Confusion over state’s school masking policy after Monday reversal

Updated: Jun. 7, 2021 at 7:01 PM EDT
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ALBANY, New York (WWNY) - If you were confused about whether to send your child to school today with a mask or not, you’re not alone. The state sent a letter to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Friday, looking to lift the state’s mask mandate in schools by today, but that didn’t happen.

Instead, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced the mask mandate would only be lifted for students outside school buildings.

“There is no mandate for masks outside,” Cuomo said Monday.

That said, masks are still required for kids inside of school, seemingly contradicting the state’s goal of aligning school and camp mask guidelines. In Friday’s letter to the CDC, state health commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker laid out potential new guidelines, writing that while inside, mask use would be strongly encouraged but not required for individuals who are not fully vaccinated. According to Friday’s letter, vaccinated people would not have to wear masks anywhere on school grounds.

In his letter, Zucker asked the CDC to let officials know if they shouldn’t move forward and wrote that state officials planned to make this guidance effective on Monday. But for now, the governor is only lifting the mask mandate outside on school property.

The confusion came up during Cuomo’s COVID-19 briefing Monday, when a reporter asked why the mandate wasn’t lifted for people inside of schools, as Dr. Zucker’s letter suggested.

“I said we would tell you Monday what the CDC said,” Cuomo responded.

The governor then asked Dr. Zucker to respond.

“The CDC received our letter, my letter,” Dr. Zucker told reporters. “And we will get rid of the masks outdoors for the kids in school and they are looking at what they want to do at a federal level.”

In the meantime, state republicans are fed up with the governor’s emergency powers. They announced that they’re introducing resolutions in both houses to end them.

During a press conference, Assembly Minority Leader Will Barclay said, “We are coming together today with a very simple message. It’s time to end the state of emergency in the state of New York.”

In a press release, north country assemblyman Ken Blankenbush wrote, “The governor’s ever-changing executive orders and control over our everyday lives in the name of ‘emergency power’ is the true threat to our state. The North Country and Mohawk Valley will recover exponentially faster if this state of emergency is lifted because our people will no longer be subject to this governor’s whimsical and often politically-motivated directives.”

Senator Joe Griffo echoed that sentiment in his own press release, saying, “How can anyone have confidence in the competency of the Governor, his administration and the Department of Health when we have seen so many inconsistent, contradictory and confusing directives such as this? It is clear that the Governor’s credibility and effectiveness is in question.”

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