The state has ordered all students, staff and visitors inside school buildings to wear masks, a mandate that will not just apply to public school districts but also to private, charter, and religious schools throughout New York.
Kids under age two will not have to wear masks, or students and staff with documented medical exemptions.
The policy was filed in an emergency regulation Friday night, according to CBS News, with state Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker citing fears of the highly contagious COVID delta variant spreading as students head back to school.
New York City already had a mask mandate in place for city schools in advance of the first day on September 13th. Mayor Bill de Blasio has also ordered all Department of Education staff to get vaccinated by September 27th.
Governor Kathy Hochul said in her inaugural address on Tuesday that instituting a statewide mask mandate was one of her first priorities. Hochul has also said she is working on a COVID-19 vaccine requirement for all school personnel in New York, where teachers and other staff will need to take the shots or agree to weekly testing.
“As Governor, my priorities are now the priorities of the people of New York – and right now that means fighting the Delta variant,” Hochul said in a statement Tuesday, her first day in office. “My number one priority is getting children back to school and protecting the environment so they can learn safely. I am immediately directing the Department of Health to institute universal masking for anyone entering our schools, and we are launching a Back to School COVID-19 testing program to make testing for students and staff widely available and convenient.”
Students can remove their masks “when eating, drinking, singing or playing a wind instrument” but they must be six feet apart,” Spectrum News reported.
Many of the city’s non-public schools also had mask requirements in place. The Diocese of Brooklyn and the Archdiocese of New York already announced their Catholic schools would require masks. Success Academy also had mask requirements in its charter schools.