New York expected to change guidance for masks in schools and camps Monday

Around New York State

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) – New York state is planning to drop the mask mandate in schools on Monday. This big change is receiving mixed reaction across the state.

A letter by Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker outlines new guidance for mask-wearing in schools and camps expected to be put in place Monday, barring any objections from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). School guidance and camp guidance would be the same set of rules.

In the letter, Dr. Zucker cites that the CDC guidance for schools is that all students, teachers and staff should wear a well-fitting mask. Dr. Zucker says the guidance does not differentiate between indoor and outdoor activities and does not include guidance for vaccinated individuals.

He then cites the CDC guidance for camps that says mask-wearing is highly recommended for unvaccinated people indoors. The guidance also says that while outside, regardless of vaccination status, people do not need to wear masks other than in certain higher-risk circumstances. It also says that a fully vaccinated individual does not have to wear a mask indoors or out.

Kelly Kronbeck, who owns the daycare Imagination Station, says because kids don’t have to wear masks in child care facilities, this helps keep the guidelines consistant.

“Childcare centers have been going unmasked for the last 15 months and so I feel like this is a long time coming,” she said. “That children are very low risk and not spreaders and this is something that should’ve been looked at a long time ago.”

Senate republican leader Rob Ort weighed in on the change.

“Just yesterday, I called on Governor Cuomo to loosen the mask restrictions in our schools, particularly in light of the high temperatures we are expecting next week. This is a decision that should have been in the hands of the local school districts long ago, but unfortunately there is still one person calling all the shots in Albany.  Nonetheless, the state’s new guidance that will loosen mask mandates in schools, both indoors and outdoors, is welcome news for students, staff and concerned parents.”

Senate Republican Leader Rob Ortt

New Guidance Expected Monday:

  • Indoors, mask use will be strongly encouraged but not required for students, campers, and staff/teachers/counselors who are not fully vaccinated.
  • Outdoors, masks are not required; students, campers, and staff/teachers/counselors who are not fully vaccinated are “encouraged” to wear a mask in certain higher-risk circumstances.
  • Both indoors and outdoors, students, campers, and staff who are fully vaccinated do not need to wear masks.
  • Schools and camps may choose to implement stricter standards.

Dr. Zucker cites the fact that many camps are held on school grounds and usually deal with children that aligning the guidance for both is the right move. He also asked the CDC to review the guidelines to make sure there is no data or science that would contradict the new rules.

The state teacher’s union, NYSUT, asks schools districts to look at their local conditions and connect with their communities to guide their course of action.

“Announcing on a Friday afternoon that masks will now be optional for both vaccinated and unvaccinated people in schools starting Monday — with only three weeks remaining in the school year — is whiplash-inducing news. Short of any additional guidance from the state or the CDC before Monday, we implore school districts to closely evaluate local conditions and connect with their educators and parents to decide the best course of action for protecting their school community.” 

New York State United Teachers

President of the Erie-Niagara School Superintendents Association and Hamburg School Superintendent Michael Cornell says schools are awaiting further guidance on Monday.

“We all strive to do that certainly all of us in Hamburg and across Western New York. So we think we’ve done a good job of striking that balance but we’re waiting to see what the guidance says and see exactly what it means come Monday,” he said.

You can read the full letter below:

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