Mask Mandate in New York State

photo courtesy

Max Ludwick, Staff Writer

Here we are, 19 months after COVID-19 entered our universe and has changed so much. There have been over 700,000 deaths in America and in our state of New York, we have lost 56,000. 

In New York, 65.6% of the population have been vaccinated. With variants such as the Delta variant  in existence and the fact that one can still get COVID-19 (although, rarely will one get seriously ill having had the vaccine), wearing a mask is still a part of our daily lives. Then there is the 34+% in New York that have not been vaccinated, for various reasons. 

In late August 2021, during some of the last days of summer and before school began for New Yorkers, ages 6-18, a mask mandate went into effect in New York State. All students, faculty and staff of public and private schools, pre-K through 12th grade, woud be required to wear masks inside school buildings. Visitors will also be required to wear masks inside school buildings.

Many studies from Thailand and China, as noted by the CDC, prove that mask-wearing significantly reduces transmission. Some of the 34+% cannot receive the vaccination for health reasons and many of these individuals serve in the New York State school system. Protecting our teachers and administrators in the New York State school system is a priority. 

However, not everyone or every school likes the idea of being told they must continue to wear masks during the school day. At least two school districts on Long Island told Eyewitness News that they are not yet adjusting their mask optional policies for students. 

Some parents in the Smithtown School District said they are gearing up to demand their local school board put pressure on the state to allow mask-wearing in schools to be a local decision. “All we want is parent choice,” Smithtown parent Andrew Manello said.

 Parent Vinnie Saunders said wearing a mask to school is preventing his non-verbal 4-year-old son with autism from learning.  When asking Nicholas Arena, a 7th grader at Westhampton Beach Middle School his thoughts, he said, “I feel that the mask mandate at school doesn’t make much sense as I am not wearing a mask around the same people when I am not at school.” 

Julia Gruber, a 12th grader at Westhampton Beach High School said, “I am not sure what the rules are, but I think Westhampton Beach should do what they need to, in order to protect the safety and well-being of their students and teachers.”

Is it possible to give families or parents the choice, independent of the state? It does not seem so. Perhaps one of the answers can be to incorporate more mask breaks into the day. However it progresses, the health and safety of both students, teachers, and administrators is the most important takeaway from this dilemma.