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State considers easing mask rules for schools; seeks CDC guidance

Updated: Jun. 4, 2021 at 6:40 PM EDT
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ALBANY, N.Y. (WWNY) - New York state is asking the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention if there’s any reason it shouldn’t relax its mask mandate for schools. That move could happen as early as next week.

In a letter, Health Commissioner Howard Zucker asks the CDC for any data or science it has “that contradicts moving forward with this approach.”

He notes in the letter that current CDC guidance on schools contradicts the guidance for youth camps.

Zucker said that barring evidence to the contrary, “we plan to make this guidance effective on Monday, June 7. "

Right now, the CDC recommends that masks be worn in schools, both indoors and out, while for camps, masks are “strongly encouraged.”

The Department of Health wants to make these rules the same for camps and schools:

- 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.

In the meantime, the president of New York State United Teachers is recommending caution.

“Announcing on a Friday afternoon that masks will now be optional for both vaccinated and unvaccinated people in schools starting Monday — with only three weeks remaining in the school year — is whiplash-inducing news,” said NYSUT President Andy Pallotta.

“Short of any additional guidance from the state or the CDC before Monday, we implore school districts to closely evaluate local conditions and connect with their educators and parents to decide the best course of action for protecting their school community,” Pallotta said.

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