State Dept. of Health files emergency regulation requiring masks inside public and private schools
The New York state Department of Health has filed an emergency regulation that requires face coverings for all students, faculty and staff in both public and private schools.
Earlier this week, Gov. Kathy Hochul had called for universal use of masks in schools.
It comes as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issues new guidance with vaccines as a top priority for the start of the school year.
The CDC is promoting vaccines for eligible students, teachers and school staff and anyone who lives in the house with them as the most critical strategy to help with a safe return. Masks for everyone inside schools no matter of vaccination status was another priority.
Massapequa and Farmingdale were two districts that had said masks would be optional.
Barbara Abboud, of the Moms for Liberty group, responded to the ruling by saying, "It's going to be a long year. Let's just put it that way. At our meeting I asked our seven board members if they would stand up for us, be the voices we need them to be and stand up for local control. What I'm hoping is that these districts align together and put a plan in place to keep local control because I don't believe this is in DOH's ability to make these requirements."
The CDC is recommending as much physical distance as possible, as well as screening to identifying infected people so measures can be taken to prevent further spread of the virus, and when possible, opening windows and doors and making changes to the HVAC or air filtration systems.
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"The good news for Long Island is we are not seeing so many hospitalizations and that's because we have a very good success at getting the adults in our communities vaccinated. Could it be better? Absolutely," says Dr. Sharon Nachman, chief of Pediatric Infectious Diseases with Stony Brook Children's Hospital.
Nachman says one of her big concerns with the return to in-person learning is for the kids who are too young to get vaccinated.
"If you're not wearing your mask, you're putting all of those kids at high risk," says Nachman.
Some other preventions the CDC recommends include frequent handwashing, kids staying home when sick and getting tested, contact tracing, cleaning and disifection and limiting visitors to only essential people.
"With schools opening and all of the kids mixing in the building, in school, in class and certainly after school, we need to keep a close eye on the infection rate of those children as well as their parents," says Nachman. "Next month will help us predict how the fall and hopefully how the winter will go."
Dan Melgar, a parent from Syosset, says he's ready to do what it takes to ensure that in-person learning resumes as safely as possible.