NEW YORK (WABC) -- New York State Governor Kathy Hochul said she will "reserve the right" to reinstitute a mask mandate when schools resume this fall, contingent on the state of the pandemic.
"We don't currently, based on today's numbers, anticipate the need for masks in classrooms, but I'm going to reserve the right to return to this policy if the numbers change, the circumstances change and the severity of the illnesses change. God forbid there is a variant that affects kids more severely," Hochul said Wednesday.
Hochul said the state's primary concern will be the safety of children.
"I feel like we've seen everything, but maybe we haven't. And that's what preparing for. So my number one job is to protect the health of New Yorkers, especially our vulnerable children," she said.
As part of efforts to prepare schools for a fall with COVID still in widespread circulation, the state is distributing 3 million test kits to school districts "to make sure that every student and member of their staff can test before the first day."
The state has also stockpiled more than 20 million at-home tests that are ready to distribute.
The return-to-school strategy is part of the state's fall plan, which will focus on broader testing, vaccination and boosting. The state will also be ready to set up mass-vaccination sites should the need arise, ramp up its Surge Operations Center if required and boost efforts to get more therapies to patients.
In addition, Hochul announced an "after action review," to analyze the state's two-year response to the coronavirus pandemic. Critics had called for this, and accused Hochul of stalling her review into the Cuomo administration.
The findings will help guide the state's future decisions. Hochul said it will serve "as a real blueprint."
Hochul said she planned to wait until the end of the pandemic, but it is becoming clear that the pandemic will not be ending anytime soon.
"We're not required to do it. It's not mandated by law. but it is something I feel is important, because New Yorkers deserve the best from their government. We need to identify what worked, and what did not work, and why," Hochul said.