Coronavirus: New York Schools Send Mixed Messages on Face Masks

New York is going through a bizarre game with school children and masks. Despite overwhelming evidence that schools are not hothouses of coronavirus transmission, and that COVID-19 is not a serious health risk to children, and that the vaccination of vulnerable adult populations is causing an inexorable decline in case rates, school children are still wearing masks.

On last Friday evening, it seemed as if relief was within reach. The New York State Department of Health made an announcement, stating that the in-school mask mandate would end on Monday. Then on Sunday, the Department of Education announced that, until New York State’s new mask guidelines received some kind of email response from Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta, there would be no change. Then, yesterday and today, Governor Cuomo “clarified” things by saying that schools would no longer be bound by outdoor mask mandates. He said that the state spoke to CDC and that CDC’s guidance wouldn’t change for several weeks.

It’s a blow to New York State parents, many of whom are demanding that masks mandates be abolished in view of the good news that the pandemic is ending, and temperatures are rising to the point of making wearing them slightly risky, not to mention uncomfortable and gross. Many parents I speak to are resigned to the idea that at least in the winter of 2022 when there may be another small community surge of COVID-19, and mask mandates may temporarily return. But that’s also why they want to establish now that it’s safe to operate schools without them in other seasons. Otherwise, the door remains open for teachers to demand all students remain masked for the school year beginning in September.

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