities for businesses that didn't exist anymore.

• "The right to abortion in some states could come down to a handful of people running for positions most voters pay little attention to: state supreme court justices," writes Megan Messerly at Politico.

The New York Times explores the "dystopian" fate of a dystopian novel about the disappearance of men.