ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) – As schools get ready to reopen for the fall, precautions like universal masking could be in place as students return to the classroom. An assistant professor at UAlbany’s College of Emergency Preparedness, Homeland Security and Cybersecurity says these precautions can help quell community spread.

In her first address as governor, Governor Hochul telling New Yorkers to expect protocols like universal masking in the classroom.

“None of us want a rerun of last year’s horrors with COVID-19. Therefore, we will take proactive steps to prevent that from happening,” the governor said.

Samantha Penta, an assistant professor at CEHC, says guidelines like masking and social distancing can help contain the virus.

“We want kids to go back to school, we want them to have normal learning and socialization experiences, we want parents or other caretakers to go back to work. But if we rush that, or if we don’t do it right, then it can be hugely consequential and ultimately have us facing the exact same challenges that we’ve been struggling with,” she explained.

Across the country, the spread of COVID has already impacted in-person learning in dozens of districts, including some that did not require masks.

Penta says the priority is keeping students safe and in the classroom, but also notes that spread in school can have a ripple effect in the community.

“That’s also really disruptive to their families, who might have to take off time from work, or are now trying to work from home. We know that was a huge strain throughout the pandemic,” she said.

With those under 12 still not eligible to get vaccinated, she says collective actions like masking and social distancing in schools can also help slow the longevity of the pandemic.

“The more the virus spreads, the more opportunities we have for the virus to mutate, potentially become stronger and more infectious,” Penta said.

The president of New York State United Teachers released a statement in support of Governor Hochul’s school policies:

“Gov. Kathy Hochul brings a breath of fresh air to Albany, and she already is taking decisive action to bolster health and safety in our schools. We support universal mask wearing as part of a layered mitigation strategy that also includes robust COVID testing, contact tracing, proper ventilation and other strategies recommended by public health experts. We also support the governor’s move to require regular COVID testing for school staff who are not yet vaccinated. It’s critical that educators continue to have a voice in the implementation of vaccine requirements and other COVID policies at the local level.” 

Andy Pallotta, NYSUT President