Mask mandate lifted for students in most NY school districts; NYC to make decision in coming days

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Wednesday, March 2, 2022
Mask mandate lifted for students in most NY school districts
In Nassau County and several other counties throughout New York, students are celebrating going maskless Wednesday.

NEW YORK (WABC) -- Another step toward normalcy was taken Wednesday as New York state lifted its school mask mandate.

That means local districts can decide to make masks optional, and on Friday, NYC Mayor Eric Adams says he will make a decision about the city's school mandate.

If all goes according to plan, the mayor says he will lift the mandate on Monday.

But for other districts across the state, it was a brand new day, and Eyewitness News was out sampling reaction from students and parents.

For some of the youngest students at McKenna Elementary in Massapequa Park, Wednesday was their very first time at school all day without a mask. That's because they started kindergarten in the midst of the pandemic.

The students joined the vast majority of other students in the district in shedding their masks.

Kellan Tranchina, 6, put it this way: "I like it, and I just love it!"

"I just think it's so important for them to see each other, interact with each other, not have to wear a mask," said Massapequa parent Nicole Fodera. "This was huge. This was talked about in my house for days."

And the politicians have been talking about it as well, for months.

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Many local leaders on Long Island protested the mandate, even taking the state to court over the past few months.

"It's about choice, it's about options. It's about freedom," said Nassau County Executive Bruce Blakeman.

Still, just how many choose to take off their masks very much depends on where you go to school.

At Powells Lane Elementary in Westbury, about 95% of students still wore them Wednesday.

"Because I feel it's safer, and I had already gotten COVID once before," said fifth grader Aisha Moizuddin. "And I really don't want to get it again."

"We have students who live with their grandparents or aunts and uncles... and their parents," said Westbury Principal Claudia Germain. "It depends on the family unit."

Back in New York City, where the masks-in-schools decision is expected Friday, the United Federation of Teachers is chiming in.

The union says it is in communication with doctors and the mayor about removing masks.

Adams has indicated the public schools mask mandate will likely be removed starting next week.

Although the state is not requiring schools to contact trace, they are still recommending it in the new guidance.

The Middle Country School District is having teachers use their existing seating charts and mark down which students are wearing a mask and which are not.

"Quite frankly that doesn't bother me, not at all," said Dawnwood Middle School parent Laura Lucente. "As long as my kid doesn't have a mask, I'm good."

"The part of the regulations or the guidance that really, like, resonated with my COVID team was the idea that we need to make sure that we're very transparent in terms of exposures," Middle Country Superintendent Roberta Gerold said.

Gerold said on Wednesday only 18 percent of the district's student population chose to wear masks to school.

Catholic schools in the Archdiocese of New York announced that in light of the announcement made by Governor Kathy Hochul, they are no longer legally obligated by New York State to mandate mask-wearing in school as of Wednesday, and that the wearing of a mask by an adult or children in all Catholic Schools in the Archdiocese of New York will be recommended but not required.

Under the state guidance, even those students who prefer not to wear a mask will be required to when they return to school after having COVID. If they come back to school on days 6 through 10 of their infection, they will have to wear a mask.

According to the guidance, students who are considered close contact to a positive case, "should mask for 10 days and get tested."

Close contact is defined as "a person, regardless of vaccination status, who was less than 6 feet away from an infected person for a cumulative total of 15 minutes or more over a 24-hour period." If both students were wearing "well-fitting" masks the contact distance drops to 3 feet.

In addition, a negative test is required for students who are symptomatic after the five-day COVID positive isolation period.

To read all of the updated guidance for schools, click here.

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