States

New York Will Require Masks for Everyone in Schools, Says Gov. Kathy Hochul

By Elizabeth Doran, syracuse.com — August 25, 2021 2 min read
New York Gov. Kathy Hochul speaks to reporters after a ceremonial swearing-in ceremony at the state Capitol, Tuesday, Aug. 24, 2021, in Albany, N.Y.
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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.

School Mask Mandates at a Glance

  • As of Dec. 10, four states have bans in effect that prevent school districts from setting universal mask mandates, according to an Education Week analysis. Five additional states have such bans, but they have been blocked, suspended, or are not being enforced. Sixteen states and the District of Columbia require masks be worn in schools.

  • MASK MANDATE BAN IN EFFECT


    1. Florida

    On Sept. 22, Florida's surgeon general instituted a rule that gives parents and legal guardians "sole discretion" over masking in schools. On Nov. 5, a judge sided with the state health department in a legal challenge to rule. On Nov. 18 Gov. DeSantis signed a bill that allows parents to sue school districts that require masks.

    2. Oklahoma

    On Sept. 1, an Oklahoma judge temporarily blocked the state law banning school mask mandates, but students or their parents can still opt out of school mask mandates if they choose.

    3. Texas

    On Dec. 1, an appeals court halted a federal judge’s order that had stopped Texas from enforcing its ban on mask mandates in schools, allowing the prohibition to remain in effect.

    4. Utah

    In Utah, local health departments can issue 30-day school mask mandates with approval from the state or county government, according to the state’s top education official.

    MASK MANDATE BAN BLOCKED, SUSPENDED, OR NOT BEING ENFORCED


    1. Arizona

    On Sept. 27, a judge in Arizona blocked the state laws banning mask mandates that were set to take effect on Sept. 29. On Nov. 2, the Arizona Supreme Court upheld that ruling.

    2. Arkansas

    An Arkansas judge ruled on Dec. 29, that a law signed by the governor in April that prohibited local officials, including school boards, from setting mask mandates was unconstitutional. School districts have been able to set their own mask requirements since August when the judge put the law on hold.

    3. Iowa

    On Sept. 13, a federal judge ordered Iowa to halt enforcement of its law banning mask mandates in schools. The order was later extended. The case is now awaiting a ruling from a federal appeals court.

    4. South Carolina

    On Sept. 28, a federal judge suspended South Carolina from enforcing the rule that banned school districts from requiring masks for students.

    5. Tennessee

    MASKS REQUIRED


    1. California
    2. Connecticut
    3. Delaware
    4. District of Columbia
    5. Hawaii
    6. Illinois
    7. Louisiana

    According to a State of Emergency proclamation issued Nov. 23, and most recently extended on Dec. 22, students are required to wear masks in schools, but districts can opt out of the mandate if they adopt an isolation and quarantine policy consistent with the state's department of health protocols.

    8. Maryland

    On Jan. 5, the mask mandate was extended for 180 days, but newly allowed school districts to opt out if at least 80% of the county or 80% of their students and staff have been fully vaccinated.

    9. Massachusetts

    On Jan. 10, Massachusetts extended the state's mask requirement through Feb. 28. On Sept. 27, Massachusetts said schools can apply for a waiver from the face covering rules if 80% of their students and staff have been vaccinated. If a school reaches the 80% threshold, unvaccinated students and employees are still required to wear masks.

    10. Nevada
    11. New Jersey

    On Dec. 7, a judge ruled New Jersey's school mask mandate is "rational" and does not violate the U.S. Constitution.

    12. New Mexico
    13. New York
    14. Oregon
    15. Rhode Island
    16. Virginia

    An executive order from Virginia's new governor that is set to take effect on Jan. 24 rescinds the state's current school mask mandate and instead allows parents to opt their child out of any mask mandate at their school.

    17. Washington
  • Note: In Missouri, the state attorney general has threatened to sue school districts that require masks, citing a November ruling by a county judge that said local health orders tied to COVID-19 are illegal. (The ruling is being interpreted differently by different districts.) The state’s treasurer announced he was also cracking down on schools with mask mandates.
    Updated 01/17/2022| Sources: Local media reports | Learn more here

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.

Copyright (c) 2021, syracuse.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency.

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