ALBANY, N.Y. (WWNY) - Teachers unions are calling on the state to make mask-wearing mandatory at schools at all times indoors, except for appropriate break periods, and in cases accommodating medical needs.
The current mandate is that masks be worn when 6-foot distancing cannot be maintained, like in the hallways.
But, the New York State United Teachers (NYSUT) and the American Federation of Teachers unions wrote to state Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker asking for the change. (See the full letter below)
They say too many schools will ignore the recommendation that masks be worn at all times, so a mandate is necessary.
On a conference call Thursday with infectious disease experts, parents, and educators, officials said it’s critical that masks be worn inside schools at all times to prevent the spread of infection.
“We feel that mandating masks to be worn at all times is a no brainer. There’s no room for mistakes. Mistakes cost lives and we must err on the side of caution,” said NYSUT President Andy Pallotta.
“Wearing a mask and remaining socially distanced throughout the school day are going to be critical in keeping the infection rates under control,” said Dr. Ken Spaeth, chief of occupational and environmental medicine at Northwell Health.
Health and education experts said one way to give students and staff some relief throughout the day is with mask breaks, where masks could be removed for 10 or 15 minutes while people are socially distanced and in a controlled environment.