Some parents applaud NY's plan to drop school mask mandate Monday

New York Commissioner of Health Howard Zucker sent a letter to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Friday saying the state plans to remove its school mask mandate on Monday.

News 12 Staff

Jun 4, 2021, 9:17 PM

Updated 1,044 days ago

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New York Commissioner of Health Howard Zucker sent a letter to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Friday saying the state plans to remove its school mask mandate on Monday.
In the letter, Zucker outlines what he says are inconsistencies in CDC policy between camps and schools. He says starting Monday masks for unvaccinated individuals will be strongly encouraged, but not required.
“The current CDC guidance for K-12 schools recommends a requirement for ‘consistent and correct use of well-fitting face masks with proper filtration by all students, teachers, and staff,’ Zucker says in the letter.
“There is no distinction between mask wearing for indoor versus outdoor activities (except for a vague reference to sports) and it does not address vaccinated individuals.”
He says starting Monday that masks for unvaccinated individuals will be “strongly encouraged” but not required and that masks will not be needed for fully vaccinated individuals or for people outdoors.
However, Zucker does say “schools and camps may choose to implement stricter standards.”
The New York City Department of Education has already come out and said that it is sticking to its own universal mask mandate in city schools.
“The health and safety of our students, educators and staff remain our top priority,” said a spokesperson for the NYC Department of Education. “Per State guidance, local districts may implement standards that make the most sense for their communities, and we are continuing with our universal mask policy at our schools.”
For Kelly Roper, of Moms for Liberty Suffolk Chapter 136, the new guidance is a shock but welcomed.
"I'm shocked but excited. This is what we have been fighting for," says Roper. "We've been fighting for this mask mandate to be lifted. I'll be honest I didn't think it was going to be lifted this year. But I think the parents and everybody that has been fighting so hard and going to Board of Ed meetings and showing up at the rallies and making calls relentlessly -- I think it made a difference. I think that's where the push came from."
Winston Frazer, of Syosset, doesn't agree with the decision to let go of the masks.
"It's too soon," says Frazer. "We don't have a handle on this yet. We still gotta wear masks."
Here's a breakdown of what takes effect this Monday.
-Indoors: Masks encouraged but not required for students, campers, staff/teachers/counselors who are not fully vaccinated
-Outdoors: Masks are not required
-Both indoors and outdoors: Students, campers and staff who are fully vaccinated do not need to wear masks.
-Schools and camps can implement stricter standards
Rep. Lee Zeldin issued a statement saying, "This is the right decision for children across New York, who have sacrificed so much throughout the pandemic and suffered emotionally, physically and mentally from lockdowns and remote learning. I want to thank all the parents and advocates who joined me in repeated demands for the governor and state officials to follow the science and follow common sense, unmask our kids, and give them the return to normalcy that they are so desperate for and rightly deserve."
Nassau County Executive Laura Curren issued a statement saying, "Today's lifting of the mask mandate in schools will finally put decision in the hands of the educators and parents who know their children and particular circumstances best. I've been pushing for this change and I am excited that our protocols are moving to match the tremendous progress we have made."
Dr. Robert Dillon, the district superintendent of Nassau BOCES, issued a statement saying, "Nassau BOCES is aware of the letter from the New York State Commissioner of Health to the CDC and looks forward to receiving more definitive information."
New York State United Teachers President Andy Pallotta issued the following statement today on the state Department of Health's planned changes to mask guidance for K–12 schools: "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."
Commissioner Zucker asked the CDC to provide any data that would make a case for keeping the statewide mask mandate in place before Monday.


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