While the state walked back a suggestion that vaccinated children would be able to take off their mask in schools and camps this summer, the city Department of Education made it clear that it intends to keep its universal mask policy in place.
New York City schools, which require the use of face coverings while on school property for all staff and students, aren’t planning to change their policy for the rest of the school year or for their summer school program.
“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,” a DOE spokesperson told the Chronicle in a statement.
The governor’s messaging on the mask guidance caused confusion after a letter was published last Friday from state Health Commissioner Howard Zucker to Rochelle P. Walensky, director of the U.S. Centers of Disease Control and Prevention, saying that New York was planning to allow all students, campers and staff who are fully vaccinated to remove their masks indoors and outdoors, at the discretion of each school district.
After hearing back from the CDC, Gov. Cuomo held a press conference clarifying that school districts can choose to lift the outdoor mask mandate, but face coverings will continue to be required indoors.
“In New York State, we’re going to modify the CDC guidance and allow schools to choose no mask outside for children. In other words, children wear masks in school, inside. When they’re outside of the school building in recess, et cetera, it’s hot, they’re running around, but they’re outside, there is no mandate for masks outside,” he said at the press conference.
Asked about the mixed messages that the state sent out with Zucker’s letter, he claimed, “There was no confusion with the schools,” according to the Daily News. “Inside school is obviously different. And then it’s up to the local school districts.”
Cuomo said that his rationale for changing the guidance outdoors was to align the rules for schools and camps — many of which take place on school campuses.
The CDC has said that fully vaccinated people can resume activities without wearing a mask or physically distancing, except where required by federal, state, local, tribal or territorial laws, rules and regulations, including local business and workplace guidance.
On Monday, Cuomo said that the CDC had told him that it was not going to change its guidance on masks in schools for several weeks.
The governor also said that schools should be vaccinating 12- to 17-year-olds on campuses around the state until the school year ends to boost the vaccination rate as much as possible.
“You have them in one place. They are a captive audience, so to speak. You have a nurse in the school, or you have a local government that can send the vaccination team to the school,” Cuomo said, adding that the state is now closing vaccination sites in order to redeploy them to the schools.