Parents demand answers on daycare face mask policy

“Why are we punishing the kids?”
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Posted at 6:22 PM, May 21, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-21 18:22:12-04

BUFFALO, NY (WKBW) — There are more questions than answers when it comes to a new policy requiring children as young as two years of age to wear a face mask at daycare.

Parents and daycare operators are asking why the state change guidelines, after months of not requiring young children to wear masks throughout the pandemic.

Governor Andrew Cuomo said Thursday it is all based on Centers for Disease Control (CDD) guidance, science and data.

“What has changed?”, asked Buckley.

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Dr. Kathleen Grisanti, pediatrician, president & medical director, Pediatric and Adolescent Urgent Care of WNY, in Zoom interview.

“I don't really understand why the state did that, especially many daycare centers weren't requiring the children as low as two to wear a mask,” replied Dr. Kathleen Grisanti, pediatrician, president & medical director, Pediatric and Adolescent Urgent Care of WNY.

Andy Smith of Newstead is a parent of two young children.

Smith tells us he disagrees with the new rule requiring young children to mask up at daycare.

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Parent Andy Smith of Newstead in Zoom interview.

“Why are we punishing the kids?”, declared Smith. “To put him in a mask for 11 hours a day at daycare is just unacceptable when they haven't had to do it in 14 months.”

Smith says he and other parents want answers as to why the policy changed. That's why he has started a gofundme page to raise money for legal fees to file a possible lawsuit against the state.

The state says it is following CDC guidance, based on science and data, but state lawmakers, including democratic state Senator Tim Kennedy, did not have any specific data, even after I pressed him three times on the topic.

“And we know that there are children in other countries that are dying from these variants and so it's very important that we continue to follow the science,” Kennedy responded.

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NYS Senator Tim Kennedy talking about daycare policy.

“What is the key evidence?”, asked Buckley.

“Look it if the Center for Disease Control is saying that we should continue to wear masks if we are not vaccinated, then I am 100 percent what the Center for Disease is saying,” replied Kennedy. “This pandemic is still raging. There are variants that are still changing and raging not only here in the United States, but across the globe.

“Is there any connection that you know of, scientifically, that has to do with a variant?”, questioned Buckley.

Dr. Kathleen Grisanti, pediatrician, president & medical director, Pediatric and Adolescent Urgent Care of WNY, in Zoom interview.

“I don’t think that there is enough information out there yet about the variants. Obviously the young children are not vaccinated and so I think it is they're lightening up a lot of the requirements — it's not involving children,” explained Dr. Grisanti.

Dr. Grisanti tells me she's been getting a lot of calls from families concerned about this new policy.

“I do feel that it's an undue burden on parents there has not been a huge problem with existing daycare centers that I’ve been aware of,” Grisanti noted.

“There's really no scientific evidence that says young children two and under are particularly vulnerable,” declared Senator Rob Ortt, Minority Leader.

Republican state Senator Ortt says he would like to see the new rule rescinded.

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NYS Senator Rob Ortt, Minority Leader, talking about new policy.

“What specific scientific reason do they have that no one else has put forward because I’m unaware that this was put forward anywhere else, nor did I ever hear about this,” Ortt remarked.

Ortt says a simple majority vote by the senate and assembly could change the policy.

So far, Smith raised more than $14,000 of his $25,000 goal for legal fees to pay for a potential lawsuit.

“I want everybody's voice to be heard. We have to advocate for our kids and no body else is going to do that but us,” reflected Smith.

We also reached out to four other area doctors. All declined comment Friday saying they didn't have a chance to read up on the new policy. One was reluctant because he felt it is becoming too controversial.

We also reached out to the Erie County Health Commissioner, Dr. Gale Burstein, for an interview, but were told she was not available. Her office noted the policy for daycare is set by New York State.