NYSUT calls for strengthened statewide mask mandate in schools

New York News

ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) — As we inch closer to the start of the new school year, education groups are calling for stricter mask mandates when it comes to indoor, in-person instruction. 

“While the state guidelines were drafted with the best intentions and with the best information available at the time, they need to be updated and clarified immediately,” said NYSUT President Andy Pallotta.

Current guidelines from the State Department of Health mandate students and staff to wear masks indoors when social distancing isn’t possible, and ‘strongly recommend’ masks be worn at all times. But, NYSUT is sending a letter to the DOH to instead make mask wearing mandatory indoors regardless of whether people are six feet apart.

“Now that individual districts’ reopening plans are coming together, we’ve seen very different mask policies across the state,” Pallotta said.

“Ultimately what a mask does is it protects others because of this being an airborne respiratory disease, which can be transmitted by asymptomatic people,” said AFT President Randi Weingarten.

NYSUT’s plan would allow exceptions for “medical accommodation” and there would be ‘mask breaks.’

“We take a class to the outside area and we let them breathe in some fresh air… socially distant from each other, so it gives them a little bit of a break. It is really necessary, we support it,” Pallotta said. Advocates of the proposal say another appropriate mask break would be when students are eating lunch. They also say their proposal would reassure teachers and parents that going to school is safe. 

NEWS10 ABC reached out to the state Department of Health for comment on NYSUT’s proposal. They say they are currently reviewing the letter.

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