According to a letter sent by New York State Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, starting from Monday New York is planning to relax mask mandates in schools.
These are the guidelines pending potential input from the CDC:
- 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.
According to Dr. Zuckers letter to CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky, he explains that the reasoning for the change is for “consistency” between similar settings.
He notes that current CDC guidance for K-12 schools recommends “consistent and correct use of well-fitting face masks with proper filtration by all students, teachers, and staff.”
“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 writes.
He compares it to CDC guidance for youth camps, which “strongly encourages mask use indoors for people who are not fully vaccinated” while outdoors, “people do not need to wear masks [irrespective of vaccination status].”
Dr. Zucker says it would make sense to align both school and camp guidance, since many youth camps already take place on school grounds and serve school-age children.
The state plans to make the adjustment as soon as June 7, but the announcement is being met with mixed reactions and opinions.
Grandmother of six, Amy Reed, thinks the state is rushing the move. “I guess maybe they want everything to go back to normal. It’s not there yet,” said Reed.
Those who are not fully vaccinated are only encouraged to wear a mask, not required, according to the state,.
However, current eligibility starts at age 12. And that’s an issue for mother Stephanie Dunham. “You can’t get vaccinated if you’re under the age of 12,” said Dunham. “So, why would you make that a rule when the majority of people in schools will not be vaccinated. It just kind of seems very silly.”
Following the announcement, the Webster Central School District said it would adopt the guidance, but only in outdoor settings. A similar change was made at the Greece Central School District just hours before.
However, parents like Steve Rybinski feel the decision should be made at home. “I think that it should be up to the family. Because if the family is fully vaccinated, they should be able to choose whether they think if it’s appropriated for their child to wear a mask at school,” said Rybinski.