“We’re not eating indoors or going to bars or a lot of stuff we’d like to do,” Jim Cashman, 47, said Friday afternoon, as he waited with his family at a Covid testing van near Washington Square Park. An actor, Mr. Cashman said he was worried that if he tested positive, it would mean canceled work, not just for himself, but for co-workers, too.

As he spoke, his 8-year-old daughter, who had been circling on her shiny blue scooter, slowed down long enough to offer a gloomy prediction. “You don’t see people wearing their masks anymore,” she said. “So many people are going to have it.”

Several people who tested positive in recent days said this was their first case of Covid-19 — a trend supported by state data. Of the 8,692 New York City residents who officially tested positive from March 21 to March 27, only 692 were known to have been previously infected, according to the state Health Department.

Until she tested positive in late March, Nina Kulkarni, a New York City public-school teacher, had managed to avoid the virus despite teaching in-person classes since the fall of 2020. She doesn’t know where she was infected, but she had begun wearing her mask a little less often after the city lifted its mask mandate for school staff and students 5 and older on March 7.

She called on the city to reinstitute the mask mandates in schools, saying she has started to see absences going up. City data shows a slow but steady rise in public school Covid cases recently, to an average of 363 cases per day from about 150 per day three weeks ago.

“I did relax the mask, and I regret having done that,” she said. “We all want them to come off. I want them to come off. I hate them. But they do keep us safe.”

Even if this subvariant causes fewer hospitalizations, some experts agree more should be done to limit transmission, particularly given the risk of long Covid.

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