KENMORE, N.Y. – Just as many New Yorkers are taking off their masks, now the state is telling kids in day care programs and summer camps to put masks on.
That has sparked an outcry from parents and child care program workers, all of whom say young children were never required to do this until now.
The guidelines released Wednesday say kids ages 2 and older should wear masks most of the day, even when they are outside, except in certain circumstances.
The same guidelines go on to say that fully vaccinated staff must also wear masks in order
That has some concerned about how this could affect those kids.
Jason Durkin is dad to three little ones with another on the way. He had some relatable thoughts most parents can empathize with.
“I can’t keep my daughter’s pants on, I can’t keep my son’s shoes on…I couldn’t imagine wrestling them to keep a mask on their face all day,” he said. “I don’t want to do that anybody else’s children either. That’s up to them, That’s up to the families.”
Durkin is also the director at Creative Child day care in Kenmore.
He joins a chorus of child care workers asking why New York State is changing course by now requiring these young children to wear a mask, just as vaccinated New York adults are now taking their masks off.
“This was the one place I tried to make – we tried to make – a seamless transition for these kids while they’re in care. I don’t want them to know anything about COVID or any of the crazy stuff us adults have had to do this past year,” he said.
Mary Jastrzab is a registered nurse and health consultant for both Creative Child and Blue Giraffe day care in Tonawanda.
“We’ve been able to really do a good job at both of our centers through the entire pandemic. And now to come down with stricter guidelines on children and families seems prohibitive,” she said. “Just when people are starting to get back to work and back to their normal lives, now you’re going to have parents have to make a decision, ‘Do I want my child to wear a mask all day long in the hot summer months?’”
If mask mandates continue, she worries this could affect the youngest children at day cares.
“I think we all have concerns on how this will impact long-term speech development and long-term development of those emotional cues,” she said.
Jastrzab explains that babies watch how adults form words. They also look at adults’ facial expressions to learn emotion and to decide if a care giver is someone they trust.
“So if I’m smiling at a baby, they’re smiling back at me. if I’m singing and interacting and playing with children, then they’re interacting with me, and that is lost when an adult is wearing a mask all day. When children are not able to see their teachers smile at them,” she said.
Durkin said he tried to raise this concern to state a year ago. Now, he says, it’s time to revisit these potential impacts on developing babies.
“How words are formed when we read to the children, and you can emphasize the certain sounds each letter makes. I’m just concerned down the line the developmental impact regarding speech for the infants in our class now a few years from now,” he said.
All of these child care centers are looking to the state Office of Children and Family Services (OCFS) for help. News 4 reached out to OCFS asking if and when it will provide clarity to these programs. A spokesperson wrote back the following statement:
“The state guidance is consistent with updated CDC guidance, which
says children ages two and older should wear masks. Children under 12 are not
yet eligible to receive the COVID vaccine, but as we know, they can still get
and spread the virus, so it is important that we protect children’s health
until they become vaccine eligible. The guidance allows for children to be
unmasked outside under certain conditions, where the spread of the virus is
less likely. Child care providers are encouraged to schedule as much outdoor
programming as possible, especially now that warmer weather is here.
Child care programs are required to report infection data to the state
weekly. The state’s child care programs continue to report COVID cases in
children even as the overall infection rate is going down. State regulators
will assist child care providers with complying with the guidance.”
State lawmakers also weighed in on Thursday. State senators Rob Ortt and Ed Rath have called on Governor Andrew Cuomo or the legislature to resolve the issue.
Assemblymember Monica Wallace says the state must revise the guidance with input from providers.
You can read Wallace’s full statement below:
Yesterday, New York State released updated guidance on safety protocols for childcare programs and summer camps that blindsided many providers and parents. Under the new regulations, children as young as 2 are required to wear masks in most indoor and group settings, which is an abrupt reversal from previous guidance. Childcare providers and the Office of Children and Family Services were not consulted in the process of drafting the guidance, creating needless confusion and contradictory new rules. Additionally, the new guidance, which is effective immediately, gives childcare and summer camp providers no time to review or implement the guidance. I have already reached out to the Governor’s office to relay the frustration currently being experienced by stakeholders and parents, and I urged the Governor and the Department of Health to immediately revise safety guidance for day care and summer camps to be consistent with or less restrictive than earlier guidance.”
Assemblymember Monica Wallace
Senator George Borrello also chimed in on the governor’s mask mandate for children saying:
Just when New Yorkers thought we were moving beyond the reach of the Governor’s crazy, arbitrary edicts, he struck again yesterday with the outrageous mandate that children as young as two years old in daycare settings must wear masks. Child care providers and parents are understandably confused and upset with this sudden change as COVID infection rates are near record lows and mask wearing mandates are disappearing. Not even at the height of the pandemic were toddlers in day care forced to wear masks, because of the obvious difficulty of enforcing such a rule as well as the low risks for the younger population. Day care centers have been sent into a frenzy communicating these new rules to angry parents and trying to determine how they will make this ludicrous concept work. If the Democrat majorities in the Senate and Assembly hadn’t extended the Governor’s emergency authority, this insanity would have been a thing of the past. Instead, here we are, trying desperately to move forward and free ourselves from senseless restrictions, while our Governor continues to hold us back to maintain his power. If the administration doesn’t rescind this, the Legislature’s leadership must, as soon as possible.”
Senator George Borrello
See what Assemblymember Pat Burke had to say:
“As a father of three, the idea that children as young as two years old would be
required to wear masks at summer camps and daycare is frustrating and nonsensical. At a
time where we are easing mask restrictions statewide and seeing the lowest Covid
infection rates in months, this new guidance came as a shock to me as well as many
parents and childcare providers.”
“I want to make it perfectly clear that I am opposed to the new, restrictive mask
guidelines that are a sharp change from the guidance daycare providers have been
following throughout the pandemic. New York State must work with camps and childcare
providers to find a solution that both makes sense and keeps our kids safe. I am fighting
against this policy and I will take any action I can to reverse this misguided decision.”
NYS Assemblymember Pat Burke