NEW YORK — Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul, who will serve out the remainder of Andrew Cuomo’s term after he steps down amid sexual harassment allegations, said Thursday she believes students in schools will wear masks.
Asked whether there should be mask mandates in schools to contain the spread of COVID-19, Hochul said she does not yet have the authority to make that call, but said, “I believe that there’ll end up being mask mandates.”
While the governor cannot mandate mask wearing across the state’s public schools, the state Health Department can issue guidance strongly recommending that school districts require face coverings.
Hochul stressed that she plans to work with school district officials as well as parents and teachers on the issue of mask requirements.
Hochul said she would draw on federal CDC recommendations and all available COVID-19 data but added, “also, we need be talking to the school districts as well. That hasn’t happened in the past and it’s the way I think it should be. To find out what’s their anxiety. Why there’s any objection to this.”
A spokesperson for Cuomo previously said the governor’s office would not issue COVID guidance to schools for the upcoming academic year. The spokesperson blamed the COVID-19 state of emergency having been rescinded.
Individual school districts have been re-established as the controlling entities for schools, Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker said.
“Schools and school districts should develop plans to open in-person in the fall as safely as possible, and I recommend following guidance from the CDC and local health departments,” he said.
State Commissioner of Education Betty Rosa sent a letter to Zucker asking him to consider the Health Department’s “statutory responsibilities as the state agency devoted to protecting the public health,” according to the state Education Department.
“There is an urgent need for timely advice and supervision flowing from the State Department of Health to local and school officials as they navigate these uncertain times,” the NYSDOE said.