NEW YORK CITY (WABC) -- Incoming Governor Kathy Hochul met with New York City School Chancellor Meisha Porter at PS 143 The Louis Armstrong School in Corona Wednesday, as she campaigned for mandatory mask-wearing in schools.
Hochul reiterated her support of mask mandates in schools, calling it "something that I believe has to occur" for the safety of children, teachers, administrators, and the wider community.
She does not have the power to require mask-wearing under current state law, but she said she would with the state legislature. She also planned to ask for an order from the State Health Department, which she believes she has the authority to do.
"There is a tremendous amount of anxiety among parents, teachers, administrators, who thought what we went through last year would be it, that there would be closure, that by the time the school year started in 2021 we'd be in a different place. We thought we were there a few months ago, the delta variant has changed the dynamic considerably, so we have to continue being vigilant. But, number one, our children need to be back in schools," Hochul said.
Meanwhile, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said public school students will not be required to be vaccinated when they return to school in September.
The mayor noted that 56% of 12 to 17-year-olds are have gotten at least one dose.
Asked if vaccinations will be mandatory for school staff, the mayor once again declined to comment.
"We've had conversations with the unions representing our school staff of all kinds on the different ways to keep schools safe, but there's nothing that's been decided beyond what we've announced publicly," de Blasio said.
He then refused to give his own opinion about whether teachers and school staff should be forced to get vaccinated, offering that he does not "tend to just opine."
On Tuesday, Chancellor Porter hosted U.S. Education Secretary Miguel Cardona at PS/MS 5 in the Port Morris section of the Bronx, talking about their expanded summer school program called "Summer Rising."
"We often talk about getting back to school for the academics and even the social, emotional piece, but what we want to let people know is that schools are communities," Cardona said. "They're like families, and that's what we saw here today."
Secretary Cardona said he supports New York City's plan to go back to full in-person learning, as long as it's done safely, starting with mandatory masking.
"We have the benefit of knowing how COVID spreads, but delta is different. So, we must pay attention to transmission rates, to what we're learning about the delta variant, and we as educators have to be nimble to make sure we're addressing what we're learning from our health experts," Cardona said.
He's less optimistic about in-person learning in other parts of the country where the delta variant is spreading out of control.
Some southern states have gone as far as to ban mask mandates in schools, Florida and Texas have seen several outbreaks involving children.
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