NY schools: Students and staff will be required to wear masks, health department says

Reopening Schools

All students, staff and faculty must wear masks while in school buildings in New York state, the state’s health department announced Friday.

A spokesperson for the New York State Department of Health released the following statement late Friday: “The Department has filed an emergency regulation requiring all students, faculty and staff of all public and private schools (P-12) in New York State to wear masks inside school buildings. Public and private schools/districts across the State have been notified by the Department.”

The news came three days after newly sworn-in Gov. Kathy Hochul told New Yorkers to expect a school-mask mandate as well as a vaccine requirement statewide.

Hochul said she directed the state Department of Health to implement the universal masking policy for anyone entering school buildings.

There are mixed feelings from New Yorkers on the new mandate.

“I think it’s a good idea to protect everybody, children and teachers alike,” Carolyn Sheba said. “I mean, I think we’re all getting closer to the fact that we’re probably going to have to wear masks again.”

However, one man believes it should be the parent’s choice.

“Just because I think they are a better teller of their kid’s health than the government, really,” he added.

One mother recognizes the importance of masks but doesn’t know how her son will react.

“He’s only two [years old], so he’s required to wear a mask which is a little bit nervous for me because I know he’s going to want to take it off and I don’t know how his teachers will handle that,” she said.

The state is also working toward implementing a program requiring the COVID vaccine or weekly testing for all school personnel across New York.

“To accomplish this in New York, we need partnerships with all levels of government and I’m working now on getting this done,” Hochul said Tuesday.

There has yet to be an update on the vaccine-or-test requirement.

New York City has mandated masks in its schools since last year, when the COVID-19 pandemic first ravaged the city.

The city also announced on Tuesday that all public school teachers and other staffers will have to get vaccinated against the coronavirus.

“New York City schools have a universal mask mandate in place, and all our employees are required to have their first vaccine dose by September 27,” a NYC Department of Education spokesperson said in a statement Friday. “We look forward to partnering with the State on our shared goal of getting all children back into classrooms safely.”

The city previously said teachers, like other city employees, would have to get the shots or get tested weekly for the virus. Tuesday’s announcement marked the first flat-out vaccination mandate for city workers in the nation’s most populous city. There will be no testing option.

The mandate impacts about 148,000 school employees in NYC, where classes are set to begin Sept. 13.

The city’s drive to vaccinate continues with the “Weekend of Faith,” running through Sunday. Mobile vaccination vans were expected to be parked outside more than 50 houses of worship in all five boroughs.

“We believe God answers prayers and I think one of the ways to answer healing is by the vaccine, it’s a gift from God,” said Timothy Cardinal Dolan.

Click here for a list of the Houses of Worship participating in this weekend’s vaccination clinic.

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