ALBANY, NY — New York Gov. Kathy Hochul said today she will require everyone to wear masks in schools throughout the state.
Hochul, on her first day in the job, said she will direct the state Department of Health to require universal masking in schools for anyone inside the buildings.
“None of us want a rerun of last year’s horrors with Covid-19,’’ she said.
Hochul said she’s taking steps to prevent that from happening again.
“Priority No. 1 is getting children back to school, and protect the environment so they can learn and everyone is safe,’’ she said.
Nearly every school district in Central New York is already requiring masks, although Central Square in Oswego County had said its rule requiring masks would change if there is lower transmission in that region.
Schools are not requiring masks to be worn outdoors. Central New York school districts are requiring students, staff and visitors to all wear masks.
Gov. Hochul said the state health department will issue the requirement through regulatory action established by the Public Health and Health Planning Council.
The Syracuse City School District was one of the first locally to announce a mask requirement indoors in its schools.
Medical experts agree that masks work and are effective in helping to prevent the spread of Covid-19 and the Delta variant.
The Centers for Disease Control, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the state Education Department and Onondaga County agree that everyone in schools should be masked in order to prevent spread, regardless of their vaccination status. Upstate University Hospital doctors also urged districts to mandate masks in schools.
In a letter signed by nine pediatricians, infectious disease doctors and public health experts, these experts said masks can protect kids and teachers from the highly transmissible Delta variant that is leading to an increase in hospitalizations.
Without masks, more students could end up quarantined and that’s another reason to have everyone wear face coverings, superintendents say.
Some parents are opposed to masks or want to have a choice. If they didn’t want to wear masks last year, they could stay home and do remote learning. This fall, school districts aren’t offering the remote learning option they did last year, unless a student has a medical letter from their physician. The instruction then would be from BOCES teachers.
Hochul also reiterated that school staff should be required to be vaccinated or undergo Covid-19 testing each week, at least for now. Partnerships with local governments are in the works to make this happen, she said.
She also said the state is launching a “Back to School Covid-19 Testing Program’’ to make testing for students and staff widely available, and convenient.
Hochul said she will have more school policies to announce later this week.
Elizabeth Doran covers education, suburban government and development, breaking news and more. Got a tip, comment or story idea? Contact her anytime at 315-470-3012 or email [email protected]