“We were incredibly disappointed and shocked when we got the guidelines last Wednesday that our children after 14 months of being unmasked are required now to be masked,” said On My Way Childcare Owner Peggy Fuentes.
Parents say it can be quite the challenge to get toddlers to mask up.
“Two- and three-year-olds are still wearing diapers. How are they expected to keep a mask on?” said Tara Broderick.
There’s also concerns among providers about speech development.
“We have students that they’re concerned about developing stutters or other concerns that would potentially have longer term effects on them,” said Tiny Town of Colonie Daycare Owner Kristen Blais.
Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have spoken out against the policy. Democrat State Senator Michelle Hinchey says the Department of Health “needs to act immediately to reverse its new and unreasonable requirement.”
“If this was the scientific smart thing, where was this guidance? How come it hasn’t been in place for the better part of the last year?” said NYS Senate Republican Leader Rob Ortt.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo said the state was following federal guidance. The New York State Office of Children and Family Services and Department of Health issued the following joint statement on the revised guidance:
“We thank the providers who have worked so hard since the start of the pandemic to remain open to serve the families of those who could not stay home and we recognize their valiant efforts in serving working families who need quality, reliable and safe child care.
Both agencies understand how difficult it is to require the youngest children to wear masks, and have jointly agreed to revise guidance allowing child care providers to continue the practices and protocols that have been in place since the start of the pandemic by encouraging, not requiring, children aged 2-5 to wear masks, effective immediately.
The safety of the children in child care programs is of paramount importance. As more families are returning to work, New York State is investing federal funds in stabilizing the industry and expanding child care programs throughout the state, especially in underserved areas.
We strongly encourage any remaining child care staff who have not been vaccinated to do so as soon as possible to prevent the spread of COVID.”