New school mask guidelines cause confusion

New school mask guidelines cause confusion

Photo by Kimberly Brown

By Julianne Mosher & Kimberly Brown

Parents, students and school districts had a confusing week with mask mandates for kids pre-K through 12 needing clarification from the governor. 

On Friday, June 4, Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) said an announcement was coming to drop in-school mask mandates for children. But shortly after, the state Department of Health’s announcement didn’t align with what he said. 

Health officials said they had not yet received an OK from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and on Monday, Cuomo announced the CDC would not be changing guidance for wearing masks, therefore they are still required inside schools. 

According to Cuomo, school districts can lift the requirement that students must wear masks outdoors. The state’s guidance on mask use indoors remains in place, but school districts may choose to no longer require masks outdoors, for example during recess. This change aligns with guidance relating to summer camps, where even unvaccinated campers are not required to wear masks outdoors. 

“Children wear masks in school inside, and when they’re outside of the school building in recess, etc., it’s hot, they’re running around, but they’re outside, there is no mandate for masks outside. We’ll leave that up to the local school districts,” Cuomo said Monday. 

This came just days after rallies were hosted across Long Island, demanding that the governor “unmask our kids.”

Congressman Lee Zeldin (R-NY1) and upset parents gathered Wednesday, June 2, outside the H. Lee Dennison building in Hauppauge to demand a mask-free environment for children in schools and camps. 

“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,” Zeldin said at the rally.

The week before, May 26, Andrew Giuliani (R) — another contender for Cuomo’s seat in 2022 and son of former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani (R) —  stopped by the same spot to show his support for the same cause. 

These rallies were put together by parents and advocacy groups who hoped to influence Cuomo’s decision to lift the mandate. 

“It’s a parent’s right to take care of their children the best way they feel fit,” said Mike Hathaway from Long Island Loud Majority, a conservative organization. “Not the government, not for political pull, and not for control.”

Moms for Liberty, an advocacy group from Suffolk County that focuses on unifying America while educating and empowering parents to defend their parental rights, has been working to get the mask mandate lifted in New York. 

A member of the group, Barbara Abboud, said her children, among many others, have been suffering in school, whether that be academic, mental or physical.

“Everyone here today knows what’s at stake,” she said. “It’s more than just unmasking our children, it’s about getting our basic freedoms back.”

Zeldin also discussed his animosity with the prior COVID-19 restrictions, where businesses were forced to close at earlier hours to prevent the spread of the virus.

“There was a time when they said you couldn’t go to the gym after 10 [p.m.] because, apparently, that spreads COVID,” Zeldin said. “However, if you go at 8:30 with a whole group of people, that would mitigate the spread.”

Cuomo said virtually all restrictions can be lifted once 70% of New Yorkers aged 18 and older have received the first dose of the vaccine.